Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Holy soreness, Batman

I thought the majority of the soreness would pass by today. Nope.
I woke up this morning, swung my legs over the side the bed and for the second straight day, hobbled across the room like an elderly man.
I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. But apparently Sunday's 8-mile hike at South Mountain was a bit harder than my body was prepared to handle.
Note the way the trail goes straight UP. This is what the first three miles were like:

The weird part is which muscles are sore: the shin and calf of my right leg, and the thigh of my left leg. Please explain to me how this is possible.
Mike thinks I must have favored one leg as I descended the mountain. Or maybe I typically favor one set of muscles, so the opposite muscles were overextended. I don't know.
What I DO know is that this has really slowed me down. It takes me twice as long to get to the water cooler at work. I grunt when I stand up (no matter how hard I try not to). When I crouched down to get pickles from the bottom shelf at the grocery store, Mike had to pull me back up.
It's not pretty.
I'll be back to normal by tomorrow, right?

Monday, March 30, 2009

A come from behind victory

When Saturday finally rolled around, there were so many little details to cover before we actually made to the baseball games and got our concession stand underway.
We had to bring everything. And I mean every single thing.
The table (headquarters for our stand.) Change to give our customers. Multiple extremely heavy coolers. A calculator (in case – we are journalists after all.) Fliers that explained our hike and gave details about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Tip Jar. Signs. Chairs.
Then there were about 60 sodas, 34 bottles of Gatorade, 40 waters, 32 bags of chips, 24 candy bars… The list goes on and on. Whew.
After an afternoon of hiking in the Arizona sun and eating at Greek Wraps to support the fundraiser they held for us, we barely had time to shower and load up the coolers and the car to make it to the field in time.
And we almost forgot that it’s Phoenix, so we needed to ice almost every item, even candy or risk losing it to the sun.
One we made it to the field we easily found an ideal spot right between the bleachers and set up shop. Then it was time to sit back, relax and see how much money we could raise.
We also had time to reflect, to talk about which items were selling best and to evaluate how our table looked, since this was the first time Meghan and I have ever run a mini-concession stand.
The results: rather impressive I must say.
We attracted tons of children, barely 4-feet tall, who were in love with the fact that we had suckers, M&Ms and Skittles. Oh they and they loved the Gatorade, which was our best seller. The parents stopped by to grab a bag of sunflower seeds or a bag of chips.
It seemed like we had always been there.
At the end of the night we made almost $100, a pretty good number for a night spent surrounded by the intense, rather entertaining action of Little Leaguers and their fans.
It was the boost we needed. It gave us the confidence to know that we could pull it off and rather well.
We’re heading back to the fields again this week on Thursday.
The Mikes graciously agreed (after buying them off with the promise of cheesesteaks) to assist us with the stand this Saturday.
This is going to be a success. I can already tell.

A team effort

The smallest fundraising details seem to be the ones that take the most work. Take, for example, this donation jar:

It looks pretty cool, right? This jar represents the time and energy of three different people.
As I was setting up the Greek Wraps fundraiser and we prepared for our Little League concession stand, I realized we needed something that called out to people to drop in an extra buck or two, should they feel moved by our cause.
I knew exactly what we needed. I see those little square donation containers at local businesses all the time, advertising for one cause or another. But where does one buy that sort of thing?
Not at Party City. I called them up, and the best they could offer me were cups. I searched all through Target and Wal-Mart’s websites, hoping something would jump out at me. Nada.
I found the coolest donation containers online (with locks and everything!), but I didn’t want to pay for the rush shipping to get it by the weekend.
We needed something clear (so you can see the cash adding up and be inspired to add your own dollar). We needed something that didn't look like a fourth grade art project (one DIY site recommended using a milk jug). And we needed something that wasn’t too big for the counter at Greek Wraps.
Since I had class on Wednesday night, Kelly offered to stop at a couple of places and find something. She brilliantly located this:

She saw the potential. She emptied the container, storing the Red Vines in a plastic bag for later consumption. She tore off the label. And then she attempted to cut a hole into that top plastic knob, so people could drop their change right in.
She encountered a problem: the plastic on that knob is really, really hard. She tried using various cutting tools, none of which worked. She passed it along to me, trusting that I could figure it out.
I handed it off to Mike, told him what we needed, and said, “Good luck with that,” as I breezed along to my next task. Ten minutes later, he returned, with a hole cut in the SIDE of the lid. Brilliant!
I cut and pasted an extra Leukemia and Lymphoma Society flyer I had lying around, and voila! It's a pretty cool-looking donation jar, if you ask me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bonding over bees

You know those moments in life that are so funny when they happen, that they make you smile even years later when you think about them?
In my family, it's the Christmas that my Dad forgot his Chapstick at home and was dreading a whole afternoon of gift-opening with dried out lips. But when he discovered a Chapstick attached to one of his gifts, he cried out, "Glory Halleluiah!"
Or there's the time my sister-in-law, who collects pens, talked my brother and I into visiting what we thought was a pen store -- her Mecca. As we walked into a strangely quiet office supplies distribution operation, my sister-in-law sputtered out "What... is... this... place...?" to a very bored looking receptionist.
These are memories that have stood the test of time and remain hysterical to me to this day.
Well, Kelly and I created one of those memories on Saturday.
We headed out to Shaw Butte to tackle a 4-mile hike before the busy day we had ahead of us. About a mile into the hike, I felt something behind my ear and heard a slight buzzing sound. I swatted at what I think was a bee, and felt a sense of dread.
I hate bees.
I tried to get my mind off the idea that there were bees on this trail. Bees always have a way of hunting me down.
We make our way about another mile down the trail, when we start to hear a buzzing noise behind us that is so loud, we both turn our heads... and we see the Biggest. Bee. Of. All. Time.
Seriously, it was like three feet long.
"BEEEEEEE," Kelly screamed.
And we took off. I'm talking full-out sprint. We passed people who eyed us with respect for not only hiking a difficult trail, but RUNNING it. They think we are hardcore.
We were just scared for our lives. After a minute or two, we started to slow down, and I peeked behind us... "It's STILL THERE," I screamed, which sent us into an even faster sprint.
The whole time we're running, we're yelling at each other about whose turn it is to look for the bee. Neither of us wants to stop, because then it will surely get us. Neither of us wants to turn around to look for it, because we don't want to make eye contact with it.
We think we probably ran about a half mile before we finally lost the bee. As we slowed down, we started laughing hysterically.
Kelly and I have been friends for years. We talk to each other several times a day. We know a LOT about each other. But we didn't know we shared such a strong fear of bees.
I guess this training is teaching us more about each other than we bargained for.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A busy Saturday

Saturday is a big, big day in our fundraising and hiking endeavors. Here's why:

1. Greek Wraps will donate 10 percent of its total sales to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Check out my blog about that here. If you live in AZ, go get a gyro. They're yummy.

2. We will set up our concession stand for the first time at the Horizon Little League games. Kelly got her hands on a table today (Thanks, Anita!), and we just finalized the price list.

3. We will hike Shaw Butte, one of our favorite local hikes.

4. AND, Saturday is exactly six weeks away from the big Grand Canyon hike on May 9! Together, we've raised more than $3,000 so far. That means we're more than halfway to our goal!

By the end of the day, I suspect we'll be exhausted (and full), but we will have accomplished a LOT.

We passed!

Kelly and I were a little nervous last night.
We had to meet our coach, Craig, at Thunderbird Park to be timed hiking a mile. Craig needed to see that we can hike fast enough for the trail we've chosen in the Grand Canyon. Our choice is the longest hike that is offered, and they need to make sure that those who hike it can keep up, so that we're not still out there after dark.
We chatted with him as we waited for the others from our team to show up. Exactly how fast do we have to hike, we asked him. Oh, at least 2.5 to 3 miles per hour, he told us.
Three miles per hour?! We have no idea how fast that is, but it sounds pretty fast. What if we come in at 2 miles per hour and they won't let us hike the Bright Angel trail? It's what we've been looking forward to all along!
We start off at what feels like a good pace, despite a freak wind that keeps whipping around the side of the mountain and tossing dust in our faces. We reach the turnaround point, a trail marker where we are instructed to stop and wait for the whole group before heading back.
We wait. We are ahead of everyone else on our team, which is a good sign, but we also know that we signed up for the most difficult hike, and the others might have chosen shorter or easier hikes. They don't have to clock in as fast as we do.
One by one our teammates join us and tease us about our speed, calling us "The Speedsters." This makes us a little more confident.
Finally, Craig comes around the corner with his dog, Shorty. He spots me and Kelly and says, "Ok, ya'll definitely hike faster than 3 miles per hour. Ya'll took off."
We made it!
Here is Craig, signing off on our paperwork, confirming that we can handle Bright Angel:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Goodbye dental drama

Before last year I was deathly afraid of the dentist.
In fact, I would avoid going at any cost and for years, I bounced around from office to office, rescheduling appointments, never really making any progress.
The whole ordeal brought up images from Little Shop of Horrors. I always pictured Steve Martin coming to greet me at the chair, singing that song, "cause I'm a dentist." Not good.
But everything changed when I found Dr. Greg Libby (pictured on the right) at Desert Ridge Prosthodontics. This office is top-notch and has provided me with the best treatment I've ever received.
Now I'm not afraid to go to my appointments, I actually look forward to them.
Dr. Libby is a perfectionist and trust me it shows if I were ever to open up my mouth to show you. (I'll try to avoid that.)
An his staff rocks. Brooke, Dr. Libby's dental assistant, is always up for sharing stories, which as you all know is huge with me. The dental hygienist, Cathy, is so caring and she always complements me in some way or another.
And Marilyn who holds down the front office and helps me navigate through the complicated world of insurance claims, is just a sweet person in general and she makes the financial process so much easier to deal with.
Dr. Libby recently donated to my hike, another sign that this office for sure cares about their patients. Trust me, this speaks volumes.
Anyone who knows me well, understands my obsession with teeth.
They also know that I'm a tough customer and an East Coast kid always ready to put a cynical spin on things. The fact that I only have positive things to say about this office should tell you something.
Wait - I do have tiny issue with Dr. Libby. He's a Dallas Cowboys fan, but I'm working on converting him over to the Philadelphia Eagles. With a little more time, I think I can get him to switch. And he doesn't wear Tony Romo jerseys in the office or anything, so I've learned to overlook his allegiance.
Because I want Dr. Libby to be wildly successful, I'm adding in this plug for his office: If anyone needs a dentist, you gotta check out Desert Ridge Prosthodontics. Click here for all the details.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Get your Greek on this Saturday

This Saturday, March 28, is the big day. It's our Team in Training fundraiser at Greek Wraps in Glendale!
Greek Wraps is going to donate a portion of Saturday's sales to our hiking/fundraising efforts. How wonderful are they?! Answer: Extremely wonderful.
The more you eat, the more money we'll raise. So go grab one (or four) of these:

Heck, get a soda, too.
They are located on the southeast corner of 75th Avenue and Bell Road, in the Old Navy plaza. You can even call your order in ahead of time and pick it up. Read all about them here.
I'm just happy for an excuse to order a big container of hummus and a pack of pitas to stash at home.

Seattle: an urban hikers dream

Seattle is absolutely nothing like Phoenix.
For starters it’s on the coast, so there’s water, a site that pretty rare in the Valley of the Sun. Second, it’s March and it’s about 40 degrees, a temperature that translates to outfits that include sweaters, scarves, winter coats and boots. I pretty much packed everything warm I own, which these days isn’t much and can fit into a carry-on bag.
It rains almost every day. In Phoenix, it might rain 10 times a year and when it happens it sends residents into a tailspin. They forget how to drive, arm themselves with umbrellas for even a sprinkle and are completely disgusted that their plans have slightly delayed by a five-minute rainstorm.
My friend Angela and I were planning to hit a hiking spot called Discovery Park, but it rained in the morning, then it rained again the afternoon and later rained at night.
There was no way it could happen, not in the gear I had on, none of which was waterproof. It didn’t even cross my mind to bring and umbrella. Wow.
And finally, I did not see the sun one time. Not even once.
Throughout the day the lack of sun had me completely confused. Was it 10 a.m. or 3 p.m.? Is overcast the weather every day or is this a fluke? How do the people that live here ever find weather that works for the beach? Do any of them own sunglasses?
This was very strange and I swore after a day of not seeing even a glimpse of the big orange ball, I was started to go a little mental.

But Anglea, who lives in Seattle, told me that this is completely normal. The overcast. The rain. The no sun. You get used to it, she said.
And she would know. After all, she moved to Seattle from Miami and loves it.
I quickly learned she was right, that Seattle is way cool.
And when you’re running around the city discovering it on foot through miles of urban hiking, this becomes apparent immediately.
Take Pike’s Peak for instance, Seattle’s famous fish market that has a labyrinth of restaurants and shops, many of which are underground. Huge fish were on display on ice and you can get the best bowl of chowder and slurp it down while looking out into the Pacific Ocean’s coast.
We hit the library (most unique public library I’ve ever been inside of), the art museum and even stopped to get a bite to eat where Tom Hanks dined in Sleepless in Seattle. And we downed crab legs at the Crab Pot.

Everyone is this city is pretty laid back. And it was quite refreshing to see people sporting hooded sweatshirts and sneakers.
I have no clue how many miles we walked, but it was a lot.
Seattle is also a city with vertical hills and trust me, those get your blood pumping and your calves hurting.
It’s a really cool city, but I was freezing and started to miss the sun. It’s nice to be back in a tank top and flip-flops.
We are really spoiled in Phoenix. Sometimes we forget.

Navigating South Mountain

Before I hit the road to head to Seattle, I spent Saturday morning navigating through South Mountain, a favorite hiking spot in the Valley because of it’s vast trail options and amazing views of Phoenix.
Four of us decided on the Hidden Castle trail, a rocky 5-mile path that leads you through multiple switchbacks and forces you to ascend 2,330 feet.
To understand just how high you can get, Mike’s head was tipped back in the middle of the trail eyeing how much further we had to go. We caught a small glimpse of what we had to look forward to.

It was pretty tough, but the rewards for getting high up above the city were plenty. Once we made it to the top of the trail, the summit offered a variety of ways to experience the awesome views.
One really cool aspect of this hike was the castle, after which the trail was named. (Above is a shot of the views from one of the castle’s windows.)
The top was packed with tourists and professional photographers shooting every angle of the unlimited landscape spanning for miles.
From the castle you can spot the city skyline of Phoenix, identify the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play and see the home of Arizona State University in Tempe.
And at the end of the hike you’re rewarded with beautiful array of wildflowers.

Spring is when all the flowers come out in the Valley and when the cactus’ bloom. What you get to see, even if it’s only for a month or two, is a breathtaking assortment of blooming desert plants sporting every color of the rainbow.
The hike was a great primer for out timed mile adventure this Thursday and my body was aching, along with my face and chest that were sporting a fresh sunburn.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Crab legs, nieces and (of course) hiking

I am back from The Grand Pennsylvania/Ohio Tour of 2009, and I’m already missing my family, my husband’s family, and all the amazing food we consumed in 9 days.
We started in eastern PA, where my husband originates. There, we spent several days with my in-laws, relaxing and eating seafood (including the biggest crab legs I have ever set eyes on). We also braved the much-colder-than-the-desert weather and “hiked” in downtown Bethlehem. Here is my father-in-law and my husband on our trek:

Ok, ok, we shopped at jewelry stores and bought chocolate from a candy shop. But the streets ARE pretty steep.
Then we packed up our rental car and drove to my hometown of Cleveland, where we met our adorable and cuddly seven-week-old niece and played hide-and-seek with our rambunctious 2-and-a-half-year-old niece. (I think my heart literally jumped out of my chest when Cara froze in the middle of a rousing game of “what’s in the kitchen cupboard” and with wide eyes said, “I love you, Uncle Mike.” It just doesn’t get any better than that.)
I also answered a lot of my family’s questions about our Grand Canyon hike. I got another donation (Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!) and sold another pin (Thanks, Mom!).
They’re impressed with all the fundraising Kelly and I are doing, and even more impressed that we’re going to hike at least 12.2 miles at the Canyon (possibly more than 14 miles, if our legs can handle it!). They’re proud of all we’re doing to get the word out about leukemia and lymphoma and that we’re raising thousands of dollars to help find a cure.
I think they were also impressed at my dedication to the training. I didn’t want to go a week without hiking, so to tide me over, I tried to simulate the trails on my parents’ trusty treadmill. I cranked the “incline” up as high as it would go and “hiked” my little heart out in the basement.

But I also wanted to experience hiking in Ohio, so we visited Garfield Park and hiked a 2-mile loop trail. Here I am with my parents and brother at the start of the trail:

It was a cold (but pretty) hike.

And look, a creek!

But now I’m back in Phoenix and ready to dive back into fundraising and desert hiking.
Tomorrow, I’ll meet with the folks at Greek Wraps to hammer out the details of our fundraiser. On Thursday, Kelly and I will hike with our coach to prove to him that we’re in awesome shape and that we are (nearly) ready for the Canyon. On Saturday, we’ll hike with our team and then sell concessions at four different Little League games, and then on Sunday, Kelly and I will hike on our own.
Wish us luck on our busy week!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Heading to Seattle

OMG! I am so excited. On Sunday I'm heading out of town for my first ever trip to Seattle. Technically this is a work trip, but I bought myself an extra day to catch up with an old friend, explore the city and do a little hiking.
So far I'm thinking of hitting Discovery Park in the downtown district, an area packed with hiking trails that offer views of the Olympic Mountains, Cascades and 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier.
Plus through urban hiking, I'll get to see the ocean and stop by the fish market.
I'll make sure to take tons of pictures and post them when I get back. It's awesome to go somewhere new and be able to incorporate hiking into the adventure. It makes exploring uncharted territory so much more interesting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A little help from my friends...

Sometimes you just never know where support will come from.
Pictured above is Visitation B.V.M. Church in Norristown, Pa. It's directly across the parking lot from the grade school (with the same name) that I attended for several years when I lived with my mom in the early 1990s.
Some of the best friends and the most giving people I've ever met attended this school. One of them is my grade-school buddy Kristin Toland whose family allowed me to stay with them occasionally when my mom went into the hospital.
I always remember her father, Jim, sitting at the kitchen table when we would come down the stairs for school. And he was always there at night too, willing to chat with us and hear our stories.
Kristin's dad passed away about 10 years ago after a battle with cancer. When I decided to do this hike I wrote to her that I wanted to add her dad's name to my jersey as a way to honor him.
Kristin and I have kept in touch over the years and she sent the news that I was hiking along to her family and friends. They in turn, offered support to my fundraising efforts, which was amazing because some of them I've never met.
But it reminded me that strangers helping strangers is part of what fundraising for LLS is all about. It's great to think about how many patients in little pockets all over the country will benefit from this money that our entire team has raised this spring.
As I descend into the Grand Canyon, I'm sure I'll look down at Jim Toland's name on my jersey and smile, thinking not only of him, but of Kristin and all the amazing people who have helped us reach this goal.
And then I'll think of the people were are helping and remember again how easy it is for us to touch each other's lives and make a huge impact.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A pot of gold...for charity that is

Just wanted to say Happy St. Patrick's Day and once again thank everyone who has donated to our Grand Canyon Hike.
Your donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will make a huge difference in the lives of cancer patients who are battling various forms of blood cancers.
Without your generosity, and the generosity of many others across the country, life would be much more difficult for many patients. Thanks!
It is possible for a few people to really make an impact.
I'm watching it happen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The countdown is on

Our grand finale hike is getting closer. How can I tell?
Well first, there’s the paperwork through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
The first packet of paper is the re-commitment forms and once we sign those documents, there’s no turning back, It means that we are taking on this challenge for sure, that we will reach our fundraising goal.
There are no excuses.
Come hell or high water we will have $2,900 by May 9.
The second step is the timing of our mile by our hike coach Craig.
He will time how long it takes us to hike one mile and that will help him determine our stamina and strength for the big Grand Canyon hike.
(My timing will take place this Saturday at 7 a.m. on get this, yep Camelback Mountain – surprise, surprise…must be karma!)
That timing will determine if we are indeed prepared for the 12.2 mile hike (plus an additional 2 miles around the rim) on the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point.
Note to Craig: we might not appear like hiking machines at first glance, but trust me we’ll be ready. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can do it. Don’t let our pink backpacks or cute snazzy hiking shoes fool you. We’re slowly molding ourselves into professionals.
The rest of the paperwork makes us list any health conditions and also pick what kind of sandwich we would like to eat in the Grand Canyon. I’m going with Turkey and Provolone. That sounds like a winner doesn’t it? Yum.
Okay, that's enough...now it's back to training on the mountains.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Good hummus and good hearts

Welcome to my favorite lunch spot in Glendale. This place makes bad days good and good days great.
They don't ask for my order anymore. They just ring it up when I walk up to the counter: hummus appetizer, to go. The guys behind the counter, bless them, throw my pitas on the grill to start warming them up as soon as they see me walk through the door.
When I meet my husband there for lunch on occasion (he's a huge fan of the gyro and falafel wraps), they know the order will be a little different, and that we'll be eating it there.
I keep going back because 1. the prices are really reasonable, 2. the employees are great, and 3. I am seriously, literally, undeniably addicted to their hummus. I have had a lot of different types hummus in my day. You might say I'm a hummus connoisseur. And theirs is the best there is. I'd buy it by the vat if I could.
But now, I've learned they're generous, too. I told them about our Grand Canyon training and the money we're raising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and they have committed to donate a portion of their sales one day to the cause.
Check back for an update on the date we select, so you can try this place, too. You'll become a fan for life. If you need a sneak peek (who could blame you), they're on the southeast corner of 75th Avenue and Bell Road.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A different kind of hike

Yes, we're going on vacation again. But this trip has a more important purpose than just watching a tiny ball bouncing around in a spinning roulette wheel. This time, my husband and I will get to see both of our families and meet our 6-week-old niece.
We'll start in eastern Pennsylvania, where we'll hang out with Mike's family, eat lots of seafood, and chill on the deck with the outdoor heater.
Then we'll pack up the rental car and drive 6 hours to Cleveland, where we'll play with our nieces, roam around Amish country, and grab a beer at the local brewery.
But you know me. I will also be hiking. And this is an entirely different kind of hiking.
I won't be watching out for lizards and snakes. I'll be trying to catch a glimpse of a deer.
I won't be slathering on sunscreen. I'll be yanking a hat down over my ears.
And I won't be longing for some shade, any shade. I'll be covered by a canopy of trees that takes me back in time to my pre-desert years in the midwest.
I'll be hiking through the Garfield Park Reservation, a stop on the Cleveland Metroparks trail system that lives just down the street from my brother's house.
This will mark the third state I've hiked in since our Grand Canyon training began!
Be sure to check back for an update on what I saw and how cold I was.

Why Camelback, why?

I know it's hard to imagine, but I have a new nemesis.
This little gem pictured above is called a Camelback water system. Notice how it bears the name of the mountain I so fear and try to avoid.
Coincidence, I think not.
First to be fair, I must give the Camelback its due props.
It's pretty nice to have gallons of water strapped to your back while you're hiking. It frees up your hands and allows you to carry way more water than a bottle holds. Plus, the hose, just inches away from my mouth at all times, is pretty solid too. It makes slurping down water when I really need it a convenient, mindless endeavor.
So what's the problem you ask? Well, the issue actually has nothing to do with the functionality of the Camelback whatsoever.
The problem begins after I'm off the mountain, back at home. It starts as I'm trying to figure out how to get the leftover water out of this plastic bag and its tube into the sink.
The water is never fully gone. It is always stuck somewhere in there. There are drops that are humanly impossible to get to no matter how hard you shake the thing.
Trust me, I’ve tried everything.
I'm worried. Water stuck inside a plastic device can’t be good. Ewe gross, what if it gets moldy? What about the shot of old, warm water that goes into my mouth when I refill it for the trails?
So I did what any normal person with a problem nowadays does - I Googled "how to clean water completely out of a Camelback."
And get this...lots of people have this problem. In fact, there are message boards devoted to this issue where people discuss methods.
Apparently you can buy specific tools, a small nylon brush to be exact, to clean your water system. What? I'm sorry, are you kidding me? This thing already knocks you back $30 and all it does is carry water.
I'm not spending one more penny.
The next options include filling the system with hot water and bleach (um, no way.) Or how about using a spare acoustic guitar string twisted with cotton? (this is getting way complicated)
Phil aka Fisherman from one particular message board says, "I make sure I fill the bladder and hose with a water and 2-3 tbsp of baking soda immediately after returning from my run. This has worked for as long as I have had it. I've also attached a straightened paperclip to a long piece of fishing line, ran it through the tube, and attached a small piece of cotton ball to the other end then pulled the cotton through."
OMG! Honestly, I'm speechless. I think I'm just going to fill my backpack with water bottles if this continues.
This is just too much drama over water.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Valley's Seven Summits

Here's something insanely cool I learned today.
So I'm sure you've heard about the seven summits in the world, a goal that only a few master hikers have ever accomplished.
Well it turns out that there are seven summits in Phoenix too! And here's the super cool part - I've already conquered three of them, Shaw Butte, Lookout Mountain and Piestewa Peak.
Just as I was started to wonder if physically I was getting any stronger from my training and just as I was worrying that just over one month may not be enough time to be fully ready for the intensity of the Canyon, this new revelation, my friends, is the glimmer of hope I needed.
But the joy of this accomplishment was short lived. After all, my competitive nature quickly reminded me that there are still four more to go.
Now I have to do all seven. It's a must.
But my knees tremble when I think about the feared, but immensely popular, Camelback, a mountain that one article calls, "the Mount Everest of the Valley." The article also said the footing in places is "dicey," a fact that really rubs me the wrong way. (Camelback is pictured above)
My first thought - dang it's on the list. Secretly I was hoping it wasn't. I've seen far too many helicopters circling that mountain to pick up stranded hikers in the last few years than I would like to remember.
So now I had a two-part internal struggle.
One, I want to hike all seven summits and there is no way I'm only hiking some. It's either none or all. Two, the Camelback hike and another one in South Mountain, which clocks in a 7 miles and is dubbed "one tough hike," have me shaking in my hiking boots.
The resolution: I came up with this plan.
This weekend, I will hit North Mountain's peak, the least scary of the remaining four. After that, Shadow Mountain will be next. And then South Mountain and then, last by not least, Camelback.
Okay fine so I'm scared and I put it last, but at least I'm going to do it right? That's gotta count for something.
To read more about the Valley's Seven Summits click here.

Showing restraint

It was very easy to come up with the initial list of businesses to visit to ask for sponsorships. We planned to devote Tuesday night to the businesses near my home, and we quickly rattled off all our favorite places in the area and headed out.
What we did not consider, unfortunately, was how difficult it would be to leave these places.
First stop, Tim Finnigan's Irish Pub. We walked up to the door and saw the happy hour sign. Specials on food and beer. Dang it! I could hear the Harp calling my name the whole way out the door.
Next on the list, Native New Yorker, where it was Wing Night. By the time we left, I'd never wanted a wing so badly in my life.
On to Harkins Theatre, where we checked out the posters for the new releases and discussed the merits of Watchmen.
Then to Paesano Ristorante, which even lives up to Kelly's high standards for what a pizza should be. Temporarily closed!!! We are worried. Very, very worried. Dejected, we got back in the car.
Finally, we descended upon Casey Jones, home of the best chicken philly in Phoenix. We made our pitch and then parked ourselves in a booth.
We're only so strong, after all.

The fundraising frenzy

As Kelly and I drove around North Phoenix last night asking businesses for sponsorships, we discussed the finer points of fundraising. And we realized something we didn't know before: fundraising is a lot of work.
I think we already knew this abstractly, but fundraising ideas that seemed so simple at first, are turning out to be slightly more involved than we imagined.
For example: Asking businesses for sponsorships. Easy, right? Just ask.
We had to make a flyer, take a trip to Kinkos to print it out, get our hands on some folders, make a list of businesses to visit and then coordinate a day/time when we could go together. (That last part was harder than it should have been.)
We also want to sell concessions at Little League games. Brilliant! Just sell some treats to hungry kids, and watch the money roll in.
Well, yes. But first, we have to get the concession stand approved by the Little League board, figure out what Little Leaguers and their families might be hungry for, buy the goods, debate whether a soda should be priced at $1.50 or $2, get our hands on a table that will be small enough for our tiny cars to transport, find out how to borrow an LLS banner for the table, discuss the finer points of donation jars, decide which games to attend and THEN go to the games and sell stuff.
We also want to hold a bake sale at a church... you get the idea.
None of it is particularly difficult, but when you put it all together, it does kind of sound like a lot, don't you think?
That's ok, though. We're getting the hang of it, and when all is said and done, we will have raised close to $6,000 for a great cause and completed the most difficult hike either of us have ever attempted.
I'd say it's well worth the effort.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What qualifies as a hiking "essential"?

One of our coaches recently sent us a list of the Top 10 Hiking Essentials. You're supposed to keep all of these supplies in your hiking pack at all times.
I failed this test. But I have a Top 10 list of my own that I would argue is just as good. You be the judge.

Their Top 10 list:
*Map. Kelly and I have a hiking book that has awesome maps and descriptions of the trails we're on. We always bring it. Of course, this still did not prevent us from getting lost at Piestewa, nor did it help us find our way back.
*Compass. Meh. In AZ, we use the sun to tell which direction we're headed.
*Water and a means of purifying it (in case you have to drink water from a stream). I always bring plenty of water. But I do not bring water purifying tablets. The likelihood of me coming across a stream while I'm hiking in AZ is not so great anyway.
*Extra food. Oh, we bring enough food to feed a family of five. Kelly and I can't even go shopping for an hour without snacks. When our blood sugar drops at the same time, it isn't pretty.
*Rain gear and extra clothing. Sometimes I bring a fleece or sweatshirt, if it isn't hot.
*Firestarter and matches. With my luck, I'd start the state's largest wildfire in recent memory.
*First aid kit. I bring Band Aids. But I'm more worried about blisters on my feet than anything else.
*Army knife or multi-purpose tool. Good idea. I will look into this.
*Flashlight or headlamp. Can you picture us hiking with headlamps?
*Sun screen/sun glasses. Always. Always always always. I won't leave the house to get the mail without sunscreen on. It is way too sunny, and I am way too pale to mess with fate.

My Top 10 list:
*Chapstick. A hike without a Chapstick would be beyond miserable.
*Tissues. Bad sinuses + hiking = need tissues.
*Wallet with ID, cash and a credit card. I don't know why, I just feel like this is important.
*Cell phone. Seems like an obvious one to me. Granted, you won't get reception on some hikes in the middle of nowhere. But there is plenty of reception on most hikes in Phoenix (which is evident by the amount of people hiking and chatting on the phone at the same time).
*Sunscreen/sun glasses. Totally agree with this.
*Food. Ditto.
*Water. Ditto again.
*Cosmic Ray. He's the author of our hiking book. Ray always tags along.
*A friend. It's so much more fun to hike with someone else.
*Energy/a good night's sleep. This is key to going uphill.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hiking Nevada

Las Vegas was amazing, as always. A little less crowded these days, but still bursting with excitement and fun.
My husband and I played (and lost) roulette and black jack, we hit the buffet for dinner, and we pondered how on Earth anyone could think a Bud Light is worth $6. It was a good time.
Of course, we also hiked. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, we hiked this:

Believe me. The Las Vegas strip is a hike. I am sore today, and that street is to blame.
Nonetheless, we figured we should experience a little nature, too. So on Sunday, before heading home, we hiked here, on the historic Railroad Trail:

It is one of the only trails I've ever hiked with a view of water, and it was beautiful.

I am tired (understatement) today, but already researching hikes we can check out during our trip back home to Pennsylvania and Ohio next week!

Two months to go!

Two months from right now, Kelly and I will be somewhere in the depths of the Grand Canyon!
Oh my!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A family affair...part deux

I thought my Aunt Karen hiking along side me this weekend was a generous way to support my Grand Canyon training. But she wasn't finished just yet.
Before she departed Phoenix to head back to Philadelphia, she had one more awesome plan up her sleeve.
"I want to help you get your fundraising together," she told me over poached eggs. "Let's go to Costco and load you up with a bunch of stuff you can sell at the baseball games."
And that's what we did. The two of us grabbed at cart at the local North Phoenix Costco and debated what teenage boys and their families would gravitate toward at a concession stand.
I must admit that super stores like this freak me out a bit.
The amount of goods packed inside this giant warehouse tend to overwhelm me and within minutes I'm usually confused, roaming around munching on samples with an empty cart.
But she helped me zoom in to this massive store and decide exactly what our makeshift concession stand should sell.
We settled on the old standbys. M&Ms, sunflower seeds, granola bars, fruity snacks, chips, soda water, Gatorade and even and old classic, Tootsie Pops.
She even helped me understand what to price each item, a skill she picked up while running the concession stand at my little cousin's swim meets.
This was her donation to our hike and I can't thank her enough. It's amazing what a long way a little support can go.
Bring on the baseball and the hungry children! We'll be ready.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A family affair

When my aunt rolled into town this week, I was sure she was expecting a relaxing few days in Arizona. Maybe we'd hit a spa, bronze ourselves by the pool or spend hours shopping. It was a vacation and I ventured to guess that the last thing on her mind was intense physical activity.
Wow, was I wrong.
Karen let me know right from the beginning that she was ready to train with me. She was up for hitting the trails for hours, packing lunches and exploring the desert.
If I ever thought, even for a moment that Karen was all talk, she proved me wrong on her first day here. That Thursday she even ventured out by herself for a walk and ended up climbing the summit of Lookout Mountain.
I guess the adventure gene must run in my family.
Now I'm not a bad host. In fact, we packed up the car and headed north on Friday to Sedona, red rock country. We shopped around the village, ate spicy Mexican food while drinking margaritas and debated an appointment with a psychic.
But we also hiked the Devil's Bridge Trail.
Devil's Bridge is largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area and one article calls it "one of the most heavenly sights in an area famous for them." This hike was amazing. We scaled rocks, felt pressure in our heads from the energy of the "vortex" and even ventured onto the bridge itself - although it took so coaxing to get me on it since the drop is about 100 feet.
On Sunday, we’re going to hit a local trail in Paradise Valley before she jumps on the plane to head back to Philadelphia. I don’t want Karen to leave, but I’m telling you my body is aching. Maybe I should hire her as my personal trainer?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gambling, drinking and ... hiking?

Tomorrow after work, the husband and I will be packing a dinner, loading up the car and heading for the bright lights of Las Vegas.
I am beyond excited. It's been two years since our last visit, and I am looking forward to many things:
* Seeing my friend Stacy and meeting her fiance! Yay!
* Staying at the Tropicana. It's one of the older casino/hotels, and it's classic Vegas. Gaudy chandeliers everywhere you look. Love.
* Roulette. I discovered it on the last trip up there, and it is the perfect game for me because it's more hardcore than slot machines, yet still requires no gambling skills whatsoever.
* $1 margaritas at Casino Royale. This is really the only reason to visit Casino Royale, but it's a good enough excuse for me.
* All my regular favorite Vegas sights: the dancing Bellagio fountains, the M&M store, and Paris.
* Watching the husband down a red bull and vodka immediately upon arrival, in an effort to "rally" after working all day and then driving six hours.
But, this trip does not mean I will not be hiking. No, no, no. I am committed.
On Sunday morning, before heading back to Phoenix, we'll be checking out a hike along an old railroad system that was built to get materials to the site of the Hoover Dam during its construction. The railroad system was abandoned once the dam was finished, the tracks were eventually dismantled, and the tunnels and trail were added to the National Register of Historic Places decades later.
You can now hike or bike it, and it is supposed to have amazing views of Lake Mead. Check it out here.
I will report back (with pictures) on its coolness factor on Monday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

An Ode to Thunderbird Conservation Park

I discovered Thunderbird Park about a year ago, when some folks from the city of Glendale drove me out to give me a tour of the area. We piled into a pickup truck and drove all around the mountains, as they told me about the city's dedication to preserving the desert environment and how they were planting new saguaro cactuses to line the road into the park.
I was out there to do a video story for the Arizona Republic's web site, but I knew I would be back. It's one of those place in the Valley that is just down the block from an endless line of strip malls, and yet it's easy to imagine that you're actually in the middle of nowhere.
A year later, it's my go-to hike. If I want to hike after work, I'm short on time or I'm just not up to the adventure of finding a new trail, I head to Thunderbird.
See, I'm a creature of habit. While I enjoy trying new things and seeing new places, I also just like what I like. I eat at the same Greek place for lunch all the time (and they know my order). I shop at the same Target because I know where everything is. I want to take yet another cruise to Mexico and am not even considering cruises that go to other locales.
Why mess with a good thing?
And so for each new hike I try, I hike Thunderbird at least once, as well. I can't neglect it.
Let me take you on a tour to show you why I'm so loyal.

You see flowers like these:

And hike up trails like this:

And take in views like this:

And catch sunsets like this:

See what I mean?

Monday, March 2, 2009

In your own backyard

Here's a funny thing about living in Phoenix. No matter which direction you turn there is a mountain. And I've quickly learned that after living in the Valley for a few years, you get spoiled and begin to take them for granted.
Well, that is until you start training to hike into the Grand Canyon, which turns the mountains scattered in your backyard into your own version of LA Fitness.
First, you begin to learn the names of all the mountains you've been passing by. Then you realize that these very mountains are packed with hiking trails, many of which are just a few miles from your house.
One of those is Lookout Mountain, which is literally two left turns from my house, but it took a hiking guidebook to get me there.
Each day, I drove past this mountain on the way to work but I never REALLY noticed it. I certainly didn't anticipate that it would soon become one of my favorite places, one of my most trusted sites for consistent trail running and day hiking.
This Sunday, Meghan and I hiked to Lookout's summit.
(That's me pictured above giving the signal that this trail is indeed once again a fantastic find!)
From the top, it's easy to spot my neighborhood and if you really search, you could probably find my house. What a great feeling to finally be paying attention.
I wonder where we'll end up next.

A learning experience

People are catching on to the fact that I'm hiking a lot.
Conversations are adapting as family, friends and colleagues get acquainted with Team in Training and the big Grand Canyon hike. Slowly but surely, "How was your weekend?" is becoming, "Did you hike this weekend?"
The training is a great conversation starter, and I'm finding that I'm learning a lot about others through this process.
I learned that the sister of a woman I work with does the 3-day breast cancer walk each year (and that she forgot her chapstick once and will never make that mistake again). I learned that another colleague tries to gather a group together to hike the canyon whenever he thinks his age is catching up with him and he needs to feel young again.
And I've learned that my husband looks shockingly identical to his grandfather, who died of leukemia at an early age and never got the chance to meet his grandkids.
I'm also learning about the generosity others, and how that generosity and support can keep a person motivated to get out there and train, even when that person would rather lay on the couch all day.
I guess it really is more about the journey than the destination.