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Natalia with the kite at “midday”

Yesterday off we finally went to a beach near Cumbuco, just outside of Fortaleza, with our instructor Luciano Cordeiro from 30 Knots, the school we are working with in this project. Fantastic experience!

Getting there took a little while – Luciano arrived at just before 11am – he had on the preceding day say 9am, but apparently the winds were pretty poor in the morning so when we called him, he gave us a new time. At first we were a little suspicious as Ceará state, as is pretty much the entire northeast of Brazil, has a quite a reputation for the laid back attitudes to punctuality, but when we got the beach an hour later, it seemed that we were the only second group on the beach for the day.

Ben with the kite at 9 o'clock, under the watchful eyes of Luciano our instructor

Ben with the kite at 9 o’clock, under the watchful eyes of Luciano our instructor

Luciano was very methodical and straightforward – starting from the beginning, the way I guess you should: unravelling the kite and the strings, pumping up the kite, and then tieing the knots from the trapezium to the kite, and then the basic positions of the kite… from “midday”, with the kite directly above us and the wind coming from behind us; 9 o’clock, with the kite off to the left side, and 3 o’clock over to the right. We just stayed on the beach by a lagoon practicing the control of the kite in these positions, rather than going on to a board where we would have the extra concern of staying afloat. For me the easiest part was at “midday” when there was very little pull from the kite, as off on the sides, I felt it easier to move out of the right position and the pull on my body increase. Moreover, for a big kite (12 metres), it was amazingly sensitive to any adjustments from the hands.

The time we had playing around with the stunt kite was actually pretty helpful, with the principles behind the wind dynamics being very similar – when the kite was in the three positions, there was relatively little pull from it, though any forced movement from our part and we instantly felt ourselves being pulled along. This went against our natural tendencies as when we felt like we were losing a bit of control, we had to ease off on our pressure on the kite bar, rather than trying to grip it and force it back under control. This would just make matters worse, and Natalia felt the consequences of that, when she was pulled from the beach and into the water. Fortunately it was okay and when she let go of the kite, she soon came to a halt without having any damage. Quite funny to watch and unfortunately I didn’t have the camera out at the time!

The three hours sped by all too quickly, and I think we did a decent job for our first time, so here’s looking forward to the next lessons!

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Ontem acordamos cedo para a ula de kite, havíamos combinado com o instrutor Luciano de saírmos às 8h. Por conta dos ventos acabamos saindo as 11h. O caminho da Maraponga a Icaraí é longo, uma hora no carro até chegarmos a lagoa. Lá aprendemos a montar o kite e quais cuidados com os nós e posições de descanso da pipa.

7U2A1907-smallO Luciano é um ótimo instrutor e foi explicando tudo com calma e de forma bem didática.

Depois da pipa pronta hora de aprendermos a usar os ventos e controlar.

Posição meio-dia

Temos que manter o kite na posição vertical, acima de nossa cabeça. Os pés ficam paralelos, joelhos flexionados, abdômen contraído e o corpo apoiado para trás, as duas mão na barra do controle.  Se o vento virar a pipa para um lado damos pressão para o outro, com bastante cuidado porque se dermos muita pressão ela vai virar de uma vez.

Eu e o Ben fizemos super bem essa parte.

Posição 9h

Manter o kite do lado esquerdo. O pé esquerdo a frente esticado, o direito mais atrás flexionado, abdômen contraído e o corpo para trás, somente a mão direita na barra controlando o kite. Aqui já é bem mais difícil, a pipa muda levanta e abaixa muito rápido e se você pede o controle é difícil reassumir. Outro problema é que para a pipa abaixar temos que empurrar/soltar a barra, e para a pipa subir temos que puxar. O problema é que quando nos desequilibramos precisamos soltar a barra mas o reflexo faz com que a gente puxe e aí você vai embora. Foi assim que levei o meu primeiro e único tombo da aula.

Posição 3 h

Aqui o kite fica do lado direito. O pé direito a frente e o esquerdo atrás flexionado, abdômen contraído, corpo para trás e mão esquerda na barra. Desse lado foi mais fácil de controlar tanto para mim quanto para o Ben.

Ao fim da aula estávamos bem cansados, mas surpresos. Esperávamos sair com dores leves nos ombros e braços, mas nada. Nenhuma parte sequer. No fundo trabalha muito mais as pernas e para nós que somos iniciantes e olhamos para cima o tempo todo o pescoço.

Certamente os treinos funcionais, musculação e a escalada nos preparam e muito para o kite.

Hoje aula de Wake vamos lá!

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Walking along Beira Mara, Fortaleza… somethings never change…

Back up to the northeast of Brazil, in the city of Fortaleza. Definitely nice being back – lots of good memories from here, and difficult not to feel a bit nostalgic. We have been staying with Natalia’s cousin, Jeane. When Natalia was younger, she lived with Jeane for a year or so and I guess it has been a good 15 years or so since they saw each other. So lots of catching up there.

We got here at 3am, but decided to stay at the airport until around 8am as didn’t want to wake Jeane and her family up… slightly too early for that, but not worth getting a hotel. The hours went by extremely slowly, especially with the airport television system playing the same clips over and over and over and over again, and no comfortable places to lie down. At least we managed to break my brother-in-law’s record on the Magic Alchemist (thank goodness for the iPad!), though, so something good came out of it! At 8am, we popped over to 30knot’s Wakeboard Park  and registered for our Kite Surf lessons, and then headed over to Jeane’s…

Since meeting up with Jeane, and getting introduced, not much has happened. Have been feeling pretty tired, though last night we went for a walk along Beira Mar – one of the main tourist avenues along the city beach front. A few changes with the addition of a “Japanese Garden”, a small Japanese-style park, though much of it all remains the same as I remembered, with a huge artisanal market along the beach. Nice ice creams as well!

Today we will have our first kite surfing lesson. The guy said yesterday that we would head off at 9am, though we called him a bit ago and he said “because of the winds” we won’t be heading off until 11am. Not sure how much this is due to the winds or to the slightly laid back way of Ceará state life… but still, hopefully we will be on our way in an hour or so. It will just mean that we will be surfing under the midday sun, which is pretty hot up here just three degrees below the equator…

Photo: Rsrsrsrs!!!!

A long way to go to the 13 million score of the global first place… but on our way… who knows, with another 5 hours at an airport, we might get it a little better…!

4am

Posted: June 1, 2013 by Ben Weber in Training
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At airport at 4am…. Easier staying here than going to hotel… Not much company around though!

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4am

Posted: June 1, 2013 by Ben Weber in Uncategorized

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At airport at 4am…. Easier staying here than going to hotel… Not much company around though!

It has been a difficult few weeks for me in terms of aches and pains. The first problem occurred about a month or so ago – I was going for a 15km run at a gentle pace and felt a pain in my calf muscle. I kept running, thinking it was cramp and that I could run it off. Big mistake as it turned into out to be a partial tear of the muscle, which ruled me out of a 6km race I had entered into. I’m no doctor, but the pain felt pretty much like it was in the location in the image – after the tear, it felt like there was a bit of a lump and redness there, I guess because of slight internal bleeding from the injury. The problem was exacerbated when, after the pain had died down a bit, I tried going for a run again and pushed myself a bit to far too soon… It can be very frustrating not being able to exercise properly.

Fortunately the muscle recovered in time for the last half marathon in Rio, but it is still a good reminder about how we need to be careful with our bodies and pushing ourselves too much too soon. After the half marathon almost two weeks ago now, my leg muscles were naturally tired, though just tired rather than any aggravated injury… the problem this time, however, being in my left foot which has been painful to walk on since the race, with the pain on the outside. It felt like a pain in the bone rather than any muscles. It seems completely better now, which is nice, so will need to see how it goes – not sure how/why it happened: the running shoes I wore were the same as the previous race (and gave no problems) and in which I have been training, and this is the first time such an injury has occurred.

Back to the gym this last week, but definitely no impact sports like running while the foot is like this. From tonight  we will be in the water for a week on the tropical beaches of Fortaleza, kite surfing so that should also be good as well as definitely not much impact in that! Swimming in the sea should be good as well for general fitness (so nope, not really a holiday though the location will be great!).

For the kite surfing, though the nice tropical beaches and hot weather will be an added bonus! I lived for a year or so in the city back in 2000, though I hear much has changed in that it has got ever larger. Will be great to be back and catch up with some old friends and definitely looking forward to the coming week. The city isn’t the most beautiful in the world in terms of architecture etc, and it does have its problems – harsh inequalities, crime, and it is not safe to be out away from the tourist places at night. However, it is an enjoyable place to be, and I do miss the ocean breeze, its accessibility and walking along the Beira Mar promenade. Will certainly be the warmest training project (and arguably the most fun…. but then again, every project we have done so far has been challenging and the rewards of managing to complete them have certainly outweighed any “suffering” we have had to endure in the process!!). But yes, flight at 11:30pm on Friday night and back in São Paulo next Sunday. Here we go!

On the glacier - IllimaniThe two climbers from our 360 Extremes training project in Bolivia, alone on the glacier up to the summit of Illimani; two insignificant dots on the ice, making a slow journey up in the thinner oxygen levels at over 6,000 metres (19,600 feet) above sea level.

Down from the mountainClimbing down the knife-edge ridge from the summit of Huayna Potosi, just over 6,000m above sea level. With a 1,000m  drop on one side and 500m on the other, it’s slightly scary for anyone with a bit of vertigo..!

 

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, often called the world’s greatest living explorer… what an inspiration! I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to finally finish reading the book (I kept on getting distracted, but that wasn’t fault of the book, because when you are reading it, it is not easy to put down… just reading on São Paulo buses isn’t so easy!), though I will probably re-read it just to jot down more notes about everything…! Thanks to my sister Lesley for giving it to me as a present!

His autobiography, details his adventures from early ages, in the army, the Poles… seven marathons in seven continents in seven days; learning how to climb mountains (at over 60 years old and after having had a heart attack) in order to face his vertigo; his first attempt at Everest and his climb up the north face of the Eiger… cutting off his own frost-bitten fingers… In a word… wow!

The autobiography is honest: He gives fantastic insight into the life of adventuring around the world, what has driven him, and what it takes, not just to succeed but also to admit defeat when you are so close to your goal. He shows himself to be critical of himself and others in appraisals and very much self-deprecating. I might not necessarily agree with some of his opinions about some of the legendary polar explorers in history, but still the stories that he tells throughout the book are pretty gripping and told in a good no-nonsense style.

I think this book is essential reading for any potential explorer and anybody who wants to get inspired by ideas or journeys that are seemingly impossible. Indeed, as Sir Ranulph shows in the book, “impossible” is pretty much defined by our own minds and imagination.

The Niteroi bridge

The Niteroi Bridge and the route we were to take – Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Back from another half marathon in Rio de Janeiro, my second such race, but this time going from Niteroi, over a 13km bridge, to Flamengo beach. A steady up-hill over the main hump of the bridge for the first few kilometers, and then just about downhill or flat from then on… more or less (there were occasional slight upward slopes that helped make things harder, especially towards the end when you think that the hard parts are over with)!

View over the bay

Looking over the bay from Niteroi to Rio de Janeiro Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Altogether it was pretty different from the previous course which was straight along the beach for 17km before having a devilish uphill for a kilometer or so before going down to the finish. This time we had splendid views over the bay and it was neither too hot nor too cold, and altogether quite enjoyable as well as pretty unique. With this uniqueness comes the popularity – around 8,000 athletes joined the race, about twice as many as the previous one I was in.

My time last time was 1h54m59s and this race, with a bit more training (which was admittedly interrupted for a little while by my pulling a calf muscle and then re-pulling it when I tried to run too fast too soon), I managed to reduce this time to 1h50m31s. So I was pleased.  I am suffering a bit as I write now – my right knee hurts (just below the knee to be precise), and the outer side of my left foot is not great, so am hobbling a bit and it wasn’t nice getting up this morning!

Also, at the same time as being pleased for beating my previous time, I was slightly disappointed: my pace for every kilometer up to 19km was between 4m41s per kilometer and 5m26s/km and I was pretty much dead-on completing it in 1h46m… In the last two and a bit kilometres, however, my body faltered and my pace reduced quite a bit to around 6mins/km. From then it was all psychological and pushing myself to get to the end.

But still, I suppose this can be my next goal for the Porto Alegre half marathon which happens at the end of June. It looks to be a hillier course for that race, however, so it might be tougher, but hopefully it should go alright.

Medal ceremony with Lourenço! Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Medal ceremony with Lourenço! Photo: Lourenço Alcimar

Cutting expenses

Posted: May 17, 2013 by Ben Weber in English
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Neither Natalia nor myself are particularly wealthy, so financing everything we are doing is not easy. For Brazil, we do reasonably well – definitely firmly there in the middle (maybe upper middle, but a long way off the elite classes here as they just earn ridiculous amounts!). In São Paulo, if we didn’t have the project to finance, we would be able to do just about everything we would like to do for a normal life; cinema, restaurants, night-outs, internet, TV etc etc etc. I obviously can’t complain and am not complaining at all, so please don’t take it like that…!

For the project, however, we are talking about considerable investments – soon we will be starting work with a PR company to boost the presence of the project in the media (yes, we need attention!). PR isn’t cheap, either, no matter where you are in the world. We need to buy equipment that isn’t cheap (take a look at Ozone Frenzy kites and then remember that we will need five each for the overall journey, with different sizes used in different strengths of wind…) even one 6m storm kite is expensive at just under 900 pounds (r$ 3000)… cross country skiis (with wooden cores and metal edges) and bindings; boots; special harnesses for kites and sled-pulling; cold-weather clothing and equipment; the actual sleds themselves… a lot of stuff… and then finance the training projects, none of which are cheap.

So we have to cut down on our little luxuries in order to make things balance or at least manageable.

We are using a free application called Yupee to help us work out where we can reduce our expenses and just inputting in our normal monthly expenditure and it is incredible how much we spend at the supermarket…..! We live right next to a 24hour Pão de Açucar – one of the more expensive supermarkets in São Paulo… so we want to decrease spending on this by about half. Lunch time at the office during the week… I work on Avenida Berrini, and most of the places to eat there are all expensive, so more lunches at the office. Reducing costs like these will definitely help, plus just controlling ourselves when we have the urge to succumb to our somewhat materialistic natures and urges that have been pushed away over the last months though every now and then resurface… self-control is a must and not giving in to temptation is essential!

buenosaires-natBuenos Aires is a wonderful city, and a welcome escape from São Paulo – and going to the San Telmo market on a brisk morning is certainly one of the highlights.

 

Dare you to walk over to that ridge...

It has been a good year and a half since we officially started working to this project; a good couple of years or more since we came up with the ideas. A lot of things have happened and a lot of things will still be done. It goes without saying that without  sponsorship, the more ambitious parts of the projects, the Poles, will simply not be possible – the whole logistics of these parts would be prohibitively expensive. But, in cutting down our daily expenses on little luxuries; spending less money going to restaurants, more time training and building the project, we have been able to do a lot more than we ever could have imagined that we would do prior to committing ourselves to this, and we still will be able to do a lot more.

Riding through the snowWorse case scenario and it doesn’t work out (yes it’s a worry!), we still will have opened up a completely new world of adventure and sports that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. If we hadn’t committed ourselves to this… goodness knows what we would be doing, but am pretty sure that we would not have gone mountaineering in Bolivia, and am pretty certain we would not have ridden from Land’s End to John O’Groats in winter. We probably wouldn’t be going to the gym and be in anywhere as near as good health as we are today, and I doubt that we would be entering into the various races we are going into now. We probably would be just working away, content but not happy with everything, in a standard city life somewhere, wondering what wasn’t quite right.

But fortunately we did come up with this whole mad-cap crazy project, and the world that has been opened to us is incredible. So much to do! Kite surfing (training for the polar training) in June… (hopefully) a two-week adventure race in Chile in February 2014, to be swiftly followed by our polar training at Baffin Island for a few weeks in February-March 2014… followed by either another mountaineering expedition or a traverse of the Greenland ice-cap (something that no Brazilian woman has ever done, as far as I have seen, so Natalia will be the first!)… exciting stuff! And then off… in August 2014.

The question is, do we wait a year longer if we can’t get sponsorship, or just go anyway on a round-the-world bike ride…? that is a good question and one that I do not yet know how to answer.

Arroz integral com cogumelos, hamburguer de salmão e gergelim e salada de folhas com ovo de codorna

Arroz integral com cogumelos, hamburguer de salmão e gergelim e salada de folhas com ovo de codorna

Well, aside from the physical training, we have still been seeing our nutritionist, Isabella Alencar, regularly to discuss our food and progress with everything. We need to do some regular blood tests, just to see the levels of the various vitamins, cholesteral and everything – everything was good last time, though just to make sure that everything has stayed good and even, hopefully, improved.

Peito de Frango assado com Cenouras, Brocolis Refogado e Cuzcuz Marroquino Com Limão

Peito de Frango assado com Cenouras, Brocolis Refogado e Cuzcuz Marroquino Com Limão

Poor Natalia has, however, had to go on a diet for the next few weeks – she is into her third week of ten – to lose about 5kg. She is in good form, but Isabella and our personal trainer, Alercinho, think that it will help in all round performance. In the morning she has to drink a protein shake plus a slice of toast with something like cottage cheese. For lunch and dinner, it doesn’t mean that she has to avoid any particular foods – she just has to be limited. For these meals she can have two soup-spoons worth of carbs like rice, cuscus or pasta; two small pieces of chicken or beef or other protein; three soup spoons of vegetables, and salad. It is good because we have been eating pretty nice and varied meals after the gym in the evening.

As for me, I have to go back to a lactose-free diet for at least a month – basically there are suspicions that I have an intolerance to milk products, so no cheese, yoghurt, milk, milk chocolate or anything like that for me… shame because that pretty much covers all of my favorite foods! Have done this once before and it wasn’t too hard once I got into it… it’s just the thought of missing all these things which isn’t great! But I gotta do what I gotta do..!