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.