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


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.