About two days ago, summer arrived in Zion. It had been spring for the allotted week or so that usually falls just between the damp and clammy chills of winter and the scorching summer heat. As it turns out, this transitional time is a pretty opportune chance to put to the test a new piece of clothing! Ibex Wool offered me a shirt and told me to do my worst to it–just to see how it performed (you can see their new, fully interactive e-catalog here).
I have never been one to turn down a good opportunity, and I have always been a huge fan of wool. A few weeks back it was typical “wool weather”– a bit chilly and blustery–but this shirt has really come into its own as the springtime transition occurred and the searing heat arrived. You might think that this would be the time to put wool away for the winter, in favor of lighter, cooler fabrics. Well, you’d be wrong!
During Project 365 I spent a lot of time paring my clothing down to the bare essentials in order to travel light, so I like to think that I know somewhat about minimalism–and I like to avoid taking time away from my climbing and video editing to do laundry (to say nothing about the environmental issues surrounding water usage in the desert). So, having a shirt that I have been able to wear for over two weeks without washing is a good and useful thing. Now, before you recoil in horror, wondering how I can live with myself with such a skewed set of priorities, let me assure you that this shirt smells as good as the day I took it out of the package.
Not that smelling good is always the biggest priority when you are climbing hard or hiking, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when you factor in the following other obvious benefits of the Ibex wool line:
- wicks moisture
- fast drying
- SUPER durable
- keeps you cool in the heat
It’s not itchy (a classic wool stereotype) and actually feels super soft and smooth. It’s also not stiflingly hot because it breathes remarkably well while still blocking the suns heat (I won’t pretend to understand how or why this occurs, but I am happy that it works–oh–it’s also burly enough to stand up to all the abuse of climbing (and helping Rob of Zion Jeeps with some of the heavy lifting and engine work). Thin enough to stay cool, tough enough to stay together.
These shirts aren’t cheap to buy–as is the case with most things that are well made. And that may not be a bad thing if you think about it–I can’t necessarily afford to have the biggest and most beautiful car or house–but I figure that if I can have high quality essentials that really affect my ability to climb and take my diabetes adventuring, then I can still have luxury where I depend on it most. Plus…you can sell all your other t-shirts on ebay once you have a couple of these–they’re that good.
*I didn’t get any money to write this review and I wasn’t coerced into sharing my opinion or altering it. I got a shirt and was told to try it out and see what I thought. Wool is where it’s at, and Ibex makes tough stuff. That’s what I thought. Just sayin’. Now I plan to keep wearing this shirt for another several weeks, just to make sure I wasn’t being premature in my assertions here–so you might want to follow us on Facebook and Twitter just to make sure you catch all the diabetes desert fun (read:suffering) as it unfolds!
It’s Friday night and everyone in town is out at Karaoke. Springdale UT is a small town, and most everyone in town knows me as the stick in the mud that can’t be convinced to go out and party. I’m not really worried about being seen as a curmudgeon right now though–I am staring at my Dexcom which has been showing a downward arrow for the last half hour.
We are still southbound and this pain train doesn’t want to slow down. After 14 years I have seen some low numbers. But the feeling of rapidly falling blood glucose levels is unmistakeable. It’s comparable to that feeling you get a split second after you see the cop and realize that you were driving 20 over the limit. Impending doom–only worse because you’re not thinking about money, you’re thinking about the fact that all your friends are out getting s—t-faced and they might come back to find you unconscious. Or worse.
My blood sugar is plummeting and I only took two units of insulin. I wasn’t super active and I didn’t forget to eat. I’m grilling myself trying to think what I did wrong. What did I do to make this happen. I am supposed to be a role model. I should be able to do better.
I begin to think about what I have heard or what I have told people in the past. I try to maintain my grip on panic and avoid gorging. I am determined to take it down to the wire and correct perfectly. I have eaten some “correction carbs” and now I just have to wait for them to hit my bloodstream so my sugar will start to rise. This waiting period is the great divide, the dark before the dawn, the leap of faith. You have eaten what you know you need to correct, but those minutes before it hits your bloodstream and makes you “feel” it–those are the hardest moments for me in relation to my diabetes.
What if I didn’t eat enough? What if my sugar doesn’t come up? What if I’m falling too fast? What if I go unconscious? There are several minutes during the mental grappling match that ensues while you wait–during which you are forced to confront the realization that if you don’t treat this low correctly, you could die. There is the ultimate realization that for all the support that exists in the diabetes community, or from my friends or spouse– I face this battle entirely alone in this moment.
It seems like hours, but the clock on my phone confirms about 10 minutes have passed by the time I begin to feel the “crash” subsiding. I am starting to emerge on the other side of this low, and sharing my experience on Instagram makes me feel better, makes me feel more connected. Knowing that other people are out there with me going through the same thing makes me feel stronger and more confident. I passed through the test, and I am reconnected with the world.
I feel like I have been reborn. I am not a victim of diabetes, and I do not suffer from it. I have just climbed a horrendous runout, and taken the whip. I have faced the fear, and while it felt awful in the moment, confronting that risk has given me more skills to overcome that fear on my next attempt. Diabetes is my training ground for the mountains. It is a privilege to struggle, not a burden.
Many people don’t see the connection between climbing and diabetes. Both are misunderstood. Both are constant risk management. Both have physical and mental implications based on the effectiveness of said risk management. Both force you to confront fear and manage it in moments of serious crisis. Both involve stacking the odds in your favor by leveraging constants against variables.
Hmmm…come to think of it, they don’t have that much in common…
A short time ago, Duracell created this video below, with our help, to promote the diabetes empowerment message of Project 365. Back in the beginning of the project when Stefanie and I were packing up our lives possessions into the Dragon Wagon, she jokingly said, “Someday you will be in ‘one of those Duracell commercials’”. I laughed it off and didn’t even give it a second thought. Now, a year and a half later, we are reaching more people than we ever thought possible with the message that life with diabetes is still about LIFE! This was a really big step for us and while it has been exciting, it has stirred up a little controversy.
Today I was looking at the video post on Duracell’s Facebook page and found a comment that made me feel like clarifying a few of the salient points surrounding Project 365 that might not be apparent from a 30 second highlight reel. This comment was probably not worth responding to, but Project 365 is my baby. It has been and still IS my life. I do not suffer fools gladly:
“Good for him WHITE MIDDLE UPPER CLASS, can go around the world, enjoying himself, without having to worry about daily survival in a factory, or living in the slum in a war zone, hey MONEY TALKS, and makes more money advertising and being sponsored -easy ride baby!”
I don’t really entertain internet “flame wars” but the person making the comment is correct about my ethnicity and not much else. I have done a lot of soul searching about the opportunities I have had, and I am always conscious of the fact that I have been blessed to have been able to complete the project despite all of the sacrifices it has entailed and the fact that we had no monetary sponsorship in Project 365 from the outset besides what our friends and family contributed because they believed in our idea of diabetes empowerment.
Having said that, my response to the idea that Project 365 has been a cakewalk based on my ethnicity or “economic privilege” followed thusly:
“Not that a person’s color or wealth should matter, but I’m married to a woman who is not white, Stefanie Richert, and I am sure she would be happy to share some stories of the “easy ride” that our life has been, sleeping in rest areas in my car, for months at a time, couch surfing and living in the dirt. Not that I am complaining–we chose that life because we wanted to do what we could, where we were to make a difference about how people with diabetes see themselves and their possibilities in life.
You are accurate in saying that I dont work in a factory or live in a war zone. I am not going to apologize for that fact, but I will say that I have always felt empathy for those who really suffer, and part of my mission is to have enough visibility to be able to bring aid and support to those less fortunate. Its difficult or even impossible to make a difference on another continent if you haven’t started first with what is in your own back yard.
Lastly, not that it should matter, but since you seem to be hung up on the concept of sponsorship, Stefanie and I took on this project without a single sponsor to start, funded by friends and family and by selling all the “stuff” we had that wasn’t integral to climbing. We were living out of her parents basement at the time, married for 4 years. She was bartending and I was a part time teacher.
Im not sure if answering your complaints is useful or if you even care–I know that it is much easier to make snap judgements than to really examine the people you choose to tear down–and that is totally your call. I don’t think I deserve credit or praise for anything I have done. I have been incredibly blessed to have these opportunities and I try to use them as best I can. “
In closing, I am still excited for the visibility that diabetes empowerment is gaining, through ALL of the channels available to us. I can only hope to find more projects and more ways to extend the impact further afield–so if you are out there lurking on this blog post, hating on the fact that I am finally able to put a roof over my head for the first time in my adult life, shoot me an email about a way that together we can do something to help make a bigger difference. It’s usually more effective that way.
Over the last few weeks I have been slammed with work–which is good because it’s always good to be busy. There are lots of new things coming along between SweetestSummit programs gelling and opportunities for LivingVertical–and of course, the daily grind of editing the documentary from Project 365. I can say without question that the physical challenge of Project 365 (climbing every day plus balancing blood sugar!) was every bit as difficult as making this movie. It is like a complex maze in which you can’t tell just how lost you are until you have wandered around for days–by which point your frame of reference is completely gone!
So this weekend I decided to step away from the computer and spend time with some friends out climbing and adventuring. On friday I headed out with Chris and Rob to climb a lesser traveled route on the east side of Zion called “Led by Sheep”. We all swapped off turns carrying the camera and it felt good to get a few hundred feet off the ground and onto a beautiful summit that feels quite remote!
I should mention here that I am always a bit concerned with transitions; going from sitting at a computer predominately for the last few weeks to a weekend of climbing can cause my sensitivity to insulin to shift. This can create unexpected highs or lows which can be very problematic on days like this. But I was pleased to find that my sugar was around 130 when I tested after the approach which was perfect for me–room to go up or down a little without any problem!
After this adventure I headed out to Las Vegas to pick up my middle-school friend Aaron who I hadn’t seen in over ten years. He and I had reconnected during Project 365 and we had been trying to find an opportunity to get together so he could try out climbing for the first time–Zion style!
But the “real” adventure this past weekend began after we got done climbing and decided to do some photography. We wanted our last day to be a rest day and we all enjoy taking photos, so we decided to explore areas outside the park proper where there would be fewer people.
We drove my car (Honda CRV) up to the Kolob Reservoir which is on the west side of the park and rarely visited, relative to the main canyon. The Kolob area is pretty remote and we decided that it would be fun to follow the dirt roads around the reservoir to get some photos. It looked like the road went all the way around, so we figured we could just circumnavigate the water. The difference in elevation between our current location and Zion canyon was about 4000 feet–and it was properly cold where we were.
We were enjoying just looking at the aquatic birds as we drove next to the water without a care in the world. Until we came to a point where the road was washed out. Chris got out and ran ahead, testing the depth of the water and scouting a line that I could drive through this “obstacle”. He guided me through the first washout without a great deal of difficulty. On the other side I felt relieved to have made it through–until we drove around the next corner to find another similar obstacle that was even muddier, wetter and right at the edge of the lake.
We repeated the procedure from the first obstacle–and the subsequent disappointment of realizing that we were not “in the clear” several times over. By this point we started to realize that our assumption that “the road will get better and we can just drive on around” was getting less realistic. And the last several muddy, rutted sections of the road were so risky that going back was getting to be less and less feasible of an option.
It looked like the road went all the way around from the other side. It should go. One more section of steep mud, rocks and roots.
I tried not to think about what would happen if we got stuck out here. There was no cell service and no one around. Oh–and then the gas light came on. And then it started to rain, which would make the mud even more difficult to navigate. After narrowly passing our seventh obstacle, Chris got out to walk the next bit of the road—and came back with great news: “The road dead ends here–there’s a barbed wire fence and no way to get around it”.
We had to find a way to turn the car around on a mangled dirt road and then reverse our course through a minefield of mud, rocks and exposed tree roots–which were bordered by the edge of the reservoir, which loomed on one side, threatening to punish any error in driving.
How do I get myself into these situations? It looked passable. What if…
I had expended my daily quota of adrenaline. I was pretty sure I was about to be stranded in a very inopportune place with my friends who had just wanted a fun afternoon of shooting photos…If the terrain didn’t get us, surely the gas would run out–or vice versa. So I asked Chris to take a shot at reversing our course and rescuing us. Off road driving isnt my strong point. I was totally out of my element and I was starting to freak out. I can be comfortable on the side of a cliff, hundreds of feet up, but this situation was simply too far outside my comfort zone.
Fear is a very relative thing. Many people assume from my love for climbing that I don’t have fear or that I have conquered it to the point that I can just do any old thing without too much effort. This is far from the truth, and I was gripped for the entirety of this “adventure”. Fortunately, Chris was able to take over and put his USMC off road driving training to good use…and he made the reversal look really easy. We were soon out of the dirt and mud and back on the pavement where we were able to coast on “E” down 15 miles to the nearest gas station.
It always an adventure out here–but its great being able to share those adventures with friends. I pushed my limits outside of where I was comfortable. My horizon got just a little bit bigger this weekend.
Juggling is a new skill set for me. Editing the documentary for hours a day while working out permits and camp logistics for this summers SweetestSummit D-Family Adventure Weekend while we are getting websites overhauled, and trying to grow the outreach of SweetestSummit–and attending community events like the JDRF Hope and Health event in Orange Cty CA! Climbing has taken a backseat for now–although that is a temporary adjustment necessary to get things up and running.
And while “up and running” may be an ongoing process for some time, it is coming along. There are five spots that can be spoken for and reserved before we actually being the registration process. Many of the salient points are in the image below–and further questions are always welcome!
Also, if you look closely, you will notice that Sunday July 28th WILL BE THE PREMIER OF THE PROJECT365 DOCUMENTARY!!!! Our goal was to share the first finished viewing of the documentary with the families attending the first adventure weekend we are running–and to share the results of that first program with those of you who are able to make it to Springdale UT to attend the premiere! Mark your calendars, it’s going to be a great weekend!