Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mount Kilmanjaro

Hey friends! At 6:34 a.m. local time Friday I summited the world's largest free-standing mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro with my buddies Jesse and Paul Yaginuma! I consider it one of my biggest personal achievements and got so much out of the journey. The idea was proposed by Jesse and Paul over a year ago. I initially laughed it off thinking it was an unattainable goal. I'm really, really, really glad I looked further into it. A big thank you to the Yaginumas for being such cool fucking guys with ambition and a strong desire to live their lives to the fullest. This reiterates to me just how essential it is that we all keep an openmind about everything. Opening one's mind isn't a process that happens overnight. It's a matter of being exposed to different people, things and places. I'll take this platform, however small it is, to try to express that through this documentation of my Kilimanjaro experience:
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One of my immediate worries before I left was that I had overtrained in the final days leading up to the climb. When we booked this trip Jesse and I were about to head off to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is the busiest time of my year professionally so getting in tiptop shape was going to be hard work. I managed to get to the nearby 24 Hour Fitness in Vegas a handful of times where I would generally walk 35-45 minutes on the treadmill's maximum incline 15.0 at about 3.2 MPH (5.15 KM/H). I tend to keep myself in pretty decent shape but found this workout intense. In retrospect this was a poor way to train, but I had very limited time to get outside and do hikes in Las Vegas. Looking back, a better way to train would be longer walks at less steep inclines and at a slower pace. I finished my time in Vegas and made it to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. When I wasn't catching up with family and friends I was at Oak Mountain State Park hiking. I found a hike there that would keep me somewhat sheltered from Alabama's devastating summer heat and humidity. I'd routinely take the Green Trail to White to Yellow/White Connector to Yellow back to my vehicle. Birminghamians should definitely get out to Oak Mountain if you haven't. It is incredible. I kept hiking until about a week up until my Kilimanjaro climb. I did a quick 4 mile run in the Bama heat one day and then memorably ran a community 5k on a full stomach from the eatery Purple Onion the next, nearly puking for the final half kilometer.
I was in a great state of mind when I left Birmingham on July 31. I caught up with all my family and some friends which is always the best. Additionally I stayed on my meditation grind, more on that later. After a nine hour flight from Atlanta I connected through Amsterdam where KLM Airlines took over carrying service. I arrived to Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania after 22 hours of travel through eight different time zones to the nightmare that only my duffel bag had arrived. Additionally I'd packed a huge suitcase that included my day pack and much of the essential gear I needed, perhaps most importantly my broken-in hiking boots. My concern became real while waiting with many others in the lost baggage line in the third world country--watching workers document all of the claims with paper and pen. I filed my claim and was told that my baggage was most likely in Amsterdam and wouldn't arrive in time for my hike which was to begin in just thirteen hours.
I made it to our hotel and Jesse and Paul helped me keep my sanity. I was additionally calmed by the director of the tour company we'd hired, Ultimate Kilimanjaro, and told we could buy everything I needed the next morning. I slept surprisingly well. 
We had breakfast at the hotel as we awaited pickup by Ultimate. When the van arrived, the porters loaded all of our gear onto the top of the van and we piled in with the guides, porters and cook. In total, seventeen of us were in the van for around ninety minutes in addition to an hour worth of stops on the way to our starting gate. Before we could even get our backpacks on a monkey that was swinging from an overhead tree fell just feet from us then scattered away into the woods. We admittedly started the climb entirely too fast and broke quite a sweat on the first incline into the rainforest. I remember thinking "What did I get myself into?" Our guide Ewald aka "Professor" had to rush in front of us from below to slow us down.
We got a great taste for the rainforest and quickly made camp on day 1. Guides and hikers are required to sign in each afternoon at camp. Something is cool about the fact that history of Kilimanjaro is documented with paper and pencil. It goes along with the awesomeness behind the idea that you're out there, it's just you and nature and no interference. We arrived to 2 two-man tents that had already been set up by our porters, a mess tent where we would eat dinner each night, and a few chairs which we would generally chill in each afternoon after completion.
A quick note on the porters that carry all the equipment up the mountain: they are superhumans. They scurry up and down the mountain at a pace you won't believe until you see it with your own eyes. They balance or lightly support gear on their head in addition to wearing backpacks, tents, folding tables, and all kinds of other stuff. Even guys that weren't particularly big or were slightly overweight were getting after it. It was in two words, humbling and inspiring. In the next month or so I'm going to put together a short video of some of the footage from the climb and you will see it for yourself.
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We ate dinner on night 1 and left only crumbs. Jesse, Paul and I can really put down some food. The porters likely were laughing amongst themselves about fact that there was never a scrape of leftovers from the enormous portions they'd give us. Dinner each night was always a soup with bread, followed by rice or pasta with a meat or mushroom sauce. Or fried fish and potatoes. Or a plate full of carbs like grilled cheeses, muffins?, and other bread. One night at dinner we were brought our first dish. It looked delicious and I said, "Yum, chicken quesadillas". Paul took the first bite and started laughing uncontrollably as it was some sort of banana/nutella mix that we weren't expecting. It was a running joke on our trip. I found all of the food delicious, but another joke amongst my friends and me is that I will eat everything and tell you it's the best I've ever had. There was a chili flavored ketchup made by American Garden that we loved and ate  on whatever we could. It was the likely contributor to the tremendously painful heartburn/indigestion that I battled for the entire trip. I should have listened to my Mom when she recommended to me multiple times to take medicine along the mountain with me.
On night 1 I had my first experience with the Kilimanjaro outhouses. The process was to squat to a hole in the ground when as we like to say, you're "changing your diaper". The outhouses aren't exactly clean and don't smell the greatest. It was a workout in and of itself.
I mostly was asleep by 8 or 8:30 each night, occasionally rolling around in the tent for a little while when the conditions became colder. And let me tell you it was cold. On the final night it was to a point where we wrapped up in everything that we had in order to stay warm. As it got colder we all three slept in just one two-man tent for warmth. In my other downtime I read best selling Freakonomics on the mountain and found it interesting. We spent 20+ hours on the mountain playing a card game called "Presidents" that the guys introduced to me. I got pummeled all trip long.
I awoke around 3-5:30 a.m. each day, content with my night's sleep. The sun came up at 6:30 each day and we were able to catch some beautiful sunrises. I managed to meditate four to five days on the trip which was instrumental in me making summit. Breakfast each morning was a big bowl of pourage which we mixed with chocolate nutella, peanut butter or honey. Afterwards we were brought a platter with three eggs, six pieces of toast, and three medium pieces of sausage. I'd fold the sausage and egg in the bread and coat it with the chili ketchup.
We'd eventually get underway with our hikes from 8:30 to 9 a.m. The hikes were obviously spectacular and I stayed in the moment as best I could. We spent lots of time talking and joking, and I feel like I learned so much from my hiking mates. Occasionally toward the end of hikes we would stream music as motivation. I played Eric Prydz "Liberate" countless times.
We eventually emerged from the rainforest and things really started to open up. It wasn't until late day 2 that we actually got a view of the peak that we'd attempt to conquer. It was a cool feeling not thinking but knowing that the guys and I were going to summit. I don't really have words to describe the views we saw along the way, so I'll let the footage speak for itself when I put it together. I used a GoPro that I wore on a headband. I would have liked to get more footage but was often in the moment and would forget to start rolling. I think we got some great stuff between the three of us. 
The summit day at Kilimanjaro is the experience that most needs to be written about. We reached base camp around 2 p.m. on Day 6. For the first six days we averaged around 4 hours of hiking per day including occasional stops for rest or water. We had just a ten hour break before our summit climb was set to begin at midnight, starting day 7. The guys and I managed to get very little sleep in the meantime.
We awoke to an alarm at 11:15 p.m. and finished putting on all of our gear before consuming some tea and crackers. We got underway around 12:30 a.m. We began the steep ascent of the mountain in the dark night lit up only by an unforgettable view of the full moon and stars and by all of us hikers' headlamps in a line. The view was literally something from another world. It is one of the reasons you should book your Kilimanjaro trip as soon as possible. We trekked and trekked and trekked for over four hours and I can speak for all of us when I say that we were physically and mentally exhausted. Still, there was no chance of us coming up short. The conditions were well below freezing, and we couldn't feel our fingers and toes for the majority of the trip. It was around this point that I experienced the best high of my life. It was the type feeling you hear super long distance runners and other extreme athletes talk about when they're pushed to the absolute brink. It was amazing. I occasionally smoke weed and have used MDMA a handful of times. It should be said these substances have played a vital role in my growth as an individual and are both excellent if used responsibly. They cannot compare to the feeling I had on the mountain however.
Around 5 a.m. we were informed by our tour guides Ewald and Amadeus that we were ninety minutes from summit. This is the point that I found my true second wind and became overwhelmed by emotion. I drew so much strength from the yoga and meditation practices that I've incorporated into my life. I just kept breathing, staring at the shoes in front of me, and taking one step at a time. We were going to accomplish this feat. Around 45 minutes from summit we reached Stella Point which stands 18885 feet above sea level.
Things flattened out and we all pushed on toward summit. Our dream came true at 6:34 a.m. Paul surprised Jesse and me with a flag from our hometown states of Maryland and Alabama, respectively. Regrettably it was so windy that my flag is barely visible in the pictures. We hugged and high-fived then took some quick pictures in the freezing and windy conditions as dozens of others hurriedly took pictures as well. We were at summit for maybe fifteen minutes. At summit we bumped into two dudes from Dallas that we saw and chatted with each day along the way. We also became friendly with a group of girls from Canada and the US. I know we all served as motivation for each other.
The real struggle of the trip for me was coming down the mountain. Having never really experienced altitude, I really got hit at the summit and had some difficulty skating down the initial 2.5 hours of the mountain. My headache was pounding and I was completely exhausted. Thanks to Jesse and Paul's motivation I eventually made it. Once back down the mountain to base camp around 10 a.m., we debated whether to walk the three hours to the intended final night's camp or to truck on for six hours to reach the starting gate of the mountain. It was a no-brainer, and we chose the latter to avoid spending another cold night on the mountain. We also wanted a shower so ridiculously bad. Sixteen hours of hiking later, the porters loaded up all the gear and the seventeen of us piled into the van. 
Jesse, Paul and I arrived at the hotel at long last. Showers were so important to us that we flipped coins to determine which lucky guy amongst us got to go first. I got third. We headed downstairs for an appropriately named African lager called 'Kilimanjaro'. We were just about to walk upstairs and get sleep when our guides and newfound friends Ewald and Amadeus pulled up in a vehicle outside the hotel. We all piled in a car and headed out to the nearby Moshi, Tanzania bars/nightclubs. We took over the dance floor with our favorite porter, Peter. I finally slept after 2 a.m. in what amounted to the craziest 24 hours of my life. 
The next day we relaxed around the hotel playing countless games of Presidents and eating countless plates of beef curry before eventually departing. I recently flew up to Barcelona, Spain. I'm chilling for a few days and then competing in the Pokerstars European Poker Tour series starting this weekend. I hope this entry is enough to convince you guys to book your trip. Nothing is unattainable. 
I can be reached to talk about anything by Keep an eye out for the short video which I'll link to on twitter: @shannonshorr hopefully within the next month. I'm interesting in hearing about big adventures that you guys have gone on that you can highly recommend. I won't stop at Kilimanjaro.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Hey guys. Thanks for checking out this entry. I trust that you're all out there doing what you love and living life to the fullest. This blog entry comes on the heels of a summer spent in Las Vegas playing poker tournaments at the World Series of Poker. This marks the 9th consecutive summer I've competed in the Series. From a financial perspective, things went poorly. I am reasonably happy with the effort and focus that I brought each day which is most important to me when it comes to playing tournaments. I have written about the variance of tournament poker in past blogs, so I won't bore you guys with any of that. I will say that the business is as competitive as ever, so there is no time to make excuses. I need to constantly be working on my game if I want to compete at the highest level.
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The World Series of Poker is always a cool experience. One of the best parts is annually renting a house with good friends. I find that I learn so much about myself and others with each of these summer journeys. There are also so many life lessons to be learned from the game. Over the course of the Series, I witness just about every human emotion play out at the table. People come from all over the world to enter the tournaments, so there is the added bonus of expanding one's mind by meeting folks from different backgrounds with views different from one's own. This is definitely one of the perks of the business that I overlooked and took for granted early in my career. I feel that opportunities like this have been instrumental in my personal growth, and I'm forever indebted to the game of poker for providing them. I was more social at the tables this year then I ever have been during the Series. I met so many cool people at the tables. I prefer to chat in the early levels of the smaller events as I'm usually playing against people I haven't met before. In the events I play with a lot of tournament regulars, I am very quiet at the tables. I find it difficult to maintain conversation and still stay focused on the task at hand.
Let's be honest, the summers are a lot more fun when you're winning money. I have been able to mostly keep my sanity when going through downswings, however. It has not been an easy process, but it gets easier and easier with time. To anyone struggling with this, I'd suggest focusing on bringing yourself to the present moment and looking around. How lucky are we to have the opportunity to do what we love? How lucky are we to get paid to do it? People worldwide are dealing with real problems every second of every day. Inexplicably, I used to embarrass myself publicly complaining when things weren't going my way in poker. I've been on my life balance grind for the last few years and have had my eyes opened to the reality that poker is such a small piece of this world. Deriving one's self worth from his or her poker results is a very dangerous way to live. 
I played a career-low 21 WSOP events this summer. I took two weeks off in the middle of the Series to attend World Cup 2014 in Brazil. I went with some of my best friends Adam Geyer, Jesse Yaginuma and Byron Kaverman. Talk about a great time! We spent 6 days in Salvador and 3 days in Rio de Janeiro, both of which were absolutely beautiful cities. I found the Brazilian locals very kind and welcoming. The cuisine was awesome. I say this despite a street-meat experience gone bad that left us feeling terribly for a couple days. While in Brazil, we attended 3 pool play matches: Spain vs Netherlands, Germany vs Portugal, and Spain vs Chile. One of my favorite things to do is attend live sporting events. That said, the Spain vs Chile game in Rio was the craziest atmosphere of any game I've attended. My friends and I were supporting Chile that afternoon as was 90% of the attending crowd. The Chilean fans were going hard nonstop from start to finish, and you could sense the magnitude of the win for that country as they knocked off the Spanish dynasty. The World Cup was a true life experience, and I'm really glad my friends and I took the initiative to make the trip despite it being in the middle of our busiest time professionally. 
Along my spiritual journey I've determined that I'm at my happiest when I'm having new experiences. I'll continue to jump at opportunities to do new things. Earlier this year I was introduced to formal meditation. I read a book called "8 Minute Meditation" by Victor Davich. I cannot recommend it more highly. I was on the brink of getting into meditation for maybe a year prior. It felt somewhat intimidating and I don't think I was quite ready for it. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to the practice and feel that I'm reaping many of its benefits. I feel that I'm able to get the most out of each of my experiences on days that I've meditated and worked out. It helps me bring myself to the present moment. Of course the present moment is all that we have so we might as well make the most of it. I'm finding that when I'm in whatever I'm doing that I am extremely happy. The fact that I'm present allows me to accept each situation as it is. I'm able to better ascertain what is and is not in my control. Meditation is very personal so you will just have to try it for yourself. Do yourself the favor of sticking it out when the process gets tough. 
I have another big adventure on the horizon. I'm going to climb the Lemosho route of Mount Kilimanjaro in the African country of Tanzania in less than three weeks. It will be quite the journey and takes a full 8 days roundtrip. When I touch down in Tanzania, I will have visited all of the world's continents aside from Antarctica. I will be on a private climb with Jesse and his younger brother Paul. I expect that this will be very transformative from a personal growth standpoint. It's a huge bonus to do it with two great friends that I respect so much. I'm sure we'll learn a lot about ourselves. It will be a test physically to reach the summit of 19,341 feet. I trust that we will all have the endurance and motivation to reach the top, however the altitude poses a bit of a challenge. 
After Kilimanjaro I'm headed to one of my favorite cities, Barcelona. I'm so inspired by the Spanish city already, so it's going to be extra special to be there in a great mindset after summiting Kilimanjaro. I intend on staying 17 days and will be playing a bit of poker while there. The European Poker Tour is hosting it's 100th overall series which should make for an awesome turnout. I'll be itching to play poker again and hopefully can walk away with a big score! 
I'll fly from Barcelona to Spokane, Washington at the end of August. One of my best friends Mike Katz is marrying his lovely fiance Kara in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It will be a wedding for the ages as a huge group of my friends will all be in attendance. I'm looking forward to it. Recently when I booked a multiway flight from Birmingham, Alabama to Tanzania to Barcelona to Spokane, Washington I couldn't help but wonder if that exact flight route will be booked by anyone else ever. 
It feels good to do a little writing. I hope to do some more of it. I'm on my way back to Birmingham in the morning to catch up with friends and family and to prepare my mind and body for Kilimanjaro. I literally can't wait to see my family. They are so special to me and always remind me how great life really is. My niece Alaina is approaching her 2nd birthday and my sister Heather and brother-in-law Ben are welcoming another baby girl Madeline in September. It's a very exciting time for us. A few months ago I met a really special girl named Justine who lives on the east coast of the US. We have connected on a very honest and mature level in the time we've shared together. I'm really inspired by her and am looking forward to spending more time together in the near future.
Thanks everyone for reading. I'm always open to communicating about anything via email: I sometimes use twitter along my journey. If you'd like to follow me on there: @shannonshorr. I'm interested in hearing what you guys are passionate about. If you have an experience that you can highly recommend, I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Year

Hey guys! I hope everyone had a nice holiday season with family and friends. Mine was fantastic as I spent 9 days at my condo in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. I saw a lot of old friends and spent a bunch of time with my family. My niece Alaina is now 16 months old, and I'm enjoying unclehood much more than I could have ever imagined. I always find myself so happy and relaxed when spending time with family.
Between stints in Birmingham I played some poker tournaments in two incredible cities, Montreal and Prague. I can speak highly of these cities as I've now visited both multiple times.

The thing that stands out about Montreal is just how friendly the people are. My previous trips to Prague hadn't convinced it was worthy of all the praise, but I really fell for the Czech city this time. My friends and I rented an apartment near the city and did a LOT of walking, taking it all in. It has been said that Czech women are the most beautiful in the world. I am inclined to believe they are #2 behind the Swedish.

Our successful business trip in Prague culminated with the unforgettable experience that was the Magnetic Festival, a one-day electronic dance festival with DJs playing nonstop from 7 pm to 6:30 am. It was a great night with friends celebrating life, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my 2013. When I have alone downtime these days, I'm either reading, watching documentaries, or listening to EDM (Electronic Dance Music).

There is something so inspiring about EDM, and I'm thankful I was exposed to it a couple years ago. Through this music genre, I've met so many people who are openminded, optimistic and enthusiastic about life. Everyone shares core values and is on the same page about the fact that kindness makes the world go 'round. I encourage anyone reading to give EDM a chance. My favorite subgenre is 'trance'. I've spent so many nights with my eyes closed listening to trance, thinking about the things I can do to improve my life.

As I write this, I'm in Los Angeles, California visiting some of my best friends in poker: Mike Katz, Adam Geyer, Jesse Yaginuma and Mike Sowers. We've had a lot of fun bringing in the new year. I value every minute I get to spend with these guys. When this crew gets together, we have fun no matter what we do. It's been a great week recounting old stories and creating new ones. Along those lines, I've been making a point to avoid using my cell phone when hanging out with friends and have found that the experience has been exponentially better each time.

I'm a big fan of Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power of Now", and it has me focused on bringing myself to the present as often as possible. This seems as good a way as any to start.

On Sunday night I'll venture with friends down to the Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas which plays hosts to the PCA (Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure), one of the biggest poker tournament series each year. I'm excited as always to play some more tournament poker. While we're talking poker, I should brag about a recent honor I received. I was named #7 on the GPI (Global Poker Index) Poker Player of the Decade list that was recently announced. It is one of the highlights of my career, without question, and honestly was very unexpected. I got the news around 3 pm on December 31, making it an extra special New Year's Eve.

I'll confess that it really made me feel good to get acknowledged. There are some poker legends on that list, so seeing my name on that list gives some validation to the countless hours I've spent taking care of all the things necessary to make a living as a traveling tournament poker professional. It isn't as easy as it may seem.
All the travel booking, all the missed and delayed flights, all the nights alone in hotels, all the nights sleeping on hotel floors, all the big scores, all the bubbles, all the miracle river cards, all the bad beats, all the nights partying, all the nights reading, all the people from all walks of life, all the cities, all the countries, ALL the experiences. It's been quite the journey. I've loved it. Can't wait for some more.

You can find the article below:

Happy New Year,