Tuesday, February 28, 2006
|You Passed 8th Grade Math|
Congratulations, you got 8/10 correct!
Well, I had to shake the malaise somehow. I'd wanted to start the week with a bang by getting up and running 15 km or so on Monday morning, but alas, I was up late working Sunday night and then just could not sleep when I went to bed. So when the alarm went off it was quickly dispatched and re-set to a (much) later time. But I did take my running clothes to work and I did get out there for a steady 8 km. I think I'd have started to become very raggedy if I hadn't fit that in.
So then this morning I set the alarm for 5:30, again with the idea of running 15. So what happens? I wake up at 6:00 with the watch in my hand. Must have turned it off without even becoming conscious. So I very nearly baled out right then, but then thought oh bugger it, I can be a little bit late for work if necessary. So I got ready quickly and hit the ground running, so to peak. The best thing was that I basically kicked it in the guts pretty much from the outset. Ran to the park (4k) at 4:40/km pace, then did two laps in the 4:20/k range (4k), and then home again at 4:30/k. All up the 12 km in a bit over 54 minutes. Had a real James-Brown-I-Feel-Good buzz happening after that one. And even managed to make it to work on time.
So, a good start, but it was touch and go there at around six o'clock!
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Friday, February 24, 2006
It's all well and good to ask that extremist Muslims who call for Sharia law in Australia to sod off. But there is just one little problem, as pointed out by Keysar Trad, President of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia:
"I don't know anyone in this country who is asking for sharia law to be imposed and I don't known anyone in this country who has rejected the rule of law.
What the Hell is Iemma doing coming out and backing comments that are calculated to be so divisive and run absolutely counter to the notion of fostering social stability? What a dupe! At least Beatty and Rudd are on their games. I genuinely worry what sort of reactions this is going to create in the more bone-headed elements. Mosque torchings and increased rates of leb bashing are going to make it a lot harder as an ex-pat to defend my country as being pretty much free of racism and intolerance, that's for sure.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Last night was the www (Wednesday weekly workout) with Namban, still in Yoyogi Park due to track renovations. Mika was absent with a cold and there were no others initiating a pace run, so it was either do one by myself or take one of the other options: the Gareth hill workout or the Bob-led (not bobsled) 6 x 1000-m repeats. Went with the hills because its bin a while since I have done any, and Big Mountain (Ohyama Tozan) looms large. The format was pretty simple: two lots of lower aerobic running bookending 11 x repeats of a 160 m hill. Rounded off to 12 km in an hour.
The poor old Polar S410 I inherited from Pete is just too unreliable these days. Apart from giving funny readings when I am by myself, I have found it goes ballistic if other heart rate monitors come within earshot. I was surrounded by two or three last night and it was just about crapping itself...it thought I was running at 150% of HRmax! So, I have ordered a Polar RS200sd from the States. With any luck it will be here in ten days or so. Needless to say I'm a bit excited. Maybe I'll be able to use it to get an updated HRmax reading during the Ohyama race.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Monday, February 20, 2006
I'm going to give a quick personal report and then just paste in the report I wrote for our Namban Rengo mailing list -- so this post is a little on the long side. Basically, I had an absolute ball. My approach to the race was fairly casual, knowing that I was not going to try and run to my maximum potential, which would be about 4:10/km pace I suppose. No, I was going to stick at between 4:20/km and 4:30/km, hopefully with fellow Nambanners Mika and Keren. I felt that should be taxing enough considering I have not run further than 23 km since the November 23 marathon.
Namban senior stateman Bob is preparing for Nagano marathon, and I ended up joining him in the starting lineup. The rest of us were spread out here and there due to the intricacies of the corraling system. Naoko Takahashi (gold medal women's marathon at the Sydney Olympics) started the race. She is loved by runners one and all in Japan and it was great to run past her smiling and waving to us from up there on that pedestal.
Bob and I ran together and were basically just cruising along with the heavy stream of runners for the first 5-km, chatting as we went at about 5:00/km pace. We had gradually increased to 4:25 pace from the 4th to 5th kilometers, and thereafter kicked down another gear and were running along at 4:20 pace, weaving our way through the field, yet still maintaining some conversation. Around 12 km we caught up to Mika. I had said I would try to run with her, and Bob gave me his blessing so he went on ahead while we continued at a slightly slower pace. Still pretty steady at 4:25 to 4:30 though. Jay joined us for a while around teh halfway mark (he had a strange run that can be read about on his blog) and we were soon being blown along by the fantastic support at the side of the road. The race is just superbly supported by the community and this was the real highlight of the day.
Over the last 5-km Mika and I picked up the pace a bit. An older guy who recognized me from my early morning training in Komazawa Park fell in with us and I tried to make the Steve-train, complete with choo-choo noises, but it must have made me too excited because Mika quickly fell of the back. So I reverted to more conventional formation. But I got a kick out of helping pace and goad her onwards to the end and she picked up about ten places, i.e. passed about ten women. But with our superior pacing we were actually passing people at an incredible rate over that last few km. Anyway, at risk of repeating myself, I really enjoyed this race and will be back next year!
****************** Namban Report Follows ******************
Sunday February 19, Ome, Japan. This sleepy backwater of rural north-western Tokyo comes to life every February for what is claimed to be "the most famous marathon in Japan". This year was the 40th running of the event, and eleven brave Namban warriors and almost as many supporters took part. Interestingly, we would have all been in the 30 km event but for Shoji-san discovering the night before that he must have mistakenly ticked the 10k box instead of the 30k box. So poor Shoji had to run the 10k instead of his preferred 30k.
As organizers tend to like to keep race field sizes well-contained in Japan, usually with good reason, extremely large races are few and far between, not for any lack of demand, though. With today being a 40th anniversary, the field was expanded, seeing 14,500 participants running the 30 km and 3,500 the 10 km. The narrow road at the start stretched the 30-km runners over a kilometer, perhaps more, even before the radiant Q-chan could fire the gun and send the runners on their way.
The course winds its way along the upper reaches of the Tamagawa River; steep hills rise on either side of the road and the swirling cataracts of the river cascade below. Buildings with rustic rural architecture abound and their denizens come out in numbers to line the road and cheer madly and hand out sweets, drinks, fruits, and even chocolates to tiring runners. Better supporters of a running event you will have to travel a long way to find. Reading our shirts, many a supporter would yell "Go Namban Rengo" as we passed. What a boost that is! Never run a race without bearing the Namban standard proudly across your chest. Certainly not this race in any case.
As to the performances…firstly it is worth mentioning that former Nambanner, now elite women's runner, Mara Yamauchi won the women's division of the 10 km in 31:43. As to the mere mortal current members, Shoji ran the 10km in a time of around 42 minutes.
The 30-km competitors will now tell you how they went in their own voices (in order of finishing; times are all self-timed net times):
Subash: 2:12:08. "Great course, perfect weather; should have taken some sweets from the lovely ladies to avoid a poor last 5-km."
Bob: 2:13:18. "First 5k easy 24:40, last 5k hard 20:20 , other 20k about 22:00 minute/5k as per plan. Thanks to Steve for pacing 1st 10k and Mark 15-25k. And thanks to Mika for coordinating us and arranging the wonderful sushi lunch."
Mika: 2:16:33. "In all, it was a fun race! 4-min PB over last year. Moreover I could catch at least 10 women over the last 5 km thanks to Steve's pacing! Good run for Nagoya."
Steve: 2:16:21. "As a late sub for Gareth and without enough long runs under my belt, I set out to run at a solid pace but below maximum effort; I was so glad I did. There is just too much in this race to enjoy that you would spoil it by busting a boiler with an all-out effort. I mean what a blast!! Just a great race, especially for the wonderful cheering crowds, the huge field of runners, Q-chan at the start, the picturesque rural setting, and the excellent Namban companions to travel, prepare, run, eat, drink and make merry with. Thanks Ome and thanks Namban Rengo (especially Gareth) for a great day!"
Mark: 2:17:58. "Fantastic support along the course, Namban members and general, which, given the remote location, was impressive. Bob made me feel guilty on the way back, waving his appreciation to the crowd's support. I was too busy trying to hang onto the blistering pace Bob was pulling me along at to wave at anyone.
With about 2km to go, as I was struggling through the last couple of km. After Bob had left me, and Jay, Mika and Steve had passed me, I walked for about a minute. As I did, a Japanese guy in the crowd, who must have looked up my name from my race number, started yelling at me in perfect English "Don't stop Mark!" I (almost) immediately picked it up again. As I did so, he started running alongside me, and yelled again, "Right, and don't you ever stop again!"
That got me to the finish, where a local cable TV reporter stuck a mike under my nose and asked me, in English, if I spoke Japanese. I erred on the side of modesty/caution and replied that I spoke a little. She then started firing questions at me in Japanese, "What did I think of the race?" "Where was I from?" "Had I run a marathon before?" I probably babbled incomprehensible, Beckham style answers, proving that I did only speak a little Japanese! Yeah the race was tough etc etc.
Keren: 2:31:23. "Training run. Bit disappointed as I had planned to run 2:30. Crowded and fun but last 5 km tough."
Martin: 2:34:31. "Great organization & local support. Free strawberries! Hills not as bad as I expected and downhill you could really make up time, so net effect was positive. Fun race overall and great scenery."
Yasuko: 2:42:00. "I enjoyed the race just as much as last year, but this time I ran 10 minutes faster!"
Geraldine: 3:06:00. "My best race in Japan this year."
Jay: DQ: "Started last and ran my own strange race. See my blog (http://jaydtrilog.blogspot.com/) for a more complete account."
Namban Cheer Squad: Ma, Chiba-san, Rie, Taeko, Shoji (doubling up after 10k), Teruyuki, Satohi, Yoshiko, Maki & Ken (Mark's family; special thanks to Maki for minding our wallets).
And lastly, a comment from Shoji-san on his late switch to the 10 race: "Doh!"
Friday, February 17, 2006
With 30 km of Ome staring me in the face and the leg being a bit sore I had no trouble convincing myself to take it out at an easy pace this morning. Once the heart rate monitor got over its usual trick of spending the first ten minutes telling me I have the heart rate of an excited chicken, I settled into mid 130s or a bit better than 5:00/km pace. I then decided I would set 140 as an upper limit for this run. With the leg soreness this was not that diffcult to stick to, in fact iwas at 137 more than anything else, but it still felt like I was working pretty hard. It then dawned on me that this is an intensity I have been neglecting for some time now. As I approached the marathon I cut out this pace and was either running close to marathon pace, HR 150 and above, or much slower, HR 130 or so. Then, since starting back in January I also went straight at the 150ish type runs like the proverbial bull at a gate. Not to mention that faster stuff 2P had me doing. With the excellent Cool Running thread on threshold training during base building fresh in my mind, I realised that this middle part of my aerobic zone is now under trained, so even though I can run along happily at 155-160 HR, it doesn't feel much easier to be at 140; it almost feels harder. So the moral of the story is to probably get Tuesday's back to being a longer run at this intensity. Assuming I don't take a break altogether to get back/leg problems sorted.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
After a couple of km warmup, a decent sized group toed the line for the pace run while other groups went off to do intervals or hill workouts. We stuck together for the first three laps (1.95 km per lap), but then a water stop split us up into three groups: those that stopped, those that didn't stop, and me (I stopped but at a different fountain so got caught between the two groups). As usual there were some people tending to run a little too fast or uneven pace. My attitude is to try and ignore others in runs like this and find the pace I am after and stick with it. What I managed to achieve was even paced laps of average paces as follows: 4:24, 4:22, 4:22, 4:24, 4:27, and 4:23. With warm up and cool down the total distance covered was about 16 km.
After the water fountain stop I was running mainly on my own until the Greater Perrinville Athletic Association caught up and ran with me. That was nice of him and we had a good chat.
Unfortunately the upper rear left leg pain is hanging around. I've definitely got to see somebody about this back/hip/leg problem. After Ome, after Ome.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Anyway, after a couple of days off it was feeling a lot better today, and despite still being sniffly I went out for a run in the afternoon. My 13 year old son Kohta accompanied me on his bicycle, which was a pleasant experience. The temperature was a positively balmy 12 degrees. We covered a bit over 10.5 km at a shade slower than 5 min/km. A nice cruisy run. My back felt a bit uncomfortable, but not sore. At one stage running through a populated area Kohta, riding behind me, cam up and said he'd overheard a woman say that I looked crooked. Bloody hell, it's that bad? The crooked old bastard of a marathoner. That's me.
The beer mile got accepted as official. Gareth is going to be insufferable.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
As far as we know anyway. Certainly the beer mile website database does not contain any beer mile events for Japan. So I think we have done the first one. Provided we can get it accepted.
And what a first one. The legendary Gareth Pugh has come in with a time of 9:28, putting him (unofficially at this stage) in fourth place in the WORLD for the grand masters (50+) category.
And a late starter, the irrepressible Satohi, set a national women's record of 10:08. This is now the benchmark by which the women of Japan shall forthwith be measured.
Keren went out hard and led for the first leg, but Gareth was steady and controlled and hauled him in on the second lap and was then never headed. Not only was he never headed, but he finished with a sprint and looked like he could have gone around for another 1600 m to do the Beer 3200!
Our visitor and inspiration for the race, all the way from Portland Maine, was our very own Pete Lyons. Surprisingly it was the chug-a-lugging that Pete seemed to struggle with. As seasoned Beer Miler Mateo said, there is very poor correlation between both running ability and drinking ability when it comes to the beer mile as you never know how the two will come together. Still, despite not having run since October 05, Pete put together a very respectable 11:08, which would put him in 8th place on the all time rankings for the Grand Masters Division. Pete thinks with a little practice he can better this mark and is booked in for the annual Bates College Beer Mile in the spring.
Mateo and Keren battled it out for the minor placings, with Mateo, despite having to run a penalty lap for an indiscrete barf, prevailing.
For the record, the author would have taken part but for some worrying lower back spasms. Next time, Gareth, next time...
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Clairie, sorry, I even made a typo in that word; it should be ganbatte (no "a" between "n" and "b"). It means "do your best" or "fight" or "go hard, my son"... it is a good word. Japanese has lots of good words. I only wish I knew a lot more of them and then I might actually be able to speak the language!
Monday, February 06, 2006
It was a clear, sunny, but very cold day. As I arrived at Isogo I was surprised to see that there was a light dusting of snow all over the cars in a car park beside the railway line. The temperature was forecast to peak at 6 degrees and it certainly wasn't there yet. There was just the slightest of breeze, but the course twists its way around dockland, and any wind at all would be noticeable out on the course. The start was at 11:30, so the sun had a chance to bring the temperature up a little in the sheltered, sunny spots, but in the shade or wind, it was still cold. So I chose to run in a T-shirt with Namban vest over the top, shorts and gloves. It turned out to be just right.
My race strategy was to start out reasonably easy and then, if possible, pick the pace up to around 4:00/km; perhaps if things went well, I might run the first 5k in 20:30 or so. I would then try to get onto 4:00 pace and see how much of a struggle it was and see how long I could hold it. But as it turned out, despite a bit of traffic at the start, I quickly settled into a good rhythm with a pace that felt fastish, but comfortable (apart from the cold affecting my bladder in the way that the cold does do). The first five km came up in 19:53. Well, that's a good start, I thought.
Basically the next 10 km was fairly uneventful, I just held onto my rhythm, running the second 5k in 19:33. I made a conscious decision not to push the third 5k, just to sort of float through it to give myself a chance of not fading too badly. As a result, it was a tad slower at 20:03, but hey, for it to be still at 4:00 min pace while I was basically taking a slight breather, I started to realise there was a chance I might be able attack the last section of the course. I wasn't really thinking about the projected time, or PBs or anything like that, I was just closely focusing on how I was feeling. From 15k they had markers every kilometer. From there on I tried to ease up the pace without pushing myself into a lactic death spiral. The splits over the last 6.1 km went as follows: 3:50, 3:57, 3:55 , 4:00, 3:55, 4:07 (last 1.1).
I started to realize I was on track to go under 84:00 from about the 17 km mark, and knew I just had to hold onto the current pace to do it. What really helped me bring it home was that somewhere in that last couple of km I fell in running side by side with this younger Japanese guy. He passed me but didn't draw away. Then, just holding my own pace, I pulled back up to him, but then he didn't let me go. We were running side by side but both concentrating hard and didn't look at each other for ages. Then it became obvious that we were using each other as incentive, then we both simultaneously looked at each other's face and each broke into a big grin and said "ganabatte!" We then ran it in harder and harder, and at one stage he started to fall back. But I urged him to come with me, and he did. In the final 100 m I had just a bit more kick and went ahead a little and also passed about another 5 or 6 guys who were coasting up to the mat, basically because I was just so pumped at the exhilarating burst of energy I got from running with this young fella. It was such a blast! After crossing the mat I turned back and found him. He had his hand out for a handshake, but being a strange foreigner I had to go and gave him a big hug instead. It really was one of the most special moments I've had in running.
It was a great day, with about 11 or 12 Nambanners in attendance. There were several other PBs besides myself. Fellow Australian (Beenleigh) and new blogger, Keren had a blinder with a six minute PB and missed breaking 90 minutes on the clock time by a gnats nut. But we started together, so his chip time would be under 90 I should think. A fantastic run for him.
This is an excessively long post, I know, and I should wrap it up, but I just want to say how awe-inspired I was by Cool Runner Tesso from Brisbane, clocking up well over 100 km and taking out the women's category and third overall in the Caboolture Dusk to Dawn last night. There are no superlatives adequate to describe that achievement. I had read the results before heading off to Kanagawa, and I took more than just a little inspiration from her efforts.
And in conclusion, 2P, does this mean you win your chocolate frog? I think I owe you one anyway, just for giving me that spark of hope and confidence to have a go today. Thanks!
Friday, February 03, 2006
As a side note, the earthquake monitoring and advice system here is nothing short of amazing. If you happen to be watching TV, it is not uncommon to see words start scrolling across the screen announcing there has been a big earthquake somewhere upcountry, and then about 5 to 10 seconds later, sitting there in your living room in Tokyo, the rocking and rolling begins!!
I showed the Australia Day video of the Brisbane Beer Mile to some of my Namban friends. One of them, Pete, now lives in Portland, Maine, but will be in town next week. He is tall with an athletic build, 50 y.o., and knows what to do with a can of beer. He is a chance to get a world class beer mile time for his age group, so has proposed we devote next Wednesday night's workout to some beer mile training. Could be fun.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
With Kanagawa Half looming large -- how many sleeps does my little timer say now -- I wanted a speed workout just to get the feel of running fast. Yesterday morning 4-min/km seemed as fast as I could manage, but in reality I know I can do better, and in fact needed to do better so that low 4-min won't feel so bad on Sunday. That was the theory behind joining the interval session anyway.
Around 6:00, time to leave the office and the rain was falling very steadily. Could have talked myself out of it, like some other people who will remain nameless, but then again I would almost chew my own leg off to get away from that office, so cold driving rain was mere piffle. Got to the sento a little late and Bob was there, reclining back in a chair all changed and ready to go, but in no hurry to go anywhere soon. So once I had fiddled and farted around long enough we trotted up to the track, the rain a little lighter than it had been.
The track was almost like a ghost track, I mean there were about three other runners plus us. Me, Bob, Jay, Anthony, Chiba-san, Paddy, and Brett (who is running Oita-Beppu Marathon on Sunday). Satohi and Mami actually changed, came to the track, ran a couple of warmup laps, I mean actually got wet, and then announced they were going back to the sento. Madness or the height of common sense, it is hard to say.
So anyway, we got into it and did the 6 by 1000 reps. My leg and other bits and pieces were not giving me any trouble and I ran with good rhythm and form. Felt good. I held back from trying to give it everything, but was still happy with the times: 3:46, 3:38, 3:47, 3:40, 3:39, 3:40. And finished feeling pretty good (apart from my fingers stinging from the cold). I should also mention, mainly for the benefit of the pikers, that the rain eased off during the workout to the point where it was only a slight nuisance.
The post-run bath was heaven and the Yona Yona at the Tullamore Irish bar with Bob and the now dry and warm Mami and Satohi was even better.