Social Climber: Suck it up buttercup

22 - GroupWhen an eight year old tells you to, “Suck it up, buttercup” between flights up a hill, it becomes a moment that is hard to erase from your mind.

These four words continue to ring in my head thanks to Heidi and her daughter.

Following last week’s blog post where I exposed some feelings of doubt towards the climb, Heidi was one of the first people to reach out and reassure me that all was fine.

Going back and forth via text, she reaffirmed the ‘suck it up, buttercup’ mantra while adding her additional “golden drops of wisdom” to guide me back into a positive space.

“Suck it up, buttercup” has been adopted as my official motto for the remainder of my training and for the duration of the climb.

I’m in a much better place than I was a week ago. It turns out that all I needed was four days of rest (read: sleep). My body was screaming at me to slow down, but I wasn’t listening to it.

I also took a break from training and focused on ways to get my body right. I saw Erin for some therapy on Sunday night. I visited my doctor on Tuesday and was prescribed a puffer that is helping with my breathing. I visited a travel clinic on Wednesday to get my final booster shots.

22 - IVOn Thursday I paid a visit to a naturopathic doctor, John Dempster, for a vitamin intravenous drip. It has been a while since I have had a vitamin IV drip, but when I’m really worn down I feel that it gives me the burst of energy that I need to get over the hump.

The combination of all of the above has reenergized me heading into the homestretch.

With my newfound energy, I had one of my best workouts in months with Marshall, on Saturday. We blasted through our usual routine and even added some additional reps onto the final round of most sets. It felt great.

22 - Training

It also set the tone for a great long weekend of training and resting. I spent the weekend north of the city at a cottage. It also provided me the chance to check out a new trail and I was fortunate that Cosi and Cobi – who hiked with me in Week 12 – were staying at a cottage in the nearby area.

Sunday was my first truly warm weather hike since I started training. I have endured a lot of cold, snow, wind and, most recently, rain. But I have yet to complete a hike on a hot day.

We met at the top of the Sutton-Zephyr Rail Trail. It is an abandoned rail line that runs south from the town of Sutton for about 14km. Our plan was to hike for an hour and a half and then turn around. We estimated that we would be able to hike about 15km round trip over a three hour span.

As we entered the gravel trail, two things quickly became apparent. There was going to be a ton of bugs on this hike and people like to let their dogs shit right in the middle of this trail.

It would take three to four applications of bug spray to eventually protect ourselves from the pests and about a kilometre to rid ourselves of the shit. Once we got going, the trail became quite pleasant. It was surrounded by trees, farms and marshes. We practically had the trail to ourselves for the entire hike.

About an hour and 15 minutes into our adventure we hit a break in the trail. The marshes on either side of the trail had over flown and washed out the trail. The gap was about 10-12 feet wide and the water quickly dropped off from the edge of the trail.

We considered jumping across, but the chances of us landing short were high. Exacerbating the problem was that the opposite bank sloped back towards the water, so if we did come up short, we’d likely tumble backwards into the drink. The water was a cloudy brown and would have been waist high at the centre, so after a few moments of contemplation, saner heads prevailed and we elected to turn around.

22 - Washed Out Trail

Cosi and Cobi made for great hiking partners because the conversation flowed from one topic to the next. The one topic that stuck with me was Cosi’s query about what our last meal on earth would look like.

Cobi and I both threw out fancy suggestions like seared ahi tuna in a wasabi lime vinaigrette or foie gras. We then decided that we would settle on an 18-course tasting menu that would take us through a range of culinary creations. In my scenario, it would be topped off by sticky toffee pudding from the Rim Rock Cafe in Whistler.

Cosi, on the other hand, was content to scarf down a greasy burger and fries at a small town diner.

The irony here is that Cosi is an incredible baker and is known for her masterpiece creations. What I find astounding is that Cobi is able to live with her and resist the temptation of sampling each one of her baked treats. I would not have the willpower for that.

By the time we made it back to our cars, we had worked up a nice sweat and covered 14km in just under three hours.

22 - Washed Out Trail 2

MEDIC ALERT

I was asked this week by my colleague, Erik, about how many pills, vaccinations, etc. I would need for the trip. I had to take a moment and think about it, but here is my best guess about what I have had to do or will need to do for this trip (I am not a doctor, please do not follow this list):

New vaccinations required:

  • Typhoid Fever (Booster)
  • Hepatitis B (Booster)
  • Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus (Booster)

Vaccinations received in the past:

  • Twinrix Hepatitis A & B
  • Yellow Fever
  • Flu Shot

Medication (Required):

  • Diamox (for altitude acclimatization)
  • Malarone (for malaria)

Medication (Optional):

  • Dukoral (for diarrhea prevention)
  • Cipro or Zithromax (antibiotic)

TECH TALK

I sat down with our Chief Information Officer, Charaka, on Friday and showcased all of the satellite tech toys for the trip. It is always fun to chat with someone who is equally interested in the technology and its capabilities.

22 - Sat TransmissionWe shared a laugh about how slow data transmits via satellite (approximately 13 minutes to transfer 1MB of data) and about the size of the satellite phone, which resembles something from the mid-90s.

Showing off the satellite gear also provided me a good excuse for a trial run with the phone and modem to send a test blog post and image to myself. It took about 3-4 minutes to send the post along with a 200kb image. It was faster than I expected.

As long as all the batteries stay charged while we are on Kilimanjaro, things should work out well. However, I have a couple of contingency plans in place if certain devices fail.

Given that we will be executing social media in abnormal conditions, having multiple backup plans in place is necessary.

SPECIAL DELIVERY

I received a special package this week from Canadian Blood Services that contained my parka, toque, hat, water bottle, head lamp and official backpack.

It is hard to imagine that in one month I will be on a plane to Tanzania. It is also strange going through all my gear and seeing the juxtaposition between the down parka for the top of the mountain where it could be -15 and shorts and hats for +30 where I will be trying to avoid sunburns and mosquitoes.

22 - CBS Gear

ROAD TRIP

On Tuesday, I’m heading off on a week-long road trip. ING DIRECT is partnering up with Five Hole for Food and we are travelling from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia to play road hockey and collect donations for local food banks. I will be on the first half of the trip and responsible for creating content for ING DIRECT.

Ten of us will be travelling by sleeper bus, so it will be a good test to stay on track with my training. The folks at Peak Centre have sent along a training plan that includes exercises for the days where I won’t have access to a gym. We are also planning to hike in Newfoundland this week and we’ll try and squeeze one in on Sunday when we are in Saint John, New Brunswick to keep the streak of Sunday hikes alive.

It is almost go time. And all the more reasons to suck it up, buttercup!

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/

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Social Climber: Running out of time

20 - BootsNever once did I believe that training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro would be easy. I also never expected that my training in the month of June would be as difficult or stressful as it has been.

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.

20 - Rattlesnake Point

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.

20 - Harneet SaraHarneet and I were decked out in top-of-the-line hiking boots, but somehow Sara kept up with us the entire way on extremely challenging and wet ground. In rubber boots… simply amazing!

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.

21 - Group Shot

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.

21 - Waterfront GroupWe 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.

21 - Rhubarb Hats

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.

21 - VO2 MaxI 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

21 - Stem CellsThe highlight of my trip to was a tour of the Ottawa Cord Blood Bank.

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

20 - Benj MECFinding 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).

21 - KillTheHillTO

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/

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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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