Saturday, October 31, 2009

Can You Pick Me Up Some Climbing Boots?

Can You Pick Me Up Some Climbing Boots?

From Camp Schurman, Mt. Rainier

It is another amazing weekend in Sitka, Alaska.  I am a world away and a pile of years removed from this story.  I have a major swim race to organize but the guilt demons are rattling my cage and many years later I think it is finally time to jot this story into print. My final reminder was the picture above, which I posted yesterday as my FaceBook profile pic.  My story sits at 14,440 feet, an icon of the Seattle horizon.  I spent half of my growing up with the glorious image of Mt. Rainier out our front window. I would step out the door,  glare at the peak, think cool, someday....and make a mad sprint to catch the bus. 
Not the highest lump of rock and ice on the globe,  nor the most technical,  scaling Mt. Rainier is still a worthy goal and the mountain is an excellent site for climbers who have Himalayan Peaks on their agenda.  Rainier is the largest single-peak glacier system in the lower 48 states.  Over 35 square miles of ice and 26 officially named glaciers.  It is also the highest peak in the 48 conterminous states. 
Lacking notes from my 4 trips on Rainier and a memory that actually retains little, I am promising a short blog entry.   
Timing can be everything in life and my first attempt at Rainier would be a glaring example of lousy timing.  My high school cross country team, headed by Archie Blakely would decide to
take on the challenge of Rainier.  I thought I might approach my folks, get a kind denial and I would go on to the next adventure.  Didn't quite happen that way as I stated my case, the fact that none of my friends had died climbing Mt. Rainier and that if I could find my teen bucket list, I was sure it was on there, somewhere.  3 days before the climb I would get the green light.  Yes, 3 days to train, I don't think so.  3 days to pack, scout down gear and come up with a game plan with my doctor on dealing with the climb and diabetes.  This last measure was done with a lot of ???? and one more ?.  It was new territory, climbing with diabetes.   Bigger issue at the moment was gear.  I had kmart gear.  Yes, I had issues.  Surprised the climbing group  didn't "show" me the first crevasse we came across.  Also lacking were climbing boots.  Never fear, I gave someone some money to rent a pair of boots from REI (I was unable to escape school for this).  Who climbs a major mountain in a pair of rented, untried boots?  Hey, in this case, I do.  Remember a life of adventure!  It was my only option and lady luck was on my side (on my feet) as the boots fit perfectly. 
We would troop up the Ingraham - Disappointment Cleaver route.  It is the most popular route.  The route takes one to Camp Muir, which makes a great spot to kick off the rented boots and hide your kmart ish gear, crash before your alarm clock would rudely jolt you awake at about 1am to start the seriously long day before you.  Being on a dangerous mountain, jumping crevasses, walking across glaciers and being in the exercise mode gear all morning and day I was very cautious about the amount of insulin I had in the system and having low blood sugars.  My extra caution would kick me in the behind as I would strive through some high blood sugars.  Attempts to get the sugars down were not great and I struggled  finding gears in the engine.  Namely put, I called it a day at Disappointment Cleaver at about 11,000 feet.  I would be back.  

Camp Schurman at 9,440 Feet

Some life gears began to shift as the first Mt. Rainier climb came to a close.  Disappointment, but my life would spin in a direction toward my passion of adventure and challenges.  I was not going to let the diabetes put me in neutral or reverse gear.  I would kick into a new chassis when I would later take my first bungee jump.  Live outside the box.  There is so much more from a different perspective.
Another shift would be the relationship I had with my mom and dad.  They were now realizing that their son was cut out of a different fabric.  New adventures, challenges and more dreams to go beyond and to achieve, even with the diabetes card I was dealt.  
The next year would allow more time to train, plan, make changes in the diabetes regimen and pick up gear that would make me feel like a part-time mountaineer.  Hey, I am still in high school.  This year the group would be a different cast of characters and the man with the lead ice axe would be Dick Deal.  Our route would be the Emmons Glacier route.  It was an extra 1/2 day route starting from the White River Campground and would take about 21/2 days.  The Muir route is a 2 day excursion.  On this route we would spend the night at Camp Schurman.  I enjoyed this climb much more than the previous year and this route did not have "Disappointment" anywhere on the features listed on the climbing map.  About 2am or so we had crampons affixed and ice axe in hand.  It was almost a full moon that evening.  Words fall into a deep crevasse in trying to describe the beaming white glow from the heavens splashed across the icy white, rough and rugged and outstanding landscape set before us.  One of the beauties of Camp Schurman (at about 9500 feet) is being able to watch the climbers trod along the broken path high above you.  The headlights would bob slowly upward into the morning until they turned a corner at about 11,000 feet on the mountain.  It was like a scene from a movie but the lack of sleep, excitement, danger of mountain climbing and the constant monitoring of the diabetes was real.  
This climb would be successful.  I had learned a thing or two about climbing mountains and the insulin issue. 
My third journey on the mountain would be the next year.  This time I did the climb right.  I climbed with my doctor.  That usually doesn't happen, but when your doctor is Graham Reedy it is possible.  Graham is an experienced mountain climber and was the trainer for the Oakland Raiders (I think that was when they actually had a team).  Improvement had been made in the realm of diabetes and climbing and I was gaining good climbing experience and adding stock to the amazing life I had been leading.  

One climber had professed that he had been "weathered" out on Rainier 12 or 13 times in a row.  Rainier can create it's own weather and is often hampered by horrific weather.  I was on my third year where I suffered from being overdressed and sunburned.  I was baked.  It was a blessing to lead the group on part of the route.  That was a position I never envisioned. 
We reached the summit and I came home with pictures that did not come out.  The camera had overcompensated the brightness.  We would make the long trudge back and roll into Enumclaw, not far from Mt. Rainier, where Graham hung his ice axe,  sit in the hot tube and look out at such a dominant feature out his back door.  It had also become a dominate feature in my life.

My fourth trek onto Rainier's flank would not be a summit affair but would still have significant etchings in my life.  This trip would only be to Camp Muir, about 1/2 way up the mountain.  This would have meaning as it was with my father.  He did well and we were both surprised that it was not as difficult as we thought it would be.  I value that time that we spent on the mountain that had special meaning to me.  
Murray Lawson 

I had the pleasure to meet Murray Lawson and share with him my Rainier climbs.  Murray also lives in Sitka, Alaska and has diabetes.  In August 2009 he was standing on top of Mt. Rainier.  Way to go Murray.  On to Everest?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Article printed with permission from the Sitka Sentinel
Hope printing it out works better than reading it online.  The swimmer who covered the distance from Kruzof Island (Inner Point) to Baranof Island (Halibut Point Rec. Area) is Claudia Rose.  Claudia is an accomplished distance swimmer who has completed the 21-mile English Channel, the 21-mile Catalina Crossing (Catalina Island to Los Angeles) and a race around Manhattan Island.  She was interested in another Alaskan swim and was recommended Sitka Sound by the race director of the Pennock Island Challenge, Willie Schulz. 
 Another story is beginning to weave together...
Swimming naked (without a wetsuit) Claudia completed the first-ever recorded swim of Sitka Sound.  This was on Saturday August 22, 2009.  One week before, she had swam in the Pennock Island Challenge (Ketchikan, AK) which is 8.2 miles.  Pennock is a fund raiser for the American Diabetes Association.  
Weaving more connections... 
 Claudia was supported by John Dunlap with Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures.  I was also on that boat and that is creating its on story.  That is why it has made it on the No Limits page being typed by the ultimate non-swimmer on the planet!
The swim would take her south of Bieli rocks and Middle Island and through a jellyfish armada.  At times she felt like she was "swimming in a jellyfish tank." She endured several painful stings along the way, but arrived safely at Halibut Point Rec. Area. In the 54-degree water she had kayak support from Ralph Lufkin.  After 4 hours and 36 minutes and 8 miles, she triumphantly stepped onto the rocky shore of Baranof Island.  Rose hopes news of the swim will inspire others to swim in Alaska.
I love the endurance angle and being a part of those achieving great things.  "It's an amazing thing to hear or read about," Dunlap said.  "Having actually seen it, I marvel at what a test of endurance it was."  Well said.  I was impressed at the achievement and of the stories that would follow as I spent a lot of time with Claudia, Ralph and Al (her mate).  Through the discussion would take a side-stroke toward  a possible Sitka open water swim next summer.  That is where we are at right now.  I am in discussion with many in the swimming community about having an open water swim in Sitka to benefit diabetes.  I will keep posting as this unusual but exciting story continues to come together.  A little thinking outside the box helps the non-swimmer see a wave of possiblities.
I am still behind on adventure updates.  Will try and share some more tales soon.
Please let me know if you have any interest in participating as a swimmer, volunteer or donor for the coming(?) Sitka open water swim.  

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No Limits Destination Alaska Sea Kayak Expedition

August 14-16 - 2009

Adam Howard, Scott Harris, Kate Petraborg, Amy Chrest and myself loaded our gear onto the Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure transport boat to the Tom Young Cabin about 18 miles from Sitka, Alaska.  The plan was to paddle the area around the cabin, enjoy some great food (always tastes better out in the wild!), soak in the local hot springs the first day.  
Throw in some chatter about diabetes and spend the next 2 days kayaking the outrageously beautiful Alaska coast back to Sitka.  In the meantime, with 3 camcorders, 3 helmet cams and 3 digital slr cameras and a box of somewhat unknown,  yet to be used cam equipment packed into the 4 kayaks for future use we were set on making a film to document and share our adventure.  A true learning and stretching experience.

A story, surely to follow, will be on the prep for this filming  experience.

        Drop off at the Tom Young Cabin


We enjoyed the scenic setting as we discussed diabetes, food, the "Amy face", filming, kayaking, Alaska, and of course our infamous brown bears.

That evening we would see a humpback whale from the cabin window and head down to the beach to watch the whale chase food right in front of us.

Adam would reveal his talent at setting things on fire and we would call it a day after lots of conversation.  Some of this would be a little more personal and would detail the challenge of having diabetes how difficult the disease can be.  I know, I live it.  Best advice I can muster up is to keep livin' life as best as possible and to not let it rule your life.  Easily said but not always easily done.  

Amy Chrest - saving us memories via mini dv tapes and memory cards

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Race Across America by the numbers

The reality of RAAM can be shared by some of the numbers involved in the world's toughest cycling event.  200 riders (solos and teams included) and over 600 crew members taking care of the details.  This year the route is 3,021 miles and will go through 13 states. Climbing over 100,000 feet.  Low point is 170 feet below sea level and the high point is over 10,000 feet.  Solo riders will get less than 4 hours sleep a night and will eat over 8,000 calories a day.  RAAM is 50% longer than the Tour de France.  Collectively, the Solo and Team finishers will travel a combined distance = to circling the earth at the equator 7 times.

Team Type 1 - 8 riders
                         20 crew

Team Type 2 - 8 riders
                         18 crew

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Race Across America


On June 20, 2009 Team Type 2 will begin the Race Across America in Oceanside, CA.  Team Type 2 consists of 8 dedicated cyclists with diabetes who will be riding for the cause.  I will help crew the team as they cross the country and finish in Anapolis, MD.  
I was a part of the crew for Team Type 1 in 2006.  What an incredible event and an unbelievable effort from the riders and the crew.  It was a wild experience and I am looking forward to this year's version of adventure.  More to follow.....

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trek to Green Lake

The drive to the end of the road system to start my run to Green Lake.  All of 14 miles from one end of the road system to the other. It has been years since I shifted into 5th gear.  My car might fall apart going above 45 mph.  Not much of a classic story here; no stalking brown bears, falls on the icy road, no staggeringly low blood sugars or search and rescue calls.  Actually, it was uneventful but was extremely beautiful.  This is simply a story so I could post some nice pics.
Yes, the road was snow and ice.  Thank goodness for the way overused Nike's that have climbing rubber on the tread.  They work well on ice but I am longing to throw them deep into the closet and emerge with my beloved Teva's that have seen minimal use this winter. Abounding ice conditions have dominated the running scene.
 Blood sugars were perfect and I ran well and reasonably fast.  Trip to Green Lake is 6.5 miles on a dirt road and is the best option if a runner wants to get some decent miles in w/o pavement and w/o running on the shorter trails that are generally uphill and more technical.  Some rolling hills on this route keeps your attention but most of my attention was on the fact that we had a clear day with unbelievable terrain.  Views down into Silver Bay were stunning.
2 Trips to Green Lake this weekend and I am ready to let the Nike's sit idle for a day. 
A frozen Green Lake.  End of this adventure.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Banff Film Festival rolls through Sitka

Those involved with the Banff Film Festival: L to R- Kate Petraborg, me, Stefanie Gignac, Natalie Sattler, Robin Grewe, Stephen Van Derhoff
My nonprofit group No Limits had the honor to be selected by the Banff Film Festival Sitka to receive the proceeds from the
from the Festival. This funding will be applied toward the No Limits Kayak Expedition Alaska, which will be for people with diabetes. I am working with Scott Harris at Alaska Coast Wilderness Expeditions. No date has been set but we are looking at some possible dates and are talking with a few people who may be participants and seeing what may work for them. We are leaning on a 3 day trip and we will have some kayak training before the trip.
More to follow......

Sunday, January 18, 2009

50 Miles Through the Lens (Old Pueblo Ultra Marathon)

                      Dan Baier
50 Miles Through the Lens

My desire was to run the Old Pueblo 50 mile race.  Registration day I was at my computer ready to punch my application in.  I was at my computer, but not on it.  Our office is known to get less than adequate internet connection.  I just had to be persistant and have patience.  I have both but they had little effect on a computer that did not work.  No fear, last year the race took 3 days to fill.  We were now on hour 3 and I would wander to the library at lunch and enter my first 50 miler.  You can see where this story is going.  Lunchtime and the only option I had was the waiting list.  Nearing race day and I had moved up the list but was still not in.  My training was not going well and I was challenged in training for a long race that I was not yet a participant.  I considered my options.  Thankfully, I would be near the race while on business.  
My folks would provide free housing and a friend (Dan Baier) would help keep the Sitka honor.

Looking for new experiences, if I wasn't going to suffer through a 50 mile run, I thought, hey, I can capture the others suffering through the lens.  I knew Duane Arter, the race director, and asked to be taken off the waiting list and put on as the race photographer.

The race started about sunrise and it was quite the scene.  Headlights and jackets were common but would soon disappear as the sun ebbed over the horizon.  After the runners took to the trail I drove to one of the aid stations.  I had the Canon Rebel in hand and I would organize my thoughts and shots as the runners neared.  

The runners were great.  We had terrific conversations in the 8 seconds that they were within my realm, and then they were gone.  They epitomized some of what is so grand about ultra running...not just excellent 8 second conversations, but they were very supportive of each other and the camaraderie was excellent.  All while in the beauty of the Santa Rita mountains, not on pounding pavement.  I love dirt.  For most people this race was about forward motion and not repeated looks at their stopwatch.

I got my miles in as I sought better shots and unique angles.  I was getting a feeling for the race and was snapping hundreds of pictures that were capturing their sweat and survival in the Old Pueblo 50.  

Dan was on his way to completing a challenging and long first ultra marathon.  He did this while training through an Alaskan winter and enduring 75-80 degree temperatures on race day.
Keep in mind our warmest day for the year was about 70.

Dan went home with the cherished buckle for all finishers and lasting memories.  I made my way back to Alaska with a very positive new experience, a renewal of interest in the ultra scene, many thanks from the runners and Duane for spending time capturing their special moments on the course and I did abscond with one of the cool cloth race numbers that the OP 50 is known for and a OP t-shirt.  That race number still graces my frig, to remind me not to binge and to focus on some goals that are long and require some of that patience and persistance and to enjoy the journey along the way.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tahoe Rim Trail Run - August 10-17, 2009

Photos by T.J. Jeffries - APEX Photography

Tahoe Rim Trail Run
August 10-17, 2009 (Due to an injury the Run has been scheduled for 2010)
168 Miles
8 Days
A Run for Diabetes

There are currently 5 runners and 1 crew that will be involved in the Tahoe Rim Trail Run.
We will have car support. Our days will range from 12-32 miles. Since we will have car support we are looking for more crew members and possibly 1-2 more runners (preferably with diabetes). It will be a group decision, but we may do some filming for the adventure.
We are also looking for sponsors.
More to come.....