The human ability to explore the world, educate one's self, stretch one's perception and boundaries of security and comfort should be embraced as well as the emerging visceral feelings and emotions stemming from such experiences.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nica: Take it easy, man!

This past weekend I got back from a surf trip to Nicaragua. Intense. Beautiful. Extremely fun. Big swell.

Pictures are up on Facebook.

Stayed in Gigante the first night. It's a great little fishing village with a unique feeling and atmosphere. Surfed Colorados and Ponga Drops. Both were great breaks, but Colorados was double overhead and barreling. A fun, big, heavy wave I got worked on a few times.

From there we went to San Juan del Sur. Got a flat tire and fixed it in the blazing sun. Satyed at Arenas Caliente for a couple nights. This was a surf hostel in the middle of town. San Juan was definitely a more central tourist attraction when compared to Gigante. Firs day, we took a boat to Yankees. While we were waiting for the surf to pick up, we fished. I caught a tiny blow fish, but that was better than my gringo counterparts who ended up with only the bait they casted overboard. The locals we were with caught some fish that was later made into some kick-ass ceviche and also grilled up. Some of the best stuff we had in Nica.

Yankees was kind of breaking weird, so we tried Hermosa. Hermosa had some fun waves, but I was dead tired in the water. Caught some fun ones this day, but it was probably the worst day of surf we had on the trip.

That night we hung out with a few other travelers. Consumed a bit of the ubiquitous Flor de Cana rum and some rather large Tona cervesas. I slept in a hammock and got some of the best sleep I had in Nica.

The next day we packed up a bit, and headed to playa Maderas with a couple guys we hung out with the night before, Andi and Reese. Amazing waves when we pulled up. Enough peaks for everybody. Pulled into some good ones. Took some fun pics. Ate some tacos a guy was selling on the beach, and covered a couple tourists on 4-wheelers in mud on the way there.

From Maderas we headed back towards Gigante. We stayed at Giant's Foot Surf Camp. It was a beautiful hostel located on the bay. We surfed Colorados one more time but this time we got there by way of a "secret" road that put us right on the beach. Some locals guarded the road, but we had an in with one of the guys we took along in our car. Surf was still pumping.

After surfing Colorados, winds were turning onshore, so we headed to Isla de Ometepe. This is an island in the middle of enormous Lago de Nicaragua formed by two volcanoes. We stayed the night, and ended up having a great time hanging with some locals and some Americans we met. The next day we hiked up through a jungle to a couple falls that were beautiful. Monkeys flying around in the canopy and lush green vegetation surrounded these fresh water cascades. Refreshing.

Later that day we caught the ferry back and headed back to mainland. From there we headed back to the west coast to a town known as Popoyo. We were thinking about staying there for only a night, but once we found Two Brothers, we weren't able to leave. We stayed the remainder of trip there. We surfed a few breaks Peaks, Popoyo Reef, and Beach Break. We missed Manzanilla, but at least we have something to look forward to on our return trip.

The trip back to the airport was interesting, but the trip was almost soured by a huge headache in the form of a buster rental car hombre. Enough said. Still a touchy subject.

All in all it was an amazing trip. I have officially been bitten by the travel bug, and I am currently planning a trip to my next destination...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grand Canyon: R-R-R 48 under 24

So here it is. A couple weeks after the trip. I'm not quite sure why it has taken so long for me to write about our adventure, but I think it has something to do with wrapping my mind around what was accomplished. Were we the first to attempt this? No. The fastest? Doesn't seem like it. It proved to be and amazingly intense experience nonetheless.

April 8, 2009:
We arrived at the Grand Canyon and shortly debated whether or not we should take a peak at the journey lying before us. We decided it would be a good idea to see the canyon during the day time and grab some pictures.

This was my first experience overall with the Grand Canyon, and I think everyone should make a trip out to view it. You owe it to yourself. It was awe inspiring. A significantly grander canyon than I even imagined. We snapped some shots and ate a fine pre-hike meal... packer's stew. Highly recommended South Rim cuisine.

After the meal, we headed back to the hotel and packed up and took a nap. Around 9:30 it was go time. We ate our last real meal and packed into the car and drove to the Bright Angel trail head. As we pulled into the parking lot, nerves started to simmer in each of our bellies as we truly did not know what to expect. The time neared 12am as we crept through the shadows of the campgrounds to the trail head. Some last minute group photos were taken, and boy did we look tough. Yet to be humbled by what the canyon had to offer, we were biting at the bit to get this adventure started.

April 9, 2009:
We took a few steps on to the trail so that we would be out of sight and waited in the 27 degree air until it was exactly 12am on Thuy's watch. As soon as she gave us the word, we took off through the gusty night. The four of us, bundled up, cruised down the switchbacks of the South Rim as we had to hold ourselves back as the nerves turned to adrenaline infusing our systems with energy and bravado needed to compensate for the overwhelming feeling we were being consumed by the sheer cliffs and precipices rising around us in our descent.

We motored down the trail when the footing and visibility was appropriate. Time gained now could prove to be valuable on the way back. Our fearless leader, Bill Cunningham, took a strong pace down to Indian Gardens putting us right on schedule.

Once at Indian Gardens, we stopped, ate a little, and focused on the 43.5 miles ahead of us. I did not dare to look back at the drop we made knowing that whatever the distance was, it would be staring me down on our return. Bill rallied the troops and we were off again. Next stop, Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River.

We sped out of Indian Gardens warming up as we covered ground. The devils corkscrew wound us down to the river bed where we got the first sight of the river. The moon was out in full and headlamps weren't needed as long as we were free of the shadows of the cliffs. The strength and energy of the Colorado could be felt as we moved along its bank for the next 2 miles. A crossing of the suspension bridge and we were in to P.R. A break was taken here, 10 miles in and 38 to get out, in order to force some food and hydrate. Still feeling upbeat about our situation, we mused and chatted for a bit until Bill rallied the troops once again for one last refill for the next 10 miles or so.

I am not sure if I chose to lead the next part of our journey or if it just happened that way, but I took off. I was in a zone. It was still dark. The moon was still providing as much light as we had seen on the hike so far. The sound of the water flowing through one of the Colorado's tributaries aided the zen-like state at which I pushed forward. The pace was quick, but I wanted to try to put as much distance in as possible while the weather was cool and the incline was mild. I slowed a few times to take it all in and allow for the others to close the distance. The last thing I wanted to do was make the others think I was trying to hike faster than them. I was simply in a zone. As day began to break, the sun illuminated the highest peaks in the canyon which truly made for some of the most beautiful sights. With only a couple of miles til the next camp, we sat and enjoyed the fruits the quick pace afforded us.

A couple more miles and we were in to Cottonwood Campground. Not much here, but we sat at a picnic table and downed some food. It was then off to Roaring Springs. I was still able to cruise through this section. Each spot we stopped I checked my blood sugar and ate. Each time I tested my sugars they were at optimal levels. Because my muscles were using the sugar at such a rate, I was hesitant to use insulin for fear of going low. This would prove to be the most costly mistake of the hike.

We hit Roaring Springs right on time and filled up the water for this would be the last we had til the return. We still had about 5 miles to go to the North Rim where I could sing a little Bon Jovi to celebrate being "half way there..." and these would prove to be the hardest miles yet.

We cruised up and out of Roaring Springs and into the seemingly endless switchbacks winding the way to the rim. The trail was never very wide, but some spots proved to be slightly hairy with only room for you feet and 500+ ft drops to your left or right. The temperature increased as we climbed higher and higher. We stopped again to eat and met a man who was out for a fairly long hike himself. I knew he was hardcore when he didn't even blink an eye when we told him what we were doing. He had done it before, friends. Later in the hike his positive and engaging attitude would become extremely annoying to me.

As we continued on our way, we crossed a bridge that we actually had to descend to get to in order to continue climbing to the North Rim. Seriously? What a mind f*ck. I tried to push the pace on the way up until something started happening. My muscles weren't firing properly. My head was pounding. I was feeling sick. I began to fight more than the trail and it's incline. I was fighting my own body. Thuy and I were ahead of Bill and Mary, so I decided to take a break. I quickly began to feel worse. What was happening? It seemed as though I could not stay hydrated. I kept drinking and drinking, but to no avail. We had about a mile to go. The hardest mile for me across the entire 48. Before we continued on, we decided to stash our packs on the trail for the return trip.

At this point I barely felt like I could carry my own weight. My body was fatiguing like I have never felt before, even shutting down on me. It took every ounce of concentration for me push on. Left foot. Right foot. Staggering up through the wooded section. Mounds of snow yet to melt covered parts of the trail. My balance was deteriorating on the dirt path and even worse on the snow. The others pushed onward as I desperately attempted to maintain their pace. Mary was behind me. Little did I know that this was more due to the fact that the others were worried over my visibly worsening condition.

Our friend, "You are a minute away, friends!" Our buddy was bouncing along the trail with a very merry attitude. I hated him at this moment. Dragging my body to the sign at the North Rim I collapsed in a pile on a stone wall. The others took pictures as I searched for an answer to my debilitating issues. Of course! So stupid! My blood sugars were always level because I checked them after miles of hiking. In actuality, I was continuing to peak my sugars as my muscles slowly brought the levels down. My body was reacting to the virtual small poisoning sessions to which I was submitting it. I needed to get back to my pack and check my sugars. I needed to be much more aware of my sugar levels for here on out, and I needed to use my insulin more effectively. With high sugars, the very least that was happening to me was that I was enabling an extremely high rate of dehydration. There would be no impromptu singing of Bon Jovi. Hell, I was not even in good enough shape to hum it.

As we made the decision to head back to the packs, I heard it for the first time. "Andy, if we need to pack it in and get you out of here, that is our first priority." Or something like that. What? Me hold you back? Though I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up, I would never let myself. If that had happened...well I just do not want to think about it.

I summoned every last ounce of energy for the walk back to our packs. It was after 11am. Less than 13 hours to go 24 miles. This was the first time I had to come to grips with it. Maybe diabetics do have their limits. Had I found something that I would not be able to do because I am a diabetic. This thought began to grow heavier and heavier on me. The each step I struggled with taking made me feel a little more defeated. No longer can I make the claim that diabetes will never keep me from accomplishing my goals. Ever since being diagnosed I have always lived my life in such a way. I did not want diabetes to define me; to determine what I can and cannot achieve.

All of a sudden, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, pieces of my identity started to shift, mutate and crumble. Maybe it was the dehydration, but I literally felt I had to remove myself from the surrounding debris and begin to pick the pieces up. Collecting what I knew about myself, the disease, my blood sugar patterns, and the 24 miles of trail in front of me I silently found the determination and will to drag myself to the packs.

The packs were further away than any of us remember stashing them. Each switchback we made we expected to find our stuff. When we finally made it, I immediately drank and hydrated. I checked my blood sugar and despite all the hiking since I last checked it was high. I ate a rice cake or two and shot up some insulin in order to balance my blood sugar levels. We gathered our things and I led us down the rim.

Once my sugars were regulated, I was able to hold fluid and stay hydrated much more easily. Energy began to flow through my body. Doubts began to slip away as each step took me closer to the South Rim and our goal of sub 24 hours. We had gravity on our side now, and since I effectively wasted some valuable time recovering, we needed to push the pace. Down through the canyon we sped. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins because I knew my body would be able to handle this endeavor, and I knew I would not let diabetes beat me.

We cruised into Roaring Springs and grabbed some rest (some more than others), refilled the water, and forced some food down. The weather was beautiful and we needed to hustle back to Cottonwood campgrounds.

Before we made it to the campground something caught my eye. It was light brown and sitting on top of a big rock along the trail. I took another look in time to see a graceful dismount in which a mountain lion easily cleared the trail and bounded into the thick vegetation. It was a beautiful sight. We had be moving fairly quietly, but once the large cat caught wind enough he or she took off. I never had an encounter like that in the wild. What a beautiful creature... and we were lucky as most visitors and hikers never see the native cats.

We stopped shortly after at Cottonwood to eat a bit, and this time I was sure to use enough insulin. For the sake of time we pushed off with only a short rest. We still had some downhill to P.R. but it was 7 miles. We made the decision to make the even straight without a stop. We crushed the pace back down to PR, but with less than a mile to go my sugars crashed. I was sweating profusely, my legs were weak, and was definitely feeling out of sorts. I quickly stopped and downed some apricots. The sugar in the dried fruit prove to be a perfect solution, and in a few minutes I was back on my feet and cruising into PR. Thuy had beat us all there, but she had some extra motivation...

It was about 4pm when we got into PR, so we fueled up again and filled our reservoirs. We had only 10 more miles to go and we had 7 hours in which to do it. Across the Colorado we went at a comfortable pace. We knew we had time, so we slowed our pace to ensure we would not burn out before the the Bright Angel Trail head.

We made it 2 miles in less than an hour. 8 miles in 6 hours. No problem. At the base of the Devil's Corkscrew we decided to go 15 minutes on and 5 off in order to save our legs on the steeper inclines. The plan worked perfectly. We made it without putting too much unneeded stress on our tiring legs. From there the terrain eased as we cruised into Indian Gardens, our last checkpoint.

It was dark, somewhere around 8pm, and we had 4.5 miles left. We were exhausted, and pains and blisters were emerging everywhere. Last minute fuel and water. The plan from here was to average 1.5 mph from here out. Sounds simple, but we need it. We did about 30 min on and 5-10 off. We followed each other closely. Staring at the heels of the person directly in front, and praising each leg as it successfully completed a step we crawled up steep switchbacks.

The False Portal, a tunnel resembling one closer to the finish, crushed me. We still had miles to go. Once we passed through the final tunnel, spirits began to lift. We were going to make it. Communication actually resumed in our group as we made our final turn to the top of the South Rim. Arm-in-arm we squeezed onto the final few steps of the Bright Angel trail.

Reaching the "end" never felt so good. Marathoning experiences quickly paled in comparison. I let out a victory yell. We shared a few hugs and many smiles, took a couple pictures, and hobbled to the car. We had earned tonight's sleep.

As we drove off, a smile broke over my face which was immediately followed by a rush of emotion. Andy 3-Diabetes 0.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Death March: Rim to Rim to Rim

(By the way, this sign is only referring to half the hike I am taking)

The count down has begun...

We are now within a mere 3 weeks from what I am sure will prove to be the longest day of my life. I have agreed to attempt a grueling 48 mile day-hike in the Grand Canyon. No, I did not mistype the last sentence. It will be a D-A-Y-I-E, day-hike. The idea is that broken up over a few days most people could complete the hike, but how many can do it in 24 hours? Some suggest it's a 5-7 day strenuous hike. Then there are these people who are either complete lunatics or complete liars. These times are ridiculous for the distance and terrain covered.

All I know is that we are going to do it in under 24 hours. If you feel like learning more, Google "rim to rim to rim Grand Canyon" or "Grand Canyon Death March."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm Mad

The kind of mad you get right before spring. The venous brackets laid out before you taunting you with the whispers of the inevitable upsets. Where will that bracket-busting upset rear it's ugly little head? Hopefully in that 12-5 game you picked. Will the 1 seeds win out? Of course not all of them. Over and over you replay the possibilities and analyze individual match-ups. Who can guard him? They are too fast. They play D too well. He shoots lights out. In the end you finalize your road to the Championship not because you are satisfied with all of your picks, but because either you have pulled out the remaining follicles of hair hanging on to your past-its-prime scalp or because you need to meet your company pool's deadline and you reluctantly submit your bracket after 73 last minute adjustments. Over the few days since the field of 65 had been announced your once desolate tree of teams has undergone a metamorphosis of predictive power that has seen young men's hopes and dreams crushed, salvaged, thinly perpetuated, and, for the lucky, dedicated few, fully realized.

Ah, yes. March Madness is indeed upon us, around us, inside us. Which team will hold the title of hottest team in the final three weeks of the season? Only time will tell, friends.

Friday, February 27, 2009

AMGEN Tour of California

I went up Palomar Mtn with my girlfriend last weekend to watch the final stage of the Tour of California. It was the first time that the tough stage had been included in the 8 stage tour. The field had some big names in it. In fact, it showcased the strongest field of professional cyclists ever assembled in United States.

Some of the stud sprinters like Thor Horshovd, Tom Boonen, and Oscar Freire made it out for some stage battles. Astana was there with Lance and Levi, the eventual winner. Frank Schleck was there trashing the field in the final stage. His brother Andy was in there as well. Other decorated riders included Carlos Sastre, last years TDF winner, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Christian Vande Velde, Mark Cavendish, Ivan Basso, Kim Kirchen, Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt, and David Zabriskie, and others. Basically a ton of legit riders I have only had a chance to see on TV before.

A new team joined the ranks of the pros for this race, Team Type 1. I had no idea they were in the race until a couple days after when I got an emial from my aunt. She told me that there was a new team trying to show that type 1 diabetics can hang with the elite. They might have been the ones that were 20 minutes behind the main pack, but I wish I had known they were there. I'm joking about being in the back of the pack because this team actually won some pro races last year. I found some infor on them, my new heroes, that stated quite simply that their goal is to " The Type 1 athletes in these programs strive to instill hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes. The team encourages control of diabetes through diet, exercise and the use of the best treatment and technology available today." Pretty freaking cool if you ask this diabetic.

Despite not having my TT1 jersey, sign, and chalkings we had a great time on the course. The sheer power with which these athletes crushed the climb was definitely aweinspiring. Maybe even more impressive was the speed they cruised by us with when they circled back around the base. The cars trailing them even looked like they were going fast. I was so caught up in watching the cyclists as they passed that, on more than one occasion, I may have stepped a little too close to the paths of the team cars.

Last Sunday was a great experience... minus the serpentine-like traffic jam winding through the hills of NE San Diego County as we left. I would definitely go again, and now I am determined to make it toTHE Tour at some point. Next year I will be more prepared though: a bike to try to ride the courses climb, a cooler of beer for after that, a sign, a shirt with a witty phrase on it, a couple chairs, and FOOD.

EDITORS NOTE: I don't believe Sastre actually made the start this year.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Over and Out," She Said

The first semester has come to an end, and with it the reality begins to set in that this may truly be my final year at the helm of the classroom (I know there's a helm around here somewhere). It's true. The greatest educator to ever walk the face of the earth is retiring. Yeah, that's right. Some teacher in the northern mid-west who has won multiple National Teacher of the Year honors is calling it quits.

But back to me. I think about changing careers a lot. It's weird to think that I even began a "career." I'm not even sure what that means. I don't feel like work is any different. It's still something that I don't want to do everyday or any day or ever. I'm going to head back to college. I love college. Liver shriveling parties; really late night food (a far cry from my oh so exciting midnight snack of warm milk); stupid stuck up snotty bitches with over-sized bags and sunglasses taking out the poor little engineer on their way to class with an overly dramatized swing of her non-cell-phone-holding arm; laying out on the mall and watching time and co-eds move on by; pizza for lunch; pizza for dinner; cold pizza for breakfast; red solo cups; toxic headaches, the kind that pound so loud your roommate can hear it; responsibilities that laid so few and far between that they were ridiculously easy to ignore; a passion and school spirit that made me bleed RED... and black, white and gold sometimes too.

Anyway, the school I will be heading back to will not have any of these things, but it will lead me down a whole new road. I will have another piece of paper that I can hang up next to my First Aid certification. I will be a MASTER of hopefully something besides BS-ing. For now I am not quite sure of the time line, but look out for Andy the Student come spring!