Aileen's Blog

Aileen's Blog

A Kenyan Experience

My BlogPosted by Aileen Sun, December 14, 2014 18:13:15

At one stage I was adamant I was not going to Kenya in November. As far as I knew I signed up for January to September with the squad and this would be enough each year to be with my coach and squad training, with much needed time at home with my husband and family. Well coach managed to convince me different, mostly by way of ‘do you want to be the best you can be?’

Arriving in Nairobi, was an experience itself. I had a bit of a crazy taxi tour of the town and visited an empty pool, cos Kenyans don’t really swim. A short flight to Eldoret and a dangerous matatu (taxi bus) transfer to Iten the following day brought Conor & I last into camp where everyone else had arrived in the previous few days.

view across the rift valley-

Iten itself sits at 2340 odd meters above sea level, and is known as ‘The home of Champions’. Lornah Kiplagat hails from here and she has set up a high altitude training centre (HATC) which is home for 4weeks. Being smart and successful and all- she opened a centre with a pool and gym and (Ger Hartman) treatment area along side accom for Kenyan and international athletes. The local run trails are fantastic and as visitors to Lornah’s place we have access to the newly laid tartan track as well as the dirt track in Iten where it all (literally) happens.

On day 2 we went to watch ‘track Tuesday’. There was an awful lot of people there, we wondered was it normal. About 60 people in the stands in suits were doing job interviews for a local company, and in the ‘in field’ a queue formed for the local driving academy. That’s why there was a digger and a bus parked there. 40 Kenyan lads were repping out 24x400s in 68 whilst people were carrying tables and chairs across and a landrover drives across the track in front of them? Apparently it’s the local meeting place and this is fairly normal.

track tuesday

In the first week we had an easy period to get used to the altitude, as we discovered the trails and went out and about on our bikes. The Eldoret road is too dangerous with the matatu drivers (crazy stuff), so we are left with one option down and up the rift valley. A 1hr descent takes 2hours up. But sure its better than the turbo and the sights and sounds of Africa are amazing. I had a few near misses with matatus (they frequently drive in the middle- or wrong side) and I seen a guy with a long machete knife blade- so I gave him a wide berth. Then cows/ goats/ chickens would cross the path. Kids shouts ‘how are you?’ not just once but 5times in a row, and each kid you pass says that. So you say ‘fine’ 400 times, or switch to hello & wave- they love that. They play with tyres barefoot, happy as larry running beside you up the mountain while your sweating the bit out. Our runs often take us back roads, past houses where people bbq corn on the cob, and always seem to be carrying large bags of maize on their head/shoulders. Kids shout ‘mazungo’ which means white man, but they mean no harm, they think it’s the same as hello. The odd one will say ‘give me your watch’, ‘give me your bike’, but your totally safe as houses and they just want to be friendly. I also got used to the men with machete knives, it turns out its totally normal to walk around with one as its used for grass cutting and all sorts of other original things unrelated to killing stuff.

a coke stop half way up with Lindsey & Julia

It rained a fair bit on week1/2 so trail shoes were useful as the red dirt turns to clay slush. But we also made use of Lornah’s track during biblical downpours as the surface was pretty new and grippy. A track session at 2300m is not easy tho. Coach daz prescribed 2x 3k workouts of 5x (400on, 200float), the first 400 was grand, it was the 200 float that got me!

But the usual Kenyan session to do if it rains is diagonals. They use the grassy infield as its not all mucky, but it is full of bumps and holes. It seems they like bumps and holes fines- sure aren’t all the trails bumpy and holey. The Kenyans run in single file lines. So Darren made us join in with them, just randomly run behind some guys you don’t know?! Mad, but sure they didn’t mind. It was tough going though, the recovery is super slow, but it takes the entire way back to the start of the next diagonal to recover.

a trip out w the gals-

Lisa Norden and Jodie Stimpson arrived about a week before the rest of us. They both entered challenge Bahrain a 70.3 in early December, so their training has been a little different from ours. They brought TT bikes and do 3 hour turbo sessions, whilst we go out and about on our X-bikes. They both done an awesome training block, but 70.3 is not my thing. The swim and run maybe, but the bike, no thank you! The 2 Americans Jess and Lindsey have been training away for the start of the WTS season just like me, and the new ‘youngster’ Julia never stops smiling. Conor and Cam are male-bonding nicely, and I think coach daz has chilled a bit since last year which is great for me as its important to talk about stuff and have a cohesive approach to training. He comes across all macho but has a soft n squidgy side too! (sorry coach).

Theres too much fun in Kenya for one blog so il update you on keeping up with the kenyans, trips out to St Patricks high school and meeting Brother Colm in my next update! coming soon.