Monday, December 22, 2008

Dirt in shoes and wild cockatoos

Friday was mostly dry, so I awoke Saturday morning filled with hope that Id be able to run past the first river. I think we had a light shower when I first woke up, but it stopped pretty quickly. Although overcast, I didnt take any chances and filled a small water bottle with electrolyte water (Camelback Elixir quite nice, actually). The mud was worse than I was hoping it would be, forcing me to stop and wipe a few times, but I met a woman carrying potatoes to market and asked them if the path was still flooded on the other side of the river. no theres nothing” she said. Well. . .

Ran through the river and was feeling good on the other side. There was one really bad patch where I went up a bank and did okay for a few steps until I sunk into the mud up to MID-CALF. Lovely. I saw a few more people coming toward me and knew this was a very good sign, since all the villages are on the other side of the area that had been flooded out last week. So I was feeling good and confident. I heard a lot of noise overhead and looked up to see 6 or so white birds. I couldnt identify them they had a pretty wide wingspan which reminded me of egrets, but no long thin legs and their heads were quite thick. Hmm. As I approached the flood zone, I saw that yes, indeed, the water had abated considerably. But not totally. So not exactly the nothing the woman I met said. Everyone was just walking through it, including some small children, so I decided to just go for it. It was okay. It was a few meters on either side of the bridge and only went up to my thighs at one point. But. . . the yucky thing was that all sort of grit got into my shoes.

I made it out four miles, which included running through two more rivers, then turned around. Going through the rivers cleaned the biggest gunk out, but I could still feel all the pebbles or whatever underfoot. I didnt want to stop and clean my feet yet because I still had to go back through the swampy area. As Im running along, I notice something. This part of the path is bordered by wild groves of coconut palms. Interestingly, all the trees on the ocean side of the path are bare, but all the trees on the inland side are completely covered in vines and other plants. I wonder why that is.

As Im gazing up at the trees and pondering this, I see one of those white birds again. This time I try to concentrate and see if I can figure out what it is. While its flying, nothing comes to mind. But then it lands up in one of those coconut trees and lifts its head up and I realize, whoa, its a cockatoo! A wild cockatoo. Wow. Ive seen one or two in the village that people keep as pets. Now I see where they get them from. This whole area has many of them just flying around. Big, white cockatoos with very impressive pompadours (or whatever the correct name is for their feathers that come up from the top of their heads). Cool.

Slosh, slosh, slosh. I pass quite a few people mostly one or two adults with one or two children walking toward Buala. When I get back to the first river I stop and do the cleaning ritual. Get the shoes as clean as possible while still on my feet. Then remove the shoes and socks and wash the grit and gunk off my feet and out of the socks. Remove the orthotics and wash them and the inside of the shoes. Then put it all back together again. Much better!

As Im climbing the hill after the river (killer hill), it occurs to me that I only rarely ever see anyone else on this hill. But Ive seen people on the beach coming from those far out villages. Hmmm, so I wonder if there is some way *around* the hill that leads down to the beach. I bet there probably is. Thats something to go hunting for some day.

Got my 8 miles in. Drank my electrolytes. Felt okay. 26 plus miles for the week. Wouldve been more but I didnt feel like running Friday so I didnt and earlier in the week I wasnt able to do the 6 miles I had on the schedule.

Im thinking, re-thinking, wondering. I feel fine in my day to day life, but not so inspired in the running. Some days I feel beat at about 4 miles. Stale. Im not sure whats going on and Im wondering if I should take a break? Or just run however I feel like for awhile? For mostly spiritual reasons, Im considering doing a 7-10 day fast sometime soon. When I do that, I wont be able to maintain my current running schedule. Maybe I need a coach? Im feeling discouraged just by how difficult running feels here.

Something to pray about.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wondering if I should rethink this

When you are a runner living in a new place, one of the major adjustments you often need to make is to the weather. You need to learn the weather patterns and what they mean, what the implications for you and your running are. Like, what are the implications of 3 straight days of rain? How will beautiful sunshine and no clouds impact my running? After youve lived through an entire cycle or year, then you generally have an idea what to expect and can adjust your training plan to accommodate the weather, to the extent that you want or need to be accommodating (there is, after all, always the tough it out, never say die approach :-)).

I am right in the midst of this phase. Not only because Ive just moved to a new place on the planet that I have no familiarity with, but also because it is the changing of the seasons now. So far what I can tell is that we are moving from the time when it rains every couple of days for a few hours, generally at a convenient time (middle of the night, end of the day), to the time when I can rain virtually the whole day and night long for several days in a row.

Of course, I know I dont melt in the rain and, given the heat and the humidity, a nice rainshower during a run can be a blessing. But the rain all day and night for several days has implications which I discovered last Saturday morning when, with great enthusiasm, I headed out for my long run (which isnt even that long at only 8 miles, but I’m building back up). The best part of the long runs is that the first two miles are hilly, including one killer hill (400m up, 100m slightly up, 400m sharply up) and have some awful mucky mud stretches, but after I run through the river, it is flat, flat, flat with only a few awful mucky mud spots. Or thats how it was the last few times I’ve run out that far.

This time, ha! I crossed the river and was bitching to myself because someone had driven the tractor through there and really messed up the road after the river for a bit. Then I’m zooming along feeling pretty good when I look up and holy cow! the road was now a river, no make that a swamp. The whole thing! I stopped and surveyed the situation. The left side seemed somewhat higher ground than the right, so I attempted to go around the swamp that way, but waist-high plants made that impossible. So I thought, what the heck, lets just go through it. I ran in, trying to stay on the higher ground, so I could actually run. This worked for about 200m, then I was up to my calves in water, then my thighs. I turned the corner, saw the bridge and realized that the river must have overflowed its banks. It seemed just as wet on the other side of the bridge, but I insisted on getting to the bridge to see if there was some way through. When I got there and took a look at the water on the other side, blech. Not only was there more water on this side, but around the bridge, where Id first have to enter it, it was mucky and dirty.

What to do? I decided to turn back. When I got out of the swamp, I wondered if the tide was low enough that I could run on the beach, but I couldnt see any paths that led through the jungle to the beach. Now, in addition to being wet, my shoes were filled with little stones which was quite uncomfortable. I got back to the river and decided I had to stop and clean out my shoes, and as it turned out, my socks. In my head I was busily calculating if there was a way to still get in my 8 miles without going round and round the same track and I figured if I went to the end of Jejevo and then the path they call Jejevo back way, Id be pretty close. With a plan and stone free socks and shoes, I was feeling much better, although the sun was coming up bright and shiny (and hot!).

I walked up the second part of Killer Hill and the really steep part after Kubalota, but I was feeling okay. Went on the Buala village path, since that avoids the hill on the main road near my house, and was starting to feel drained. I stopped at the Provincial Guest House and got some water from their tank thank you! After Jejevo and Jejevo back way, I walked up the hill by the rope shop, but then managed to get all the way home and hit my 8 miles.

What a bummer, though. I wonder if that swamp is now permanent or if it drains away quickly? I hate the idea of being cut off from the one flat long distance available to me.

Weather. Like it or love it, it has implications.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Adjusting to village running

Well, I got back to Buala on Tuesday. No food in the house, so I lived on PB&J and tuna for a couple of days. Perhaps not surprisingly, I discovered that this is not really a sufficient diet for a runner. So I went out Wednesday morning and I was supposed to run 6 miles. Ha! I barely made it 4 miles. I had no energy at all. Running in the mud and up and down the hills, I felt dead, dead, dead. Oh, for the flat paved  main road of Honiara!

The rest of the week went better and I was looking forward to my 8 mile run on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, Friday night I started watching Season 1 of Ugly Betty, which I had found in one of the shops in Chinatown in Honiara. It completely possessed me. The next thing I knew, it was (oh my God) 1:46am! And I think I watched another episode! Oy vey. In the morning, too tired to think, I just bagged it. I knew there was no way I was going to make 8 miles on 3 hours sleep. I think at the time I thought Id skip church the next morning and run then.

But of course, the power of Ugly Betty was much stronger than me, and so Saturday night, I didnt get to sleep until nearly midnight. . . And I was debating with myself all day about the church thing. I had gone running instead of church last Sunday and I had not actually been back to Jejevo church since the week I came over to Isabel to check out houses. That was at least a month ago. There are a lot of reasons why going to church was important, not the least of which is that I would like to get permission to serve here. So, awake (enough) at 6 to go to church but not feeling up for the run, I bagged it again.

Monday morning I had good food in me (bought a big pack of lentils in Honiara and made myself a lentil stew and some boiled sweet potatoes), almost enough sleep (Sunday night I was able to break away from Betty at about 10pm), and knew it was now or never. Telling myself that running *something* was most important, and I could stop at 4 or 6 miles if I chose, I headed out. The first two miles are difficult. The second half mile is a muddy uphill then down, the next half mile is mud, then the killer hill (also muddy) then down. But then I crossed the river and it was flat, firm ground (except for the deep ruts where someone had driven a truck that shouldnt have been out there ruined the road, grrr). At three miles I was feeling really good and could see that it was all flat from here on out, so I decided to go for the full 8 miles. At 3.75 there was another river to cross and then at 3.9 another! Wet, wet feet, but I gotta say the cool water was quite refreshing (crossing a river means I actually have to run through it, the ones with bridges are too numerous to mention). On the way back, I stopped and splashed water on my face and neck. Fortunately, it would seem that either I have exceptional socks or Im just not very prone to blisters because despite running at least 4 of the miles in soaking wet shoes, there were no ill effects. This is a good thing as this road is the only path I know of that is longer than a mile or so, and it does require running through rivers.

This week, the catch up plan is to run 4-6-6-4-8-3 rather than the scheduled 4-6-4-6-3-8. Mostly this is because I know I cannot do the long run on Sunday and it is at least possible to get 3 miles in either before or after church. Its quite inconvenient that church here starts at 7am. . .

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What it's like to run in Buala

My alarm goes off at 5:15am, but I usually dont get out of bed until 5:30a. It is so dark here when the sun is down there are not really any outside lights except on a few houses and no one leaves them on all night. Even though I know, intellectually, that the sun comes up very quickly, I still have not really adjusted to that. I go to the toilet and, sure enough, a little before 6 it is light outside. I thought it was raining but I look outside and it doesnt seem to be. Its a bit hard to tell because the river that runs by my house is so loud that it generally drowns out the sound of rain falling and there are so many trees around that its difficult to discern whether rain is falling or it is just trees dripping from rain overnight.

I get dressed and decide to wear a hat just in case it is raining cause the thing that bothers me is when rain falls on my face. I sweat so much that rain on my body wont make any difference. I walk downstairs and am happy to find my trail shoes are dry. I step outside so my Garmin 405 can catch the satellites while I lace up my shoes. Turn on the iPod nano, push the start button on my watch and Im off on todays 4-miler.

I run down the path from my house, appreciating the sticky soles on the trail shoes (La Sportiva Sonic TRs I bought in Boulder this past July) because the wet rocks are quite slippery. I turn right onto the main road (a wide dirt/rock road, what youd call a fire road in California) toward Jejevo. The shop where I bought my canned tuna is already open for business, I notice, but not many people are out yet. I hear people stirring in the staff houses as I pass by. (Housing is a huge issue in the Solomon Islands due to the way land rights work, so businesses, including the government, must provide housing if they want to employ someone from a different area. These staff houses are owned by the Provincial Government, where I work, for their staff.) I jump over a large puddle as I get to the clearing where the main road and the village path meet. As I crest the short hill, I see an umbrella approaching from the other side David, one of the honourable members of the Provincial Assembly, returning from an early morning trip to the shop. I almost dont recognize him in his t-shirt and shorts because Im used to seeing him dressed much more business-like.

As I descend the hill, I pass the generator which drowns out any other sound, including my iPod. Since the supply of fuel for it seems to be so erratic, I am surprised that they ran it all night when everyone was sleeping. But, of course, Im surprised its running at all because before I went to Honiara, we were lucky if it ran 4 hours a day. I am a bit worried about what will happen over the holidays since I wont be able to rely on the office generator if the town generator is not operating and Im quite attached to electricity!

I cross the bridge by the Mothers Union guesthouse and slosh through the field by Jejevo primary school, quiet now because school is out for the holidays, and past the Anglican church where a small contingent is participating in morning prayer. Shortly after this, I reach the creek which I usually cross, but last nights rain has swollen it and I decide not to run through since my turnaround point is only another couple hundred metres along.

On my way back, I pass another couple of people up and out early. When I get to the clearing, I turn down to go past the market and through the village. No one is in the market yet, but I hope some women show up later because I have no vegetables in the house.

The village is pretty quiet this morning, though I see a few children wandering between their outdoor showers and their houses. The path is quite waterlogged and many spots take a bit of jumping to keep from getting soaked. I notice that Barclay has framed the second floor of the house hes building. At the other end of the village I have to abandon the path and jump down to run on the beach for a few metres because a pond has formed. Back on the path, I pass the fuel depot and get to the part of the path where the mud starts. It takes a lot of concentration to constantly scan the road to see where I might be able to go that will cause the least amount of mud buildup. I do pretty well and am happy when I pass the really bad patch and start climbing the hill. On the way up, I greet Richard and three other men walking to work. I feel pretty good and make it to the top of the hill without even thinking about stopping. Coming down the other side is another exercise in concentration because now the mud is the red stuff that sticks to my shoes like glue. I decide to stay to the middle where there is some grass growing and this seems to be a wise move. I pass a woman who is shocked and amazed to see a runner, and a woman at that! I smile and say good morning, she laughs. Down at the bottom of the hill I approach Kubalota village, but the last couple hundred metres are under water and so I turn around there, checking my watch to see that Im sure to make 4 miles by the time I get home. After passing the laughing woman again, I hit the steepest part of the hill and walk a few yards. At the top, I remember the recent rockslide and look to see what theyve done. A couple of weeks ago in a hard rain, an enormous rock slid down and was blocking ¾ of the road. The rocks was the size of a small room! When I get to that part, there is the rocksomehow they managed to push it back into the side of the hill enough to clear the path. I wonder how they did that; the heaviest piece of equipment on the island is a tractor.

At the edge of the village, I bypass the pond and stay on the main road. With all this water, I really appreciate the work people have done to put rocks in the road so that there is some drainage. I ascend one more long sloping incline and come down to the bridge near my house. I glance at my watch as I turn onto our path and it says 4.1 miles so I stop and use the walk to cool down. Washing my shoes off I am pleased with my relative success in avoiding getting too caked with mud.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Marathon training

I needed something, some structure, some plan, to motivate me and guide my running. So, I decided to embark on a marathon training plan. Not that there are any marathons in the Solomons to do, but the training is working as a motivator (so far after one week!). Actually there is a marathon in New Zealand in early May, which is perfect timing, but I cant afford to fly and stay there. There has also been a marathon in Fiji around the same time, but last year it was cancelled and so far theres no information on their website about 2009. But no mind, the training plan is enough to provide the structure I need. Im not very competitive anyway.

I have really been enjoying running in Honiara this week. It is all so relative. After running in Buala where there is basically only one possible route, the mud can be very daunting, and Im not yet conditioned to the hills, I appreciate being able to choose from several different routes, being able to choose to run a flat course, or being able to choose a paved road. So the first week of the marathon training plan has gone well. Ive logged over 32 miles, which is satisfying and today I had a good 8 mile run at just over 9:30 pace. One thing I did which was smart was that I brought something to drink. When I was in Cameroon, I could easily run 1.5 or even 2 hours without carrying something to drink. Even though it was fairly humid and I sweat like a dog, it was much cooler than here. But after suffering every time Ive tried to do a long run in the last two months, I finally realized that I just cannot go more than an hour without drinking something here in the Solomon Islands. And last week I realized that plain water was  not going to cut it. Yesterday I discovered in a shop a cold drink of green tea with apple juice. I drank one yesterday and quite liked it, so I bought a second and that is what I brought with me on my run today. At four miles I drank half the 16 oz. bottle which was 120 calories with some caffeine from the green tea and some sugar. I finished the bottle at around 6 miles and felt much, much stronger than I have in ages. Duh, duh, duh. Sometimes I am very slow.

I didnt particularly like carrying the bottle, but when I get back to Buala, I have my Camelback which I can wear. Part of me is worried that it will be dreadfully hot. But I dont think it is possible to sweat anymore than I already do, so it probably wont be that bad. I sweat so much that when I return from running, I leave puddles all over the house. If I actually stand still, I nearly create a flood. When I was in the States, I found these special electrolyte tablets made by Camelback that are supposed to work in the bladder without making it all disgusting. Ive used regular electrolyte powder in the bladder and it was a pain to clean out afterwards the sugar gets into the nooks and crannies and stuff grows. . . Now I just need to get used to the mud and having to do things like run through rivers. Oh yea, and running the same road over and over and over again.

If anyone has tips on how to deal with serious heat and humidity, let me know in the comments. (Average temperature: 30 C or 86 F, although when I start my run around 6am I think its probably only about 24 C or 75 F, but the humidity is always 80%+)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flat roads make a difference

Well, Im in Honiara for 10 days or so for a training course, so my long run this week was on a flat, paved road. What a difference! Good and bad. The bad was that even though I got out fairly early, by about 7:30am the sun was up and hot and on the road out of town the trees are few and far between. I thought Id drunk plenty the day before, but by the time I hit about 5 miles I could tell that I was pretty dehydrated. Aaagh legs dead. No energy. Blech. I mostly ran to Panatina Plaza and got inside where there were a couple of the cafeteria services open. I went to one and asked for a glass of water. This confused the girl behind the counter. Did I want ice and with lime juice? No, I said, I dont have any money, just plain tap water. But the tap water is not good, she says screwing up her face in a look of disgust. Its fine, I replied. She reaches for a bottle of water in the fridge, but I dont have any money, I repeat. Its alright, the owner will pay, she says. Thank you, thank you! and I stood there and drank the entire half litre down. Yum, yum.

Unfortunately, although it quenched my thirst, it didnt give me the burst of energy I was hoping for. So, in the end, I ran about 7.75 miles and walked probably another half mile. Does not fit my pictures of a long run, but its a lot further than Ive run in awhile. Hmmph. And it was much, much faster. Flat and paved took a good minute to a minute and a half off my pace compared to the rocky, muddy hills around Buala.

I need to get myself on some sort of program so I can feel like Im making some progress. Im shocked at how much shape I lost in the transition time between Cameroon and the Solomons. Its hard to not be really hard on myself. I was thinking Id take up the Hansons moderate, consistent plan, but that would have called (on the more aggressive version I was looking at) for doing 6 miles today. Hah! I did a bit more than 4.5 and that was plenty, thank you very much. It did include one steep hill near the beginning and a bit of rolling hills in the middle, but still. . .

I hate not being in shape. On the good side, I have started to lose some weight which I know will make a huge difference. I calculated that every 5lbs slows me down by 30 seconds per mile. That makes it *very* motivating to lose the 15 extra pounds I have on me thats 1.5 minutes per mile! The focus now is to keep losing weight while Im here in Honiara where a) I have access to much, much more food than on Santa Isabel and b) Ill be in a training workshop where theyll bring out food at least 3 times during the day (2 tea breaks and 1 lunch). Yikes! But just cause theres food there doesnt mean I need to eat it. (Thats my mantra for the week.)

In the meantime, Im gonna enjoy the paved roads, the relative flatness, and the absence of mud!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Do I run through or remove shoes?

I have now (finally!) moved to my "duty station" as they say in UN parlance. In other words, I am now in Buala on the isle of Santa Isabel. I had the good fortune of meeting up with one of the RAMSI guys who is from New Zealand (RAMSI = Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands). They have a Landrover and he informed me that the road I thought ended at Bualota village actually continues on and, in fact, goes out 12.5km. Yipee!! That is definitely as far as I'll ever need to run.

Thursday I went out to explore the road and discovered there was a mudslide across it at one point -- nice red, super sticky mud that doesn't come off your shoes. I had to stop about 5 times to scrape the mud off because it was weighing my shoes down so much I thought they might actually come off my feet. At the first river, right next to Bualota village, I was able to cross on the walking path because there is a log. Then I got to the 2nd river and could not see any way to cross. I knew there must be some way, because I had just seen three women on their way to market. They got across somehow. Then there was a man coming from the other side, so I decided to stop and watch what he did. Aha! he just walked right through -- there was a small wall of rocks at the top of the waterfall and it wasn't up to his knees. But I'd gone far enough for the day, so I turned around.

Saturday I was not feeling top notch. Friday night had been a big night in the village and I drank way too much (for me) and didn't get to bed until 11:30p. Regardless, I woke up at 5:30a with a headache and, though I laid in bed for another hour or more, I didn't get any more sleep. It seemed like it was still pretty cool when I went out around 7:30a, but it was much warmer than it usually is an hour earlier.

Nevertheless, I went back out towards Bualota to explore the road further. The mud was much reduced because it hadn't rained since Thursday. This I appreciated. But whoa! At the top of the first hill, before Bualota, there was one enormous boulder across the road. It left room to walk past, but definitely would block any vehicle that might want to pass. On it's side, it came up to my shoulders and it was easily twice the length of me.

I ran through Bualota instead of following the road and so avoided the mudslide area. Then up the very long, very steep hill and down to the 2nd river. I thought it would be bad to run in wet shoes (I'd get blisters, surely), so I took them off and walked across the river barefoot. Of course, my feet were still wet when I put my shoes and socks back on. . . Not to mention how tricky that was, standing on the soft banks of the river and trying to keep my feet off the ground so they would just bring dirt and stones into my shoes.

Beyond 2nd river, it was quite nice, though. Flat with pretty well-packed ground. I ran another mile to make it 3 miles out and was just thinking of turning around when I saw a small pack of pigs. I thought they were wild (they were just trotting around loose) and one was a mamma with 3 little piglets. Can pigs hurt you? I thought I shouldn't tempt fate (or a mamma pig), so I turned. Of course, right behind me were two more small bunches of pigs. Mamma and piglets were heading away from me, but Daddy turned and came straight towards me. Yikes. I slowed to a walk and he steered off the path, so I kept going. When I got to the second bunch, I shouted and clapped my hands and tried to shoo them off the path. Phew!

Later I asked someone who said they don't bite, but they will knock you with their snouts and poke you if they have tusks (none of the ones I saw did, thankfully). Apparently, even though they're small, they can knock you over. But the person said those pigs weren't wild. Someone's actually raising them. I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes when you meet them on the path, though. . .

When I got back to the river, I debated whether I should take my shoes off or not. Finally I decided, "hey it's only a couple of miles in wet shoes, that can't hurt that much. And it will get my shoes clean (they were filthy). Besides, it'll protect my feet going over the rocks." So, I ran through the river. I was quite pleased at just how clean my shoes were on the other side. Very nice. Then, of course, I spent the whole rest of the run trying to keep them clean!

I also splashed myself with water at the river because now I was quite hot and starting to feel dehydrated. when I got to the top of the big, big hill I stopped and stood there for a bit enjoying a lovely breeze and nice view. It was a bit hard to get going again because I knew I would lose the breeze. After Bualota, on the next hill which isn't so high, I found the breeze again and this time stopped for quite awhile just to enjoy it. The last mile of the run, after that, was hard. I was cooked and beat.

Note to self: bring water to the Friday night dance because beer really doesn't quench your thirst and you will really regret drinking too much of it the next morning. . .

The rest of Saturday was hot and sunny, which was great because my shoes dried right out. Me, I felt seriously depleted. So, I laid around, took a nap or two, read and drank a few litres of water and by late afternoon I was my usual chipper self.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finally feeling better

Well, it turns out that going running last Sunday was probably *not* the smartest thing I ever did. Spent the rest of the week sick o sick o sick. Blech. And my back aching. Sick enough to not feel like running, but not sick enough to skip work. But, in the end I think the week of did me good and did it ever feel great to go for a run this Sunday morning. Yippee!

I ran up and across Nggosi Ridge to Tasahe and then down, down to the main road near White River, then on the main road along the coast to the ¼ mile hill leading back up, up to my house. About 5 ½ miles. Not too bad. Did another 4 this morning and feel now like Im back on the wagon.

Tomorrow I fly to Buala, Santa Isabel, my duty station. I cant wait to finally get there, get settled and get to work. Running will be challenging there, though, because the road (such as it is kind of a not very well maintained fire road) is only something less than 5k long and that includes going as far as possible on the paths at both ends. One road. Thats it. On one side, the ocean. On the other, a mountain. Hmmm. I think I need to start swimming.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Muddy and lost

I was feeling stiff this week. So Tuesday morning rather than run, I did an hour of yoga. Thursday morning I also did yoga rather than run, but that was because I was just dragging. I wasnt sure what was going on, but I just didnt feel like running. By late Thursday afternoon, I knew what was going onI was sick. My throat got progressively more sore and I barely got any sleep Thursday night because every time I swallowed, the pain woke me up. So I took Friday and Saturday off.

Laying around all day Friday on our old couches without support tweaked my back pretty badly. Saturday was painful, even though I tried to be very careful. Sunday morning, I was happy to wake up without any major pain. My throat wasnt sore and my cold seemed to have abated. I decided to go for a run and see how I felt.

Things started well. I didnt get out until nearly 8am, but it was overcast and therefore relatively cool. I went up the ridge beyond the residential area. I thought Id follow a road Id been on before but this time go all the way down to the main, paved road. But when I got to that intersection, I decided to mount the final hill and see what was beyond. This led around the hill and then down, down, down. Because I was beyond where any cars or trucks go, the wet ground had few rocks in it and was quite soft. My feet sunk in and the mud built up on my shoes. At several points I had to stop and hunt out rocks to scrape the now heavy mud off. When I got to the bottom, I was faced with either going to the right or straight. Two girls were walking along (the only people around) and I asked which way led to the road. They looked at me quizzically (that should have been a clue) and one said I should go straight (which also happened to be straight up). I went up the hill and at every curve I thought I was at the top, only to realize there was more up to go. When I did finally reach the top, I ran into a logging operation. Clearly someone had figured out how to get some piece of heavy equipment up there cause there were deep ruts in the mud and it looked like an enormous elephant had gone on a rampage. I thought this might lead to a road, but I ran around every path that looked like it might go somewhere until I realized that the only way out was to go back the way I came. That was probably just as well because I had no idea where I was. All I could think was, “I cant wait to see what this looks like in SportTracks (where the GPS track will show on a satellite map).

When I did get homefeet soaked, shoes heavy with mud I saw that, had there been a path that continued on the direction I was heading, I would never have found the road I was looking for. I was heading pretty much due south into the forests of Guadalcanal. (The main road runs east and west on the north end of the island.)

It was a great adventure, but the downside is that the run really reactivated my back and the rest of Sunday was spent in a fair amount of agony.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Workouts Updated

Well, I am thrilled to say that, thanks to Ben and Luc at Buckeye Outdoors, my workouts are now updated all the way back to 7 July! If you look at the widget on the right, you'll see the latest!

Also, if you want to check out my Buckeye log (which has links to see a little map/satellite image of my runs), you should find it at:

(Maybe? My log is supposed to be public, but I'm not sure how public it really is. . .)

Ran 8 miles Saturday morning, the longest run in awhile. That felt good. Sunday morning after church I rode my bike to the beach (a bit out of town where the water isn't dirty). I thought I'd go for a swim, but the water was really, really rough, so I gave it up. Had a nice bike ride though.

I've decided to stop being so freakin' hard on myself and be happy, nay celebrate, that I'm running 25 miles a week. Be happy that I can get a salad each day for lunch (that won't last long!), eating fairly well even if it does mean I eat wheat more than I think I should. . .

I saw some picture of myself in the buff that were taken right before moving to Cameroon. I look really good and I know that at the time, I didn't think I did. Just goes to show ya. Oh, and the other thing that makes a huge difference (I don't know why, but it really does) is that I'm starting to get a bit of tan. For some reason I feel a gazillion times better when I'm tan. Seriously. I really don't know what that's about but I do know it is true. So thank God for small favors like vitamin D enriched sunshine!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trail of dead frogs

I apologize for not writing for ages. But Im close to getting settled, so I hope to submit updates regularly again at least weekly. Its interesting to note how much being in transition messes with my normal routine. I am pleased to say that I have been running regularly throughout this time, although lower mileage and slower pace, which I find frustrating.

Anway, I have arrived in the Solomon Islands. Initially, I thought I’d spend a week in Honiara and then head out to Buala on the island of Isabel where I’ll be living and working, but for various reasons, we (all the volunteer Provincial Advisors) need to stay in Honiara until the end of October. I spent the first week at a hotel on the east side of town, but didn’t really like hotel living. So, for the last two weeks, I’ve been staying at a house up in the hills on the west side of town. The nice thing about the hotel was that I could choose to run a flat course along the one main road or go up a hill which was quieter and cooler, but it was a hill. Now I am up one of those hills and it’s not very flat up here! I’ve run down to and along the waterfront a couple of times, but the hill up to where I am staying is quite a challenge. I havent been able to run up it yet. An odd part of the landscape is the dead frogs. There are a lot of frogs here and they are quite large with bodies the size of my fist. But apparently they arent acclimated to cars because every morning, I see several newly dead frog bodies on the road. Which strikes me as quite odd because there arent that many cars, maybe 4-10 in the course of a night. Can they really not sense a huge hunk of steel moving toward them? Or is there some rare case of froggy mental illness that has them all be suicidal? Its a mystery.

As you might imagine, a tropical island is hotter and more humid than either San Francisco (by a LONG shot) or Bamenda, although it is nicely cool in the mornings and up on the hill there is a refreshing ocean breeze. I’m starting to get a bit acclimated, which means that I generally only sweat like a pig when I’m actually exerting myself rather than just sitting at my desk. But man oh man, do I sweat. It’s amazing. Enough so that I wonder whether I should be replacing electrolytes and how I could make my own electrolyte drink from local ingredients. . .

This week Ive actually been visiting Buala, my soon to be new home. It is beautiful. Bucolic. And small. Really small. Ive run from one end to another. It doesn’t take an hour even at my current slow pace, even going past the road onto footpaths that are barely walkable in places. Oh my. About the only other option to explore is going up. Buala (or actually, Buala village, Buala station, Jejevo village and another couple of villages whose names I dont know) sits on the beach on the south east side of Santa Isabel island up against a mountain. The entire island is essentially a mountain ringed by beaches. A heavily forested mountain. This is going to take some adjustment.

I haven’t been for a long run in weeks and weeks and weeks. Nothing much longer than an hour. Partly because I’ve had scheduling issues, partly because I’m tired, which I guess means I’ve gotten out of shape. I started to gain weight in the last month I was in Cameroon and that continued until now Ive got an extra 15 lbs or so on me (7-8 kg). That’s probably slowing me down as well. I hate that. I hate running slower. I hate feeling tired. I hate, hate, hate being overweight. I hate not feeling good about my body. Blech, blech, blech. And hating it doesnt particularly help either. Ive sort of tried a few things to lose the weight, but it is very difficult in a transition time, especially when I was in San Francisco and surrounded by so much food I hadnt seen in years. Now Im eating way too much food I should not eat (wheat, peanuts) and too much sugar. So, for the time being, Ive decided to just let it be until I am settled and have more control over my diet. A couple of weeks.

So, I continue to run, which is good. And Im starting to do yoga again, after quite a long layoff. That was not good either. I discovered again what I discovered a couple of years ago the only way I can run the way I want to at my age is to also do yoga regularly. If I dont practice yoga, my hamstrings, piriformis and IT band tighten which pulls my sacrum out of whack and causes sciatica and lower back pain. I do hope I dont have to learn this lesson again. The older I get, the longer it takes to recover. . .

Enough moaning. Heres a photo from my run here in Buala to share, there are more on my Flickr site (


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Garmin 205 for sale

Ive upgraded to the Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS watch. So now I have a Garmin Forerunner 205 watch for sale. Works perfectly. In great condition. $100 with docking station, charger, manuals and everything.

Using the Garmin has revolutionized my running. It is so awesome to be anywhere in the world and know how far, how fast and where Ive run. And being able to view my runs on Google Earth satellite pictures is just beyond cool!

If you are interested in it, let me know.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Boot Camp Week 2, Day 1

I ran over to Kezar stadium and Brad was waiting for me. I was the only one again this Monday. I guess the other women (they're all women so far) are not Monday people, but I decided that Monday morning was the best 'cause it gets my butt out of bed and the house to start the week. (For anyone who knows San Francisco, you will, I think appreciate the intensity of the workout we did if you can picture where we went.) We stretched a little bit and then started to jog out of the stadium.

He didn't say where we were going, so I'm just following, hoping we are going to head into Golden Gate Park. But he turns and heads around the top of the stadium. Then the first one -- up a semi-steep hill to the bottom of UCSF (the street that the N Judah runs on). Jog over a quarter of a block and then I'm looking at a very steep hill -- one of those that people in stick shift cars avoid. . . Up we go, Phew! And now we are in the middle of UCSF. Cross the road and go around behind Langley Porter Hospital, past the loading dock, and -- what do we have here? -- a set of stairs that go up and up and up and up and up. I actually was doing okay for awhile but literally these stairs climbed the equivalent of 10 or 12 stories. At the start of them, we are at the ground floor of Langley Porter, when we get to the top, we are above the tallest buildling on the UCSF campus. Yow!

Now we run across a small parking lot and next to a building there are more stairs -- only three stories worth this time. Through another parking lot and then there is a road which goes down to the left or up to the right. Do we go down and around and back home? No, no, no, not yet. UP we go, then up twice more to find a little park being born at the top of this hill. (Is it called Sutro hill this one? It is definitely in Sutro forest, but we're still on the UCSF side of Clarendon.) In the park we stop for a few minutes -- and do 20 pushups off a bench followed by 20 dips.

Then back down, down, down, down, down. . . the way we came all the way back to the stadium where we stretch and do abs (always abs & stretch at the end of every workout). When I started to run home aftewards my legs protested mightily. They thought we were done!