My training over the last seven days in Kenya was productive and I had a good track session the day before John and I left for Belgium.
Once again I did a track session with the group of marathoners which I have been doing most of my tough sessions with. This time the group was so big (roughly 40 guys) that we split into two groups before we even started the first interval. A dude just walked down the middle of the group of us and split us up into two even groups. I was happy to see that two of the most consistent guys were in my group.
The pyramid session totalled 12 kilometres:
1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m,
400m, 600m, 800m, 1000m, 1200m,
1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m
I never asked what the rest between the intervals was going to be. I figured out pretty quickly that it was only one minute, except we rarely took a full minute.
The session started off well. The guys had me lead the first 800m interval and I still felt good. I was secretly praying they would take more rest between ‘sets’ but of course there wouldn’t be. By the time we got back up to the second 1200m repetition the short rest was taking it’s toll and I cut a few of the intervals down to 800m in order to stay on pace with the group. After the last 800m interval the group only took 51 seconds rest, which would be short enough at sea-level, and I suffered right until the end.
All told I did 11 out of the 12 kilometres. It was a tough session and a good way to sign-off on the hard training in Kenya.
Early Wednesday morning I ran 26km and put my feet up for the rest of the day before John and I flew from Eldoret to Nairobi.
At our hotel in Nairobi there was a Pakistani “rock-star” Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (RFAK) who had a massive entourage, all wearing t-shirts adorning his face. These guys were quite demanding of the waiters and at one point the RFAK started berating the nice young waiter. Another patron calmly told RFAK to treat the waiter with respect. RFAK lost his temper and had to be restrained while the gentleman told Ali Khan to “think about what you’re doing.” Other members in his entourage were also yelling for the guy to mind his own business. When you treat someone like garbage for no good reason in front of someone else you’ve made it their business. We gave the patron our support, whatever that was worth. After that excitement we went to sleep before a big travel day.
The next morning we were up shortly after 5am to catch a cab to Nairobi Airport. We flew Nairobi to Amsterdam and then on to Brussels. We took a train to Leuven to meet up with my friend Pieter who we were staying with for a couple of days outside of Liege.
Sunday was a great day for a cross-country race, sunny and 11 Celcius. Warming up for the race my hip was really tight and so was John’s back. Mine seemed to get better whereas John’s got worse and he, wisely, decided not to race.
This was a real cross-country course. Six times around a 1500m loop with plenty of turns, mud, small steeple barriers and two very steep little hills. After 400m I was way back in the field but moving through pretty quickly. After two laps I got up to 5th place where I stayed until the finish. There were a couple of straightaways of about 120m each where I would make ground on the guys in front of me but then we’d get to the turns and hills and I’d lose it all back. I’m not great at cross-country to begin with and not having raced xc for a couple of years showed. It was still a lot of fun and good to push myself.
In these pics you can see the nature of the course. Small steep hills, soft ground and lots of turns.
About an hour after the race I suddenly got really cold and jumped in a hot shower before making our way to the train station. On the train I started to get very hot and felt horrible. An hour later I didn’t think I was going to be able to fly home the next day if this fever didn’t subside. After many trips to the bathroom (I’ll leave out the details) and drinking plenty of fluids I started to come around and later that night I was feeling ok. I’ve never felt so crappy in such a short period and gotten better that quickly. It was a peculiar four-hour flu that I’m going to blame on dehydration.
The last seven weeks were a lot of fun, I got in some good training and I missed out on a very cold and snowy Southern Ontario winter. I’m really curious to see how my fitness will translate to sea-level and how I will feel running marathon pace. Running hilly routes at 8000 feet and taking very short rests during track sessions is hard to evaluate but surely must be good for fitness. There is slightly less than seven weeks to go before the London Marathon which will give me ample time to nail down race pace (barring injury and/or sickness).
Someone asked in the comments last week about the pace Kenyans run for recovery. After most sessions Kenyans often run about 6:00/km, sometimes slower. In fact I’ve seen nothing but walking on a few occasions after fartlek sessions. After track sessions I would do my own cool-down. After fartleks when we would end away from our end-point and wouldn’t be changing shoes I’d get stuck running a couple km at 6:15/km. I never minded the slow jog because it was the best time to pick their brains about training and racing.
Here are some pics from my trip. A lot of these were posted to instagram but thought I’d just put them up anyways…
#WazunguWatatu in Nairobi hotel enroute to Iten
Great Rift Valley (Kerio Valley)
Boorsma’s impression of D’Anunzio from Caddyshack
walking home from school
Hike past Kamariny
Searching for the falls
Junior race 8km race
Eldoret Discovery XC 8km race
New track opening ceremonies
10 x 1km track session
Taking the lead on rep #9
Mo should stick to running
The matatu is never full
Back alley moonshine
School visiting HATC
John Drilling for water with Wesley Korir (neon sleeve)
It’s been two weeks since my last blog and I’ve had two contrasting weeks. One week was perfect training and then the next was riddled with an injury and sinus infection.
Two weeks ago (Feb 3rd-9th) everything was clicking. I ran 215km, had a good track session of 10 x 1km and a solid 40km run.
I knew a week prior that we were going to tackle 10 x 1km on the track. The surprise: a few minutes before we started I was informed we were only taking one minute between intervals. Up here one minute isn’t much and I suffered, however the session was a success. The group asked me to lead the 8th interval and I pretended not to hear them and with only one minute rest we were off again. They asked me to lead the 9th rep and I did, well at least 800m of it. On the 10th I was tired and the pack got away from me and I started to feel sorry for myself. When I saw that my splits were right on pace (the guys picked it up) it lifted my spirits and I finished off the rep well.
A few days later I did a hard 35km run with the group. I jogged 1km to meet them and then we set off for 35km. The first 5km wasn’t too fast and then it was pretty solid. Around 29km I thought we were heading back towards Iten until we veered off the main road. At this point I knew we were heeded for ‘big dipper.’ At the bottom of ‘big dipper’ we were a pack of 15. By the top (about 31km into the run) the pack was spread thin. It stayed that way until the end of the run. I sucked down the rest of my drinks then I added 4km to make it 40km. I finished the week off with some strides and felt surprisingly snappy considering I was finishing up a 215km week.
And then things started to unravel, which probably sounds as though I went too hard the previous week. My tibialis flared-up on Monday, it’s an injury which I get a couple times a year. I believe I got it running down hills on tired legs (the two days after the 40km run) and being lazy by heel striking too hard which puts pressure on the tendons in the front of my shin. I was running quite a bit more here last year but I reduced it this time around because I think I was compromising the speed of my sessions even though I seemed to handle it fine.
Because of the flare-up in my tendon I took tuesday completely off and reduced my running volume by 50% over the first four days this week. That seemed to do the trick because by Friday everything was cleared up. Except for my sinuses! One thing after another this week!
John Mason, Dane (Australian) and I decided to take up Wesley Korir’s offer to race a 15km road race he was putting on in his hometown of Cherangany on Saturday (15th). When I said yes to the race two days prior I wasn’t sure how hard I would run it because of my shin, and later because of my cold.
Cherangany is only 67km away from Iten on dirt roads but the way we drove, on paved roads, it was 133km. The dirt roads are rough, I’m not sure which way would have been better in normal circumstances. Unfortunately there was a toppled fuel truck which caused a massive traffic jam, maybe the dirt roads would have been better. I couldn’t believe how much traffic was leaving Eldoret.
Here’s something I recently learned after four years here: There is a pipeline from Mombassa (on the Kenyan coast) to Eldoret. Eldoret is where the trucks pick up the fuel and transport the fuel all over Western Kenya and beyond. A lot of the fuel goes to Uganda, which is a landlocked country. We easily saw hundreds and hundreds of fuel trucks.
I’ve only ever driven through Eldoret in the North-East to South-West direction. Leaving Eldoret heading North-West is where you see all the fuelling stations, fuel trucks and sprawling city. It was quite incredible to see, and at the same time frustrating to be stuck in heavy traffic.
We made it to Wesley Korir’s house in Cheragany safe and sound and slept hard Friday night. The next morning I woke up and still felt crappy and decided that I shouldn’t go too hard and use the 15km race as a marathon pace session.
The race was slated to start at 9am, which we knew would never happen in Kenya. We arrived at the start line at 8:50 and no one was there. After a 5km warm-up there were a few athletes around and by 9:40 there were about 100 runners ready to go.
The course started on an older road but after 2.2km it turned onto a brand new paved road which we had driven to get to the start line. It was nice to run on such smooth pavement.
Surprise, surprise, the race went out fast. I ran 3:00 for the first km and was already way back of the pack of sixty or so runners. Throughout the race I slowly picked off runners and held a decent pace through 10km (31:30). The final 3.5km climbed a brutal hill. I slowed down to 3:4x/km yet still passed a slew of runners. As usual most Kenyans I caught put up a good fight, sometimes surging hard, to not get passed by the mzungu. I only passed guys throughout the whole race, except in the last 100m where I guy I just past burst into a big kick and went back ahead of me.
I ran 48:28 for 15km and placed 35th. John ran 52:10, kicked down a Kenyan in the final sprint and was pumped with the result. Sammy Kosgei won the race, apparently a little under 45 minutes. With prize money 20 deep and the winners (there was a 10km for women) getting a trip to the US to race a half marathon the race up front was competitive.
Wesley organized the race only days before and yet the crowds were great along the side of the road. Always supportive to the mzungu.
When we got back to Iten on Saturday we decided to jog 6km to shake out the 2.5 hour car ride. In the last 5 minutes we ran with a random Kenyan. I asked him what his training was that day: 38km in the morning (2:13) and 12km in the afternoon!
Today I already feel better than yesterday. My sinuses aren’t pounding, I’m less congested and have more energy. It’s always a gamble training through a head cold but because I already took time off this week I was stubborn to take more time off. Hopefully I’ve dodged this bullet.
John and I only have a few more days left in Iten before we head to Belgium to run a 10km XC race in Dour on Sunday (23rd). Then we’re back in Canada the following day.
When I get home I’ll post a bunch of pics from the trip.
This morning I did my long run early and I thought I’d try and write my blog while most of the other runners were training so I could upload some photos. No luck, the internet can’t handle photos on wordpress. Perhaps if I made them really small it could work…
Training is going well. I had a track session of 400′s on Tuesday, fartlek on Friday and a 30km run this weekend. I do all my hard runs with the same local group and the rest of my runs with #wazunguwatatu or other people from the camp.
Kyle, John, Dane (Aussie runner) and I went on a run through a forrest which starts about 5km from the camp. I’ve been on this run in past years and it’s kind of become a tradition for me. Some of the trails are technical, there are creek crossings and very steep hills so it’s not a run I do often. The best part of the run is when we reach the edge of the Great Rift Valley at a spot where there are only a couple of little huts nearby.
It amazes me every time I go there because a car can’t drive up there (perhaps a rugged SUV could), there is no plumbing or electricity. Just a couple of thatched roofed mud huts, lots of different crops and a couple of friendly people surprised to see Wazungu. The kid we met, Aaron, spoke good english and we asked him a bunch of questions about his life out there.
This weekend there is a track opening ceremony and London Marathon press conference with some of the top runners. I should probably head over there soon and check it out the festivities.
Track intervals aren’t normally a big part of my marathon training but up here in Iten I’m including one track session a week. The terrain around here is hilly and at 8000 feet it’s hard to keep a good rhythm so the track becomes a haven for even pace running. It’s no wonder you see many marathoners on the track here each week.
Last Tuesday I attempted to follow Martin Matathi (2013 Fukuoka winner) on some 600m repeats which turned really ugly for me after 6 intervals and then moving into some 400′s. I tried replicating times from a 600m session I did towards the end of one of my previous stays here and got a quick reminder that it takes a while to acclimate to altitude. Next week, next week…
Early Saturday morning I met up with 30+ local marathoners for a long run. This is the same group I ran with a lot a couple years ago and, more recently, a hilly progression run with two days earlier. The plan for the run was a 38km loop with three vehicles helping distribute water bottles.
The pace for the long run was honest from the get-go and at 6:15am four minutes per kilometre felt faster than it should have. The majority of the first half of the loop is downhill and then there is a long climb back towards the start. The car was pulling up beside us every 5km and distributing bottles. I only packed 500ml so I thought I’d conserve more for the second half of the run and just took a small sip at 5km. At 8.5km into the run I had to take a pit stop in the bushes. Up until that point we had averaged 3:52/km. By the time I caught back to the group around 14km my average was down to 3:44/km.
When I got my bottle at 15km I noticed someone had taken a sip at 10km when I was absent from the group. No big deal. Around 21km the lead car pulled up and handed out bottles again. I was at the back of the pack and I saw my bottle get passed to a dude wearing an orange shirt. I picked up the pace and made my way towards Orange Shirt. As I got close I realized he didn’t have my bottle anymore. I looked around and saw my bottle about to get emptied down another dude’s gullet. I yelled over to get my bottle which, by that point, had less than a sip left. I probably drank 100ml of my Ironman Perform and had to settle for a dry last 17km.
These guys share bottles, which is cool but I don’t know if these guys are using bottled water (as I do here). I didn’t want to take my chances with whatever they put in their bottles. Next week I have two bottles with “MZUNGU” written down the sides.
I kept up with the group through 28km at which time I slowly faded away along with other suffering athletes on the climb back up towards Iten. I still managed to average 3:46/km through 36km. I had initially planned for 36km so at that point I settled into a very easy jog for the remaining 2km.
My fitness is coming around and I’m getting a good base. 3.5 more weeks in Iten and 11 weeks to go until London Marathon.
I’m back in Iten, Kenya, “The Home of Champions” for the fourth year in a row. I keep coming back here for the great weather, world-class runners, 8000 feet of altitude, great running loops and the overall experience. This time I’m here for six weeks and once again I’m staying at the High Altitude Training Centre. Iten keeps growing, there is more traffic, more guest houses and more foreigners here every year. There is also a new six-lane tartan track which just opened up.
This year I travelled here with Kyle Boorsma and John Mason. We are collectively known as #WazunguWatatu (three foreigners, or white people). It’s a solid crew and we’ve already had a cool adventure hiking to some waterfalls and spotting a bunch of monkeys jumping through the trees. The internet is pretty crappy here this year so I won’t include pictures in the blogs but, will try to get stuff up on Instagram when I’m able.
This is my 10th day in Iten. The first 10 days always seem to be the toughest as I’m getting over jet-lag, acclimating to altitude and getting used to the hilly terrain. Once I pass the three week mark I typically really start to get into the groove up here. This altitude stint should give me a good base before I return to Guelph.
Since I’ve been here my training has been consistent but it’s clear I’m not in shape yet. Up here I know my fitness will come around, especially with solid 30km runs like the one I had today. A massive group left the camp together but we quickly separated into many small groups. By 26km we had a tight group of Mo Farrah, Marius Ionescu (finished one spot ahead of me at the Olympic Marathon) and Arne Gabius (13:12 5000m). It was my furthest run since the Fukuoka marathon and it felt good to feel like I’m training for the marathon again. I’ll need a lot more runs like that to prepare myself for the London Marathon.
Yep, I’m planning on running the Virgin London Marathon on April 13th. I wasn’t announced in the press release but I am confirmed to race. Unlike Fukuoka I have no plans on running with the lead pack here!! There is supposed to be another paced group that should closely suit my goal time. Looking forward to that. But first I must get fit and prepared.
2013 started off with a great 8 week training block in Kenya where I ran a lot and came back to Guelph ready to put the final touches on my marathon build-up for Rotterdam. A small injury to my foot and getting sick slowed me down going into Rotterdam. The sickness came back stronger days before the race. The writing was on the wall but I gave it a shot anyways, went through halfway in 64:58 and dropped out after 35km.
After a recovery period I started to regain fitness and plotted to run STWM in the fall. A week later I broke my collarbone falling off my mountain bike. Seven weeks of no running ensued plus another couple weeks ramping back up my training. At that point I knew I wouldn’t be ready for STWM and changed my focus to the Fukuoka marathon.
It was a little unnerving that by September my best race in 2013 was a 64:24.
By late September I felt fit again and posted promising results going into Fukuoka (Canadian 10km win and 63:11 half). On race day at Fukuoka I felt ready to run sub 2:10. A fast early pace and running solo from 18km made it too tough for me and I finished in 2:11:24. Not bad, but short of my goal. That performance ranked me second in North America (behind Dathan Ritzenhein 2:09:47) which isn’t really that great because a 2:11 shouldn’t be ranked that high in North America. It’s more of a stat I would tell a non-runner who asks me what I do for a living and use it to justify running around everyday.
Three faces of “what the Fukuoka just happened?”
December wasn’t smooth sailing, I had a cold for a week and last week I barely ran because inflamed fibularis tendons. I’m not complaining though because the timing could have been much worse. The last couple days I’ve felt pretty good on the treadmill.
I ran 7446km in 2013. Short of my goal of 8000 but considering I took an unexpected 7 weeks off, not bad. Otherwise I would have easily hit 8500km.
In two days I’m off to Kenya with John Mason and Kyle Boorsma. I will spend over 6 weeks in Iten, Kenya and race a Belgian XC race on the way home. After that it will be a half marathon in March and a marathon in April (to be confirmed really soon).
Stay tuned for dispatches from Iten…