|The twins at the bazar|
|The Shakeout road|
|Mountains, Gandalf! I want to see mountains!|
|Where we live|
|Andrey? Sergey? Either way :)|
A day at training camp: Run. Eat. Run. Eat. Sleep. Run. Eat. Play cards. Sleep.
Training camp is a good life. And it's good to get out of the city, even if I still am in the former Soviet Union. So while there is still trash all over the ground, and the rest of the trash is apparently burned by the side of the road, you can look past that to the snow peaked mountains and breathe (mostly) fresh mountain air.
I've been running 2-3 times a day and otherwise spending my time with my two Russian roommates. We all sleep in couches in the living room and they entertain me with, well, basically everything they say, and I try to return the favor by not sounding like a complete moron when I open my mouth and try to speak Russian.
Whenever we are home we have the TV on, playing Russian pop music videos non-stop. Surprisingly entertaining and hasn't gotten old yet, even after 5 days. Is it possible I like Russian pop more than American pop? I guess I don't like hip-hop very much, and there's no Carly Rae Jepson, Justin Bieber, or Miley Cirus, so perhaps I do like Russian pop more, sad to say. Watching the videos makes me wonder where they find all these cookie-cutter gorgeous Russian girls to sing and dance. There seems to be an endless supply...
So my roommates are identical twins, Andrey and Sergey, and they're from a village in Novosibirsk Region. Yes, I'm living with two Russian villager twins, and it's incredible. They are the nicest people I've ever met. They have decided that I am their guest and they don't even let me do any work around the house, from washing dishes to taking out the trash to carrying the groceries home. They cook oatmeal in the morning and otherwise look after me. For those of you who are in the know, I'm basically living with 2 Russian versions of my junior year roommate, Jameson Bilsborrow, otherwise known as Bils, minus the Darth Vader mask and the philosophy education.
So we get up at 6:20am, and go for a 4km shakeout in the cold desert air. Us and the girls on the team and a few taxi drivers (and a few stray dogs) are the only street walkers at this hour, and we crawl 2km out and 2km back, trying to wake up.
We come back from our shakeout and do some stretching and exercises. I do pullups and dips and pushups and crunches and the Russians do all kinds of crazy things. Russians do all the stretches you see in workout books from the 1970s. I still get a twinge of fear every time they swing their legs up to head level to stretch their hamstrings on the jungle gym outside our apartment building.
An aside, Russians have a culturally engrained terror of the cold. They think any sort of cool draft is a deadly disease coming to incapacitate you. I tried to explain them the difference between "cold" and "comfortably cool" since they don't make that distinction. A comfortable temperature for a Russian is inherently warm. They always dress in layers when they run, even at 60 degrees. Some of the girls wear tights under their pants, which is something I've only done at 10 degrees or colder. I'd say 19 out of 20 runners are wearing pants at 65 degrees. Every time I run I think of Zach Gates and his refusal to wear pants... ever, and then my brain explodes thinking about the difference in culture between Russians and Americans. Pretty much everything I've ever thought was normal about behavior is just the culture I grew up in.
So Russians are also borderline obsessive about washing their hands (my roommates were quite fascinated with the bottle of hand sanitizer I brought, because, you know, I was going to Kyrgyzstan and you just never know. This stuff is everywhere in America guys...), as well as taking off their shoes at the door of the house and changing clothes immediately, while at the same time they drink out of the same glasses and share spoons. It's like all the common sense I learned in America has been reversed.
Sometimes being here makes me feel like I'm crazy. Just my ideas about life, the world, the weather training methodology, my habits, my clothes, EVERYTHING IT SEEMS, is strange and foreign. I'm beginning to think my Russian training partners think I'm some kind of eccentric. Maybe I am? Hell, I'm in Kyrgyzstan, a country I couldn't even spell until I forced myself to learn the countries of the world as a bored, stupid college freshman. At this point I'd be willing to believe anything is possible.
So as I ponder all of this stuff and we finish our core session, we eat breakfast (oatmeal made with delicious Kyrgyz milk, delicious Kyrgyz bread, and some sort of cream cheeseish stuff) and then relax until our first training.
The first training is usually the harder of the two. Sometimes we do hills. Sometimes we do speed. Sometimes we just do a normal run. But whatever we do, we run really slowly for most of it in order to keep our heart rates between 130 and 150. Which for me is actually damn hard. I've been running the majority of my mileage in the 150-170 range my entire life and, believe it or not, I'm comfortable there! To keep my heart rate below 140 I literally have to shuffle (which also says something about how bad of shape I'm in, but hey, we are at 5000 feet).
This also makes me think about Zach Gates. Two years ago in the fall, when we were both injured and frustrated beyond belief, and the only thing we had to keep us happy was the blonde diva we got to cross train with (which also happened to be a source of frustration), he and I got into a testosterone battle (or maybe it was just me). In any case, we ended up cycling for 2 hours and I had to work my heart about 20 bpms harder to keep his pace. I'm not convinced I was in worse running shape than him, but I might have been.
In any case, my family has a theory that our HR max is higher than normal. My dad claims his max HR is higher than should be possible at his age. So maybe it's normal for me for my heart to be running higher than my colleagues? Well, thinking like that makes me feel better anyway.
After our first training we have lunch, which serves delicious Russian cousine. And by delicious cuisine, I mean the Kyrgyz bread is awesome, and I eat it like the Turks taught me with a slice of onion, and the Russian soups are wonderful - Borsch, Shi, chicken noodle, you name it! - put a scoop of sour cream in there and it's heaven in a bowl. But the main courses are always a little bit of a disappointment. The starch is usually plain (literally, plain pasta). They also don't seem to know the difference between salsa and tomato sauce. Again, I tried to explain to my Russian villagers that pasta could be so much more, but they're pretty happy with their salsa/ketchup/sour cream??? covered pasta and cutlets. The cutlets are usually fine except for the ones that had an aftertaste that was a perfect match for that whiff of manure you get when you pass a dairy farm in New Hampshire.
After lunch we go home and nap. I usually find something distracting to do like play computer games or reread The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. But at 3pm every day we get up and do an activity that sounds way to similar to rооfies, and had me startled at first. Basically it's a heart rate test, but when my Russian villager roommates told me we were going to do "Руфье" I was a little confused.
We nap. We wake up and take our heart rate for 15 seconds. Then we stand up and do 30 squats in 45 seconds. We take our heart rate for 15 seconds again. Then we rest for 30 seconds. Then we take our heart rate for 15 seconds one last time. You sum up your pulse from each segment and that is, what I will call, your roofie score. It's probably some kind of wack Soviet science, but hell, I might as well
go all in, right?
We get ourselves together and do our second training. More slow running, but by the second training my legs are usually begging for slow running anyway. Then we have dinner. No soup this time, but a hit-or-miss salad plus some slop plus a dessert (usually some kind of cake that tastes something like cheesecake). Some juice ("Компот") and some bread make everything better. Finally, of course, tea is served to go with the desert.
In the evening we often play cards at the girls' apartment. The twins got giddy like teenagers going on their first date the first time we went over. It was cute. Then we watched Wrong Turn 5 (what, you didn't know there was a 5th part? Neither did I. Actually there will be a 6th. Why do people have such bad taste in movies?!) It was nothing but gore and bad acting, but it was entertaining in the way that it was so over the top teen horror movie.
We get to bed by about 10:00pm each night, after watching a few more Russian pop stars shake their stuff on TV. Here's one of our favorites: