Like my journey to the Olympics in Brazil, I thought I would share my journey for high altitude training in Africa. Many people told me how much they enjoyed it and some day I will appreciate looking back on the details of this experience. I will plan to post every few days, either on this blog or social media.
It’s 8:00 pm on Thursday, March 9 and I’ve now been at the High Altitude Training Camp (HATC) in Iten, Kenya for just over 24 hours. Planning this trip was exciting and knowing what I could get out of it was even better.
Then there was doing it.
I’ve experienced various degrees of pain and sorrow in my life and completely understand the difference between being prepared for and having the knowledge of something vs. actually living through it. The two things that come my mind are deaths of loved ones and childbirth. After losing my parents two years apart to cancer when I was barely an adult, it was then that I completely understood what it was like to mourn someone. I can’t say that it was something that I had prepared myself for; not many do at that age. Then there was childbirth, something for which I completely prepared. Then I gave birth, three times. Wow. Both sets of pain, emotional and physical, were by far the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had.
The weekend leading up to my departure for Kenya was busy, which was a good thing. I then had to work Monday evening, which at first I wish I had rescheduled but was later glad because it helped to occupy my mind. However, after my last patient, I really started to feel awful. The tears started earlier that day and started up again. My stomach was tight and I had that lump in my throat you feel when fighting tears. I had texted my husband the idea that our daughter could open my spring Saucony shipment as something to distract her Tuesday morning after seeing I was gone. But in his wise and gentle words, he replied, “Honestly, I don’t want to make a huge deal about your trip with her. She will have her sad times, I know this, but I don’t want to create drama where none exists. You can open with her tonight.”
That is when I had to let it go. I had done everything possible to help them, but likely more me, during my absence. His words helped me move along in the process of actually leaving my family for four weeks but I still felt terrible. I held it together when saying goodbye to the kids and tucking them into bed for the last time, but lost it when my husband came to say goodnight. I hadn’t felt like this since my dad died in 1995.
I’m very glad that I had an early ride to the airport so that there wouldn’t be any good byes with me trying to get out the door. Thankfully with our dog’s loss of hearing, he didn’t hear the car (and bark) and I escaped quietly. The 24-hour door-to-door trip to Iten had me teary much of the time, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew this season was about giving everything with no regrets. I kept speaking truth to myself while continuing to pray that I would get through it. Messaging family and friends while at the airport and reading messages was so encouraging. As always, my friend Stacey was supportive and my sister was incredible, encouraging me with her story about returning to teach full-time while leaving her young children at home. After posting a picture of my Team DuChene goodbye note, a Kathi Dewey from Instagram wrote, “Always remember that your children are watching what it looks like to work hard, to chase your dreams and to sacrifice — you are teaching them all of this by going! What amazing lessons!”
I even tear up now, writing this. Kathi, I can tell by your profile picture that you are a mom and I deeply thank you from the bottom of my heart. Those were the exact words I needed and continued to read along my journey to Africa. They were words of truth.
So, moving along. Thanks to Reid and John, my travel was perfect. They gave me much assistance and several helpful tips to make everything go as smoothly as possible. I left home Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at Pearson Airport at 6:30 a.m. for my 10:15 a.m. flight, which would be about 13 hours to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I then immediately got a connecting flight to Nairobi, Kenya, which was about a two-hour flight. Once landing I had a few hours to get Kenyan shillings, a SIM card and eat something before checking in for my next flight, which would get me to Eldoret in 45 minutes. Like many flyers, I killed time by napping, reading, watching a few movies, taking washroom and stretch breaks, and waiting for the next meal or snack to be served. I met a man from China who was also travelling to the HATC and we easily found our ride to the camp, which was about a 75-minute drive to Iten.
With every moment closer to the camp, I felt that much better about what I was doing. My children would be cared for and I was making a great investment. Immediately upon arrival to the camp I was greeted by the staff and Speed River teammate, John who introduced me to two other Canadians, Kristina and Neasa. I met my roommate, Julia, and unpacked some of my things before John took me to get some water. I went for a shake-out run with the women, had a shower and joined the group for my first delicious meal. African living is simple, but the food made with just a basic kitchen is far beyond simple. I’ve now had four meals, which I’ve enjoyed immensely (ok, yes it definitely helps that I am not doing any of the prep, cooking or clean up). The camp set up is bang-on perfect for that of a runner; sleep/rest, run, eat and repeat.
After being in bed at 9:00 p.m. it took me a while to get to sleep, but it was decent and I was out running with Julia at 6:30 on the red dirt paths with countless other runners doing the same. Breakfast, rest, more unpacking, tea time, visiting, lunch, nap, another easy run, time in the pool and sauna, showering, dinner and a trip to the “club” filled my day.
I have much more to say, but have plenty more time for that so will leave you with these words for now.