Mt Kilimanjaro here I come!

Who Am I? Why Am I doing this? and Am I completely crazy?
Hi, let start at the start and I'll introduce myself, then if we're getting along we can get into a bit more detail - how does that sound?

Who am I? 
I sometimes just kidding! I could go into a long and exhaustive list of things 'me' related, but I'll spare you that and we'll get straight to the relevant bits :-)
My name is Sarah or 'Baggy' to my family and a few very close friends - we won't go into that now, very  long story! I'm English and have been living in Melbourne for 10 years now - and to think I was only supposed to be in Australia for 9 months...!
Last year was a year of change and milestones, in March, I ended a 10 year relationship not only did I lose my partner, but I lost my best friend - suddenly there was a very big hole in my life. In June I turned 40 and in September I moved into a new apartment - by myself, for the 1st time in 10 years. It was quite strange and at times I've found myself feeling completely lost, totally unsure of myself and very alone. I've sat in my bare apartment furnished with leftovers and I've wondered what life is all about - I certainly didn't think it was supposed to be like this. And I've sat there, on my own and cried. A lot.
But I'm not the sort of person who stays down for long and I felt that I needed to re-discover who I was. Something that I love doing is high altitude trekking - I've done the Inca trail several times, I've hiked to Choquequirao, the sister site to Macchu Picchu - on a research trip to assess if it was worth opening up for tourism - it was - 8 years after I went there and I've hiked the snowman trail in Bhutan. I'd also set myself a goal of climbing Mt Aconcagua by the time I was 40 - why Aconcagua I don't know - I love South America and I knew I could trek to the top rather than climb...I'm scared of heights, well edges really, so that rather rules out Everest. The trouble is, having already turned 40, it was September and the climbing season on Aconcagua is between December - February. I knew it just wasn't feasible that to get fit enough in 3 months. 
So I decided to delay Aconcagua and have a crack at Kilimanjaro instead.

Am I Completely Crazy?

Well quite possibly - in fact when I say that I'm climbing a big hill somewhere in Africa (thats it over there, on the right), the 1st question is generally 'Why?' quickly followed up by "Are you crazy!"
....and thats before I start describing the training I'm currently doing to ensure I'm fit enough to give myself the best chance of making it to the top....we'll get to the training later, for now lets take a step back and catch you up on a few things - so where is it? how high is it? what route am I taking? how many people are going? Why am I doing it?

Lets start with the...

Lots of reasons, because its there, because I want to - I love to challenge myself physically and mentally, I've never been at that altitude before and its been 8 years since my last big trek in Bhutan. I love being in mountains - they're so beautiful, majestic and serene - its very humbling and grounding.

It would be a bit of a test to see how I would handle the altitude. I've been to 5200m in Bhutan and Mt Aconcagua  is 6900m, Mt Kilimanjaro fits nicely halfway at nearly 6000m and I have plenty of time to build up my base fitness, before starting on my significantly harder trek preparation fitness. Fourthly, not only have I not done a trek for 8 years whilst in my relationship, I also haven't done a significant solo trip - I've done an RTW by myself and loved it - I've never been to Africa and so maybe I'm doing it to prove something to myself...that I can - its a goal, a dream, something to strive for, I believe if you have a dream, just go and do it. And finally, the best reason of all...

I get to stand on top of the world!

And when I do, all that effort, the aches, the nausea, the cold, the early mornings, the mental toughness required to put one foot in front of the other when you can't breathe and your heart is pounding like an alien is about to burst out - it all goes away. It all just disappears - everything becomes so calm, and quiet and so peaceful. I am, for a moment, at one with the mountain - invincible and indestructible. Its THE most amazing feeling ever - the sense of achievement, pride, confidence - it affects you very deeply, humbles you and changes your perspective on life. Awesome.

Alright, now to the 'What' - the technical bits - courtesy of wikipedia (well you didn't really think I knew all this stuff did you?)

Mount Kilimanjaro - The What, Where, and How High
Kilimanjaro, is an inactive stratovolcano in north-eastern Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa at 5,893m (19,334ft) above sea level.

Mt Kilimanjaro is the 4th hightest of the Seven Summits, and is among the tallest freestanding mountains of the world. It is composed of 3 distinct volcanic cones Kibo (5,893m), Mawenzi (5,149m) and Shira (3,962m) and began forming millions of years ago when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. 2 of the 3 peaks, Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, whilst Kibo is dormant with the most recent activity being recorded just 200 years ago. Scientists estimate that molten magma is just 400m below the summit crater.

The exact meaning and origin of the name Kilimanjaro is unknown. It is thought to be a combination of the swahili word 'Kilima' (meaning 'mountain') and the Kichagga word 'Njaro', loosely translated as 'whiteness', giving the mountain the name 'White Mountain'.

Trekking routes up Kilmanjaro
There are multiple routes by which to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, namely: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe, and Machame. Machame is the most scenic, but the steepest and can be done in 6-7 days, Rongai is the easiest camping route and Marangu is also easy but accommodation is in huts and as a results tends to be very busy.

ok thats probably about enough of the facty stuff - who am I travelling with? am I doing this on my own? not brave enough to do Africa by myself!

My Itinerary
I'm going with Peregrine Adventures and will be in a group of between 4 and 12 people. I have no idea who will be on the trip - we will all meet up in Nairobi and I will find out my tent buddy at that point.

The route we will be taking is the Rongai route (thats it over on the right again). We will be taking 9 days of which 6 days will actually be trekking - for those of you who love the details here they are:

Ok that doesn't look too hard does it? However as any sea level dweller who has found themselves above 3500m will tell you its not as easy as it seems - theres the nausea, the constant pounding headache, the lack of oxygen and feeling completely weak, the dehydration. Just sitting down is an effort and tying your boot laces becomes a major task that requires 5 minutes to recover from the exertion! so by now you're probably wondering if its all so hard how am I preparing for this trek? 

Obviously being down here at sea level I can't emulate the conditions that occur at these sorts of altitude so I basically need to be as fit as possible to optimise my cardio vascular efficiency and capacity (sounds like I know what I'm talking about!)
I told you we'd get to the training!

The Training!
It seems like I've been preparing for this trip FOREVER! I guess I started working on my base fitness back in October last year (yeah eons ago!) - but I did need to really, having been a bit of a couch potato for the last couple of years, I wasn't in what you could call great shape! Time to hit the gym in a big way.

Heres a typical training week from October - Jan:
Mon: 6am Cycle to Gym (5km), 15 - 20 mins high intensity interval work on the spin bike, 20 mins on the step machine with 10kg back pack, 5 mins rowing.
After work: Cycle 5km home
Tue: 6am Cycle to gym, 15 mins spin bike, 30 mins walking uphill on treadmill with 10kg in backpack
After work: Cycle to Albert Park sports and Aquatic Centre (4k), play Badminton for 1.5 hours, cycle home
Wed: 6am Cycle to Gym, 15 mins spin bike, 30 mins weights
After work: Cycle home
Thur: 6am same as Mon
Fri: 6am same as Tue (well thats the theory - after work drinks often got in the way of the cycle home! :-) )

Diet: I changed my diet quite significantly as well - not that it is ever bad, I'm a coeliac and have to be very careful what I eat at the best of times - so fruit and veg are big on my menu on a daily basis, the main change was that I really cut down on carbs, and upped the fish, veggies and fruit even more (standing joke at work is that I'm going to open a fruit shop - cos there's always fruit piled up on my desk!).
The result - fantastic! I dropped 10kg in 4 months, of which 6kg disappeared in a single month (just in time for Christmas!) and am now 12kg on the fitter side - and looking hot!! (hehehe)
I can't describe you how much I'm loving being able to pick size 8 (australian) clothes off the rack and they just fit - sorry I'm getting off track! ok where are we up to?

Typical training week Feb - May
Pretty much the same as before, with the following additions:
Mon: Outside boxing class after work
Tuesday: extra weight session after work
Wed: Running instead of weights
Fri: Run to work instead of cycle

March and April were a bit of a write off - I had a bout of bronchitis, a holiday, I sprained my ankle, twice which kept me on light work for about 6 weeks, so by May I was missing a bit of mojo....

I finally booked the trip! so now the serious training was time to add in the terrorist jacket and the stairs....
I should explain the terrorist jacket - its a black jacket slips over my head and velcroe's around the waist to keep it on. It is lined with wetsuit material that has been cut to form lots of small pockets into which 1/2 kg bags of sand can be loaded so you can carry up to 10kg of extra weight. So when it is fully loaded there are 3 rows of bulges circling my waist and get the idea!

Anyway back to the serious stuff - the theory goes that it would be same as before plus at lunch time I climb the office building wearing the terrorist jacket...its 38 floors, 72 flights of steps, 864 individual stairs from bottom to top...thats A LOT of stairs...and thats not counting going down!
so here's the program with 15 weeks to go:

morning and evening as previous, plus at lunchtime:

Week 1: 2 x up and down the office building + 6kg in the jacket
Week 2: 2 x building + 7kg jacket
Week 3: 2 x building + 8kg jacket
Week 4: 2 x building + 9kg jacket
Week 5: 2 x building + 10kg jacket
Week 6: 3 x building + 6kg jacket
Week 7: 3 x building + 7kg jacket

Week 8: 3 x building + 8kg jacket
Week 9: 3 x building + 9kg jacket
Week 10: 3 x building + 10kg jacket
Week 11: 4 x building + 6kg jacket

Week 12: 4 x building + 7kg jacket
Week 13: 4 x buiding + 8kg jacket
Week 14: 4 x building + 9kg jacket
Week 15: 4 x building + 10kg jacket

phew!! then I fly out and do it for real!
If you've stuck with me this far, thank you, and if you're reaching for that phone to talk to some nice folks in white coats to come carry me away, I can completely understand - I mean seriously why would anyone put themselves through this sort of voluntary torture for just 6 days of tramping up a hill?! 

Please feel to add some comments - would love to know your thoughts!
and now over to the Journal for day to day progress updates - see you on the next page!