Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Preliminary Itinerary - just so you know where I will be and when

As promised, I am posting my itinerary.  Two posts in one day!  A new personal best.  As the days draw near and as the climbers arrive in KTM, there are more events to report.  I intend to keep you all posted via my blog until I no longer have the energy or the internet access.  So here goes...a rough itinerary.  NOTE:  The days are rough estimates because there are many factors that affect the itinerary - mostly the TIN factor (TIN = "This Is Nepal").

Day 1:  DC to KTM (Day 1 in Kathmandu)

Flight to KTM:
Washington Reagan --> Dubai
Dubai --> KTM
Hopefully this is an uneventful trip with two long naps

LATEST UPDATE on 3/31/15:  Alan Arnette is stuck in Turkey.  As the saying goes..."the early bird may catches the worm" but few recognize that the early worm gets eaten OR stuck in Turkey.  Sorry Alan.  Hope you get out of there soon...and no, I am not calling him a worm.  He is too nice a guy to call him anything other than a great person.

Day 2:  KTM to Lukla (Day 2 in Kathmandu/Lukla)

Flight from KTM to Lukla is always an event.  The weather interferes with the flights so if all goes well, I will get out of KTM right away and start my trek on day 2.  Wishful thinking...TIN.  

LATEST UPDATE on 3/31/15:  Jim Davidson is waiting to get out of KTM.  The flights to Lukla were canceled yesterday (3/30/15) and it doesn't look promising today.  Stay tuned to his updates for flight information.

Day 2 continued.... (Option 1):  Lukla to Namche (based upon how I feel and if I arrive early enough into Lukla) - estimated time*:  10 hours

The trek from Lukla to Namche takes about 10 hours (give or take an hour due to rest and food breaks).  What makes the trek between these two points somewhat challenging is not the altitude gain but rather the length (10 miles).  Most people take 3-5 days to complete this section of the trek.  Since I am acclimatized now to 20,000 feet (6100 m), I see no reason to dawdle up the valley.  On the other hand, I do intend to take a leisurely stroll up the valley and capture as much as possible on camera.  I have a ton of pictures from last year but I want some better ones this year with my new Sony alpha 6000 (sounds like some futuristic device, eh?). 

*NB:  These time estimates are rough.  I have no real recollection of the times and did not look them up in my climbing log.  Instead, I used various websites to get an average estimate.  My suspicion is that these are fairly conservative time estimates.  It doesn't matter; I intend to take my time.  There are no awards for a fast trek...only a huge headache and slow acclimatization.

The Trek from Lukla to EBC with altitudes in meters

Days 2 and 3 (Option 2):  Lukla to Phakding (sleep) and then off to Namche - estimated time:  2 hours 1st leg and 8 hours 2nd leg

Last year, we did the trek to Namche using this method.  It was really casual and I felt we could easily go further but we got such a late start from Lukla, the short trek was almost mandatory.  So, if I get into Lukla late, I will stop in Phakding for the night and then head off to Namche right away the next morning.

Days 2 and 3 (Option 1) or Days 3 and 4 (Option 2):  Arrive in Namche and rest the next day

I'm in no rush.  I like Namche.  It is really the last bit of civilization we have along the Khumbu valley so I intend to soak it up.  They have great WiFi, bakeries, and places to just hang out and chat with other climbers.  After Namche, the accommodations get a bit more rustic (euphemism for whatever you can imagine) and less comfortable unless we sleep in a tent (my preference).  At this point, I will be at 11,300 feet (3440m) and probably feeling darn good.  The days so far would not be terribly stressful and I can take my time to get to Everest base camp (EBC) even though our entire SummitClimb expedition will have been there for almost 2 weeks.  I'm patient.  Also, I am acclimatized.  No need to stress.

Day 4 (Option 1) or Day 5 (Option 2):  Trek from Namche to Pangboche - estimated time:  7 hours

Trekking out of Namche is a treat.  You climb...and climb...and climb to all destinations up the valley.  I find this part to be refreshing because up until this point, most of the trek is pretty flat with a few uphill sections.  This section got my blood going and I felt alive.  There are tons of photo opportunities and different landscapes as we head out of Namche and into the higher elevations of Pangboche and other small villages.  Pangboche doesn't have much to offer but it is a relatively cozy village with nice tea houses.  I like the bakery there and found their peat fireplace to be a nice respite from the cold confines of our unheated (at the time) tea house.  My stay here will be brief - just overnight.  Gotta get up early for the next leg...

Day 5 (Option 1) or Day 6 (Option 2):  Trek from Pangboche to Lobuche - estimated time:  8.5 hours

I have no reason to rush to Lobuche.  That village is a mudfest in the streets but has nice accommodations and friendly hosts.  Many trekkers stop here and I intend to do the same.  What makes Lobuche ideal is that it is located just far enough away from Pangboche to make it a good stopping point and yet far away still from Gorak Shep and EBC to warrant the stop here.  I will spend the night here, rest up well, and get ready for my final push to EBC from Lobuche.

Day 6 (Option 1) or Day 7 (Option 2):  Trek from Lobuche to EBC - estimated time:  5.5 hours

I really enjoyed this part of the trek last year.  The Khumbu valley opens up and you finally get to see EBC and the icefall from pretty far away.  Also, the anticipation of getting to EBC is a bit overwhelming.  We moved fast last year but this year, I want to take my time, snap a bunch of pictures of Lobuche (the peak I climbed last year before the closed down Everest) and Pumori (the peak I climbed up to Advanced Base Camp or ABC last year to acclimatize).  These are pretty peaks and warrant a few nice pictures.  

So, I expect to be in EBC in about a week.  You see from the rough itinerary above that there are many contingencies.  I didn't include inclement weather delays because I have the gear to trek through snow and rain.  A little precipitation makes the day go faster and makes it a bit more interesting.  Thus, I have a week to get to EBC and I intend to take my time.  

Once I get to EBC, I will probably start with the rounds up through the icefall with the other climbers provided I feel fine.  Those rounds are just acclimatization stages where we climb high, sleep low.  The first round is a quick trip up the icefall followed by either a night at camp 1 or an immediate return - depending upon the time required to ascend the icefall.  I will know more about the rounds and the rounds schedule when I get to EBC.  For now, I focus on what I control - the trek into EBC.  

Hope you found this illuminating.  You will all get SPOT updates on my whereabouts so you will know where I am and how I progressed up through the Khumbu valley AND how accurate my guesstimates were for this itinerary.  Don't expect these numbers to even come close to reality.

Getting excited by seeing all the Everest climbing posts...and informal send-off at our house in Fairfax

Greetings again.  I am collecting and absorbing all the positive vibes sent from the many Everest climbers I connected with over the past two years.  Here are a few updates from real and virtual friends...(listed in chronological order by departure date):

Alan Arnette left today (actually a few days ago now since I started this blog post) for KTM.  He plans to climb Lohtse after a successful Everest summit in 2011 and K2 summit just last summer (2014).  You can follow his dispatches by clicking on his name above.  Alan is a really nice guy and offers the climbing community and the climbing followers the best, most accurate new reporting from Everest each year.  Please take the opportunity to see his blog page and support his Alzheimer's initiative if you have the means.  Good luck Alan!  Climb on.

Jim Davidson left last week and is awaiting fair weather to get out of KTM and fly into Lukla.  He spent the past few days in Kathmandu probably getting mentally prepared to head off to the Khumbu valley and the trek into base camp.  Cheer him on as he treks up to basecamp and climbs Everest.  I followed Jim's preparation via his Facebook page and know he climbed enough to prepare well for Everest.  Good luck Jim!

Paul Devaney (aka the Irish Seven Summits) left last Sunday to complete the 7th of the "7 Summits."  Check out his website and the great graphics he posted (click on his name for his website).  What is not to like about an Irishman climbing?  I met Paul in Namche last year while he was nursing a cold. Wish him the best and follow him on twitter.  Paul is a nice guy who has many interesting stories.  Perhaps he will regale us with a few during the climb.  Go Paul!

Kent Stewart leaves in a week or so; his wife is already out there and they plan to meet up on the trek to basecamp.  Kent has only Everest on the list of the "7 summits" so wish him the best of luck.  He was in Nepal last year - just like me - when the climbs were cancelled.  Hopefully, this year goes as planned and we get a chance to climb.  I wish Kent all the luck this year and hope we both make it to the top.

John Carney leaves in roughly 3 weeks to climb from the North side (Tibet).  He had two prior attempts called off due to unexpected events -  once in 2012 and then last year (2014).  I can't wait to celebrate his successful summit back in DC when we return.  Perhaps we will see each other on the summit - gaining access from opposite sides.  John earned it and I know he will pull this one off.

Finally, I leave in roughly 3 weeks - a bit later than that actually.  You can follow me and my daily whereabouts here on my blog.  My SPOT posts google map links directly to this blog and then, via IFTT, the blog post and links get sent to my twitter and facebook accounts.  When possible, I will upload photos and updates to the blog, however, the blogspot software remains unreliable.  On the bright side, the Nepali government - via Ncell I presume - are rumored to offer wifi at basecamp and, perhaps 3g service.  When and if those connections are available, I will send updates and pictures.  Also, I intend to call my wife Kathy with daily or maybe every other day updates from my Sat phone.  By hook or crook, you will be able to see where I am in Nepal.  My next post contains my itinerary and some pictures of my packing ordeal.  Stay tuned for that to be posted shortly (within a few days).

Informal send-off this weekend

In lieu of having a large send-off like last year, I decided to just have an informal get-together at my house in Fairfax, VA.  Please feel free to stop by next Saturday (between 9am and 8pm) and chat about whatever suits your fancy.  By next Saturday, I intend to be fully packed so there won't be much to see in terms of equipment.  You will see my two basecamp duffels packed and ready for the airport.  

The primary reason I chose to skip the formal send-off was due to several factors...

1.  I never felt like I accomplished my goal so another send-off seems forced and unnecessary.  When I return, we will party.  For now, I intend to keep my nose to the grindstone and focus on my objective.

2.  My life is a bit hectic these days with packing, working, and cleaning.  An informal send-off puts a little pressure on me to finish cleaning before I head off to Nepal.  Kat will appreciate that incentive and the outcome.  Right Kat?

3.  The Auld Shebeen (Mick and Domo) were gracious enough to squeeze me in last year and this year but I don't want to take advantage of their friendship.  Again, when I return, we will have a helluva party at the pub.  Block out a Saturday afternoon in mid-June.  Heck, block out all the Saturday afternoons in June.  I return on June 12th.  At my bash, I will show pictures of the climb.

Friday, March 27, 2015

On cruise control now...

Hey all,

I just wrapped up my training and now I am focused on packing, resting, and eating.  With a little bit more than 3 weeks left before I head out, I want to make sure I remain healthy.  So far...so good.  Here are a few updates and things that occupied me over the past few weeks.

1.  Packing.  Organizing and packing climbing gear can be a real pain - especially when said gear occupies my office and most of my house.  I lay out everything and make sure every piece is in good working order.  That part is easy.  The hard part is making sure I have all that I need and, perhaps more importantly, leave behind things that are superfluous.  Last year I decided to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion; this year, I know what I need or at least I have a better idea.  

2.  Sweating out last-second details.  Ordering last second things and sweating out the arrival seems to be a common theme for all climbs - at least for me.  As I started packing, I realized that I had a few pieces of gear that were a little "long in the tooth" and needed to be replaced.   Also, I steadily replaced most of my aging and heavy gear over the past year so I had to vet that gear before packing it.  The ordering of last-second gear seems to add a level of stress to my life that I rarely enjoy.

3.  Work stress.  The past few weeks were rather trying.  I worked out, ate a ton, and kept healthy but life stress seems to build as I prepare to shove off for a 6-8 week expedition.  Fortunately, I had a major gear sort before going to Argentina so I had most of my gear spread out and treated properly this time - especially compared to my mad-dash December packing escapade.  Compounding that stress was the constant piling on of work stress.  It seems everyone wants something from me right before I leave.  This year, I gave a firm deadline for the end of March and intend to enforce it.  In 5 more days, I will be done with any hard and fast deadlines.  Papers are off.  Grant proposals are either sketched out or submitted.  Students have their sights set on specific goals.  We are all set!

4.  Great losses.  I am hesitant to post much about this event because it just seems to violate one of my internal rules but I debated with myself and decided that it was worth mentioning.  My dear friend and colleague Raja Parasuraman passed away Monday morning.  I was devastated.  He was one of the true scientists remaining in social and behavioral sciences.  I counted him as a friend even more than a colleague.  He was the first to welcome me to GMU (my current university), the first to offer me words of wisdom, and the first to support me in my Everest expedition last year.  Raja was always supportive.  He and I shared many drinks and many laughs.  It hurts so much to say that I will never see him again but I move forward with the idea that I was blessed to know him.  Raja will always be part of my life.  Thanks for the friendship Raja.

On Monday when I heard the news about Raja, I was up in Baltimore with my dad for a screening of Ken Burn's latest documentary entitled Cancer:  The emperor of all maladies (a documentary based upon Sid Mukherjee's book of the same title).  The documentary contained many patients and doctors from Johns Hopkins - one of the groups I support on my climbs.  I sat in the screening and had a rough time as I reflected on Raja's life and the lives of those patients, friends and family who struggled with cancer.  It was just too real to shake off.  Regardless, I am back and shook off the emotions I so rarely feel.   Do yourself a favor,  watch the PBS 3-part (2-hrs each episode) starting this Monday at 9pm EDT.  

Thanks for following me.  Expect about 2-3 more updates before I head off.  I will post a picture or a time-rendered set of pictures of my packing exploits.  You will see how I get a ton of gear into two basecamp duffel bags.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Check-in/OK message from SPOT PEM - JUST TESTING from home

Greetings.  It is packing day today.  I am taking a few easy days to recover from many months of training.  During this time, I intend to pack, test out my equipment, and sort out all my logistics - all in time to make corrections should I need to make them.   

One bit of equipment is a rather pain for me but provides considerable comfort to family and friends.  I tested my SPOT messenger today; below is the default message that comes from my new SPOT locator.  I changed the message from "Climbing in Argentina" to "Climbing Mt. Everest" for a more accurate description of my whereabouts.  That change will come with my next post.  My new SPOT device (Gen 3) is a substantial upgrade from my previous device (Gen 2) in that I press the button and my location is posted almost immediately.  The lights stay on for both models about the same duration (roughly 20 mins) but the Gen 3 posts immediately.  I replaced my older model because the Gen 2 consumed batteries at a rate I could barely keep up with and I hope to only take one set of replacement Lithium Ion batteries for the entire expedition.  The newer model ought to easily handle daily updates on a single set of batteries (4 AAA).  

Thanks for following....see you shortly with a more elaborate update.

SPOT UPDATE (click on the links to test out the mapping):  

GPS location Date/Time:03/22/2015 11:36:08 EDT

Message:Climbing in Argentina right now. All is well with us. Please check the map to see our progress.

Click the link below to see where I am located.

If the above link does not work, try this link:


You have received this message because PEM has added you to their SPOT contact list.

Ready for Adventure

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A presentation comparing last year to this year...

Greetings again.  I plan to give a talk to the Quantified Self (QS) group here in DC on Thursday evening (March 19th, 2015 at 7:30pm).  For those of you who do not live in the DC area and would like to see the geeky things I do with data, please watch the video below.  I hope to be a bit more lively in person.  It was a long day of training and working so I was a little flat.  Regardless, you can get a glimpse of the points I intend to make during the talk.  Here goes...

Hope you enjoyed it.  Expect an another update shortly.  Time is running out for blog posts.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fat, fit, and acclimatized

Greetings and welcome back to my blog.  I spent the last few weeks eating, drinking, and training - oh yeah, and working too.  My priorities these days are a bit different from last year.  Today's post documents those differences.  I learned a ton over the past 2 years and figured my blog would be a good place to document those discoveries.  Here goes....

1.  Getting fat and staying fat.  Yep, I am fatter than I was last year and I feel great!  At this point in my training routine, I tipped the scales at about 162 lbs (73.5 kg) and had a hard time even keeping my weight at that level.  More often than not, I would wake up, step on the scale, and note my weight had slipped below 160 lbs.  Throughout those days, I felt compelled to eat everything and anything regardless of my hunger.  That feeling is gone this time around.  Instead of trying to gain weight at the last second, I decided to bulk up early on in my training and keep that weight on by continuing to increase my caloric intake as my training routine pressed forward.  Today, I weigh 176 lbs (80 kg) and I feel much better than I felt last year.  I am stronger, my legs feel great, and I actually feel healthy despite the hours of training (and stress).  

2.  Targeted training.  Last year, I swam 6 hours each week (4 x 1.5 hours of practice) to maintain or even improve my cardiovascular fitness.  Those training sessions often came at the expense of other forms of training - specifically lifting and running.  This year, I decided to focus more on my legs and less on my upper body.  I still lift twice weekly for upper body strength and core stability but my swimming workouts now take up far less time and energy.  I try to swim once or twice each week.  These workouts allow my legs to fully recover.  Why the change?  I wanted to focus on what mattered most in climbing - legs.  These days, I lift more with my legs and run more frequently compared to last year.  That leg strength will come in handy when I am climbing.  Moreover, the muscle mass I gained this year in my legs will enable me to withstand some atrophy on the mountain and maintain enough strength when it comes time to summit and descend.  Strong legs trump swimming fitness in the mountains.  This year, I plan to be better prepared for the climb; perhaps I will also have fewer sinus infections.  Here's hoping....

3.  Acclimatization going strong.  I spent a ton of time in my Hypoxico tent last year.  
My training in that regard seemed more than sufficient, however, as I noted in my previous post, I altered my training routine for Aconcagua and learned even more than I learned before heading to Everest last year.  Basically, I found that training at altitude was less important than sleeping at altitude.  In fact, the higher I trained, the poorer I slept - even at lower simulated levels.  This time around, I reverted back to my pre-Everest routine and scaled down the tent.  Here (below) is a good shot of the new tent - in his and her varieties.

I now train at sea-level and sleep at increasingly higher simulated levels. Last year, I slept at the oxygen equivalent of 20,000 feet (6,100 m) for two weeks.  Those two weeks were really hard on me because I increased the altitude too quickly.  Many mornings, I woke up with a headache and spO2 values in the lower 70% range.  This year, I plan to have at least 3 weeks at 22,000+ feet (6700+ m) and, to achieve that altitude without too many adverse effects, I am slowly increasing my altitude ONLY after I wake with two consecutive days of spO2 values in the lower 90% range.  Last night, I slept at 18,500 feet (5640 m), woke up at 82% and felt great.  I still have 3,500 feet or roughly 1,000 m more to go until I reach my target sleeping altitude.  Suffice it to say though that I am in a much better acclimatization state this year compared to last year...and last year I was in good shape.  

4.  Seeing more friends and enjoying my preparation more.  Last year, I was more focused and less flexible with my time.  I vowed to be more relaxed about my training and take time to fully recover between training bouts.  My flexibility gave me the freedom to visit my dad and my long-time mentor (Lee Sechrest) in Tucson.  It was a great trip and one I will cherish for years to come.  Lee gave me guidance and support in graduate school and taught me the finer things in life - including Scotch (he prefers Bourbon), travel, and food.  Thanks to Lee, I feel prepared for all things in life.  Below are "Lee's Laws" that bear repeating and apply even when climbing.

Visiting with my dad was great too.  He and I had our daily routines for the 4-day visit but we had plenty of time to catch up.  One of my daily routines included squeezing in a workout or two.  Last Monday, I went back to my old haunt (the "phone line trail" in Sabino Canyon) and ran it to the best of my abilities.  It was a blast from the past and I was so happy to get back for a run on that trail.  Below, I posted a few pictures taken mid-trail.  Yes, I ran with my phone so I could take pictures.

Finally, the time away from my usual routine did come to a crashing end.  My dad and I were involved in a high speed rear-end collision.  His Volvo took a little beating but the fellow who hit us totaled his truck.  Damn, I like Volvos now.  Hope my VW stands up to that test.  We are all fine.  My dad and I are just as crazy as we were before the crash.  
Dad's Volvo.  Not bad for a high speed collision.

The truck that hit us while we were sitting still in traffic - en route to the Phoenix airport.
Makes you want to go purchase a Volvo now, eh?

I am back at home now.  Trying to catch up with work and house cleaning.  I had a great weekend of training and look forward to a few more posts before I head back to Nepal.  Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A video to get you (and me) pumped up for Everest

If you haven't seen this video, take a moment to watch it.  The video tracks the entire route from Kathmandu up to the summit ridge.  It is a spectacular piece that ought to inspire you to either climb the hill (or other hills around) OR follow along with those who climb.  Check it out:

Amazing, eh?  Stay tuned for more updates from my own preparation.  Expect an update in a few days.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The dark side to routines

When does a routine become a liability?  I suspect there are few of us who ever think about these problems unless the routine involves some vice like sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  Routines are things we set out to develop and hone over the years.  We want to have routines that are positive such as a routine to eat well, exercise, go to bed early, and such.  These positive routines, however, may turn out to be a negative when not moderated at times.  Below, I present three stories where my routine turned out to be a curse.

Story 1:  Weight Loss 2007

In 2007, I began having chronic heart burn and decided the best course of action would be to lose weight.  My typical weight was around 165 lbs but I managed through various efforts to balloon up to 190 lbs.  Beer was great, food was great, and activity was at an all-time low.  On August 4th, 2007, I started my own program where I simply weighed myself and ate a meal every other hour - a meal that was restricted to 200-250 kcal.  My goal was to lose 25 pounds in roughly 25 weeks.  I did it but there were a few routines I needed to develop.  Along the way, these routines turned out to be useful and then somewhat destructive.  Let me explain more after I explain the figure below.  

"The Figure Below"

The x-axis is my days of dieting and the y-axis is my "mean daily weight" taken in the morning and the evening just so I did not take advantage of a time during the day when I would weigh the least (e.g., morning when I was dehydrated).  I also annotated the graph for events that changed my trajectory like our trip to Portland in late August 2007, a trip to see Notre Dame lose to Penn. State, a shift off Nexium (the purple pill - to see if my weight loss changed my reflux...and it did), and finally a trip to Buffalo to see my pal and brother-in-law Pat and his wife Eva.  The figure contains all I needed each week to monitor my progress.
"The Figure Below"

I lost weight steadily just by cutting back on calories, eating more sensibly, and exercising more regularly.  My average caloric deficit was about 940 kcal/day and that equates to roughly 1/4 lb per day and an expected weight-loss of about 1.75 lbs per week.  Right?  The "Figure Below" shows you the bright side of developing a routine.  What you do not see are the days that followed early November when I no longer tracked my weight loss.  

Where it all went wrong

Tracking was a good routine.  Eating sensibly was a good routine.  Weighing myself twice daily was not a good routine.  I kept up these routines that I developed over these 90+ days and soon found myself way below my expected and hoped for weight (152 lbs instead of 165 lbs).  Sure, it felt great to be slim and fit but 152 lbs is way too slim for my build.  I was getting sick about every 3 weeks and could not keep warm.  Yes, I couldn't stay warm.  It was winter after all but Northern Virginia has mild winters.  I just couldn't keep warm without any body fat.  Sometimes a routine is good for a limited time and after that time, a new routine is necessary for maintenance.  I got so attached to my routine that it was tough to stop.  The same theme will come out in the next few stories....

Story 2:  Rowing for beer

Shortly after my son was born (15 years ago), I decided to get a rowing machine so I could workout at home when it was raining outdoors.  We lived in Seattle so it rained more days than the sun shone.  Rowing was going to be a great change from swimming and running.  I read about the benefits of the rowing ergometer (ERG for those who know and hate the machine) and looked forward to starting this new training routine.  

It didn't take long before I started monitoring everything with the machine.  I would setup workouts where I could fully recover between sessions but also get both a good strength and cardio workout.  Things progressed smoothly for some time - roughly 3-4 months.  I got into a great routine.  Four or five days per week were spent for 1-2 hours enjoying the machine.  I got the most out of my $900 investment.  At that time, that amount of money was huge.  We were living paycheck-to-paycheck in Seattle during the dot.com boom.  Money was tight so making it last and spending it on good investments mattered.  Again, my routine easily justified the expense.

More Data Tracking - Now tracking Rowing for Beer

Each workout equated to a number of beers I could drink without any concern about weight gain or caloric intake.  At this time, I was a pretty good weight - probably around 170lbs and not terribly concerned about weight loss/gain.  Still, I wanted to track my caloric expenditures so I could counter a hard training session with an adequate meal to recover.  A complete meal included a few malt pops and I could count my meal (in beers) after each workout.  So, my routine got stronger.  Of course it did!  I paired a refreshing beer after a hard workout.  Soon, I rowed more for beer than for enjoyment.  The more beer I drank, the more I rowed; it became a vicious cycle and I soon paid a price.  I also increased my intensity and decreased my duration - figuring that the trade-off for beer was far more favorable with that approach.  You'll see in the figure above that the intensity increased throughout my entire training routine.

Four months after I began my rowing routine, I collapsed on the machine in supreme agony.  Never before had I felt such pain and it all radiated from my back.  Well, actually that is not true.  I had a severe problem with sciatica in the early 1990's and I could barely walk then and that pain lasted almost a year.  That sciatica problem came back with a vengeance on this day.  I laid on the ground with my feet still strapped into the machine and could barely move.  It was an awful feeling.  My routine came back to haunt me as I escalated the exercise routine (intensity) - fueled by my thirst for beer - into more of an obsession than a healthy activity.

Story 3:  Hypoxic Training for Aconcagua

You knew the story would somehow or another come back to climbing, right?  After all, this is a climbing blog.  Yes, I decided to change my hypoxic training routine from my Everest 2014 approach to a more traditional "climb high, sleep low" approach.  It seemed like a good idea at the time but I stuck with the idea despite several obvious red flags.  Here is what I saw in my training logs:

What does this figure tell me (or you)?  Well, as I progressed with my "Summit Saturdays," I was less able to deal with the altitude.  My spO2 values decreased from previous values at the same altitude.  What was worse was that my workloads were also decreasing.  I was overtrained and knew it but stuck to the plan to give it a full test.  Training is good - especially when the routine helps you get fit - but overtraining is bad.  We had a household full of overtrained people.  My wife was suffering from a bad coach-athlete fit and my son was struggling to accommodate an early wake-up schedule (4am) for swim practice along with non-stop weekend meets.  We were one tired family.

Many of you reading this post might think that there is something terribly wrong with me and I suspect you are right.  There are countless things wrong with me but the one thing that is not is behavioral change.  I change.  I can adapt to new behaviors and habits.  What I cannot do is alter those habits once I establish them into my daily routine.  Perhaps that is the point of this entire post.  If you find yourself becoming stuck in your routine and you ignore signs that the routine is more harmful than beneficial, I strongly encourage you to find a goal partner who is willing and able to tell you to knock it off.  I rely mostly on my own data collection but obviously that approach fails me at times.

Change is afoot!

I spent a fair bit of time examining my training and preparation history for climbing and other sports and realized that as I got older, I needed more variation and less routine.  Also, I required more rest after hard efforts.  Preparing for Everest this year has been a lot less stressful.  I now train 5 days per week and often take some really easy days - even ones that are not scheduled as "rest" days.  Now, I am sick less frequently.  I am emphasizing sleeping and eating more than training to ensure my health before I take off for Everest.  Last year I was fit but sick when I left.  This year, I plan to be fit, fat, and ready for adventure.

The Wall Street Journal recently printed an interesting article about training to recover rather than recover to train.  I love that idea.  Wish I had more wisdom like that in my lifetime.  Oh well, I guess we all fumble around searching for what works.  Obviously, routines work for me to a degree but I have a hard time shaking them off.

My next blog post continues with the theme of fit and fat for mountaineering.  See you in about a week.