Kenya Trip 2014 – Week #2!

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Robert Brouillette


Jambo! Thanks for checking out the weekly blog of my 2014 trip to Iten, Kenya for 7 weeks. This is the 3rd year in a row of me coming here to train in the high altitude for my running, live a simple healthy lifestyle, meet new friends, and learn from their culture. I’m also here to escape winter in Canada which has lots of snow, ice, slush, cold wind, and low temperatures, versus summer in Kenya which has dry, hot, dirt, trails and track, beautiful sunshine everyday, and high temperatures. For this year I’m going to be luck enough to have two summers in two countries to run in and only half a winter at the end of the year which is wonderful. But there is much more to running than the weather, season, atmosphere, environment, who you train with, or where in the world you are doing the running, so I know it’s not going to be a walk in the park but I’ll do my best to “train hard and win easy” the Kenyan way. Also this is the best time of the year to be in Kenya with hundreds of Kenyan athletes and international runners from around the world, as well as maybe two big races. Hakuna matata 🙂

Week #2: January 12th – January 19th, 2014

January 12
To start the day there was no water in the house, the well was empty, and the hose water was shut off but thankfully the neighbours were nice enough to bring me a thermos of chai tea so I wouldn’t need to go find water to make my daily morning coffee. Since its Sunday, all the shops are closed for morning into afternoon so not only did I not have water but I wasn’t able to go buy the essentials for breakfast like bread and milk. It’s a Church day but I didn’t go for obvious reasons so I let Johana go by himself while I cleaned up and relaxed half the day away with my music and a book. No Kenyans ran as far as I saw because they really want the rest for the next week of workouts. While I was waiting at the side of the road for a motorbike to pass by and take me to town for lunch, a police officer noticed I was waiting for a while now so he stopped an oncoming dump truck to help me with a ride. However, even though the truck did not enough seats, the officer still let me hop in without even a seat belt, and I was on my way. It was a really weird experience and the drive with these strangers was awkward, but just my luck they were going to the same restaurant in town as me. Something I notice a lot is that the men who are friends hold hands as if it is completely normal to them, but in Canadian culture that would give people another idea about you. When they try to hold my hand I feel completely uncomfortable and nicely try to get them to let go but man is it even difficult. I love being able to pay $1.50 to have a meal and be full where I would have to use maybe $20 for a full meal in Canada. I walked home in the hot sun which was exhausting so I went to bed during the day which is something I never do in Canada. I ended up sleeping the entire day away because I wasn’t feeling too good and felt like something was just wrong with me.

January 13
At maybe 2AM I awoke and realized something was very wrong with me and so I was rushed to the hospital by a friend. Once I arrived to the Iten hospital, a lot of things were done wrong and made me angry so be ready for some complaining. All the overnight nurses decided to go to bed since the hospital was quiet so it took awhile to actually get some help. Then the first nurse in her nightgown took down some info from me, not looking impressed that a badly sick mzungu awoke her in the night. I was then directed to the laboratory to get a blood test, and so once again I had to wake up another ‘on duty’ nurse to help me, and she had to take put 3 needles in me until she finally did it right, and even then she wasn’t able to get enough blood. They decided to keep me overnight just to be safe and see if they could help me in the morning (if I don’t die in my sleep). I felt like I was at a restaurant and not a hospital because they kept giving me more and more food and drinks then actually focusing on my situation that put me in the hospital. They put an IV in my hand to hydrate me overnight, then some random medicine was injected in me that I’ll never know what it was. After about 10 different meals, and 12 hours later, the doctor finally came and saw me for 30 seconds, spoke in Swahili, and then disappeared forever because she was late for luck (Oh no!). Apparently she was the only nurse with about 200 Kenyan’s throughout the hospital in the afternoon and decided to go on a long lunch break leaving us all waiting around and impatient, especially me being the longest patient waiting of them all. At 14 hours into my hospital experience I had enough because I still wasn’t told what was wrong with me and it wasn’t looking like I was going to be helped anymore. I was forgotten about so I got up with an IV needle sticking in my hand still and walked through the hospital like an escaping victim. Through all this I was told I didn’t have malaria, then I did, then I “definitely” did not have malaria, until finally I was ‘officially’ diagnosed with typhoid probably from the change in climate and some bad water I drank. In the end I was given some pills to cure me but at this point I was feeling better so nothing to serious was wrong with me as it was just a one night thing. My bill was cheap because it’s Kenya but still enough to cut into my budget with half the expenses from the plates of food I received and didn’t really eat, the “great service” I received, and the small room with just a bed that I slept in, and then of course the half-dozen drugs they put in me.    

January 14
The hospital situation is all in the past now and I’m feeling better than ever and can’t wait to run later. This is now my 3rd year in a row coming to Kenya (living here for a total of 5 months by the end of this trip), so seeing friends and athletes still using the different gifts that I have given them over the years makes me feel really good. I know I have done something small but it is a big impact in their lives and means so much to them. I saw Canadian Olympian marathoner, Reid Coolsaet, and University/College runners, Kyle Boorsma and John Mason here in Iten for their own training. The shops here wrap everything in newspaper or put it in a bag even if it’s a small or simple thing like bread or milk, even though I tell them it’s just a 30 second walk back home. For example, I bought a toothbrush still in its package but the shop employee took 5 minutes wrapping it up nicely in an old newspaper with tape, oh well. I had a bunch of sample Ironman sports deodorant with me as gifts so I gave a woman in my complex one and then suddenly I was surrounded by everyone living within around me so now I’m left with no more. To be honest I was surprised to see some people taking more than 1, or coming to me to ask for extras when some people ended up with nothing. Even with the shoes I brought, some athletes were taking shoes that were way too big, or cheating their shoe size to me just to get a pair so once again others were left with none. For the evening run, Johana, a Russian track star, and I went for a 40-60 minute’s easy, dodging lots of flying bugs along the way, and I finally experienced the “second wind” where I would run till I felt tired and then suddenly later in the run my lungs felt fresh again as if I’m just starting my run over again.

January 15
For the morning run, Johana and I were lucky enough to run with Reid Coolsaet for a 20K moderate workout. We went through 14K at 4:20/K, but then my legs had enough of the hills and this was when I dropped back from this one long hill kicking my butt. I ended up running the last 5K alone and went to a 4:40/K pace once I lost them. I took one wrong turn and I ended up in another area but found my way back to home. My legs were so dusty from the red dirt trails with my pasty white feet safe in my socks and shoes. We now had water again in the house so that is always good for the drinking, cooking, showering, and cleaning, because water is basically life here. The fruit stand beside Johana’s Olympics Corner shop is amazing with fresh corn maize, pineapple, mango, bananas, oranges, and other delicious fruits. The evening easy run was 52 minutes with a runner named Tom from Holland who took me on an obstacle course of a run through prickly bushes, people’s yards, over fences, and dodging animals.

January 16
In the morning for breakfast, Johana found some fresh Kenyan sweet potatoes and make his favorite Nescafe coffee for breakfast as he is the one special Kenyan who prefers coffee over the famous chai tea. Mid-morning I went for a 35 minute easy afternoon run alone with the “big hill” at the halfway point, but I am now adjusted to altitude and heat better now so now those hills are my main focus to improve on. In the evening Johana and I did short 80M hill sprints x15 in about 17 seconds which felt good running side by side up our dirt lanes to the top in our best form.

January 17
I am now drinking PowerBar Ironman endurance sport drink before my workouts thanks to someone giving it to Johana and me for our training. My midmorning workout was 15K together with Johana and his friend with the last 5K on our own to the end. The famous double-double Olympic and then World Championship winner for the 5000 and 10000 meter, Mo Farah of Britain, is now in town at the HATC camp and I’m excited to meet him. My skin is now so dark from the intense sun in the 20 degree plus daily weather that I have a feeling my winter Canadian friends and family will be a little jealous. I had lunch with the Olympic Robertson brothers, they warning me about drunken motorbike drivers, I told them I have been fine so far and not to worry, but then just my luck it happened to me. Halfway into my ride home, the motorbike driver turns around to me and says he’s drunk and that I should drive his motorbike. But I tell him to just get me home safe and now I feel stupid as I wish I didn’t pay him and just yelled at him once I got off. The evening easy 50 minute run was with Lameck, my neighbor from the last time I was here in Iten, Kenya back in August. I met Mo Farah and he has a beard just like mine just longer so I still think of myself as the white/mzungu Mo Farah.

January 18
At noon which is probably the hottest part of the day, Johana and I went to the track to do 1 hour of diagonals on the inside grass of the dirt track. We would take turns doing a set which was to run hard on the diagonal, jog easy to the other short side corner and repeat till the time was up. By the end the sun had cooked me real good, as I now had a tomato red outline of my singlet shirt so my neck and shoulders will hurt for the rest of the day. Breakfast with Johana was coffee, banana, and the best pancakes I have ever had which will make my family back home really jealous, and I even tried some with peanut butter that I love so much.

January 19
For lunch I walked to Hillside hotel, had my first ndazi (Kenyan plain donut) of the trip, and walked back home seeing barely anyone since its Sunday so no one running and at church or resting at home. I visited my neighbor Dan’s for a 45 minute massage again, but this time a little deeper into my muscles to get me loose after the week of running. I then ran alone easy for 40 minutes even though no one else was out running because I felt like it would be a waste of a day if I didn’t at least run something. I didn’t need a full days of rest yet but I’m sure I will later in my trip for my training here with the Kenyans. In the evening it rained but this is now only the second time in 2 weeks and it was after my run so I didn’t mind. But then the power went out which does suck because the house goes black, so I turned on my flashlight and read the book “Once A Runner” which I totally recommend to all my running friends.

Me out front of the High Altitude Training Centre doing the Mo Farah pose!

At the High Altitude Training Centre doing the Mo Farah pose!

Britain's track Olympian, Mo Farah, and I after his 7-mile "easy" run!

Britain’s track Olympian, Mo Farah, and I after his 7-mile “easy” run!

Kenyan track Olympian, Asbel Kiprop, and I at the dirt track!

Kenyan track Olympian, Asbel Kiprop, and I at the dirt track!

Coach Ken of Run Fast and I after my track workout!

Coach Ken of Run Fast and I after my track workout!

– Robert Brouillette


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