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.

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