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 preparation...as 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.