Wednesday, December 28, 2005

10k at the Palace

This is just a short entry to confirm that I did manage that end-of-year run with Gareth at the palace last night. We were also joined by French Martin and Japanese Terry. It was, as we intended, pretty slow. Something like 28 minutes for the first lap and 24 something for the second. And it was quite an effort to come under the 5 min/km pace for the second lap. We enjoyed a couple of beers afterwards and a curry. My throat felt quite rough through the night and I went to go to the doctor this morning on the way to work only to find the bugger has shut up shop until the 5th of January. So will most of Japan, but he is a day or two earlier than most. Our company shuts up from tomorrow and we had a little party in the office this aftrnoon, and then a lot of people went straight back to their workstations...typical. I'm off home. There are technical diffciulties preventing us from getting on-line in our new apartment. Most annoying and frustrating, but this means I'll be completely off-line for days. Mount up ye splendid Inbox. Ahh shit, I just realized, I won't be able to keep track of the cricket <sigh>...I will have to find consolation in a bottle of sake or three. Signing off for now...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  あけましておめでとうございます!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

No running, but life goes on

So the move went OK, but the process of settling into the new place is taking longer than we would have hoped. It is actually just a bit too squeezy, so cramming everythig in has been a challenge, and the whole process is frustrating as all you want to do is settle down and start enjoying your new abode, but you can't; there is always something else to do. Chiemi has been a tower of strength and relentless go-forward, and the boys have cooperated as much as you could expect. Unfortunately the new place is a lot chillier than the old one (more exposed walls), so we have been suffering a bit as we now find ourselves in the deepest darkest days of winter.

Christmas was a significantly dampened event compared to most years, but we managed to have a family lunch at a restaurant in the afternoon. We then browsed furniture shops in our neighbourhood, which has a reputation for its concentration of interior shops. We were mainly looking for a wardrobe for our room, but apparently the word "interior" does not extend to include wardrobes. Chiemi eventually found one yesterday at the local government's recycle centre. We actually thought they would be all junk, but felt we should have a look just on the off-chance; lo-and-behold, there was one piece that fit the bill pretty much to perfection: good color and condition, right size and configuration, and at a fraction of the price we were starting to resign ourselves to having to pay. The only drawback is that with the New Year shut-down upon us it won't be delivered until the middle of January. So a couple more weeks with our clothes hanging off a rack will certainly test our stiff upper lips. Anyway, now we can start turning our attention towards a dining table...the last Big Thing.

With all this going on, plus the kid's and Chiemi's cold/flu taking much firmer hold of my head and respiratory tract, there has been no running. Bloglines tells me that everyone else is doing well. I'm especially proud of those two determined and relentless training machines, Mika and Satohi, who really didn't spend much time resting on their laurels after their November marathons. Everybody in Australia (Go Team J!) are doing well it seems and running hard and often to burn up those extra Christmas calories. I envy the warmth, but 35+ degrees around Quarry Road sounds just a tad excessive. One extreme to the other. I have a date to run a couple of times around the Imperial Palace with Gareth tonight (and anyone who elects to join us), and if we do not die of hypothermia mid run, we will then drink a few beers and reflect over dinner on the year of running that was.

Speaking of beer, an article I mostly wrote on that particular topic was just recently published on-line. You can read it here if you are so inclined to catch a glimpse of the craft beer scene in Japan. The article is a little over halfway down the page.

While I am on the topic of sending you off to read more than you have time for, I encountered a great post yesterday on the Pharyngula blog. It is about childhood memories, loss and the passing of time. Maudlin and wistful, it is a really nice bit of prose that just somehow resonated for me during this time when things are not exactly bad, but not exactly joyful either, what with the stresses of moving, the pangs of longing for family so far away...and no bloody running!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Temporary interruption to services

I suspect I will not run this week. Probably not even once. We had the big move into our new apartment yesterday. It all started with a visit to the bank on Tuesday to finalize all that side of affairs and declare us the legal title holder of the property. Thereupon we took possession of the keys and proceeded to begin moving in. Tuesday afternoon was then an interesting process of marching back and forward from our place to the new place, just 80 m up the street, with a couple of small trolleys. Several friends pitched in to help and we got to a point of feeling we had made a significant dent in the job. Since all the kitchenware was gone, and who would want to cook anyway, we baked half a dozen pre-fabricated pizzas. (While a lot of what you hear about Japan being expensive is exaggerated, especially in these days of spiralling deflation, one thing that is NOT exaggerated is the expensiveness of delivered pizza. How does $25 for a medium grab you? At least $40 for a large. Hence with a hungry mob to feed we opted for the nuke your own option served on home-made cardboard plates.)

Yesterday the men in the truck came and moved the big things. During the morning the new double-bunk bed for the younger two boys arrived and I had to spend an hour, or was it two, building that up. Tatsuya's loft bed (bed up top, desk underneath) was supposed to arrive in the afternoon, but in the only major f***-up of the day, the delivery company had made a  mistake and arranged for it to be delivered on the 22nd, not the 21st. A very irate wife made the poor guy on the end wish his shift, or maybe his life, would end sooner rather than later, I'm sure. Anyway, totally beyond their ability to get it there any sooner, so we had to live with it. Their one concession was to get the delivery guy to assemble it, since a major part of the problem was that by it not being delivered yesterday, I wouldn't be there to assemble it (I still don't know how this panned out). The other less than happy discovery was that the Internet provider (optic fiber, ahem) found a break in the line somewhere in our ceiling, so that is going to take a bit longer to get us on-line.

The day ended with Tatsuya and a couple of his mates completing the transfer of sundry items from the old place and us being surrounded by more cardboard boxes than I thought you could fit into such a small space. I then had to conveniently toddle off to a company end-of-year party. Korean BBQ, beer, and kim-chee. Not very popular when I got home, especially the beer induced snoring. Back at work today and the next few days offer more of the process of settling in, including procurement of those last remaining bits and pieces. Like lights (which don't come as mandatory fixtures in Japan) for some of the rooms and a closet for our bedroom, which is a Japanese room with tatami but no space for hanging clothes. So, with these things still hanging over my head, pardon the pun, it will take a bit of serious will-power to get out for a run at an hour that won't be construed as subverting "The Cause". A good thing I have committed December as a rest and recovery month!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Komazawa-chan, o-hisashiburi...

Sunday is the religiously observed long run day. My wife and kids are occupied with more conventional devotional activities and I go for my long run with my friends in Yoyogi Park. But today, with our move a mere two days away, there was no chance. I didn't even try. So we got stuck into all the chores, and then around 3:00 it seemed like we had done about as much as we could. So I threw out an acoustic signal that I might go for a run, and to my surprise the acoustic reflection was not entirely negative. So at 3:30 I got out the door and headed straight for Komazawa park. Just before starting this post I checked when  I last ran there prior to the marathon. The run where I said "ja mata ne" to the park. And to my surprise it was exactly a month ago. So I just started running without any particular plan or pace in mind other than to run aerobically for maybe one and a half hours. It was cold. About 5 degrees. Heavy snow was falling over much of Japan, but not here just yet. There was a women's corporate ekiden on TV during the day and it was snowing so much that the women were getting snow drifts building up on their eyebrows and hairline. Crazy stuff. Anyway, I just seemed to fall into a fairly brisk pace and ended up running almost the whole run at a heart rate of 150 or higher. Much of it in the ower mid-150s. The pace to and from the park averaged about to 4:40/km and in the park 4:20 to 4:30/km.  At the end, with having rugged up pretty well, I had worked up a good sweat. It felt good to do a nice solid workout liek this again. There were a few little niggles, especially the old left hip and even a bit of soreness in the left knee. Early in the run my right foot was doing the tendonitus sonata, but it quietened down later. Hop it stays that way. Strange to have these niggles when I have not been running much. Still, I did manage to scrape together just over 42 km for the week, which is not bad considering it feels like I have been in bludge city.

We had our Namban Bonnenkai (year-end party) on Friday night and it was a hoot. We actually had the luxury of gathering at a private residence, a very unusual treat in this city. Much revelry and dancing and cavorting, the details of which are best left behind closed doors. I do remember falling over on the dance floor at one stage and have had quite a sore left elbow as a result...and a bruise on my left thigh. But I showed a lot orestraint to be honest and headed home before midnight due to having to attend a wedding the next day. Now, that, the wedding, is almost worth another entry all by itself. Perhaps when I have the photos.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The avenue of ginko...

Here we go, Googled up a couple of snaps of that avenue:

This one must be early autumn. Complete with joggers!

But here we go with the nice yellow carpet. See, I told ya it was yellow!

Now, that's easier than lugging my ancient Fuji FinePix around in a backpack.

...ran to work this morning

Ha ha...this blog is getting pretty dull. I ran to work this morning. Just like the other morning. And much the same as last night, only in reverse. I got away even later than on Monday but did the run a minute or two faster. I have decided there are too many bloody intersections on my route. What more can I was cold. Only 4 degrees. A bit colder and I will be getting icicles of nose-water forming on my moustache. The ginko trees (ichou-ki) are getting a bit threadbare, but there is still a stunning yellow carpet on the ground. I'd like to say that something exciting happened in Aoyama cemetery, but alas, the crowd was dead.

SLAP, wake up 2P, I saw your eyelids drooping. Pay attention, son!

Maybe there will be something more interesting to report next time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Another pedestrian plod

Ran home from work (8.7 km) in an average pace of 4:56. Should have been at the track doing some intervals, but a job was waiting for me at home. Gareth was out of action with dental issues and Jim bunkered down with the family before flying to the States tomorrow to take up residence. We'll miss him. So the sento crowd numbers were depleted in any case. Still, I was in a foul mood this morning when I knew I could not weasle my way out of this chore and would have to miss track. At least I got in some kind of run. I feel a little bit frustrated, but I keep telling myself that it is a good idea to have a really light month. Take a break. Freshen up. All that kind of thing. It is still frustrating. The house is quiet tonight as our two youngest lads are away for a few days on an excursion with the TV crowd. Hopefully I'll run to work again in the morning.

I was seriously considering doing Nagano Marathon next April, but I think Gareth has talked me out of it and we will probably run Kasumigaura instead. Something a bit different.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday run to work

With my work clothes already at work from running home Friday, I was all primed to run to work this morning. This would be the first time in this direction. The logistics are a bit different than running home, because you need to have grooming utensils and all the right bits of clothes. I ended up forgetting a singlet, but will survive that oversight. I need to pack a washcloth of some sort too. As a trial run it went pretty well. Left home at about ten to eight, about 20 minutes later than I would have liked (Kohta's birthday slowed me down a bit). Ran the usual way along Gaien Nishi Dori, then at Hiroo I tried to get off the main street, but couldn't pick my way through the back streets and soon got dumped back onto Gaien Nishi. Then went up through the guts of Aoyama cemetary, which is much better than the footpath alternative over that section, and then crossed Aoyama Dori to run up some ginko-tree-lined avenue in the direction of the National Stadium/Shinanomachi. The ginko leaves are bright yellow and formed a full yellow carpet over the ground. It made a really pleasant interlude and almost made me think for a moment that I was living in one of the nice cities of the world. Got to work and showered and hit my chair and turned on the 'puter right on 9:00. About 50 minutes of travel time and 43 minutes of actual running time. Seven minutes of traffic lights!  I think leaving half an hour earlier would make a big difference to the comfort of the run. Fewer school kids on the footpaths and maybe even fewer stoppages at lights. We'll see.

Sunday almost-long-run

Just managed to get out the door in time and ride off into an icy overcast morning to join the throng at Yoyogi Park for an alleged long run. I was keen to get up near 20 km as a segway into some more solid mileage over the coming week (end-of-year parties and packing for moving notwithstanding).  I ended up running a very leisurely and comfortable 17.5 km in good company. And I opted to run at that pace and keep the company rather than push the pace. Priorities, priorities. I think it was about 5:30/km overall, so not too bad, really.

After the run I had to bolt home and make lunch for Chiaki, then dashed off on the bike up to Komazawa park to watch Tatsuya in some kind of road race. He had done an ekiden in the morning with some mates from school. Apparently they went alright, perhaps in the middle of the field. For his road race he was wearing a full tracksuit and wouldn't accept my counsel that he should have at least been in shorts and T-shirt. He ended up running the 2.7 km in almost 15 minutes. Not very awe-inspiring. He said that he got a strong pain in his chest and had to alternately walk and run, and that his morning run in the ekiden had been closer to 9 minutes...much more respectable. I don't think he has quite caught the running bug just yet.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A little bit of running

Wow, it is hard to get back into running after the marathon. I had a good interval workout on Wednesday, but then had to really make an effort to organize myself so I could run home from work last night. It wasn't a bad run. In the vicinity of 10.5 km at varying pace, but averaged around 5:00/km overall. It was cold and I had the MP3 player going with Jimmy Hendrix blasting away. I don't really like running with music separating me from my environment, the tangle of wires, but on this particular run, work to home along busy Nishi-gaien dori (street) in the middle of the evening, people out for the evening, the right music gives it a kind of surreal or amusement park type of feel. And Jimmy did just fine. When people step suddenly out of bars or subway exits without looking, right in front of me, as they invariably do, I dunno, it just gives me more calm and patience. "Oh I don't care, if the hippies cut off all their hair. Oh I don't mind. I don't mind". Cool, Jimmy!

I love Bloglines!  Such a newbie to RSS and aggregation and all that that I am. Just before writing this I looked at my feeds and saw a post from PLU that mentioned there was a thread going on Cool Runnings Australia about the Coast to Kosciuscko run in Australia. I've been too busy to look at CR much lately, so had lost track of the fact it was on. Awesome stuff! The thread even includes links to a couple of podcasts of telephone conversations with crew. Listening to one with Mr G. as I type this. Great work, Plu!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Intervals -- ohisashiburi! (and a fish)

Started with 5 km warm-up in the park, then over to the track for the first workout of the month. It has been so long since I did a full-on interval session. And this particular session, 6 x 1000 m, well, the last one was before the Great Hard Disk Crash of May 2005. So I was looking for some data to compare with tonight, but there are none except way back in mid-2004. All I can say is that generally, before abandoning intervals for aerobic training, I used to run these sessions at about 3:38 to 3:42/km pace. So, tonight's times? Here we are:

Rep 1 0:03:35
Rep 2 0:03:31
Rep 3 0:03:31
Rep 4 0:03:32
Rep 5 0:03:32
Rep 6 0:03:23

I was pretty happy with that. On that last one I sprinted home the last 200 m of the last rep and am confident I hit heart rate max: 184! So that's it from now on, 184. I did run these pretty hard, but aerobically it felt OK for the first four, even though my heart rate got up to about 95% for most reps (100% on the last). Legs got fatigued towards the end. But look, the important thing is this: my interval times, or VO2 max, or top end speed, or whatever you want to call it, has definitely increased. Increased significantly. And how much speed training have I done to bring it about? Not much, that's how much. Aerobic training works. That's all there is to it.

Hope you like the photo of me taken at the Hokkaido festival near Yoyogi Park a couple of weeks back. It was a really nice little festival. I bought this whole salmon for the family. Took him home and cut him up. Mika emailed me the photo today, thus the lack of chronologicality...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday, short 'n chilly in the park

Sunday morning and I had grand plans of running 20 km. Nothing fast, just a steady 20 k. But I dunno, lack of resolve and motivation conspired against it. I was running with Jim at a leisurely 5:30/km. He stopped when I got to 10 km (four laps), so I did one more lap at a brisker pace, around 4:30/km, and then I just thought oh bugger it, that'll do. Actually, I miscounted the laps, thinking it was 15k. A grand total of 35 km for the week. But that's OK. I'd rather have a couple of light weeks, lose a bit of condition and let the body get totally injury free rather than stay at a peak of fitness but carrying niggling injuries.

The rest of the day I took apart an old kitchen hutch thing we have to throw away before the move and I also brewed a bock beer. Did a mini-mash with 1 kg of light Munich malt and also added about 150 g of crystal and 40 g of chocolate malt. Just a tad under 20 L at an OG of 1.060. Just used the Saflager 34/70 yeast that came with the kit. It will only just get fermented in time to transfer to kegs before the move. At home by myself, kids at NHK and church, I enjoyed the peace and quiet, but unfortunately overlooked the fact that the Fukuoka International Men's Marathon was on TV. Wriggler Guy from Osaka put up a great series of in-progress posts on Cool Runnings which I discovered today. A very "Doh!" moment.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

12 km aerobic comeback

I didn't run on Thursday and still have not run two days in a row yet. Then I got to bed late so an eary start Friday was out of the question. It is getting so that 7:00 in the morning feels like the middle of the night, so 5:00 starts do not look to appealing anymore.

I took my gear to work yesterday (Friday) and managed to get out of the office for an hour just before 5:00. Ran down to the Imperial Palace (0.9 km) and then two laps. The intention was to run at lower aerobic pace, which I generally did, but there was pronounced cardiac drift in the second lap. So recovery is still underway. It's feeling closer though.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blog embellishments

I've been spending too much time exploring some of the rapid new developments of the web lately: RSS aggregation services, podcasting, Google maps and its offshoots. As a result, I added some buttons in the right side bar to make it easier to subscribe to this blog. One very interesting blog to add to your feeds is Google Map Mania, a blog that keeps a close eye on developments in the world of Google mapping and the mushrooming world of people hacking up their own applications with the Google Maps API. They recently announced a widget for Frappr that lets you put a little mini Google Map on your web site. So I tried it in the side bar, and hey presto! It is not centred properly and for some reason editing the latitude and longitude has no effect, so drag it to the right until you see the little pin. That's the Yoyogi Park Sunday run meeting spot. Kewl huh!

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Incredibly, two or three people who ran the marathon on the Wednesday woke up and went for a run on Thursay morning. Mika K. and Yoshida are two that I know did.

I on the other hand, didn't even think about running from Thursday to Saturday, but went for an easy 7.5 km in Yoyogi Park on Sunday. The niggling left hamstring/groin was sore for the first couple of days but soon settled back down to little more than a presence.

Last night was 5-k time trial night at the track. I thought about running it hard...for exactly 3 seconds before giving myself a metaphorical slap in the head. In the end I decided to run it in around 19:30 to 20:00, perhap pacing someone in that zone who was trying to record a good time. Settling in to the pace, Mika T appeared to be going hard. Knowing she had gone under 20 minutes for the first time last month, and recorded other great times like her 3:13:40 at Tokyo Women's on the 20th of November (yes, only 10 days before), I felt she was going for it so decided to see if I could help. We were running at 95 seconds per lap, which would have got her another sub 20 minutes. That was going pretty well for the first four laps, except her breathing was becoming very laboured. I was losing confidence that she could hang on. There was a bit of head wind down one straight, so I tried to give her shelter. But then in lap 7 she just couldn't hang on any more and I had to slow down to let her catch up. We went through that lap in 1:03. But poor Mika was still working so hard. I knew she was shot and told her to take it easy. It was too soon after the marathon to be trying for any new PBs.

My legs were feeling tender, but my breathing was fine. So I left Mika to her fate and ran on to see if I could latch onto someone else and give them a lift. Subash was working hard up ahead and I gradually hauled him in and dragged him around the last 400 m. We came in at 19:39. While the run was aerobically not too difficult (in fact it was slower than the first 5-k split of my marathon), it did leave my legs much more tender than I would have expected. My heart rate was at 90% for much of the latter part of the run, indicating that my body was finding it pretty hard going and vindicating the decision not to try and push things too hard.

Colin had a similar experience, going into the run with legs that felt fine, only to find that a moderate level of exertion for 5 km left them feeling almsot shattered. I've found it to be short-lived and the legs are feeling alright today. No run though. Perhaps an aerobic run tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

second Follow-up: heart rate monitor musings

Something that really bugged me before and since the marathon was whether I should wear or should have worn my heart rate monitor (HRM) during the race. In race pace runs leading up to the race, including the 30-km effort, I was finding that race pace corresponded to a heart rate of about 150-153, or 81-83% of heart rate max. So I knew that given an appropriate settling-in period of one or two km, the heart rate monitor would give me accurate feedback as to what pace I was at. Had I worn it and followed its beacon, there is a fair chance I would have felt a lot better at 37 km and been able to run home at 4:07/km or better and recorded a minute or so better time. Of course, there is always the possibility that I would have felt just as bad and slowed just as much and thus finished a minute or more worse than what I did.

I really don't know the answer to what might have happened had I worn it. What I do know is that I followed the heart rate training from the Hadd article, and Hadd says he doesn't agree with using a HRM in the race. He doesn't say why, but as a devotee, I felt obliged to follow the gospel according to Hadd as far as possible.

So let's speculate as to why Hadd doesn't support wearing it in a race or why it might be a bad idea to wear one. At first I thought, well, it is an ethical thing. It is a form of artifical assistance (and I think this might be Hadd's objection). Well, that is a thought. But it would have to be a purist approach because elite women marathoners use pace runners and many marathons (e.g., Gold Coast) have pace runners for various target times. Nobody seems to diminish the achievements of runners who have benefited from such pacers.

Another reason I thought of is the potential for a negative mental effect from having the HRM on. It would be fine up to 30 km I expect, when there would be just the most modest amount of cardiac drift (rise of heart rate for the same pace). But the real problem might hit after 35 km. There you are, trying to raise yourself above the pain and flagging energy to maintain pace. You can feel the pace slipping, you feel searing pain in your legs, you are breathing as hard as you do in a 5k race, lungs working at full capacity, lactate building and building in your legs, and then you look down at the HRM and what do you see? )...90%? 95%? 100% What are you going to do? Keep gritting your teeth and fighting your body to get to that line in the shortest possible time? Or do you take this as a danger sign that bad things are about to happen, and then give yourself permission to back off and coast home. It's OK, you tell yourself, finishing is the important thing. What is a few minutes in the scheme of things?

So, I'm suggesting that the heart rate data could be counter-productive in those final stages as it could make you unnecessarily submit to the cries of your pathetic muscles and lungs to slow down. But these rebellious organs are not really in danger, they are just being wimpy, trying to protect themselves before any real danger arises. This is the one way that a HRM differs from a GPS or pace runner; the GPS and pace runner do not f**k with your head! Any slow down is for real physiological reasons only.

Well, I'm not going to try and resolve these varying views. I don't have any regrets about not wearing the HRM. Maybe I am a bit of a purist and derive some satisfaction at having run without any pacing assistance (although wearing a watch and writing splits on you arm, as I did, is a kind of pacing assistance!). Maybe I am also sufficiently swayed by the potential for the HRM to be a liability late in the race. But it still gnaws away at me: could I run faster if I use the heart rate monitor to get the pacing right? Something to stew over until the next marathon. But Hadd will be still saying it is a no-no...

Friday, November 25, 2005

First follow-up

Well, I tried to keep the report as concise as possible, but it still left many things unsaid. The first and most important is a huge big thank you to all my Namban and Cool Running friends and comrades-in-blogging for all their support. It is difficult to convey just how important that has been, especially over the past few weeks. Of course you don't get to do as much training as I have done without a very supportive and patient family, so sloppy kisses all round there too.

The other thing I wanted to do is acknowledge all the other great efforts on the day. There were a number of PBs from our team: Triathlon ironmen Stuart (3:12:49) and Keren (3:42:04) had great runs. Mika in 3:34:26 smiled the whole way and ran six minutes better than she expected. My frequent training partner Colin had a roaringly successful run. Colin, in his early 50s, does daily battle with a panoply of nerve-related pain through his hips and legs, but still managed to run a very gutsy 3:03:06. He declared afterwards that he decided during the race that 3:05 should be the 3:00 equivalent for over 50s, and who am I to argue with that.

My friend Rie had a pretty good first marathon, finishing in 3:44:48. Getting married in early November certainly wasn't the ideal preparation, and she was a little light on the long runs and found the last few km very tough. So a brave effort from her.

But the performance that makes me just about cry every time I think about it was from the amazingly improved Satohi. I can still remember when Satohi would join us in the park on Sunday mornings. We would be trotting along at 5:30 or 6:00 minute pace talking and joking and she would soon be totally exhausted and unable to keep up. Less than a year later she has come out and run an unbelievable 3:3933 marathon! We knew she had improved, but not to that extent. I think all of us, even those who run with her often, were completely taken by surprise. She is truly inspiring and I was so proud of her.

Well, that'll do for now. Next post I want to talk about whether I should have worn my heart rate monitor.

There are also some photos up on the net posted by my good buddy Chiba-san, here.

Ohtawara Marathon 2005

The Night Before – Tuesday 22nd

We drove up to Ohtawara with Colin and Jim in Colin’s car. Traffic was slow getting out of Tokyo, but once on the expressway we had a really good run. Shortly after getting off the expressway we managed to spy an attractive looking Italian restaurant, so no further discussion about dinner options was required. It even turned out to be pretty good and we had an ample meal of spaghetti and risotto. We checked into the hotel around 9:15, ducked out to the nearest convenience store to pick up some breakfast, had a soaking hot bath in the hotel’s ofuro (bath-house), and got to bed a bit before 11:00.

Race Morning Wednesday 23rd

I slept like a log until 5:30 and then dozed until 7:00. After waking I only had a coffee. I had read somewhere recently that breakfast and simple sugars will interfere with the body’s glycogen metabolism, resulting in inefficient glycogen use and more rapid depletion of reserves, so it is better not to have anything until the glycogen reserves are running low, say 25 to 30 km into the race. I felt it was risky, but decided to give this a try, as it did fit in with what has happened to me during long runs, especially long pace runs.

I also had a decent number two, so that was a relief in more ways than one. I got through my first three marathons without the need to stop, so I didn’t want it to happen this time either. I prepared my special drinks – just regular powdered sports drink but with a Carboshot taped to the side.

We headed up to the race at 8:00. It was a clear, still and cool day—around zero degrees in the morning, headed for a top of 12 to 14. The Ohtawara marathon is extremely well organized and special for a number of reasons. Let me list some of the main ones:

  • Race starts and finishes in the same place
  • Athletes have access to a lovely big gymnasium where you can make a “camp” and safely leave gear, get a shower after the race (no baggage collection dramas), and relax in the gym until 10 minutes before the race if you want.
  • Runners can submit their own drinks for collection at stations every 5km from 10 km ( I put mine in at 25 and 35)
  • Every 5k: sports drink in sachet’s with a straw, water in cups, sponge stations.
  • Very cheap at 3000 yen (about A$40)
  • Timing chips with splits measured at 10 k, 20k, 21.1k, 30k, 40k, and end.
  • Groups of cheering locals in good numbers along the route.

The Race

I get a good position toward the front of the field. We wait patiently the last few minutes and the gun goes and we are away. There is no congestion and we are almost immediately moving at a good pace, twice around the unsealed surface running track and then out onto the road. I feel like the pace is a bit fast, but I’m not breathing too hard, so I just get into a rhythm and hold it. The first 5k is all flat. I am aiming at running an even 4:07/km, which, if I can hold it from start to finish, will give me a sub 2:54:00, though I realize this will be hard to hold and anything under 2:55:00 would be considered “goal achieved”!

The first 5-k split comes up in 19:35…oh dear…much too fast. I realize my breathing has been a bit harder than it should be and try to back off. The next 5k has a lot of slight downhill. My breathing gets easier and I am feeling comfortable. Then 10k comes in 39:22! So I have still run at sub 4:00 pace for the second 5k, and now I am concerned that this has been a terrible start. The third 5k takes 20:20, only 15 seconds over pace. But this is slightly uphill. The fourth 5k is more uphill, not the kind of hill you would notice much if you were walking, but quite pronounced when running at the edge of your endurance pace. So I run this section in 20:44, or 4:09 pace. Not unreasonable and I am now exactly 1:54 ahead of target time.

However, over the 15k-20k section I have developed some ominous bowel cramping. It is very uncomfortable and I don’t know whether I am going to get away without a stop. It gradually gets worse and shortly before the 20k point I see a sign that says “toilet 500 m”. I take the sign as a sign and decide to take the break because the consequences of not doing so could be worse than losing a little time. And I know I have time up my sleeve. I get the job done very quickly and back on the road. Being between the 20-k and 21.1-k points allowed me to accurately work out how much time it cost me: 31 seconds!

The half comes up in 85:31. That would be a half PB if it hadn’t been for the 84:00 min time trial I ran in Komazawa Park a few weeks ago. So I have definitely run too fast over the first half and I know it. The question now is: how badly will it bite me in the second half? I am closely monitoring the feeling of my legs and they are starting to fatigue, but I am still moving at a reasonable clip and my stomach is completely settled down. The course is two loops of the same course, so the flat and downhill 25k and 30k splits come in 21:01 (4:05/km after the halfway point) and 20:33 (right on original target pace).

So I have got through 30k, the aches and pains have not intensified too much and I am feeling like I could pick up the pace if I had to. Good. But I know it is much too early to try that. Then 30k to 35k is slightly uphill again and comes up in 21:14. Oops…starting to slow more significantly now.

There is a “5k to go” sign and I have been thinking that this is where I’d like to try to pick up the pace and run the last 5-k as hard as I possibly can. So I take it reasonably easy when I pick up my 35-k drink and carboshot. Get them into me and then cruise up the steady hill until the sign comes up. “So now the race really starts”, I think to myself. And my legs are getting sore, especially in the hamstrings. A guy overtakes me and I get onto the back of him and he drags me along for a while. I feel like I am running as hard as I can. My breathing goes ballistic and I am working my guts out. My calves are biting and threatening to cramp and I have to hold back a little to stop them going off. Gradually my friend pulls away. Even so, I am now passing other runners at a steady rate and feel like my pace is at least sub 4:10. It turns out I am paying for the fast start though, and in fact I am running at only 4:16 pace, and the bit between 35 and 37.195, where I was taking my drink and gel, was 4:30 pace…so the bite is on.

Around the 40-km mark I am really digging in. The road still has a very slight uphill grade and I’m suffering trying to keep my pace as high as I can. My legs are screaming and my breathing is very hard. This last few km is a long straight stretch of road. There are many people lined along the route. Then I hear the cheers coming from a group of my Namban friends. “Go Steve, Go. Put your head up and just GOOO!!” At this point I am going, I am going, going as hard as I can. But I want their cheers to fire me up and get me moving faster and I scream back at them. “I am f***ing going! I can’t f***ing go any more!!” And I continue screaming this at myself as I pass, and try to find some more energy. But it is not much good. I really am extracting all that my legs and energy systems can deliver. At 1 km to go there are more Nambanners. I’m too weak to scream at this lot and try instead to raise a bit of a smile and lift my head, an altogether more appropriate reaction I should think.

Then the balloon raised above the track finally comes into view and I turn the corner with only a few hundred meters to go. I realize from my watch that I am going to make it under 2:55:00. I relax a little bit but still run hard to the line. I am looking now at the clock at the end of the straight beside the finish. It is saying low 2:54 something, and I keep running, running, but I am not going to sprint. Just run it in hard. And finally I cross the line and click my watch. 2:54:47! (Good enough for 68th place for all men.) The last 2.2 k were at 4:26 pace, so the tank was pretty much empty.

In the final wash-up, the fast start did not screw me too badly, but I can’t help but think I might have been able to hold a correctly run 4:07 pace from go to whoa. I’ll never really know of course, and still managed to achieve the goal of sub 2:55 despite losing half a minute in the porter-loo. So all in all it was a really satisfying result and I have run much faster than I ever thought I was capable those long three years ago when I started running. My gut feeling is that this is it, that I won’t be able to keep up the training to ever better this result. I guess time will tell.

We ended up having a wonderful night of celebrations at the ryokan in Shiobara. Much champagne and beer flowed and the rotenburo was well used until the early hours.

Race data:








































Last 5km


Monday, November 21, 2005

Last run til the gun

Got up this morning for a short run. It was bloody chilly at 7 degrees. I donned gloves for the first time this winter, even though it is not yet winter. Didn't bother with the heart rate monitor as I wasn't going far. I mainly wanted to practice running at marathon pace. Ran a 1.12 km warm up loop, then had a short break before setting off on a 3.3 km loop. I felt I was running it fairly hard, perhaps even a little bit fast, but the average time was 4:21/k apparently. The loop has only been measured by the Google Map pedometer thing. I know that thing might have some inaccuracy, but I doubt it is the 200 m that it would need to be for that time to equate to 4:07/km pace. I then ran another 1.12 km loop (as measured by the pedometer) and it was clocked at 4:12/km pace. So that's a bit better, but still slightly slow.

I suppose it was too early and the course too tortuous and inaccurate for a really decent pace run. But there it is. I guess the good news is that the leg niggles and pains have all but vanished. I slept well last night. I don't have a cold bearing down on me. There were some very light twinges in and around the hips during yesterday's run, more the right than the left, but I can't see anything that will be factor in the race. Of course they'll get sore, but so will my quads and lower back and God only knows what else. But there is nothing there to think I could break down or become unduly hindered. So now it is all just rest and hydration and carb loading and preparing drink bottles and writing out splits and packing and driving and running. No excuses.

Will try to work out how to send a post by email from someone's mobile phone on Wednesday. So let me just finish this post with a number. A number that can be compared with the very first entry of the next post. The number is the time that I hope to achieve. Anything below it will be a bonus. The magic number is:


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Three sleeps to go

Last decent sized run today, but even then it was not much of a run at only 11 km consisting of a 5 k warm up at a slowish 5:30/k pace followed by 3 laps of 1.94 km at race pace. The race pace laps were not that successful in that, as usual, I ran the first much too quickly. The first km was 3:52! With there being no marker until 5 km at Ohtawra this worries me, just as it did last year. I gues I just have to do my best. The next two laps were progressively closer wit hthe third being about right.

Afterwards a group of us followed the Tokyo Womens international marathon, won by Naoko Takahashi in 2:24:39. Our Mika ran a personal best of 3:13:2? We were all very proud of her!!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Komazawa Park - ja, mata ne!

"ja mata ne" in Japanese means, "see you later" and is used when you won't see someone for a little while, but you are pretty certain you will see them again...or you are at least expressing a friendly desire to see them again.

So it was that today was my last run in Komazawa park until after the marathon. So it will be a while before I am in there again I think.

I didn't really get enough sleep and it was a bit tough getting out of bed to run only 10 to 12 km. But then I reminded myself it was the last time I'd have to get up this early for quite a while.

For my taper plan I had written in 13.2 km, four laps of the 3.3-km loop from my place up to the post office and back around past Fudo temple. But I decided that would be too monotonous and the park would be a better place to run to and from at lower aerobic pace, then do a couple of laps at race pace in the park and run home again for just over 12 km.

The overall time, and pace and heart rate is not important other than when not at race pace I was at about 70 to 75% of heart rate max. Nice and steady. As soon as I hit the park I clicked the split and commenced the first 1-km "lap", which is up the gentle hill. Well, my target marathon pace is 4:07. Guess what I ran for that first one? 4:07.4. Then on the next 1-km stretch, the downhill? 4:07.2! And the next uphill? 4:07.3!!!! Effing amazing. Then on the next downhill I lost the plot because I needed a crap badly and there was a toilet at the end of the repeat. That leg was 3:56. Oh well...those first three though were unreal. I am very, very happy to have gone out and nailed the pace like that. I only hope I can do it next Wednesday. I am very, very confident that if I can sit on that pace I can carry it to 30 km. What happens after that is the part where, barring any mishaps, the total time will be decided. Will I make up time? Lose time? or just hold that 4:07 for a final time of a shade under 2:54?

As I was about time to head out of the park and home, my German friend Horst came loping along so I was a bit naughty and ran another nice steady lap with him to give a total distance of 14 km. (I received a blow by blow account of Germany's World cup victory in 2002 into the bargain!)

It is confusing having the race mid week. Being a Friday today it seems like this 14 km is too much to be running. But when you consider that it is the equivalent of the Tuesday before a Sunday marathon, I don't think it is too bad. And my legs are feeling pretty good (apart from some calf cramps in the middle of the night last night!). So with the continuing wind down I'm sure it will be fine. The longest run left that I have planned is 10 km on Sunday. That will be a bit like today. About half easy and half at race pace. Then I'll be about done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nice tempo

Run type: Tempo
Distance: 16.24 km
Average pace: 4:38/km
Average heart rate: 139
Weather: cloudy (8C)
Sleep: 7.5 hours

Well, the average statistics don't really tell the story about this run. Ran very easily from the sento to the track and one warm up lap (total warm up of 2.1 km). Then started straight into the tempo pace. That meant heart rate in the high 80s (percent of max) and pace of a bit under 4:00/km. Ended up being 9.3 km at an average of 3:54/km, and fairly even pace - 3:59 for the first lap, then 3:50, 3:51, 3:54, 3:54. This was a fairly hard effort, definitely in threshold territory, but within capability. It was just a question of how tired it would make my legs and how quickly I could recover from it and would I get some lactate threshold stimulus from it? I had a sneaky feeling it was one lap too many, but you cannot help being a bit reckless once you are in full flight. Overall I'm reasonably happy with the balance between having a good hit out and not overdoing it.

Enjoyed great company with Jim and Gareth and Mika and Taeko at the sento (not all in the bath together of course!) and afterwards at the Indian restaurant.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A run around the block

Run type: aerobic
Distance: 12.2 km
Average pace: 4:28/km
Average heart rate: 141
Weather: cloudy (10C)
Sleep: 6.5 hours

I recall that when I was a kid every now then I would say to my father, "Daaaad, I'm booooored. What can I dooo?" And he would quickly reply, "Go for a run around the block." Since we lived in the country and the shortest road route that could bring you back to the same point was probably about 25 km, I soon learned not to pester him with that particular line. But today I did go for a run around the block. In fact five runs around the block.

I have a 3.32 km loop and a 1.12 km loop from my place; I did three of the former followed by two of the latter. I had it penciled into my taper plan as three of the 3.3-km loop at 75% of HR max. How well did I stick to my plan? The first was an average of 71% (4:42/km; HR 132), the second was 77% (4:23/km; HR 143), and the third was 81% (4:15/km; HR 150).

The next two shorter laps count for less because I had a toilet break in between the longer laps and the shorter laps. But they were 71% (HR132) and 78% (HR144), for what it's worth. Actually it is worth something because the numbers are nearly the same as the first couple of longer laps. In each case, the pace was a few seconds slower for the short laps, so that would seem to suggest some small degree of cardiac drift. That is a little bit disconcerting as you would hope that at a temperature of 10 degrees (yes, I measured it) the week before a marathon you could run 10 km without any cardiac drift whatsoever. Oh well, there is no escaping that the last 10 km of the race will be tough, no matter what the circumstances.

Overall, despite the cold, I felt pretty good and had no leg pain. There were times I felt I was in the zone, body more or less disconnected from legs, breathing kind of hard, but comfortable and unlaboured, just kind of gliding, almost as though being transported by some unseen machine. Of course that did not last the entire run, maybe only moments of it, but enough for it to feel very encouraging. My leg has given a couple of twinges at work today. But generally I think by this time next week it will not be any trouble at all. The only potential problems will be preparation, execution, and underlying fitness.

I have been trying to cut back my calorie intake just slightly over the last week. I still pop the odd chocolate at work, have had a fw peanuts and chips here and there, so nothing obsessive. Anyway, I weighed in at 70.0 kg after the run today. No great change, but it would be nice to be down around 69 or 69.5 before I go into full on carbo loading mode from Sunday.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Last long run

Followed up the hardish fartlek with an easy 6.6 km yesterday (Sat 12th) morning. It was raining and cold, so would have been easy to just bail out, but I basically just felt like a run to relieve a few little life stresses that had built up the day before. At least I wasn't tempted to just keep running and overdo it. I then spent the day at the first of six day-long lectures on various aspects of business management that I signed up for. Pretty interesting.

Today was the last long run. I thought 25 km would be about the right amount and a little voice was trying to to tell me I could do 30 and it would do me more good than harm. In the end I compromised by running the 25 but running it a bit harder than a regular long run. Started fairly slow and then just gradually built. Ran the last 6 km at about target race pace - 83% of heart rate max. The legs were getting tired but I know I could have kept going. Another 17 km? That's the 64 million dollar question.

I had some discomfort in the hip and leg late in the run, but none of the burning hamstring pain. So that injury is definitely improving. I have been doing my clam exercises. So clams and/or less running volume seem to be working.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Faaaart lek

Run type: fartlek
Distance: 16.25 km (to and from Komazawa Park, four laps)
Average pace: 4:31/km
Average heart rate: 142
Weather: cloudy (12C)
Sleep: six hours

A really enjoyable run. I had penciled in the same distance with 4 by 1600 meter cruise intervals. But I really didn't think my leg/hip had recovered enough since Wednesday to stand up to that, so I decided to bin that idea. But I didn't want to be doing that workout tomorrow, one day before squeezing out the last long run, so I decided to just do a fartlek and take it as hard or easy as my legs dictated.

I ran to the park at an average of HR130 (4:58/k). By then I'd decided the farts would be just 1-km per lap, the uphill km. That meant getting straight into it as soon as I hit the park. So it felt like I was sprinting the first one and it produced a time of 3:46. Maximum heart rate was 167 (I never saw anything that high!) and the average was 152. Between farts I ran at about 4:40 pace with average heart rates of 138, 137, 139, 138 (that last one a bit slower than the others at 4:54/k). The other three farts were all within half a second of 3:47. Heart rates (avg/max) were 156/174, 157/167, and 160/171. I can't help thinking that 174 is spurious, but maybe not. After the park I ran home and included some shorter farts (brrt), and literally did these as a proper fartlek, whereby you just fix on a point in the distance or known landmark and fart all the way to it. It was fun (well, farting is fun, so I don't see why its running namesake shouldn't be). The average pace was 4:29.

Leg report. Well, through all that the leg and hip were actually really well behaved. I did one set of oyster or clam or whatever it is called before leaving the house and wore tights. One other thing I did that might have helped is try to take smaller strides and get my legs moving faster. I think that helped a lot, especially during the farting. The hamstring got a bit sore towards the end of the run, but basically with no fast running scheduled for the next couple of days, it is looking pretty good. The cold symptoms have also retreated for now, but I think there is a little bug in residence just waiting for a chance to take over. Just have to keep the little bastard at bay for 12 more days!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two weeks to go

Run type: RacePace
Distance: 18.5 km (to Yoyogi park from Yoyogi Uehara sento and return + a number of laps of warming up and race pace in the park)
Weather: Fine (14 C)
Sleep: seven hours

On Tuesday night I sat up and filled in my Excel running log in advance to try and find the right balance between rest and running over the next two weeks. It involves a couple of hard runs over the next week, but more rest and easier runs than in recent weeks, then cutting back distance dramatically in the final week.

Last night was the first of the planned runs. I had it marked in as 16 km with 10 km at target race pace (4:07/km). It ended up being more than that. About 18.5 km with a shade under 12 being at race pace. As with so many pace runs, I ran too fast (4:02/k) for the first couple of laps (a lap is 1.94 km). The third lap, as I tried to back off from going too fast, ended up a bit slow, but then I pretty much nailed the pace for the next three laps. The heart rate data were good and in fact it was easy to match pace and heart rate (as a percent of max) throughout. When I was right on pace my heart rate was about 82%. Towards the end of the run this became more like 84%, so there was some cardiac drift. Still, I am operating at target pace well below 90% of HRmax, so I have a fair chance of being able to sustain that pace long into the race. I guess this also means that this run served as an upper aerobic conditioning workout as well.

My leg and hip were totally comfortable for the first two laps, became noticeable in the third (hip only) and by the sixth the hamstring area was hurting too. Not too serious, but enough to know to keep plenty of emphasis on rest (so why did I run the extra lap?). Colin taught me an exercise called the clam, where you lie on your side and, while keeping your knees bent at 30 degrees, raise only the uper knee to 45 degrees while keeping the pelvis perfectly still -- so it is like a clam opening and closing. It apparently helps strengthen an important stabilising muscle, the gluteus medius. Problems from weak stabilzers are supposedly very common in runners who present with the sort of problems I have, so I'll get stuck into these and hope it helps. It is a bit late in the piece to expect too much, but it won't do any harm.

Complete rest today (except for clam exercises)!! I'm feeling the symptoms of a mild cold, so hope the vitamin C keeps it at bay.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It's all goood!

Run type: Mid aerobic (aerobic maintenance)
Distance: 16.25 km (to and from Komazawa Park, three laps + 2 km around home)
Average pace: 4:30/km
Average heart rate: 140
Weather: Fine (14 C)
Sleep: seven hours

This was a really encouraging run in two ways: One, my leg/hip was not at all sore for the first few km and then only ever got mildly uncomfortable -- I knew it was there, but it never interfered with my running effort. Two, I just felt really fresh, and my legs in general felt fresh and ready to run. There was none of the initial labored effort to get going that I have felt at this stage of the week for so long now. I guess it just shows that I have been constantly running without being fully recovered. But as I have only run once in the last three days and been taking Ibuprofen morning and night, things are starting to come good. No doubt I'll be climbing the walls after a couple of weeks of tapering.

So I got into a good rhythm quite early and ran to the park at an average of 4:53/k, which was probably post 5:00/k early and 4:30/k by the time I got there. Then once I hit the circuit I didn't really have to make any special effort to up the pace or anything and then gradually went from a heart rate in the mid 130s to low 140s (78% HRmax) and then for a while even touching on 150 (81%) during a couple of the uphills. Pace varied between 4:07/k on a couple of the downhills and up to 4:20/k for the first uphill and for the leg from the park back to home. Otherwise 4:10/k to 4:15/k was typical. All of this felt like a firm and decent effort, but comfortable. When I got home I realized I'd run one lap less at the park than I'd intended so then ran two one-km loops around the block at just under 5:00/km pace (70% HRmax) for 16 km.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Long run in Shimoda

The company jolly to Shimoda went pretty well, apart from the traffic coming back last night. You would not think that a 140-km trip on mostly expressway could take five hours, but in Japan this is sadly all too common.

On Saturday morning we visited an old gold mine that has been turned into a sort of museum. Interesting enough, but not exactly earth-shattering. During the afternoon en-route to Shimoda we took a boat ride and walk around some volcanic-ash derived coastal formations and called in around sunset at a spot with spectacular views from a cliff top. Got to Shimoda after 5:30, and with dinner scheduled for 6:30, that left no time for a run, only a bath in the hotel's onsen. I was OK about that as I felt my leg was making some improvement under the influence of Ibuprofen, and that I would get in a better run on Sunday by resting it on Saturday.

Dinner was not too boozy and I got to bed before 10:00. I had identified an approximately 3-km loop around a headland (does this link work? -- if so, it shows the loop). I slept pretty well and got up at 5:00 so I could finish in time to comfortably make it to breakfast by 9:00. It took me a while to get into the run. I had to stop a couple of times for the toilet and once went back to the hotel to see if I could escort the two lady runners in our party around one loop of the course, since it was fairly deserted and secluded in a few places, but much too pretty to miss. However the ladies did not show up on time so after waiting five minutes my chivalry meter expired and I ran back to the loop again. After this interrupted first 9 km I got into a rhythm of churning out laps at between 4:30 to 4:40 pace. I tallied up the total distance this morning and discovered it was 27.5 km, mostly at a pretty steady pace. Not bad under the circumstances, and my legs were really quite fresh for the rest of the day. A classic taper run.

My hamstring felt pretty good, but the discomfort was more noticeable in the general hip area, especially towards the front. I think it is fairly clear that the problems are to do with inflammation of the muscle attachments in this area. I got through the run without anything worse than mild pain/discomfort, so I feel quite optimistic that as I back off the mileage and keep up Ibuprofen, this problem will recede over the next two weeks. I do need to tread carefully though.

The hardest part is resisting the temptation to go out and pursue a bit more conditioning, and then to fight off the fear of losing condition by not running. So this is where the mental battle really begins. These pages will chronicle how successful I am at that over the next two weeks. If I am really successful, the posts will become less frequent as I run less and shorter as the runs become less eventful. We shall see.

The rest of Sunday we seemed to spend visiting waterfalls and wasabi-growing attractions (I ate a wasabi ice cream). The 5-hour drive home was made easier to endure by sharing a few beers and a 750-mL bottle of sake with Mr. Kitagawa. We also had some interesting language exchange, amongst which I learned the Japanese for "I have a full bladder!"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fri AM Cruise intervals

Well, I did have yesterday off. It was a national holiday, Culture Day or something, so not only did I not run, I didn't work either. While I knew my leg needed the rest, it doesn't mean I didn't think about running many times throughout the day! I think there is a slightly dangerous obsessive/addictive stage we go through at this point of a marathon is basically reinforced by what I followed up the rest with today.

So this morning I was up and off for a run as usual. I thought maybe a Brute workout would be "fun" if the leg felt like it could handle it. The Brute is a workout I discovered last year. I run up to Komazawa Park, then divide the 2.15 km loop into a 1600 m interval followed by 515 m recovery jog. Repeat times four or five. Given that the stretch from 600 m to 1500 m is slightly uphill, it is a pretty hard workout. When I am in good form I can crank these out consistently at about 6:00 min to 6:05, some repeats can even be below 6:00 min. But although the leg was only "uncomfortable" this morning, I did not run particularly well. The first repeat felt hard enough but was only 6:25. Then the next was 6:06, and a 6:12 and a 6:02. The final one I only ran 1000 m (3:40). Somehow this session just didn't feel right, the leg/groin/hip area was a bit sore, and running home was a bit slower than normal. The hear rae monitor was quite unreliable today. I felt I am showing some definite signs of over-training, so I intend to back off the pace and distance over the weekend. I am not too concerned about the over-training as long as I recover now and that upon recovering I end up stronger. I think that's how it is supposed to work! The real challenge is forcing myself to back off during the individual runs, as I should have last Wednesday, for example.

Actually, over the weekend I will be going away with the company for a bonding trip. We are visiting a hot spring resort at Shimoda on the Izu Peninsular. Maybe there will be photographs in the next post. I hope to have at least one, hopefully two, easy scenic runs while down there.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wed PM Overdoing it?

I somehow could not stop myself from joining the running tonight. Got away from work at the embarrrassingly early time of 6:00 after finishing a translation. Made it to the "new" sento at Yoyogi-uehara in time to catch up with Gareth and Mika. We ran to the park, a couple of km, then a combo loop, another couple of km, then Gareth headed to the track for intervals and Mika and I waited for Colin who came around like clockwork. The three of us took off at a target pace of 4:15/km. Tempo for Mika, upper aerobic (148-152 HR) for Colin and me. Four laps (about 8 km) of that and then over to the track. A bit of jogging, then we caught the last 1 km of the interval workout. Mika ran a 3:33 !!! I took it relatively easy and ran in a 3:53. Then after some gabbing and milling we ran back to the sento. I was surprised to tally all this up later and discover that it was over 18 km. Added to the morning run that makes a pretty big day. Mr. Leg was sore towards the end. Rest tomorrow?

Went to dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant. Mi-chan, the young manager/model has a protruding bun in the oven! But is somehow at odds with her new husband. It is a tangled web we weave.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wed AM

Run type: Lower aerobic
Distance: 18.35 km (to and from Komazawa Park and five laps)
Average pace: 4:33/km
Heart rate: 140ish
Weather: Fine and snappy (12)
Sleep: six hours

Leg felt a little better, but still quite uncomfortable. Heart rate monitor played up a fair bit. I think I need to get a smaller strap to make it tighter.

The run went better than expected I suppose given the leg. I got up to and under 4:20 pace for a fair whack of the middle section of the run, including most of the way home from the park.

I might run again tonight, not very long but a bit harder if the leg feels OK, and if it doesn't I'll just run very easily to try and earn a sento (hot bath).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tuesday after the Sunday two days before

Sunday's run was pretty hard. Or so my left hamstring seems to think. Actually, every other part of my body feels fine. No calf tightness, no residual tenderness in the quads. Just the re-emergence of that bloody hamstring pain.

I set off this morning and the grabbing pain almost made me turn around and go home. But I pressed on slowly. Stopped and stretched my calves (not the hamstring itself) and carried on, but with revised ambitions. The pain did not get worse and gradually improved a little as it warmed up. I eventually ran 11 km at 5:30/km and heart rate mostly in the mid to low 120s. More than I expected in that first few minutes, but less than I would have liked. Back to taking it day by day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Another two...including 30k M-pace run)

It is getting harder to keep up with the posts lately. Yesterday was the bunkasai (culture day, a bit like an eisteddford) at the older boys' school. I got to hear singing and saw some dancing and plays, and even saw son No. 1 practice his speech for his upcoming Meguro-wide English speech contest. I was almost carried away by the excitement a few times, but luckily managed to contain myself. Late in the afternoon I got out for an easy 10.3 km in 51:42 in light drizzly rain. It was pleasant enough.

Photo: Son No. 1's class doing their thing. He is second from right at the back. Son No. 2 was blowing the alto sax in the brass band, but was completely obscured by the conductor, so I didn't bother with a photo.

So, the big news item to add is the 30-km marathon pace run I did today at the Imperial Palace. Mika-san had organised the outing and she was doing marathon pace with a couple of similar paced friends, Yoshiko-san and Shouji-san. I decided that a change is as good as a holiday and so joined them, riding over on the old trusty shopping bike. We were also joined by Ma, Dayan, Keren, Anthony, Shiba-san, and Martin. We ran one warm-up lap at a little slower than 5:00/km pace. I had a wee stop and than we were all off at our respective paces. I was lucky in that Martin had come out of hibernation and joined us, so he fell in with me for the first two laps. The first was definitely too fast, my old problem, at less than 20 minutes. The second was better at 20:20 (4:07; using 4.94km for a lap) . The next four were 20:21, 20:34 (refueling), 20:28 and 20:27. It was getting very tough by that last one. Leg fatigue was setting in and a few aches and pains. Most telling was that while average heart rate was 154 or 155 for the first four laps, with a max up near 160 on the hill, it was 158 for the last two with a max of 172 and 171 (90% of HRmax). So I have to question whether the average pace of 4:07/km for the run was not a little too quick, and would see me fade badly over the last 7 km or so of the marathon. I guess there is only one way to find out...

Later, the seven of us who remained had a nice lunch at the cafe in Hibiya park. I then rode back for a ways with Mika, she on her flash new racing bike. She was probably a bit embarassed about not being able to keep up with the shopping bike, but never mind :) Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 28, 2005

Two in one

Squeezed in a run home from work last night -- 8.2 km. A bit stop start and heart rate at about 130, pace around 5:00/km. It was more recovery and a few km in the log book than anything else.

Up this morning at 5:10 and out the door for 18.4 km of a targeted upper aerbic workout. It is getting to the point where it is almost too much hard work on the legs to get the heart rate up to 150. I had a few laps up in that range and the pace was around 4:00-4:04/km for the downhills and 4:06-4:10/km for the uphills. Average heart rate for the whole run was 142 and average pace 4:26/km. Whatever the averages mean! It was a very brisk 14 degrees on the thermometer too. Quite a contrast to two months ago.

Work and life have been hectic and making it hard to fit in runs and blog entries. Correspondence is well behind, so apologies to anyone I owe a reply to.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

17:53 -- A new 5K PB!

Ha haaa...after many months of just toiling away building a base, now the rewards are coming. Second big PB in a week -- 5 days in fact.

Tonight was the monthly 5k time trial at the track. I've been skipping these and the regular VO2 max workouts in favour of running heart rate runs in the park, and in the last five weeks skipping evenings altogether and running only in the morning. But with the half PB the other day, and the comfort I felt running the 3:55 pace, I felt that it was time to really put this heart rate training to the test: how had it helped me with top end speed?

Until four or five weeks ago I did no speed work (during this preparation). I did do hill runs on Saturdays, but otherwise it was just training at 65% (recovery), 70% (long runs), 75% (easy aerobic), or 80% (upper aerobic) of maximum heart rate. In the last five weeks I have done maybe three or four tempo runs and three 1600m cruise interval type sessions. That's it.

I knew that I needed to run 86 s/lap to be under 18 minutes. I knew that is pushing very hard for me, and is something I have been able to do for a few laps, but then I fade. Well tonight, after a steady 30 minute warm-up, I jumped into the time trial and somehow held that pace. There were a couple of 88 second laps a little past halfway, but there were also a few 83 second laps, and I actually finished with an 83-second lap. From a previous best of an estimated 18:10 on a short course, or 18:19 on a proper course, that is a pretty good step up.

And with almost no speedwork.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tuesday Lower Aerobic (again)

Run type: Lower aerobic
Distance: 18.35 km (to and from Komazawa Park and five laps)
Average pace: 4:30/km
Average heart rate: 139
Weather: Fine & 16 C
Sleep: 5 hours

Back to the old friend. I like this run because it is not a slow bludge, but it is never particularly difficult and you can just get into a nice rythm. I guess most of this today, after the initial 20 minute warm up, was above 135 and in the low to mid 140s. Mostly around 4:20/km to 4:30/km pace. A few twinges in the left leg, but I do suspect this is partly nerve related due to misalignment in the hips/lower back. So I think I'll just take it with care but push on with the final couple of weeks.

This was the first run in a new pair of Asics 2100s. No problems there. Some more sleep would have been nice, but work is quite demanding this week and I had to work at home until midnight.

The worst thing today was the early battle with the Polar S410. I love it (in case you are reading, Pete), but it has got some hang-up about working in Exercise Set mode. The same thing happened when I tried to use an exercise set for the long run on Sunday. I set the timers and upper and lower limits. Get a heart rate, good, everything is working, now press start and away we go. But once we get going, the displayed heart rate collapses to 11 or 12. Poor electrodes contact? Maybe. Adjust, fiddle, spittle, ptooey, etc. OK, working good, take off, pip pip pip, heart rate of 11 again. Crap. As soon as I stop the timer, the heart rate reverts to the correct reading. I go back to Basic Use mode. Fine and dandy with no further problems. The saga of the HRM, to be continued...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sunday Loooong!

Run type: Long
Distance: 40 km
Average pace: 5:04/km
Heart rate: 133
Weather: Fine and cool

I didn't set out to run that long, but it just kind of happened. I did set out to run up to 35 or 36k as the last really long run before the marathon. I also intended to try and run the latter third at higher pace/heart rate than the first two-thirds. As it turned out, running as a group in Yoyogi, we gradually increased the pace over 10 laps from 5:30 or so up to 4:50. Then on my leg home I ran at about 4:40 pace (and heart rate of 140). When I got home I just didn't feel wasted enough. I reckoned that for a good training stimulus I needed to feel really knackered. So I kept running and did a further 3.3 km around the post office loop at what turned out to be 4:30 pace (HR 152). I was pretty much done after that.

I had spent some time the night before working out how to use the heart rate monitor with training sets. I set one up for the long run, but alas, when I used it the monitor kept giving strange readings. When i gave up and went back to the Basic Use mode it was fine. So that is a mystery to be further explored.

Friday, October 21, 2005


That's the time in which I ran my half marathon time trial this morning.

The leg was feeling much better yesterday and last night, so I decided to at least approach this morning with the option of running a half time trial. I was always prepared to back out if my leg wasn't right or body, or whatever...

Set the alarm for 4:30. Got up and changed quickly, had a strongly mixed sports drink, put on the new heart rate monitor (a Polar S410 passed on by my good friend, Pete) and got out the door. I ran fairly conservatively to Komazawa in about 5:30 pace. Had a slight tummy pain so released some ballast, but not terribly satisfying, so I thought that might be a possible source of sabotage. Ran up to the top of the course and then 380 m past the start line to correct for the 380 m longer than a half marathon that 10 laps gives (it is 2.148 km/lap).

From there on it went something like this:
(Edit: my goal was to go sub 84 minutes.)
Split Distance Average pace HR at split
0:07:13 1.768 0:04:05 151
0:08:35 2.148 0:04:00 167
0:08:32 2.148 0:03:58 157
0:08:27 2.148 0:03:56 171
0:08:32 2.148 0:03:58 155
0:08:52 2.148 0:04:08 157
0:08:39 2.148 0:04:02 160
0:08:36 2.148 0:04:00 160
0:08:28 2.148 0:03:56 164
0:08:05 2.148 0:03:46 171


The last lap was pretty amazing. I knew it was a big ask to get under 84 minutes. But I ran it hard anyway. I always thought I was going to end up at 84:05 or so, no matter how hard I tried, but I pushed really hard up the hill, and then where it levels out with 150 m to go I just pushed really, really hard, and then as I hit the 50 m to go line I saw I had 10 seconds left, so I got my little legs turning over as fast as they were able. I reckon I might have looked a bit like the road runner. Beep beep! And I gave a little whoop when I saw that :59! That slower sixth lap was because of a 12 second water break, so I am prepared to take this as a new PB.


Had a few twinges in the leg, but not too bad. I think I know how to manage it now.

Edit: I wrote the above pretty quickly to make the "morning edition", as it were. But there are a few other details I wanted to add. I've largely copied and pasted it, with a few edits, from an email I sent to Colin.

1) Perceived effort was relatively constant. I experienced some leg tiredness in the later stages, but I don't think I ever really went lactic. It never became a struggle to hold on to the pace. But after the fifth lap, I did feel a bit tired and took that short drink on the sixth and deliberately decided to ease off just slightly for a little more recovery. Only a few leg niggles gave me any thoughts of pulling up, but I thought, oh fuck it, I'm on track for this...

2) After the rest on lap 6 I was well and truly over the hump and just held pace for laps 7 and 8, cranked it up a bit for 9 and then put the foot down for 10. As I checked the split at the end of lap 9, I knew I needed about an 8-minute lap to get under 84 minutes and didn't really think it was possible. It was such a buzz to squeek in.

3) It was a really beautiful morning, and on the seventh lap, the one after I'd had a "rest", the sun was pouring golden through cottonwool clouds to the east. This view was just for that one lap and only in the 300-m section right at the top of the course near the swimming pool. But it was beautiful, and I knew I was on track for a big PB, and at that one moment all of space and time dissolved and nothing else mattered -- it was just magnificent!

4) After I finished there was no time to hang around and celebrate or reflect. I just broke into a jog and kept running all the way home. Slowly.

5) It feels weird to have done this all alone. No witnesses apart from some joggers and dog walkers and old folk walking in the running lane. Did it really happen? Was it a dream? For the time being, there are splits on my watch and a dull fatigue throughout my legs that say it was no dream. And that's good enough for me.