I have been battling a bug for nearly three weeks now. It has created a rattle in my chest, a runny nose, watering eyes, and it has essentially zapped any ounce of energy from my body. I feel like I have been wandering around in a zombie-like daze, simply going through the motions of training. This, of course, is on top of trying to be a good father, husband, employee, manager, board member, etc.
I thought my training would be peaking around now. Instead, I’m totally and utterly exhausted.
I vividly recall the first day I felt sick – Wednesday, June 5th. I stayed home from work because I was feeling worn down. I tend to push myself too hard, so I thought it would be best if I got some rest. It helped, but only a little.
The poor air in our offices combined with long hours, travelling, training, and other distractions have slowed me down for the past 20 days and counting. I’ve spent the past 48 hours resting, but I’m not feeling much better.
It wasn’t my intention to blog about my health today, but the concern has been weighing on my mind for some time. Now, it is eroding my confidence to climb Kilimanjaro.
When I set out to achieve this goal, I declared that 2013 would be the ‘Year of Me’. Unfortunately, I’ve allowed too many distractions to get in the way of my goal and it is impacting my ability to succeed. I simply have too much on my plate.
On the plus side, I have had back-to-back outstanding hikes. Two weeks ago, I was joined by Sara and Harneet at Rattlesnake Point for a 15+ km adventure through dense forest and challenging terrain. This was the type of hike that forced you to dig deep for the final third of the trail as we slogged through mud in the pouring rain.
Fortunately, I had learned my lesson from a few weeks ago when it came to rain. This time, I was prepared. I had rain pants and a rain jacket from the start, and this kept me dry for the entire hike – including my feet.
Sara arranged the hike months ago. We’ve known each other for a year or two through the social media world. A basic description of her role is that she provides analytics and insights for social media, but once you get to know her, you’ll quickly recognize that she provides much, much more.
We had a great discussion about the social media industry and where we feel it is heading – especially from a measurement standpoint. But what impressed me most about Sara two Sundays ago was that she completed the entire hike in rubber boots.
Harneet and I spent three years together at Rotman. He’s an incredibly talented engineer who happens to possess additional knowledge of just about anything you could imagine. He spent most of the hike teaching us about different trail markings and what they mean.
On the drive up, he provided a running commentary on all of the electrical lines and other interesting tidbits about how power is delivered in Ontario. I also discovered that he’s an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking and camping, so it was great to have him along as a guide.
When Sara initially planned and promoted this hike months ago, I developed a vision of a large group of social media folks on a gentle walk through the forest on a hot summer day. Funny how things don’t always turn out the way you expect. However, the people, the conversation, the horrible weather and the distance made this one of my most memorable hikes to date.
This week’s hike was a flat route along the eastern Toronto waterfront from Colonel Danforth Park all the way into Pickering to the Petticoat Creek Conservation Area. It was organized by Heidi, who has been a huge help in supporting me as I train for the #Climb4Cord.
While Heidi and I hardly got to chat with each other on this hike – the second time this has happened on a #KiliHikeTO – I think I know why this keeps happening. She’s like that old friend from back home whom you can let months or years pass, and carry on where you left off as if nothing changed. To me, that’s the sign of a good friendship and likely why we don’t seem to pair up and chat a lot on these hikes.
We were a group of five on Sunday. Erin was back for her second hike – third if you include #BeerHikeTO. Melissa, who was also on the #BeerHikeTO (and created the T-Shirts), came along for her first official daytime hike. She is a part of the ING DIRECT social media team, so we work together daily.
Our final group member was Robin. He is also climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro in August and he will be joined on the #Climb4Cord by his eldest daughter. Robin is no stranger to adventure. He’s participated in several endurance challenges across the globe, so he used Sunday as a chance to break in some new boots and test out some of his tech toys (like a wrist-mounted GoPro camera).
We hiked nearly 17km, but the common theme was about all the interesting places that exist in the Greater Toronto Area that we simply never visit.
We crossed several interesting bridges. Saw people fishing. Discovered cool beaches and even saw people swimming in the lake. And of course, we passed our fair share of characters, including a man who was using a rhubarb leaf as a hat to shield himself from the rain. We decided to try out his tactic and shot a photo in solidarity.
The best part about this hike may have been our timing. We returned to our cars seconds before the skies opened up and unleashed a massive downpour of rain upon us.
FINE TUNING IN OTTAWA
Things became a lot more real when I visited Ottawa last week for a series of meetings with the folks at Canadian Blood Services. We sat down on Monday and hammered out the social media plan for the #Climb4Cord. It is going to take a lot of people on the ground in addition to our small team on the mountain to pull this off. But I’m confident that we’ll be able to do some pretty interesting things with our content.
We also launched the official Twitter handle of the climb: @Climb4Cord
Please take a moment to give it a follow so you can receive updates leading up to and during the climb.
The other purpose of my trip to Ottawa was to go through some testing and examinations to ensure that I’m in good health and able to climb. Both PEAK Centre and ExecHealth have generously contributed their time and resources to aid our #Climb4Cord team in advance of heading off to Tanzania.
I was set up for a VO2 max test at PEAK Centre on the Tuesday morning. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drinking anything other than water within three hours of the test.
Once I arrived at the centre, I was placed on a treadmill and had a heart rate monitor wrapped around my chest. An apparatus with a breathing tube was attached to my head. A snorkeling-like tube was placed in my mouth and nose was pinched shut. I could only breathe out of my mouth so that they could measure maximal oxygen consumption
I was asked to walk on the treadmill at a speed of 3.1. Every couple of minutes, the grade would increase by two levels so that the intensity would become more difficult. I was to continue on the treadmill until I couldn’t physically walk any further.
As I progressed through each stage, the technician would prick my index finger and take a small drop of blood to measure my lactate values, which can indicate whether I have a good aerobic base.
I also had a chance to meet with at doctor from ExecHealth. This was a good chance to ask some final questions before I leave for Tanzania. My right knee has been bothering me of late, so I had it examined. Turns out, my knee is fine. It is actually the muscles that surround the knee that are tight. So I have been doing some extra stretching and Erin also did some treatment on the area on Sunday, which seems to have helped.
ONE SMALL PACKAGE CAN SAVE A LIFE
Dr. Heidi Elmoazzen, who will also be joining us on the #Climb4Cord, took us on an incredible 30 minute journey of the lab and explained the entire process from how a bag of cord blood arrives to the final stem cells that are extracted and stored in liquid nitrogen.
Heidi is the Director of the National Cord Blood Bank. She is also a cryrobiologist and Harvard Medical School instructor. She shared an incredible amount of her knowledge with our fundraising cabinet during the tour and really brought the entire campaign to life for us.
What I find most astounding is that the tiny little package of stem cells she is holding in her hand can save someone’s life.
THE RIGHT GEAR
Finding the right gear has been a challenge. I’ve been testing socks for a while and now I’m on to underwear. I have found a pair of merino wool boxers from M.E.C. that has performed well on recent hikes and prevents chaffing. So that’s one more thing off the list before we depart.
With Benj’s help, I was able to pick up some additional items for the climb including light gloves and a few miscellaneous items like a quick drying towel. Based on the photo, I think Benj was having the most fun inside of M.E.C.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my brother, Jordan, who went out of his way to ship a pair of cold weather Mountain Hardwear pants to me. It can be a little tricky finding the right size when you are built like me!
And while it’s not really gear, I received my Visa for Tanzania last week. It was a bit of a relief to have my passport mailed back from the High Commission in Ottawa.
SUPPORT FROM SO MANY PLACES
A huge group of friends came out to run hills the other week, including Scott who came all the way from Vancouver. I’ve got to hand it to Scott – He got on the wrong GO Train from Union Station and ended up on an express to Pickering. He managed to double back and still arrive at the hill on time before kicking our asses with his endurance (he did miss the team picture due to his tardiness).
I’m also proud to announce that I surpassed $20,000 in donations last week. One of the highlights for me when I receive a notification email is to see who the donation is from. I’m always amazed at how this cause can reach someone whom I haven’t heard from in some time. I think that’s what makes each donation so special.
While I have finally relinquished my hold on second place in the #Climb4Cord individual fundraising race, I’m pleased to see so many donations coming in from all of our climbers. As a group, we have raised more than $210,000. This puts us $40,000 short of our goal with a little over a month to go before the climb.
For everyone who has supported me and the campaign along the way, thank you. Thank You. It’s because of you that I’m able to refocus and drive through the exhaustion.
The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $500,000 for the campaign For All Canadians, which is dedicated to building Canada’s new national public cord blood bank. Click here to donate to my personal page or for more information on the campaign please visit: http://campaignforcanadians.ca/