When I was young, like 5 or 6, I used to follow my Dad around and into the woods year round to ‘help’ him work. Maybe he brought me and I didn’t really have a choice. I can’t really remember. I do remember enjoying those days though. They worked out in stages. First we would get ready to go, so we needed all the necessary tools, there was a reason we were going. We needed the chainsaw, its oil and gas, and those things had a spot on the trailer and tractor. Then there were the axes; two types, one for splitting and one for limbing, I liked to think that the limbing axe was my responsibility. It was really the only thing I could manage. Then the tractor had to be hitched up to the trailer properly and off we went. The ride down to the woods could be treacherous. On the way down, if the road needed maintenance or if something needed fixing like fences, we’d always stop to get it done. Once down in the woods the next stage was to get at the trees that were identified as dead ones. At that age, I was never 100% sure which ones were dead or alive, since it was the fall, and most of them looked dead to me. But my Dad knew, so I left him to it. Once we found our tree, Dad would start cutting it down; I’d make sure I was in the right spot, the safest place. I always liked watching the trees fall. They were these huge giants, big maples or ash, so impressive. Then after a minute or two and with a surgeon’s precision Dad would cut them down angled just right, so they didn’t hit anything else on the way down. I didn’t really have much of a job down in the woods. Things were just too heavy, and I was just too small. I’d walk around a lot, looking at things, and trying to find animals. I tripped and fell a lot too. For some reason I would never lift my feet high enough over branches or twigs. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention. But boy, did I ever fall a lot. Many knees were scraped, eyes gouged, and fingers cut. One of the re-occurring lines I remember my Dad yelling at me was ‘stop dragging your heels!’
Once, after a similar yell I started taking exaggerated giant steps, to prove a point; that it wasn’t my fault I kept falling, the sticks were out to get me, and there was nothing I could do about it. But damn, he was right. I was dragging my heels. And I didn’t fall as much if I took his advice and focused.
Maybe I’m bigger now, and stronger, so lifting my heels isn’t something that I need to focus on as much as I used to (had to). But all those twigs are sure as hell still there. Some are obvious, some not so much, some I have to climb over. When I learned how to walk without face-planting all the time, I learned how to focus on me, I learned how to do it without thinking about it. I learned a lesson.
This is it folks.
I can’t believe I just spent two months in Kenya. Living, breathing and acting out the dream. I was able to really buckle down and train like I’ve never been able to train before. And I survived (knock on wood). I completely took on and even embraced the lifestyle, I ate local foods day in and day out, I jumped into the program that the local guys were doing, and I’ve come out the other end unharmed and hopefully fitter than ever.
I want to thank everyone who has been reading along and following my experience. It consoled me to know people were interested and curious with questions. It gave me something to do during down time, and encouraged me to constantly reflect on my purpose for the here and now, my job; my running. So thanks guys! And thanks for all the encouraging words.
Although I will thank them in person, I also want to use this space here to thank the family that has been so gracious to host me for the past two months, especially the strong mother of the house; Juliana. She gave me a place to stay and sleep, cooked my every meal, washed my clothes and worried about me if I wasn’t home at the usual time, or if I was feeling run-down or under the weather. Her, her oldest daughter Purity and the many helpers that have been in and out of the compound kept the days comfortable and made me feel at home. I owe them any successes I have as a result of my training and staying healthy throughout my stay here in Kenya.
To the many friends I’ve made here, especially my running mates; what a journey. The stories we’ve exchanged during the countless runs, sit-downs, visits and lounging moments have been special to me. Simon, my Maasai friend, became my guide, my interpreter, my buddy and someone I trust my life with. We’ve spent every day together, as running mates do; any of my friends from back home can understand the bond that can develop within a very short period of time. It is family; it is blood, sweat and tears. Simon and I explored, I had many firsts in Kenya, and he had some too, like his first milkshake or his first apple. So Simon thanks for sharing, man.
I’ve finished my last workout here in Kenya; I ran it yesterday at the track. It was 10x 400-200-200. I wanted to get going at my 5k race pace that I intend to run on March 2nd. I anticipated it to be pretty tough. It’s funny how the mind works, most of the time if I think a workout is going to be easy it ends up knocking me on my ass, but if I psyche myself up then usually I can handle it. I man-handled this sucker. My splits were dead on, and I stayed nice and relaxed the entire time, so it was a real confidence booster. I’m really excited to see what it means when I come down from altitude.
I’ve thought a lot about the training as a whole since I’ve been here. I’ve run a ton, with triples. I’ve been consistent; no injuries, no days lost from being sick. I’ve either been really lucky, or my habits were just right. I worked really hard to keep my legs and body right, I massaged with my stick, foam roller and golf ball every day, usually at breakfast after morning run. I took naps almost every day too, I’d give in to feeling tired every time. My easy runs were slow, sometimes deliberate, sometimes because I was too wiped to run any faster. Without hard proteins (meats) I ate like a fiend, my meals at lunch and supper were huge, and I’d usually have to sit or take a nap before thinking of doing anything else (there’s nothing really to snack on). And I didn’t do much of anything else during the day, it really has been the dream, I often passed on trips to Eldoret or invitations to go visiting during the week; I was just too tired, or knew that walking for two hours would set me back for the next workout.
I have to admit, Kenya is one of the few places in the world that you can get away with this life style, which is precisely why there are so many good Kenyan runners. The rest of us have to work, at least a little, and even that little bit is enough to take away. University is a good place, if you can be focused enough, studying can take up relatively little time. I wasn’t really. But I believe I can be in the future-haha. I’ve learned how to incorporate serious resting into the day, and still be able to read my books that I brought, and write my blogs and respond to emails. Having sketchy Kenyan internet has taught me not to waste time. Running three times a day has taught me not to waste time. Hearing about a runner my age run a Canadian record has taught me not to waste time.
Sometimes I compare myself to other runners. They’re usually ones that are better than me. But I don’t do it to bog myself down with all the things I haven’t accomplished. I do it to look for similarities, or patterns, in a way to confirm my own choices, or to explore different ideas about my progression. Without any recent race times from my legs, and having been at altitude for a solid amount of time, it’s difficult to compare, so my imagination has opened up to what I think may be possible and it’s wonderful.
I have only four more days. On Tuesday I fly to Nairobi then spend the day waiting for my flight to Paris. Sometimes I think about how quickly to an end my stay has come, and other times I feel as though these days are the longest ones I’ve had to endure the whole trip. I’m looking forward to coming home, and believe it or not, I’m looking forward to winter. It has felt unnatural to be witnessing it from away and not feel it and enjoy the season. Sure some winter days suck, but every year of my life has had a winter. I’d rather not have a gap year.
See you in a few days,