Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ernest gets new shoes!

Thanks to Lynn C's neighbor (whose name I do not know unfortunately), Ernest is now the proud owner of what may possibly be the only brand, spanking new running shoes in the North West Province. And they are beautiful and exactly the model he needs for his flat feet that don't pronate. I'm happy that Lynn came by today and I could get them to him before our long run tomorrow.

The first photo is Ernest finishing the Mt. Cameroon race in slippers (flip flops in American). The others are obviously him with his new shoes. Happy man! And he got a great pair of socks and a cool, matching Canada hat. Benedicta said she might steal the hat .

Now Ernest is going to give Benedicta "some pepper" as they say. . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

A pretty good week

So scaling our training plan back a notch seems to have helped me. I'm feeling much more myself this week. Tuesday morning we did a 30 minute tempo run rather than 40 minutes. Wednesday we did an hour-long run rather than an hour and a half. Thursday I did 10 hill repeats rather than 18 or so. So this morning I ran 16 miles in about 2:40, although the last mile was a real cooldown and included walking up the hills. But I ran much, much stronger than the last couple of weeks.

Benedicta had fever on Thursday (maybe even Wednesday) so she rested Thur through Sat. She ran pretty well this morning, but at the end she said she had a problem with her knees.From the place she said it hurt (front lower part) it sounded like "runner's knee" to me. Probably because she ran nearly 3 hours last Sunday after not having run more than 1.5 hours for about a month. Uggh. There was an article in Runner's World sometime recently about runner's knee, so I told Emmanuel to look through the magazines he has.

Emmanuel's stomach didn't seem to be bothering him as much today as it has been all week. He also rested Thur through Sat because it was continuing to hurt all week. I didn't ask if he'd gone back to the doctor yet.

And Ernest showed up today. He's been very off and on with training since Mt. Cameroon, but I'm guessing it's because he only has one pair of very worn out shoes. Fortunately I can fix that! A friend from Canada who works with people with disabilities here (and comes to Cameroon a couple of times a year) has just arrived with a pair of brand new shoes for him. Yeah! I haven't told him yet, it's going to be a surprise. We just need to get together so I can pick them up.

And what of the Njalla Quan marathon? We've been wondering and wondering and the rumours have been flying right and left. But the guys from the Federation finally said last week that they heard that the government asked everyone to not stage any major events until they are sure things have settled down around the country in the wake of the strike that took place a couple of weeks ago (and during which over 20 people were killed). In the meantime, we'll build up our mileage more slowly and wait to hear.

Today is Easter. In a rather rare occurrence, Easter is falling within days of the Spring Equinox. Here in Cameroon, the rainy season has begun (only a couple of months after last year's ended). In so many domains, things are lining up to say, "New Life!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Feeling better

Well, today (Wednesday) I am finally starting to feel a bit better about my training. Sunday I bagged it just before 10 miles (there's this huge hill at Bambui 4-corners and I just couldn't do it). But yesterday we did a tempo run and my average pace was 8:24 per mile, so that's more like it. I want it to be much closer to 8:00, but at least I'm now in the ballpark. Did an easy hour this morning and I feel good. Phew! We all seem to be having problems (except Benedicta but she's the youngest, so. . . ). Emmanuel has some stomach problem that is sounding a lot like an ulcer to me. Poor guy. I told him if it doesn't get better by next week he should go back to the doctor and say he thinks it's an ulcer. I'm always giving these guys advice about pains and injuries. Even all the basic running issues (runner's knee, plantar fasciatis, IT band syndrome, etc.) they have virtually no information about and believe me, the doctors here are not athletes. . .

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Long, slow, slog

Geez, have I slowed down in the last month or so. After doing very little mileage for the two weeks after Mt. Cameroon, I've been beat. We are following a plan I designed to get our mileage up into the 40-50 miles per week range (all workouts are based on time, so for me, it gets me to around 40 miles per week whereas for Emmanuel, it becomes around 50 miles a week). This is in preparation for the hoped for Njalla Quan marathon which we have not heard anything about even now. But yesterday (Friday of the second week for me) was the first day I felt pretty good. My butt has been really dragging.

Today I was reflecting that my times in general have been at least 30 seconds per mile and maybe even 1 minute slower ever since returning from India in January. Is this because I basically took December off? I began to wonder if it might be due to giving up fish and thereby becoming totally vegan. I dunno. I'm going to try keeping a food diary for a couple of weeks and then analyse what I'm eating to see if there is anything sorely missing. As I was walking to the street to buy some things, I realised that I was not eating many dark leafy greens, so maybe I'm low in iron? I had fufu corn and njamanjama last Monday (njamanjama is a dark leafy green), but it had been awhile.

And now, I'm sure my age is another factor. Last week, not once but twice, I heard a report about a study someone did that showed that older runners lose fitness faster and regain it slower after a layoff, and that they, in fact, do better training more consistently year-round (as opposed to the typical young runner who has at least one "off season"). That certainly seems to be true of me.

Whatever the cause, it's frustrating. Tomorrow I'm going to run to Bambui & Mforya again. I did this last week and was doing pretty well for the first 10 miles and then just died. With almost 6 miles to go to get home. Blech. Tuesday morning intervals I ran okay, though I was exhausted at the end of the workout (10 x 2min accelerations with 2min recovery) and then Wednesday was supposed to be 90 minutes easy. Again, I was feeling fine for about 6 miles and then I just died. The weird/scary thing, was that when I stopped running, I felt dizzy. Really dizzy, like I might keel over. Was I dehydrated? Was my blood pressure low for some reason? That was so disconcerting that I mostly walked all the way back home.

I tried to drink a lot of water and eat well Wednesday and Thursday I didn't do our hill/speed workout -- just ran an easy 3.5 miles. Yesterday we did an hour on the dirt roads in town and I actually completed that just fine. So maybe I'm coming back. Tomorrow will be a bit of a test.

It's rough getting old sometimes. Mostly I actually like the fact that I'm in my mid-40s (Monday's my birthday, so it's on my mind), particularly because I look a lot younger than I am, so in addition to bending people's images of gender, I'm also bending their images of age. That's kind of fun. But when I run with these folks in their 20s, I realise that I am NOT in my 20s. . .

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Boys with guns

Well, I finally got off my butt and back into running this week. I only ran once last week in Yaoundé and not at all over the weekend. But I'm back in the routine a bit again. Also doing yoga. I feel much better in my body. I was feeling really fat and lazy and out of touch with myself physically.

Emmanuel (luckily) went out to his village early Tuesday morning. Since Benedicta won some money at the Mt. Cameroon race, he went to take his father to the hospital for a very long overdue hernia operation. I say luckily because. . .

Well, there's been some serious unrest here in Cameroon this week. It started with a taxi drivers strike to protest a huge hike in the price of petrol but then it grew into much more. You can read more about it on my Cameroon blog:

Wednesday, the first day I went out running, I saw the remnants of road blocks around and very few children going to school. On my return, no shops were open (unusual at 7 in the morning), no taxis or okada boys (motorcycle taxis) were on the road and there was a gathering of about 20 or so young men at the roadblock nearest my house. But otherwise it was an uneventful run. Later in the day, I walked out to the main road and realized that I had been wise to go run out on the back roads.

Thursday I again headed out the backroads and decided to go down the hill at Foncha Street into the Mulang quarter, along Longlak street to the dump and Mezam River. At Foncha Street, what had been mere remnants of a roadblock yesterday were now constructed into and actual block and the downhill road had some stuff blocking it as well (blocking vehicles, not pedestrians like myself). I was delighted and surprised to see that the rickety old bridge was gone and they were about halfway through building an actual, proper, vehicle-worthy bridge over the river. They'd done enough work that the river was now rerouted under the road (at least in the dry season as it is currently). On Longlak near one of the trading centers, I saw a group of gendarmes -- quite young men with quite big guns. I thought I'd just wave at them in greeting, but one got up and stood in the middle of the road. I ran past him and another stood and actually blocked me. I pulled an earphone out and put my hands up and said, "Hey, I'm just doing sport. I'm going down to the road, I'll be back in a few minutes." I had a huge adrenaline rush -- fear. Luckily one of the guys sitting said something to the one blocking me and he let me go. About 1/2 km later I saw another group of gendarmes and felt some anxiety but they didn’t pay any attention to me either going or coming. When I got to the road (where the dump and Mezam River are), there were NO cars, no vehicles of any sort, but about 10-15 people trekking to their farms (hoes over their shoulders, buckets in hand). On my return the group of gendarmes that hassled me was down to just 3 guys and they didn't pay any attention to me. There must have been a shift change. . .

Running for the first time in a week and a half and doing 1 1/2  hours of Anusara yoga left me a bit sore so I did my Sivananda yoga routine last night and again this morning and didn't run today.My right butt muscle is a bit irritated and I don't want it to start gving me sciatica again. Also, I heard a gunshot in my quarter at about 5am this morning and well, it made me a bit nervous. I walked out to the main road later this morning and things overall seem much more calm than yesterday (when 6 people were killed). I'll run tomorrow and then hopefully it will be calm enough Sunday to actually do a road run.