Monday, November 23, 2009

Heartbreak and mud

Well, its my own fault. I knew I should have sent a message or two to check on the progress of my Garmin 405, but it kept slipping from my mind. Katie did give it to Laetitia and Laetitia did bring it to Paris with her. But then she forgot about it and brought it back to Bukavu in her bag. Arrgghh.

So now what do I do? My choices either try to find another way to send this back to the US. Its coming on Christmas and several people are going back there for the holidays, so thats not impossible, but no one will go back soon enough for it to get fixed and sent to Peter before he comes to Congo. I heard that one person is actually going to be in the US (and it sounds like in one place) for 3 weeks, so that is a definite possibility, although Id have to rearrange things with Garmin. But that also means I wont have it back until the end of January.

Other options? Buy a new one and get it sent to Peter or maybe even to someone in Nairobi where Ill be around Christmas or to my friend in Cameroon who I will be meeting up with in Benin at the new year. But $370 plus shipping for an extra month? It sounds crazy, but I hate not having it now and that month Im going to be in some cool places that I could get recorded if I have the Garmin.

We live in a very well-connected world. Even here in Africa, youd be amazed at how well-connected we are. However, when electronic things break here, repair becomes very difficult. I already found this out when the power supply of my netbook got burnt out. I tried everything Bukavu, Kinshasa, Kigali, Nairobi, Germany, Amsterdam and finally had to buy a new one in the US and have it sent to me via DHL (we have no postal system here in the DR Congo). My last Garmin, a 205, was mine for 3 years and then I gave it to a Cameroonian friend and it is still going strong, so I certainly expected that Id have no problems with the new one.

I know I could use this as a lesson in detachment, but I dont wanna.

Im back in Bukavu now and went out for an 11 mile run today, but of course, without my Garmin I have no idea the distance. So I planned to run for 110 minutes (1 hour and 50 minutes). I think I did actually run around that, but my Timex watch said 1:37:14. However, I know this has to be wrong because it is not humanly possible to get from where I was at 66 minutes to my house in 30 minutes, so I must have pushed the stop button and not pressed it on again for about 15 minutes or so.

Its raining a lot in Bukavu now and obviously has been doing this for awhile, because everything is wet and even looks wet when it hasnt been raining for hours. It rained yesterday all afternoon, but not overnight, so I got up and went out thinking it wasnt going to be too bad. I wore my trail shoes (La Sportiva Fireblades) because Ive been wearing my Brooks Trance everyday for the last month and my other shoes are Nike Lunar Trainers which are really useless when it is the least bit slippery. The road I live on was not bad at all, not too slippery, not too wet, but when I got up to the more main road in our quarter it was almost all mud. Then, when I got to the road that goes around the Bay and meets up with the paved road, that was pretty bad. Huge puddles without even an edge to run on; dry portions that had been walked on by so many that they were slick as ice; and a nice couple of inches of watery mud everywhere. By the time I got to the pavement, I was so happy that I preferred going up the endless hill. I made it all the way to the top without stopping, which felt good and then cruised along for awhile, relieved to be able to relax a bit and not have to be careful with every step.

I stopped at 49 minutes and ate my Clif Blok and drank some water. I was not at all hungry or thirsty, but my coach told me to, so I did. Then I went up and over the little hill before Nyawera market, through a stretch of mud and started ascending the hill to Centre Ville. Its a long hill, but quite gradual, so if I just pace myself its not too hard. On the other side, it descends and descends and descends and I started to just zoom down it, made all the more fun because a young girl (in her Sunday dress and flip flops) joined me. I knew that I would have to turn around and climb up the hill, so I decided to really enjoy going down and we were really flying. We went a bit on the flat part, then I stopped and started to turn. I asked her name (Doras) and told her mine and shook her hand. That was 66 minutes and I was 20 minutes from the roundabout that is 12-15 minutes from my house, and I walked up the steep section of hill I had just come zooming down. (Thats why I know the watch was wrong.)

On the way back, I was facing traffic, which I actually think is not such a great idea because it just makes me nervous or annoys me (when I see how close the cars and motorbikes come to me). Either way, I simply have to trust that they will not hit me and if they are coming from behind, I dont have to know how close they are. . .

The La Sportivas were rubbing on my right Achilles tendon a lot and then it started to hurt on the outside of my right ankle also. My left foot was completely fine. All I can think is that they are so built up in the heal area that it is too much for me. So I may take some scissors or a knife and cut them down or something. Ive never been one to modify my shoes this way, but Im not getting any different shoes until the end of January, so I have to use these and Im *not* interested in getting injured. I had an Achilles tendon injury when I was a teenager (tore both of them when I went for a 12 mile hike in the snow in new hiking boots the old-fashioned kind that were hard leather and very heavy). That was horrible and took me months to recover from and I was only 16.

Thinking about modifying the shoes actually came to me because I remembered meeting some guy (and I cant at all remember who this was or even where it was) who had cut the toes out of his shoes because the shoes were a bit too small. I remember being a bit shocked at the time. The shoes looked like they belonged in the trash heap. But now I think that made a lot of sense. Why waste an otherwise perfectly good pair of $100 shoes if you can modify them to work for you?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Running all over eastern Congo

Sorry I havent written for awhile. Ive been traveling for the past month and running in some very different places: Kalemie, Kabalo, Lubumbashi, Goma. I am very much looking forward to returning home to Bukavu tomorrow, even if it means running in mud.

Kalemie was great. Much warmer than Bukavu and drier, though it has daily whopping thunderstorms. Fortunately, those storms came rolling through around 4am and were gone by the time I wanted to go running at 6am. But it is quite an experience to see the thunder and lightning rolling across Lake Tanganyika and coming right at you! Kalemie is also very flat and the road that isnt paved is sandy, so running there was quite easy. I even ran barefoot on the beach one morning. That was interesting because it meant running through what are essentially peoples bathrooms. There is a womens section and a mens section and as I ran along people were washing their dishes, their clothes, their children and themselves jump in the lake and get wet, come out and soap up (Dettol soap is great for this, it really foams up and sticks to you), then jump back in and rinse off.

I was in Kalemie over a few weeks and so got to do a few long runs. On one I ran along the northerly road through village after village, past markets and schools and churches. The sandy road and lack of rock meant I didnt need to keep my eyes on the ground all the time and could look up and ahead, which was great. Another long run was straight east out of town and that road was much more red, clay dirt and small rocks. It also was straight into the bush. After a mile, there were few, if any, houses and rolling hills. Very nice and very solitary.

Kabalo is a small town on the Congo river which also has very sandy soil with no rocks at all. I ran one day in shoes and then one day in my bare feet, which worked really well, except that the ground was very hard packed, so four miles was as much as I could do.

Lubumbashi was a whole other ballgame. Flat, nearly perfectly paved roads moving out of the city like spokes. I ran a different direction everyday and only a few times did I make it to the end of the paved road. It was so different than the terrain Ive been running on for months. It was so much more like running in the US.

The bad news is that during my first week in Kalemie, my Garmin 405, the love of my life, died. No manner of resets or recharges or anything would revive it. Luckily, one of my colleagues was heading back to Bukavu and another colleague was heading to Paris. So I reluctantly turned over my baby and hope that it is by now on its way to the service center in the US where they will bring it back to life. Then it will get sent to another colleague in New York who is coming to Congo in January. That is a long, long time (end of Oct to end of Jan) without my Garmin and it is rather disorienting. I dont even have my Timex Chrono watch with me, just an analog watch. So now I can only run by time and even that is an estimate. I have no idea my real distance or pace. You may all sympathize! ;-)