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.