Sunday, December 5, 2010

Adventuring in times of recession

Unless you are Bill Gates I am sure that you are feeling the belt tightening right now. For me, it had definitely slow down and some of the initial plans have change just because is so hard to find sponsors or to even fund the adventures myself, but when adventure is in your blood, nothing can stop you.

I am still dreaming of adventures, they might not be the ones that i originally planned, some of them are out of my reach, at least for the time been or maybe for ever but adventure still runs in my blood.

So what to do to create adventure? simple, start again. Adventure is doing something that both excites you and scares you. Go for a pr, try a new sport.

I am back training hard, I have postponed climbing because is too expensive but I also want to be ready, so when the time comes to climb again i will be in top shape to pack my bags and head out. To tame the beast i looked hard at things that i could do that would be more approchable, i signed to do Ironman in Texas, My ex husband is there, so I have a place to stay and he can help me with airmiles. I am also looking for races that are close to me, the nice thing about having moved to British Columbia is that there are a lot of races that I haven done here yet.

There are also races that not as popular therefore registration is lower than the usual high profile races. Arrowhead 135 mile race is less than $200 for registration. Yes i have to run with a sled in Minnesota in the middle of Winter but that is just part of the adventure.

As well you can find groups such as the Fat Ass Club that for a small fee will let you participate in races that are fuss free and fun. This type of races are not for beginners, there are no markings or check points just a bunch of people with alike interest. So much like it was at the beginning before ultra races became the thing to do for ambitious runners who needed more after the marathon became accessible to the moms and the Oprah’s of the world.

I am taking advantage of this slow time to work on the things i neglected when i was so busy, like spending more time with family,and i could take family and friends to runs with me once in a while because i wasn't on such a tight training schedule.

Right now is also a great time to take the times to improve on other things, I am working on running faster, something that i been struggling, Having had so many races last year, there was no time to train properly, i basically survived. I am now looking at a fewer races but hoping for a faster time.

Yes, there is a reccession, that however shouldn’t stop you from waking up excited everyday, all i have to do is remember that beginning of my running almost 5 years ago, the car camping, eating jelly beans bought in bulk to save, searching Craig’s list for much needed items that i couldn’t afford new. I was fortunate to have experience some amazing races and climbs using nothing but the best but at the end all I want is to be out there.

Is amazing how little it takes when you make up your mind, for halloween my sister Muneca, her friend Leticia and i run a 6 mile race on a costume and it was a blast! yes I love ultras but is all about the excitement of running no matter what the distance. To save money some races are also offering the option to charge a smaller fee if you don’t require a t shirt, I think more races should offer that, we paid half of what we usually do.

I am back training as hard i as did last year preparing for a world record. Is all about giving your best and knowing it. Things are not going to change, I always expected to go back to my normal life once I found I had run out of options, I would have just admit to myself that it had been one helluva ride and move on, no chance of that, this is who i am, curious by nature.

Adventure is out there still, good times makes us lazy, just watch a kid and everything and everyday is an adventure.

I have a couple of 50K's coming up, the first next Sunday in North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Park, Fat Ass Club is putting it on so is no frills for sure just trails and a bunch of people that have something in common, love to run.

I sometimes wonder why some people are born with the incredible desire to make everyday count while others don't think is worth their effort. I hear very often elaborate excuses of WHY they can't do it and I meet sadly very few who spend time thinking on the HOW to do it. It all comes down to one thing, things are very though right now for everybody and the ones out there working hard on doing it are the ones that want it the most, as for me, all i remind myself is that i dont have to do it, but that i want to do it, so is ok if i call it training even if is to just run 50k on a race that is not a race really but an organized run, after all isn't that what real adventure is, the act of doing something that a few dare to do.

So what if your next race is only the local 5K? try to go for a pr or maybe help train somebody,I cant tell you that i enjoyed watching my sister crossed the finish line more than i did qualifying for Boston, she has been in a lot pain from her condition so it was such a rush seeing her knowing how painful is for her to run. I am thankful for that, last year, I couldn't have taken the time to encourage her to do it. Just remember to go hard with what you got.

Adventure is not outside man, it is within. George Eliot.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Race schedule

I am working on my new race schedule. I am still working on hopefully go to Mt. Aconcagua Argentina in Feb, also on the agenda is Ironman Woodlands, TX in May and Ultraman Penticton in Aug. I will also register for Badwater, cross my fingers and hope i get accepted next summer. So if everything goes well this is what it looks like

Aconcagua- Climb- Feb
Ironman- Triathlon- May
Badwater- Ultra- July
Ultraman- Triathlon- Aug

I am also looking for smaller races close by but it will be more to keep me busy, Thankfully things are back to normal. Karl is doing better at school, they are doing everything they can to make sure he has a fair chance at school. He is till has not friends, i don't like that, kids at school all they see is what he is able to do, not what he is capable of. I was going to train him to do a race with me to show his classmates that Karl is capable of so much but i decided to let him be, he is happy, he doesn't feel the need to prove anything and i have a huge respect on that.

things are working fantastic in Vancouver,it rains but is really beautiful and my sister Muneca and i play a good tag team with the kids.

The next few months will be busy but i love it, is all about the things and people i love.

It always seems impossible until its done.
Nelson Mandela

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Perfect Storm

There are moments in life when words seem to fill the space that surrounds you. I am on my way back from what it probably was one of the most difficult weeks. Charlie was found guilty and i am shattered. While words fill the space in between my mind and my body none can come close to describing my feelings. I can’t begin to explain, but one question keeps coming up, how can it be? How can you begin to understand that one act of courage like running the sahara can prompt somebody to launch an investigation on how can somebody afford to take time off for such venture? How can somebody persist for 500 hrs until they can find something that can explain the reason behind somebody wanting to push themselves to the edge of where not many dare to venture that is something that some people find incredibly puzzling and the only explanation to them is that there must be something terribly wrong.

The only thing that keeps me moving is the desire to put this all behind us. While the details can be confusing one thing is always consistent, Charlie is a good man, flawed yes, and aren’t we all who desire more from life?, but decent, he is an incredible human being. Charlie trusted somebody and that turned out to be a terrible mistake, nobody is sadder than him that this is causing pain to everybody close to him, i am sad on the idea that trust can be a dangerous thing, i love Charlie’s ability to trust over and over again no matter what, that is the sign of true courage.

So here I am on my way home to my kids trying to piece this incredible love i feel into what it is sure to be an amazing mosaic of feelings and memories. I am so grateful for so many things in moments like this, for the love and admiration i feel for my boyfriend, for Charlie’s kids who seem to give us the strength and dignity we need right now, for friends and family who are ready to step forward and remind everybody about all the things that Charlie has done to better the life of others, and for the roads that that i will turn while i seek to find the strength i need to find peace. After sentencing Charlie and i have bowed to run at the same time each day,so we can feel together even if we are apart, after the love for our kids and each other we both share a passion for running. That started to give me hope, that no matter what, somethings cant be taken as long as you stay true to yourself. There is only one thing that i regret in life at this point is that i didn’t meet Charlie sooner.

Are we going to be OK? you betcha, Charlie and I are the kind of people that look ahead, the only time we look back is at memories that make us smile, even in the hardest moment, when anxiety was to much waiting for the verdict, i told Charlie that this was a lot like the movie The Jerk, Charlie been investigated when an article was published about his run, Steve Martin’s character in the movie is attacked by a sniper when his name is published in the phone book and he becomes “somebody” the pressure and sadness got the best of me yesterday and couldn’t stop crying, Charlie did his best Steve Martin impersonation and told me” he hates cans!” we couldn’t stop laughing after that, i loved that he was so worry about me, not himself. After all like someone said, “Nobody promise that it was going to be easy, just that it was going to be worth it.” and it is.Is just one more mountain that we must summit together, that's all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The end is often the beginning

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”T. S. Eliot

I am in Vancouver now, it seems like a long time ago when I was still what it used to be my home. It was a bit weird to try and fit a lifetime on a 8"x16" storage space, trying to decide on what to keep and what to give away. I have never been emotionally attached to material things, but it was hard for me to walk away from the sentimental value of the objects that have surrounded me for the last 12 years.

The last few months have been incredibly busy,I guess you can tell that my move to Vancouver was somehow me trying to escape something. My house was not healthy anymore, i had spend so much time and money trying to keep the stability that my kids needed but the cost kept increasing, both emotionally and financially, at the end i just didn't want it anymore.

The first step was a clear one, sell my house, the other steps were not as easy to figure out. Been engaged, moving to North Carolina seem like the obvious choice, but when you have kids, falling in love and getting married are not as easy as the first time around. The last months have been a maze of suggestions and decisions to be accounted for, legally is one thing, but doing the right thing is an other. I love Charlie with all my heart but at the end doing things right by my kids is what made me happier, I do want things for myself, but i also know that is only a few more years that my kids need then the rest of my life belongs to me. Fortunately, Charlie agreed with me, reluctantly, but agreed to let me move to Vancouver closer to my sister.

Things aren't exactly easy for Charlie right now, and not been there at this moment makes me feel selfish. The last few months have been of deep soul searching and i longed to go back to the core of my being, the one thing that made wake up every morning and try my hardest was the desire for my kids to a better life. What a lot of people think is why not just go to court and get it? but at what price? to me the best way to give my kids a better life is to teach them to find it, to want it, and that is to lead by example.

You cant make people want things, but if you live your life the fullest you might inspire them to do the right thing. Since i decided to just go hard with what i do best and that is to live my life the best way i know, honest and openly.

I am a lot happier, I am gone back to dreaming again on the things that give me joy, once again I dream of climbing the highest peak, I feel alive and focus. That's how I know when I am on the right path, things where chaotic around me, nobody really seemed sure of my decision yet, at night when things quiet down, I once never doubted, I stood firm yet I had no desire to explained more than it was necessary.

I moved to Vancouver so I can get back to the things that require my full attention. I need to get back to work, soon, but I also have to make sure that my kids are not spending too much time alone at an age where is critical that I am involved, I am also experiencing some challenges with both of my kids, one is loosing focus and wanted to quit swimming, while what type of sport is not exactly important to me, teaching Hans the valuable lesson of following through is a lesson i want him to master. All the talent in the world would be wasted if you don't have the discipline and the desire to work hard.

Karl on the other hand quit exercising because it became to hard for him, the last few years i did what any other single parent will do, i spent countless of hours working at something that was putting food on the table, while my kids were home alone,even long after the paycheque stop coming I kept thinking that it was right around the corner, I just needed to work a bit harder.

so while i am stopping my adventures as a possible source of income, i am now pursuing them just as hard as a passion. It's been a crazy ride and one that i will continue to do as an amateur.

So my decision to move came after analyzing all the obstacles and coming with the best possible solution. My sister lives here so supervising kids will be easier if I have family close, also when I go back to working, having somebody hand me a homecooked meal once in a while will mean everything.

As for my kids, the best way for me to motivate both of them is to join them, I am going to be taking swimming with the intention of doing an Ultraman that way I am less inclined to let Hans convince me to not go to training if I need to get to the pool as well. I am also planning on doing a big biking quest with Karl, just the two of us, so I can have an excuse to be his training partner and he would not feel weird. Most of his peers are either way to advance for him at sports and he will never be invited or not interested in sports so he gets invited to do activities that encourage a sedentary lifestyle, so if i can get to a level where he can join friends he will be invited again.

The next few years will be crazy and difficult but I feel that I am nearing the finish line, you know, by now your lungs burn, your legs hurt and all you want is to quit. But this it the exact moment where been focus is most important. I believe that if i work hard, i will set my kids on a path that will take them to the life they were born to be.

I used to think that that was not possible anymore, just because I was single and struggling finacially now I realized that is not true, is passion, hardwork and unconditional love that will give them the tools they need to succeed in life. And by success I only mean happiness.

As for me, I do believe that if I stay true and do things for the right reason the universe will take care of me too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


i have been back in Tunisia for a few days and i am still trying to find the words to described my trip. Africa is an amazing continent, is so unexpectedly beautiful. in our world we constantly try to find happiness by upgrading our lives, cars,jobs or fashion. in Calgary, every time i go out i am bombarded with things that i don’t have that i ought to. Africa is different, at least most of the countries here are. I am not going to romanticize it, people in Tanzania, work extremely hard for their money. Nadia wanted to know why people that are so poor can be so content. Having been born in a Mexico in poverty I could answer her question. is all relative, she was comparing her life to theirs, compared to her, they don’t have much but she is comparing apples to oranges, we all compare, i don’t remember growing up been aware of our limitations, it was only after i left and started to make money that i understood how much we lacked. in countries like Tanzania it could be a lot worse, instead of looking up, you are constantly looking down and feeling grateful. Why? growing up poor in Mexico, we were use to things never working out, when they did we were so happy and when they didn’t we didnt complained for long, after all that was more likely. In developed countries we expect and can demand that things work out, after all, that’s why we have democracy and pay high taxes.
Now i am not selling my things and giving it to charity, I don’t like to struggle unless i decide to do it. Tanzanians call it life we call it adventure. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. I am still learning to stand up and demand more without feeling like i am greedy, on the other hand, i doesn't take much for me to feel happy.

I guess you could say that growing up like Karl teaches you a lot about feeling grateful. I watch him struggle in Africa,trying to learn and adjust to his new surroundings, what makes me feel more sympathetic is that he hardly ever complains, he still asks to be independent, i would like to bubble wrap his environment but i am aware that i shouldn’t do it, he needs to learn to deal with adversity on his own. I sign him to play water polo at the resort we are staying in Hammamet, the other players had no idea that he has limited vision, he did OK for the majority but there were times when he passed the ball to the opposite team, why? they asked for it, they will yell pass and he simply did. His team members were not very understanding. Karl never complained even though i am sure it might be incredibly hard. My other son Hans struggles more emotionally than Karl and that is because he is use to doing well, things usually work out so when it doesn’t he doesn’t handle it well. As a mother of two very different children, i am constantly reminding Karl that is OK to demand more and Hans to be more grateful.

I learned a lot in Kilimanjaro, I feel very confident about choosing the toughest route. Climbing 1000 mt or 3000 ft a day is perfectly fine, i wasn’t taking onto consideration that I am very tired. the route that we choose was incredibly beautiful and isolated, we never run into anybody else until we merged with the normal Machame route.

Nadia and I were treated to an amazing experience, we had a crew of 9 guys all to ourselves, we thought it was a bit over the top but the government in Tanzania is now demanding that locals are hired, it was mandatory, it makes sense, tourism is one of the main sources of revenue, i was glad to find out that they are making sure that locals benefit.

we hiked for about 5 hours per day, by the time we arrived to camp, our crew already had our tents set up, on day one we lost one member of our crew, he had an incredible hard time keeping up, we later learned he was suffering from Malaria, unfortunately it affects a lot people in Africa, we later came across an other porter that was affected by malaria and needed our help.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was incredibly rewarding, the trail was incredible then we had outstanding meals. Nadia and I giggle like school girls, my best friend has always been strong and a fantastic climber, most of the time Azizi and her were ahead of me, i enjoy been alone, its usually my time to think or to simply unwind. it was also my decision to skip camp 3 and go directly to base camp, it seem crazy to sleep at a same altitude than we started not really having gain any altitude, instead we pushed for other 2 1/2 hrs to base camp. we arrived around 6pm had a quick supper and call it the night around 9:30pm, summit attempts are done at 1am. Nadia and I were suppose to be ready at 12:30am for tea. Azizi overslept so we ended up been one of the last to attempt the summit. By now I was feeling incredibly tired and I wasn’t sure anymore that going that fast to the top had been such a good idea.

I was a bit mad at myself, I knew i was not going to have fun for the last 9 hrs, but that didn’t matter, what matters is that I have to be careful, to not summit because of a decision like that will be terrible. Also just as we were getting ready to leave, i got a bit too close to Nadia as she was picking her pack and her poles sticking out of them and ended up with a black eye, Nadia felt terrible, i was angry at myself once more, at the last minute i decided against bringing crazy glue, i failed to see the point of bring it, lucky for me i didn’t end up bleeding. I have definitely been doing it for too long when all i can think that i much rather crazy glue an injury that to cancel a climb.

the next few hours, i had a hard go, i managed to catch up to the rest of the slow group, it must have been quite a sight, there we were walking so slow, I am sure that we resembled extras at a zombie movie, like a scene of the Night of the Living Dead. Nadia did amazing, she felt great and climb very well, I was glad, it would have been terrible if she had come all the way to climb and hate it.

When I saw her at the top, i broke down crying, partly because i was glad it was almost over and also because for the first time I had a somebody with me. Nadia and I have been friends for over 10 years and have supported each other through tough times as well as celebrated good ones.

I was glad to be back at camp, i am always nervous, i feel unable to relax until i have summit, after that i can go hard, i am not worry anymore, i feel that even if i push it doesn’t matter. You are not suppose to spend the night at base camp, and that might be the reason why you are suppose to attempt your summit so early, you are suppose to came back, pack and head down.

There is a route specifically for descending, its incredibly easy. We had decided early to descend all the way to he gate and make the trip officially 4 days from start to finish, but Nadia and I decided to spend one more night in the mountain, it seem crazy since making it all the way it meant we had to arrive into Moshi ahead of schedule and pay for accommodations and meals, in the mountain, except for the tip it was paid. It turned out to be the best decision, once again we were treated to a beautiful camp. The next morning, after an early breakfast we run the last few miles and arrived at the gate just 58 minutes later. I was the first one down, ahead of all the porters, which it means I need to look closer into Diamox, i guess it was the altitude that made it so hard for me. Nadia was as fresh as a daisy when she arrived just 10 minutes after.Not catching up to me because she forgot her runners and run all the way in hiking boots. We felt foolish because we were glad to beat all the porters. The porters are incredibly fit and can out climb anybody, even if they are carrying such heavy loads.

I haven’t decided anything about my next climb, physically, it is possible to continue at the rate I am going as long as I start to slow down and not climb as fast. Going with Nadia however made me want to do the climbs with people that I care for, ideally, I would love for Charlie to be there with me. I think that the shifting that is happening is a positive one, I am started to expect more of my adventures, I usually find joy on the fact that I am doing them at all, now I am thinking that sharing them with somebody close to me are more meaningful.The farther I travel and the higher i climb the more I discover how important my loved ones are.
“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” Morrie Schwartz

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Adventure Begins

Today we just walked around downtown Moshi and got some snacks for the climb. People in Tanzania are very friendly, walking in town you would think it was the 90's, they are selling cassette tapes and the ads for the movies on the video store are about 20 years old movies. Its very cool having Nadia here, i love having the company, usually i arrive at a town and meet people, its always great but this makes it so much more enjoyable.

I was a bit tired and not very excited coming here, not having my niece to look after the kids, it just seems like i am constantly leaving them and i feel so selfish sometimes, the boys did roll their eyes at me and told me they are old enough to be alone for a few hours a day until dad gets home from work.

I feel the same about Charlie. He encourages me to keep living my life and pursuing my passion. He has his own life and challenges and right now we aren't getting much time together. I worry that he will get tired of me traveling without him. But he knows i love him and i know he is devoted to me. I hope we will be together for the next climb.

There where endless planes, airport security checks and trying to sleep at yet an other airport gate, trying to find room on the floor beside a sea of strangers. I think this is the first time that i wasn't excited when i boarded the plane, then just before landing in Tanzania, there it was, Kilimanjaro! So amazingly beautiful, the plane circled around a bit, and I could feel all my worries and unhappiness fading. Kilimanjaro is such a beautiful mountain, it stands so tall, the clouds resting below its peak. i noticed that i was already smiling hard, this is the life that i have forged for myself, every step i have taken, stubbornly it's taking me here, how grateful am i. It's back home where we feel like our problems seem bigger than they really are, its because we have surrounded ourselves with comfort and material things that we give status and materialistic things so much value. Mountains and trails are real, they are the true treasures in life. I am not feeling guilty anymore, how can anybody judge me for trying to feed my soul? I will go home having more to give to my loved ones, i think we have become a society that we try to see stress and unhappiness as a badge of honor, the only wealthy person that i know that prides himself of been passionate about other things besides his business is Richard Branson, his enthusiasm for life and adventure is so contagious you want to fly on his plane or buy his phone plan.

People here in Tanzania have it all figured out, they are incredibly happy with a lot less than we are, they have nature and family, anything else is just stuff that you need to dust or clean. They have legs to get them places, there are no gyms, just a soccer ball, a street and a bunch of friends as a form of exercise and later you can always gather your family and watch a good family picture like Ghostbusters at the local theater.

I definitely feel ready for the climb, how can i not be grateful and happy for the opportunity to surround myself with so much beauty, I decided to live my life collecting memories not possessions, and i hope my family follows suit, and the only way they will do it is by example, it doesn't matter what i say, it is how i live my live that will teach my loved ones what i think life is all about.

The climb starts Monday we should finish on Friday. I will post again when I can.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I leave for Africa tomorrow. I am taking my kids to see their dad to Tunisia, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to go to Tanzania as well.

My best friend Nadia and I will be trekking Kilimanjaro via Umbwe route, here is a short description of Umbwe

"The Umbwe Route is generally regarded to be one of the hardest routes when you climb Mount Kilimanjaro but has spectacular scenery including a number of caves that can be viewed en route. The Umbwe Route often draws fit young people who are attracted by the route's designation as the hardest route on the mountain. The route is certainly raw and unkempt and very steep until it reaches Barranco at 3,984m, from which point it intersects the Machame Route. Only two days are spent reaching the same point that is reached after three days on the Machame Route and for this reason headache and mild nausea are relatively commonly on the Umbwe Route, even below 4,000m."

Make no mistake since Nadia was able to come, it will feel more like tweens on a sleepover listening to Justin Bieber than a climb.

We start climbing July 12 and we are set to be done the 17th. I am sure looking forward to this climb, it is suppose to be an amazing trek and maybe we will be able to see wild life.

Considering how crazy life is at the moment I am surprise to be feeling well, I have had some great runs.I sold my house and even though the original intention was to move to North Carolina after Charlie and I got engaged, I decided to move to Vancouver for a year to be with my sister now that she was recently diagnosed with Lupus. Muneca is doing OK, she is working hard on trying to figure out how her life is going to change if any. My kids are a bit stressed since dad is not crazy about us moving to North Carolina, so I am taking a year to sort things out. after a year in Vancouver my kids will get to choose where they move to, with dad to Malta or with me in North Carolina. I wish I have had those choices growing up. While it might be confusing and seem stressful, I cant help but loved that my life is so much different now, just a few years ago, I felt alone and vulnerable now it seems everybody want us and we are in the position to help. Is time to give back to the universe.

I wish everybody had the strength to not quit and find an easy way out,there were many times that I had my choices question and I almost did settle, fortunately, I am my own worse enemy or my best adversary and I am unable to do something that at the end doesn't feel right for me. and trust me for every time I cried, I ended up laughing ten times after. Is hard for me to know what's right for anybody else but myself, what I do know is acting out of fear, pain or ego is not something that will lead to a fulfilling life. I use those emotions to channel the courage necessary to get things done. I happen to think that obstacles are just opportunities waiting to be discovered.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”Kahlil Gibran

Thursday, June 3, 2010

People always seemed to know half of history, and to get it confused with the other half. Jane Haddam

It used to be so much easier to blog about my adventures. Nothing has really changed so it should still be the same. I start an adventure, work around the things that seem to be obstacles to what i want, go hard and try to accomplish successfully what i set out to do. In essence nothing has changed yet everything seems to be.

I just got back from Mt. McKinley after a successful summit. Except from a split toe, i got back healthy and happy about my performance.
From the moment I announced my intentions on climbing, i had to fight the wave of criticism, i tried to just put my head down and not pay attention but it just seem to be coming from everywhere. Many times i lay in bed wondering why? the advantages was that it was something that was getting attention, after all, that's always the goal, to do something noteworthy. I have experience something like this in the past when I decided to go to Japan, I was only 19 and i had the opportunity to go and work. Just like mountaineering, the risk were big and obvious, if the agent was not who he said he was i could have been sold to slavery, yet with my family blessings i left. It turned out to be a real agent and a wonderful father figure. It also open many opportunities to the rest of my family. I benefited greatly, got an education and managed to break the circle of poverty. Unfortunately I also paid the consequences, i never returned home, the whole town turning against a young unmarried woman leaving home to find opportunities. Was it unfair and bias? you betcha, my brother soon follow me to Japan and he was features in the local paper as a hero just as i sneaked the back door.

I found myself for many reasons in the same position, I am who I am and i have the feeling that I will continue to do everything I can for my loved ones. I guess is unnatural for a mother to want to risk her life in the hopes of a better life for her kids. My intention was never to foolishly risk my life, if anything understanding the risk made me pay more attention and never take the mountain for granted. I talked to many people about climbing and discover that it can be done safely.

So in spite of the wave of controversy i left for Mt McKinley May 18th. Patrick Delaney an accomplish mountain guide and friend was my companion in the journey. we arrived in Talkeetna around midnight and by the next day at 3:30pm we were on our way to base camp at 7200 ft. Things never slowed down after that, we didn't stay at base camp and we continued to camp 7800 ft carrying about 200 lb between both of us.

The next day we almost made it to camp 11,000ft, we build a shelter and camp at 10,600 ft, the weight clearly slowing us down. Let me tell you, slowing didn't really mean slowing, through it all Patrick and I maintained a relatively high pace. It was not until we carried gear to camp 14,000 that i had to talked to Patrick, we never climbed together before and i don't know much about mountaineering but i do know pace and heart rate, i knew that at the rate we were both going we were both going to end up getting sick, so after that Patrick granted me a steady pace and at the end we ended up faster just because we didn't have to stop much to rest. One of the advantages of been a female in the world of endurance is that we are more patient, it didn't bother me to see groups ahead of us, I didn't have anything to prove to them, taking care of me was of more importance.

The hardest days for me were the last 3, we had to carry gear from camp 14,000 to high camp 17,000 and then summit, Patrick's style is fast and light so we only carried a light tent, a couple of days of food and our sleeping bag to high camp. we climbed and slept with what we had on. On day 9 since we started the expedition at 5:30am we headed for the summit, i was tired almost immediately as we started, the only thought that kept me going that day was the desire to be done and come home. By the time we made it to the summit around 1:30pm i was cold and exhausted. I didn't unfortunately find nirvana, i wanted to come home. On the way down we came across other climbers on their way to the summit, it felt great to be done. Just before we arrive to camp, we came across two climbers on distress. One was suffering from frostbite on his right hand and was screaming from the pain, the other climber was just confused. Patrick quickly got them on their feet and helped them down the mountain. It was a tricky situation to help these two guys incredibly shaky and awkward on their feet, I understand why they say most accidents happen on the way down, it takes a lot more coordination but also it makes it psychologically hard since when you are going down you can see how high you really are. One of the guys slipped three times but Patrick managed to hold on to them until we finally got to solid ground. At the end instead of 10 hrs we ended up been out there for 12.

The next morning, we decided to go hard and try to meet the last plane to Talkeetna, we skipped breakfast and with only a litter of water we headed down from high camp to base camp, a loss of over 10,000 of elevation. We stopped briefly on camp 14,000 and 11,000 to get the rest of the gear and give away as much of the food we had left as possible, pop tarts were a huge success specially with the Koreans who never had them before. things where going great, i was in pain from trying to maintain some sort of control using my feet to try to slow us down but i knew that it was of no use to complain, we needed to get down no matter what.

Just before we arrived at base camp, only about 5k away, we came across a German man named Hans, just like my son, who asked if he would travel whit us, his friends had left him since they all had skis and he was snowshoeing. In no time Hans found himself in a hole. Patrick once more came to the rescue and got him out. It took us two hours to arrive to base camp going slow making sure not one of us ended up at a bottom of a crevasse. we missed the last plane but thanks to Patrick we both ended up nominated for an award thanks to rescuing climbers in trouble.

Over all, i was incredibly pleased about the climb, I felt strong and healthy, very fatigued but understandable considering we didn't have many rest days. The only one problem we encountered was when i left a bag of waste in one of the camps. I was determined to follow the " no trace left behind" rule always climbing with bags to dispose of waste, it's very sad that there are a lot of climbers who disregard this rule, follow instructions only until nobody is looking. The climb to the summit is full of human waste, i wish DNA was an option and every climber who disregard this rule would receive a nice notice in the mail. I was determined to bring it all the way down as instructed but left it in one of the camps when we stopped to retrieved our gear. the bags are marked with our climbing number so no need for DNA, it was double bagged and ready to be disposed. At the end I picked a $250.00 fine, ouch, but i still don't regret having done what i believe was the right thing.

So i guess you can see why it's hard for me to write, what it used to be a trait to be admired, persistence and undeniable commitment to my family became, egotistical, delusional. I haven't changed at all, i do take advantage of the media attention is creating, after all that was one of the goals i set out to do, but at the end, as long as I am home with my loved ones, we are smiling and laughter is heard more that screams or tears i will know that I am on the right path. I hope that my kids learn to never be afraid, to be true to themselves, to follow their passions with all their heart and to know that they have a mother who would do anything in the world for them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.Captain Jean-Luc Picard

A few more weeks and I should be on my way to Mt McKinley. In my mind I am already there, i can see the mountain, feel the air in my skin, smell the wilderness around me and hear the stillness of my own breathing. I have wanted to be back climbing since Aconcagua. It is calling me back. This is the first time in my life that I am experiencing selfishness, I have always lived fully yet never forgotten my responsibilities. Now I want to do things because they make me happy and I expect everybody to understand. Sure they are still things that are positive. Happy is the new black.
Things have been kind of crazy around me, dating Charlie has both advantages and disadvantages, if you watch his movie Running the Sahara you will soon realize we are really the same person. But been apart and traveling so much leaves a strain on both our hearts and our pockets.
And then there is the documentary, to my incredible luck i was asked to be part of a documentary where they follow some women, all mothers and all doing things to help others, the documentary will air on a new channel been developed by a very influential woman(hint,hint)it was an opportunity of a life time and i couldn't pass it. It however left me feeling overexposed. The more the put a camera on my face the more i wanted to turn in to my family, i guess to counter the feeling. In an age of reality shows, most which i have never watch, it left me wonder how can they do it and not loose their soul a little everyday. I have done acting, but is a job, just like any other. A documentary is a story told about your life looked through the directors eyes. i am incredibly grateful to be part of if and will be ready to watch it on TV when it airs, it also allowed my son Karl to be a somebody for the few days they where in town, I loved watching him smile and been so confident. But what I am about to do is very serious and it needs all my energy and focus, so I am glad I can go back to my normal life, the best part of it is the part where I go out for a run or training, on my own, nobody watching,just me and nature.

My preparation for Denali is down to trying to stay fit but not overdoing it either, I have no injuries but I have been run down from not giving my body a break. I will write a full report with full gear info and more details just before I go, I am scheduled to leave May 17th and until then I will just keep my head down and try and stay focus.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"it's alwasy darkest before it goes pitch black"

I am back in Calgary after my amazing adventure. I don't think that i have ever worked as hard for a race before, sure they are difficult races but the stress never left even after crossing the finish line. Every single time something else kept coming up i simply tried to breath and told myself that I don't have to do what I am doing, even if I am doing it for my son Karl, I want to. As soon as i made it clear that I have fought hard for the right to tell the world that my son Karl deserves a cure then obstacles seem a lot smaller.
Sure they where times when I though, you have to be kidding me! overall, the experience was amazing. I had a camera following me around this time and many people asked me if that made it easier or harder. the truth is that after a while, it didn't matter, the camera was there to record the truth and that's what i intended on doing, pretend it wasn't there. Mario and i got along well, that was great since he got to see me crying,he was very respectful, but i knew he needed to do his job and they are after all doing me a favour.

Here is a list of the things that made my trip challenging and how it unfolded

Fri Feb 26th, my childcare person canceled, 6days before my scheduled flight
Sat 27th, the earthquake hits Chile and my flights get canceled
direct flights prices went from $700 to $3,000 in a matter of hrs
Sun 28th- direct flights raise to $6,000 ( no, you don't get to keep the plane for a week, I asked)
Mon Mar 1st- the search for cheaper alternative results begin (the coffee brew non stop that day)
Tue Mar 2nd 1:50pm- booked a flight to Salta Argentina
4pm My sister, Muneca, my best friend Nadia and friend Susan volunteer to look after my kids
11pm Pack my gear and go to bed
Wed Mar 3rd 4pm start my 41hrs trip to Salta, Argentina
Fri Mar 5th arrive in Argentina with no luggage, my only possession, my laptop,my school books, and the clothes i was wearing
Sat 7am leave by car to San Pedro de Atacama, 13 1/2 hrs drive. two flat tires, endless checkpoints later we arrive in San Pedro at 9:30pm
Sat 6th 9:30pm the hunt for gear begin, Miguel a Kunza hotel porter goes home to lend me his sleeping bag
Sun 7th 1pm, gear is complete, just in time for gear check, i get my bib and I am allowed to run the race
2pm. we leave to camp one
Mon 8th to Sat 13th Atacama race
Sat 13th 4pm my luggage arrives to hotel
6pm the hunt for a ride home begins after confirming buses are full
10:30pm a private car agrees to take me if I find one more passenger with both of us paying 2 1/2 times the price
11pm i convince Keven my Australian tentmate that Salta is a great city to tour, I carefully avoid telling him the ride is 13hrs with no restaurants in between so yet again we will be surviving on chips, and he has to lend me some money since I can't afford the trip back now, a great offer if you ask me.
Sun 14th 9m, Keven and I wait at the lobby for the car to take us to Argentina
10:30am after calling several times to confirm and they telling me they are just running late the office secretary tells me they are not coming, mis communications she tells me, did i tell you Spanish is my fist language?
2pm after hrs of trying to convinced them the company agrees to take us to Argentina
Mon 15th 1:15am arrive in Salta Argentina
1:30am to 4am chat with Charlie on Skype he lends me money to pay Keven back, he arranges to have money at a Western Union in Salta
8:30am, go to Western Union close to the hotel to pick up money, they refuse to give me the money since the transfer is not addressed by my full name, my middle name is missing, I run around in Salta for the next hr trying to find an other branch that will overlook this
9:45am Charlie runs to his local branch to add Angelica to the transfer
10am get the funds!
10:30am arrive at the hotel, pick up my luggage, leave an envelope in the front desk for Keven who is still sleeping and go o the Airport
10:45am check in and begin my 35hr trip home
Tues 16th at 12:35pm arrive in Calgary

I would be lying if I told you that i wasn't expecting things to go wrong, everything told me that maybe this was the not the best time to go to a race. I realized that I while I have been so busy fighting for my son, i have created a sort of image that I can do anything, the trust on my ability that people around me showed was unbelievable. There where times when I didn't want to go, i get tired sometimes of working so hard all the time. I am human, i had an opportunity to bow gracefully of a race, on the pretense that i had tried everything but while I could lie to everybody and make excuses i couldn't lie to Karl, had I really?

That's how I found myself in Atacama running 150 miles across the desert on borrowed gear, I didn't always have fun, and more than once I cried but it is a reality, two weeks out of my life is nothing if it means than my son might have an opportunity for a better life. Two weeks of my life vs the rest of my sons life, no contest.

I am schedule to speak at the cnib luncheon May 7th, it's a time for me to reflect on the time when i found myself alone with my two kids after the diagnosis made anybody close to me very difficult to cope with and they had to pull away. 4 years later I am surrounded by amazing people that are offering their support, to let me know my kids and I are not alone. I am doing these for my kids, but i think is also a wonderful opportunity to offer hope to anybody that is going through a hard time, that if we stay positive, things will get better.

If until now, the love of a mother has been an incredible source of strength that has brought fantastic things, now that I have the support and love of amazing people around me like my best friend Nadia, my amazing boyfriend Charlie, my family, I can only imagine what kind of change we can create in the world.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's All Over Except for the Sunburn

Saturday March 13, 2010

1:00 PM

I have had a perfect day so far. I woke up early in yet another strange room and bedroom. I have been in Jacksonville, Florida for 3 days in support of my friends at Challenged Athletes Foundation. I especially had a blast with 6 year old Timmy, a below the knee amputee that just blew me away with his positive attitude. If he is handicapped, then we should all be so lucky. I ran the Gate River 15k with me good friend Chris Roman and about 18,000 other runners.

Okay, all that was fine but I was totally preoccupied wondering about Norma and how she was doing. And then the best part of the day happened, I got an e-mail from Norma!!! My phone “dinged” and was overjoyed to see her name on my phone. I was really frustrated by the lack of information that is available from these races. Although I have to say that the Racing the Planet folks did a good job considering they were in the middle of a giant desert. Today it was worth the wait for information. Here is what she had to say:

i made it, it was a tough go physically but not mentally, i lost 3 other toenails and the sharp terrain cut through my shoes, it got better once i decided to slow down. it took me about 15 hrs to finish, too long. there where a couple of parts where i could run and i started to get on a rythm and then sharp hard terrain came and i lost all the time i won and a lot of people overtook me again, this happen several times and i was so frustrated but then i realized that’s what my son karl feels all the time, having to be tutored just to catch up to everybody all the time. so i became more determine to find a cure for him, nobody should have to work so hard all the time. Mario also asked me on camera if i was disappointed since i could have done so much better but i don't want to focus on what i didn't accomplish but instead i realized how amazing is the fact that i am here finishing the race given the fact that it didn't look like it was going to happen. the amazing support of everybody that came to my rescue. also, the team red hot chili runners, the 4 boys that came on the bus with me from argentina, 4 friends from london told me last night while on the course, we where all struggling, that they are going to donate the funds of next years annual fundraising to my charity, that's incredible, that i managed to inspire them. the boys are your biggest fans now, after playing Running the Sahara on the bus, and i told them that if we don't have anything on that date next year, we might come to london to join them at their fundraising party.

well. we start at 12 noon and suppose to run 10k, then i will run to chat with you. i am looking forward to hearing your voice soon. love you baby.

8:00 PM

Norma sent me one more short e-mail to say that she is FINISHED and very happy and tired. She is already trying to deal with the problem of getting home but having problems arranging for a ride back to Salta. She didn’t get to enjoy the finish for very long before having to deal with reality. But she asked me to tell everyone that she is fine and she could feel all of the amazing positive energy everyone was sending her way.

Norma will take back her blog in a few days. Thanks to everyone for tuning in . See you down the road. Charlie

Friday, March 12, 2010

50 miles and no news yet

Friday March 12, 2010

No news is........a bummer. I have been checking the race website and it appears that about 75 racers have finished the 50 mile day. But there is no finisher’s list posted yet so I can’t be certain that Norma is finished yet. Based on the previous 4 stages, it makes sense that she should be done. But I want to see her name on the list.

Today was the long day, about 50 miles. For me, this stage was always the one I really was aiming at all along. It is the day that a runner can really make up a lot of time or lose a tremendous amount of time. The heat and the sand and the four previous days have really taken a toll on most runners. But one really strange thing can happen on this day. The body has actually adjusted to the stress if the runner hasn’t red lined it too often. In essence, a runner can run himself into condition during the race assuming he came into with decent fitness. It is all relative of course but I feel that I usually had my best days on stage 4 and 5. I hope that the same thing has happened for Norma.

I am going to keep checking but I am hoping that I can confirm her finish tomorrow morning. The only thing left after that will be a short run, about 10K, late tomorrow afternoon. It is mostly ceremonial and gives the runners a chance to enjoy there accomplishment. And it is an amazing experience. I can’t wait to hear the stories in Norma’s own words.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Norma Fights through Day 4

Wednesday March 11, 2010

I am sitting on an airplane heading from Seattle to Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a long flight and I don’t like being ”disconnected”. Earlier today, I was watching the Racing the Planet website and there was Norma’s name in the scroll. I had to catch my breath because by the time I could really read it they were showing the names of competitors that had withdrawn from the race. I patiently waited for the scroll to start over. As I am watching the monitor, my brain is spinning because I don’t want to see her name in the dreaded “DNF” (did not finish) column. Okay there she is again. It says Norma Bastidas comments that “today’s stage is like being a three year old playing in the mud.” Phew!!

Okay, not only is she okay but she is cracking jokes. I am relieved for sure.

These races become really interesting after the first few days. A lot of people start dropping out. Day 4 is usually very tough because the body is very beaten up by now. On top of that, racers have been sharing a tent with 7 other people, mostly strangers. Sleep is usually pretty restless. Most racers try to pack very lightly which means not bringing the thick sleeping pad or the cushy sleeping bag. In Norma’s case, she had nothing at all for comfort since her baggage was lost. Everything she is wearing and eating is borrowed. Well technically only the clothing and equipment is borrowed. She will return those items after the race. The food? She gets to keep that.

The other reason that Day 4 is tough is because it is the day before the dreaded “long day” . Day 5 is the 50 mile day. I have always said that Day 5 is the crux of the race. You can gain a lot or lose a tremendous amount of time. But for now, Day 4 is the focus. I will check later from Jacksonville and see if I can get an update. I never heard from Norma yesterday which tells me either that she had a tough day or they had technical problems.....or both.

11:00 PM

I just finished a speaking gig in Jacksonville Florida for Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Gate River 15k. That was fun but the best news was that I had an e mail from Norma waiting for me when I finished. I am so happy. Here is what she had to say.

hey baby. i am still working hard and keeping my strength. i had a hard night last night but after drilling my toenail to relieve the pressure my toes where fantastic! i ran relatively well, i was ok but had a bit of tummy issue and couldn't eat after checkpoint 2 half way, but i could hydrate so i was ok i just lost a bit of steam. today was 42k long and tough, the salt flats where hard to run on my thin shoes but walking was fine. i lost my other toenail today but it didn't hurt as much since there was no sand to fill my shoes to make them tighter. i almost broke my ankle coming after the sand dunes and into the river when i stepped on what i though was sand and it was rock and i slipped all the way down but managed to catch myself before the fall. i had to spiderwoman my way up the rock face, i am happy for all the rock climbing lessons i took. other than that i had a good day finishing 47th. i am feeling great good spirits but i am not taking things for granted, out here things can go terribly wrong fast so i will be careful and not do anything foolish.”

I love that she says that she will not do anything foolish in the same paragraph that includes the statement “I drilled my toenail to relieve the pressure”. Is it any wonder that I love this woman? Tomorrow is the long day, 50 miles. I will keep track and post some results when I have them. This would be a really good time to email Norma and give some encouragement. Just go to and go to the drop down menu under race coverage. It is easy and just takes a second. She would love to hear from as many people as possible.

And finally this from Norma,

please remind my kids to look after the cats”


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Norma Struggles through high heat and sore feet

Wednesday March 10, 2010

Today was a tough day for Norma I think. I did not hear from her today but as I look at the rankings, she dropped a few spots which tells me that she struggled today. She is so competitive that I am sure she would not choose to let anyone move ahead of her.

From what I can tell on the website, many people struggled today. Temperatures were very hot and it looks like a couple of aid stations may have run low on water. Mary Gadams, the race series owner and race director, does an amazing job of orchestrating these events. The logistics are just baffling but she gets it done every time. But days like today are just part of the experience. We go to the deserts to suffer and to struggle in hopes that we gain knowledge. I think a lot of racers learned something about themselves today.

I am hoping that Norma remembers that she is not racing the others. Instead, my hope is that she takes a deep breath and remembers that there are many people out here that are just pulling for her to do her best. I know that she feels some pressure to perform well and that can be difficult when things go wrong. My experience is that every race has it’s highs and lows and neither of them should dictate the lasting imprint from the experience.

All of these multi day races are about adapting to the changing circumstances. I guess the same could be said for most aspects of life. Business, relationships, running and family are pretty much the same. Our success is usually dependent on our ability to adapt to the changing circumstances. In Norma’s case, it appears that the desert made the rules today but if I know Norma she will get up and go after it again tomorrow.

I love her for her spirit and the fact that she is never afraid to put it all on the line.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stage 2 Norma busts a move

Tuesday March 9th, 2010

11:00 AM on a plane to Seattle

Make no mistake, this race and this blog is about Norma, not about me. But I am getting a solid dose of my own medicine today. I am traveling to Seattle today and I feel completely out of touch with Norma and the race. I know she is out there in the desert running. It’s not that I can do anything for her anyway, but I do truly feel helpless. I am not enjoying being an observer. I am anxious to get to my hotel and hopefully find that Norma has finished Stage 2 and has written to me. I am worried about her feet. She actually has pretty nice feet for someone that runs the way she does. It would be a shame to have them blistered and bloodied but I am afraid that’s what might happen. It won’t stop her of course.

When I ran the Atacama Crossing a few years ago, I remember two things very clearly. It was hot and dry. Or maybe it was dry and hot. And there was altitude too. Okay that’s three things I remember. And the sand was really pervasive. And the salt marsh was unpredictable. So I remembered five things. Whatever. The point is that the Atacama is a feast for the senses but some of the items on the menu really suck.

And speaking of sucking, I can remember a section of salt marsh where I broke through the crust and the salty muck actually pulled both shoes off of my feet. I had to stop and practically dive in to save my shoes. Losing my only pair of shoes was not an option. So of course today all I can think of is Norma dealing with the same issues.

It’s a weird feeling because I am not worried about her ability or her toughness. She has nothing left to prove in those areas. Instead, I am just anticipating her suffering and I want to be there to tell her it will all be fine. I want to absorb some of the pain for her. Although if I was there, it is more likely that she would just be assuring me that she is fine and I shouldn’t worry.

6:30 PM in my hotel room

Okay, so I just received a note from Norma and she seems great. She had an amazing day and ran very well. Here is part of her note to me (minus the mushy stuff)

“i did really good today, i thought of Karl how hard he has it, moving forward and it was enough for me to go hard. my pack is still over 10 kilos and i burned the bottom of my feet since my shoes are too thin. it hurt a lot but i can take pain and discomfort so i just went. i climbed in ranking but not sure where i am, i notice because i finished among the guys who are better than me, also i was the third to arrive in my tent and yesterday i was the last, there are 7 of us and all guys except for me, cool guys, i have met a couple of them on races before. today was a hard day 42 k long and a lot of people have passed out from the heat, camp looked like a war zone, at areas it has reached 45C, we also run out of water the first leg and ran on sand dunes on the second leg, a great opportunity for blisters to get full of sand. its after 8 hrs since we started and the majority hasn't reach camp.”

I looked at the standings and Norma has moved up about 12 places from yesterday in the overall and she moved up to 4th among the women. More importantly, it seems that she may be getting stronger. That is really the key to these multi day races. Don’t start too fast and really be ready for the 50 mile day. That is where the race is won and lost.

I know the she would love to hear from many of you so send her some encouragement if you have the time. Just go to and and go to the Atacama Crossing under Events. Then go to the “Race Coverage” area and scroll down to email a competitor.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Let the Pain Begin-Stage 1

Monday March 8, 2010

The race begins!! Norma made it to the start line and actually did very well today. She finished Stage 1 in a little under 6 hours. Considering the conditions and the crazy circumstances of just getting to Chile over the past week, she did amazingly well. I have been in a similar situation myself and so much energy is expended before the race that it feels like running in quicksand when the race actually starts.

Here is part of a short e-mail that Norma sent to me after today’s stage:

“hi baby. sure missed you a lot today. it was very hot, i was ok for the first two stages then from check point 2 to 3 it was so hot i just couldn’t run anymore. i wish i was doing better for you, i want to make you proud but i also know the worst that can happen is to not finish so i am looking after myself, i remembered what you told me not to go too hard in the beginning. i think i am running as well i can possibly do, my shoes are too thin and i felt every rock, and i had sand in my shoes the entire way, i know my feet will be a nightmare but i am ok at pushing through pain. as long as i am safe i can push through pain. not a lot to say about the race, just keeping my head down and getting it done. i loved looking at your ring it made me feel better. i am feeling ok not worry about not finishing anymore, as long as i keep doing what i am doing it will work out.”

I think that she sounds very strong and resolved to fight hard this week. She is currently the fifth woman in the rankings and I know that she will try to catch a couple of them. Okay, more to come tomorrow.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Beg Borrow and Hope for the Best

Sunday March 7, 2010 San Pedro de Atacama

I spoke to Norma briefly this morning before all the racers left for Camp 1. Later in the day, she sent me an email and some of it is copied below. She is always the optimist.

we travel for two hours from san pedro here and on the bus ride it was when i allowed myself to think about the last week. I managed to find everything except a head torch that i purchased for $10, the sleeping bag came from a porter from Kuma hotel where i stayed, he went home and got if for me, from 9:30 last night to 1pm today people went out of their way to help me and that’s amazing, if anything this has taught me is that people are kind and generous, we hear so much on the news about the small % of bad people and we forget that the majority are kind and friendly, especially in races like this, it attracts positive people.

i am worried about my shoes, they are track shoes so they fit me just right and as you know feet swell so i will get blisters for sure and they are thin so i will feel the rocks and the heat more easily. a lot of people that have run the race before are shaking their heads over the fact that i am still continuing considering everything is borrowed gear, even the food and bars and gels are things i have never tried before so it should be interesting.

i am not letting anything bother me, the only question i asked myself was to either do it or not and i already knew the answer and it was a yes, no need to drive myself crazy with details. there are no ideal scenarios and i will just deal with the issues as they present.

i am finding myself on a different situation where i am even thinking not sure i can finish it, if my shoes ripped and become destroyed that might be the end. i am not afraid of that happening i would just be very sad, but i want to teach my kids to continue and give their best even when things aren’t looking up, after all, this is when believing about something that you are committed and passionate is always not only when things are falling into place.

Charlie Engle

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Just Plane Tired

Saturday March 6, 2010

It’s all fun and games until the airline loses your luggage. Then before you know it, the only shirt you have to wear is borrowed, ugly and two sizes too big. For Norma, lost luggage is an almost comical addition to an already challenging trip. More character building I guess although I think she has enough character already. She would rather have her bags.

The worst part is the loss of food. She will find clothes and shoes but food for a race like this is not so easy. There is no REI down the street to go and resupply. She will have to make due with whatever she can find locally. Racers normally use energy bars, protein powders and freeze dried food. Not much chance of finding those items at the local Atacama Desert store. In fact, the odds are exactly zero. But she will make due. She will probably just run down some wild desert chickens and cook them over an open fire. Then squeeze some some juice from a prickly cactus. If she would just pretend to be helpless for a bit, she would have tons of offers of help. After all, most of the racers are guys. But that won’t happen. She will do for herself and find a way to get through it on her own. No matter what, she will make it to the start line ready to run.

I did get to speak to her very late last night. She had arrived at her hotel in Salta and was going to get some sleep. Understandably she was tired but seemed in good spirits. She had just gotten word that there was an outside chance that her bags might arrive in Calama, a city about 3 hours away from the race start. If this happens, then she will have to catch a bus and go retrieve the bags herself. This would mean another 6 hours of travel but after almost 60 hours already, why not? It would still be best to have her own gear and food. If I had to guess though, I would not count on the bags arriving. It is just the way it seems to work. I once lost 3 bags in Africa and they showed up at my house in North Carolina 2 months later. Fingers crossed though.

She slept on the floor of a couple of airports during her trip and was happy to have a shower and a bed, if only for a few hours. Early in the morning she would be leaving with several other racers for San Pedro de Atacama, the headquarters for the race. The drive would be 14 hours. Apparently nothing is close to anything else in the desert, or at least that’s how it feels when you are out there. A cameraman named Mario has joined Norma and will be documenting her journey to and through the desert. If the first few days are any indication then this documentary will be highly entertaining.

The race starts Monday.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Norma Goes to Chile....hopefully

Norma Blogs 2010 Atacama Crossing

My name is Charlie Engle and I will be writing blog entries on behalf of Norma Bastidas about her journey across the Atacama Desert in Chile. I am doing this for many reasons. First, her passion in infectious and I wanted to help out. Second, I am her boyfriend and I believe in her and what she stands for. And finally, I am a runner too

Norma is nothing if not passionate and adventurous..........and maybe a little obsessive. When she sets her mind to to a task, you can bet that she will get it done. As her boyfriend, I have learned very quickly not to argue with her when she gets that determined look on her face. I can either help her or get out of the way. This time I chose to help. It’s the safest choice.

The latest example of just what Norma “does” is the Atacama Crossing, a 7 day stage running race across one of the driest and harshest places on earth, the Atacama Desert. She must carry all her food and gear for the entire time while running about a marathon per day. No hot meals, no showers, no beds. But there will be plenty of hardship to go around. I have done a few of these races myself and I can say that they are very tough. It requires great determination to get through it. I have no doubt that Norma will thrive. She is like a magnet for other people, drawing on her energy and positive outlook.

Normally one would expect that running 250K through the desert spread over 7 days would be the hardest part of a race. In this case, that may not be true. Just getting to the start has been an enormous challenge. And she is not there yet. Norma’s plans were all set a few weeks ago. Her plane tickets were reserved and she just needed to pay for them. Money is tight so she was waiting for a check to come in. Then an 8.8 magnitude earthquake slammed Chile and everything changed, especially for the people of Chile. Most flights were cancelled and the ones that were still going were completely filled overnight as people scrambled to get to Chile.

The race organization, Racing the Planet, let everyone know that the race would go on as planned. To cancel it would just bring more economic hardship to the locals that were being hired by the race. Fundraising would take place in an effort to help out the needy. But the fact was that Norma was now stuck in no woman’s land with no way to get to Chile. She would just have to accept that fact and start planning for the next event.

Okay, maybe that’s what most people would do. But Norma is not most people. She and I spent two days discussing options. Was it possible to go through Brazil or Peru or Argentina? Could she find a helicopter or private plane? Could we shoot her out of a giant cannon? Don’t laugh, she would do it!

At one point it seemed that she had finally reached the logical conclusion that this event was simply not going to happen for her. We even started to plan for her to run a substitute expedition from north of Banff all the way to her front door in Calgary, about 250K. It was Monday night and that was the plan when she said goodnight to me. I felt guilty as I admitted to myself that I was a little relieved that she was not going. The earthquake, multiple planes and busses with no traveling companion just worried me.

My phone rang early Tuesday morning. Norma says “I’m going”. I say, “going where?” She says, “to the race of course”. I said, “Who is this?” (Ok I didn’t really say that but I wanted to). Instead I said something eloquent like, “wow, great.”

Next she proceeded to tell me how things had changed. It seems that the whole world has decided to help her get to Chile. She has offers of plane tickets, bus rides, travel agencies, donkeys and rocket propulsion jet packs ( I made that last one up). Offers were pouring in and Norma was fired up. And it only took a moment for me to get fired up too. I quickly set aside my selfish worries and asked her what I could do to help. Really I couldn’t do much except listen to her and offer an occasional opinion which she usually just politely ignored. She was not going to let her supporters down. She was going to find a way to get to Chile.

Norma lives for her kids. Nothing is more important to her than their health and happiness. She likes to tell them how important it is to honor one’s commitments. She found a flight to Salta, Argentina but it would take more than 40 hours to get there. She found a ride from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama but it would take 14 hours by car. And then there was the matter of money. Nothing was cheap because everything was being booked in desperation. It was a seller’s market for sure. But she haggled and pleaded when necessary and she was able to scrape together the needed funds. She was on her way to Chile. Against all odds, she made it happen. It was amazing to watch.

As I am writing this, Norma just called from Caracas, Venezuela. It is Thursday night, March 4th and the race starts on Monday. We spoke for a few minutes. She sounded tired but okay. She was stuck in the airport for 7 hours before her next flight. It looks like her luggage has been “misplaced”. I asked her if she had shoes and she said that she is wearing running shoes but not the ones she intended to wear in the race. It sounds as if her challenges will continue. She may be borrowing clothes and food along the way. I think she mentioned hunting down a goat if she has to. If challenges make us stronger, then Norma should be a powerlifter by the time she reaches Chile. Oh yea, and then she gets to run 250K.

I will be updating every day if possible depending on the information i can get. Norma wanted me to thank all of her friends and family members for their incredible support.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Atacama crossing

It's been a few months since my last blog and so much has change but some things have also remained the same.

I am still very determined to climb all 7 summits in about 12 months, that hasn't changed. If anything my commitment has strengthen. I am also scheduled to run Atacama Crossing Monday 7th to the 13th. You are probably aware of the situation in Chile, the earthquake meant that very few flights are entering the country. My trip was canceled and I have to come clean, I had been delaying booking my flight because I am permanently waiting on cheques to arrive, i am still not working and i depend on sponsors to get to the races and cover the expenses( OK, and people like my best friend who gives me money for groceries because she says she believes in me), there is no room ever in my bank account to cover the expenses until the money arrives. I am sure I am not alone here, that's the reason most people choose to work instead of following their passion. this has cause some concerns from my family and I have to agree that maybe i would feel the same if I wasn't in my shoes, there is one factor that determines why i can't work full time or even part time unless is flexible, Karl's condition is getting more complicated, as you all know he has BBS and he is struggling as school as well now, he is working very hard yet he is failing at school. The day he got his report card was a bad day for him, he couldn't understand why he is still not passing," i sit and the front, pay attention, participate and work hard, i don't understand why i am still failing" he told me. I told Karl that we where going to fight this together, that i was proud of him and that yes we needed to work even harder but it was either that or giving up and that's not what i want for him. He is doing so much better now, i guess he just needed to feel understood, that he is not alone. sometimes shame isolates us, we all feel alone only because we are afraid to show how vulnerable we are. Fortunately i wear my emotions on my sleeve, i am Latin, we are not good at hiding our emotions, for better or for worse and if you are my best friend or boyfriend sometimes is for the worse.

I am off to Chile tomorrow and it's been a mad scramble to get there. i will have to flight to Salta Argentina, it will take me 42 hrs to get there then I have to take a 14hr bus ride to San Pedro de Atacama, before you think i am highly motivated to my cause this time it was people around me that made it happen, i went to bed several times thinking that there was no way to make it happen just to find my email box full of people that wanted to help. Even childcare proved to be a problem, when I lost the person that was intended to stay with me, then my sister Muneca, My best friend Nadia and Susan a friend and also a single parent rally up to cover the days that I will be gone, it was like watching them build a quilt, taking blocks of days back and forth until all days where covered. I also heard from people I have never met helping me find the best possible fare and option to get to the race, it was overwhelming how people come together so fast, i feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by such amazing people in my life. If you ever been to my house you will know that i have no money but i think of myself as a very successful person, i see my life meaningful, the friendships I have from and the bonds that i have with the people closes to me are invaluable. Yes, this is ultimately what i need to do for my son but it also turned out to be the best decision i have made, i watched my investments shrink by the bad economy but wealth in the quality of people aroudn me has increase substantially.
My boyfriend Charlie Engle will be blogging for me on both sites, I will eventually be migrating to the Not Afraid Of Greatness blog (BTW, that's the picture of Karl at age 11 when he was diagnosed) my Mexican running wild days are not over but I am looking forward to seeing my sons been more involved in the fund that was born from the amazing generosity of people that wanted to help me fight blindness. Charlie has also been an amazing support on many areas,such mentoring me on fund raising, he is very passionate about having an impact on such issues as clean water for everybody to child obesity, and lets face it he makes me feel normal, having run very successfully the races that I am running he is a source of knowledge that i have to say is an unfair advantage.

Well, i know is not thanksgiving but I am so thankful for everybody for helping me make sure my son and other people kids for that matter, will be OK, when I set out to do the runs and fundraise i wanted to do my part as a thank you to the charities that helped me stand up when I found myself fallen, but the more i want to give thanks the more I am in debt from all the generosity.

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.
-- Oprah Winfrey