Sunday, August 08, 2010

And now a run back at home

After the biking adventure yesterday, I felt emboldened this morning and decided I would actually get out and run. It took a bit longer than usual because when I woke up, as has been true for the past week and a half that I’ve had this cold, there was lots of sneezing, blowing and coughing to be done to clear things out.

 

Yesterday, I had thought of biking to this place, Cité des Jeunes (city of youths), which is supposed to be beautiful, but to get there you have to go through one of the busiest areas of town and I wasn’t interested in fighting with cars and matatus on my bike. But I was pretty sure Sunday morning would be relatively calm, so I decided to go out that way, even though I doubted I would far enough to reach the place.

 

So the run took me downtown, almost to the central market and then a turn south on a road running along the railroad tracks through the quarter called “Kenya” because a lot of Kenyans live (or used to live) there. This took me past the fish markets (where I was glad I wasn’t able to smell very well) and the wholesale veg markets. A train actually passed by moments before I had to cross the tracks, which is a pretty rare sight. Although there is a rather formidable fence along the rail line (made of pieces of the railway) there were spots at rather regular intervals where the fence was broken and people crossed the tracks at will.

 

It was 9a or so by the time I got to Kenya and even though it was Sunday, there were quite a lot of people out and working. In fact it was quite easy to distinguish between the workers and those on their way to church. Those on their way to church were mostly either groups of women or families and one could smell the Palmolive soap a good 200 meters away. Cleanly scrubbed, wearing their best clothes, fathers walking hand in hand with small daughters in frilly dresses and patent leather shoes – yep, they’re on their way to church.

 

The run went well. I was tired when I got to the long hill at about 5 miles and even more tired when I turned the corner and there was another hill, but I managed both and in the end did 7 miles. I could feel the congestion in my chest when I finished and I have had no voice all day, but it felt good to actually get out and move.

RevBikes, too, though not without incident

A week and a half ago, I came down with a wicked cold (which I’m not yet recovered from). This is the second one I’ve gotten this year (the last one being right before Christmas). If anyone has any clues or tips how to prevent this, I’m all ears.

Anyway, after lying around for a long holiday weekend and then working through the week, but not running, I finally got the energy to go for a bike ride yesterday afternoon. It was a nice day – sunny but cool – and it was a nice ride up beyond the University of Lubumbashi. I was on a well-graded dirt road for quite awhile until I turned into the wind for the 3rd time and was coming to the entrance of a factory, so I decided to turn around. Something felt funny and looking down, I realized that my rear tire was completely flat. I got off the bike and pumped up the tire (with some help from a couple of small boys). But no sooner had I gotten on the bike than the tire was flat again. Uh oh.

By now several young men were ambling by and offering advice. There was really nothing to do but walk the bike somewhere – home? The nearest market? Somewhere where the tire could be patched. Because, despite the fact that I own two little patch kits, I had neglected to put them in my little underseat pack. Fortunately, though, I did have in my pack my all-purpose multi-tool. Two of the young men offered to walk me to the closest market (or that’s where I thought we were going). As it turned out, we went to the house of one of their brothers and they (Doris and David were their names) said they would fix the tire. I gave 1,000 francs (about $1.10) and David ran off to buy “solution” and some rubber.

It was quite a production, with one guy from the house coming out with a radio to entertain us and Doris applying the first patch, but not covering what turned out to be two holes in the tube and then having to redo the whole process outside a clinic a bit later (when the tire had gone flat again) with a rather obnoxious guy looking on and saying how he should have my bike.

One thing I learned from this was that you don’t have to remove the tire to fix the tube! Also, this multi-tool I have is a beautiful piece of work and has everything I need to do anything on the bike. And I’ve now put my little patches in my underseat pack. I have these pre-glued patched that I can just stick on, as well as the tube of (Indian) innertube solution that David bought and some pieces of rubber we didn’t need. So if anything happens again, I’m all set. And I had an adventure, had the chance to explore a neighborhood up behind the University where real people live and had some amusing conversations with these young men. Doris is studying political science (and wants to be a politician and improve his country), in the striped shirt. David is in the green (didn’t get a good picture of him) and is studying sociology. He was either a bit drunk or just generally a bit more obnoxious, but Doris kept him in line. (While they were walking me to the main road, after the fix, they were having a whole conversation in Swahili that was clear enough that I understood that David kept saying he should ride the bike and Doris kept telling him no. . .)

Kind of a fun Saturday afternoon, actually.
The tube out, awaiting the arrival of rubber & solution to patch it
Doris, one of my heroes
David returns with supplies
The work in progress

Update on US trip with photos

Sorry I haven’t updated the blog. I really should have because I was back in the US mid-June to mid-July with plenty of running adventures. I participated in the Shambala Moutain Center course “Running with the Mind of Meditation and Yoga” (which I found out at the course has recently been written up in Runner’s World, June 2010). Early one morning a bunch of us went for a gorgeous run in the mountains around the center. It was a great run up until I twisted my ankle bad when we were still 2 miles (straight down) away from any sort of road. It was a bad sprain, though I think having to walk two miles on it might not have been such a bad thing. Definitely was a great exercise in being present.


A week later I was in Portland, OR to run the Foot Traffic Flat marathon on Sauvie Island (4 July). I am very pleased to report that, despite the sprained ankle, I finished the marathon in 4:32. The whole race went really well and now that I’ve accomplished this, I’m psyched to train for another, maybe in March or April in France. I also got to meet my coach Tory Klementson, for the first time, which was great.


Also, I got all kitted up while I was back in the US. Got a pair of the new Brooks “Green Silence” which are my favorite, favorite shoes. I think I’m in love. In addition, I have several “minimalist” shoes to try out. Terra Plana Evo’s (which I quite like), Feelmaz Osmas (haven’t run in them yet) and the new VFF Bikila’s which I like and find much more comfortable than my VFF classics. I also got a pair of VFF Treks for the rainy season. Yes, yes, I can be a bit Imelda Marcos-y when it comes to running shoes. . . I also picked up some new running bras, including 2 Champion bras that have hooks at the back. After horror stories in my youth, I swore I would never wear a running bra with hooks  or anything plastic or metal. However, this bra has a padded cover and because I bought it at Title9, I was able to try it with the promise of being able to return it if it didn’t work. Well, I loved it so much I bought a second! Kudos to the manager of the Palo Alto Title9 store who has converted me. One of the most comfortable running bras I’ve ever worn.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seriously falling, what the ?

So, for the third week in a row, I’ve fallen while running. Serious falls, two of which (including this one) have led to visits to the Emergency Room. Each time the fall was between 13 and 14 miles. The first time I was only 3 blocks from home when my foot hit a rock and I literally flew in such a way that I landed on my bony shoulder. No break there, thank God, and it doesn’t interfere with running. I got some good anti-inflammatory painkillers which really helped. But two weeks after, it still hurts in this spot in the middle and the two things that hurt the most *are* running related: taking off my sports bra and tying my shoes.

 

Then last week, I fell again, but on the other side of my body. Except for inflaming the already hurting shoulder, that fall let me off lightly with only a hold in the palm of my right hand. I was graciously cared for by the women in front of whose store I fell – she gave me water to wash at least the top layer of muck off and some tissues.

 

Today I was having a great run. Mostly on the road because the marathon I’m training for is on the roads and I thought I should test and see how that felt. Around 12 miles in, the outside of my right knee was hurting some, I’m sure it’s my IT band. So I got off the road. I was moving my leg around, playing with my foot placement. The pain in the knee went away, so  that was good. Then, as I was passing the Gecamines Mine, the road started to descend and I was even looking at the ground. Next thing I knew, I was *on* the ground. Whack! Oh, my head hurt. Oh man. I laid there and some guys came by. They tried to make me get up, but I told them to leave me. I hit the right side of my head pretty hard. After a minute or two I was able to sit up and I could tell the head wasn’t concussed (having done that several times in my life, I know how it feels. . .), but I was still pretty dizzy.

 

For the first time ever, I had decided to throw my phone into my camelback that morning.  Geez and now I needed to use it. So I called the driver and told him where I was and decided to get up and start walking. That was when I looked at my hand and saw my pinky bent at more than a 45 degree angle over my other fingers. While I was walking, I was joined my a young man, a woman and a boy. The young man spoke French, so we talked about what happened. And I was able to look a bit at myself and see how filthy I was (it’s dry season, so the dirt is about inch-thick dust and I was now covered in it). So far, I was still in shock and nicely distracted by my companions, so I wasn’t yet feeling the pain except for a bit of a headache.

 

Met the driver who took me, once again, to the Don Bosco clinic emergency room. Embarrassingly, everyone remembered me. . . The x-ray technician came from church and took an x-ray which showed a complete break of the pinky at the knuckle. They put a popsicle stick splint on it (after straightening it out – aaaaahhhhhhhh!!) and, despite their worries about my low blood pressure, let me go home.

 

Fate? Fatigue? My shoes (Newton Gravity’s)? Running form? Freak accidents? Low blood sugar? Blood pressure? Gotta say that three falls in a row is kinda freaking me out.

 

I wouldn’t have ever expected this in Lubumbashi (where I moved mid-March). It’s much flatter than Bukavu. All the major roads are asphalt. The dirt is mostly sandy (not red and slippery). And we are in the dry season now, so no mud or moss to slip on. I used to pride myself on my ability to “catch myself” and stop a fall. I’m pretty light and nimble on my feet. But this is mighty discouraging.

 

And now it matters, of course, because I’ve registered to run the Foot Traffic Flat marathon in Portland, OR on the 4th of July. I’m scheduled to run 20 miles next Sunday. Thank goodness my legs are still in great shape and I’ve had several massages from the Don Bosco kinesiotherapist which seems to have completely resolved my lower back issues.

 

Sheesh.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wherein Tracy learns a lesson, the hard way of course

Soooo, this was a "low" week and I was scheduled to run only 6 mi on Sunday, but because I didn't do my 5 mile Tempo run (a whole story I won't bore you with), I decided to do at least 8 miles. The running itself went pretty well. It hadn't rained for a few days, so it wasn't too treacherous getting out of my neighborhood to the paved road and I decided to just run the main road to the other end and back. Wore my Newton Gravity's -- awesome shoes, btw. I like them a lot.

One of the best things about the run is that I ran the whole thing -- all the hills -- which is saying something. The hill that comes out of the "centre ville" is at least 800 metres and pretty steep. But I just plugged on and told my mind to shut up when it wanted to start the whiny "but look at it, it's a BIG hill. And who's gonna care if you don't run the whole thing? and aren't your legs tired, so tired?" rant. It is always my mind rather than my body that gets me on that hill. So yeah for a victory!

But, well, uhm, there was this little incident halfway into the run. . . See, I came to this barrier -- literally a branch across the road held up at each end, about knee height. Behind the barrier were two soldiers and there was a small space to the right where a guy was walking past the barrier. So, in a vain attempt to be cute and have a little fun, I jumped the barrier. In my defense, I must say that 90% of the soldiers I have encountered on my runs have been either indifferent or amused by this white lady running around, so I wasn't quite prepared for the level of offense taken by one of these two soldiers when I "disrespected the Congo" by jumping their barrier. Ooh la la. After trying to say I was just doing it for fun (which did *not* go over well), I resorted to profuse apologizing and admissions of guilt. But I think the guy was, at the very least, tired after a long night and possibly even under the influence.

Finally after about 15 minutes of him saying the exact same thing over and over and over (my first hint that perhaps he was not completely sober) and my apologizing over and over and over, it looked like I was finally being allowed to leave (though, disappointingly, he wouldn't let me cross, but was making me turn back). Then something happened which I didn't really understand and another soldier who was walking towards us stopped me, turned me around and started pushing me, saying "he's calling you." But I was not particularly interested in going back to the crazy guy since I'd heard his speech about a thousand times. So, I resisted, but this soldier was quite insistent. Finally, I realized that someone *else* was calling me. And then someone else said it was the "commandant." Ah, okay, clearly this is not over.

I was escorted to the commandant, but then walked right past him because, this being Sunday morning, he was standing there in sweatpants and a t-shirt. He turned out to be quite nice and kept saying he hoped I wasn't traumatized by the guys at the barrier. He said he wanted to record my identity info, so we waited for another guy to go run and get his register book. I gave him my info -- my name, who I worked for, etc. He wanted the number for the office, and he didn't really believe me when I said we don't actually have a receptionist (that's true). I knew I should probably give him Billy's number -- our Admin/HR Coordinator -- but I didn't know his number off the top of my head. In the end, he let me go and, nicely, let me continue the way I had wanted to go in the first place, which I really appreciated because it meant that I could avoid the guys at that barrier.

So that was all about a 30 minute pause in the middle of my run. And what did I learn -- do NOT jump military barriers! Even if they are only knee height. Even if you think the soldiers are nice enough. Listen and learn children, do not repeat my mistake. . .

Lest you think I might have actually been in any danger -- when I got home, my phone said I had 3 calls from Billy, the first one surely while I was still talking with the soldiers. How on earth did he know? Apparently, a friend of his was going to church, saw me, knew I worked for IRC and called him. Are you kidding? So much for my belief that I am anonymous. Ha! I was on the other side of town and someone knew me. And Bukavu is not a small place.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lac de ma Vallee

Went running this morning at Lac de ma Vallee which is about an hour from where I am staying in Kinshasa. I'm here for some meetings and as a place to run it sucks big time. We are under very strict security measures which I personally think are absurd -- we are not allowed to walk, we can only be driven around in cars. The only exception is the 2.5km loop around the British Embassy near the river. So during the week, I go over there very early in the morning to do several loops.

But today was Sunday and I needed to run 9 miles, so I went out to Lac de ma Vallee, where the loop is 4km (2.4 mi) which is a bit better. Besides it's beautiful there. Very much like a New England x-country course in August (with humidity and bugs to match!). I did four loops, which ended up being 9.5 miles, which was good. It was sunny by the time I got there, but it must have rained recently because it was less humid than it was last week when I went there.

I have a coach now which is good. She's building me back up slowly now and so far my energy is really good. I keep wanting to run more -- farther, more days of the week -- so that is good. I did a 10-day meditation retreat in December and had a nasty, nasty cold right before that, so I went 15 days without a run, which I think may have been my longest layoff since 2004.

I've been traveling a lot. The retreat was in Nairobi, then I went to Benin with a friend, which was great (warm, flat and mostly dirt/sand roads). Then two days in Bukavu and I went to Kindu which is in the interior of Congo, directly west of Bukavu on the Congo river. In Kindu, I actually ran a couple of times with a friend, Rob, which is something I rarely ever do. Had a good 11 mi run out there which was quite amusing to several villages I passed through. I'm sure I was THE topic of conversation all Sunday afternoon.

Was back in Bukavu one day, which was long enough to fall while running and get some nice road rash on my leg, before coming here to Kinshasa. Tuesday (hopefully -- it's a MONUC flight, so never sure) I head back to Bukavu for a couple of weeks before I'll head to Kindu again for a conference.

I'll try to post some photos as I go around and write more about my runs.

One thing about all this travel is that I'm in different climates and terrains all the time. Here in Kinshasa, it's flat and paved and my pace is faster than it has been in a year or more. Bukavu is hilly, rocky and like running on rough trails all the time. Kindu is pretty flat with a couple of gentle hills and sandy enough soil that one can generally run in the rain okay (something which can be quite treacherous in Bukavu).

I'm hoping to run a marathon in late June or early July, but first I have to figure out where I'm going to be then. Maybe the Seattle Rock n Roll marathon, though that conflicts with Pride weekend. In April, I'm doing a running holiday in Scotland through Running the Highlands. I'm really looking forward to that. I've never been to Scotland and it seems like the perfect way to see the place!