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.