Returning to the Rift Valley in Kenya after a two year absence from experiencing high altitude has not been easy. My legs and lungs had almost forgotten how difficult it is to train out here. Everyone adjusts and adapts differently to altitude but unfortunately for me, it’s been even more demanding as I’ve only just starting back training again. My legs have been really struggling to get up the infamous Kenyan hills. Hopefully by the end of the month they’ll have a little more zing in them!
Usually Kenya is blessed with sunshine at this time of year but this weird weather cyclone has seen it hit with a lot of rain. In the UK, rain doesn’t particularly affect training but here in Iten it makes it almost impossible. When the dirt, red trails become damp the mud turns almost clay-like and sticks to your trainers, making it feel like you are running with several extra kilograms stuck unevenly to your shoes.
The running track also becomes unusable so the only option is to run up and down the one single tarmac road that leads out of Iten towards Eldoret. However, the main difficulty of using the road, is traffic. It’s considered a huge success if you can manage your entire run without being clipped by a motorbike, mutatu (kenyan taxi) or a truck! Constant rain also makes it very difficult to dry your running clothes after the storm. At home we are spoiled with heaters or tumble dryers but in Kenya you have to pray the sun makes an appearance for an hour or so in between the rain storms, just to dry a pair of your shorts or socks!
Thankfully, the rain passed quicker than expected and we were able to fit in some decent training. Unfortunately, I’m still not quite pain free and have been picking up a few extra niggles, mainly due to over compensating with other muscles while trying to run through the pain. It’s becoming a little frustrating but with daily physio treatments available as part of the Team GB camp I’m really getting the best care possible.
Aside from training, Kenya offers us a lot of time to relax. With one communal TV and very limited wi-fi it becomes a haven from the normal hectic life in the UK. Although sometimes you may need to send an important email or message, you do realise that those distractions are not a necessity. We can survive just as well without social media or reality TV!
Funnily enough, the highlight of the day is when we are served three small slices of mango for dessert. Everyone huddles round like a pack of vultures, grinning like Cheshire cats! The food at camp is very basic. Ugali (a typical Kenyan maize-based food) and kale are served every evening. The other meals rotate each day but mainly consist of beef stew, mashed potatoes or rice. It’s a stark contract from the way we would typically eat at home and although it very repetitive I quite enjoy it. I like the fact that everything we’re eating has been organically grown and is fresh from the ground here in Iten. It’s a detox month with limited opportunity to fall off the healthy eating bandwagon! However, I have brought out a bag of snacks as three meals a day are never really enough to fully fuel us after such gruelling training sessions in the mountains.
I have another week in camp before heading back to the UK. My first priority is to get rid of these aches and pains so I can commence full training. I would have loved to race indoors but I have to focus on the big picture and be grateful that I’m training again after being injured for so long.
All being well, I hope to be a part of the GB Endurance camp’s second altitude trip to Font Romeu in France at the end of April. Mentally, it’s very difficult to take things day by day. As an athlete you want to throw yourself in at the deep end but training smart is key. I admit that my time at the camp was a little rocky to start with but finally I feel like I’m getting into the swing of things. Long may this improvement continue!