Social Climber: Stand by Me

19 - Jaime JessIt wasn’t quite Castle Rock, Oregon and a scene from the film Stand by Me, but Sunday’s hike along the Caledon Trailway leg of the Trans Canada Trail was reminiscent of the 1986 American classic.

But this week’s post is not about a movie or a section of a trail northwest of Toronto. It is about the support provided by the people close to me – the people who continue to stand by me throughout this journey.

No one person has stood closer by me than my wife, Jess. Her contributions to my success will be the least visible, but the most impactful. From packing my lunch while I’m off at the gym late at night to keeping our boys entertained while I hike for three plus hours each Sunday, she takes care of the little things. This allows me to focus on the big things – or in this case, the big thing as in Mt. Kilimanjaro. Without her, none of this would be possible.

19 - DinnerOn Sunday, Jess booked us a room at a country inn an hour outside of Toronto to celebrate my 35th birthday. Following an incredible tasting menu and accompanying drinks from the night before, we set out on our hike a little later than usual.

Our initial plan was to hike at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, but when we found out that the Trans Canada Trail passed right by our resort we decided to hike there instead. This allowed us to return back to the resort and relax a little longer before heading back to the city – and reality.

The trail was flat and peaceful. We hiked almost 9km along the dirt and gravel trail. It was nice to actually enjoy some sunshine for a change given how much it has rained in the Greater Toronto Area of late.

In comparison to past hikes, this one was pretty uneventful. But that was what made it perfect – it was a great chance for Jess and I to spend some time alone for three hours and chat and laugh and connect with each other. For someone who generally celebrates his birthday with a massive party, it was a nice change to ring in thirty-five years in a low key manner.

19 - Trail

ORANGE IN THE COMMUNITY

I’ve been sitting on this news for a while, but on Monday it became official that ING DIRECT will be supporting the campaign For All Canadians through #Climb4Cord. ING DIRECT will provide a $100,000 donation and in-kind sponsorship – part of which includes my participation in the climb as the social media lead.

“Giving of both our resources and time is a cornerstone of our philanthropic efforts, and we hope our contribution will impact the success of the #Climb4Cord campaign,” said Peter Aceto, our CEO, who has helped champion the cause.

in Toronto on Monday, June 10, 2013. HO

One of the great things about ING DIRECT is that our participation in community activities extends well beyond the financial.

In fact, during our mandatory orientation, each employee spends one day in the community. I posted about my experience from 2012 when I joined 27 other new employees painting and refreshing properties for a local charitable organization in Markham.

Thank you to ING DIRECT for standing by me.

SOCIAL MEDIA AT NEW HEIGHTS

19 - Sat PhoneAs I outlined, I’ll be leading the local social media efforts for the climb. I met with the good folks at Roadpost on Tuesday to finalize my tools for the trip.

I’ll be carrying two DeLorme inReach satellite communicators which will allow everyone to track our route on an interactive map. The devices also allow for our expedition to post directly to Twitter and Facebook from Kilimanjaro.

I was also introduced to an Iridium Satellite Phone and Iridium AxcessPoint, both of which will be coming up the mountain with me while on the trip. This combination will allow me to establish an Internet connection on the mountain and transmit blog posts and small images back to our team in Ottawa. This content will be distributed across a variety of social networks.

The team at Roadpost has been phenomenal. So thank you for standing by me.

BODY MOVIN’

Getting my body in shape has been no easy task. I’ve been working with Marshall for months now. We started with a lot of weight training to rebuild the muscles in my legs. Over time we shifted into more endurance training – think walking up five flights of stairs while wearing a 40 lbs. weight vest.

Now we are working on staying healthy through high rep, low weight full body workouts. We’ve also added in a lot more stretching to our routine.

19 - Bench Press

To date, I’ve lost about 20 lbs. thanks to his help and the help of countless friends who have joined me for hikes each week. This includes Heidi and the #KillTheHillTO crew that gathers each Friday night to run sprints up hills.

19 - MassageThe other half of getting my body right is the restoration process. I’ve been working with Erin for about a month now. She’s been providing various forms of massage and athletic therapy, including acupuncture. Her healing techniques have been invaluable in getting me “right” before heading off to Tanzania.

While massage may sound relaxing, I can assure you that this isn’t your typical spa treatment.As you can see by the photo on the right, sometimes it involves interesting techniques to loosen things up, like suction cups. But boy does it work!

Thank you to Marshall, Erin and all my Kili-Hikers for standing by me.

RAISING THE BAR

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to recognize the nearly 200 people who have contributed more than $18,000 to the campaign through my personal page. Thank you for standing by me and supporting a cause that will truly make a difference in the lives of all Canadians.

19 - Hiking

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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Social Climber: Wet boots and a valuable lesson

18 - BridgeI never quite know what to expect each time I set out on a #KiliHikeTO. The people, the scenery, the random occurrences, make each adventure unique.

Today, my hiking companion was Justin. I picked him up just after 8 o’clock in the morning. His first question (after Tweeting at me to see how I take my coffee) was along the lines of what the hike was supposed to be like.

I told him that some hikes are long. Some hikes are short. Often it depends on the location, weather, conversation, or a combination of all three. On average, these hikes have been about three hours in duration and span about 10km.

Little did I know that three and half hours later, we’d be making our way alongside the Humber River with a unique story and bragging rights for the longest #KiliHikeTO ever – a whopping 16.18km.

We traversed across Toronto via the 401 to the Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue area to start our hike at Lion’s Park. This route was suggested by Sarah, who unfortunately couldn’t join us. Neither Justin nor I were very familiar with this area of Toronto, but the route proved to be spectacular.

The Humber River flowed to our left for the first half of the route. We came across tons of wildlife including birds, chipmunks, large groups of snails in the freshly cut grass and geese. Tons of geese!

18 - Justin Geese

We also encountered several characters, including one gentleman who was running without shoes or a shirt. We also passed an elderly lady who was motoring along with curlers in her hair. I even spotted a guy hiding in the bush reading a book while sitting on a tree stump. Peaceful place to read, I guess?

But nothing would prepare us for what was in store at the foot of the trail. As we passed through Magwood Park, a couple stopped us to inform us that the trail was closed up ahead. Apparently, the police had taped off the area because they had found a dead body.

We continued hiking south until we ran into the police tape that was blocking the trail and the entire park. Based on reports from Twitter, police had discovered the body of Peter Barnaba, the man who tried to save his dog from drowning in the river earlier this week. This was one of the last things we ever would have expected to encounter on a hike in the city.

18 - Police

We had hiked close to 8km at this point, so we turned around and navigated north to return to our point of origin.

Along the route, Justin and I chatted about a wide variety of topics. But most of our conversation centred on social media. He heads up the social media program for Hailo, the awesome Toronto taxi app. If you haven’t used it, I would suggest downloading it now and giving it a try.

One topic that struck a chord with me – and one I would like to explore in a future post – is the rise of a bullying culture in social media. This includes people bullying other people and also the mob mentality that can take place towards companies.

I’m completely in favour of using social media to hold individuals and corporations accountable, and the open nature to which social media has allowed for this to happen. But I’m witnessing more and more cases of people or the “internet mob” taking things too far. I won’t get into specifics, since that isn’t what this blog post is about, but it is something to consider.

18 - Jaime Justin

We were fortunate to enjoy warm weather for most of the morning. The humidity started to disappear in the final hour of our hike. Unfortunately, as we entered the homestretch of our trek, the sky started to darken.

About 1.5km from the finish, a torrential downpour unleashed itself upon us. We tried to dart into the trees for cover, but the rain was coming down too fast and too furious.

I managed to get my Arc’Teryx rain jacket out of my pack quickly and I threw it on before my upper body got too wet. I scrambled to pull the rain cover over my pack, too. At this point, the rain was driving sideways as a result of a fierce wind. We were soaked.

Within minutes, the rain passed and the sun started to peak out. My shorts were so waterlogged that even my boxers were drenched. But nothing felt worse than my boots. They had taken on a ton of water. So much, in fact, that it now felt like my feet were encapsulated in gel packs. This caused pressure on my feet and made walking extremely difficult.

18 - Jaime RainI finally found a bench where I could sit down and empty out my boots. Enough water to fill a drinking glass came pouring out of each boot. What a disaster.

I quickly learned that all it will take to put an end to my entire hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro is a two minute rain storm. If this had happened on the mountain, there would be no way to get my boots to dry and my trip would be over. After today, I’m even more thankful for training hikes.

Now I have to worry about combating water in addition to the altitude.

It is very clear why Tusker is recommending not only rain pants, but gaiters, too. First thing on Monday morning, I’m going to ensure that I can rent a pair of gaiters for the climb. As it stands, it is going to take a couple of days to dry my boots out, at home!

BODY BREAK

In an effort to get my body tuned up for the climb and help with some back and leg ailments, I tried acupuncture for the first time. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. In fact, I didn’t really feel a thing when the needles were inserted into my mid and lower back by Erin. She kept the needles in for about 15-20 minutes while she tried to remove the massive knots from my calves.

I woke up the next morning and didn’t feel any stiffness in my lower back or legs for the first time since I can recall, so I’ve become an overnight believer in acupuncture.

18 - Hills 2

Hills training continued this past Friday night. We had a long list of potential attendees at noon on Friday, but in the end, it was just Heidi and I who beat the humidity and ran in the rain.

We changed up the running structure this week and attempted six sets of five hill sprints (instead of three sets of 10 sprints). We still ran 30 hills again, just with a different cadence.

We also started branding our weekly adventure as #KillTheHillTO, which was first coined by a different Erin on Twitter. Our hope is that it becomes a massive city-wide training movement. We shall see…

In other preparation news, I have dropped approximately 17 lbs. since I started training in late January. The good news is that I have also put on quite a bit of muscle in my legs, so I have likely dropped more fat, which was one of my goals. If I can lose another 10-15 lbs. in the next two months, that would be super and I would be at an ideal weight for hiking.

My personal fundraising has slowed down over the past couple of weeks and I sit at just over $17,500 raised for the campaign For All Canadians. Ideally, I will be able to make one final push and break through my goal of $20,000 raised. If you haven’t had a chance to donate – or would like to donate again – you can make a contribution on my personal page.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate your support.

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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Social Climber: Misfits and misadventure in Elora

17 - Jaime Nataleigh“Do you know where we are going?” I asked Nataleigh as we rolled out of her downtown condo parking lot.

We had planned to hike in Elora, but neither of us had taken the time to look up the route nor our specific hiking destination. As social media pros in our day-to-day jobs, I guess we both figured that we could rely on our iPhones to guide us.

Or maybe it was foreshadowing to later that day when two digital gurus would have to dump their iPhones and rely on both paper and dirt maps to navigate the Elora Conservation Area.

The day started off on a high thanks to Nataleigh’s attention to detail. She delivered a vanilla latte from Starbucks when I arrived. But it wasn’t the kind gesture of a coffee at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning that was remarkable. It was the fact that she had demanded the black marker from not one, but two baristas, so that she could customize my cup.

In the end, neither would surrender their black Sharpie, so Nataleigh was forced to use a ball point pen to mark the cup.

17 - Coffee Cup

That’s right! She not only put my Twitter handle on it, but she also customized it with the official hashtag for the hike: #KiliHikeTO. Talk about dedication.

There’s extra humor to this story for readers who also follow me on Instagram. I regularly post photos of my Starbucks cups, which are often mislabelled by baristas who attempt to write “Jaime” on them. Some of the best names include: Jay, Jammi, Jammy, Jim, Jimmy, James, Jame, Jam and Gene.

Nataleigh and I met a couple of years ago when she was interning for the Toronto Argonauts. She was helping out with some digital communications for the team while I was heading up social and digital media for the Canadian Football League.

We regularly cross paths online as we roll in the same circles – but it has been ages since we’ve hung out in person.

17 - DangerAfter an eternity on the road, we finally weaved our way through southwest Ontario to the unincorporated community of Elora. Thankfully, driving through town doesn’t take very long, because it took us a couple of tries before we found the Elora Gorge Conservation Area and the genesis of our hike.

After paying our park fee, we were handed a map and told that there were plenty of hiking trails.

We pulled into the parking lot for hikers and it was empty. It was time to blaze our own trail.

After glancing at the map, we decided to wing it and headed into the trees past a series of warnings signs reminding us to stay back from the gorge, which was about a 20-30 foot drop.

When in doubt, I always go right. Bad decision. We made it about 100 feet and ran into a big fence that marked the edge of the conservation area. We were forced to turn around, so we made our way along the narrow, rocky path to a set of stairs that led down below some cliffs to a platform overlooking the gorge.

The view was spectacular. We took some pictures and watched a group of people try and navigate the river in canoes and kayaks. The water was moving pretty fast.

17 - GorgeWe followed the trail along the wall of the gorge until we hit a bridge. We crossed over and made our way back along the opposite side of the gorge. We reached a second fence – one with a hole in it – so we decided to see what was on the other side.

We ran into a nice woman who drew us a map in the dirt and tried to explain to us how we could complete a circle and make it back to our point of origin. Unfortunately, her Jack Russell Terrier kept grabbing the stick out of her hand, so the map was a mess.

We did find the bridge to take us back over the gorge. However, we ended up on the main street in town. Instantly, our gorge hike turned into an urban jaunt complete with fudge shops and small town knickknacks.

Eventually, we found the dirt trail that led back to the conservation area. That’s where we encountered two lovely old ladies who were quick to inform us that the trail ended and we would not be able to get past the fence.

“Well, there is a hole in the fence that you could crawl through,” said one of the women. “Although, I’m not sure you’ll fit,” she added, looking squarely at me. “You’ll get pretty dirty crawling along the ground.”

17 - MapNataleigh and I are both the type of people who relish this sort of challenge. So we approached the fence and saw the hole. It was the same fence that had blocked our way when we started our hike. But we had missed the hole.

A second later, Nataleigh lunged up onto a low wall and propelled herself over the fence. The old ladies watched with wonder.

Now it was my turn to hurdle the barrier that stood between us and the end of our hike.

Nataleigh is much taller than I am, so I entered this challenge at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, I hopped up on the wall and leveraged myself off the bent metal fence and over the top. I landed gracefully on the other side. The old ladies looked a bit shocked and made another comment about how they weren’t sure if I was going to make it.

“I’m a lot more determined on the inside than my physical appearance may let on,” I joked.

The four of us shared a laugh before Nataleigh and I continued on our way to complete the hike – a 7.4 km tour of Elora.

17 - Mill

CAREER ANXIETY

The combination of misadventures and the company made this one of my more enjoyable and memorable hikes. We covered a broad range of topics from politics to social media to career anxiety.

Career anxiety is a topic that I’m very passionate about. I believe that the pressure on Generation Y is intense because tools like LinkedIn allow for career benchmarking. I love LinkedIn, but the fact that resumes and career accomplishments are so out in the open can lead to people feeling like they are falling behind. This is one reason why I think Generation Y is at odds with current workplace hierarchies.

People expect to be VPs by the time they turn 30 because they see other people their age with similar titles. The only problem is that people often give themselves bogus titles. We all know someone who calls themselves a CEO despite being in charge of a sole proprietorship.

Nataleigh expressed some concerns with her career progression, but she has nothing to fear. Her energy and enthusiasm are boundless and her knowledge of social media at a business level is strong. She currently leads the social media training for a large real estate firm, helping brokers develop new ways to market themselves in a rapidly changing landscape. This is impressive.

It is always energizing to be around people who have strong drive and big ideas.

17 - Jaime Nataleigh 2

ODDS AND ENDS

The past week or so has been awesome on the training front. On Friday night I was back running hill sprints. Saturday I fit in a 16.5 km bike ride through the Don Valley. Sunday was the hike in Elora. Monday I was able to get in 45 minutes of cardio followed by a great stretch, all before work. I completed the two-a-day on Monday night in the gym with Marshall.

The Friday night hills thing is starting to take off. Chris and Heidi joined me after work to run hills in Blantyre Park. We did three sets of 10 sprints up the grass hill. I started strong, but faded fast, getting lapped by both Heidi and Chris near the end.

17 - Vine Run

Click the image to watch the video

I felt good after the sprints, but during the exercise, I felt like my heart was going to explode from my chest.

This leads to my next area of intrigue. Tanya, who blew past me on the Grouse Grind a couple of weeks ago, went for a VO2 Max test this week at Peak Centre. Peak Centre is providing testing and training support for the #Climb4Cord. I’m visiting their Ottawa location in June when I’m in town for some campaign board meetings with Canadian Blood Services.

After hearing about the test from Tanya, I’m a little terrified to take it and also find out the results. The good news is that I should gain some valuable insights and still have six weeks to make any necessary adjustments to my training schedule before I leave for Africa on August 3rd.

17 - Hills

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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Social Climber: Challengers follow the path less travelled

IMG_4399At ING DIRECT we pride ourselves on being challengers. So when five colleagues joined me on Sunday morning at Thornton Bales Conservation Area for #KiliHikeTO, no one was shocked when we found ourselves carving our own trail less than ten minutes into the hike.

The sign on the fence in front of us said: “THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY. If you must trespass, please treat with respect & be sure to tell your kids why you are breaking the law.”

We elected not to break any laws – or anger the locals – so we veered to the left and set out on our own course.

For the 16th consecutive week, I was up and on the trails for a Sunday morning hike. Hiking to train for the #Climb4Cord has become a bit mundane; however, the wonderful people who join me always help bring a little excitement and unique flare each week. On this Sunday, I was surrounded by folks who enjoy following the road less travelled.

16 - Road Less Travelled

Once the trailblazing began in earnest, we ran up untouched hills for the sake of it. We climbed trees because they were there. We jumped on logs because they had fallen in our path. As Snoop Dogg recently sang, we were “living young and wild and free.”

Eventually, we stumbled back onto the marked path. We encountered a lovely woman who was planting red flags into a wood post. She guided us towards the proper route. Turns out, there was a massive area to walk, despite early reconnaissance (a.k.a. Tammy) telling us that “The 99 Steps” was a short hike with little distance to cover and would only take us 10-15 minutes tops to complete.

IMG_4485As we marched along the dirt trails, we would pass other hikers who would stop and ask us what team we were on. All six of us brought along our #OrangeScarf and we were wearing it proudly around our necks on the hike.

Teamwork was actually one of the key themes of our hike. The defining moment for me was at the conclusion of the hike. We all stared up the 99 steps to freedom and one after another we attacked them with vigor.

Leaping and bounding we pushed our way to the top to finish on a high – except for one member of our team. He/She needed additional encouragement and that’s what the rest of the team delivered. We cheered until the last of our group was at the top and we started to high-five and hug each other.

What a way to finish.

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Returning to #KiliHikeTO for the second time are Kate and Andre. You can read the back story from our St. Paddy’s day hike on how I came to know both of them. Bottom line, they have become work family to me.

Tammy, who I mentioned above, provides great comic relief on a regular basis. Once in a while, she opens up to the world on Twitter, but her appearances are far too rare in my opinion. The world could use a lot more Tammy.

Steve also joined our team this past Sunday. If you ever need to make a large purchase – or even a small one – Steve is your guy. No one researches products like he does. He’ll tell you more about a product and where to get it for the best price than 99 per cent of the people working for a given company. He’s also a talented video editor.

Chris is the final member of our team. He’s the reason why I’m not losing any weight as I prepare to climb the mountain. Why, you ask? He introduced me to craft beer back in December, and I’ve become a devout follower ever since. Chris, you see, is a mini-celebrity in the local craft brew scene and has been like a wise old owl guiding me on this journey of hoppy goodness.

IMG_4440Unfortunately, it has become a minor obsession for me and I have bottles stashed in every cupboard. I’m curious by nature and I like to try as many different types as possible. I just wish I had waited until after August to start this new hobby.

I’ve added an additional component to my weekly training regimen. Currently, I’m calling it ‘Hills Friday’, but some people beg to differ. Erin, who joined me for the inaugural hill running session this past week, referred to it as ‘Fucking Hills Friday’ after our seventh or eighth round up the massive hill near the Don Valley Brickworks.

As I mentioned in a past blog post, I’m trying to improve my conditioning and this is one of the ways that I hope to achieve that.

A few loose odds and ends to wrap up this post.

I put in a new order for pants this week. I was going to wear light hiking pants with long underwear on summit day, but after checking out recent forecasts, I decided that I need to dress warmer. After consulting Mel from Tusker Trail, I settled on a pair of Mountain Hardwear pants that will keep me both warm and dry. They are similar to ski pants, but not quite as bulky. This should work well with the parkas that Canadian Blood Services is providing for our expedition.

I have seen a bump in funds raised this past week and I am pushing closer to $16,000 raised. As a result, I have increased my goal to $20,000.

When I started out, I thought I was going to need a lot of family support just to reach $10,000. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the generosity of friends and strangers who have helped me shatter this goal. I’m confident that with 74 days until we depart to Tanzania I should reach this goal. If you would like to contribute, you can donate here.

This week I’ll be running hills again on Friday night and I’m back in the gym with Marshall on Saturday afternoon. This Sunday, a group of us are heading up to Blue Mountain to hike. It will be a full day adventure, but it will also be nice to escape from the GTA for the day.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate your support.

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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Social Climber: Redemption on the Grouse Grind

IMG_4263As I hit the quarter mark of Vancouver’s infamous Grouse Grind, my hamstrings were on fire. My quads trembled as I tried to catch my breath. I used my shirt to mop the flowing river of sweat off my forehand.

“Oh Fuck,” I thought. Here we go again.

It was less than a week after I had failed to reach the summit of Mt. Finlayson in Victoria. Sure, I could use the excuse that I was sick then. But not here. Not now.

I had had almost a week to recover and reset my focus on climbing to the top of Grouse Mountain for the first time in my life – a 2.9 kilometre trail that rises 853 vertical metres. In other words, it is damn steep, which explains why it is often dubbed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.” (Note: The official website states that the climb is an approximate 56 per cent slope or 30°)

I was hiking with Tanya. She’s the Medical Director for the Canadian Blood Services’ National Public Cord Blood Bank. We had met in person for the first time about 20 minutes earlier in the parking lot at Grouse Mountain. However, we’d been chatting over email and Facebook for a few weeks as both of us will be on the expedition team climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August.

IMG_4295Tanya and I have an additional connection. My late father, whom I am climbing for on this trip, was one of her mentors when she was in medical school. She also cared for him when he was sick. I was really looking forward to meeting her and hiking ‘The Grind’ on this Friday morning.

Tanya flew up the grind with ease and was patient enough to wait for me as I slowly navigated my way along the route.

The setting was unreal – beautiful old growth forest with sounds of running water and birds chirping. I even saw a real grouse shouting out mating calls with its ruffled feathers displayed for courtship.

The average hiker is supposed to take an hour and a half to reach the top. Novice hikers generally take two hours. By the three-quarter mark, Tanya and I had to split. I was slowing her down and she had to take off to get to a meeting.

I was physically spent at this point, but there’s no turning around on The Grind. The only way to go is up. So I took some time to catch my breath and refocus. I would have taken a sip of water, but my bottle was empty.

Ever so slowly, step by step, I forced myself up the final quarter of the trail. It was a mental battle. But one I needed to endure.

IMG_4275The elation I felt when I emerged from the trees and saw the lodge at the top of the hill is indescribable. A huge smile came across my face and the weight of the world fell from my shoulders. I had slayed my mental beast and it only took me 1 hour and 57 minutes.

This climb provided some additional valuable information for my training. It exposed some additional weaknesses – namely my fitness and the muscles in my legs.

I have now put a renewed focus on my physical conditioning. I was out on the bike earlier this week before work and will continue to create time in my schedule to ride and also run hills. So be forewarned, if I tell you I can’t hang out until September, this is why (unless you want to ride a bike or run a hill with me).

To address the issue of my muscles, I called up an old friend, Erin, who is an athletic therapist. She and I started working together this week.

Erin informed me that my glutes aren’t firing, which is causing my hamstrings and quads to fatigue quickly. I also have super tight hip flexors, which is why I was at a standing desk at work for most of today instead of sitting. The next few months will be about making little adjustments in my life to ensure I’m as ready as I can be when August arrives.

I want to make absolutely sure that I take charge of all the factors that I can control.

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This Sunday, I continued my weekly hikes back on my home course in the Don Valley. Only 12 hours after returning home from Vancouver, I met up with Kristyna at the Brickworks.

Often times when you meet someone in person for the first time after only knowing them from Twitter, they aren’t quite as you’d expect them to be. Fortunately, Kristyna’s online and offline personality is a perfect match of energy, intelligence and sass. She’s also the ideal person to get you in a great mood on a Sunday morning (and not only because she brought me a vanilla latte from Starbucks).

IMG_4321We have some similarities, like experience working in professional sports. We also have some differences when it comes to hockey. She likes the Calgary Flames; I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan. Thankfully, we didn’t come to blows on the trail. Likely, it was because both our teams are already golfing.

We also share a passion for social media and connecting with people and we traded stories of online experiences with brands – both positive and negative. I’m always interested to hear from other people about which companies they like and which companies they could do without when it comes to social media practices.

We started our hike in the sun, but by the time we reached the top of the ridge overlooking the Brickworks, a wicked hail storm howled across the horizon. We had nowhere to take cover, so we kept walking. Hail in May – you just gotta roll with it!

IMG_4312 - Copy

I received a package from Arc’teryx on Tuesday, which made my day. I had sent my jacket in for repairs a few weeks ago and now it is fixed. It is my lime green jacket that will be accompanying me on the climb and it is nice to have it back and in my care. Through all these training hikes, I’ve become quite particular about my gear. Again, I don’t want any surprises on the mountain.

On the fundraising front, I hit another major milestone on May 8th when I passed the $15,000 mark. It is hard to put into words how much the support – financial or otherwise – from friends, family and strangers means to me. So thank you for playing a part in this journey.

Don’t forget to sign up for a hike. The weeks are filling up fast and I’d like to hike with as many people as possible before I go.

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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Social Climber: You need to fail before you succeed

14 - Finlayson TrioSometimes you need to fail before you succeed.

Sunday’s climb up Mt. Finlayson near Victoria, B.C. was a good lesson that nothing in life comes easy.

I had been in a pretty good groove with my training over the past couple of months. I felt like I was rounding into good shape to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in August.

Many friends and acquaintances have been telling me that they felt I could climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow, if I were forced to leave early. I let that get to my head.

On Sunday, Mt. Finlayson kicked the shit out of me. I failed to make it to the top.

I tried, several times, to catch my breath, regain the strength in my legs and disregard the aches and pains in my muscles and joints. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

I started worrying about Sunday’s hike on Saturday afternoon following my regular workout with Marshall. I made it through our session, but I was feeling lackluster and was not my energetic self. My body was present, but my mind was elsewhere.

I came home and tried to recover before my five-hour flight to Victoria. I hydrated. I ate nutritious food. I stretched. Nothing seemed to eliminate the aches and pain in my body that was now spreading to my head. My stomach was in knots. I was exhausted.

I started the week suffering from allergies – an annual occurrence for me. But this wave of sickness wasn’t allergies. It was much stronger.

I slept for a majority of the flight to Victoria, hopeful that the west coast air might breathe some new life into me when I landed. It didn’t.

I decided that sleep would be the cure. I went to bed at 10pm and slept until 8am. This marked the most cumulative hours of sleep I have had in months.

I felt refreshed when I woke up, but still weak. I went downstairs for breakfast where I tried to fuel up to ensure I could make it to the summit of this 419m high peak.

Mt. Finlayson isn’t a long hike – it’s only 4km round trip – but it is a steep hike with lots of rugged terrain like tree roots and bare rock. The footing is challenging for most of the hike while the final ascent involves scrambling up a rock face.

14 - Triple Pic

I’m visiting Victoria to speak at Social Media Camp – a gathering of about 600 social media professionals. The plans had been in the works for weeks to climb Mt. Finlayson. Chris Burdge, who runs Social Media Camp, was kind enough to help me continue my streak of Sunday morning hikes to train for the #Climb4Cord. He put out a call to other attendees of the conference to join us.

We couldn’t have picked a nicer day for a hike. The sun was out. The sky was blue. Temperatures were in the low 20s. And the breeze off the ocean was magnificent.

The setting for the hike was ideal. Mt. Finlayson is located in Goldstream Provincial Park, which is a 25 minute drive northwest of Victoria. It is set amid old-growth temperate rain forest.

The hike commences at the bottom of a steep set of stairs. The shade is nice as your body instantly heats up from the exertion of ascending quickly. At the top of the stairs, glimmers of sunshine dot the trail, which becomes a mixture of dirt, rocks and tree roots.

14 - Natures LadderChris and I ended up veering off course early on because we missed the tiny sign leading up to the top. Thankfully, one of the many friendly hikers along the way guided us back to the correct trail.

One especially beautiful part of the lower mountain is what some locals call “nature’s ladder” – it is a maze of tree roots leading up a hill. We experienced this feature a couple of times on some early hills.

Soon the dirt and roots gave way to loose rocks and the grades became steeper. Before we knew it, we were out of the trees and on a rock face. This was the final part of the trail and it required us to scramble across and up the rocks to reach the summit.

The trail was marked by tiny orange flags, but it became abundantly clear why hikers are strongly dissuaded from heading up this trail close to dusk or in the rain. Even on a dry day, some of the rock faces were slippery as we made our way up.

Chris was patient enough to wait for me each time I needed to try and regain my energy, which became more frequent on this part of the hike. Finally, I had to stop and sit on a rock and simply take in the breathtaking views.

You could see several snowcapped mountain ranges off in the distance. Large birds stalked prey from above the treetops. And it was quiet. It was so peaceful.

14 - Orange ScarfI sat there and contemplated my situation for a few minutes. Should I let my competitive spirit take over and drive myself to summit the mountain, despite the exhaustion and pain? Or do I do the smart thing and head down, recognizing that the decent was going to be equally taxing on my body.

I decided to keep going for the top. I hiked another minute or so and saw the final ascent. It was long. It was steep. It was rocky. I took a deep breath and realized that that it wasn’t meant to be. I simply didn’t have the energy to push for the top. Whatever illness that had invaded my body was going to win the day.

Part of me wanted to know what failure felt like so that I could bottle up that feeling and store it in the back for my mind in case I found myself in a similar situation on Kilimanjaro. I wanted to ensure I knew what the bitter taste of defeat tasted like, so that I would never have to taste it again – let alone on the actual climb in August.

So while my attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Finlayson was a failure, the overall hike was a success thanks to the lessons I learned.

14 - Vista

I have a second challenging hike coming up this week on Friday in Vancouver (as long as I’m recovered from whatever is making me sick). The plan is to climb the Grouse Grind with some of the Vancouver based climbers from our #Climb4Cord team. Then I’m back in Toronto on Saturday and have a local hike planned for Sunday. The sign-up sheet is located here.

Fundraising continues to go well. I’m within $200 of reaching $15,000 raised. The support from family and friends has been outstanding and I’m thankful to everyone who continues to support me along the way.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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Social Climber: Blue Balls & Rouge Trails

Heidi set out to make this week’s #KiliHikeTO the best hike on the entire calendar. That’s how she rolls.

Throughout the week leading up to the hike, Heidi was planning all sorts of ideas to create content that we could share on social media before, during and after the hike. I think we landed on producing a bunch of Vines (a social video service), but in the end, our creative minds wandered elsewhere.

Allow me to present to you the Hadouken:

13 - Hadouken

For those of you struggling to find the cultural relevance, Hadouken comes from the video game Street Fighter II. It was a move performed by the characters Ryu and Ken.

What does this have to do with hiking and training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?

Nothing.

But it looks cool!

I’ve known Heidi since 2010 when I met her at ING DIRECT’s first-ever TweetUp in Toronto. She was working for the bank while I was just a wannabe social media nerd trying to hang out at cool events.

13 - Heidi The LeaderWe started interacting on Twitter following that night and stayed in touch until I joined ING DIRECT in 2012 and we started working together in the Marketing department.

Despite driving this week’s agenda – including location – I discovered just how directionally challenged Heidi is. I thought her round-about way of getting to the Rouge Park was special until she turned a 22km drive home into a 35km adventure that practically went half-way across the city. I’m thankful that she is great company.

Heidi and I carpooled over to the Rouge Watershed with Maarten. He and I work together at ING DIRECT. Maarten heads up our sustainability program.

Maarten is originally from the Netherlands, which was clear from the moment he arrived on his three-speed bike wearing jeans and soccer-style kicks for our hike. He was also sporting a messenger bag and was later caught sipping coffee out of the small cup that came with his thermos.

13 - Maarten CoffeeAs a reminder that looks can be deceiving, we’d later find ourselves chasing Maarten up and down the hills.

Maarten came to Canada a few years back and landed a job working in our ING DIRECT Vancouver Café. I find it ironic that he left the Netherlands to come to Canada only to work for a Dutch bank.

Maarten’s story is interesting because he created his current opportunity with the bank. There was no official sustainability program at ING DIRECT, but he made a strong case for why the bank should have this as an official role and now he owns it.

Often, I hear people say that no opportunities exist or they sit and wait for someone to recognize them and hand them an opportunity. Opportunities are rarely handed out. People who are successful, like Maarten, create their own opportunities. He took a leap of faith and delivered a 90-second elevator pitch to our CEO one afternoon by the coffee machines at the Café. That led to a chance to present his case to the executives of the bank. The rest is history.

There are tons of people in every company with great ideas, but most of them likely think, “The CEO is too busy to listen to me, so why even try.” The fact that many people behave this way increases your odds for success when pitching the CEO (or other senior leaders).

13 - Group Shot

Heidi also brought along her buddy Joel on Saturday. I’m glad she did because I learned a lot during three hours of hiking with the social media whiz kid who is also known as @schnitzelboy. He’s very in tune with social media and relationship building and he left me with a lot to think about as we huffed and puffed our way up hills and trails full of slop.

One thing that stuck with me was his model for social media engagement. Essentially, Joel argues that to create social conversation, you need to create content where the audience will passionately agree or passionately disagree with what you have shared. It is a simple idea in theory, but in practice, so many people occupy the mushy middle and bore their audience with mundane updates.

13 - Happy TrailsA second discussion we had focused on our LinkedIn networks. Joel protects his network with vigor. He’s very selective on who he lets into his inner circle. I, on the other hand, am much more liberal with my LinkedIn network.

Early on, I used to accept just about anyone who sent me a request to connect. In the past year or so, I’ve scaled back on who I will accept. Generally, if we have never met in person, I won’t accept you unless you write a compelling note on why it would be valuable for us to connect.

My new plan is to actually go through my LinkedIn connections in the near future and cull the list so that it only features people whom I know or have done business with.

Too often, I’ve accepted someone because they are friends of a friend only to realize that said friend accepted them because they were friends of another friend. Next thing you know, these network imposters become friends with all of your friends because everyone just accepts them based on their prior connections within the shared network.

I’d be interested to read in the comments section below how you feel about LinkedIn and connecting with people.

13 - Big Hill

Sunday’s hike was another good physical and mental test. After coming off such a great week last week, I had to leave work early on Monday with a fever. I think it was a combination of my recent travel schedule and general workload that led me to burn out a little bit. I missed training with Marshall on Monday night and spent Tuesday and Wednesday home sick. By Thursday, I was back at work, but even standing up for a few moments caused my legs to tremble.

I was a bit worried about this week’s hike when I woke up on Saturday morning with the headache that had been plaguing me since Monday. But once we were out on the trails and in the wonderful sunshine, I started to feel better.

The Rouge Park provided a lot of up and down trails that were covered with rocks, logs and mud. This marks two weeks in a row where I’ve had the opportunity to test myself on more challenging terrain. I found myself sucking for oxygen on one of the steep hills, but overall, I felt good as we grinded out 11 kilometers in a little less than three hours.

13 - Jaime PhonesTo put the icing on the cake, I went downtown to train with Marshall following the hike. Generally, I hike on Sundays, but this week I made an exception so that I could accommodate Heidi’s schedule. Even with three hours of hiking logged, I managed to get through the usual Saturday training session, minus a few pounds and reps on the leg press.

I’m off to Victoria this Saturday to speak at Social Media Camp later in the week. Chris, who runs Social Media Camp, has arranged a hike up Mt. Finlayson on Sunday morning so that I can continue my routine and hike for the 14th consecutive week. The change of scenery will be nice and I’m looking forward to the challenge of hiking up a real mountain.

Speaking of hiking, it isn’t too late to sign up for a hike. There are some pretty cool hikes planned over the next month and a bit including Collingwood, Thornton Bales King Trail, Rattlesnake Point and more. If one of them is in your neck of the woods, throw your name down on the list or pick a week that hasn’t been claimed yet and name your location.

Fundraising continues to go well. Some generous donations this week have pushed my total funds raised to almost $14,000. This has wildly exceeded my expectations and I’m thankful for the support from family and friends. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 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/

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