Thanks to everyone who took the time to read last weeks’ column, and thanks to everyone who got in touch with questions, comments and words of encouragement.
I’m here two weeks now, and much to my dismay, I’m still trying to settle in and adapt back to the Kenyan lifestyle, because normally I would be well settled at this stage. I mentioned last week that there is a drought in the Rift Valley right now, it hasn’t rained in over three months. Apart from the obvious problems this can cause to the local livestock and crops, it creates some other issues that we don’t have to deal with in Ireland.
There are very little solid roads here, about 90% of the roads are made from soil, earth, clay and stones. These dirt roads are used by everyone and everything to get around. They are great for running because they offer a little more cushioning for your joints than traditional roads, and when you’re running over 100 miles every week it helps that your knees get a rest from the hard surfaces.
Right now there is far too much dust on these roads, and so it makes it almost impossible to run on them after a herd of cattle or a vehicle has been on the road a few minutes before you. A cloud of dust rises from the red clay and can float over the road for a few minutes before it settles again.
Not having any rain to keep this dust on the ground has been the reason I’ve taken a little longer to adjust. You’re constantly breathing in this dusty air, and as a result I’ve had a chest and sinus problem for the past week.
The local people call us ‘Mazungo’ which means ‘white man’, and most of the other Mazungos I’ve spoken to, including some Irish people who are also out here training, have said that they suffered the exact same thing when they arrived. It’s a little reassuring to know I’m not the only one this is affecting, but it took some people I spoke to a month to get used to it and start feeling themselves again.
The main reason I decided to come and stay for 13 weeks was to avoid having to rush anything, so whether that was rushing into heavy training or returning back after a few days illness, I don’t have to do that now. I’ve still got eleven weeks here, and that’s more than enough time to get into great shape. I’ll go into a lot more detail on my weekly training in a few weeks once I really get into it.
Thanks to everyone who e-mailed me with questions, I’ve been replying to each person but I’ll give some general answers to the common questions I was asked. Also, feel free to e-mail me about anything that I mention in the articles and I’ll reply asap. Thanks.
Apart from the lack of rain, it has been windy and warm even by Kenyan standards. During the day it reaches highs of between 31 and 38 degrees, and at night it drops to about 12, but some nights it doesn’t get below 15 degrees which makes it very difficult to sleep.
Kenya has been influenced by many different nations, and as a result there is an eclectic collection of food types available at most of the small restaurants in Iten. Almost everywhere serves rice, as it’s easy to grow and cheap to produce, and it’s a staple part of every local persons diet here. Chapatti is a flour-based pancake-like dish. It’s very easy to make, and I’ve yet to meet someone, either Kenyan or Mazungo, that doesn’t like it.
The local farmers all grow maize or ‘corn-on-the-cob’ as some people call it. It’s sold as both, and it is also turned into the local food, ugali, which is a very bland source of carbohydrates.
It’s the same texture as lumpy grainy potatoes, but has little or no flavour to it, and I really haven’t taken to it as much as other dishes.
The advantage of such a warm climate is that some fruits grow extremely well. Bananas, pineapples and mangoes all grow in abundance, and this time of year they are all in season, so there are stalls on the side of the road selling mangoes for 10 shillings which is about 10 cent. So as you can imagine, I’m eating my fair share of mangoes and pineapples.
Adjusting to the altitude can vary from person to person, so it’s difficult to say how long it should take to adjust to living at 2400m above sea level. For the most part you really don’t notice any difference, until you start to run.
Last August when I arrived out here, it took me about two weeks to adjust to the altitude. Walking was fine, but when you start to run, especially up hills, there is a significant difference. I wear a heart rate monitor during all my training sessions and so I know what my heart rate (HR) in beats per minute (BPM) should be when I’m running at certain speeds.
For the first month I expect my HR to be slightly above normal. Once my body gets used to living at this altitude, it becomes more efficient, and as a result my HR will slowly begin to drop until it’s lower than if I was running at sea level. This took about 5-6 weeks last year. It never takes quite as long as the first time so hopefully within the next month I’ll be able to run with a lower HR than I can in Ireland.
In next week’s column, Dan will be giving readers a training plan that could help you prepare to run a 5k race.
If you have been thinaking about getting fit, or even considering taking your hobby to the next level, then be sure to see next week’s Running Man column first in the Leinster Express next Wednesday for top advice from Dan. Also, any questions you have, then e-mail Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.