Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm well rested

Cycle for Heart - I'm well rested.

In June of 2009, I finished my 4th tour across the USA. I was burnt out and needed a long rest.  While there are no words to describe how great it felt to speak at so many schools and reach out to thousands of people across America, the demand for Cycle for Heart was growing beyond my limited energy.  I was truly done and feeling like I needed to step away.  As I approached the end of the ride I knew I needed to stop when I would wake up in the morning and felt that waking up was a bad idea.  I took something that was once a challenge and the experience of a life time and turned it into a monotonous routine of daily life.  And I did it at the expense of my social and physical being.

I hate to say that cycling across the country can be redundant.  I had lost the perspective on a dream.  I had turned that dream into a business with an uncomfortably tight schedule of a procedure laden program.  Combine that with the fatigue of spending nearly a year's worth of time on a bicycle, alone, in horrible weather, on grueling hills, and it took a toll on my life.

So what better way to recover than to attempt the hardest thing I could do - cycle across Argentina and solo climb Mt. Aconcagua. 

On New Years Day 2010. I rode out of Buenos Aires.  The streets were comfortably quiet for a city home to millions.  And all the noise from a few hours before: the whistles, screams, cheers, booms and other vibrations associated with a city under siege; sounded like the party would never end.  But solitude gave way to thousands of people lining the street, standing behind barricades.  They were cheering me forward, snapping photos, and making me feel so good about being so confused.  But as I tried to translate the banners hanging across the road I realized that I was in the middle of a race course, the first day of the Dakar Rally.  Somewhere close by, hundreds of mad men where driving towards me at incredible speeds.  I quickly found the exit before being another Dakar statistic.

And that began a 1000 miles of cycling in two weeks with 100 degree temperatures and 85% humidity, mosquitoes, dangerous roads, friendly people, and beautiful countryside across Argentina to the Malbec vinyards of Mendoza at the foot of the Andes.

I left the bike with a friend and took the buss to an empty spot on the side of the highway, high up in the middle of the mountains.  Surrounded by high peaks on all sides, a hot and dusty rock canyon led away from the only road to civilization.  I put on a 92 pound pack (no guide, porter, or mule support) and started a painful walk into thin air.  4 days of biting black flies as big a bumble bees, precarious cliff hanging paths, screaming cold river crossings, searing heat, twisted ankles on boulder fields, and crippling pain from all the weight on my shoulders, and I made it to base camp.   After 10 days of climbing, slowly establishing higher campsites, thunder storms with lightning, snow & hail, -40 degree temperatures, there was one beautiful windless day on which I made the summit and did 25 pushups at 22841 feet. (highest mountain outside of the Himalayas)  I cried.  I was so proud of myself.

3 days later I returned to Mendoza, to find that I had pitting edema in my legs, had lost 17 pounds (1 pound per day), and had developed a nearly fatal case of rhabdomyolysis, which almost shut down my kidneys. But I ignored all medical advice and after only 6 days of sleeping and eating (took me two days to scoop a one-month supply of ensure powder into my mouth, with hits off my water bottle to wash it down), I tried to ride back to Buenos Aires. I made it 2 days before I nearly collapsed in 100 degree heat on the Argentine freeway.

I bought a buss ticket to the airport and took the first flight home, and I felt like I had accomplished something - I found myself.

And with that, I would like to ask you to please follow me for the next 3 months as I cycle from Fort Kent Maine to Seattle Washington, speaking to thousands of children about living a healthy active lifestyle, meeting with our elected officials, and getting the support of Rotary Clubs from across the country.  I wont be sending out long emails like this one, but for now on I will be sending a link to my new blog, where I can integrate video, pictures, and location to provide a interactive and complete picture of the journey.  On my website you can get live updates on my progress thanks to a GPS tracking toy.

Final note: over the years I have collected your email address along with thousands of others.  I have organize and safeguarded this list.  But with some recent and much needed technical upgrades, multiple emails and contacts have been merged together for my convenience.  I have done my best to go through this new list and remove contacts that should not be receiving this email.  If I have missed you, please send me a nice note and I will be prompt to respond.

Thank you,
Chris Figureida

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Ready to go

Ready to go...

After months of planning, I am one week away from flying to Maine, and 10 days from taking the first pedal stroke towards my west coast destination. Tomorrow, the bike will be shipped ahead of me, and hopefully awaiting my arrival in Maine.

"Know who you are, Know who you want to be, and Follow your dreams..."
-Antonio Figureida

Location:Ventura, CA