A serious grind

A serious grind
West Shewa, Ethiopia

West Shewa, Ethiopia

Running, eh, bloody hell?! Just as I thought I was getting to grips with this altitude lark, along comes the long run. I thought I could slow down and do the miles. I had ‘running to time’ rather than distance as a backup. And so I set off. In fact I delayed setting off. At 7 I could see the weather was overcast, and figured on it staying that way like yesterday, then at 9 I noticed the wifi (the only thing here that is a little expensive, and I’m sure just having it is a luxury, so that’s not a complaint) was on free vend, so I took the chance to check email and the like.

I eventually got going just before 10 and headed for the satellite field. It’s two miles away, from 3-5 miles round depending on what you do so seemed a reasonable bet for some laps without too much thought about route. I saw Chris coming back the other way, so at least he could be reassured I wasn’t dead, after I spent yesterday afternoon watching films, ended up going to dinner late and missing everyone. I dropped my water bottle and solitary gel by a fence after 2 miles or so and set out on a loop. First loop, fine, stopped for water after 6 miles. On the second loop I headed out of the field, so as to avoid having to do 4 lots of 3-4 mile laps. At the end of a track through fields was a group of workers who stopped what they were doing to cheer me on and then (I think) made the signal for “we’re going to eat; join us?” when they spotted me turning back the way I came. It probably barely needs pointing out, but people out working in a field on Saturday have nothing, but the generosity of spirit is phenomenal. Coming back along the field I was into a headwind and started to slow down.

Mentally I was in a reasonable state, not checking the watch other than when the miles bleeped, but it was getting tougher through 9 and 10 miles. I wanted to get back to the water at 2 hours, so when I got there at 1:51, had to head into the cattle field and back to make up time. Stopping – coming to a standstill for several minutes – for water was necessary, but possibly not a great idea. After two hours of slog, to get going again I needed a mental shove. I managed it, but was now for the first time going over 10 m/m. The miles ticked painfully past, and I left the field with 16 miles on the clock. I made it to 17 but then, without consciously thinking about it, started walking. Almost an out of body experience, as I looked down to see my legs walking, my brain worked out what was going on and figured “yep, fair enough, that is about the same pace”. I’ve wanted to walk before when running, but rarely felt like I really needed to. After 5 minutes I broke into a jog, but this was much slower than a walk. At least a normal walk – by now my hamstrings and back-of-knees were hurting, I moved into to an even slower walk than before, and I was in as much pain moving as I can remember. Just like a marathon going wrong, in fact, and I certainly remember a couple of those. If I’m allowed to start the excuses now, yesterday I had slight stomach cramps and during the run I noticed my swallowing was a bit noisy, as if I had a sore throat. We’ll see tomorrow if that comes to anything, or whether it just points to a little dehydration.

The stroll back to YaYa was painful and slow, and I stopped once on the track for a sit down. Once onto the road the gatehouse is in sight, but I again had to stop, though was at least distracted by a local grinning, asking where I was from and almost cheering when he heard England – “Britannia!?” Just wonderful. I managed to get up after he’d caught his minibus and crossed the road, but again flaked out 100m from the gate! After that rest I limped to my room, ignoring the Brit/Canuck axis who were having lunch, in favour of a low pressure shower and some compression tights. That was, once I’d got in. My card key refused to work-some kind of AI deciding this was a runner’s room and I no longer qualified. I wandered to reception but couldn’t stand there waiting and had to slump in a sofa! By the time I got to lunch I felt better and was seeing the funny side. Distracted by talk of military exploits I even cheered up a bit and when we did talk running, Rejean was kind enough to talk about his bad long run two weeks ago which was similar. At least in the “I can’t do this” feeling, I’m sure his slow struggling run is still 7m/m, given that a good one is under 6.

Summary: 3:09:51, 29.59km. Slowest runs ever: 1. Friendly Ethiopians: Legion. Books: none, piling through Anna Karenina and may be gone some time. Shoes: very muddy after lots of rain last night. Head: slightly red from exposure.

Phrase of the day: “old, purplish, stringy cocks were all they had for roasting and boiling”.


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