Saturday, January 26, 2008

Catching up

Ooh, it's been awhile. No reason except I haven't felt like I had anything interesting to say.

Last Sunday's long run was out to CHS (Comprehensive High School) Bambui and return, 15 miles. I thought I'd see Benedicta or Ennis who went out after me, but I didn't realize that the hill they went to climb was actually another hour away from CHS. I thought it was close by. So those two did 4-4.5 hours with a killer mountain climb in the middle. Ah, I am glad I'm not running the full Mt. Cameroon course!

Speaking of which, we (the Mezam Stars Athletic Club) are now all registered for the Mt. Cameroon race. Fon Charles and I for the Veteran's course, Ennis for the Juniors (hmm, we may not be sure of his age, but he's definitely over 18. . .), Benedicta, Fon Charles and his wife, Paul and Richard for the full course and Emmanuel for the Relay. And, because we are on great terms with our Provincial Delegate and he's had VSO volunteers work for him, he was able to get me registered for the Cameroonian fee rather than the Foreigners fee which was more than I could afford.

Sunday, 17 February, the Mt. Cameroon Race for Hope.

In addition to that, there are races nearly every weekend for the next few months. This is the season. Mt. Batia over near Bafoussam is 3 February and Emmanuel and Benedicta are planning to run that. There is going to be a local race (~10K) here in Bamenda sometime in early February to celebrate 11 February which is some national holiday. There is a mountain race near Batibo one week after Mt. Cameroon, but we doubt many people will be running that. Early March sees another mountain race up in Nwa. Late April should be the Njalla Quan marathon in Limbe which is my next big focus after Mt. Cameroon.

I spend quite a bit of time talking Emmanuel out of running races. Because this is a way of earning money for them, they all want to run everything, and they don't think very strategically about the cost/benefit ratio. For instance, Emmanuel went all the way down to Eboloa (in the South Province) last weekend to run a mountain race. He came in 4th which was a bit disappointing, he thought he had a chance to win. But even more disappointing was that he only received 10,000 francs for the effort which only covered half his transport (and no food or lodging or anything else). And they knew that this race had a reputation for not giving the prizes as advertised. But I was not able to talk him out of going.

During the week, we are spending two afternoons a week at the Pakku Vita which was (a bit regretfully) my suggestion. I was really not enjoying being the main object of attention for a couple of hundred young men in the stadium. . . However, at the Pakku Vita, there is a nice (?) set of stairs (33 steps) so Emmanuel is thrilled that we get to do stair workouts now. Great training for the mountain. Ugggh! I'm up to being able to do three rounds of "hops" and three rounds of "frogs", but I should be doing five. Next week. . .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back in the saddle, as they say

Ran 16 miles Sunday to Bambui, then Mforya then back via Mile 4. Nice, solid run. Interestingly, I stopped 3 times, each time thinking I was going to walk a bit (uphill), but after blowing my nose I realized I needed to stretch. So I did a forward bend (hamstrings) and a squat (lower back & calves) and each time, got up and just picked up running. So maybe the feeling that I think of as "tired" is really "tight."

41 miles last week. Definitely "back in the saddle" as far as Mezam Stars training goes, although I play the "old lady" card when I need to. For example, our Tuesday morning workout now is to run from Finance Junction up to Up Station (the Customs office) and back four times. I get to do it only 3 times because I am training for the Veteran's route in the Mt. Cameroon race, which is shorter. It is 2.5km up hill, then 2.5km down hill. Last week I only did it twice. I managed 3 times this week, although I walked in a couple of places, one of which was "in the bush" as they call it -- a shortcut that is a trail straight up the cliff. They told me that this path is typical of Mt. Cameroon. Wow, I couldn't run it if I wanted to. I think it's at least as difficult and possibly more so than Pike's Peak in Colorado.

Several team members went up to Fundong and ran a race there on Saturday. It was supposed to be 21km, but it was at least 24km, from Fundong to Njinikom and back. I didn't go because I knew it would kill me. I have been up there and I know that road. Fundong and Njinikom are both quite high (in altitude) and in between them is a very deep valley (for some reason it reminds me of Hanalei on Kauai in Hawaii, but colder). So the route was downhill into the valley then uphill to Njinikom, then downhill into the valley again and then uphill to Fundong. Ack! But, we did very well as a team. Emmanuel came in 2nd and Paul came in 3rd for the men and Benedicta came in 2nd for the women. So they got to take home a bit of cash. They thought the prizes were pretty good -- 30,000 francs for 2nd place ($60 US) and 20,000 for 3rd ($40 US). That wouldn't even cover the registration fee for a lot of races in the US!

One thing I'm learning how to do is run in the dark. This morning it was even darker than usual at 5:15am because the power in our quarter was very low, so the few lights that are sometimes on were either not functioning or were just flickering. From my house, I have about two blocks on a rocky dirt road before I get to pavement and then even the paved road is full of potholes larger than anything you've ever seen in the developed world. I'm amazed that I haven't twisted an ankle yet, but I'm even more amazed that I am not the only person on the roads at that hour. It's really improving my proprioception, though.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back home, ugh!

Well, after a long journey (almost 72 hours), I have returned home to Bamenda. This morning I went out for a semi-long run -- 12 miles -- not really very long, but at least it was two hours. Although it was much cooler (colder, really) than in India which usually speeds me up, the hills were hard. It was totally flat around the ashram in India. I forgot how cold it can be early in the mornings now that we are in the dry season. I was quite underdressed. But it motivated me to keep moving!

While I was gone, the dry season arrived fully. Now the road to my house that used to be and inch or two of mud is an inch or two of dust. And the inside of the house -- wow, everything was slightly orange from the dust.

I woke up this morning without much effort and felt fine, figured I'd caught up on all the sleep I didn't get while traveling. But now, having run and gone to church, all I want to do is take a nap. Even during church, every time I closed my eyes, I was tempted to doze off. Unfortunately, the Mezam Stars have a meeting at my house in about 45 minutes.

At the meeting, I'll find out what our training plan is for the month. We are now in the final weeks of preparation for the Mt. Cameroon Race (17 February). I think my long run is going to be running Up Station several times (1.5 mi uphill), that was the thinking a couple of months ago. Charles and I are running the Veteran's course at Mt. Cameroon which is 8km up and 8km down. That doesn't sound like much, but finishing in 3 hours is considered very respectable, so that gives me some indication of how difficult it is. The full race is 16km straight up and 16km down. I'm glad I'm doing the Veteran's course.