We roll out from work Friday at 5 pm. The car is packed with ropes, harnesses, ice tools, ice screws, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, belay parkas, crampons, backpacks, thermos, snacks, all the gear needed for the two days/nights trek north toward the ice lines surrounding Banff and Lake Louise. We would return late on Sunday. I enjoyed my weekend getaways in the winter of ’96 & ’97, driving the 8 hours from Spokane up to Banff as many weekends as my life allowed.
There were no phones, iPads, or devices to provide entertainment to pass the hours. We fine-tuned the radio dial for stations as we go through the tiny towns. We listen to talk radio, or perhaps a book on tape; audible would have been magical back in 1996 for my lifestyle.
Bluntly put, most of my weekend, I’d be cold. We were headed into Canada to go waterfall ice climbing. It was a new sport for me; some aspects of it I enjoyed tremendously, others brought tears (mostly the approaches)- it’s definitely for not everyone.
After I graduated from college in ’95, I moved home and opted for a local outdoor shop job. I worked as a customer service representative in their rather quickly expanding mail order department. A guy I worked with asked me to sign up to run the Portland Marathon in 3 weeks. I replied, “I have always wanted to run a marathon, but three weeks to train? Perhaps another time.” He then said, “you don’t come across as the type of person who says they want to do something, has the opportunity to do it, and then lets it pass by.” I registered.
After I committed to the event, my co-worker immediately offered himself up as a training partner. After-work runs became routine, and we soon began dating. Well played, Mr. Co-worker, well played!
I was nervous about the “how-to” with diabetes. I knew nobody with diabetes who ran marathons. Racing three miles as an athlete in college was significantly different than 26.2 miles. In 2000, four years later, I would meet many diabetic athletes. I’ll get to them in a few days but today is 1996. It felt daunting to take on the training, insulin adjustments, nutritional adjustments, especially in such a short time frame.
It was the first of many endurance running events I would do in my life, each one with their own diabetes story, not one like the other. At the start of my race, I saw a woman wearing a shirt that read, “If Oprah can do this, I can too.” That shirt gave me motivation for many miles. I finished, and I heard my boyfriend say on the phone to a friend, “It was only 4 hours, nothing like those long mountaineering days climbing Makalu.” He was an AAI Guide, I should have expected. I enjoyed my accomplishment, and I was sore for days. Fast forward several months, and we are back to driving north to ice-climb...
We drove as long we could before we pulled off the road, threw out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags under a picnic table to give shelter for 4-6 hours of sleep as it snowed. We didn’t put up a tent, and it was always quite cold. The temperature this particular night was even more frigid. I got into my sleeping bag, and I wasn’t able to warm up. He handed me a snickers bar. I trusted his experience, ate it, took a small injection to cover it, and fell right asleep, soundly. We woke up, finished the drive into Banff, got coffee & tea, and then went off for our day of climbing.
Twenty-four years later, I still vividly remember the challenge I had to get to sleep that night and how simple the solution. It took a person with more experience than I had, someone I trusted to help me when I met a challenge in my circumstance.