Author: Theresa

Don’t Leave Home Without It

I can remember as a little girl, adults yelling, “You think the rules don’t apply to you?!” It was usually after someone got caught doing something rather dumb. Well, very recently I had one of these moments myself.

For the last 8 years, I’ve prided myself as a bravangelist and guru of all things bra. I’ve spent time learning about sports bras, their features and benefits and why some work better for one cup and another a different cup. I’ve learned how to size and spent time giving women advice about which sports bras they should try. So after 8 years of perfecting my bra knowledge, why was I suffering from a chafed under-boob after a half marathon?

After completing a very successful team relay challenge back in September 2011, I found myself searching for the next challenge. I had worked so hard over the last year and was more proud of my mental and physical strides than I had been in a long time. It seemed like the perfect time for a new PR (personal record). So I set my sites on a sub 2-hour half marathon. A goal that had eluded me for many years. I had run the Kaiser Half Marathon on Super Bowl Sunday every year for the last 4 years in San Francisco and so naturally it seemed like the ideal race to make my mark.

Day of the race came and everything was in motion! I had my food plan, my hydration plan, I had done all the training, now I just needed to execute. The gun went off and I embarked on my journey. Everything was falling into place and I was having the best race of my life. Like in all half marathons, my body began to break down after mile 10 and getting from mile 11-12 was torture. Finally, I was on my last mile. While I couldn’t see the finish line because it was at the end of a hill, I could feel the adrenaline kick in as I realized I was going to make my goal time. As I crossed the finish line I stopped my clock. Final time 1:59:43, I had done what I set out to do. I could feel the tears welling up about the same time I could feel the burning sensation under my bra, but at that moment I didn’t care. I had accomplished something that I had my heart set on a long time and there was time for healing later.

Later that day, as I was applying Neosporin to my wounds, I was thinking about how stupid I was for running out the door in an old bra without Body Glide! I was so focused on my goal that I broke two of my cardinal bra rules. When running long distances, always use Body Glide under my bra strap. Even when you’re in a good bra, sometimes hours of repetitive motion can cause irritation and so always better to be safe than sorry. The second and most important rule is make sure that your bra hasn’t run too many miles. Over time bras naturally stretch out creating a loose band which reduces your support and allows for too much rubbing. You should always hang up old bras after a year and buy new ones. I clean in my old bras.

So while I wouldn’t change the outcome of my race, I have since been through my drawers and updated my bra wardrobe. I ordered two of my favorite sports bras, the Shape Up, and I found my Body Glide and put it in my gym bag. For me, being a bra-vangelist is not just about helping others out, but making sure that I’m also supported in all my athletic endeavors. Because after all, the rules do indeed apply to me too!


January 14th, 2011

The weeks are flying by here at CTAM! The holidays were good though it seemed arbitrary to have them as there is no distinction between night and day or from November to December to January. Only the emails and letters from home reminded us it was that time of year. Our galley was dimmed and a feast awaited us on Christmas night. A few people played a violin, a mandolin and a guitar and we all sat around and ate until our gift exchange. T-shirts from science projects, extra female urinals, used books, massage certificates, extra lotions, hidden bags of real coffee, weather balloons filled with helium, candy and a backgammon board were among the random gifts. We had a two day weekend filled with skiing, hiking nearby on the hills, board games, snow volleyball and naps.

About five of the eighteen science groups are done and have returned to a world with nights, stars, internet, traffic and kitchens of their own.

Each day we meet in the galley for breakfast between 7-8 o’clock, followed by morning announcements, flight schedules, camp tasks assignments and stretching (usually turns into a mini yoga session). After this we drift into out daily tasks.

Some people prepare reports or grade papers they brought with them, or write essays for journals. Operators climb into machines and groom the runway and town, move gear and rocks toward outgoing flights or around camp. Mechanics fix snow machines, heaters, generators and rock saws broken in the field. Others monitor air traffic, fuel aircraft, or catalogue and build cargo pallets, clean common facilities, shovel snow and there is never ending cooking and baking. I spend much of my morning assisting helicopter operations on the camp side.
I assure that the next group of sciencetist going out is weighed, briefed and ready for loading. In the evening I meet them on return and load their gear into sleds pulled by a snow machine.

About twice a week we get an LC-130 from McMurdo, bearing fresh food, mail from town, new visitors/scientists/rotating staff. They haul away our recycling, waste, tons of rocks for analysis, and people at the end of their stay. Today weather is poor in McMurdo (though sunny and beautiful here) so a flight with 37 people from South Pole unable to land in McM is rerouting here. We are scrambling to make dinner, tent sites, chairs, outhouses and melted water meant for 62 people to accommodate 99. I have not seen so many people in two months.


All is great here at CTAM

All is great here at CTAM [Central Transantarctic Mountains, a single-season large camp focused on research]. My first week here we were scrambling to get ready for scientists to arrive. The first groups flew in and then we had a beautiful three day ground blizzard. Winds tore through our little camp, bringing snow from the south to collect in winding drifts around every tent/pallet/snow machine. This whole time the skies were perfectly blue and clear. It was a good reminder that I am in Antarctica, despite the galley full of various foods and new movies projected on pull down screens.

Glimpse of CTAM

The storm cleared and we are racing to make up for lost time. Our helicopters and Twin Otter are busy shuttling scientists to various sites nearby for day or two week long studies. A C-130 comes daily from McMurdo, bearing new guests, fresh food, mail and resupply cargo.

As a general assistant I spend time organizing cargo, reforming snow steps to buildings, unloading and loading aircraft, tracking who’s where in tent city, unfreezing drain pipes, shuttling cargo around on sleds, placing signs in camp, shoveling snow from the snow mine to the galley’s snow melter, and various tasks that come up. We generally work 11 hour days with Sundays off. On Sunday we head for the mountains closest to camp for hiking or skiing. The views are splendid and almost unreal. Towering mountains in all directions rising to blue sky. Snow and glaciers lap and swirl at their bases and the sun is always bright overhead. The silence is expansive and the crunch of your footsteps on the dry snow carries for a long way.


I am off…

CTAM (Central Trans Antarctic Mountains) - A camp on the Beardmore Glacier.

I am off to camp tomorrow……I hope. The last several weeks we’ve been told we would be leaving before the end of the week. I think it is real this time though. I have been keeping busy in town. Trying to find work since I don’t really have a job here. I’ve shipped ice off pipes for plumbers, tested gear for the field camp gear issue, updated Excel spreadsheets and population graphs for other field camps, and put in countless bamboo flags and road markers on the ice roads outside of town. With a light wind loose snow blows over the roads surface and makes it almost impossible to see where the road is. Heavy equipments drivers compact the roads regularly and there is a never ending job of picking up dirt from the surface that falls off in clumps from town vehicles. Small rocks and dirt melt out large potholes in the 24 hour sunlight and ruin the surface of the snow roads. It has been a fun department to work with and has allowed me to get out of town for the past week. Lunch on those days is at the NASA balloon launch site and conversations are great.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday and we all had two days off which has been great, a chance everyone needed to go out or to rest. The galley fed us in four shifts and the meal was truly wonderful. Fresh fruit from New Zealand and desserts covered every inch of tables that did not already host turkeys carved by volunteers from all over town, gravy pots, various stuffings, crab legs, beans, stuffed peppers, cheese and vegetable platters, rolls and so much more. The tables were spread with white tablecloths and we were allowed to bring drinks in. Wine and Scotch (very popular throughout history in Antarctica) drinkers laughed and shared stories and we all left full and happy. It felt very much like a holiday and games and bands played into the night.

C-130 in action.

Today I will ‘bag drag’, take all my gear up to cargo to be weighed in for my flight on a C-130 to camp in the morning. My list of last minute tasks is growing: laundry, one more hot shower, phone calls, emails, packing, sending gifts home for the holidays, saying good bye to friends in town, and who knows what else. Once I get to camp I will not have internet or phone until early February when we brake the camp down and return to McMurdo. I will have a text only email at one-third the speed of dial up. I will still blog when I can. Until then I wish everyone the best of holidays and fun filled winters.


At last…

At last I am breathing the cold air and marveling at the crystal clear views of the frozen sea ice and mountains outside McMurdo, Antarctica. Weather kept up us in Christchurch for an extra four days. We could not get far from the city as we were always on call for departure. I took a long hike on the peninsula and soaked up some vitamin D while I could. I also spent time at the botanical gardens imprinting green into my memory.

McMurdo is a large base of close to 1,200 people. It sits on the southern most point of Ross Island which is in the frozen Ross Sea below New Zealand. The island is home to Mount Erebus, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Town is nestled in hills that sit over the flat blue ice of the sea. Across the ice (our airport until December) the coastal mountains of mainland sparkle in white grandeur and they jut into the air.

My first week was primarily training (GPS, outdoor safety/survival skills, forklift and vehicle ops, fire extinguisher, environmental impact, etc.). Part of my camp staff has flow out to set up the camp. I will follow around Nov 18th after the final scramble for things we will need for our three months in the Trans Antarctics. When our camp aircraft arrives and radio comms are up we will start welcoming the first of 18 different science groups in early December.

A summer client at home put me in contact with a diver and I have been able to ‘tend’ a few dives since I arrived. In a small tracked vehicle we rumble over the frozen sea to dive huts that are set over holes forged through the ice. The water below is cold, calm, and clear. It was inspiring to be so close to something so different to anywhere I have dove and see a glimpse of a totally different side of Antarctica. Tiny starfish and urchins are brought up to be weighed and counted, various experiments of water temperature and CO2 levels and currents are underway, and small metal samples are set to rest to test what minerals accumulate on them over time. There is an Observation Tube for those who can’t dive sunk below the ice just outside of town. After descending into a narrow shaft you emerged into a small glass and metal space where you can look out under the ice. It forms a cloudy sky over a land 80ft below that is cluttered with sponges, corrals, and scallops so that it seems like you are floating in the fading light over a hilled forest.

Last weekend I attended “Happy Camper” school where as a group of twenty we used wood saws to cut blocks of packed snow to build walls. We set up stoves and tents and dug sleep trenches. We spent the night and ate rations like those in the survival bags we’ll have anytime we leave camp (dehydrated food, snack bars and coco). The next day we practiced radio use, and simulated white out conditions by trying to find a missing person with buckets on our heads. It was great to get out of town and practice skills I use all summer but this time in a cold environment.

The weather has been mild, ranging from -10F to 20F with winds making it seem a little cooler at times. Our gear is great though and in town we are rarely outside except when between buildings. I am enjoying town as a melting pot of interesting people from all over. I have been able to learn about various science projects depending on who I sit with in the crowded galley during mealtimes. That said I am eager to get to camp and start my job and see the interior mountains.