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Equipped to Walk the Great Wall of China

Robert Loken Walking the Great Wall

Stephen Robert Loken of Norway, 42, recently spent 601 days hiking the entire Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Great Wall, which spans approximately 3,728 miles (6000km). To do so, he had to overcome extreme temperatures, ranging from a scorching 109oF (43oC) to a frigid -9oF (-23oC), face poisonous scorpions, venomous snakes, ferocious dogs and trudge through desert, forest and tundra.

While many people have walked the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, Loken was the first person in the world to complete the entire route from Jiayuguan, in Gansu Province, to Dandong, in Liaoning Province. Loken claimed all others have stopped at Shanhaiguan, in Hebei Province, missing the route’s last quarter.

Walking this route had been a dream of his since age 19, after walking Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. At a youth hostel, he spotted six pictures of the Great Wall of China with the text: “The other wall”. To him, this aspiration was worth selling his house and belongings, quitting his job as an IT-consultant, and leaving his hometown for nearly two years.

Loken spent a hefty amount of time preparing for the trip, training and gathering the proper equipment to aid him through the entire walk. During his quest for items, Loken came across the Coolibar Travel Shirt, which he wore every single day throughout his journey. He also utilized a Coolibar sun hat and pants. “What stood out to me is how long [the apparel] lasted,” said Loken. “I used the shirt every day of the entire walk, and the only damage it got was from the thorns and bushes when I crept through jungle like terrain close to Beijing and in Hebei province.”

Robert Loken walked on top of the Great Wall as sand had almost engulfed it completely Robert Loken walked on top of the Great Wall as sand had almost engulfed it completely

Coolibar clothing also helped Loken get through the Gobi desert without suffering heat stroke. “At the warmest, it was 43oC (109oF), and that was in the shade,” said Loken. “The problem however is that there is no shade in the Gobi desert apart from the one you bring along with you. The clothes were only hand washed for the entire trip, and they dried incredibly quickly. I ordered more shirts upon returning and am looking forward to using a new Coolibar shirt after all the battering the last one got.”

Home in Oslo, Norway, Loken reflected on his achievement of not only completing this walk, but raising research funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Regarding the journey, Loken said, “The most important thing is not about being the first person in the world [to walk the entire Great Wall], it’s about following my dreams. It was a life’s ambition. I lived up to it.”

Read more about Robert’s journey on his blog The Great Walker.

Shop Coolibar Sun Protective Clothing.

Robert Loken's Great Wall Route Robert Loken’s Great Wall Route
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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

A 6-Year-Old Melanoma Hero

It’s not fair that anyone should have to deal with something as life altering as melanoma, especially a 6-year-old. Rachael was only 5 when she was diagnosed with stage III melanoma on September 10, 2009. After a year of battling and conquering melanoma, Rachael and her family know all too well why sun protection is important.

It all started with a little mole on her left arm that Rachael complained hurt. Rachael’s mom, Danielle, took her to the doctor thinking the mole was nothing, but better be on the safe-side. Once at the Doctor’s office, the physician removed the mole and everything was assumed to be okay. While this spot was not initially diagnosed as stage III melanoma, after the first biopsy, doctors knew it was something. It was confirmed after Rachael had a wide local excision on her arm three inches long and a biopsy of the sentinel lymph node, where they removed a few lymph nodes to look for cancer cells. 

While the typical survival rate for stage III melanoma is 60 percent, Rachael was in a rare, but good situation for the circumstances. Doctors told Danielle that children under the age of 10 diagnosed with malignant melanoma have a high survival rate, but further action was necessary. The treatment Doctors recommended for Rachael has been used on less than 100 children in Rachael’s situation and all survived. Her treatment never incorporated chemo, but rather surgery (to remove all lymph nodes under her left arm), four weeks of interferon given daily through an IV using a picc line (which can make the patient ill), weekly injections through the picc line for 48 weeks, and what will be years of follow-up tests. Rachael received a bead through the Beads of Courage program for every treatment she went through. By the end of the year, her necklace of beads was worth more than a thousand words.

Rachael's Beads of Courage

Fortunately, Rachael’s cancer was caught early. She is living healthfully and cancer-free now among her parents and brother; however, her journey to wellbeing was not an easy one, and the experience has forever changed her life as well as her family. Danielle says, “A year into this, how has life changed for us? I think about the sun every single day… I no longer think 15 minutes without sunscreen is okay. Rachael wears a hat every day.  She wears it in the pool.  She wears it to the beach.  She wears it in the shade.” Danielle does this with great reason too. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 65 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Rachael and those surrounding her are now all practicing sun-safe habits every day under the sun.

Danielle’s Blog chronicles their family’s journey through pediatric melanoma: http://iloveyoumorethanmost.blogspot.com

Organizations such as the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation aggressively focus attention on the need to teach “prevention” and “sun protection” to children, and their caregivers. Learn more about this program and tools you can use to teach future generations how to be SunAWARE.

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Success Stories Videos Wellness Warriors

The Villages Leathernecks Dragon Boat Team

The Leathernecks Dragon Boat Team

Ah, Retirement – time to sit back, relax, and reflect on life. Not anymore and certainly not for the Leathernecks Dragon Boat Racing Team of The Villages, a retirement community in Florida! This racing team is a National Champion – taking home the “Gold Medal” in the 200 meter race and a “Silver Medal” in the 500 and 2,000 meter races in the 2010 USDBF Club Crew National Championships.

The 24 member Leathernecks Dragon Boat Team is comprised of former and retired U.S. Marines and their wives or significant others, whose average age is 66. The slang term “Leatherneck” is used to describe United States Marine Corps members and originated from the leather collar formerly part of the uniform, worn for protection of the neck during sword combat. A fitting name for our retirees!

Watch Team Leatherneck footage from the 2010 USDBF National Championships.

Though these Leathernecks are no longer protecting their necks from swords, they are protecting themselves from UV. Many of the team’s members are battling skin cancer in one form or another and spend countless hours training and racing in the sun. The Coolibar Short Sleeve Swim Shirt provides UPF 50+ protection for Team Leatherneck, to which their dermatologists are celebrating. You can’t keep these guys off the water!

The Villages Leathernecks practice two days a week on Lake Dora and spend another two days lifting weights and physically training. Their fierce competitive spirit has earned them the respect and admiration of the many much younger teams in the Florida Dragon Boat Circuit. The Leathernecks serve as a reminder that life doesn’t end at retirement, in fact for many, it’s just begun.

The 2011 World Championships will be held in Tampa, Florida this August. Here’s to another Gold Medal for The Villages Leathernecks Dragon Boat Team!

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Wellness Warriors

Follow up on the Grand Canyon Peeke Performers – Reflecting on the Expedition

This past September eight adventurous women took on the challenge of hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim as part of their journey of personal fitness and wellbeing.  The two-day 26.2 mile hike involved over 5,800 feet of descent and 4,500 feet of elevation gain, while each person carried 25 pound backpacks along the way.

Many factors attributed to the overall success of the difficult hike, one being the excellent guidance of hike leader Dr. Pamela Peeke, a renowned nutrition, fitness and health expert. Dr. Peeke says, “This is when all of those hours you spent in the gym, or were physically active, really paid off. You need strong legs, great balance and flexibility, as well as mental and physical stamina and endurance, to survive this advanced hiking trek. Mind and body unite to allow you to thoroughly embrace and enjoy every single moment of the journey.”

Dermatologist Dr. Shanny Baughman also attributes her success to physically and mentally preparing. “I leapt at the chance to join Dr. Peeke and her “Peeke Performers” on this hike,” says Dr. Baughman. “After opening my derm office in October, 2008, my energy was all going into the practice.  I was becoming the person I never wanted to be – middle-aged and out of shape.  Well, I can only change one of those, and Pam has helped me do that. She has been counseling me to incorporate exercise into my daily routine.”  

Dermatologist Dr. Baughman also brought her expertise in skin health to the group. “I had two concerns about the trip – 1) would I be able to make it and 2) how to stay protected from the sun for two days straight?” says Dr. Baughman. While Dr. Peeke helped Dr. Baughman ease her first concern, Coolibar assisted in eliminating her concern about sun protection. The Grand Canyon provides very little shade and the sun’s rays can become extremely intense. Wearing the provided Coolibar shirts and hats allowed the trekkers to focus on their journey and pay less attention to sunburns and heat exhaustion. “Spray-on sunscreen with zinc oxide, and sun protective hats and shirts from Coolibar kept our skin hidden from the intense UV rays,” says Dr. Baughman.  “The garments and hats were effective yet light weight.  I couldn’t imagine the trip without them.  They fit well, yet were loose enough for hiking, climbing up switch backs, and over streams.”

All of the Peeke Perfomers mentally and physically prepared for this challenging task by exercising, eating well and finding a reliable source of sun coverage. With this in mind, Dr. Peeke sends us these encouraging words. “By the end of the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike, every participant realized that if they could get through this mental and physical feat, they could probably get through anything in life. That’s the beauty of these challenges. You could do the same thing. Choose a challenge, any challenge (e.g. walk or jog a 5K, walk 4 miles and live to talk about it!), and see how that achievement gifts you with the confidence to face life’s curve balls.”

Prepare for your next challenge, and stay sun safe.

Dr. Peeke and the Peeke Performers
Dr. Peeke (in the middle with orange shorts) and the Peeke Performers

 

Peeke Performers making the descent
Peeke Performers making the descent
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Wellness Warriors

High Altitude Sun Protection

Above the Clouds – Beneath the Sun

We at Coolibar have great admiration for those who pursue intense outdoor adventures and strive to help them do it safely.  Height seeking mountain climbers need to be aware of the dangers of UV at higher altitudes.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “UV intensity increases with altitude because there is less atmosphere to absorb the damaging rays. As a result, the chance of damaging your eyes and skin increases at higher altitude.”

Our friend Paul Ridley of Row for Hope shares his Mountaineering experience.

High altitude mountaineering comes with lots of obvious risks: avalanches, crevasses, falling ice, high winds, and high altitude sickness. As a climber with two parents who’ve battled melanoma, I’m acutely aware of the health risk from sun exposure that is only a second thought to many mountaineers.  

In the thin air climbers encounter above 10,000 feet there is often no hope of protection from clouds, and the thin air and reflective snow makes for dangerous sunburns. While climbing I’ve been sunburned on the roof of my mouth, the underside of my nose, and inside my nostrils.

Paul Ridley – Muir Snowfield

Keep in mind there is enough reflected UV that even in a shaded area, skin can sunburn. Apply sunscreen to exposed areas to avoid a burn, even if you plan on wearing a sun hat or staying in the shade.  The Coolibar Face Shield offers both the skin –coverage protection and breathe-ability that sun-conscious climbers need at altitude.

Take it from Paul and remember to protect your skin, especially at high altitude.

  • Sun protective clothing, including a hat with a three-inch brim, will protect you at all times of the day. 
  • Use ample sunscreen on those parts of your skin that will be exposed – face, neck, top of ears, hands.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. 

Be SunAWARE and Be Safe!

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Wellness Warriors

The Grand Canyon Peeke Performers

Every year over five million people from all over the world visit the Grand Canyon.  Less than 1% of those visitors ever reach the bottom.  Of those that actually complete the Rim-to-Rim hike, only 8% are women.  

These statistics didn’t dissuade eight determined women.  The Grand Canyon Peeke Performers physically and mentally challenged themselves to complete the rigorous Rim-to-Rim hike as a part of their journey of personal fitness and well-being.  They hiked the Grand Canyon north rim to south rim, with an overnight stay at the base.  The 26.2 mile (marathon distance) trek included 112 degree temperatures and the load of their 25-pound backpacks. 

The Peeke Performers were lead by wellness expert Dr. Pamela Peeke, who invited her friend and colleague, The US Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, who shares a love of hiking.  With the addition of 6 adventurous women the Rim-to-Rim hikers were assembled and trained for months with Dr. Peeke to increase their stamina and endurance in preparation for the challenge.

Dr. Pamela Peeke and Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin

Dermatologist Dr. Shanny Baughman, a Grand Canyon Peeke Performer, brought this momentous hike to Coolibar’s attention.  Being a dermatologist, Dr. Baughman was concerned about UV exposure while in the Grand Canyon, with virtually no protection from the sun.  They needed lightweight, breathable, sun protective gear – that’s where Coolibar came in.  Coolibar equipped the 8 women with UPF 50+ hats and shirts to keep them protected from the sun.

Pictured below are The Grand Canyon Peeke Performers at the start of their expedition.  More details to come on their Rim-to-Rim adventure.

Grand Canyon Peeke Performers - Wearing their Coolibar UPF 50+ Travel Shirts and Lightweight Sun Hats
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Wellness Warriors

14 Year Melanoma Survivor

Tim Burriss, Melanoma Survivor and founder of the Stay Out of the Sun Foundation passionately promotes awareness of the dangers of sun exposure and melanoma research.  He discusses his work with us.

I am a very grateful 14 year melanoma survivor! 

In May 2006 I started the Stay Out of the Sun Run to benefit melanoma research and education at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  We have had great success and have contributed over $120,000 to the Mayo Clinic and have had over 2,700 participants in just 5 years.  

Mayo Clinic has used these proceeds for the 2009 Melanoma Patient Symposium, Melanoma CME course for the professional staff, and Mayo Proceedings publication of several research articles prepared by Mayo Clinic researchers.  We are in the process of wrapping up the 2010 event and starting the preparations for the 6th Annual Stay Out of the Sun Run on May 20, 2011.  For more information please visit our website at Stay Out of the Sun Foundation

 
2010 SOSR 10K Runners - Rochester, MN

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Wellness Warriors

Would you Row 3,000 Miles to Fight Cancer?

That’s exactly what Paul Ridley did last year when he set off from Africa toward South America, crossing the whole of the Atlantic Ocean, solo.  The expedition and Row for Hope was an opportunity for Paul (and his sister Joy) to make a significant contribution to cancer research in memory of their mother, who lost her life to skin cancer in 2001.

While planning for his excursion, Paul turned to Coolibar for his sun protective clothing needs.  We outfitted him with UPF 50+ hats, swimwear and shorts, to keep him protected from the intense sun for his 87 days on the ocean.  Paul wore his Coolibar swim shirt during the heat of the day to stay cool, but rowed shirtless in the morning and at night.  He was pleased at how incredibly breathable and fast-drying his shirt was.

A quote from Paul;

Some people have told me that making a difference in the fight against cancer is an impossible challenge. Others have said that rowing oceans requires impossible risk. Here at Row for Hope we know that together we possess the powerful combination of hope and determination that can prove them wrong.

Row for Hope, a public charity, partnered with Yale Cancer Center to fund cutting-edge cancer research.  The $500,000 raised will help to expand the efforts of Dr. Mario Sznol, Vice-Chief of Medical Oncology and Co-Director of the Yale Cancer Center Melanoma Program. 

If you would like to contribute, you can do so by visiting the Row for Hope website.

Row for Hope Logo
Row for Hope Logo
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Expert Rx Wellness Warriors

Tennis Anyone?

Improve your Game 

On the heels of the US Open, we wanted to call attention to the vast number of hours that tennis players spend in the sun, exposed to harmful UV.  While we understand that sun protection is not your main focus while on the court there are some alarming statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation that tennis players cannot ignore. 

 

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.

 Jennifer Reinbold, a former pro tennis player who now coaches in Indianapolis spoke to the Skin Cancer Foundation about her experience.  Jennifer competed in nine grand slam tournaments, reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 1983 before losing to the eventual winner, Martina Navratilova.  After years of sun exposure, and some incident with skin cancer, Jennifer practices what she preaches: Respect the sun! 

        “Q: Do you think the message about sun protection is getting through?” 

“A: There is more sun awareness today. Most players I teach or play with wear sunscreen and have a hat in their tennis  bags. However, they don’t usually reapply sunscreen when playing for extended periods. Also, just because they have a hat or visor doesn’t mean they use it! Many players don’t realize their scalps are as vulnerable as the rest of their bodies.” 

Some of the best players on the court have dedicated themselves to promoting skin cancer awareness, including tennis pro Andy Caress.  Before he lost his battle with melanoma last August, at the age of 25, he started the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation (formerly Mela-KNOW-More) to alert the world of the seriousness of Melanoma Skin Cancer and the dangers of the sun’s harmful rays.  Andy said, “I did not understand that I was threatening my life when I went outside and did not wear sunscreen.  I was 23 and figured I was way too young to worry about cancer.”

The good news is that there are simple SUNAWARE steps you can take to protect yourself from UV, and it’s never too late to start.

So grab your racquet, hat, UV T-shirt and sunscreen and hit the court! Protect yourself from the sun so you can concentrate on your game. 

Point, Set, Match!

 

Andy Caress – Founder Mela-KNOW-More
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