** August Member Spotlight **
Q: You’ve been a part of our Infinity family since January 2017! Tell us what keeps you coming back.
A: On a simple level, it’s the scheduling, location, and structure. I like working out at 5:00 AM (and the option for later if need be), and Infinity is less than 3 miles and 8 minutes from my house. So I have no excuse to not go. I also really prefer a structured class with a coach; if I’m just in a gym with weights and machines, I find I meander and get less motivated. But those are the simple logistics and don’t necessarily differentiate Infinity; the reason I keep happily coming back are the people and the coaches. The members are some of the nicest, most encouraging and friendliest people I’ve ever met, and the coaches promote those feelings and keep positive energy always flowing into and through the gym.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Infinity & how do you stay motivated?
A: In addition to the members and coaches, it’s the universal lack of judgement, pretentiousness, cliques, and egos. I’ve visited other gyms where members were more concerned with how they looked while working out; that’s never the case here. Infinity members are sincere about wanting to be better, both physically and mentally, The overwhelming emotion you feel at Infinity is encouragement, never judgement. That’s unique and amazing, and keeps me motivated. Plus wanting to remain healthy and strong as I celebrate more birthdays 🙂
Q: What is your career & what are some of your interests outside of Infinity?
A: I’ve been a software nerd since I was 13 (which may explain why I had zero dates in high school), and have written code and worked for Oracle, Google, and a variety of startups and other companies, here in Phoenix and in Silicon Valley. My most recent roles have been as VP of Software Engineering and CTO (Chief Technology Officer), so I’m not writing code any more, but running technology organizations. I’m also a pretty avid photographer, and really love traveling internationally and learning about and exploring new places and cultures. I’ve visited 54 countries so far, and about 44 states in the US.
Q: You recently went on an epic adventure to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Tell us about that!
A: I spent some time backpacking around the world in my twenties, and had to decide between visiting Africa and Eastern Europe. I wanted to visit both, but chose Eastern Europe because with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was as much a slice of time as it was a destination. But Africa was still on my mind, and throughout my travels I’ve met more and more people who have described climbing Kilimanjaro as a must-do adventure if you are in East Africa (Kili is in Tanzania). So I’ve wanted to climb it for long time, but if you are going to go all the way to Africa (it was a 36 hour journey with four flights to get there), you obviously want to do a safari as well. I had a few things line up this summer with the time to take this trip, some great discounts on airfare and the tours themselves, and a great traveling companion, my 18-year old son Ilan, before he goes off to college in the fall.
We started in Rwanda, where it was fascinating to see how a country is still recovering 25 years after the horrific genocide during their civil war in 1994. It’s considered rude to ask if somebody is a Hutu or Tutsi; and if asked, they respond “I am Rwandan.” The genocide museum there was a stark reminder of man’s cruelty and had eerie parallels to some of the political rhetoric today. It was a heavy way to start, but I think important in the grand scheme of things, and to appreciate what we have today.
From Rwanda we went to Uganda to do something that seemed so fantastic and exotic, that when I’d heard about it years ago, I never thought I’d ever actually be able to do it. We visited and spent an hour in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda with Mountain Gorillas. There are only about 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, in the Congo (where you don’t want to go because of Ebola), Rwanda and Uganda. Some of the gorilla troops have been habituated to human presence (not actual contact, that’s not allowed as we can get each other sick), and so after the radio calls from the trackers as to where the gorillas were, we used machetes to hack our way through the aforementioned impenetrable jungle to find the troop. We got to observe and take pictures, and the armed rangers made sure that we never got between the silverback male and his mate (that wouldn’t end well for us) and you never want to lock eyes with the silverback as that can be taken as a sign of aggression and that may not also end well for you. Watching these majestic and powerful giants was nothing short of magical.
From there we went north to a similar experience with chimpanzees, who share 99% of our DNA. I was running, almost sprinting, just to keep up with them as they walked through the jungle. The Infinity workouts were good training for that, and chasing after them while getting scratched and scraped by the foliage was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
From Uganda we went to Kenya to see a baby elephant orphanage and spend some time in Nairobi. We then embarked on a nine-hour bus trip to Moshi, Tanzania, where our Kilimanjaro trek started. We took the Lemosho route, which is eight days long, provides ample time for acclimatization, and has a very high success rate. There are some routes that do it in five days, but their success rate is much lower. Infinity prepared me well for the physical and mental parts of the climb, but how your body reacts to altitude and rate of ascent is a completely different story. The summit (Uhuru Peak) is at 19,341 feet (higher than Everest base camp), and you make the summit attempt after trying to sleep at 15,331 feet (Barafu Camp). Various people in our group (10 of 11 made it to the summit successfully) were throwing up, had raging headaches, some delirium (I noticed that I had spelled iPhone as eyePhone in my journal), partial blindness, and other symptoms of extreme altitude sickness. You start the summit attempt at 11 PM, with temperatures plunging well below freezing, in hope of arriving at the summit for sunrise (which we did). At points you are taking a breath, then a single step, then another breath, then a step with the other leg, then repeat. You just keep plugging along. The medic in our group took our blood oxygen levels every night with a pulse oximeter; levels were around 88% before we started our summit attempt, and dropped to 80% at the summit. Temperatures at the summit range between -20 and 20 degrees F. It was between -5F and 0F when we were summiting. I wore four layers for my legs, and six layers for my chest and arms (my Infinity shirt was layer 4). Despite two pairs of gloves, my fingertips were numb for about 3-4 weeks afterwards. After about 15 minutes at the summit for pictures and high-fives, you begin the ascent down, down, down, for a three hour nap, then down, down, down to finally sleep at Mweka Camp at 10,065 feet, which despite being in a tent and not showering for a week, was still the best night of sleep ever.
After our Kilimanjaro success, we went on a safari to Serengeti National Park and saw zebras, giraffes, lions, elephants, hippos, water buffalo, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, a cheetah (yes, just one), wildebeest, gazelles, ostriches, and tons of beautiful birds and probably other animals I’m forgetting. We didn’t see the elusive rhino, but we did see a leopard kill a wildebeest in front of us! We also had a large bull elephant walk into our camp and start drinking water from a puddle, and plenty of zebra grazing in the grass next to our tents. One thing I noticed about the lions and lionesses in particular is that exactly none of them look like Mufasa or the MGM lion. Life in the wild is hard, and nearly all of them had plenty of scars and gashes, and some were limping.
All throughout the trip I was feeling more and more gratitude for the little things we have here, like being able to drink water from the tap (not to mention brushing your teeth with tap water), hot water, electricity, paved roads, street signs and traffic lights that aren’t optional, drivers who drive on the correct side of the road, not having to say “no thank you” to every single shop owner when they say “my friend, my friend, come into my shop”, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, ATMs without armed guards with automatic weapons, etc. My rough days here seemed so inconsequential after visiting a Masai village where their tiny houses were made from cow dung, termite clay, and branches, with a wood-burning cooking stove inside the house (you couldn’t be inside for even a few minutes without having trouble breathing). I hope I never, ever complain about a first-world problem again.
We wrapped up our month-long trip in Zanzibar (which has a fascinating history). I did some scuba diving in the Indian Ocean, we saw the house where Freddie Mercury grew up, and we did some shopping in Stone Town. And while the tip has some amazing and incredible highlights, the highest point for me was watching my son grow and flourish, how he interacted with the other people on our trip (Americans were always in the minority), and seeing him get infected with the travel bug. He’s off to college in a few weeks, and for his spring break, he’s already bought his ticket to London, and will be staying with and visiting some of the friends we made on our trip.
That was a really long description, and if you’ve read this far, thank you. If there is an empty page on my passport, I want to fill it, and at the top of my list are Galapagos, Antarctica and Iceland, followed by Australia/New Zealand, Japan, Scotland and Vietnam. Not sure what order I’ll see them in, but I want to keep traveling as long as I’m healthy and can, and Infinity is going to keep me in traveling shape.