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!