Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kenyan Diaries, The Finale.

Volume VII. Kenyan Diaries - The Finale
HATC (High Altitude Training Centre), Iten, Kenya.
Days 22-30. March 28-April 5, 2017.

I have quite enjoyed journalling for while at the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya. Here's a list (with links) of my seven "diaries", including this final one:

Volume I  "My Worthwhile Struggle of Daring to Dream"
Arrival to the HATC. Days 1-3. March 7-9.

Volume II  "Landing on Solid Ground".
The HATC Facility. Days 4-6. March 10-12.

Volume III  "Eating on the Run".
The HATC Food. Days 7-9. March 13-15.

Volume IV "The People, Places and Faces".
The Kenyan People. Days 10-13. March 16-19.

Volume V "Running Down a Dream".
Friendships with the HATC People. Days 14-17. March 20-23.

Volume VI "The Big One".
The Training. Days 18-21. March 24-27.

Volume VII "The Finale"
Departure from the HATC. Days 22-30. March 28-Apr 5.

(lengthier, unedited versions appear on

Highlights of my final 9 days:

Day 22. Took a matatu with Bekele to do a tempo with Tarah on the tarmac road. Had some chai tea at her home afterwards. Pizza was served for dinner!

Tea time with Tarah and Wesley after completing our runs.

Thanks for "breakfast on bed" after my return from the tempo, Ken and Jayson. And thanks to Julia for saving me breakfast on the morning I got lost!

The pizza was definitely a food highlight of my entire 4 week stay. Loaded with vegetables, pineapple and was so delicious. You can tell that everyone was excited!

Day 23 FaceTimed with my son on his 9th birthday. Easy afternoon run with Lynn and Tarah then had mango-carrot juice with them at the club afterward.

Day 24 Did 25 x 1'/1' fartlek on Lornah's track with Bekele. Julia and George also did workouts. Picked up the kids' bracelets from Johanna's, "Olympics Corner".

Day 25 Had my first fall due to some heavy legs. Fortunately just a few scrapes to my hands.

Day 26 Last long run with the group. Did 10 km easy then 26 km to Eldoret. Didn't have a set pace plan and was pleased with how my body naturally progressed along the way for the 36 km total. Breakfast at the club, massage, trip to the Kerio View and incredible fish for dinner!

Day 27 Rest day. Went to the club for masala teas and mango juices as a send-off for Manuela and Frank.

What a wonderful couple. They are fun, outgoing, supportive and welcoming to everyone! 
Looking forward to running with you again, Manuela. Hopefully we can line up some marathons together. #2016Olympians #KenyanBFFs

Day 28 Met Emmet and George at 6:20 for a run along the fartlek loop. I added on a few at the end to make 23 km then met them and Jayson and Ken for breakfast at 8:30. Later in the afternoon I did 13 km, my last core class and some stretching.

Day 29 This morning Jayson, Ken, George, Emmet, Bekele and I did a workout at the new track. George joined me with Bekele pacing us through 4 x 1 mile repeats with 2 easy laps between sets. I had my last massage at 2:00 pm with Dan then met Tarah. I gave her my shoes and clothing and we had a nice chat and drink at the club before saying goodbye. Finished packing my belongings.

Tarah had the shoes and clothing clean and drying later that day.

I survived by washing my clothes in the shower or in the buckets with detergent but suggested she give them a proper wash, in her washing machine, before distributing them to the athletes at the Transcend Running Academy. 

Day 30 My final day. I decided I was going to run whenever I was up and ready, which happened to be at 5:50 am. I could have joined the group a bit later but thought it would be nice to take in my last run, solo. I took my headlamp and phone, taking pictures along the way and enjoying the beautiful sunrise. Many other runners were also out, rising with the sun. I had breakfast with the group, said goodbye then started my long journey home.

Running as the sun rises - definitely a highlight of my trip.

Room #5 checking out of the HATC.

Many fall in love with the chapati in Kenya and plan to make it upon their return home. For me, it was the chai tea at Wesley's parents' in Charangany, and the tea masala. Perhaps Steve, my brother-in-law with The Black Peppercorn could create a recipe for me. This picture was taken at the "Java House" where many people kill time while waiting to enter the airport. 


My last of four weeks at the HATC seemed to be slow, particularly because I ran out of topics to write about! My husband suggested I go through the 500+ pictures from our 2016 Rio Olympic experience and/or write more about the HATC people I met, including where they were from, how they got there, and why. So at breakfast I passed around a pen and piece of paper and got some more writing material. I figured I could save the picture-sorting for my long (door to door ~ 36 hrs) travel home.

While at the HATC I wrote down the countries represented by the people who were here during my stay. I decided to go with residence but if that country was already on my list, I included citizenship. As of April 3,  the total was 28.

New Zealand
South Africa

We believe there were seven from the 2016 Rio Olympics:
Poland - female 1500 m finalist, male steeplechase
Turkey - female steeplechase, male steeplechase, male 5000 m
Belgium - female marathon
Canada - female marathon

Many people arrived alone whereas others were together in groups of 3 or more: Israel, Turkey, Poland, England.

There was a group of nearly 20 people from several different countries with the "Kenya Experience". From their website, "The Kenya Experience are the original running holiday in Iten and the first company to offer coached running camps in Iten to non elite runners. We are proud that we continue to this day to offer this service to runners from across the global running community."

In my final week, the Purosangue Athletics Club arrived. From their website, "Purosangue is an international project of Supportive Running, active in Italy and Africa since 2011, spreading the culture of clean and social sports. It collaborates with associations, companies, institutions, sports events and athletes by promoting a new vision of running. Purosangue is also a sports club and has several training camps in Italy and Africa."

As for the people I spent most of my time with, running or eating, here's a snapshot of who they are, their goals, where they're from, and/or why they chose the HATC:

Ken Lam - born in Hong Kong and moved to the USA at age 10, now residing in Seattle, WA. Has been running for 2 years. PB Half 1:33 and Full 3:36. He is not coached, aiming to run Boston and chose the HATC for a vacation and training. "It's been great meeting wonderful friends and Olympians."

Jayson Peterson - born in Sudbury, ON and now residing in Seattle, WA. Has been running for 9 years. PB Half 1:28 and Full 3:14. Was coached for 2 years and is at HATC for a second time. He likes chocolate sauce, yoga and plans to run all of the major marathons.

Emmet Jennings - from Ireland, now residing in Oman as a teacher. Ran at 2010 world juniors in 3,000m. PB steeplechase 9:07, 5,000 m 14:47 and 10,000 m 31:42.

George Curwin - from Brighton, UK. Has been running for nearly 3 years. PB Half 1:14 and Full 2:44. He is uncoached so at the HATC for inspiration and to learn from more experienced runners. "An amazing experience."

Julia Nikonorova - born in Petrozavodsk, Russia, and lives in Ottawa, ON. Has been running for 4.5 years. PB 5 km 16:28 and 10 k 34:12. Is looking for a new place to pursue running/job. Speaks 4 languages: russian, french, english, spanish. Is a huge cycling fan and "I'll be in Tokyo in 2020 in the marathon".

Frank Bollen -  from Belgium. Paced at the FBK Games in 2012, Haile Gebrselassie  at the 10,000 m trials, and for the lead women at the 2014 Berlin Marathon. PB 3,000 m 7:57.

Manuela Soccol - from Belgium. PB 10 km 34:11 and Marathon 2:37:09. Competed in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Has a collection of over 500 socks! Described as "Krista's Kenyan BFF"!

Emma, Scott, James, Axel, Ralph and Paul (England) and Laurent (Paris) were here during my first three weeks. Ethan was another Canadian (Nova Scotia) I got to know.

Some others who stayed at the HATC for a few days:
A couple from Chile.  He was training for a 70.3 IronMan.
Matt from England who was in Africa for his work in public health.
Jess from Australia who was in Africa for her work with the Red Cross.
John, Neasa and Kristina from Canada were here for a few days when I first arrived (mentioned earlier).

Easy afternoon run with Manuela, Ken and Jayson. Photo: Frank.
One last group trip to the Kerio View. I quite like the tea masala , a stronger chai, at the club and the Kerio View.  But by far, my favourite tea was at Wesley's parents' home in Cherangany. You can't beat the milk (boiled) fresh from the cow!

Kenyan toilets. Yes, I used all of them.

A few random pics: Kenyan shillings, a boy outside of Dan's massage, the striking red dirt roads, and Kristina's message that was perfect after my few first runs at altitude, "Breathe, this too shall pass".  
Very common to see piki pikis with a large load on the back. This particular bundle was much smaller than some.

As the rainy season approaches, these farmers are getting ready for corn planting. I remember my dad with similar equipment on our farm in the spring.

This school group was waiting outside of the airport in Eldoret. Later, as we walked across to board the plane, I saw them again. Must have been some sort of school trip. Sharply dressed in their uniforms, don't you think? During my stay I saw countless other children in various coloured school uniforms that were always well-cared for and clean, including their bright white socks. 

My Final Thoughts

The further removed I become from the High Altitude Training Camp in Iten, Kenya, the more I will be able to appreciate, savour, and be incredibly thankful for this amazing month. Similar to my return from the Olympics, I won't be able to answer the simple question, "So, how was it?" so I thought I'd include a list of: by the numbers, what may have seemed impossible (that became possible), and what I loved.

By the numbers:
29 days in Kenya.
26 running days.
10 quality (workout/long) runs.
714 km logged.
0 rainy runs.
An average of ~ 5:20/km pace for easy runs.
7 excellent massages.
Countless mealtime conversations about running and food, children asking, "How are You?", and servings of delicious sakuma wiki, cooked cabbage, ugali, oatmeal, banana, and eggs.

What may have seemed impossible (that became possible):
Comfortably using squat toilets.
Riding as solo mzungu in a matatu with 15 other people.
Getting lost and enjoying a pole pole (slow, slow) piki-piki ride back to camp.
Pushing my body to yet another level, completing the toughest training week ever in 15 years of marathoning, at 40 years of age.

What I loved:
The smell of freshly baked buns, the massage oil, and a sparkly clean room.
The sound of birds, chickens and cows in the morning, Kenyan music, and the staff singing quietly to themselves while working.
The taste of chai and masala teas, cold mango juice, three fish dishes, one pizza dinner, and three club breakfasts after returning from our long progressive runs to Eldoret.
The sight of the Rift Valley, morning sunrise, people walking everywhere, and children walking to school or running alongside us in flip flops or winter coats while carrying backpacks.
The feel of the soft red dirt roads, and a hot shower and clean sheets after a hard training day.
Sharing mangos and avocados at mealtimes.
The friendships made, particularly with my "Kenyan BFF" and fellow 2016 Olympian, Manuela Soccol from Belgium.
Seeing in person and better understanding Tarah's life and the work of the Kenyan Kids Foundation. 
Visiting Wesley's home village of Cherangany in rural Kenya.
Texting my husband at the beginning of my day and end of his, always feeling in touch with home.
FaceTiming with the kids while out and about, showing them the people and scenes along the way.
Learning from SpeedRiver and Coach Dave Scott-Thomas, particularly succeeding in: easing into training while at altitude, maintaining an easy pace on recovery days, and running more by feel in hard efforts.
Lastly, living a month to train for a personal best at altitude in an amazing country with wonderful people while being completely supported by my #TeamDuChene at home. #blessed
Perfect picture taken at the track in Iten, Kenya while preparing for the London Marathon. Likely a lifetime opportunity that I will cherish forever. Asante (thank you).

Monday, March 27, 2017

Training at the HATC, Kenya. Days 18-21. March 24-27, 2017.

Training at the HATC in Iten, Kenya. Days 18-21. March 24-27, 2017.

I purposely saved the topic of training for one of my last Kenyan Diary posts so that I could share some numbers and have more to write about.
I have two major benefits to my four week stay at the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya: 1) training at 2400 m (7900 ft) allows my body to produce new red blood cells to carry more oxygen, hopefully making me speedier for my upcoming Virgin Money London Marathon, April 23.
2) completely devoting myself to full-time training within what I call a, "Runner's Fantasy World". Never before have I been able to focus entirely on training with nothing else to do or be concerned about for this long. When meals are made, the room is cleaned, rest and recovery is easily completed, and your entire day is built around your running with no stress or busyness, it becomes a fantasy of sorts. It's an investment and an incredible opportunity that I am so very much enjoying but it is not something I would want to do for that much longer. My life is complete with my husband and kids #TeamDuChene.

The First Run
When preparing for my trip, many told me to be diligent in taking it easy. Ramping up the kilometres and going too hard, too early would not be wise as your body must slowly adjust. On the first day I arrived, I had my first easy shake-out run of 8km. Like many had described, I could definitely feel the lack of oxygen. Some said it would be like breathing through of a straw. To me, it was similar to the feeling you get when you reach the top of a long flight of stairs. Unpleasant but do-able. Neasa took me on my first run and was taking it easy as she had completed a workout earlier that day.

Pace and Heart Rate
Thanks to Trent's incredible support with Speed River, I knew that my pace would be approximately 15-20 seconds/km slower than sea level. Prior to coming, I was running really easy on my easy days; likely averaging about 5:30/km. Sure enough, for the first five days at altitude, I averaged about 5:45/km with a heart rate consistent to that of easy sea level runs, ~120 BPM. For days 6-20 I then averaged about 5:10-5:15/km on easy runs, again with a similar heart rate.  I followed the recommendation to get used to the initial change for the first few days, then steadily ease into a more routine full-time training schedule for the next 10 days. Adapting to altitude is different for everyone so I was emailing Dave, Trent and Margo every few days. They were pleased with how I was adapting.

After a few easy runs I did some strides on the track to get the legs moving. On day seven I got to see the large "Tuesday Track" groups when I joined Tarah and her group for half of their 1 km repeats workout. I certainly couldn't keep their pace but was happy to chase them, consistently finishing each rep at the same pace with a lengthy recovery period between sets. When easing into training, I knew that recovery would be very important; both in workouts between intervals and after each run. It's certainly possible to complete a normal workout but you will pay for it in the recovery. In the first 10 days I likely napped each day out of necessity then found that I just needed to be resting and off my feet, otherwise I might not sleep as well at night. On day nine I did 9 km of tempo with Bekele. Days 14 and 16 included a bit more volume in my tempo and fartlek workouts, both with Bekele. Day 21 will be my biggest workout in this build with a 75' tempo and day 23 will be a 25x1'/1' fartlek for some quicker leg turnover. I will then begin my taper and head home to Ontario.

Long Runs
Shortly before coming to Iten, I completed a 40 km long run so I knew mentally, that I could check that off my list for this build. I figured that my long runs wouldn't be much more than 35-36 km at altitude; it just wouldn't be necessary. In the first week, my longest run was 23 km as I was easing my way into training at altitude. In my second and third long runs, I joined the group for a progressive pace for total distances of 30 and 34 km. Each time we did a warm up before we started the 26 km progression on the tarmac road from Iten to Eldoret. For each progressive part, I felt comfortable to lead. In the first progression I had a faster finish with the last 5 km at goal race pace. In the second progression I pushed the pace a bit earlier but didn't have a quick finish. I averaged the same pace for the last 24 km in both runs. My final long run will be about 35 km with no specific set pace.

Running Surfaces
One of the first things I became clearly aware of was the difficult footing. The dirt roads are easy on the body and good for recovery runs but are often rocky and uneven. I found myself constantly looking at the ground so as to avoid tripping while getting used to the change. Prior to coming, and because of our mild winter, I was able to do a decent amount of mileage on our trails that somewhat helped prepare me for what to expect in Iten. After a few days of running on the dirt paths, I ran for the first time on the tarmac road. It was easier to pick up the pace but I really noticed it in my quads. I then decided that I would continue to include some tarmac road running on most of my runs. Doing my weekly strides would be a good way to keep the firm surface in my routine in addition to my long run and tempos that I would do on the tarmac road. So far my 1 km repeats were on the dirt track and my 16 x 2'/1' fartlek was on the tartan track. Tomorrow's tempo will be with Tarah near her house because it's flatter and she can provide a driver for fluid support. Likely our warm up and cool down will be on the dirt road and our quality work will be on the tarmac road. I think these four weeks might make a record for the longest time without any treadmill running!

I struggle with my sense of direction at home so in my first few runs when faced with the challenges of altitude, hills, uneven surfaces, and mouthfuls of dust, I knew there was no way I would be able to learn any routes. Eventually the challenges became normal (well, the hills that are unavoidable can still be tough) and I was able to learn some routes. The roads are not marked and turns are learned by remembering landmarks and kilometres e.g. "for the 8 km loop, go 2.3 km down the 'all weather road' and turn right at the shed with the shiny roof that will take you to your final right turn onto the tarmac road and back home". It's always a good idea to put some shillings in your pocket before venturing out, just in case you get lost and need a piki piki or matatu ride back. As long as you can get to the tarmac road, you just need to know the direction to Iten. Also, running uphill and into the wind usually means you are close to home.

Similar to easing into workouts, we took a steady approach to returning to the mileage I was doing before coming. My weeks have been 130, 160, and 180 km. My final week will likely being closer to 190 km before my taper begins.

Prior to coming, I was running two double days (Tues, Thurs) and four single days (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat) with one complete rest day (Sun). It was important to keep this consistency so I was happy to fall into a nice routine of three double days (Mon, Tues, Thurs) and three single days (Wed, Fri, Sat) and one complete rest day (Sun). By doing this I am allowing myself to recover before and after workout and long run days, and evenly balance the mileage throughout the six running days.

Cross Training, Core, Strength, Sauna and Preventative Maintenance
Time spent on the bike, in the sauna and pool was a good supplement while initially building my training load. It wasn't anything extraordinary but something I felt I could decrease when I started my final two peak training weeks. There is a 5:00 pm core class on Mon, Wed and Fri that I have completed most of the time but opt out of if I need more recovery time or want to hold back for the next day's workout. I've been doing "Taylor's dance" routine and some light strength training, about twice per week. Preventative maintenance is daily and includes the usual rolling, stretching and other floor exercises after my morning run.

G.I. (Gastrointestinal)
With travel, altitude, time zone changes and a new diet, you are more than likely to experience some sort of gastrointestinal issue. I had a few issues in the first few days but made some changes to what I would eat the night before workouts, which helped (i.e. avoid the sakuma wiki). The other reason was timing with a later dinner and earlier morning run than I am used to at home.

The weather is absolutely wonderful for running. I run more km in the morning around 6:30 am and less in the afternoon around 4:00 pm on double days. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are single runs in the morning. Can't say I've seen many people run in the middle of the day around here when it's warm. And so far, it's only rained in the evenings and in one afternoon when I was off (Sunday).

Fluids and Carbohydrates
I'm drinking about 5 L of water each day; 2 L in the morning, 2 L in the afternoon, and 2 glasses with each meal. Other than coffee in the morning, my eload recovery and endurance drinks, and the occasional mango juice, I don't drink anything else. 
I've been consistent in my carbohydrate consumption during long runs via the usual intake of gels, Eload endurance and fly. Frank has been a great support on the bike with my bottles. And so far I've just stored my gels in my running bra. 

I've been getting massage treatment from Dan, twice per week; Saturdays after my long runs, and Wednesdays, the day after and before my Tuesday and Thursday workouts. I had one appointment with Tarah's physiotherapist in Eldoret, which also went well.

Body Compostion
Since my peak weight in December with minimal training and an abundant intake of sweets, my weight and fat mass has steadily decreased toward my goal. Kyle has done my anthro measurements and Trent, Erik, and I determined my ideal race weight. We agreed that it was important to maintain my weight, going into and training at altitude. Normally I weigh myself first thing in the morning, which I haven't been able to do here. I have used the scale at the gym and likely only lost 1 kg (2.2 lb) in the past three weeks, which puts me in a good position to achieve my goal race weight upon my return home. 

Friday, March 24
This morning I did an easy single run of 16 km with the group, and other than a trip to the Kerioview with the group and core at 5:00 pm, took it easy for the rest of the day. At dinner we put our tables together to enjoy our last meal with the Brits before their departure.

Red dirt takes some scrubbing to wash away.

Inside a little shop where I purchase my 10 L water for 250 shillings (~$3 CDN).

Saturday, March 25

This morning we did another progression run from Iten to Eldoret, 34 km. In the afternoon I had a massage with Dan and went to the market with Matt, Ken and Jason.
Saturday market day in Iten.

All smiles after finishing another long progression run, and about to get in a matatu to go back to the camp to shower and have breakfast at the club.

Sunday, March 26

Rest day. I knew I would be up at the usual 5:3-6:00 am so I planned to walk to see the sunrise over the Rift Valley. It was striking. I sat there for a while and simply enjoyed the peacefulness, the sounds of chickens and church music, and the beauty of this earth.
For the rest of the day, I had meals with the group and worked on my computer, preparing for a few speaking engagements scheduled at the end of April. Most from the camp spent the afternoon in the lounge, relaxing while watching the IAAF World X-Country championships in neighbouring Uganda. We got a quite a bit of rain in the late afternoon so some of us just stayed there until the 7:00 pm dinner of chicken, lamb, ugali, sakuma wiki and chapatis. Again, I was in bed around 9:00 pm.

A quiet and peaceful Sunday morning walk to the Rift Valley. It was cloudy but I did see the beautiful sunrise.

The lounge was full of HATC runners and staff, watching the IAAF World X Country Championships on a restful Sunday afternoon. A few from the camp drove to neighbouring Uganda to watch. Apparently the drive could take anywhere from 4-11 hours?! The Kenyan Sr. Women had a clean sweep (top 6 places) so there was some clapping and cheering.

Monday, March 27

This morning a group of us met at 6:20 am to start the 14 km fartlek loop together. Some added on whereas others headed to breakfast, planning to run again in the afternoon. I showered, did some laundry and rested. At 4:00, Manuela, Julia and I did an easy 10 km then I called it a day in preparation for the next day's peak tempo workout.

After a 3 km walk, post rain.

Rationing the last of my canned fish, protein, and eload endurance, recovery, and gels.

Various Saucony shoes for various purposes: yellow A5's light-weight flats for track, pink and white/blue Cortanas mid-weight for tempo or progression runs on tarmac road, grey/mint Zealots heavier-weight support for easy runs on dirt roads, and black mid-weight Freedoms for anything. I'll need to wear a pair home but will leave the others for the runners at the Running Academy in Cherangany 
As my training load has increased in quality and quality, I have decreased my x training (pool and bike) but it sure feels nice to dip in the pool after the sauna, to end my day.
Timo leading us in a core class that ...
... appears to be working.

The temps look high but it is actually fairly cool in the morning, and by the time I run in the late afternoon, it is cooling down again.
Fluids are key. Post long progression run breakfast with coffee, mango juice and water. 

Not long after breakfast and I am ready for lunch again. Beans provide protein but not quite enough so I added some sardines to this meal.

Drying line. 

Ladies in the lead, early in the long progression run from Iten to Eldoret. Frank (Manuela's boyfriend) is a great support, carrying our fluids for us while riding the bike, taking pictures, and getting splits! Picture credit: Frank. 

The easy runs are never free of hills, so never really easy!  I seem to always feel my best at the end of my second run. Picture credit: Neasa.

When Neasa was here, I could measure my O2 saturation. Within 2-3 days I was at 95-96, which is a good sign of adaptation. I monitored by heart rate during easy runs so that it was consistent with my easy runs at sea level before coming.

Dan, the massage man.

Before going with Tarah to Cherangany, I had treatment from her physiotherapist, Gasha, in Eldoret who focused on fascial treatment. 

So glad I brought my computer and purchased a SIM card; makes communicating with the Speed River team and family much easier from the comfort of my own bed.

It is quite fitting that this picture is hanging inside the club.. #LondonMarathon #April23

Thursday, March 23, 2017

New Friendships with the People at the High Altitude Training Centre, Days 14-17, March 20-23, 2017

In my first week at camp I was warmly welcomed by my friend and fellow Speed River teammate, John, and other fellow Canadians, Neasa and Kristina (Vancouver), and my roommate, Julia (Ottawa). They made me feel right at home, showing me around the camp and endless dirt roads. Prior to three of them leaving, I knew Julia would be a constant because her departure date was just 1 week before mine. It was comforting to know that we spoke the same language, and within a few days we knew we would make good roommates. We easily got to know each other and quickly fell into a nice routine of going to bed and waking around the same time, eating and running together but not all of the time, and spending our leisure/rest time enjoying different surroundings. Because of a bad experience in high school where I got sunburned before an important track meet (remember, Coach Murray Jackson?!), I have been very cautious about the amount of time spent directly in the sun. It easily drains me. Consequently I enjoy my mid mornings and afternoons in the room with the door open, the Kenyan music playing nearby, the fresh smell as the rooms are cleaned, and the gentle breeze while the staff go about their business. I can easily FaceTime my family and use my computer because I purchased a SIM card. Staying near the wifi pool/lounge area was not necessary. Julia had already been here a month prior to my arrival so she had a nice routine previously established. It can be a bit daunting, going to another country to train for a month, not knowing how your rooming situation will work out. I am pleased to say everything is great. Thanks, Julia!
I knew I needed to reach out and get to know the others at camp. Prior to coming, I was prepared to eat meals and do all my training on my own but was hoping that I would hook up with some english-speaking Europeans. Sure enough, my "New Balance Belgium couple" became my BFF's at the HATC. Frank used to pace many of the diamond league and world major events, and is now recovering from foot surgery while managing and supporting Manuela's marathon career. She too completed in Rio when I did. Within a few meals, we nicely discovered that our training plans were similarly matched, we were both racing on April 23, and at the camp for the same time period. It couldn't have been better. Add in Julia for my first few "easy" runs while getting used to altitude, and some English and French guys, and I had myself a perfect group. 
I think one of the first things I noticed at camp is how much the people are alike. Meals are important and can never be missed, recovery is just as important as training, many have a love/hate relationship with core exercises (particularly when we do the class and the instructor counts 1 second for every 2), bedtime is between 9-10 pm, and we all realize that we are living in somewhat of a running fantasy world. Our beds are made, towels are fresh, rooms are clean, meals are made, and our entire day built around our running schedule. There's no stress, massages are absolutely wonderful, everyone is pleasant and working toward their race goals. Each day I try to reflect upon this incredible opportunity; training for one month at altitude with absolutely no distractions while aiming to run a personal best was a dream that I am now living.  

Monday, March 20
Today was a fairly typical day. I ran 23 km (with some strides) with Manuela and Julia in the morning, had breakfast, rested, did laundry, ate lunch, read, ran 12 km with Manuela, did my core/bike/sauna/sauna routine, showered, had dinner, and was in bed at 9:00 pm.
Tuesday, March 21
Today Bekele met me at 6:30 for a tempo workout. We warmed up on the dirt path toward Eldoret then moved to the tarmac road for 19', 16', and 13' with 5' (' is minutes) recovery jog between sets. We cooled down on the dirt path again then caught a matatu back with Julia, just in time to have breakfast at the camp. I did some preventative maintenance (stretching, rolling), rested, had lunch, read, then went on an easy 11 km run with Frank, Manuela and Laurent (France).  
Wednesday, March 22
Today was my most adventerous and tiring morning. I ran with Julia along the fartlek route but then slowed the pace down a bit, which consequently resulted in me getting lost for the first time. They say it happens to everyone, at least once. So after many confirmations that I was heading toward Iten, a scrape along the shin from a barbed wire fence, and short piki piki ride to the tarmac road, I was safely back to camp with a 25 instead of a 20-21 km run. Julia was so kind - she had set my breakfast aside in the dining room. At 10:00 a group of us, led by Manueal and Frank, headed into Iten to visit a school. I really enjoyed myself and the children just loved having a group of mzungus there. I hadn't been in the sun during peak heat hours so got a slight sunburn. I was a bit worn out so after lunch, I settled into my bed with lots of water and my book, and called it a day, other than getting more water and having a mid-afternoon massage. By dinner I was feeling back to normal again. We took a nice group picture because people were starting to depart the next morning.
Thursday, March 23
Bekele, Frank, Manuela, Julia and I headed to Lornah's new track, which was a nice 2.5 km jog from camp. We warmed up a bit longer, did some strides then each started our own workout. Manuela did 400's, Julia did 200/300's and Bekele paced me through a 2'/1' fartlek. I quite enjoyed the flat surface, which helped create a steady workout with even splits. The track is fenced and free for use for people staying at the HATC but 1000-2000 shillings for others. After our workouts, we jogged around the track and back to camp for our cool down then had the usual oatmeal, bread, eggs, juice, and coffee/tea breakfast. The rest of the day was fairly routine with a 12 km easy afternoon run, time at the gym, and a beef, ugali, sukuma wiki, and mashed potato dinner. I spent a bit of time in the lounge before calling it a day. Tomorrow a group of us will meet at 6:30 am for an easy 15-16 km run. It will be the last run for the British guys.

From Lyndsay in December, Katherine and Lanni in January, Neasa and Kristina in February to me in March, Bekele has had a steady flow of pacing duties from a stream of Canadian women. 

Thank you, Neasa for taking me under your wing and being such a great support: when I got teary on our first run the day I arrived, by showing me around Iten, and making the HATC feel like home. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know you. 

After saying goodbye to John, Neasa and Kristina, I found a new group of friends. 

Breakfast at the club after a long progressive run to Eldoret with a matatu back to camp. 

One of the best things about being here is that everyone is so much alike. Ralph (England), myself and many others packed cans of fish to supplement some of the meals. Sardines was the choice for both of us at this particular lunch.

Axel (France) and Paul (England), two really good friends and good guys, who are rooming across from Julia and I.

Kerio View - a place to go have something to drink or eat, and enjoy the view with friends. Kristina and I went for coffee, right before she left.
The lounge has a tv and wifi, equipped with couches for relaxing after a hard training day.
Signing in at the school. No police check or identification required.

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Manuela and Krista with the children.
Inside a classroom. Paper, pen/pencil and a simple desk is all that is needed.
Here on the desk is a notepad and pen, generously donated to the students by Manuela and Frank. In this particular  classroom, it appeared that the children were studying english grammar.
I love it when it people give back. Here, my good friends, Manuela and Frank (aka my "New Balance Belgian couple" who are at the HATC for the 5th time) are seeing their sponsor child for the first time since last year. Manuela is telling him how much he has grown. 
There were about six of us who walked into Iten to visit the school. We introduced ourselves, stating our name and country. This particular boy became popular when I said that I was from Canada! Everyone pointed out his t-shirt. At first he was shy, but then I don't think he minded the extra attention.
The children were thrilled that they got to go for an early recess because of our arrival. Some played soccer, did gymnastic moves, chanted cheers, or showed pictures from home and chatted with the students.
I showed them pictures of snow, ice hockey, a swim meet, and my family with me at the Olympics. 
The loooove "selfies"!
While waiting for a massage with Dan, I met his daughter who made me think of and miss my own.
Group shot of the gang before people starting departing. Countries: France, Canada, England, Belgium.
Seems like everyone posts one of these pictures during their stay in Kenya. The scrape was from a barbed wire fence, the red dirt is from a morning run, and the pathetic and hopeless toes are from endless kilometers over the years.
Chasing Bekele in a fartlek workout on the track. No hills this time!

Meanwhile, the rest of #TeamDuChene is enjoying snow and a wonderful ski trip in Alberta!