Sunday Long Run in Eldoret

First Long Run

Sunday marked my first long run since I got to Kenya. I typically like long runs that meander rather than the measured and business-like runs recommended in most training plans, i.e., 16 miles @ xx:xx pace.

I did that this morning, sliding out to run west along the river. It’s semi-familiar, with the low grasses and the basalt rock. The little things remind me that I’m not anywhere near to home. Pretty flowers that I’ve not seen before, or the call of a bird with a ‘whep, whep, whep’ sound or another that sounded like a gate squeaking back and forth. I saw a pair of Hadada Ibis who, from the way they complained, didn’t like strangers. Little things, as I said, except for the Ibis – they were way cool.

The run started with cloudy skies, something that Justin said is a bit unusual. I think I brought them with me. It cleared later though, with the characteristic blue of the African skies.

In addition to the railroad trestle bridge, which is a bit on the sketchy side, there’s a wooden bridge across the river to the east, and a downed eucalyptus tree to the west. I didn’t use any of them, content to stay on my side of the river. At points I was on cattle paths, dirt road, single track, railroad track, and bushwhacking. My kind of run, in other words, where the play factor is high.

An observation that I made to Justin when I got back – he did his own long run, headed in a different direction – was that Americans are obsessed with their watches at the expense of learning to listen to their bodies. Looking at a watch today would have depressed me. Since I left it at home (deliberately,) that wasn’t an option. For the trip, I’ve been using a Fitbit to keep track of exercise time and heartrate.

As expected, my heartrate spiked when I landed at Nairobi, bumping up about twelve beats per minute. (I don’t trust the Fitbit resting heartrate calculation, by the way – it usually higher than what the device actually shows first thing in the morning.) About a week ago, the rate stabilized and began to drop, the earliest indication that the adaptive response to altitude is kicking in.

For running, I’ve pretty much ignored mileage in favor of time. Kenya, as you might imagine, is somewhat deficient in mile markers. Or kilometer markers. Or markers in general. Today’s run was set for an hour and ten minutes. It’s shorter than it would be at home for a very good reason—as soon as I start to exercise, the heartrate climbs like a rocket. My average on today’s run was about 143, or about 87 percent of max heart rate, depending on what formula is used. For a long run, that’s pretty high. Runner’s World recommend 65-75 percent of max, for example. I can get to that just walking if some hills are involved.

So, the obvious-to-me way to handle this situation is to run by ‘feel’, varying speeds with terrain and my perceived effort. As the chart shows, I managed to do this really well for the first forty-five minutes. Things got a little irregular after that (though one of the gullies is the result of a pit stop – the Kenyan countryside does not have porta-potties.) The last third of the run still showed good consistency when the hills are accounted for.

I didn’t bother to check the Fitbit to see what the rates actually were, but just ran at a pace that seemed pretty comfortable. As long as I’m at altitude, I can expect elevated numbers. Obsessing would drive me nuts, the opposite of the goal here, so I run, enjoy it, and check on my progress afterwards.

Hope your long run this week goes as well – run gently, friends!