Wednesday, January 19, 2011
It must have been the Ugali
After a few days at altitude, I decided that it was time to test myself with a tough session. On Sunday night, my housemates mentioned that they would run hill repeats the following morning at 9:30am. That meant up at 6am for a 13k 'easy' jog, then we'd get two hours for a short rest and breakfast. Then we'd run 5k to the forest for a 40 minute hill repeats session. (photo courtesy of mzungo.org)
I wasn't sure how big or steep the hill was, but either way I knew that it was going to be difficult keeping up with the girls. After all, the each weigh about 40kg (6 stone), and run up hills for a living. Power to weight ratio was not on my side. Given that mountain running is supposedly my forte, I was a little bit nervous about experiencing destruction of the ego.
When we arrived at the forest, there were four guys already running repeats on the hill. The first thought that crossed my mind was bad memories of climbing 'the ride' in Crone Wood, Co. Wicklow, three times during the 2009 World Mountain running team trial. The gradient was similar, if not slightly steeper. The lads running repeats were flying up the hill, as though it wasn't a hill at all. I immediately felt deflated, and wished that we were running down-hill repeats. That way I might have had a chance.
We got started, and I surprised myself by managing to hang on to the group. We were joined by their coach (a 63 minute half marathoner), and a couple of other lads who came out of nowhere (this tends to happen a lot here).
The climb was 150 metres long (thanks Garmin) on a steep narrow dirt trail worn into the grass. The repeat was directly up and back. Pushing hard on the climb and then floating down very slowly. The climb told about 1 minute, as did the descent. The firs half of each ascent felt fine, then each time I passed the tree stump at half way my lungs would start burning and my legs would follow suit. Every time I reached the top I felt wrecked, and thought I would have to stop. But then I recovered well by the time we got back to the bottom, and was ready for another.
We ran repeats for 40 minutes, and happily I was able to stick with my training buddies. This may sound a bit sad (because the pace was set by 18 year old girls), but I was pretty satisfied with myself and considered it quite an achievement!:-)
Once the session was over, we started jogging the trails back tithe village. It was mostly uphill, but that was ok because I had my confidence intact. After about 5 minutes of jogging the coach gave a soft whistle out of the blue, and the group took off at an explosive pace. I was mortified, because I had invested all of my energy in the session, which I thought had finished! All of a sudden it was game on.
I accelerated after the group with as much strength as I could muster up. Fortunately we went over a verge and began descending. Now i was in my element! Though it was only a brief respite, before we were heading up hill again. After 2 minutes the coach gave another whistle and the pace subsided. The group all turned around to see if I was still with them - I was. The coach had a wry smile on his face, which I interpreted as 'that's round one, let's see how many rounds it takes to drop the Mzungu'.
This continued for another 3k. By the end of the final push, I was fading big time. I knew I was a goner, and I started falling back. But before anyone noticed, the coach called the session over. Everyone started walking the remaining 2k back to base (it turns out they often walk back from sessions here - apparently it's part of the session).
What a relief.