Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From Marathon Runner to Mountain Runner

So I know the last entry was runner-centric, but I'm sorry, I have to share another running entry tonight as well. 

Background: I live on the side of a small mountain/ large hill. The only running routes available to me are hilly, on dirt roads, and short. I live in a lovely little community called Yanacoto, about 35 minutes from our training center and a short combi ride away from the nearest town with any sort of flat running options. Also, by the time I get home from training at night, I usually don't have a ton of daylight time, much less time to go home, change, and take a combi back to a town where I could run. 

My only real, feasible running option is uphill. At first, I was worried about losing my running fitness and not having ample time or opportunity to keep up all that I had just built up in terms of running skill and endurance. As I can't stay away from running for too long, I decided to brave the hills, rocky roads, and street dogs of Yanacoto, just to see what I was up against. I went for it and trucked up the hills for the first time last Friday night. I can't adequately explain how great it felt to take on a mountain. It was my only option. It felt so good to just do it and quit worrying about it. Determination: something I can take with me when I get my site assignment and feel that same pang of worry and fear. I can do it, it is my only option (it's actually a pretty awesome option). I just have to get out there, put my head down, and do work. This is good. 

Initially, I was discouraged and daunted. The majority of the route was uphill and in an altitude I'm not quite used to yet. I had to take it in intervals. This made me feel out of shape at first, but then I realized I was running up a frickin' mountain. I'm not out of shape, I just ran a marathon. I'm totally equipped for this, just not yet acclimated. I will be living here for 10 weeks...eventually, the hills will get easier and the walking intervals will decrease. It's ok to take it slow. Walking here and there is better than staying in my room and eating caramelos while waiting for a delicious pile of rice for dinner. Intervals are not a bad thing. Rome wasn't built in a day. I wasn't born on a mountain. This will take some getting used to. And that is ok. I'm equipped for my assignment here, just not yet acclimated. That is why I have 10 weeks in training. Everything will be fine. Patience: something I will need when working with children, and also in talking myself down when I get all fired up, as I know I will. I already got into a Combi argument when I got swindled last week. If you want to tell me I don't understand Spanish, just wait until you see what I can understand... Anyway, yes, patience--- something I can always use more of ;)

Here comes the fun part- downhill running! Making it to the trail's end, maybe about halfway-ish up the mountain, is a feeling so exhilarating and addicting that I can't quite explain it. Staring at Yanacoto from above at sundown is kind of like staring at Spider Lake when I can make it there in the summer. It's so calm and naturally gorgeous that you could get lost in thought, just staring off into the distance. I love it. After my little break on my plateau, I get to careen down the trail at lightening speed to make up for my gradual/ intermittent running climb. This is tough though, because I'm navigating rocky roads. During my downhill spurts, I fear a broken ankle. Here's where I need to remember control. Focus: catch the sharp decline with your heel* breathe*forefoot strike*breathe*lengthen your stride*breathe*watch your step*breathe*relax. Control: something I forgot I would need. Control your patience; control your reactions; control the situation as best as you can. Thanks Mountain. You're turning out to be a lot cooler than I thought. 

This mountain running isn't so bad. Hill running may be a better term? Or trail running? I think it's all three rolled into one. I managed to run 3.5 miles last Friday night and 5 miles last night by repeating my route and following up the mountain trekking with some laps around the neighborhood. It's not the 10 or 12 mile run I was used to running at home during training, but that's alright. I've decided that that kind of distance is just not feasible and probably not advisable during training. Now that I'm here, my priorities must be the task at hand and my safety. So as it turns out, the mountain is helping me to improve my running. If they must be short runs, they may as well be hard runs. Thank you, running gods, for keeping me in check. After all, I came here looking for new opportunities and skills. I'm glad that Peru is already holding up it's part of this deal. Mountains= big win. I hope to leave Yanacoto a stronger and more versatile runner. As long as I can stick to that mountain rather than exploring Peruvian snacks and ice cream, I think that goal is something I can handle. 

I know this all probably sounds cheesy, but this is the best way I have found to center myself after a really overwhelming day. Running keeps me sane and keeps me in love. I am in love with the mountains, in love with my Mizuno Wave Elixir shoes, and in love with the opportunity that lies ahead of me. Yeah, it can be overwhelming, but I'm pretty sure it's also going to be awesome. Stayed tuned... ;)

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