Monday, April 25, 2011

Adventure running in Katima

This was  a “low” week – just 5-6 milers each day for a total of 22 miles or so for the week (though you may not see this in my workout history yet because for some reason my Forerunner 410 is not able to sync with my computer. . .). Also, this was a 4-day weekend: both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays here in Namibia. I don’t have any money to travel, so I just stayed close to home, but that was fine because Friday I moved into my “real” apartment and it’s been nice to be domestic. I finally unpacked everything and it was almost like Christmas – running shoes I haven’t seen in a month! Even a new pair of shorts I realized I’d never yet worn!


Sunday morning I went out for a 6-mile run and felt bored when I turned east on the B8 highway, just as I had the last time I ran. So, this time I decided to go down the dirt road that passes Zambezi private school, the Caprivi Houseboat Lodge and heads toward the now defunct Hippo Lodge. The last time I ran down this road, it was  flooded where there was a bit of a bridge over the river. This time was no different, but I didn’t feel like turning back and being on the same old road. So I just went for the adventure. That meant sloshing through no less than 5 river crossings, though happily the first was the deepest and only came up to my butt. I hemmed and hawed for awhile, looking at the family ahead of me who had just walked through the water themselves. Do I go for it or don’t I? Finally I plunged in and, of course, it wasn’t that bad. Once your feet are wet, they’re wet!


After the first two crossings, there was a path that wound around behind the houses and avoided another flooded area. That was appreciated. But of course, there was another flooded area. This time, I followed two boys who were following another sort of path (very tall grass that had been recently walked on). That one didn’t pan out and we had to backtrack and just plunge into the water. One of the boys said he had gone down this way yesterday and this was the end of the flooding (or that’s how I interpreted what he said), but this was not the case! The fifth crossing wasn’t very deep, but by the time I got to the sixth, 2.25 miles into the run, I was a bit fed up. And this one made a river of the road that stretched as far as I could see – at least 400m or more (the road curved), so I turned back at that point, though the boys went on, sure they would get somewhere.


But the run certainly wasn’t boring! I don’t think I ran more than a quarter of a mile before needing to cross a flood or find a path around. On the way back, behind those houses again, I was happily running along the path when I came face to face with a gang of cows. The path was not wide enough for both me and the cows and I have to admit that I don’t really know how to manage cows. I shooed the first one, a heifer, off the path, but then I was confronted by a couple of bulls with horns who were guarding a calf between them. Maybe the locals would think I’m an idiot, but I didn’t think my chances were good, so I decided that, 6 against 1, I would be the one to get off the path and go around. . .


As I passed through the first flooded area again, 4 helicopters flew overhead. At the other side, there was a guy on a bike hemming and hawing about crossing. I asked him what he thought of the helicopters, but he had no idea. 4 white, unmarked helicopters flying over the middle of nowhere. A few minutes later, there were another 3 white and 1 blue helicopters. It struck me that this guy had no idea whose helicopters they were and I realized, like crossing the border to Zambia, this is probably a symptom of living in a peaceful society. When I was in the DR Congo, anyone on the street could identify any airplane or helicopter that flew overhead. They had to – their lives depended on it. Planes and helicopters brought soldiers or food or weapons or aid. Here, who knows? But it probably doesn’t affect my life.


Back on the paved road, there was a gaggle of small children who were beyond excited to say hello to the “mukua” (white person). I waved and asked “how are you?” (the typical greeting) and a few of them replied “fine” (the typical response). They were happy and their excitement gave me a boost. Otherwise, it was a sleepy Easter Sunday morning.


I wore my Vibram Five Finger Bikila LS shoes. I think they are my favorite “minimalist” shoes. Easier to get on and off than the original Bikilas. My feet have taken a bit of a beating this week. I have some funny sort on the top of my right foot, just below my pinky toe joint. I’m not sure if it is being caused by the New Balance Minimus shoes or by my Olukai sandals. It only seems to hurt when I touch it, though, not when I’m actually walking or running. The other day I ran in my Luna Sandals ( which was wonderful. I really, really love them. Just a thin piece of rubber between me and the road. Unfortunately, they gave me a nasty blister on the inside of my left big toe, which I didn’t even realize until it popped of its own accord when I was walking back to the office after lunch the same day. Then today, I wore my Merrell Pace Glove trail shoes. The first time I wore these shoes, I wore them sockless and ran in Wunderlich park and they gouged the back of my heel so deeply that it caused me ongoing Achilles tendonitis, so I haven’t worn them in a couple of months. I did go out again without socks (largely because they are advertised to be for minimalist folks and to be worn sockless), to my detriment. I didn’t reinjure the Achilles tendon again, but they rubbed me raw under my left ankle bone. Why always the left while the right is fine???


Though I love the fit and feel of the Merrells and it was actually great to wear trail shoes, I’m really disappointed with the design of the women’s shoes. The men’s version are soft and sweet on the inside, but for some reason, the women’s model has a sort of elastic heel counter and there are seams with stitching and much less soft material on the inside. Why? If I could have found a pair of the men’s in my size, I would have bought them before I left the US. Now, I feel like demanding my money back from the company. . .

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