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.