New England Peaks for Prevention

So I am officially registered for my next mountain climb with the Breast Cancer Fund. In September I will be climbing Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Rising to 6,228 ft., it may be a shadow of the mountain I climbed last summer but it is the largest mountain on the east coast! Check out the event at the link here: New England Peaks for Prevention.

As a participant in this event I have agreed to raise $628.80. I hope you will follow along on this next journey of mine. And if you’re in New England, consider participating too!  More to come on this, but for now if you want to donate to my efforts (this is a fantastic organization) here’s my fundraising link:

DONATE TO THE BREAST CANCER FUND IN SUPPORT OF KRISTIN’S CLIMB!

Stay happy and healthy friends, and may you find peace in nature :)

Beyond the Pink

I mentioned in my previous post that I created a video to contribute to the Breast Cancer Fund’s Beyond the Pink campaign.  Although breast cancer awareness month is over, I encourage you to still check out the amazing stories they compiled and take the pledge to go beyond the pink yourself.

Don’t be fooled by all the pink-washing when you shop. The very can of soup that boasts pink ribbons may very well be lined with BPA , a toxic chemical associated with increased risk of breast cancer!  Not only are many of these campaigns misguided, but it’s time we shift our focus towards prevention instead of awareness. I have seen what a “cure” looks like and I have seen someone very well aware of breast cancer die from the disease. It is clear that something more is necessary to end this disease.

Beyond the Pink moves past consumer pink flag waving about awareness and towards action, advocacy, and prevention. The campaign encourages us all to become advocates for ourselves and others to work towards prevention and action to remove environmental causes of cancer present in our everyday products.

Check out this awesome campaign, submit your own story, and take the pledge here: Beyond the Pink

You can also check out my video below:

From Mountains to Advocacy (and back to Mountains)

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It’s been more than 6 months now since I climbed Mount Shasta, it’s amazing how time flies!  My experience with the mountain climb and with the Breast Cancer Fund was life changing.  My lifestyle has become much healthier than it was a year ago thanks to the training for the climb and my newfound knowledge about environmental causes of breast cancer. Perhaps if I had discovered the Breast Cancer Fund 10 years ago instead of 3 my mom could have taken this journey with me. Although it is too late for her, I am sure that I owe this organization a world of thanks for making me aware of what I can do to prevent myself from getting breast cancer. I hope that with what I have learned from them (and continue to learn) and because of all their efforts to eliminate toxins in consumer products that I may not face the same fate as my mom.

My life was transformed by this journey and because of that I plan on continuing this blog and my efforts to support the breast cancer fund and their endeavors. I very much wanted to climb Mt. Shasta again this year, but I simply was not up to the challenge of raising $6,000 again so soon.  Perhaps next year.  As climb season rapidly approaches I am a little nostalgic and sad that I will not be climbing Mt. Shasta again this year, but I encourage you to check out the inspirational team members of the 2014 climb team and consider helping one of them reach their fundraising goal.

But since the climb I have continued to be an advocate. In October I contributed a video to the breast cancer fund’s “Beyond the Pink” campaign and attended the Vermont annual breast cancer conference. I’m also planning on hiking Mt. Washington next fall with the New England group at Breast Cancer Fund as part of their new climb “New England Peaks for Prevention” (don’t worry, I’ll post links to donate soon!).  Please continue to check back to hear more about my mountain climbing adventures and advocacy for this wonderful cause.

Interview with the Jefferson Exchange (radio)

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The Monday after the climb I was a guest on the Jefferson Exchange, a public radio show, along with Breast Cancer Fund’s Marla Stein.  If you want to hear me talk about the climb in my own words, you can listen to the radio show at this link:

http://ec.libsyn.com/p/0/b/7/0b7f2f60404c6fdf/The_Jefferson_Exchange_06_24_2013_Hour_1B.mp3?d13a76d516d9dec20c3d276ce028ed5089ab1ce3dae902ea1d01cf8536d1c85ef84b&c_id=5802550

or you can find the podcast on itunes or their website (http://www.ijpr.org/onlineaudio.asp?SectionID=0&programId=11&txtStartDate=6/24/2013&txtEndDate=6/24/2013)

Summit

climber status

Sorry for the delay in posting about how the climb went… I’ve needed a few days to catch my breath!  I reached the top of Mount Shasta after around 8 hours of climbing and 2500 vertical feet of altitude sickness.  It was the hardest physical challenge I have ever completed, but worth every step and gasp for air.

We were originally supposed to make our summit attempt around 2-3 am on Wednesday early morning.  We were warned before we left the trailhead that a storm was on its way and that we might have to deviate from that schedule.  We reached base camp at around 10,000 ft. in pretty good time and set up camp on a wonderful overlook at the base of the west side.

Tuesday evening the storm started up – winds blowing and dumping brief but plentiful dustings of popcorn snow. The winds picked up as the night went on to 60-70 mph, tearing through camp at a deafening howl… I thought our tent had ripped from the intensity of the winds! Around 7am I dared to open the hatch telling my tent-mates it “probably wasn’t as bad as it sounds.” I was greeted with an inch or so of snow, declared “it’s like Christmas!” and after spending a whole 5 minutes outside retreated to my sleeping bag again with numb hands and feet.

Since we couldn’t summit Wednesday morning, our awesome guides from Shasta Mountain Guides chose to spend an extra day on the mountain with us, giving up the much anticipated pancake breakfast that had been planned for Thursday morning.  We walked around in the snow that afternoon with our crampons on as a dry run for the following day. We also had a prayer flag ceremony where we gathered and shared the names of those we were climbing for with the mountain. It was a healing experience to realize that all of these people were as affected by breast cancer as I was;  it was comforting  to see that other people couldn’t hold back the tears either; and it was empowering to stand at the base of the mountain and think of all of the hard work I had gone through to make it happen and how proud my mom would be of me at that moment as I stood holding her flag (along with the many you all dedicated) at the base of the peak.

Me and my Boston buddy Pam during the prayer flag dedication.

Me and my Boston buddy Pam during the prayer flag dedication.

After stuffing ourselves with as much food as we could handle, we laid down for sleep at 5pm.  By this point the weather had turned for the better, which meant our tent was ~80 degrees inside and we couldn’t really sleep until the sun set at 9pm.  At 11pm we got our wakeup call, strapped on our boots and gaiters, loaded our packs, stuffed ourselves with some more food, and prepared to head out. At 12 am our team began on our summit attempt, the 3rd of 4 teams.

Just as the sun was rising we reached the top of the West Face.  This part of the climb was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.  Around 12,500, just as we were getting above Shastina (a satellite cone) I started getting really short of breath.  This rapidly turned into dizziness and an inability to breathe.  At one point one of the wandering guides commented that I was “stumbling.”  I realized that I needed to focus on what I was doing and focus on breathing or I wouldn’t make it.  After a warning from my guide that I needed to start pressure breathing and stay calm I regained focus and powered on.  It was a struggle between gasping for breath and climbing up a steep icy and rocky slope, but as I reached the top at ~13,000 feet I was told the worst was over and got a second wind.  By this point my snacks had frozen, my hands were numb from the cold, and my water was starting to freeze.  The sunrise over the mountain as we rested for a few minutes on the top was incredible, a perfect pyramid.

pyramid sunrise

Pyramid sunrise looking down from the West Face

My team nearing the top of the West Face (I'm the last on that rope), the first team to make it that far!

My team nearing the top of the West Face (I’m the last on that rope), the first team to make it that far!

After re-roping together with some new people who were ready to go on we continued across a glacial flat towards misery hill.  The deep blue veins in the ice were amazing, I’m sad I didn’t get a picture of it! This part of the climb was fairly flat and combined with the beautiful sunrise I was rejuvenated and ready to summit!  As we neared misery hill I tried to take a picture of the landscape during the early morning sun.  As I reached for the gopro on my helmet I realized I couldn’t feel the button to push. I figured it was just lack of dexterity from the outer mitt, so I took that off.  Still couldn’t push the button so I took off the rest of my gloves only to find that I couldn’t push it still because my hands were frozen and numb. Not only that, my skin had turned a disgusting greenish yellow and my fingernails were purple black.  I panicked and quickly put my gloves back on, forcing myself to close and open my hands until feeling had returned. I thought this might have been frostbite, but after more thought I think it was hypoxia from the altitude sickness… or maybe a combination of the two.  At any rate, it was bad and I’m glad it went away after a rest at the base of misery hill.

A brief rest at the base of Misery Hill.

A brief rest at the base of Misery Hill.

As we made our way up misery hill I started to fade again.  I stayed with the group until we made it about 3/4 of the way through misery hill, which lived up to its name.  It looked like a small hill, but every time we reached the top of a hump, there was another hump we couldn’t see before. As we got higher the breathing became more difficult.  At this point I remembered some great advice from two people.  The first was my mountaineering instructor in New Hampshire, who told me that the key to mountain climbing was very small steps with deliberate breaths and to just keep walking. The second was my friend Aaron, who days before the climb told me, “you’re going to hit 3 walls, just keep powering through them and you’ll be fine.”  So I fell to the back of my team and slowly fell further behind. So after these last photos as we neared the top of misery hill with my lead rope team I told my guide that I would make it but needed to go at my own pace.  I’m so grateful that he let me do that, the summit was now visible and it was just a matter of one step at a time across a very long snow flat and then one last scramble up to the peak.

Crossing the snowflat seemed to take forever.  Every step I had to stop for a breath.  My guide said I had classic mountaineering technique and that I was probably walking faster than I thought I was, I’m not sure how true that is, but the technique did work.  As I made my way across the snowflat the second team caught up with me. After confirming that I was okay I continued on with them for a little ways before deciding I couldn’t keep up with them either at that altitude.  I never thought it would be so difficult to walk on flat ground.  The thought to quit never entered my mind, but it was becoming quite a struggle to make my body move at a reasonable pace and the psychological strain of not having had a deep breath in 4 hours was really wearing on me.  All I could think was “I want to lay down here for a nap” and “I just want one good deep breath.”  As I fell to the back of the second lead team I saw a fellow climber named Phi.  He had the same look I imagined I had on my face.  I’m not exactly sure what I said to him at that point (altitude made me pretty delirious) but something to the effect of “we’re going to make it to the top together.” I had decided unilaterally that I was going to make sure that we both got to the top, it gave me strength to see someone struggling as much as I was but still putting one foot in front of the other.  So that’s what we did, all the way to…

Arriving at the summit!!!

Arriving at the summit!!!

When I got to the top I was so relieved that I made it around 9am.  I had made it through my three walls and kept going just like my friend told me to do.  As I sat down to rest I punched through the ice layer in my water bottle, had a bite of a frozen candy bar, and suddenly realized I had to make it back down too.  As daunting as this was I tried to enjoy the moment. I thought we were only up there for 5 minutes, but looking at my gopro footage (to be posted soon I promise!) it looks like I was up there for much longer (30 min maybe?).  I flew the flags at the summit and tried to get some good photos, but the wind was pretty strong so you can’t really read names. I promise you they all made it up there and flew in the wind!

Prayer flag at the summit.

Prayer flag at the summit.

After taking some photos and resting we headed back down on a loooong descent.  Because it was so cold (they said it was the coldest Climb Against the Odds on Shasta they have ever done… and they’ve done this climb for 10 years!), we had to walk down instead of glissade (slide on your butt), the preferred (and fun!) way to get down a snow covered mountain. This was incredibly hard on us, we were exhausted and it is very taxing on your knees and ankles.  Despite the pain I kept walking and surprisingly once I got to around 12,000 feet I suddenly felt rejuvenated – I could finally breathe after over 9 hours of gasping for air!!!  At around 11,000 feet our guide decided the snow was soft enough to glissade, so we were able to descend the rest of the way to base camp on our butts :) Glissading is a ton of fun and was a great way to roll back into camp! Once we reached camp we packed up and immediately headed down to the trailhead where our family and friends were there waiting. I made it back to Bunny Flat around 4:30pm. In total, I climbed 4,500 feet up and 8,000 feet down in about 16 hours.

Note: all photos are all rights reserved either by the Breast Cancer Fund or Kristin Winchell.  Do not reuse.

(P.S. Keep checking back for more details about the climb experience and future plans!)

The Climb Has Begun

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Kristin pointing towards her destination.

It’s Jonathan here and I’m posting on Kristin’s behalf because she’s climbing Mount Shasta right now. Kristin and the rest of the Team started their ascent this morning around 10:00 AM (PST). The weather held out during the morning hours, but has since deteriorated a little bit. The summit is currently mostly obscured by clouds and base camp is apparently very windy. The relatively inclement weather has apparently pushed the timeline for their summit attempts back by a little bit, but they’re still on track to make their summit attempts. I am told they all reached base camp this afternoon. There are a couple more pictures after the jump.

Continue reading

Follow along live!

Climb Against the Odds 2013 climb team

Climb Against the Odds 2013 climb team

Tomorrow is the big day!!!

Get updates all week and follow my progress up the mountain at:

You can also follow along from your smartphone. The links below will let you see the live feed from the Climb Against the Odds blog, the twitter feeds, facebook updates, and the Flickr photo stream:

Scan this code with your smart phone to go straight to the mobile updates

Route and Itinerary

Southwest Route on Mount Shasta (click for larger image) (map from http://shastaavalanche.org/)

Southwest Route on Mount Shasta (click for larger image) (map from http://shastaavalanche.org/)

Only 5 days until the climb!  Here’s the itinerary along with a map for you. Another post will follow shortly with resources to follow along as I climb via live updates from the mountain guides.

Day 1 (June 18): The climb starts at Bunny Flat (6,800 ft.). We hike to Horse Camp (7,880 ft.) for lunch and continue to Hidden Valley (~9,600 ft.) where we will make camp. Bedtime is early (around 8pm) since day 2 starts very early. Total elevation climb: 3,000 ft.

Day 2 (June 19): Wake up at 1am and start in waves by 2am. We will rope together in groups of 3-5 and head up the West Face (WF on the map above). At 13,800 ft. we reach Misery Hill, which I’m hoping is sarcastically named. Then comes the final push to the summit at 14,162 ft. After a break at the summit we will descend again to base camp at Hidden Valley. Total elevation climb:  4,500ft.

Day 3 (June 20): Descend from base camp at Hidden Valley and reach the Bunny Flat trailhead by afternoon.

According to the latest climbing advisory (6/10/2013), climbing conditions are still good although the snowmelt is happening faster than typical leading to conditions usually seen in mid to late July. The upper portion of the West Face is already melted, leaving just rock and an increased risk of rock slides and danger from hollow, partially melted snow. Temperatures should be in the 80s next week (although Wunderground.com is forecasting thursday to be 97F!) and the wind is expected to be strong from west – southwest. Despite the pleasant daytime temperatures, it can still get pretty cold at night and the wind chill can make even sunny days cold. On top of that, even though there’s a forecast of 0% precipitation, unexpected winter storms often spring up at this time of year.

Fundraising Summit Reached!!!

I did it!!! $6,000 + raised for breast cancer prevention!!!

Huge thanks to everyone that has donated, and to all those who sent their warm wishes and kind thoughts. I didn’t think I could do it, but I made it to $6,000! I leave for California in just a couple of days and will be posting soon on the climb and how you can follow along live!  Thanks again for taking this journey with me and stay tuned for the main event!

Rubber Legs

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With one week to go I’m getting in just a couple more training days before resting. For my final push I’m trying to exhaust myself to the point of having “rubber legs” multiple days in a row… You know that feeling when you’ve worked out so hard that your legs/body feel like jello? That’s rubber legs. I figure that is how I am going to feel on the mountain and I want it fresh in my mind what it feels like so that I know I can keep walking and can get up and do it again the next day.

So today I urban hiked 6.17 miles, alternating jogging, walking, and stairs. I ran about 2 -2.5 miles, which is pretty good considering I was wearing a 35 lb pack! I’m finally used to carrying that much weight. At one point I stopped to check that my pack hadn’t broken open and dumped my textbooks (my preferred training weights) because it felt so light to me! On top of that, no bruised hips or collarbone and my ankle and knee feel great! I hope that means I am ready! Rubber legs training continues tomorrow with a fast 5 miler then it’s rest time.

Almost there!!

Prayer Flags

My prayer flag, dedicated to my mom.

My prayer flag, dedicated to my mom.

I wanted to post about the prayer flags that we will be carrying up Mount Shasta with us.  Prayer flags are a tradition of mountain climbing that originates in Tibetan culture. Prayer flags are not meant as a prayer to a deity, but rather a way to spread good will and compassion to everyone. The idea is that the cloth bears a mantra and prayers for healing, peace, good fortune, etc. They are often carried and hung from high elevations so that as the wind passes over them they can carry the messages to all below.

Prayer flags hanging in the Himalayas (picture from Flickr, CC Mike Lamper http://www.flickr.com/photos/lampertron/4376174306/)

When I climb Mt. Shasta in 2 weeks I will carry a string of flags dedicated by you, the people who donated to my climb. The names of your loved ones along with prayers of remembrance and healing will fly from one of the highest peaks in the US. The flags will come back down the mountain with me and will then be added to the permanent traveling string of flags that goes all over the world. A duplicate flag will be mailed to you. Whether or not you believe the wind is actually carrying your prayers, I think this is a really beautiful way to honor those who have faced cancer.

2012 Climb Against the Odds climbers flying their prayer flags. (Image (c) Breast Cancer Fund)

If you have made a donation to my climb (or intend to) of $100 or more (thanks!!!) and did not dedicate a flag but now want to, please let me know. If you did dedicate a flag, please let me know if you d0 not receive your flag in the mail (allow 3-4 weeks).

The wind carries our prayers of love, healing and remembrance.

May all be well.

White Mountains Hike

Peak elevation for today's hike.

Peak elevation for today’s hike.

Today I went on a real hike in some real mountains with my good friend Scott.  We drove up to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and hiked the Drake’s Brook / Sandwich Mtn loop.  We started at about 1400 ft. and reached a peak height of 3293 ft. As you can see from my GPS’ elevation plot – the uphill portion of this climb was VERY steep.  I was impressed with my fitness on the hike and although it was nearly 90 degrees out and about 70% humidity (I was sweating buckets) it was a very enjoyable hike and I managed it just fine.  The loop was 5.7 miles long with all the elevation gain in the first ~2 miles.

The view from overlook 1.

The view from overlook 1.

The view from the top was beautiful and I got a good sampling of montane flora and fauna of the northeast. I wish I had brought my forests of the northeast field guide, but I think my obsession with the toads along the way was about all my friend could handle… I don’t think it would have gone over well for me to whip out my book to classify some plants. The mosses were amazing, I wish I had taken pictures of them… there were so many different types at the peak where the trees were short and stunted and I found limestone!  I didn’t realize the seabed covered that high up millions of years ago, but then I’ve always been weak at geological history.

Speaking of toads, we encountered no fewer than 5 frogs/toads! I was disappointed not to find any salamanders, but the amphibians we did find were pretty awesome. I only managed to catch and photograph two of them but I think these are the species we encountered:


And lastly, the scenery was amazing.  With 2 weeks to go to my climb this was a great training hike to build my confidence in my fitness. This week I plan on going all out every day to maximize my fitness then next week it’s the rest before the climb!  I’ll leave you with some more pretty scenes from the hike:

Summit of the day

My summit of the day: 50 laps up this staircase!

Today I went for another urban hike. With only 3 weeks to go I’m getting a little nervous! I took my pack at 30lb and set out to get in some elevation. 6.57 miles later and 50 laps up the staircase in the photo above and I called it quits for the day. I feel much less fatigue and pain than I have on previous hikes. I figure that between the elevation gain along the path I was walking in addition to the staircase laps I got in a total elevation of ~2500 ft… not bad for the city! Planning on more traditional training for the rest of the week (running, yoga) and then Sunday I’m going up to the White Mountains to tackle a real mountain for the day.

Longest urban hike to date

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I have bruises on top of bruises on top of sore muscles I didn’t know I had… Yesterday I went for my longest urban hike yet- 9 miles with a 35 lb pack. I was feeling great until the last 2 miles, which were a struggle. I managed to get in 600ft elevation gain, which isn’t anything compared to a mountain but is decent for a flat city. Assuming my bruises have healed a little, tomorrow I plan on going much shorter distance but all incline and a slightly lighter pack (to give my poor bruises hips a break!). Aiming for 2k elevation climb on stairs in the city.

Urban Hiking with my new Scarpa’s

My quick urban hike

My quick urban hike

 

Just tried out my new Scarpa boots on a short (3 mile) urban hike with a 35 lb. pack.  The boots have decent ankle support and it sure made a huge difference!  Thanks to Scarpa for sponsoring our climb and giving us a great deal on awesome boots.

Rocking my new Scarpa boots and Osprey backpack, both sponsors of Climb Against the Odds!

Rocking my new Scarpa boots and Osprey backpack, both sponsors of Climb Against the Odds!

Kristin approved: getting plastics away from your food

I’ve had several friends ask me for advice on avoiding chemicals in products, from food and beverage containers to personal care products.  So I decided to do a series I’m calling “Kristin approved” to highlight the products I use to avoid cancer-causing agents.  Here’s the first installment on food and beverage containers. (disclaimer: these are my personal opinions based on the products I use, not the endorsement of the Breast Cancer Fund)

Some Background Info…

It doesn’t matter if it says BPA free, avoid plastics as best as you can!  There’s a common misconception that if a plastic is BPA free then it is safe to put food in.  In actuality, BPA just happens to be the one identified chemical in plastic that has been publicized, often BPA-free plastics contain chemicals that are just as bad or worse.  Don’t believe me?  Check out these articles:

What can you do?  The Breast Cancer Fund has some great tips at this link, but the easiest thing to do is to cut out plastic from your life, especially your food containers. But first, know your plastics.  Try to avoid the worst ones — #3, 6, and 7.  The Breast Cancer Fund identifies 5 chemicals to be especially wary of: BPA, styrene, dioxin, vinyl chloride, and dioxin.  Be aware that many seemingly innocent items are lined with plastics (e.g. aluminum water bottles, canned foods). You can read more about these chemicals and where they are found at this link or in the table below.

Chemicals found in plastics

Chemicals found in plastics (click image for larger version; table (c) The Breast Cancer Fund)

Second, try to cut out plastics from your food storage.  This isn’t always possible – I still get my iced coffee in a plastic cup every now and then, but the key is to reduce your exposure as much as possible!  These aren’t chemicals that are okay to get a little bit of over time, every little exposure adds up to your cumulative dosage.  Here’s a list of some of my favorite plastic alternatives:


Kristin Approved: plastic free food

1. Klean Kanteen pint glass and Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Blender: For your smoothie making needs without plastic.  I make my morning smoothies right in the cup and the all stainless hand blender (except for a small silicone o-ring) makes sure no plastic touches my fruits.  Acids like those found in citrus fruits can cause plastic breakdown leading to nasty chemicals in your food. This setup replaced my “magic bullet” plastic blender.

 

2. Bormiolo Rocco Frigoverre Jug: I don’t like keeping my filtered water in a plastic container, so after I filter it I pour it into this glass jug.  This minimizes the contact of the water with the plastic.  The lid hermetically seals, which means the water is airtight and won’t absorb smells from your refrigerator. This is also a great option for storing fruit juices or iced tea, since you wouldn’t want to store acidic juice or hot liquid in a plastic pitcher. The lid is plastic but it doesn’t contact the water, and after much research this seemed like the best option to me for minimizing overall plastic-water contact.

Glass water jug

Glass water jug

 

3. Canning Jars: Ball canning jars work great for storing food; they’re not just for canning!  I use them for storing leftovers (soup, sauces) and dry ingredients like grains and nuts.

Ball canning jars work great for food storage!

Ball canning jars work great for food storage!

 

4. Coffee Cups: Starbucks Stainless Steel Tumbler and Klean Kanteen insulatedI have two coffee cups that I love.  The Starbucks stainless steel tumbler is the only iced coffee cup that I have found that has all stainless inside and a stainless straw.  The only plastic on this is the inside of the lid, which is unfortunate especially since it is a #7.  Even so, a little splashing against the inside top of this has got to be better than soaking in a cup made entirely of plastic.  Eventually I’d like to find something like this with a stainless lid, maybe Klean Kanteen will come out with that at some point!  My other coffee cup is an all stainless insulated cup with a stainless lid.  No plastic touches my hot coffee at all, just the way I like it.

 

5. Klean Kanteen water bottlesThey come in all sorts of sizes and designs and they’re all stainless steel.  My favorite are the 27oz classics and the all stainless lids.  On a side note, Klean Kanteen is a sponsor of Climb Against the Odds and a major supporter of the Breast Cancer Fund.

Klean Kanteen water bottles

Klean Kanteen water bottles

 

6. Stainless steel lunchpail and bamboo silverware from To-Goware and Bambu spork: I use the To-Go Ware tiffin for my lunch – they can be used as single containers or can be stacked for 2 or 3 containers worth of food.  They make bamboo silverware as well that I’m a fan of.  Bambu also makes some good bamboo products, like the spork below that I throw in my bag for lunch sometimes.

 

7. Glass Pyrex storage containersFor my leftovers I use glass pyrex containers.  Yes the lids are plastic, but this is the best option I’ve been able to find (the all glass lids don’t hold a seal well in my experience). I’ve been slowly filling up my cabinet with these and throwing out the plastic.  They also freeze well and can be put in the oven (without the lid) for easy reheating of leftovers.

Glass pyrex

Glass pyrex

Memorial.

just another sunny day in Boston!

Just another sunny day in Boston! (Beacon Hill)

Today I went for a 6 mile urban hike carrying a 35lb pack, with a whopping 766 ft elevation climb… Beacon Hill is the biggest mountain I can find in the city!  I made a sign for my pack with my donation URL, hopefully that will get a few strangers looking at my page!  The hike took me 2 hours, with an hour long coffee break / class in between segments. The hike was a little bit of a wakeup call. I haven’t been training with my pack as much as I should and man do my back and hips hurt!  Also, the left strap rests right where I broke my collarbone when I was 14… I wonder if they make extra thick pads for that, because it really hurts after awhile.

The hike also got me thinking about some things… exercise tends to make me very introspective and philosophical, maybe that’s why I have always been drawn to sports as a coping mechanism?  Anyway, as I neared mile 4 of my hike I went through Copley Square, where there is a memorial set up to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Memorial at Copley Square for the Marathon bombing

Memorial at Copley Square for the Marathon bombing

As I looked at all of the tributes and people there it made me reflect on the purpose of memorials in general.  Of course that memorial is unique because of the circumstances, but it occurred to me that the loss of a life is tragic no matter what the cause.  In “On Death and Dying” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talks about how we think of death as a violent and treacherous act; we think that life is not lost, it is stolen from us.  We all want someone to point the finger at to blame when someone dies. And those that are left behind that knew and loved the person want to shout as loud as we can that they were here, they were good people, they were loved, and they will not be forgotten.  I think this is the real point of a memorial – an opportunity for those left to unite in their grief and shout as loud as they can – in anger at the person who did this to them and in loving memory of the person lost.

But how do you memorialize someone who died from a more common killer?  There is no city to stand united with you, there is no person to point a finger at.  How do you tell strangers what a great person the world lost?  How do you make sure they aren’t forgotten?

My mountain climb is my memorial to my mom.  Jane Winchell was here.  She was a scout leader, a mom, a member of her community.  She did good things, had a kind heart, and always told it like it was.  She was loved and will never be forgotten.  There may not be a public square filled with flowers and notes to honor her, but I will honor her memory the best I can. I will climb to the top of Shasta for her and proudly hold up the prayer flag with her name on it. I will tell her story to anyone that will listen, to honor her memory and to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention. In doing so I stand united with all of the other people who have lost loved ones to breast cancer and point my finger at the underlying causes of this disease.   This is my way of shouting as loud as I can.  This is my memorial.  

My beautiful mom.  This is all for you.

My beautiful mom. This is all for you.

Halfway There!

58% of the way there!!!

I just wanted to post a quick update, I’m now over halfway to my fundraising goal with $3,490!  Tremendous thanks to my generous friends and family for their support! Special shout out to my cousins in the Chiu and Nitollama family for their generous support and for dedicating a flag on my string!  If you haven’t donated yet and you want to, you can find the link on the left of this page, or here.

Keep an eye out this week for the opening of my Etsy charity store to benefit the Breast Cancer Fund.  Also, if you live in Boston, keep an eye out thursday as I trek through the city wearing my big red osprey pack filled to 40lbs on my training “urban hike” for the month!

The Catharsis of Spring

“The most beautiful people we have ever known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have pulled themselves out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Boston is waking up from the slumber of winter, and with the new leaves and flowers I feel like I am finally waking up from a long slumber too.

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Today I went on a 3.8 mile run.  As I was running I noticed that the flowers are really starting to come out now here; that brought a smile to my face.  And then just as I was starting to feel happy and get into my run, around mile 2.5 a hearse passed by in a 4 car funeral procession.  I was immediately saddened… all this beauty around me and yet that family must be in so much pain.  I thought of my mom, I thought of death, I thought of how terrible it is that life is stolen from us all in the end.  Through my headphones a song called “missing pieces” started playing, the lyrics saying: “I would feel much better if I thought there was any other reason to keep away the beauty from the dirt … And I miss you, oh, And I miss you, oh”

Just as I was literally about to start crying I had a realization.  The world was trying to tell me something: there is beauty in this world, and there is dirt, but you can’t separate the two.  There is duality in everything… beauty and dirt, death and life… as the hearse passed by signaling the end of one life, the trees were blooming signaling the beginning of another.  Each of us may have a finite time here, but life goes on and we can’t forget to live while we’re alive.

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


On a side note about training, my endurance is definitely improving.  I finished with an average 10 minute mile pace and didn’t feel too winded or exhausted.  I honestly could have kept going if not for my bum ankle that has been giving me trouble the past couple of weeks.  I need to figure out some good ankle strengthening exercises!

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