Friday, December 21, 2007

Cows and frogs

I have been able to run a few times during the Yoga Teachers Training. I finally went out the road behind the Ashram which goes into villages vs. the main road. Much more pleasant.

Saturday I ran 10.5 mi in an hour and a half and ran through about 10 different villages. At one point, I ran past what can only be described as a cow park -- like a car park, but for cows. Everyone was coming home at the end of the day and parking their cows while they went home.

Between Saturday and Wednesday when I was able to run again, it rained and rained and rained. What had been a field on Saturday was a pond by Wednesday! As I ran by, I could not hear the music on my iPod because the frogs were making so much noise. It was incredible. Now every evening we are serenaded by a million mating frogs. They do rest at some point, but that point is sometime after 1:30am and 4:30am. Amazing!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

My first run in India

Well, the Swami tried to discourage me (from running) 'cause it would make me tighter and not enhance my yoga practice, but he did give me permission. So this afternoon when we had free time, I went out for a run. 6.75mi in about an hour. It was nice. It's warm here, but cooler today than it was yesterday and it was mostly overcast, so it was quite comfortable. The terrain is flat all around the Ashram, which is also a nice change of pace. I didn't sleep much while travelling, so it was a nice easy run. It felt good to get the cobwebs out and it made the swelling in my ankles go down, which was really, really nice. I was feeling quite uncomfortable.
 
We are out in the country, about half a kilometer from the main road. I was entertainment for many people along my route!
 
Don't know if I'll be able to run any more while I'm here, but I hope to on my one day off each week. It felt really good to get out and now I can say that I've run in India!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

21 miles, ha!

This morning, after my long run, I was walking down the street (dirt road) from the Bouilangerie where I went to buy eggs and looking at the people around me and in my head, all I could think was, "ha! I ran 21 miles already this morning!" I'm not actually proud of myself very often, but I was this morning. That was a really nice feeling. And I did it in just over 3 1/2 hours. That means that if I could maintain that, I could do about a 4 hour marathon. We shall see. That would be totally awesome.

It was nice and overcast for most of the run, which was good because I got out late, not until 6am (I had intended to be out by 5:30am at the latest). I thought I'd refill my Camelback at this one tap before I turned onto the dirt road in Bafut (after which there is no tap water available for about the next 6 miles), but that tap was dry (as had been the two or three I saw before then). I still had some water left, so I wasn't too worried. However, by the time I got to mile 18, I really wanted more water. I saw a tap and went over to it, but it, too, was dry. Then the awesome kindness of total strangers kicked in. The man with the shop next to the tap asks me, "do you want a drink?" "Yes!," I replied. He went in and took a plastic bottle filled with water out of his fridge. So I whipped open my Camelback and he filled it up. With cold water. That was a really different experience (I almost never drink cold water), and it was good at that point in the run. Thank you, sir!

A little voice in my head said, "hmm you don't know where that water came from, was that safe?" But I had to figure that since his shop is right next to the tap, it came from the tap, which I know is clean water.

My pace was slightly faster than the last 20 miler I did, using the run/walk method, and I felt better overall. I did walk some in the last 8 miles -- basically up part of most of the hills (there are some rough ones on this track), but I think running steady as long as I can and then taking walk breaks in the second half or later works better for me. At least it did this time.

The dry season seems to have finally arrived. It hasn't rained in several days now and it is noticeably colder in the mornings and hotter later in the day. And the clouds are different, high in the sky and a bit wispy. Yeah!

On Wednesday I leave for India to do a one-month intensive Yoga Teacher's training. I'm bringing my running shoes, although I'm not sure if I'll be able to run at all, possibly once a week. I'm hoping that doing a couple of hours of yoga a day, along with pranayama, will maintain my fitness. Perhaps the change of focus will even be good for me. We shall see. When I come back I will have just over a month to prepare for Mt. Cameroon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

PMUC Semi-marathon Race Report

Here we are after the PMUC semi-marathon. . .

I ran very well and had a personal best of 1:57:26. That was great news. Unfortunately, for our team, our best runner, Benedicta, collapsed from heat stroke with 200m to go. She was in second place and quite close to the woman in first place. Very, very disappointing. And then, a bit scary, because this is Africa and there is NO medical attention available, even at an organised race sponsored by the Federation. So there were about 4 of us making suggestions and doing whatever we could think of to help here. When I finished and reached the tent where she was, she was delirious and had stopped sweating. We tried to get some liquid inside her, which she took after a bit, but then about 5 ninutes later she just threw it all back up.

Fortunately, she did survive. She went to the hospital later in the day and the doctor told them she needed salt and she bravely got on the bus and threw up all the way back to Bamenda (6 hours) because of the fumes. Not her best race. . .

I did much better. I started the race way, way, way, way too fast. I think there was some point on the downhill at the beginning that my pace was around or under 6min/mi which is just insane. They seem to have a penchant for starting races downhill here in Cameroon. Not my favorite kind!

The PMUC semi-marathon is 3 loops of 7km each that go right through the main market area of downtown Yaoundé. There is a map, but no markers telling you where to turn. There are no volunteers directing you and there was definitely no one stopping traffic Particularly not on a Saturday morning at the Marché Centrale!

There was a portion of the race where I was running in the middle of the road between the lanes of traffic coming and going. There were two water stations along the route which was good and I happily used the sponges of cool water they offered. It was hot. The day was quite sunny and the race started at 8:30am, when it was surely already in the low 80's F. And no shade along the route.

I did the first loop pretty well, but with the killer hill near the end of the loop, I realized how much the fast start had taken a toll. A few hundred meters into the second loop, a guy came up alongside me and started talking to me. At first it seemed like chit chat and I was *so* not interested, but then he changed tack to supportive runner talk ("ah, relax here on the downhill," "now shorten your stride", etc.). In French. He kept asking, "Ca va?", "Oui, ca va." And he ran with me. The whole rest of the race. That was amazing. I'm pretty sure he clearly could have gone ahead, but he chose to stay with me. I've never been paced before and it really, really helped. I would have slowed much more if he had not been there. (He's the one who taught me to take and use the sponges.) He did sprint ahead of me right at the end, but that was fine.

When we came through the corral at the end, I was given a slip of paper. It looked like it had 8V on it, but then I realized that it was probably a sloppy French 18 (they swoop up on their 1's). So I was the 18th woman. Not bad. Of course there were probably only 20 women in the race!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Paku Vita

No one seems to know what the name means, but this was some government's attempt to create a place for people to exercise. The track is 2.5km and pretty darn hilly. And beautiful. You'd never know that you were just a short distance away from 3 major streets in Bamenda.

Along the course, there are several kind of parcourse workout zones -- a mean set of stairs that Emmanuel (our coach) made us do frog jumps up 5 times (ouch), some chinup bars that are made for giants (really, the tallest is at least 7 feet high), that sort of thing. It's as if someone saw a photo of a parcourse and tried to recreate it, but had no real idea how it was meant to be used.

I ran here several times before I joined the Mezam Stars and, though I had heard of the Paku Vita, did not know that this was it. It doesn't really look like much.

The one thing I did NOT photograph is down the hill to the right of where I am standing taking this picture -- one of two dumps in the city. Yes, they put a dump right in the middle of the track (or they ran the track right through the middle of the dump, I'm not sure which). Clearly this is not a "running culture". . .

A nice photo of coach Emmanuel

Thought this was a nice photo of him, so I'm sharing it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wish me luck (please!)

Okay, I just need to say that running this half-marathon next Saturday and a marathon in two weeks is intimidating. The other people in my club are running to win or place so that they earn money. This is not a goal for me. I like the half-marathon distance, but I feel a lot of pressure to run really well, really fast (for me) and that is causing me some anxiety.

 

And the marathon. . . Well, I haven't run a marathon in 21 years. The last (and only) one I ran was the Chicago Marathon in 1985. Okay, make that 22 years. I'm very, very anxious about the marathon. Not just because of the distance (which intellectually I know I can cover because I have done it), but also because Limbe, where the marathon is run, is very hot and humid. Bamenda is very humid, but it's not hot. Particularly not at 6am when we run. But the marathon starts at 8am and who knows when it *really* starts because, after all, this is Africa. And again, those on my team who will be running, are running because they think they can place in the top 10 and earn some money.

 

If anyone is reading this, please wish me luck. Thanks.

More Questions, No Answers

Did 10 miles this morning at an average pace of 9:15/mi. That seemed pretty good and made me feel much better about my speed overall. Now this week I want to focus on getting enough sleep and not drinking so much beer. The bottles of beer here are much bigger than at home, 500ml each, and one is really my limit, but more and more frequently (1-2 times a week) I've been drinking 2 in a day. Gotta stop that, I think it's affecting the quality of my runs.

 

Contemplating the question, "what do my personal experiences of the divine have to do with my ministry, my being a Deacon?" doesn't seem to bring forth any answers, just more questions. Like, "what does my running and my experience of running have to do with being a Deacon?," "What is my ministry?" But so far no answers. Just swirls of general senses or vague desires. That makes a part of me a bit anxious. I'm only here in Cameroon as a VSO Volunteer for about 10 more months, then what am I gonna do? Or, will I choose to do something because it's there that takes me in the wrong direction? (I think that is what I fear more than the first thing.) Fortunately, another part of me trusts that things will become more clear in time. Or maybe they won't and that's what I need to learn.

 

When I was younger, I was so clear, so certain. Now I am so not. I am much better at coming up with questions than with answers these days.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Prepping

Man, I've been tired as all heck for the last week or so. I think I wasn't getting enough sleep, so I've tried to make sure I go to bed earlier. I got enthralled by "Boston Legal" whose Seasons 1-3 I bought when I was in Kampala (well, except the Season 2 disk was a copy of Season 1, rats). But even though I've been getting enough sleep, my times are still dead slow. Maybe I peaked too soon?

So Sunday I ran 20mi/32km. I did the Bamenda, Bafut, Bambui, Bamenda loop, using the Galloway run/walk method, but when I got to Bambui I was dead, so I just hopped in a taxi and went home. My fellow passengers were amazingly tolerant of my sweat-drenched body. . . When I got home, I realized that I had lost my key. And I discovered how solid my house is. It took awhile, but the only solution turned out to be to get an ironsmith (I have metal doors) and have him literally tear the door lock off the door. Which of course meant that I then needed to replace it. That was one expensive key, let me tell you.

I feel quite discouraged about the Sunday run. I decided to try Galloway's method based on Steve talking about it on the Phedippidations podcast and hoped that it would give me a faster time and preserve my legs. I think it may have lessened the impact on my legs, but that could have also been cutting out the last 10k, too. It definitely did NOT speed up my time. But I don't know if that is an effect of being so tired or what. Hmmph.

Last Wednesday evening was our last intervals session for awhile as we prep for the PMUC semi-marathon (10 November) and the SoNaRa marathon (25 November). This Sunday I'll run 10-12 miles, then just do a couple of easy 45-60 minute runs during the week before I head down to Yaoundé for the PMUC.

I recently read a chapter from Marcus Borg's "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time" on the prophets. This was for an online course I'm taking on the role of the deacon as prophet. That chapter has given me some deep, deep stuff to think about. When I read Borg saying, “now I am convinced that experiences of the sacred do happen, that the prophets had such experiences, and that such experiences were foundational to who they were, said, and did,” it was as if he’d knocked a hole in the wall between two compartments in me -- the one that holds my being a deacon, and ordained member of the institutional church and the one that holds my personal direct experiences of God. I feel like he just broke something open in me and now all I want is to become a “God-intoxicated voice of radical social criticism and God-intoxicated advocate of an alternative social vision.” (His definition of a prophet.)

I think I'll meditate on that during my run this Sunday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Marathon test tomorrow

Getting back into the swing of things now that I've returned to Cameroon. Our afternoon track workouts got displaced because the annual Trade Fair is now happening at Bamenda stadium, so we've moved to the Catholic Cathedral at Big Mankon. The hill workouts this week really wiped out my legs. . . I guess running the hills in Kampala as part of my runs there was *not* the same as doing fast hill repeats with the pressure of my team.

At any rate we are in the last stages of prep for the November races: 6 November, the Paul Biya 21km (he's the President) -- I'm not running this one; 10 November, the PMUC semi-marathon (half-marathon in Yaoundé) -- this one I am running; 24 November (I think, we still don't have any confirmation about the date), the SoNaRa Marathon.

After that, on 28 November I head to Madurai, India for a month to do Yoga Teacher Training. I'm very excited!

Tomorrow, I run our marathon test track -- Bamenda to Bafut to Bambui to Bamenda. Roughly 25-26 miles round trip from my house. I'm planning to try out Jeff Galloway's Run/Walk method which for me means running 4 minutes, walking 1 minute for the duration (or at least until about mile 18 where, if I feel great, I'm allowed to run the rest of the way). The last time I ran this track I did great for 3 hours and fine for the next half hour and then I just died. The point of the Run/Walk method is to avoid this, so I'm giving it a try.

On the more spiritual side of things, I am aware in a sort of "background" way how much both running and yoga maintain my sense of peace and well-being. I am beginning to see that without these, I have a very strong tendency to depression and anxiety -- to the extent that the state of anxiety was so normal for me that I didn't even know that was what I was experiencing.

Thank God and all those who've come before me for these daily practices. . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

Worldwide Half Marathon Challenge

"I haven't adopted a child amid controversy and haven't recently adopted an esoteric faith. I haven't recorded albums, altered fashion tastes, or demonstrated the sort of talent that people pay money to see. But I know what it is to set off a frisson of excitement in every town I pass through.

I have even become known to strangers by a single name: "mzungu." The word, in Swahili, means "white guy," but let's not quibble over details. I'm huge in eastern Congo."      Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor 15 October 2007

I can totally relate to Baldauf's comments. When I'm not totally annoyed by being typecast by the color of my skin, I feel a bit like a rock star. Running my version of the Worldwide Half Marathon Challenge through the villages that comprise the suburbs of Kampala surely made me the talk of the day, if not the week, for many a Ugandan community.

I am in Kampala, Uganda rather than Cameroon, so I ran my half-marathon here. I used a familiar but hilly course (because every direction from where I am staying is hilly!) and this turned out to be a very good thing as my Garmin 205 lost power just before the halfway point.

I started out late but was blessed with a mostly overcast morning, so the temperature was quite comfortable. Being a Sunday, there was less traffic than usual, except for people walking to church. I ran alone accompanied only by small children all along the way shouting, "Mzungu, mzungu" (white man, white man).

At the halfway point, I turned around to see a young Ugandan man running behind me. Unlike the occasional child or teenager that runs after me as a joke, this young man seemed seriously running -- t-shirt, shorts, sneakers. I said hello to him and continued on my way. Within a few minutes, he was running at my side. He stayed with me for another three miles, including spurring me to endure the longest hill on the whole route, which I greatly appreciated. As he turned in to his compound, he received a heroes welcome from his family, and I realized that he must have been running behind me for 3 miles before I saw him. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask his name, but I felt blessed by his company.

Despite the 17 hills along the route, I managed a PR and now I'm interested to see how I do next month when I run the PMUC half-marathon in Yaounde, Cameroon which is a 3-loop course with only one hill (well, one hill that we go up and down three times).

I miss being pushed by my club, but it's also been nice to run on my own these past couple of weeks. Kampala is much drier than Bamenda and my fancy wicking technical clothing actually works here to keep me mostly dry. In Bamenda it's hopeless, I'm totally drenched in sweat within 30 minutes and the technical clothing just cannot keep up in the high humidity. Of course, Kampala is full of dust, so I'm a different color when I return to the guest house than when I left!

In speaking with Fr. John, who is from my Diocese of California and met me here to assess a group that we want to assist with a loan fund, somehow we ended up on the subject of God's love. I told him, in all honesty, that I don't really get the "God is love" thing. I don't feel or experience that God loves me very often, especially these days. The next day when I was running, I reflected on this and it occurred to me that this was one of those things like gratitude or happiness -- that my experience had a lot to do with where I put my attention. Did I pay attention to signs of God's love in my life?

And suddenly I realized that, for me, doing something like a gratitude journal just isn't very powerful. However, I was quite interested in investigating God's love in my life. So, I haven't created the structure ofr this yet, but I think I'm going to spend some time every day reflecting on where I've seen God's love in my life.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Recovering

The medicine seems to have done the trick and I'm now recovered from the kidney infection. Nasty business, that. My running still seems a bit slow, but I'm out there. Our racing season is coming up fast, and I'm feeling a bit anxious about being prepared. Particuarly for the SoNaRa Marathon which is sometime near the end of November. Two months out, they still have not announced (at least that we can find out) the actual date. I'm not sure if this is a matter of typically poor Cameroonian planning (or perhaps not so much poor as non-existant) or withholding of information (another common Cameroonian practice). We regularly get information about a supposed race the week before it is to take place (and then Emmanuel has to run around to see if the rumour is really true, what the prizes are, and assess whether it is worth participating). Nonetheless, this marathon is always at the end of November, so that is what I'm prepping for. And so it will be a week or two after the PMUC semi-marathon (half-marathon) which is either the 10th or the 17th. . .

I'm in Uganda now for a couple of weeks and although I haven't figured out how to get in my speedwork sessions, I am at least putting in the miles in the mornings. The good thing about Kampala is that it is very hilly, so I get a fair amount of resistance work just by going out and running. None of the hills are as sharp and steep as those around Bamenda, but many of them are much longer. The rainy season has sort of begun here, but it behaves very differently than in Cameroon. In Cameroon, it basically rains everyday for a couple of hours (sometimes twice or three times for an hour separated by dry weather). In Uganda, at least now, it rains for a whole day, then doesn't rain for a day or two. It's quite hot when it is not raining (well, 80's F in the middle of the day, which is quite hot compared to Bamenda), and really cools down a lot when it rains. If it rains too much, I'm going to have to buy a sweater. Fortunately, mornings are quite pleasant for running (except for battling the traffic), although it is very dusty, so when I get back to the guest house, I look like I was lying in a tanning bed. Until I shower, of course!

I did a nice 2 hours 13.2 mi run on Sunday, did yoga Monday morning, ran 6 miles Tuesday morning and 8 miles this morning. This morning I chose a different route down a road I'd never travelled on. On the map it looked like it would be a pleasant run in the country. Wrong! Turned out to be a major thoroughfare and paved 90% of the way. Don't think I'll go down there again, I nearly got hit by cars or motorcycles more than once. I believe my life is, essentially, in God's hands, but I don't really think it's too smart to tempt fate.

I'm happy that I'm running here. If I got out of the habit, as I did the week I was in Yaoundé, that would have been a serious setback in my training which I don't think I could afford. A little fear is a great motivator.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Quick update

Eegads, I didn't realize it had been so long since I updated this blog. . .

Quick update. Spent week before last in Yaoundé staying up way too late, drinking too much and eating too much and the wrong sorts of things. Only ran once. Eegads. See why I need a team?

Then this week, butt dragging as I encounter my first week of our intensified training (additional evening track workouts on Mon, Wed & Fri), I'm doing okay. I missed Wednesday due to a work commitment and woke up Thursday thinking I had some funny kind of cramp in my side. When the fever and chills came I knew it was more serious and testing at the clinic says I have a kidney infection. This is really not nice. I hurt all over. Each day the pain change (yesterday it was the front of my insides all over, today it is the back of my insides all over). In addition, I'm completely constipated. So far the Tylenol is working to control the fever, but otherwise I feel horrible. This it not something you want to get. And of course, I have no idea how I got it.

The only good news is sleep works reasonably well, so I get some relief then.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Kumbo Marathon

We of the Mezam Stars Athletic Club travelled up to Kumbo this weekend for the Kumbo "international" Marathon (I being the one who made it international, although they didn't know I was coming until I arrived. Wishful thinking on their part, I guess.)

There were three distances, the veterans and "minims" (children) ran about 7.5k, the juniors (teenagers) ran what I think was probably about 21-25k and the seniors (adults) ran a marathon (42k) or maybe a bit more. . . Here are photos of Benedicta coming in 5th for the senior women and Emmanuel coming in 7th for the senior men.

The courses were all death-defyingly hilly. I ran the veteran's race of 7.5k and did my fastest pace time ever (5:35/mi) as I flew straight down the hill that started the course. Then, I had to climb a monster hill, descend again and finally climb up to the finish. My pace varied from 5:35 to almost 12:00 per mile! Even though we have all been training on hills -- doing from 200m to 600m uphill repeats for the past couple of months -- this course killed every one of us. Personally, I still came in second for the veterans (second overall and second woman), but that was out of a field of six. Unfortunately, they only gave prizes for the top 3 finishers of each gender in each race, so I was the only one who got any payout.

Oh yeah, people here, at least in my club, are not running for the sheer enjoyment of moving their bodies. They bust their asses in training because if they win one of the big races, they actually can make some decent money (the winner of the Njalla Quan marathon last April got 2,000,000 CFA which is $4,000 -- slightly less than my annual stipend and enough for a modest family to live on for a year). And if they are really good, they might catch the eye of one of the Cameroon Athletic Federation's sponsor managers who will pay for them to travel and compete internationally, thereby having the chance to win some real money.

Not only was there disappointment at the depth of the prizes awarded in Kumbo, but the prizes themselves were really small (the marathon winners each received 30,000 CFA or $60). For such a brutal course it seemed really unfair. And I learned why everyone was so keen to know what the prizes were going to be before we even decided to go. As it turned out, they kept saying they "didn't know" -- even up to the night before the race -- and especially those athletes who travelled from Bamenda to compete felt exploited. Even though we found free places to stay, transport cost each of us 4,500 CFA.

I have learned a lot working out with these folks who are actually trying to make a living at it. I know the situation has very recently improved for runners in the US with the advent of a few sponsored teams, but I also know that it can still be quite difficult to make a living at a sport that isn't football (either the "real" kind or the American kind), basketball or baseball.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Compliments and Injury

Harrumpph.

I am not happy.

My hip has been annoying me most of the week. Sore, but not enough to stop me from working out. I did yoga (but not on Saturday) and did some IT band stretches, but I wasn't really worried about it. Sunday, I headed out for a short and fast version of my long run (relatively speaking -- the Mezam River run which is 11.5 miles -- and my coach told me I needed to work on my speed). I was doing really well for the first half, averaging about 8:10 min/mi and running with Spencer, a new guy to our club. The second half was a bit slower, down to 8:30, but still I was doing well. The hip was bothering me, but that was all.

I did keep adjusting my pelvic tilt and my general form because the hip was getting tight enough to alter my gait a bit. Then, about 8 miles into the run, I can feel my piriformis getting tight, I think it was actually cramping. By 9 miles I had to actually walk up hill, I could not lift my left leg (this is all happening on the left, the right is totally fine). I was so not happy. I had been on track to reduce my time (and make my coach happy, which I noticed made a difference to me). By the time I got to the hill just below Veterinary Junction and met Benedicta (who came down to spur me to finish fast), I stopped altogether and snapped at her when she suggested that I keep running. Sorry about that.

This morning I didn't go do our workout, but did an hour of yoga instead, but the hip is still hurting a lot. I'm hoping that a physiotherapist I just met last night will agree to give me a consult sometime later today.

I'm not good when I'm injured. It makes me irritable. I hope I can remember at least occasionally to have some compassion for myself and for those around me when I'm bitchy. . .

On a more positive note, as we were running through Ntarinkon market, Spencer said something to me, so I turned off my iPod and asked him. "They called you Siri, Siri." he said. "What does that mean?," I asked, thinking it was yet another derogatory word for white person or woman or something. "It means they are calling you a daughter of Bafut because you have run all the way out there," he told me. Oh, well then. Gee, thanks guys. That's sweet.

Totally changed my opinion of Ntarinkon market!

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Marathon Long Run

Literally.

Yesterday I covered the club's long run track. Emmanuel said it was 43km (almost 27mi), but my Garmin measured it as 25.7mi, although there was a bit of estimating there because I had hit Stop and not Start again for some period of time. So, it could have been a whole 42km (26.2mi).

I ran the first 18 miles with no walking and my pace was. . . fast. Particularly for that distance. Then I ran out of steam and started to seize up -- get stiff and sore. So a lot of miles 20-26 were walked. In the end, my time was 4.5 hours.

This was the first time in almost 22 years that I have run that far. The last time was when I ran the Chicago Marathon in 1985, when I was 23 years old. And I think my time was about the same. So, I must say I was duly impressed with myself. The most impressive thing is that after following my coach's advice, I got up this morning and did our weekly speed/strength workout. My 125m sprints were a bit slower than last week, but I finished the whole workout.

My right thigh is tight and a bit sore and my left hip is a bit sore. I can tell that I definitely have something going on with my psoas muscle, because I can feel it all the way from up in my back down to the front of my groin. Tomorrow's yoga session will focus on my hips, I think.

My coach's advice? First, take a warm bath (well, a bucket bath, but with warm water) and put salt in it. Then take a 45 minute nap, then eat something. So, I did just that and then laid around all afternoon (watching a DVD with episodes of "Blow Out" a truly American reality show) resting.

So all in all it is working. I am definitely getting faster. My average pace for this run was 10:30/mi, but the last 3-4 miles included a lot of walking. Up to mile 20 my pace averaged about 9:15/mi. My pace for the Mezam River mid-week 11.5 miler was 8:50/mi. Now I'm getting interested in what will happen the next time I run a race.

I might just be learning that following directions, being willing to take coaching from someone else, can produce results. I have always been so independent my whole life and the last few years have been increasingly so. It is an interesting experience to just follow and try my best to do what I am told. I like not having to interact with my mind at 5am. I just get up, get dressed and go. The Spirit moves in mysterious ways!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Long runs, intrigue and steps

Sorry it  has been so long since I have updated my blog.

Two Sundays ago, I had a great long run (26km again). It was made particularly sweet by the fact that is was election day and there was a nationwide ban on commercial activity, which included a ban on taxis. For some reason, the motorcycle taxi guys were still able to roam around, so people weren't completely stranded, but since nothing was open, very few people were moving about much anyway. Easily 99% of the normal traffic was not there.

Last Sunday I did a shorter run, around 11.5 miles, because this week being the start of August our program changed and now includes speedwork and, this coming Sunday, covering the long track which is 43km (that's somewhat more than a marathon, just so you know).

This week -- Monday was a workout at Big Mankon (the name of the hill that the Catholic Cathedral sits on). We started with a bunch of intervals that were about 200m on a slight uphill (about 10% grade). I didn't count and don't have my watch to check the laps, but we did it for about 30 minutes and I think we did about 20 or so sprints with a recovery return. Then, we went over to the steps of the school and -- eegads -- did a series of stair exercises -- first just running up the stairs then down 10 times, then jumping up on two legs and walking down 10 times, then jumping up on one leg and walking down (only 5 times) and finally, jumping up "frog-like" and walking down 5 times.

I thought I was going to die. And Emmanuel and Benedicta just kept saying, "now you will hurt, but afterwards you will be able to run and feel no pain." Needless to say, this is occuring for me a bit like cod liver oil. . .

Wednesdays are "footing" which means a medium-length run (11.5 miles) and Friday we go back to the hill to Upstation and do 200m hill repeats (which I'm betting will really be 400m if prior estimates are any indication). So this is how the month of August will go. In September I think this will continue and we will add in afternoon track workouts at the stadium on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I'll take some photos of the stadium sometime soon so you can see what passes for a "track" here. It's a far cry from what we consider a track back in the US, even from what we considered a track back when I was in high school 30 years ago.

There has been a bit of intrigue in the Mezam Stars the last couple of weeks. Rumours that Som Imelda was a spy for her previous club & coach and was only in Mezam Stars to steal other runners. And she didn't come to practice for a couple of weeks. I saw her a couple of times in the neighborhood and she said she was sick and then went out to her village for a week. Today she finally came for practice again for the first time in three weeks, so we shall see how it all unfolds.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Challenging workouts

The thing about being on a team is that you workout together. And this means that I am doing workouts that I would never do on my own. I have not done such challenging workouts since I was on the track team in high school over 25 years ago. I do hope I start to see results, but at the moment it's all just pretty hard.

Sunday was a nice long run by myself. 16 miles in 2.5 hours. That was quite nice and I got to take my new Brooks Adrenaline GT7s for their maiden voyage and they performed wonderfully. They weren't heavy, as I feared they might be with the new "mogo" midsole. And, after not doing a long run for two weeks, I ended with no pain or injuries, which I think is a great testimony to the shoes. And maybe to my training.

The rest of the week is hills and intervals and sometimes intervals on hills. Yesterday we did the short hill workout -- 30 minutes of repeats on a 200 meter hill. The first two weeks I was able to do 17 or 18 repeats. This week I only did 16 inside the 30 minutes. Dead legs. After that, we did 5 laps backwards and I was quite good at those -- beating everyone except our coach. If they ever have a backwards race, I might do pretty well! This morning was intervals on the track at the stadium -- a dirty, muddy affair where you have to dodge rocks, goats, dogs and football players and the aroma of marijuana wafting through the air. We did 5 minute intervals with 2 minutes recovery walking for about 50 minutes and I felt really strong. That was a nice surprise after yesterday.

It's an interesting experience for me to have a coach and be on this team. I'm not particularly competitive and I have in the past in my life had times when I was not terribly open to coaching. But today I noticed how nice it was to just do what I was told and not think too much about it. I don't analyse whether the training is "the best" or what I "should" be doing. The only caveat I hold is that I'm not going to stupidly increase my long runs too quickly and get injured. Other than that, I show up when I am scheduled to and I do what the coach tells me to do. And that's just fine with me.

I find it a relief to have one area of my life where I do not have to be in charge, I do not have to figure everything out, I do not have to be the leader. I've always wanted to have a strong sense that God was telling me what to do and I could just follow it, but after banging my head against that wall for years, God finally told me that what she wanted was for me to do what I want. That was not really good news because figuring out what I want is one of the most difficult things for me to do. So, I am grateful for Emmanuel and four mornings a week where I don't have to think about what I want, I just have to do what I am told.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Mezam Stars

Well, I went and met Som Imelda's coach and they ended up recruiting me to join their club. I have to say, as a 45 year old woman who was usually one of the last picked for the kickball team in grade school, it is quite an ego boost to have people pursue me to be on their team! And though they look pretty scruffy, appearances are very deceiving. Maum Emmanuel, the coach, has won many trophies as has his wife, Benedicta, who didn't even start running until she met him, after school. Benedicta was the 2nd woman in the Mt. Cameroon Race for Hope last year (32km of mostly mountain climbing & descending -- think Pike's Peak in Colorado if you're familiar with that) and won the Sonel Half-Marathon in Yaoundé. Needless to say, I was (hmm, still am) a bit intimidated by working out with these folks.

There are 12 people in the club -- the Mezam Stars (Mezam being the name of the Division where Bamenda is located) -- including me, although so far I have only seen 7 people that show up regularly to practice. We work out 4 days a week: Tuesdays are speedwork -- 200m hill repeats with the goal of doing 20 repeats in 30 minutes. Wednesdays are an hour of "footing" around the dirt track at the stadium. Fridays are an hour of hill repeats on the hill to Upstation (each loop is about .75 mi or around 1200m) with the goal of doing 10 in an hour. Sundays are long runs. Monday, Thursday and Saturday are rest days.

This is much more intense training than I have been doing. I started with them on Friday and my groin muscles are still tight from doing those hills. I did 8 repeats, plus I ran to the start and back home again which added a half mile warmup and cooldown. A bit over 7 miles. Sunday I ran with Benedicta and we did the "short run" which was supposed to have been about 10 miles, but according to my Garmin is was only 9.43 miles. Since I again ran to our starting point and home again, I added another 2 miles for a totall of 11.43. I plan to do a run on my own on Thursdays just so I can have some fun time and go out on trails (these guys are running almost exclusively on the road), but we'll see if I can handle that.

The nice thing about this schedule is that it opens up these mornings for me to do yoga -- it's the obvious thing to do on my "rest" days.

When I realized how much shorter the long run was than it was supposed to be, it made me wonder how Emmanuel determines the distances. I realized that I am so used to having a precision instrument and the freedom that gives me that I have forgotten what it was like "back in the old days" when I only had a Chronograph. When I leave here, I'll definitely give him my Garmin. And if I can get someone to donate a 305 (with the HRM), then I'd use that and give him my 205. That would definitely help him in creating our training plans.

They have an interesting system here. One thing is that all of the information about races (of which there are many, I am coming to find out) is passed from the Cameroon Athletic Federation through coaches of registered clubs. That seems to be the only way to find out what is scheduled. Secondly, some races have open registration, but many are only open to people with a license. (Yes, a license!) So, in addition to paying my club dues I need to pay a fee and either go to Yaoundé or send someone with photos to get me an athletic license. (One used to be able to get the license in Bamenda, but apparently the office here was not forwarding the money to Yaoundé, so now we have to travel down there to get the license.)

Everyone on the team has several pairs of shoes and they switch them. But they are raggedy as can be, at least by US standards. Emmanuel told me the first day that they don't have a sponsor. I'm hoping that somehow over the next year or so (sooner rather than later), I'll be able to get some support for us. What would be really excellent is to get someone or some business in the US or Europe to donate so that everyone on the team can have a couple of uniforms (shorts, shirts, track suits) and a couple of pairs of good shoes. And some running bras for the women and socks. (I shudder to think of what sort of bras they are running in. All I have ever seen here are cheap Chinese frilly bras. . .)

If anyone knows of any programs that might sponsor a team like us, send me a comment and let me know.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I met Som Imelda

I had a great long run today. 20K (12.4 miles) out in the country on Ndamukong road. After I got back, I realized that if I'd gone the other way on the road to Mforya, I would have gotten really close to the village. So I'm guessing it's probably about a half marathon to go there and back (quite close to where I was living a few months ago).

I received the replacement for my small camera that got stolen (sometimes the mail works REALLY well!), so I was excited to take it with me for my run. Check out my Flickr site (link on the right) for a couple of green, green panoramas. It's raining almost everyday now (usually only for an hour or two, though, not constantly), so things are growing like wildfire!

Today after I finished running, I was standing in front of my building filling my water buckets (for some odd reason, all the rain has not helped in resolving the water crisis in my building, hmmph) and this woman walks up to me and starts talking to me. "Ah so you are back," she says. (I'm confused.) "I saw you down there the other time." (I'm still confused.) "Where did you go today?" Still confused, I said I'd gone out Ndamukong road almost to Mforya. "Oh that is very good," she says. As the conversation progressed, I finally realized who she was -- the Cameroonian woman runner who I've seen a couple of times when I've been out running. She's quite distinctive for being about my age (I think, maybe she's older? She looked older in her civilian clothes), being in excellent shape and wearing actual running clothes. So now we are chatting and she's telling me about her training regimen (way more speedwork than I do!) and that she's on a team. She tells me the racing season starts in November with a half-marathon in Yaoundé and then there is a marathon in Limbe at the end of November. She also said she runs the Mt. Cameroon race. We're having a nice chat and inside I am like, "oh yea! I have hit the jackpot. This woman is hooked in to everything I've been trying to connect with since I got here! Yahoo!" In the end, she tells me her name is Som Imelda and asks if I'd like her to introduce me to her team and coach (would I ever!). So, we set up to meet at 7am next Wednesday at the municipal Stadium because they should just be finishing their workout about that time.

Yipee! I am so excited. And this is so incredibly African. Everything here happens through relationshps. All information is passed from person to person. It was impossible for me to find information on the Internet or through the newspapers or even through the Ministry of Youth and Sport. But I nod to a fellow woman runner on the road, she likes my style, and she reaches out to me. I love this about Africa. And now I am so psyched. Geez, maybe I'll actually workout with them once a week and start doing some speedwork!

"Happy, happy, joy, joy," as Ren and Stimpy would say. Life is good, ladies and gentlemen. Oh so good.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Upstation and beyond -- a road run

This morning's long run was up to Upstation and beyond. I got all the way to Santa sub-division (like the next county) past a village called Akum. It was all on the road, which is unusual for me (most runs, particularly long runs are primarily on dirt roads or trails), but it was a nice run. I didn't get out until 7am. I was about to head out at around 6:30a, but noticed that my iPod nano had almost no juice left and that would simply *not* do! So I went back in to charge it up.

The effect of leaving so "late" (by Cameroonian standards) is that there weren't too many people still out running and most were coming down the hill. But it was nice to be out with other people nonetheless. And I learned something. The way you greet other runners here, to cheer them on, is to clap. That's different for me and took a bit more coordination than I was expecting. Later in the run I noticed that young men who want to cheer me on make a gesture that in my culture is considered vulgar -- it involved a closed fist moving up and down. After about the fifth guy did it, I got that this is just one of those cultural differences and I could just remind myself that they did not mean by it what it meant to me!

After the Customs station at the top of the hill, I didn't see any other runners (although on my way back I saw 3 serious cyclist -- on road bikes, with bug like sunglasses, advertising filled spandex bike outfits and, extremely unusually, bike helmets!). Biking up that mountain seems way more daunting to me than running it. Good for them! I ran past several trading centers and I don't think many people run out past Upstation because people definitely looked at me like I was an alien species. But maybe that's just the "white man" thing. It was a nice run, 12 miles and really beautiful. It is green and luscious up there and, after Upstation, totally rural. And it was cold. I didn't realize that I had a breeze at my back on the way out until I turned around. It was just a breeze, but the air was really quite chilly, even in the sun. That was a surprise. There were only two more major hills after getting to the top of Upstation, which was nice. It wasn't much more hilly than the road from Bafoussam to Foumban (but that one goes down from Bafoussam, so the big uphill is at the end, not as nice).

Maybe someday I'll actually go off the pavement and explore some of the side roads up there. When I get a replacement for my little camera, I'll do another run and take photos so you all can see how stunningly beautiful it is. It really makes running a sweet, sweet experience to have so much eye candy.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Exploring

The last week or two have found me doing some exploring on my runs. The same old routes that I've gotten used to are a bit stale and so I've wandered a bit further off the beaten path. I love to explore, but I hate to be lost, so I'm often in this tension between going off to see where some path goes and taking the "safe route" that I know.

One drawback of exploring is that I can overshoot or undershoot my intended distance for the day. Last week I was in Yaoundé and ran from the Faculté de Thèologie in Etoa Meki to Mt. Fèbè. When I got to the top, I met two other ex-pats, Phillippe and Lindsay, who invited me to run with them. They were going down the other side of the Mount with which I was unfamiliar, so I was happy to have them show me the way. It was a great run down -- fast and loose. They turned off to climb up another hill while I headed back home via the Palais de Congres. The whole run was great and I got to see a new section of Yaoundé, but the run ended about a half mile short of what I had wanted to run.

This past week, I was exploring back here in Bamenda. When I look out my window, I see this large school on the hill across the valley. Now I've learned that the school is GBHS (Gov't Bilingual High School). Someone told me that "down, down" behind GBHS is a playing field with a track. I've been considering doing some speed work and a track would be very handy, so I thought I'd go try to find this place. Now I have gone around that area three times looking for this playing field, but I have not succeeded in finding it. But again, I've discovered whole new routes to run. It helps having a mission, even if I do not succeed!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Phedippidations Worldwide Half Marathon

Well, I could wait to possibly, maybe find an organized marathon or half-marathon OR I could be a D-I-Yer in the Phedippidations Worldwide Half Marathon. Being the impatient type and wanting a plan, I have just registered for the PWWHM. And I'm the first entrant in Africa! (42nd overall so far). Come on and join us! You can either run an organized event or do your own thing. The dates are 13-14 October, so you have plenty of time to train. There is a forum where you can chat with others and get support and advice; there are training plans available, and if you or perhaps your significant other are new to running, there is also a 5K option. I'm stoked.

Go to: http://www.worldwidehalf.com

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I've been doing it all wrong

Well, this morning, I understood why I have not yet discovered the Bamenda running community. I was coming back from Yaoundé on the night bus and we got to Upstation at around 5:45am. At first there were a few, then more, then dozens, then literally several hundred people running! Young football players, older people, middle-aged couples in matching track suits running off their "spread", young men doing push ups and situps by the roadside, two teams dressed in uniforms, schoolgirls. All running up the hill to Upstation and then the dedicated running on further along the ridge before returning to run down.

I've been going the wrong direction and much too late (6:30 or 7:00am) to have ever run into these people. So, next Sunday that's the plan. 5:30 leave the house and head for Upstation to become part of the scene!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Up, Up, Up, Upstation

I don't think of myself as competitive, but when Eric told me yesterday that he'd run to Upstation, I felt challenged. Eric doesn't run. He doesn't play football. Sure, he's probably 20 years younger than me, but he doesn't really do anything athletic on a regular basis. To hear that he just got up one Sunday morning and ran up there made me think I really did have to give it a try.

Upstation is the area above Bamenda, which is where the Germans and later British and now the government all had their offices and houses. Then there is basically a huge cliff and Bamenda is down in the valley. For 8 months of the year there are 4-6 waterfalls that come pouring off the cliffs from Upstation.

[This seems to be a typical Cameroonian thing. First, to just get up on a Sunday morning and go for a run because you feel like it. Even the really committed people generally only run on the weekends. And also, they seem to have this thing about running up mountains. There are a lot of nice places to run around my neighborhood, but everyone runs up to Upstation. In Yaoundé it is the same, everyone there runs up Mt. Fèbè. And then, the big race in Cameroon is the Mt. Cameroon race in February, 17km straight up and 17km straight down Mt. Cameroon.]

I was up early this morning and could see out my window the traffic wasn't too bad (to get to Upstation requires going through the intersection at Cow Street which is the cause of all the traffic jams on my street), so off I went. It was pretty hard, I won't kid you. 1.7 miles straight up and most of it very steep. About halfway, the slope is less steep for a couple tenths of a mile which is a welcome relief.

But it is so beautiful. After the Cow Street junction, I ran past Nkwen market and up to the Baptist Center (aka Finance Junction) after which there were very few cars or people. About 5 or 6 small busses passed me coming into town, the night busses from Yaoundé and Douala. Up past the Handicrafts Market (a wonderful place where they let you browse with no hassles) and then it was just tree-lined cliffs on either side. The views of Bamenda were great. At one point I had a perfect view of all three major churches, the Baptist Center, Ntamulang Presbyterian and Bayelle Catholic (the one right behind my house). They each sit atop their own hill and have large complexes. I so, so wish I had my small camera (it was stolen at the train station in Yaoundé last week, grrr), I could’ve taken great pictures for you! My butt was starting to drag as I turned the corner on one of the switchbacks until I saw a guy pushing his motorcycle and thought, “gee, it really could be worse. That’s gotta be tough.” So, I kept going and made it all the way to the top without either stopping or walking.

Then, of course, the reward was to run the 1.7 miles straight back down! This was also a bit of a test as I had hurt my knee a couple of weeks ago. Because I travelled up to Maroua for a meeting last week, I had several rest days from running and thought that really helped the knee. And sure enough it must have because it didn’t bother me at all on the run down from Upstation, and it is all on pavement. I passed a couple dressed in workout clothes who were walking down the hill and wanted to tell them they were missing the fun part, but I went by too fast <g>. I had some fun dodging taxis and potholes and people as I went back through Cow Street junction and added a bit by running all the way up to the intersection past my apartment to make it an even 3.5 miles. Well done!

So now that I’ve finally done it, I definitely think I have to add that run to my regular repertoire. One good hill workout a week, I think. After all, I’m hoping to find a team I can join to run Mt. Cameroon next year.

Someday, I’ll have to do that on my bicycle.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Thoughts on being sick and the future

Well, my knee kept bothering me, but that didin't keep me from running. I did do a few more yoga sessions and take one more day off per week, but it seemed like it hurt most when I sat for too long, which made me think it was good to keep it moving. Then last Wednesday I got sick. At first, after running 7 miles in the morning and feeling the whole way like I was having trouble breathing, I thought I might have malaria. As the day went along, I just felt dead tired. But I got a test (I happened to be working at Mezam Polyclinic that day, so this was an easy thing to do) and it came back negative. So maybe I just had a plain old ordinary cold? How banal! But that did get me to take off two days in a row and I do feel a lot better now. Not 100% but definitely back to about 90-95%. I do notice that a running injury will not get me to stop running but being sick will. Interesting.

I'll be traveling up to the Far North next week which makes running trickier -- I'm literally "on the road" 4 out of 5 days. But Maroua is really nice because it is FLAT. Last time I was there, I had really fast times even on my long runs. So, I’m looking forward to that.

I need a pair of hard-core trail running shoes. Inov-8 is "the" company in this field, but I couldn't figure out what model would fit my needs (muddy, wet hills -- slick, slick red mud), so I sent them an e-mail and got a reply from a Head Designer. Head Designer for a trail shoe company. . . That sounded like a sweet, sweet job to me. I love well-designed tools -- things that really do their job well. And so that got me thinking about what I want to do with my life.

One thing I know is that I like things that work, things that work well. And I like to make things work well. My background is not in physical tools, but more management tools. So, I would really like to find a job (after my stint here in Cameroon) where I could work with people, organizations, businesses, teams, to help them really work well. The great thing is that I am in a position now to do exactly that with the three organizations I am currently working with here in Bamenda. So, I will be keeping this in mind over the next months and trying to identify what I really like to do and what I am really good at (for instance, I facilitated a workshop a couple of weeks ago and was reminded, yet again, both of how much I enjoy facilitation and how good I am at it). This is all part of the bigger picture of taking a stand for happiness and I am finding it very helpful to be in this inquiry about what makes me happy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Taking a stand for happiness

I ran a report of my running history over the past several months yesterday. I was quite happy to see that my total ascent and descent has more than doubled since moving into Bamenda. It sure feels like that is so!

Had a great 13 mile run yesterday, although my left knee is now bothering me, particularly going downstairs, which is a bit of a bother since I live on the 4th floor of my building. I used the camelback that I got for my birthday (just received last week) and it worked well. I was afraid it might bother me, but I knew it would work better than one of those water bottle belts. And it was fine. I did get a bit of an abrasion under my arm, but I think that just means I need to wear a short-sleeve shirt rather than a tank top.

Saturday I took most of the day to do a mini meditation retreat. The strongest "message" I received was that I need to adjust my attitude--and I can. I watched my mind being automatically drawn to looking for "what is wrong here" with the effect of making me feel bad. But I realized that I can simply take a stand, that is, decide and tell myself, that I am happy. Then train my mind on all the things that make me happy. And do more of the things that make me happy, that feel good, that feel right and do less of the things that feel bad. And one of the things that feels bad is thinking negative thoughts. Even though it is familiar and easy and "natural" and automatic. It doesn't feel good. I feel much better when I am moving things forward, when I am being with people, when I can see the beauty, joy and/or humour in life.

Part of me thinks that it doesn't make sense to "take a stand for happiness," but I know this is exactly what I need to do right now. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with my life. Of course, I would like to have more close friends and I would like to have a life partner again. I would like to have more companionship here and I want to be fully engaged in meaningful work. Now I could either concentrate on how I, or my circumstances, are falling short of what I would like. Or I could concentrate on creating what I want and need, to the best of my ability and accepting the reality of my situation. When I contemplate the former, I feel anxious, angry, victimized and stuck. When I contemplate the latter, I feel relaxed, engaged, enthusiastic and energized. So the right choice seems obvious!

Even though my knee hurts, I am very happy that I did a good long run yesterday. One thing I noticed is that I felt most at ease, most relaxed and comfortable, after about 5 or 6 miles. Maybe it was because I was "on the way home" at that point, but I've noticed this before--at a point where my mind would expect to be feeling tired, I am in fact feeling very much "in the flow." This sort of experience makes me wonder whether I might feel really good training for a marathon. I have been thinking about running a marathon for a couple of years, but there aren't many that I can get to easily from here. I'd love to run the Mt. Meru Marathon in Arusha, Tanzania which is at the end of July or so, but a flight to Tanzania costs about $800!

Well, I am sure that when the time is right, the marathon and the means will show up.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"She does sport everyday"

I received what I considered to be a great compliment the other day. The woman at the checkout at New Life Grocery said she recognized me from running ("doing sport" as they say here in a direct translation of the French) in Ndamukong -- one of the main streets in my neighborhood. Then she turned to the man who checks bags at the door and said, "she does sport every day!" In a world of weekend warriors, it's impressive to them that I actually exercise every day. That made me feel good.

One benefit of running on poorly maintained dirt roads is that it forces me to stay present -- I have to keep my eyes on the road and look where I am going or else I am in danger of falling, especially now when the road is often wet and muddy.Yoga offers the same benefit. Since I have a natural tendency to always want to be elsewhere, these are good practices for me. And it helps to make each run, each day, new. Even though I have a small variety of routes to run, the weather changes the terrain enough to make me very aware of the differences. This is something that is much less apparent when you run on the road. When I bike, the road appears very differently to me because I am going past things so much more quickly and the things I need to be aware of on the bike are somewhat different than when I am running.

Because I am living and running in the city now, I do not say "good morning" to every person I pass (I'd have no breath left to run if I did!). The further away from my apartment I get, the more rural it becomes and there are fewer people, so I do greet people more frequently out there. Nonetheless, being the only white woman who runs -- and whom I think many people have ever seen run -- makes me quite recognizable. So far, after only a couple of weeks, I've met two people in other contexts who said they saw me running in the mornings. Bamenda may be a city, but in many ways it still has that "small town" feeling.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Frustration

Well, the whole Internet thing has been frustrating this week. On April 1 I moved to Bamenda and, simultaneously MTN (the cellphone company) disconnected their cellphone-based Internet access because the "free trial" is over. Even though we signed up on the 2nd or 3rd for a plan, it's now the 14th and there is still no access. That means I need to go to an Internet café which is okay except that the only one near my apartment that allows me to hook my computer into their network has been having trouble with their provider for a few days (guess who? MTN!)

Don't let the web-based promoters fool you. Putting everything on the web does NOT make it accessible. It is almost painful to write e-mails in my web-based client because the connections here are so slow and I can type so much faster than the letters show up on the screen. For some reason, although the cellphone access was very, very slow (due to limitations in cellphone technology), the connection tended to be stronger -- so my mail would come down and go out, just slowly.

In this midst of that irritation, thank goodness I have running. That is going well. I am discovering new paths around my side of the city and I have biked to work a couple of times which is really an adventure here in the city. (One thing I learned the other day is that, at least during commute hours, the safest place to be is in the middle of the road because the taxis pull over with no warning every few feet and there are hundreds of people on the sides of the road.) I realized a few months ago that mobility is very important to me -- something I really appreciate -- and now I realize that communication/the ability to stay connected with people is equally as important. This week I'm only achieving 50%, but I'm happy to have that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Great resources to share

There are some running and yoga-related podcasts that I listen to regularly that I wanted to share and recommend in case any of you are interested. I cannot download these here in Cameroon -- there's no such thing as broadband here! But a dear friend in the US downloads them, puts them on a CD and mails them to me each month.

First, a great source for running music is Podrunner created by dj steveboy: http://www.djsteveboy.com/mixes.html  These are podcasts he produces weekly, I believe, although there are a ton in the catalogue you can download now. Each mix is about an hour long, has a theme and a stated bpm (usually from about 135 to 170 bpm). I find dj steveboy's mixes great to run with and they keep me going when my butt is dragging. Check 'em out.

The other great podcast to recommend is Yogamazing with Chaz Rough: www.yogamazing.com Again this is a weekly podcast with a year's worth of archive of yoga classes. Each class has a theme and is roughly 20 minutes long. I usually combine 2 or 3 of them to make an whole yoga session for myself. I love these because they let me "take a class" even though there are no yoga teachers anywhere around. Also, Chaz is a fun guy. Even when he's trying to be deep and spiritual, he's has such a happy voice that nothing seems too serious. This is particularly good for me.

I also love to listen to Steve Runner's Phedippidations podcast: www.steverunner.com but I can't listen to that while I run (I can't listen to talking, it just doesn't work for me), so I usually listen to this when I am making dinner! It's very inspiring nonetheless.

So, go check out some of these folks.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Basics make a difference

I'm waiting for the guys at Buckeye Outdoors Training Site to upload all my data for the past year plus, but in the meantime, I did upload this past week, so you should be able to see it on the right.

After my daily meditation, I decided to check my e-mail and try to complete a bit of Internet research I started last night and couldn't really do because the connection was so bad. (I was looking for a good rain jacket to run in -- something that didn't just soak me from the inside because it held my sweat in and something light, since it doesn't really get that cold here. I decided on the Patagonia Spraymaster which, for some unknown, but incredibly lucky for me reason, was half price in a couple of the women's colors!)

While I was online, a good friend of mine was online in the US and we started to GoogleTalk, which is always great fun -- talking to someone on the other side of the world in real time for free! However, this delayed me so that I did not get out for my long run while it was still cool. It was not oppressively hot when I left so I thought I'd be okay, but I did not really factor in the effect of the humidity. I have to say that I don't have amything that tells me the temperature and here, they report it in Celsius which means almost nothing to me, so I don't really know how hot it is. SportTracks, my running log program, fetches the forecast when it can and it has been saying 87 Farenheit for the high for the past couple of days. That's pretty darn hot, isn't it?

I got out the door around 10:30am and there was a nice breeze in my face the whole way going. Of course, when I turned around -- no breeze. And it was humid! Like Yaoundé or Florida. By the end of the run my entire backside was just sticking to me. That made me feel a bit self-conscious.

But the worst part was that I ran out of steam. I turned around at 5.3 miles, although intellectually I thought I should have run 14 miles this weekend. I felt okay for the first half, but the last mile and a half going out was downhill, which means that when I turned around I had a nice long uphill to confront. I did run the whole way up it, but shortly after that felt really spent. Around mile 8 some children offered me some water (I stopped at a community spigot that was not flowing) and it tasted sssooooo sweet. Mmmm. But I walked three or four times for a bit and stopped to stretch twice.

When I reflect on this, I realize two things. Really basic things:

1.      Weather matters, particularly heat.
2.      Nutrition matters.

The weather you know about. Getting out by 7am would have made a huge difference. (Although I was incredibly lucky because I walked into the door of my house moments before the first torrential downpour of the day!).

Nutrition? Ah well. Yesterday I went to a wedding. Having only eaten a banana for breakfast, by the time we got to the reception, I was starving. I immediately drank a Coke because my blood sugar was so low I was faint. And then I ate what they served -- a snack of peanuts, fried cookie-like things called chin chin, a Quarter-sized piece of fish and two Quarter-sized pieces of chicken. Later on, I drank a Djino (carbonated fruit cocktail). For dinner, I had a bowl of rice with garlic and oil "sauce" and a beer. This morning, I did think to eat a banana before I went running.

But, it wasn't enough. Or just basically lacking in nutrition. Oh, I did have an avocado with my rice, so I ate one vegetable all day (or are avocados a fruit?).

This has happened to me before. So now I am bringing consciousness to this area -- it really makes a difference what I eat the day before my long run.

Yep, the basics make a difference.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's funny I'm ordained

I'm going to try something new. If you look on the right side of the screen, you should see my workouts. There's this great new site I found (from another runner's blog) where I can upload my workouts and they'll show up automatically here. Hopefully in the next week, everything will be up there for your viewing pleasure and I'll stop entering them in manually in the blog entries. Since I haven't got it all set up yet, here's this week:

Mon:    Run     3.01mi  27:34   Yoga    30min
Tue:    Run     5.06mi  46.23   Yoga    60min
Wed:    Run     6.52mi  58:12   Yoga    50min
Thu:    Run     5.04mi  44:28   Yoga    50min
Fri:    Run     3.82mi  33:47   Yoga    50min
Sat:    Cycle   8.59mi  42:54   Yoga    50min
Sun:    Run     10:10mi 1:39:14 Cycle   8.7mi   45:47

So, I thought I'd reveal that it's funny, to me at least, that I'm ordained, particularly in the Episcopal Church. I think it's pretty funny that I'm part of an established church at all. Just one of the many ways God amazes me.

I say this because my own spiritual life happens 99.9% outside of church. The three things I do/have done that are the most "spiritual" for me personally are:

        - shamanic work I've been deeply involved in for the past 16 or so years which is where I've had the most intense, direct encounters with God. If I have a theology, it has come out of these experiences far more than reading anything. Experience is the foundation of my faith and I consider a blessing that I am a mystic. It does seem to be more acceptable to mention this in polite Episcopal company, but that may only be because I am from California <g>.

        - listening to Christian pop music, which really expresses my experience of wrestling with God and trying to be a Christian in the real world far more authentically than any of the hymns in the hymnal. I'd say my favorite artists are Chris Rice, Jennifer Knapp, Ginny Owens and Caedmon's Call.

        This chorus from Caedmon's Call's "Faith My Eyes" (on the 40 Acres album) spoke to me today:
                So Keep'em Coming These Lines On The Road
                And Keep Me Responsible, Be It A Light Or Heavy Load
                And Keep Me Guessing With These Blessings In Disguise
                And I'll Walk With Grace My Feet And Faith My Eyes
        And even though I come from California which is a pretty "woo woo" kind of place, believe me when I tell you, the Episcopal Church does NOT play music like this. At least not yet. They did do one "U2charist" last year, but that just makes me laugh and roll my eyes. I'm sorry folks, but U2 is not "youth" music -- that's my generation and I just turned 45. Though, from what I heard, the event was a great multi-generational event, so it's definitely a step in the right direction;

        - yoga and running which really push and help me to integrate, to embody, what I experience and believe spiritually. Augustine may have had problems with having a body, but I don't, and it's a critical part of my being in the world and relating to the universe. If it was important for Jesus to incarnate in a physical body, I figure it's probably at least as important for me.

Now, there are a lot of things I love about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in general (that there is an Anglican Communion being one of them) and I feel relatively comfortable with Christianity as the "language" through which I communicate with and about God. There's not another Christian Church that speaks to me. If I weren't Christian, I'd probably be either Sufi or Hindu. I've studied a lot of other religions and those are the only other two that resonate with me.

But when I was an infant, I was baptized and "sealed by the Holy Spirit. . . and marked as Christ's own forever" and wouldn't you know those sacraments actually create a reality in the universe. I walked away from Christ. Pretty far away, actually. And then I was called back and I couldn't get away. I feel a bit like a fish who was reeled in by the fisherman. I suppose that's fitting.

Monday, March 12, 2007

In the nick of time

Well, I went for my long run early Sunday morning and I was just in the nick of time. An hour after I came back, the rain started to pour and lasted most of the day. Luckily I didn't wait until after church to go or I would have had to run in the rain, not my favorite thing. There were a few drops when I went out and so I wore a hat (which I never do -- too hot on the head and well, it messes up my hair <;) ), but the sprinkle never turned into anything until later.

Ran 13 miles and it was good to break my 12 mile mental barrier. However, planning my route so that the last 1.5 miles was uphill -- not the smartest move. I walked at least half a mile of it. Phewy.

Really got back into doing yoga almost daily this week and that felt really, really good.

Last week:

Mon:   
Tue:    Run 5.04mi      44:56
        Yoga    60min
Wed:    Run 4.02mi      35:51
        Yoga    60min
Thu:    Run 7.02mi      63:09
        Yoga    12min
        Cycle 9.06mi    45:11
Fri:    Run 3.09mi      31:25
Sat:    Cycle 8.93mi    45:43
        Yoga    25min
Sun:    Run 13.11mi     2:08:07
        Yoga    30min

I've been doing a lot of thinking about forgiveness. Having a Lenten practice to forgive one person/thing each day is really difficult, but it is a great practice because it forces me to look at why it is so difficult.

The first thing I ran up against was the thought-form "who am I to forgive so and so?" That is, it seemed the height of arrogance. Isn't forgiveness God's job? And what if the person doesn't feel like they need or want forgiveness, especially from me?

Just a few days ago, I became aware that I was still very angry about something that happened to me a year ago. It was something I should have (rightfully) had some control over -- or so I thought then and still do -- but in the end, I did not have any control over -- and it radically altered the course of my life. At the time, my response was to just "get it" and move on. But the anger and resentment remains. So it occurs to me that forgiving, in this instance, would be really helpful for me. I doubt the other people involved give a hooey and I'm sure they don't think they did anything that needs forgiving.

I am not sure how to do this in a way that really works -- that is authentic and "does the trick" so to speak. But I am praying about it.

I sure wish this could all be as simple as forgiving some harried commuter who cut me off on the highway. . .

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Eating wheat is "naughty"?

I had an unexpected meeting in Bamenda on Monday and an unexpected trip to the field on Wednesday and never got around to posting last week.

The week:

Mon:    Yoga    50min.
Tue:   
Wed:    Run     5.04mi  46:49
Thu:    Run     7.08mi  1:05:46
Fri:    Run     3.09mi  30:20
Sat:   
Sun:    Run     12:05mi 1:58:26

I also did yoga a few times, but I didn't keep track.

The whole loving myself thing? Mostly the week was about eating wheat, and then forgiving myself for doing that. It was a "loving myself means letting myself be naughty" sort of thing. Why is eating wheat "naughty"? Because my body is pretty intolerant of it. So then I was led to reflect on what is *good* about eating wheat and what is *not really workable* about eating wheat.

Why eat wheat? It is easy. Bread, in particular, is there, requires no prep and it readily available here in Cameroon. Since pasta (another form of wheat) takes about the same amount of work as rice, it offers little or no temptation. But bread (in all its both sweet and savory forms) and cookies, well, it's really easy and available. Secondly, I like many of the things that go *on* bread. And I had a real craving for jam. What can you do with jam that does not involve bread? Not much. (Although, believe it or not, I have discovered that rice is also a pretty good transport vehicle for melted margerine and strawberry jam!). Thirdly, it's comfort food. Always has been. It's both cultural and familial.

But now, why *not* eat wheat? It makes my face and chest break out in acne. Second, it stops up my nose and sinuses and makes it hard to breath. Third, it clogs up my digestive and elmination systems. And the next two were things I just noticed during the weeklong wheat-eating binge and are quite compelling to me. Fourth, it makes me tired. Literally sleepy. Is it some sort of hypoglycemic reaction? Maybe. But I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night and live a much lower-stress life than any American and I was sleepy all the time last week. And fifth -- it doesn't fill me up, doesn't satisfy me and makes me keep eating and eating. This was a connection I never noticed before. I've seen this pattern before (the eating even when I *must* clearly be full or at least not in need of any more food), but I've never connected it to eating bread before. But after six months of eating virtually no bread, then eating it for a week, it became really obvious. The more bread I ate, the more I wanted to eat. It was weird. As if the bread had MSG in it or something. I would eat it and my taste buds would be pleased, but then they would just want *more*. And my stomach would not feel full -- until it felt *too* full.

Somehow, that last one is quite compelling. I don't like bread, or even convenience, enough to gain weight again. And the getting stuffed up thing is a really good immediate reminder because I can really feel it when I run. So, for the last several days I've "been good" and when I've thought about eating bread or a gateau or something, I notice that my taste buds try to convince me that it is a great idea, then I think about having trouble breathing and that is a downer, then I think of it making me want to just eat and eat and eat and my good sense kicks in and says, "nope, don't really wanna do that."

I'm hoping I can get to the point that I've just conditioned myself to find it so distasteful that it is no temptation -- I did this successfully with meat 30 years ago and dairy products 20 years ago and have never looked back.

And my conception of what it means to love myself has matured a little bit over the last week, I think.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Loving myself for Lent

Last week:

Mon:    Run 5.14mi      46:09
        Yoga            40:00
Tue:    Run 3.38mi      30:29
        Yoga            25:00
Wed:    Run 7.00mi      1:04:00
        Yoga            30:00
Thu:    Run 5.04mi      46:30
        Bike 9.11mi     48:33
Fri:    Run 3.03mi      27:30
Sat:    Yoga            1:00:00
Sun:    Run 10.13mi     1:43:41
        Yoga            20:00

One of my Lenten practices is to love myself. I cannot say that I have clear idea of what that means, I am in an inquiry. I could probably tell *you* a lot easier what it means (or should mean) for *you* to love *yourself* than I can say what it means for me to love myself. That, I think, has a lot to do with why my Spiritual Director suggested this practice to me for Lent.

At the moment, I am mostly noticing how much I don't love myself -- not as in a feeling I have towards myself but rather as the way I act towards myself. I am becoming increasingly aware of how much of my "self-talk" is crtical and just how critical it is. Particularly when I run, there's this voice inside my head that is always "pushing."

Sunday I was not even sure if I would run at all. I did not do a long run on Saturday because I needed to go to a meeting in Bamenda in the morning and Sunday morning I was preaching in church. After church, though, I was feeling a bit stiff and somewhat energetic, so I thought, "okay, let's go for a run." I started out with no set distance in mind, then I settled on going as far as the tarmac, which would be about 6 miles, but I'd see how I felt. Feeling pretty good, I thought, "maybe I'll go see where Finge is." Finge is a village down the tarmac and on the other side. I've only seen the sign from the road. When I got to the sign, I'd gone about 4.3 miles, so I decided I'd go until I either reached Finge or 5 miles, whichever was sooner. Of course, right after I made that decision, I went barrelling down a hill (uh, oh, what goes down must come up. . .), turned a corner and had to crane my neck to see (what I thought/hoped was) the top of an even steeper hill. That was not the top, but simply a curve that led to another incline.

Most of this time, of course, I have the rather constant "push" critical chatter going on in my head (I'll spare you the soundtrack). But when I rounded that corner and could see the *real* top of the hill, I thought, "ya know, I'm gonna make it up there and then I'm gonna stop and enjoy the view." And I did just that. And it was a heckuva view. Really nice. (I'm a view kinda gal.) I stopped my watch and just stood there for as long as I felt like. On the way back, I noticed the voice that wanted to criticize me for not going *at least* 12 miles and I decided to squash it. "10 miles is still a long run, and much longer than I planned to go when I started out. Besides I know my weekly mileage is already over 30 miles, so shhh."

I think when I was younger, I thought I could silence the critical chatter by giving it nothing to be critical about. So I've done a *lot* of "self-improvement" stuff. But now I think maybe I need to just stop the conversation. Not sure how to do that, but that's what I'm thinking at the moment. Somehow that seems the more loving thing to do.

Monday, February 19, 2007

35.5 mph downhill makes the uphill grind worth it!

Went for a long bike ride today. I almost made it to Big Babanki, but I didn't know how many more hills I'd have to climb (I didn't pay that much attention when I was in the car!), so when I got to 10 miles, I turned around. And woo hoo! More than once I went down a beautiful long hill at speeds up to 35.5 mph (this is on a mountain bike, God only knows how fast I could have gone on a road bike)!!! That was awesome. Totally awesome fun. Fun to the nth degree. Definitely have to do that again! Again I am reminded of just how much fun I have riding a bike. Sheer, pure, unadulterated fun. And I really, really needed that today, so I am very happy that I went out and rode. I thought I would take some photos, but I was much more inspired by the experience of riding the bike than the scenery (it's the end of the dry season and well, everything looks an awful lot like No. California in the summer. . .)

This week:

Mon:    Run     3.19mi  29:20   Bafoussam       (Nat'l Youth Day -- a holiday here)
Tue:    Run     4.02mi  37:11
        Yoga    25min
Wed:                    letting the thighs rest
Thu:    Run     6.41mi  59:08
        Yoga    60min
Fri:    Run     3.00mi  26:53
        Yoga    60min
Sat.    Run     7.51mi  1:17:43
Sun:    Cycle   22.98mi 2:14:43

Thought I'd go much long on Saturday, but within moments of starting out, my upper thighs felt really tired and weak and the feeling never went away. I’m pretty sure it is my psoas muscles. They tightened up a bit on the bike ride today, but they didn't go all weak like yesterday.

Earlier this week, I was reflecting on the Gospel reading for the day which was the "great commandment" -- love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. I realized that, for me, loving God with all my heart really was a call to be happy, to do the work that it takes to be happy (which has a lot to do with creating happiness within me, creating the right frame of mind). Although at times I can be quite content, I do not think I am by nature a happy person. Either that or it's just that I have built up a lifetime of the bad habit of negative thinking. At any rate, I tend to not do very often those things that make me happy. But today I did. Screaming down those hills, I was really, really happy. I need to pay attention to experiences like that, acknowledge them, and engage in them much more often. When I am happy like that, the world is a perfect place and I am filled with gratitude and love for God and humans.

Today I am grateful for the people at Cannondate who manufactured my bicycle. I am grateful for God and the earth that created those awesome hills, even if it meant I had to climb them before I could descend! I am grateful for the British (and Germans I think) who paved that road. I am grateful for all the Cameroonians in the area who were at home with their families or hanging around their neighborhoods so that the road was almost completely empty. I am grateful for sunshine and a perfect breeze. And I am grateful for the Horizon Chicken Shack in Bambui that had a nice cold Djino to quench my thirst and get some sugar back into my system and then had fufu-corn and njama njama to replenish me and a nice cold Amstel beer to finish things off perfectly.