Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I discovered Clean Eating before it was called that, so I was also pleased recently to discover a Canadian, Tosca Reno, writes a lot about clean eating in fitness magazines like Oxygen and has published some cookbooks on the subject. I bought two:
The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook: Great-Tasting Recipes That Keep You Lean
and The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids: Simple Strategies for Lasting Health and Fitness. Does it sound like a project coming on? oh you know me too well!!
I have been tired this week, thus far. However, that may have more to do with my othr scheduled appointments and work commitments. I am also taking the time to enjoy the sharing of photos taken by our families and friends during our race weekend in Niagara Falls, as well as catching up with the news of my running buddies who participated in other races at other locales this past weekend.
After my chiropractor's appointment yesterday morning, it seemed like my aches and pains were awakened rather than soothed, leaving me rather cross by the time I fell into bed when I got home from work. That should pass. Yoga stretches and the excercises Andrew recommended are a part of my every day this week.
The plan is to think of maintaining the level of performance my body has reached as an athlete, maintaining my level of fitness through a maintenance program while I contemplate my next goal, the 10 km international Great Ethiopian Run, November 23, 2008.
It is suggested that half marathon runners can schedule a long run of 12 km (7.5 mi.) to maintain their endurance. The half marathon runner on the off weekends can schedule in some 10 K races to work on strength, speed and self-confidence to run. By giving myself adequate recovery from my race—experts recommend two weeks for a 10 K race, three weeks for a half marathon and four weeks for a marathon—before I race any distance or do any high-quality running, I plan to avoid the hazards of over-training and damaging fatigue.
I will run this week, but only “massage type” running to loosen the legs, the distances yet to be decided. Next week, I am searching for some fun hills to lessen my anxiety about the hills in Addis. Then, I will already be in Ethiopia during the week prior to the race and have the opportunity to become more acclimatized to the altitude!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
crossing the finish line -- WOO HOO!!
I finally hear my name being called...
My running buddies who knew better -- seeing the big grin on my face -- immediately accused me of doing ANYTHING to get to sit on a cot surrounded by good looking ambulance attendants! Well, DUH!! The EMS guys WERE way better looking than most of my running buddies....A couple cups of coffee later, I felt much better, even if I was a bit blue around the gills for a while after.
At the top of the trolley ride above the falls on our way back to our hotel, the wind nearly blew us all away. My son grabbed me when the wind filled up my warming blanket so I looked like a silver balloon about to blow off into the sky, and all I could do was laugh so hysterically that I nearly peed myself! Thank goodness the wind and rain and lightning and thunder and hail held off until AFTER the race! My poor son, however, may never have the courage to come see me run a race again!
I sent the photos my son took in 5-part emails to our running gang. Davey G. wrote back wondering why no "part 6" of the partying that evening (he and my son had to leave that Sunday afternoon, while the rest of us stayed one more night in Niagara): was it censored or was I too impaired to take more pictures. Huh! As if!!
Anyhow, I was so proud of myself I wore my finisher's medal to work on Monday. I did! And the shirt we got, as well! So there!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
I understand, however, that it's not only the IT band as I had imagined, but also some weakness of other muscles that support my right knee. There is also lots of tightness in the gluteal muscles. Overall, my peculiar gait results in pain...but it's fixable with some time and work. Ain't that great??
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
“to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about withI grew up with books all around me. I couldn't get enough of stories and I loved being read to every night. My doll Figrebee often received letters, like my mother did, from family back home in Finland ("letters" that were composed of my scribbles all over a piece of paper) which my mother then read to me in various voices. And my love of books was passed on to my oldest daughter, who is teased in our family for asking me repeatedly when she was about 2 years old to "read me a story about when you were little, Mommy."
fever-trees, precisely as Kolokolo Bird had said…”
Stories are so important, whether they are an oral history passed down from generation to generation, or stories in books. They unleash the imagination and allow us to travel to worlds we might otherwise never see. They allow us to vicariously experience adventures and problems, triumphs and happy endings, feelings and emotions, expanding our ways of interacting with people and problem solving skills. They allow us to examine our world in so many different ways, to add to our knowledge of it, our appreciation of it and our understanding of it.
It is difficult for us in the West to imagine how impoverished your world becomes, how difficult it is to navigate, if one is illiterate. It might seem that where poverty causes so much anguish, one should focus on other more important things than literacy. But it is true in the more developed countries of the West as well, where higher levels of education are clearly linked with higher standards of living, better health and longer life-spans, that literacy is definitely a most effective tool for the betterment of lives. It is crucial for so the many ways we must function in today's society. Most of us cannot imagine doing our jobs without some literacy skills.
Imagine the worker trying to understand how to operate machinery. Or the health care worker, reading the labels on vials of medicine. Or trying with some discretion (sadly still in a judgmental world) to learn more about how to protect yourself from HIV/AIDS.
In many countries poverty and illiteracy go hand in hand, particularly among the women and children. Many experts on poverty agree that literacy is the answer to greater productivity, better health, longer life, as well as better maternal and neonatal health. It would be rare to find a mother who reads, who does not ensure that her children can read.
So how is all this connected to me and Ethiopia?
My earliest memories are of Ethiopia, although I was actually born in South Africa to parents who were from Finland. My dad was a teacher and shortly after I was born, our family went to live in Ethiopia where my dad administered two mission schools hundreds of miles from the capital, in mountains east of Bahar Dar and Lake Tana. Thus my first clear memories of any place were of that particular place. How deeply evocative I find my memories of certain kinds of near-equatorial sunlight, the smell of eucalyptus trees, the sounds of the Amharic language spoken around me, the sight of donkeys!
After years away from Ethiopia, I walked into a restaurant in the Washington, D.C. area, to be viscerally moved, utterly exhilerated, by the aromas of Ethiopian food! It's hard to describe how excited I was. My family certainly couldn't understand it.
More years passed, and I suddenly found my marriage falling apart. Shattered, I sat in my doctor's office, a family friend for many years. He wisely suggested that a way that would help me heal might be to re-visit my roots. He understood that Finland was in many ways a foreign country for me; he meant Africa. That idea stuck in my mind, but I was unable to do anything about it then.
I have always written stories and I had come to a point where I wanted to write stories for my granddaughter about my memories of my childhood in Ethiopia. When I found gaps in my memory I asked my mother what she could remember. It was she who insisted that I needed to go back. However, little did even she suspect that going back would inflame such a passionate response in my heart to this far flung, oft forgotten country in the Horn of Africa.
During my planning of my first return trip to Ethiopia, I came across a blog by someone who had cycled through Ethiopia, and during their trip, participated in one of the early annual 10 km international Great Ethiopian Runs in Addis Ababa. For some reason, I wanted to run that race. So it became part of my dreams. My trip fell together at last and I did get to Ethiopia in March of 2007, but I was not able to get to the race which usually takes place in November.
freezing rain and snow in the Simien Mountains, in the village of Chiro Leba, where I visited the local school
However, that's not what I saw. It's undeniable that travelling in Ethiopia is not easy going. In fact, for the most part, it is downright challenging. But when I was there in March, 2007, I saw a complex, fascinating country, rich in history, awesome in its natural beauty, full of resources, peopled by a varied population possessing an amazing inner strength that endures, despite Ethiopia' s troubled recent history. Much had changed since I was there as a child, nearly 50 years before. Yet, that indefinable, exciting essence was still there.
And Ethiopian children -- like children everywhere -- love stories. The children I met were full of questions, some of it phrases of English learned by rote which they didn't completely understand. "Where are you from?" "How are you?" "I am please to meet you." "What is your name?" And some of them did understand the answers, which delighted them no end. Some were even able to explain the lesson that was still on the blackboard of their one-room school.
However, the educational resources and opportunities that we in the “first world” take for granted, are nearly unheard of in Ethiopia. According to Unicef reports, an estimated 72% of Ethiopian children don’t go to school because their families are too poor to send them. And in a country that boasts a unique literate history among African nations, it is a shame that only 43% of Ethiopian adults can read or write. Where there are schools, most have no libraries! Many classrooms don’t have a single book. The teacher writes the lesson on the blackboard which the children then copy carefully into notebooks. I discovered that much of the lesson is memorized by the children and repeated faithfully, by rote. It is questionable how much understanding takes place. The enjoyment of books that is not associated with school work or the church (more on that later) is inconceivable.
Shortly after my return to Canada, I discovered the work of Yohannes Gebregeorgis, the founder of Ethiopia Reads . When Yohannes returned to Ethiopia with a dream of opening libraries for children, he enlisted the help of Jane Kurtz, an internationally known author with 22 published books for children, writers and fellow educators. Jane spent her childhood in Ethiopia and has written many books about its land and people. Ethiopia Reads came into being in the late 1990's through the vision of Yohannes, and Jane now leads Ethiopia Reads’ all-volunteer Board of Directors.
Yohannes' own life is a story about how books opened up the world to him as a young boy. Yohannes believes that children exposed to books will look beyond a lack of material goods to a world of possibilities. Literacy will enable them to function in today’s world as well as unlock their imaginations and creativity. Who knows what ideas or inventions, what solutions to Ethiopia’s problems, may arise from the mind of a child whose mind has been stimulated by the world of books? Literacy is the tool that will improve their lives today and the lives of future generations of Ethiopians.
Ethiopia Reads (still known locally in Ethiopia as "Ethiopian Books for Children and Educational Foundation" or EBCEF) is a grassroots non profit/non government organization. It is geared toward bringing literacy and literacy related resources to Ethiopian children.
Because I cannot imagine a world without books, I am endlessly delighted, when I visit the Ethiopia Reads website, by the vision of children I see experiencing the joy of holding a book in their hands for the first time, having the opportunity to hear wonderful stories, learning to read themselves, stories about the world at large, but also stories about their own world, funny, colourful stories about brave or silly heroes and heroines in their language. And because donkeys are such a part of my earliest memories, I am absolutely tickled pink that one of the first efforts to reach out to areas outside the capital, involves a "donkey library" with the most important leadership of Queen Helina!! (you'll have to explore the Ethiopia Reads website to find out who she is!)
Okay, so back to the Great Ethiopian Run. Did I forget to tell you that this is a big part of what this upcoming trip is all about?
The TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Race 2008, in its 8th annual edition, stages a mix of competitions for fun and fulfilment, bringing together people and communities, mostly from Ethiopia, but also from around the world, to celebrate the great Ethiopian running tradition. It is expected that the 10 km international race, which will take place in Addis Ababa on Sunday, the 23rd of November, will attract 32,000 participants this year!
At the elite end of the field the race continues to serve as an important stepping stone for Ethiopia’s up-and-coming athletes. Previous race winners include some of Ethiopia’s all-time greats such as Haile Gebrselassie and Berhane Adere (race winners in 2001) and Tirunesh Dibaba and Sileshi Sihin (race winners in 2003). Kenenisa Bekele has twice participated in the race (2001 & 2002) finishing 3rd on both occasions. Since the first race in 2001 the event has also enjoyed the support of many other world-famous athletes and well-known names from international athletics.
This year’s 2008 TOYOTA Great Ethiopian Run features a special campaign entitled “I’m running for a child” which highlights the work of organizations working with orphans and vulnerable children living in Addis Ababa and raises funds to support their work. This campaign is being jointly promoted by UNICEF Ethiopia and Great Ethiopian Run. If you are interested in the charities which will benefit from the funds raised this year, you can visit the Great Ethiopian Run site.
Because of the high altitude (2400m), think of a 10km in Addis Ababa as though it were more like running 10 miles at sea-level. Runners know, running up hills anywhere is tough, but particularly so in Addis. The 10km course is a one-lap city centre course starting and finishing in the capital’s main square known as Meskel Square. There are two uphill sections of the course around 2km and 7km. The centre of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, where the race starts and finishes, is situated at an altitude of 2400m above sea level. The race takes place at 9am when temperatures in November typically range between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius.
I plan to run this race as a personal athletic challenge, but also to raise funds for Ethiopia Reads.
I believe every child deserves to experience the thrill of reading books that spark their curiosity, stimulate their imaginations, and are simply fun to read. Please consider sponsoring me in my run in Addis Ababa on November 23, 2008. All the money I raise will go directly to Ethiopia Reads.
If you are interested in helping my cause, you can email me at katiquu at hotmail dot com, to find out how to reach me. Even easier is to donate directly to Ethiopia Reads online through the fast and secure services of PayPal, donate using your credit card by dialing 303-468-8422, or by downloading the printable mail-in form from the Ethiopia Reads website, http://www.ethiopiareads.org/. (Or if you are on Facebook, Ethiopia Reads is one of my favourite charities there as well.) I don't need credit for your donation, but I would be pleased if you will let me know by commenting here, that you did donate something. Every little bit helps.
Monday, October 20, 2008
It is sometimes difficult to talk about these injuries with people who do not participate in any strenuous physical activity. They are all too liable to respond with such helpful comments as: "You have to rest." "You are working too hard." "Running is not good for you." "You have to stop running." "I read that running can cause (fill in the blank here with whatever catastrophy you want to envision)."
It is even difficult to find a doctor or other health practitioner who understands that runners have to run. Far too many health practitioners are liable to tell you to lay around on the couch until the injury heals. That, in my opinion, only causes a general deconditioning that is not at all helpful.
I, however, believe, that while the body is telling you something, it is not necessarily telling you, with the pain, to stop a particularly activity. It is far more likely to be telling you that you need to do something differently, in a better way, with better technique, with better body mechanics.
The hard part, for an ordinary person, is finding the experts who can tell you how to exercise better.
If you can afford it, or have a health plan that covers it, there are some marvelous people around, that's for sure. Exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, dietitians, etc., who love working with athletes and understand that you cannot tell an athlete to stop working out.
So here I am, a week before the Niagara 1/2 marathon, nursing along a strain of my right IT band that is so painful, I can hardly walk. The pain extends from my hip to my right knee. But I am determined to run next Sunday.
How am I going to do it? Here's my simple plan. I am doing a lot of stretching and yoga. I am doing a lot of icing. I am drinking lots of green tea and yerba matte tea. I am getting some massages this week. I am tapering the distances and difficulty of the runs I do this week. I am going to the gym to do some cross-training which will strengthen all the supportive muscles around my hips and thighs. But most important, I am still running because when I run, the pain is actually not there.
Most difficult, however, is the mental aspect of it. I was terribly frightened at first. This is so similar to the injury I experienced in March 2007 when I was trekking in Ethiopia, that I had visions of spending months unable to run, unable to even walk longer distances, unable to take the stairs at work... It is far too easy to get frustrated and depressed.
Then, I thought about it some more. I gratefully recalled the different talks presented at the running clinics I've attended through the Running Room. I recalled the stories of other athletes who have worked through injuries to keep on achieving their goals. So, I am working at accepting where my body is right now. And I am working through my injuries, trying to find things that will heal my body and mind, trying to find ways to run better.
Yoga Journal poses for legs
Yoga Journal poses for knees
BodyMind Resources with great illustrations of the muscles of the leg & hip
YouTube video of an IT band stretch
Another YouTube video of an IT band stretch
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Should I back up, maybe start at the beginning of this story? No, that's too far because it starts over 50 years ago.
I'll try to summarize what has brought me to this day.
Ethiopia has always had a specil place in my heart because the first memories I have of anything are of Ethiopia, its sunlight, its mountain air, eucalyptus trees, donkeys, injera and wot, and the music of the Amharic language being spoken all around me. My parents were missionaries there many years ago, and even though we left before my 5th birthday, I could never shake my memories. After many, many years, when I finally went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, DC, the perfume of berbere and incense and coffee took me right back to my childhood in a physical, deeply visceral response that was incredibly intense!
Then again many intervening years ... and I found myself shattered as my marriage fell apart. My wonderful family doctor, who had been a family friend for decades, wisely suggested that something that might help in my healing process would be a return to my roots. Not my Finnish roots, where I actually feel myself to be a complete stranger in many ways, but my African roots, the places where I spent my earliest childhood years. That idea planted itself in my head then, but it was again many years before I could do anything about it.
I've always written stories and I started to write down stories for my granddaughter about my childhood memories. But I had questions. There were things I wasn't sure I remembered or if I was making them up. I asked my mother. It was she who declared sensibly that I must go back to Ethiopia. But I don't think even she could have predicted how strongly Ethiopia would resonate with me when I did go back in 2007, how wildly and passionately my love for the country would flare up again.
In planning for that 2007 trip, I came across a travel blog of cyclists who had along the way on their trip, participated in the annual Great Ethiopian Run. The Run was not to be for me for about 3 years, but I started running, training on my own at first, then joining clinics offered by the Running Room here in Whitby this year. I ran some 5 km races, some 10 km races, a 1/4 marathon, then the Scotia half-marathon in September. Way back in January of this year, I also registered for the 10 km Great Ethipian Run, not sure how I'd manage, but determined that this was my year to finally do it.
In the meantime, I had discovered the marvelous work of Yohannes Gebregeorgis and the Ethiopia Reads foundation.
Anybody who knows me, knows that I love my books. I cannot imagine my childhood without books. I have many wonderful memories of discoveries I made about books and through books! I even still have a very tattered set of illustrated Golden Nature Guides, that I treasure for the memories of many hours spent looking through them on Saturday afternoons as a child. Not only was our house filled with books, but visits to the library quickly became a part of my life as well.
Ah the magic of books, the smell of them, the way they feel in your hands, whether they have beautiful illustrations or not, the music of language that they can bring, the far-away, magically places to which books can transport you.
How I loved the thrill of reading the mysterious, melodious words describing how Robert L. Stevenson's Elephant Child in the Just So Stories comes at last “to the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, precisely as Kolokolo Bird had said…”, as just one of many, many examples!
What is truly shocking, actually is, that Ethiopia is a country that prides itself on an ancient literate history, yet, today's culture is largely illiterate. Ah, you see young students everywhere carrying a notebook. But books are scarce as hens' teeth. And children's books practically non-existent.
I believe strongly that education is the way out of the aching misery of much of the third world and I think many experts on poverty agree that education is vital for improving the lives particularly of women and children. It is almost a given that if the mother reads, her children will learn to read. And how important literacy is just to manage in this world today, never mind having any hope of a better future. How is a worker going to read warning instructions on the proper use of machinery? How can information on AIDS/HIV prevention be quickly disseminated? How much vital information is on the labels of vials of medications, containers of chemicals? Now matter how electronic our age might be, literacy is still intrinsic to the communication of information, knowledge, wisdom and culture.
But even more importantly, I believe reading is a most excellent way to give children the opportunity to see a world of possibilities beyond their current material realities. Without imagination, nothing great has ever been achieved. What better than books to spark imaginations?
I'm not keen on campaigns against anything. I believe that only perpetuates the negative. I much more excited by campaigns for something, like literacy. Please visit the Ethiopia Reads website. Maybe you too will enjoy meeting Queen Helina, who is, in my opinion, a very important donkey! Maybe you too will be thrilled to read of the children who are able, through this program, to hold a pretty book in their hands for the first time, to learn to read, and to discover new worlds! And maybe you too, will understand why I love this opportunity to help, through asking you to donate and help the Ethiopia Reads organization.
You can donate through their website, by phone (the number is on the site), by mail (they have a printable mail-in form you can download). If I see you in person, I'll ask you to sponsor me on my run. Or you can go on Facebook where Ethiopia Reads is now one of the charities that members support.