From The Elephant Valley project to Uganda, there are elephants playing a big part in my everyday life currently. On the way to work I am surrounded by them and now as the wet season progresses they venture nearer and nearer to our camp by the Albert Nile.
There have beena few mornings and evenings with a couple of biggies hanging outside our main gate and preventing thew guys going to work ( proximity thing – we stay at least 200m away from them if possible in vehicles etc…
The couple of times I was last running I came close to 7 elephants who were just crossing the road around a corner in front of me. I waved my driver to a stop and observed their amazing progress. They had been bathing and were wet looking, happy muddy and generally so much bigger than the Asian elephants. They were also heading straight for a giant sozed patch of bamboo, that they obviously love, as the asian eleies do, so they paid no heed to me at all.
I was lucky enough to be doing a quick hill rep session along the hilliest bit of the regular running dirt road and passed them all about 4 times that day, just fantastic!
It was soo good to be out , in view of the Nile, under my own steam , and to be in the company of elephants. It truly feels like a priviledge to me to be in proximity like this. They are just amazing animals…..
Just watched a great short fil – 52 minutes about what makes Killian Jornet tick. He is one of the best ultra trail runners and an accomplished XC ski racer / mountaineer (SkiMo) .; This is his story so far as he embarks upon a challenging few years with some big goals- big mountains in different places in fast times, light and alpine style.
This film focusses on his mission to cross Mont Blanc from Courmayeur to Chamonix via the Innominate Ridge and the summit of Mont Blanc, which he achieves in 8hrs 42 minutes. It looks at his motivation and friendships forged and lost on his quest to push himslef to the limit as he connects with the mountains and embraces the freedome and joy that it gives him
The filming is beautiful and the insight into his personality is intriguing, and touches on a lot of what motivates people to do things in the mountains….
Here is the link and for just under 7 Euros its worth a download. Summits of my Life. Brilliant filming.
Very inspiring stuff especially when you are at work and stuck to running on a rolling 5km stretch of dirt track (albeit by the nile) . I am pining for some hills and looking forward to our Vietnam trip in just over a weeks time….
These shoes are great.Generally thats what I would say. I was skeptical at first as they look very minimalist but subseqiuent use finds them really quite well cushioned and protected against rocks underfoot whilst still feeling fast, fun, light and super grippy, whilst fitting like a glove and wearing really well.
They make me feel like running quicker and seem to lighten my foot strike…
They are definitely a minimalist inspired shoe, and are neutral with very little support but they are so snug and hold the foot so well that you feel really well connected with the terrain, whilst still being protected.
The furthest I have run in these is 36km in one outing but I have done plenty of 30km outings in them as well as hill sessions and flat sprint stuff, in a wide range of settings from North Walian chill to Cambodian and Uganda Tropical sweat zone stuff… They are great all rounders and with a ton of grip.
For most of my mountain and trail runs these shoes are brilliant . The onlt time I feel I need more cushioning is if I w2ere engaged in a really long day out as even though I am a fan of minimal style shoes, I appreciate a bit of extra padding for a big run / all day job. That said, if it was up in the mountains these would be great as the changing terrain angles that give your feet a break, more than compensate for the thinner cushioning / firm ride of the shoe above 40 to 50km distance.
Build quality is faultless in my opinion. The hard wearing XT 4 has fit like a glove since the day I got my hands on them, and has worn very well indeed.
The sole has lasted and has brilliant grip , on a wide range of surfaces, and despite the dust . sweat, mud and microspikes that have been ground onto them they continue to maintain shape and fit and the integrity of the upper and midsole is still great.
For such a light shoe it seems remarkable that they wear so well. The microfibre upper is really well designed and maintains odor free status after all this time somehow.
These shoes are definitely lightweight, coming in at around 600gms for size 10 shoes.
The heel drop of 6mm from back to front makes them feel natural, without putting stress on your achilles for anyone who is not used to a minimal style shoe, and I personally like this feature , as I feel I need a bit more heel drop as I run a lot at work on flat or rolling dirt roads, and this seems to help for whatever reason. The 6mm drop and low profile feel of the shoe seems to make you want to run quickly and seems to enhance running form, which for me can only be a good thing.
The lightness of the shoes however does not compromise their build quality and there ruggedness. As you can see from the photgraphs these are still looking in great condition, the uppers and the sole after a lot of beating , dust,rocks, mud and sweat…
The Adiprene cushioning on the hell and the Adiprene + cushioning on the forefoot are light and not thick but offer enough shock absobtion without compromising ground feel, and on anything but flat tarmac, your feet feel great all day in them. The odd time I have run any distance on tarmac they do feel a little lacking in padding but then they aren’t made for it , and I am not the most light footed runner, having once been a heavy pronator, I am now definitely more neutral but not too light on my feet..
If you are a heavy heel striker thenm these may not suit, unless you are in the mountains rather than on groomed trails, but for anyone else I think the minimalist feel of these shoes makes them a delight to run in – loads of fun and agressiveness without beating yr feet or losing the feel for the trails and rocks.
The Continental Sole on the XT4 is great, with aggressive and hard wearing lugs, thaat I have used in everything from steep grassy fells, frozen Snowdonia mountains with lots of snow and Kahtoola spikes on, tropical dirt tracks and trails and boggy rainy season runs in East Africa. A great all round sole, and the only shoes comparable for grip I have come across so far are the Inov8. I also find the XT4’s more forgiving than INov8’s too, and on the smell test the XT 4 still score around 3/10 on the smell scale, and are bearabkle indoors, whereas all my other running shoies (except the Adizero Bostons – to be reviewed later) are consigned to the outhouse generally and score 8/10 on aroma value!!
I guess the light and synthetic materials udsed for contrsuction just dont hold sweat and foot grime , which is amazing..
These sythetic microfibres also mean that the XT4 fits really well, and needs no adjustment during a run even in the wet – Just recently I was running in Cambodia and was splitting my run with a swim in a waterfall, in my shoes and kit before returning to where we were staying, and there was no stretch in them at all. Super comfy and fast drying too..
In conclusion then these shoes have definitely found a way into shoe collection and I will be investing in another pair when they wear out. Very imprerssed all round with fit, wear, weight, cushioning and grip. I wouldn’t recommend them if you have to run a lot of tarmac km to find trail and dirt as the sole may wear quickly – the tread is really designed for agressive grip, but otherwise wicked shoes and reccomended for sure… And the bright orange and blue combination of colour is actually good too.
I have been back at work a week now and as ever we are surrounded by wildlife. The camp, since the rain started is swarmed with flies and mozzies and plenty of malaria about… There are the odd elephant to be seen in the vicinity as well as countless Ugandan Cobs, and other Gazelle type beasties and loads of work to do too…
However I have been managing to fit some running in , which has consisted of the following:-
A 16km run circumnavigating the airport at Entebbe which was surprisingly fun and epically hard work as I did it straight off an 11hr flight with limbs like leaden jelly…. The run even featured a wet and dark muddy tunnel under the runway, a small village or two and some friendly police men here and there. It was great to do a circuit, although I ran out of water before I should have, but it felt good, and also to be running along the shoers of Lake Victoria was pretty cool, although a little windswept looking…
The Boma Hotel in Entebbe is a pleasant cosy spot, nothing too fancy but handily placed for some quiet semi urban running, so ideal for the end of a plane journey…
Once out to the crew I have dived straight back into early morning runs around the works yard – its about 200m by 400 metres but full of cars and trailers etc so I end up zig zagging about , running up a small incline towards the entrance gate and generally going round in circles for about 8km until I get dizzy…. I feel sorry for hamsters in wheels now for sure!! I do however get a chance to listen to Talk Ultra Pod casts which winds away the 45minutes i can only survive for…..
Things however are looking up. I have prepared a risk assessment ( sounding boring yet?) and an operating procedurre for running outside the gates amongst the animals outside the park area here and this has proven to be a popular sanity saver for a numbef of colleagues and myself. 4 x 10km runs and 1 x 13 km, mostly fast and hot until todays steady 14km.. Great to get out on a fine dirt road with ace views over the Albert Nile as it exits Lake Albert on its way North to South Sudan… It would be great to just take off on a long run butits unfortunately out of the question….
There are animals around the road and so far I have seen gazells and Kobs of different varieties as well as 4 elephants just below the road one afternoon, closer to the ile, bathing in the mud. A great feeling to see them and be running ( although they are far enough away to comply with our minimum proximity guideliens)… I have a car following just behind me anyway to comply with companies expectations for safety and thus if I stumble across a lion or elephant / water buffalo etc etc , I can dive into the car and take cover… All good fun, but so far no proximity wildlife, so thats great news fornot having ones run interrupted….
Managed 70km this week and begiinning to feel good , even tho max of 1 hour at a time, I can keep pushing some speed into my legs, and hopefully the back to back days will buidl strength and develop some stamina longer term…..
Roll on North Vietnam at the end of this work hitch – mountain biking and hiking and mountain running………..
Hot days and humid – 33 to 38 degrees c and uper sweaty makes for good work outs, I am looking forward to hitting N Vietnam with Helen for some cooler climes – better for cardiovascular efforts for sure…..
For the ast few months I have been using a number of new (to me) items of kit for my running activities, and I will get round to reviewing them in the next couple of weeks when I am back at work in Uganda.
Currently still in Cambodia in Siem Reap where I and Helen have been doing some great biking around the temples, in the midst of Khmer new year festivities which has been great- The sheer volume of Cambodians out on holiday and enjoying the plqace, and the festivities along with their own cultural stuff – loads of dancing, live music, picnics, family gatherings etc etc etc has been great to get a view of. Angkor Wat, Bayon and a number of other temples were chocker block with people, yet still retain a certain serenity, brilliant..
Had a great blast of a 10km along the waterway through town here in Siem Reap, with its bustling street life, bonkers dogs and superfriendly people. really good fun although meltingly hot!
I haave had a good week running and exercising, more details in a later post, but suffice to say that I am looking forward to reviewing the following kit too:-
Adidas Adizero Boston 3
Adidas Fast-R – Goretex Mid – super light walking boot, super supportive,great grip and padding, wicked…
The North Face Better Than Naked trail running shorts and T shirt – really light , great to wear and fast drying..
Better dash for now, pictures etc coming soon from the last weeks fun.
Plus I have come up with a handy new challenge for me to aim for, involving some fund raising for a project close to my heaart and a long run to complete… I intend to run the Dalesway in July 2013, maybe in one go non stop…I need to get some more miles into my legs and some consecutive days training….This is a 78 mile trail from Bowness on Windermere to Ilkley in North Yorkshire… It will be a challenge for sure, but I know the area pretty well apart from a bit in the first 3rd of the run – I will do it West to East… so I finish in Ilkley and then can visit my folks in Keighley ….
Looking at the news, and all the pics of ice climbing elsewhere on the V12 site, plus having a watch of a video that has Jim skiing off Snowdon in April, its hard to imagine the contrast between there and here in Cambodia.
The last week has been hotter than ever, no rain yet, plus less breeze, more humidity and generally sweltering conditions… I so hope that the harsh weather is making up for the fact that a 25 to 28km run is quite a battering experience…. Usually I would fair better back in Wales I fear…
Had a great week this week on the running front, with a 23km round trip from from the Elephant Valley Project to Sen Monorom Waterfall for a swim, plus 2 cirsuits of a great road run from Sen Monourom itself, a classic 8km loop with 400m ascent , great views and a good late afternoon cardio vascular work out… Been trying to run it tempo style / race it to build some speed into the legs… I am also getting better acclimatised to the heat so this latest effort was a full 4 min quicker than the first circuit. a 35 minutes 11 seconds spin out , and it felt pretty good.
I have managed a couple of hill interval sessions, which i think really helps acclimate , by boiling oneself half to death!!! 5km of distance with 600m of ascent in a session seems very harsh..
Earlier in the week I managed a 28km spin out from the project, back towards Sen Monourom, then up to the top of the same hill via a great side / dirt road, really quiet and well wooded with great views across farm lands and forests. Again I was absoutely slaughtered by the time I finished – legs were ok but I was hot hot hot!!! This had 1300m ascent…
Lets see what the next week brings and try and build some more distance into my long run…I may have to try heading out early morning instead of 0800hrs to try and beat the heat for the first half of my run…
The Adizero Trail XT4 shoes have been getting a battering on the long runs, with my La Sportiva Vertical K’s for the hill sessions, and the Adidas Adizero Boston 3’s have been great for the occasional tarmac session. Everything is so dusty that they are all taking oon a reddish hue from the dust, as is my skin and most of my clothing.
Runing wear wise, I am really enjoying the North Face Better Than Naked shorts and running T that I had from V12, they are brilliant. They shed water well as I sweat, they are easy to clean and dry and are wearing extremely well despite the sweating and struggling I am putting them through. I need more of this stuff to wear as its so good.
The week spent on the project has been great with a lot of physical work again, shifting banana plants, pulling nails , and sorting out first aid kits ( altho the last thing was more cerebral in fact).
Had a good view of the forests this weekend, and while there are still miles and miles of it there is some serious deforestation going on too.
One of the pictures I have posted shows a protected forest sign ( see above) with a swathe of cleared felled forest behind it!! The government, which officially owns the land ( and ought to respect its own legal designations for protected forests etc) has in some cases allowed roads to be cut for rich landowners to snatch large areas of supposedly free land ( actually tribally owned and withing the park areas) and then cut and plant rubber pllantations… For the government to make even more money, they also sell off a forestry concession area on each side of the road of 1km, so that a road cut through the jungle turns into a 2km wide swathe of cleared forest…..
Fortunately there are a lot of agencies working in the area trying to slow this indescriminate destruction, and also promote eco tourism/ sustainable community development within the area which will allow forest and indigenous people to live and manage their forests effectively…The main problem seems to be the Chinese nations insatiable appetite for raw materials fuelling the rubber plantation bom and the wholesale deforestation of great tracts of land, facilitated by roads being tarmacced and opened up to great timber vehicles ( the roads themselves are of benefit to the locals of course, but just allow access toof ro machinery to cut the forest and send it off to China and elsewhere……
Had a great weekend spent in Sen Monorom as the project closes for the Friday and Saturday, with moto scooters hired to head out to an amazing waterfall at Bou-sra near the Vietnam border ( closed here for foreigners) a 2 drop waterfall and seriously impressive even in the dry season. I will post a pic in the week , but suffice to say there was plenty of forest on the way, some great swimming holes at the falls, and a great descent to the lower fall base, by crossing the river and descending some amazing near vertical wooden steps built up a cliff face, a fine adventure and a great chill out spot.
This week has been great.
Apart from catching up with Helen at The Elephant Valley Project which is great as I haven’t seen her for over a month, I have had a week of volunteer labouring at the project, early nights, great running and some amazing elephant experiences.
I am beginning to see such a lot more of Cambodia, and lots of things that are going on here, with loads of great people and unusually interesting landscapes.
Here’s some of stuff I have found out this week:-
The Elephant Valley Project is doing incredible work
- To look after and liberate abused domestic elephants, so they can be elephants again
- Protect wild elephant population in and around the Mondulkiri
- Educate elephant owners and workers in the Mondulkiri area of Cambodia about how to look after elephants more humanely, and identifying other vulnerable elephants in captivity/labouring, and trying to get the owners to rent them long term to the project instead of working them too hard
- Supporting the local Banong tribes / villages in their struggle to have their land ownership recognised and protect it from illegal / unauthorised land grabbing and degradation through deforestation / illegal logging etc
- Provide local employment year round to local people to lessen the dependence on commercial timber extraction
- Support communities with health care where necessary to stop villagers having to sell off land to pay for medical bills
- There is loads more these guys are doing, and to come and visit this project is to support an amazing project, with a great vision.
So to this week’s running:-
4 great runs:
- A very hot and sweaty 10km, early in the morning on the streets and river bank in Phnom Penh, along the Mekong, amidst the daily workout locals on the river front – 42 min.
- A wickedly overheated 28km bash out along a very rolling ridge from the EVP (Elephant Valley Project) base camp towards Sen Monorom and out along a parallel ridge and back, 1000m ascent and boiling hot, I was near dizzy on the final few km as I underestimated my water needs and the heat/humidity – 2.5hrs.
- An Ace 15 km blast from Sen Monorom back to the EVP base camp late morning, feeling better in the heat amd finished the run off with a couple of reps on the steep steep track up from the project to the dirt road and back to work the legs. Felt really good 1hr 18min.
- A cracking 8.5km loop featuring a 500m climb out from the centre of Sen Monorom across the airstrip and out past the second lake, stiff climb u round the back of the communications towers , great views and then a cracking descent back to town before a flat blast along the airstrip (abandoned) back into town – 38min.
Shoes of choice this week and very good they were too :=
- Adidas Adizero Boston 3
Super light and feel great even in the heat, they hold no moisture and keep dry when the rest of me is drenched in sweat. I like these more every time I use them. The cushioning is great but seems minimal at first until you put them into action – supportive and firm and great on descents, where often one takes a battering, they just make me want to run quickly..
- La Sportiva Vertical K.
I love the lightness and flex of these shoes but I prefer them on steep rockier terrain; On the 28km spin out I had I felt as though I needed a bit more heel to toe drop to keep me rolling on the dirt roads. These shoes are suited ( I think to steeper single track moments). Still They did great and are lasting very well…
- Adidas Adizero XT4 Trail shoes
Great and great and great – super light and super comfy still, they hold my feet still and like the Boston’s, no matter how wet my feet get , they hold firm and the cushioning is great. Good on these dirt roads and for the forays onto the hillsides and steep stuff, they are so versatile and still feel good on tarmac. These dry super-fast and due to the artificial fibres everywhere simply refuse to fester and stink no matter how much sweat I put into them (same as the Adizero Boston’s – amazingly fresh still)
So what else have I thought about / learned this week?
- Elephants are great, and Asian elephants are just so amazing – some great moments spent in their company
- Cambodia is more humid than Uganda currently
- I am having a great time working and achieving stuff practically instead of cerebrally for a change.
- Feeling really well and fit again and I reckon I am acclimatizing to the heat fully now; living without fans and aircon is a great way of achieving this when interspersed with a lot of hard physical graft in stifling heat and humidity, whilst marching up and down steps…
- Khmer food is healthy and great tasting
- Helen is enjoying the project and working hard.
- Renting scooters for $7 per day is bonkers. A great way to see the area and Helen is a great scooter pilot. We are planning more adventures…
- Cambodian kids are crazy – watching them jump off the top of the waterfall in Sen Monorom – about 40ft…. excellent. I plan a run from the project to here for a swim one day too that should be a good 24km round trip…
- There are some great waterfalls and scenery around and about the area..
- The whole of this area is under threat from illegal logging, land theft from the Banong and due to the fact that unscrupulous government departments give land away on spurious 99yr leases to big companies that have no right to the land, rubber plantations for the Chinese, poaching and from general farming that does not take into account the traditional sustainable practices of the local Banong and other peoples of the area
- We (volunteers at the project) did a good job in overloading a Mad Max style truck under instruction from the driver, long after we would have stopped loading it ( with reclaimed timber for the EVP) – We demolished an old house to avoid cutting new timber from the forest , but only after the house had some rituals carried out to appease its spririts as the Banong are Animist in their beliefs generally). Amazingly the truck made it back to the project and the wood stayed on the truck…..
Finished work for the moment and now in Cambodia. Great stuff!
Work finished well and I finally managed to get out for some real runs, not just round in circles or on a treadmill.. Before flying back from Entebbe to Phnom Penh, I managed a couple of 12 km runs around the edges of Lake Victoria, in a pleasant heat , with the odd thundery rain splash thrown in. Not very rural but quiet dirt roads and good rolling terrain made for good running, and no one notices you either which is great. Plenty of back lanes to explore as time permits and I am keen to do a circuit of the airport next time I am there, probably a 15 km run, with the shores oh Lake Vic too…
SO the last couple of days in Phnom Penh, its a similar heat to Uganda and I managed a first morning run down to the river ( a tributary of the Mekong) for a solid 10km of Urban running . The banks of the river here are thronging with people doing exercise to music or marching / backwards marching etc etc before the heat and bustle of the day begins.. Really good to have an insight into the city health life as old and young alike gather in droves…
The Adidas Adizero Boston 3’s are doing great, I love ‘em. They are holding up well to treadmills and oodles of sweating into them, and really feel good on my feet everytime i put them on… Almost no signs of wear onn the soles still either , anddespite them being white when I bought them, they are still looking clean!!! Great shoes so far..
HAd a really interesting trip to S21 and the Killing Fields, where Polpot and his cronies exacted some of their terrible genocidal acts upon the Cambodian people back in the 70’s. Shocking and also interestig atthe same time,
Next stop, tomorrow, I am heading up to the Elephant Valley Project where Helen is based for 3 months, co-ordinating the volunteers on this amazing project with aa brod scope of conservational interests, I am well excited about spending time up there in Mondul Kiri and helping out on theproject.
I will be itespersing this with runs in the area and will keep posting as I go. I can’t wait to see the elephants and find out more about the project .. Out in the wildsof North Eastern Cambodia, it sounds like an amazing place..
As I havent been running outside , I have included pictures of the local wild life again to spruce up my ramblings about the indoor training….
The Albert Nile I see in the distance just makes me want to follow it downstream, imagine that as an adventure…..
Hope you like the pics anyway.
By the way, the shoes I have out here are all from V 12 and are trhe following:-
Adidas Adizero Boston 3
Adidas Adizero XT 4 Trail shoe
La Sportiva Vertical K
I think the XT 4 and the Vertical K will get some hammering out in Cambodia, they are both light nd minimal, and will just a different enough feel on my feet to keep my feet healthy and clean, as i suspect the rainy season is about to hit, so grip is going to be important, and they are light weight enough to dry quickly…..
Anyway, another pic of the wild life and not a running shoe in sight… Suffice to say that all 3 of these pairs of trainers feel great in the heat, really good on my feet and so light. The minimal nature of them is too extreme so I am not feeling calf strains, and my achilles aches and pains are better than they have been for a long time…Maybe the change in my malaria chemoprophylaxis is helping too….
Into my third week out in Uganda and although I can’t get out for a run , I decided early on that I needed to adapt my mental approach whilst I was here and just dig into the idea of gym work and running machines………
So far so good. With a slight shift in my mental approach, I have been trying to recreate the feeling of hill days in my legs by doing squats, and other leg exercises before sessions on the treadmill.
I am managing about 6 nights per week training for anything from 25 minutes on the running machine after a weights session, upto 1hr 40 mins so far before I go mental….
I have indulged in some upper body training as I believe this will help drive me forward quicker on flatter stuff, and will be useful when I am using the poles to push uphill on the steep mountain days later in the year….
All the time in the back of my head is the Jungfau Marathon…….
Ther temperatures are a bit stifling here and the perspiration rate is epic, I am losing probably 1.5 litres in an hour sweating, like being in a bath when I step off the machine…
Occasionally I get to run outside, around an industrial style yard,. and I knocked out a 41 minute 1okm on tired weight trained legs so I was pretty pleased…. I am looking forward to running freely again over the rolling hills of Northern Cambodia in around 10 days…
Well here I am in Uganda. A new job in a new place, and all very interesting , hectic and challenging. Every new project brings a whole set of different challenges.
Running wise the first challenge for me is that I can’t actually leave my camp to go running!! Shock horror!!
I am reduced to pounding a creaky running machine and working with some rattly weights. This is going to be interesting when I finally go on leave in late March as I am now super keen to run again, and my health feels back to robustness again….
Running for a couple of hours at a time will be a new thing again after a couple of months break…I am well excited. My red blood cell count should be back to normal now after the malaria, thats the bit that takes atime to recover apparently, hence my lack of energy for a month or two. |I am now back on it I reckon, feeling great….
My next leave, I am heading out to Cambodia to join my wife who is working on an Elephant Sanctuary, more about this in a later post. I am really excited to be mixing up looking after elephants with days out running wild and free in a totally new place, exploring and building some fitness.
So here in Uganda I am reduced to sessions on the running machines and am building up length and intensity, mixing it up a bit whilst ipod tunes stop me goinng daft. So far I am sort of enjoying the torture of the treadmill, but only managed an hour so far. It seems to require a certain mental approach that I am trying to develop.. It seems to produce fast turn over of the legs but I am sure the speed settings are wrong.. I mainly judge my eforts by heart rate. I alternate with episodes of Talk Ultra, which actually is quite a motivator, hearing of races and exploits from around the globe, plus insights into training, racing, nutrition etc…Anything to keep me sane on the treadmill.
The heat is good, its around 35 to 40 degrees c currently so time spent sweating on the treadmill is good. I am sure you get more value for effort the hotter and more humid it is….. We shall see…
My Adidas Adizero Boston3 shoes are feeling great, I really like them – good cushioning and neutral they hold my feet really firm and even when i am bogging in sweat they feel positive and there is no slippage / squelching. They are wearing well and are so light you hardly notice them on the foot, but the foremotion thing built into them and seems to make on feel whippy / fast…..