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 meat…it 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).