Sunday, April 30, 2006

Picked up a prize!

My team in at the Inagi Ekiden today came 1st in the men's veterans category. Yeeeayy! It wasn't a very big field, but still nice. I passed a few people during my (third) leg, and I am sure at least one of them was a veteran's. I ran 11:22 for the 3 km, which included a very stiff little hill and a lot of tight twists and turns. A really enjoyable small ekiden. 2P, my average heart rate was, guess what: 94%! I'll probably write a bit more about this race tomorrow.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

First run since last Sunday; footpod 'spurment

With an ekiden looming tomorrow and the dark cloud of the lurgy finally starting to move on, I decided to get out for a run this afternoon. I did a little experiment with the footod. I put the footpod on the shoes I'll wear tomorrow. Then I used the Gmap pedometer to carefully measure the loop from home that I have previously measured at 3.3 km. Sure enough, it came up again as 3.31 km. So for the first lap I did a footpod calibration at a fairly brisk pace, probably about 4:20/km. For the second lap, with the footpod now calibrated over the entire loop (less 10 m to allow for the 0.1 in 3.31), I ran exacty the same route at a very similar pace. Result: 3.33 km, 0.6% percent error. For the next lap I slowed down to about 5:00/km pace. Result: 3.39 km, 2.4% error. That is still quite acceptable, but it does seem to suggest that the calibration is somewhat dependent on the pace at which you do the calibration run. Which is something to keep in mind.

The run was OK, but I am definitely not at my peak, as you would expect after very little running for the past two weeks. Average heart rate for the second loop was 84% (pace 4:22/km). At my marathon peak last November, 85% was yielding sub 4:10/k pace. So, now I have four weeks to try and get into sub 18:00 5k shape for the company ekiden. That's an interesting little challenge.

Google calendar

Until now I have not used a computer-based calendar for keeping my life organised. For no particular reason, or reasons too long to go into (take your pick) I decided this has to change. So first up I downloaded Mozilla's Sunbird and started giving it a trial. It is nice to use and all, but it has one drawback: it lives on your PC and therefore isn't viewable from any other computers you might use (as far as I know -- maybe there is a way of easily connecting calendars over the web, but still you would have to have Sunbird installed, which hinders ubiquitous accessability).

I had also been aware that Google, that purveyor of all things marvelous, had a calendar in the pipeline. Well, two days ago I looked and found it alive and kicking in beta version. And I proclaim it "Good". Bye bye Sunbird!

In Google's calendar you can set up multiple calendars (e.g., work, social, running club) and subscribe to public calendars or friend's calendars. Then you just turn their display on and off with a click. For example, while writing this I searched for public calendars and found a whole list of holiday calendars and subscribed to the one for Japan. And you can specify who you share your calendar with -- either completely private, certain people, or totally public. I have set up a public one called "Japan Running Events". (Not much data there yet.)

Other cool features are the "quick entry" and smart deciphering of text strings into date and time. To illustrate by example, say you click on a day or time, a little data entry form pops up. If you then type in "Lunch with Mum 12 noon tomorrow", it correctly interprets the "12 noon tomorrow" as a date and time and shoves the entry in the right place. Neat!

But what is really, really cool is the integration with Google Maps. For the event location, the calendar creates a link to Google maps and tries to find the location based on your text. For text-only entries that hasn't worked too well for me, being in Japan and all, and it only shows up US locations. But, and this is a huge but, you can achieve robust pinpoint precision by putting in the coordinates of the place. And how might you do that I hear you ask? Well, you could look here for a start (navigate the cross-hair to the point of interest and click on the latitude longitude link at upper left, copy the easting and northing to calendar event "where" field, and Bob's your uncle).

If ever there was a reason to sell your soul over to Google, this is it. I was an early adopter of Gmail, and I have never regretted it for one second. This reinforces that decision even more. I am now an utterly hopelessly addicted slave to the cult of Google.

Please, why not come on over to the Google side?

For those with an interest in the Polar RS200sd...

Aussie Cool Runner of the Year and blogging virtuoso Mr. Plu has gone and got his self a Polar rs200sd, same as mine and Keren's and Satohi's. When I first got mine I threatened to write up a review here, but haven't yet got around to it. In my comment to Plu about his purchase I suddenly realized I'd made a solid start on the review. So here is what I said to him:

Congratulations on the Polar. I have one of those too. So far I have been very happy with it except for one thing. I might as well warn you so that you don't freak out when (if) it happens. They seem to have some kind of glitch that means that suddenly the whole watch face goes blank and basically aborts whatever it is doing and loses data (if in the middle of a run). It has happened to me twice and to two other people I know [Keren and Satohi] once each. To get it going again, press all four silvery buttons at the same time. The clock will need re-setting, but most of the other saved setttings including previous runs and user data will be fine. Apart from that it's been great. Two more tips. One: for HRmax, try using the monitor's fitness test. All you have to do is lie still for five minutes. Two: when you calibrate the footpod, manually set the calibration factor to 1.000, then do a run calibration over 2 km. I have also found the footpod to be a fairly sensitive little bastard of a thing. If you move it from one set of shoes to another, the calibration will probably be thrown out. Overall, I know it is not as good as a Garmin 305, but one of those was just well out of my budget. And I am really quite happy with the Polar. Hmm...I might repeat much of this comment as a post on my own blog.
And so I have. But what else is there to say? Well, the footpod distance measurement can be a bit touchy. But if calibrated over 2 km and then left on the same shoes and running on the same terrain, it can be very accurate. I have found the pace readout to be a bit erratic though. Even when the pod is calibrated properly, I find that while running along at the same pace the pace readout can fluctuates within a zone of about 20s/km. That is not terribly satisfactory, but it gives you a fair indication and I tend not to even want to use that data very much anyway. It is far less useful than heart rate.

The heart rate strap is great. Very easy to use and comfortable, what with the sensors being embedded in a kind of fabric rather than hard plastic. Seems to very rarely give erroneous readings, which Polars are otherwise infamous for doing.

I have used the programmed workouts a few times and find them very good. You can set up to three zones based on either time or distance, and intensity based on either heart rate or pace. The trickiest part is getting to know the appropriate values to set. For example, lets say for a threshold workout you set Zone 1 to be 2 km at 68%-73% of HRmax, Zone 2 to be 7 km at 85-90% of HRmax, and then Zone 3 to be 1 km cooldown at 60-65%. Now, let's say you are expecting that when it gets to Zone 2 you will have finished the street/footpath section of your run and reached a bike path or park or something, i.e., where you can open up the throttle a bit. But if you mis-judge the distance, you might click over to Zone 2 before you get to the park and have the watch beeping at you to pick up the pace (heart rate). Or you may come to the end of Zone 3 before you get home, and then it is wanting you to run in Zone 1 again. But if you set it properly, these training zones are very good. You can also have it set with a single heart rate zone and no timer which is good for long runs and the like.

It is a little bit daunting to use at first as you have to do a lot of toggling to see all the different screens (while running) and to go through the menus. Even retrieving data requires drilling down through some screens to pull out whatever values you are after for the laps. But all this just requires investing a little bit of time in reading the manual and using it. I can imagine some people getting frustrated and ending up not using a lot of the functionality, but I now feel quite comfortable with it and use most features. One I like is the ability to customize the "one touch" feature. That is, as you are running if you hold the watch close to the chest strap it will do "something". That something can be whatever you set it to do, and includes: take a split, turn on the light, change the watch display -- I use it mainly for the last one.

Well, that's enough drivle for now. Perhaps not as structured and comprehensive a review as I first envisaged, but it'll have to do. If you've got this far, I'd be happy to take questions ;-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Struck down

Cough! Cough! Cough! Hack! Hack Hack, blurrgh, wheeze, splurrt, blech.

There ain't going to be any running this week, except maybe on Sunday. A few of us are entered in a local ekiden somewhere in the Tokyo 'burbs. Until then I'm lying low and trying to stop hacking up bogeys as big as the S.S. f***ing Titanic (RIP, Pete & Dud). Went to the quack this morning. He reckons its only viral, so no magic antibiotics :-(   But it is actually refreshing to find a Japanese doctor who does not hand out antbiotics like lollies. Instead he hands out other drugs like lollies. Let's hope they work.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sagamihara Depot Races

So I weasled out of the race at the last minute. I do think it was the right decision, even though I was still able to run a slowish 20 km in the park and probably could have run harder in a half marathon situation. But it would have been a bit risky in so far as how my body would react, so I have no regrets on that count.

But there is another larger issue to think about too. This race is one several held on a US air force depot in Kanagawa. It has to be said that it is not the most attractive of venues. Bleak is a word that comes to mind. The races are organised by a local running club, and the base allows them to do it under sufference it would seem. There is a heavy security requirement. Every runner has to be issued with a pass in advance and must also order them for any accompanying friends or family. Then the queues to get in, with identity and bag checks at the base of the gate, can be horrendous. In short, it is really not a very pleasant place to go for a race. Then an email came through on our mailing list yesterday that one of our new members, a Peruvian, was not going to be allowed on the base because of his nationality. What!! Since when were the Peruvians threatening American interests around the world?

I don't know, with all the races in Japan, I think we have to have a careful think about whether we continue to collectively support the ones at Sagamihara. Maybe that's not a popular point of view, since there appears to have been a long history of association between members of our club and the organisers. They have even offered free entry to our foreign members in the past (though not this year it would seem).

So, to any of you who ran the race today, how was the overall experience? Do you have a strong sense of wanting to go back again? Should we be looking harder for another race for a Namban outing around this time of year?

East Japan Half Scuppered

A strange week. Having my mate come to visit threw a slight curve ball to Tuesday and Wednesday training, but then I was also catching the same cold that has been ravaging family and work colleagues. As a result, I just kept missing one day after another. On Friday I actually felt strangely light-headed even though I didn't otherwise feel particularly bad from the cold. Yesterday was a bit better, and I got out for a light run of about 11 km.

I still felt congested and horrible with a continuing slight sore throat last night. I had a chat with Gareth on the phone and he was feeling similarly negative about fronting up for the half today, so we decided to pull the pin. We will probably meet up for a much gentler effort in Yoyogi. Hopefully this cold will lift in the next day or two and I'll be able to get back to training with a slight speed emphasis again. It will probably take a week of light running just to get back to where I was.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No run, injured brain

When I was a wee slip of a lad at university in Armidale, I made a very good friend we shall call Mac (to protect the innocent). He was possibly the most eccentric and unpredictable and exciting person I had ever met up until that time (and probably to this day). He was my Moriarty. The first day I met him we spent some hilarious hours with an air rifle shooting up the many nick-nacks that abundantly littered his college room. This incident formed an indelible start to our friendship and was the first of many other riotous incidents over the years (there were also many other famous events involving Mac that I only got to hear about afterwards).

Mac has done some incredible things in his life, but it has never been contrived or affected. It's just Mac. He lived in his car for some months at university. He has had jobs ranging from chimney sweep and tree lopper to radio advertising sales rep to tour bus driver. For the past almost ten years though, he has "settled down" and worked for a well-known international aid organization involved in humanitarian assistance. He has been based in places like Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, and has been in Sri Lanka since two days after the tsunami struck. I think this type of "settled down" suits him to a tee.

Mac left Sydney for his international life several years before we came to Japan, but before that we had seen each other fairly regularly for four or five years, further cementing our friendship. But until two days ago, we hadn't met for about five years, maybe six. Currently on his break between missions, he decided to spend some time in Japan. He landed on Monday and we were able to catch up over lunch and again in the evening over a couple of quiet beers. That didn't result in a hangover, but definitely not enough sleep to get up and run on Tuesday morning.

Last night though, we went out. Things didn't get out of control or anything, but we still had some typical "Mac" experiences. He had said he wanted to try Japanese sake. OK, so I get a tip from a friend and we find Suzuden in Yotsuya, which is primarily a specialist sake bottle-shop, but also has a small standing bar attached. So we quietly drank two glasses of sake, the first being a bit dissapointing and the second quite fruity and lively. "It's very easy to drink" said Mac ominously. "It doesnt burn or anything." No, I said, this is pretty good grade sake, and sake is not distilled anyway, so it is actually pretty mild, but at 15% alcohol, this can be quite dangerous. Then Mac, as is his wont, turned to a lone salaryman beside us and asked for a recommendation. The guy duly pointed us toward a slightly more expensive number from Toyama. It was very dry and earthy, but otherwise generally lacking in character. Somewhat embarrassed I guess, the guy disappears. But he soon re-emerges from the door between the bar and the bottle shop carrying an issou (1.8-L bottle like this) of sake. "Here" he says, "I present you!" Jeebus, this is an expensive bottle of sake! He duly rips the top off it and starts pouring! Of course we force him to partake and soon a new life-long friendship that might only last the night is being formed. The friend who had tipped me off to Suzuden also turned up with a friend (I'd mentioned we were going there) and then we were all tearing into the isshou, and we also bought another 750 mL bottle to reciprocate the kind act of our salaryman friend. Both bottles were dispatched to sake heaven and a good time was had by all. We had to move on to another event (a beer meeting, believe it or not) and Mac ended up getting the salaryman's business card. This was no ordinary salaryman, but "Senior Inspector, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Criminal Investigation Bureau". I guess, basically, that means he was a senior detective! Funny, he seemed quite an honest law-abiding citizen ;-)

Anyway, the night went on and a few more drinks were had. Mac and I didn't last long at the beer thing, basically because we were too toasted from the sake I think. We headed for home but stopped in a yakitori shop right near my house. I remember us being engaged in lively discussion with a middle-aged couple next to us, and eating some good yakitori, but not much more. Mac had also wanted to eat some fugu, but somehow we did not accomplish that mission. I guess I am just not a very good host.

So, anyway, I haven't been feeling too well today and decided that, even if the hangover subsides, I will take another day off running. A good nights sleep and perhaps a gentle run tomorrow is in order. Let's just call this a taper for the East Japan half marathon on Sunday. Mercifully, Mac has headed off travelling to other parts of Japan. But just like Arnie, he will be back...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Routine Sunday long

Well, the table did not come out very well in that last post--the hazards of cutting and pasting text. It seems to have pushed the heart rates off into the Never Never, so that's a bit of bad luck. I'm not going to stuff around with it though.

Saturday evening I attended a little beer party, so yet again faced Sunday morning with a slight hangover -- at least it wasn't a moountain trail run this time. The hangover was not at all serious, but enough to ensure that the 22.5 km were not covered in any record time, about 1 hour 58, and not in the greatest of comfort. Still, no real dramas, just around and around we go nine times around Yoyogi.

There was murder in one of the public toilets in the park last week. The victim was an Iranian guy apparently and he had his throat cut. There is talk of drug links etc., but still felt a bit creepy every time we ran past that place.

Total for the week was 85 km. Not bad.

Brrrt...fartlek to and from Komazawa Park

I have to catch up on posts for two runs. This is by far the more interesting of the two:

Saturday morning I woke up at five and couldn't sleep so got up and headed out for my run at 6:00 (after checking email of course). I wanted to do a speed workout of some sort, but it is 4 km to run to the park, and then 4 km back, so that's quite a few km that are not well-suited to intervals or tempo running. So I decided to do a fartlek (Finnish for "speed play") whereby I would make up the speed bits as I went along.

The first 2 km I just ran easy to warm up, then said, OK, run hard to Kannana Dori. That turned out to be a bit over 600 m (measured by footpod). Then I ran easy for a while and knew I could fit in one more hard bit before the park. Started at a foot bridge and ran until I hit a red light: only 300 m. It was then only a couple of hundred meters to the park whereupon I immediately started another hard bit (fart; brrrrt!) for the 1 km pull up the hill (only about 2% gradient I suppose). The next hard bit was 500 m down hill (3%?) in which I concentrated on shortening my stride and getting faster leg speed. Kind of fun. That brought me back to the park entrance point, so I did one more lap of approximately the same, except the fart (brrt) was only 800 m uphill and then 600 m downhill). Then on the way home I managed two approximately 1 km brrts with the last kilometer easy.

All up, just under 12.5 km with around 6 km of it being in speed sections of well under 4:00/km. A few of the reps were quite a blast, like the 500 and 600 m downhill sections at 3:21/km pace! surprisingly I finished feeling fairly fresh. A very nice run. It was a cool morning and I think the same run with a bit more heat and humidity could be a bit tough. Here are the data in excruciating detail:



Distance (m)




























To park float






1100 to 2100 (uphill)






2100 to start






start to 500 m






500 m to 1000 m (downhill)






1000 to 1300






1300 to 2100 (uphill)






2100 to 400 float






400 to 1000 (downhill)






Leaving the park






To Kannana












corner-Post Office






Post Office-home






Friday, April 14, 2006

General aerobic runs

10.6 km run home last night at 72% to 77% of HR max.
8.8 km run to work at about the same.

Both runs bloody disjointed because of traffic lights. No more PBs in that department this time.

Hope to do a tempo run tomorrow morning or maybe some short HRM-controlled intervals.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

7 x 800s

Last night I attended the track workout for the first time in a while. We appear to have re-started the Yasso 800 workout again. Last night it was seven of them. Over the next few months on the corresponding Wednesday we will do the same workout, but the number of reps will increase by one.

I ran with Gareth and Colin and Gareth's new protoge in the park beforehand for about 6 km. Stuart and Satohi and Jay also joined us at different times.

The 800s workout went pretty well. The idea of the Yasso 800s is to run the 800 m in a minutes and seconds time corresponding to your predicted hours and minutes time of a full marathon. If you think you can run a 3-hour marathon, you run your 800s in 3 minutes. We formed into like-paced groups and I went with the 3-hour group (easy maths!). The 800s were all within a second or two of 3:00, and one I even clicked at 0:03:00.0.

I'd been noticing my heart rate get to 96, 97, 98% on the second lap of some of the repeats even though my breathing was not getting too crazy. I know the monitor was working reliably, so I felt it was a bit unusual, in fact I wondered if my real HRmax might have been higher than it was set at. So I decided to do the last 800 as a normal first lap (everyone else was pushing hard) and then run the second lap at an increasing intensity through to a very hard last 100 sprint. Sure enough, this got the heart rate up to 103% of maximum, from which it would not budge. In other words, an upward revision of my maximum heart rate. And what would seem to be a pretty accurate measurement. Bugger! So it has gone from 184 to 186. That means I have been bludging by a heart beat or two per minute at all my percentages of maximum! The "bugger!" is not regret of inadequate past effort, but the thought that it is going to be harder from now on.

I had also been thinking that Satohi seemed too comfortable at her higher percentages of HRmax, but I was sure we had set her maximum correctly. Later on at drinks I asked to check her watch, and sure enough it was set at 187 instead of the 192 that we established for her a few weeks ago. Egad!! I corrected it. She is probably going to wonder why 80% suddenly feels like pretty hard work!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Well, after that light last week, which culminated with an easy 22.5 k on Sunday (almost doubling the weekly total), this morning I jumped on the upper aerobic horsey and went for a gallop up to Komazawa Park.

Zone 1 of the program was four kilometers warming up at 65% to 75% of HRmax (mostly around 71-73%). Then, just after I hit the park, the monitor clicked into Zone 2 of the workout: 80% to 87% for 9 km. That felt a little bit hard on the legs at first, but they soon warmed into it. On the third lap I caught up with Yoshino-san, a friend of Dan's (he says "hi", Dan!) and we ran together right at the bottom of my target range, sometimes (beep beep) dipping below. This, however, still meant Yoshino-san had to pick his pace up a bit, so it was a nice little compromise for both of us.

I was still more than a km from home when the 9 km came up, thus triggering the monitor to start the 1 km cool down at 65% to 70%. Interestingly I was really just cruising along at that stage at about 82% of max. Felt like I could have run like that all day. Well, I was certainly happy to keep going at it. I decided to capture the cool down in a separate log file so that the average heart rate of the main run would only reflect the warm up and upper aerobic components. That way I slowed down more gradually also.

My pace during the upper aerobic zone part of the run was between 4:07 to 4:30, depending on slope more than anything else.

I think that run reaffirmed that my aerobic base is still in pretty reasonable shape and that I can start to introduce speed workouts more regularly as a build up for our company's ekiden in May.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A few photies from the Ome race director

Thanks Onishi san!

Look at that beautiful running form!

How the hell did Keren beat me if he couldn't even run up this little hill?

Ah, I see.

Shlalom, baby, shlalom!!

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Distance: 11 km
Average heart rate: 74%
Pace at 75%: 4:40

I helped Satohi draw up the rest of her marathon training program. It includes quite a few runs at 75% of heart rate max. Basically, that's the stock standard aerobic run. It doesn't stress the body too much, but still has you working at a pretty decent effort to recruit muscle fibers and more mitochondria (i.e., build aerobic endurance). Yesterday I needed a run of moderate intensity to continue the recovery from Ome. I thought it would be good also to remind myself what this run feels like so that I could be confident that it is the right run for her when not doing more intense efforts, recovery runs, or resting. I ran for 1 km at about 68% to 73% then just picked it up slightly and ran the next 9 km at 74% to 76% and then a little 1k jog at the end to cool down. Pulled up feeling pretty good, yet the effort during the run was certainly enough to feel like it was worthwhile. It is not a bludge run. The pace was around 4:40/km. Conclusion: Yep, it is indeed a good stock standard medium distance aerobic endurance-building run. Leaves you feeling good. I think it was right to prescribe a lot of these.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Whistling Sweet Dixie

I have no idea why I used that title. It just sounded like a good way of saying that there is not much going on. But it probably means something else. Just like my bling blunder.

Anyway, had a run with some fun Namban guns last night. Mika until she went to the track, Colin, Satohi, Keren, and Stuart. Satohi is going to run Lake Toya (Hokkaido) marathon in late May and I am helping her to manage her training load and training intensities via her heart rate monitor. So Colin and I hooked up with her and helped her run at 80% of heart rate max. That turned out to be about 5:00/km.

That was my first run after Ome and the legs (mainly quads) were still sore. But while I felt them and I definitely didn't want to run hard, they didn't bother me too much running at that pace.

Had another day off today. Tomorrow morning I'll get up early and have a run, but no real plan other than to see how my legs feel. But the important announcent is that I do plan to start a period of speed training for the next four or five weeks. So the mileage might come down, but the intensity go up. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Some images of the Ome trail race

Linked from the race web site: The course map shows a 600 m change in elevation over the 15-km. It was like three steps forward two back to get there though. The second photo shows the shrine at the turnaround. The photo of the people coming downhill looks like one of the more sedate sections. I'm sore as hell today, but you know, I think I am looking forward to trying one of these again!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ome 30 k Trail Race

Our happy little group after the race!!
OK, now I get it. Trail running is freaking hard work! Had I been a little more cognisant of that yesterday I might have shown a bit more respect for the event and more restraint at the hanami (cherry clossom viewing) party of the Beer Enlightenment, Education, and Research Society (BEERS) that I went to in Yoyogi Park yesterday. Well, at least I stopped drinking at around 5:00 p.m. and had a bit of time to sober up and recover, so the hangover was not so serious this morning. But enough to make me a little less alert than normal and create a few tummy issues that I could have lived without.

Made the 7:44 train from Shinjuku with Keren, Jay, Shoji, Mika, Keren's friend Mike and fiance. We picked up others along the way : Taeko, Mathias, Stefan, Chika, and finally, out at the venue, Ma and Teruyuki. (Hope I haven't forgotten anybody).

I got a less than ideal start as I had to dash back to my bag to collect my heart rate chest strap. Then when I got to the line I was right at the back of the pack and tried working forward but then the gun (sorry, claxon!) went off, so that was that, off and running and working hard to try and make up ground and find our people. I was hoping to run with Keren or Mika.

The first few km were uphill and I was working harder than I should have been at that stage -- anyone would think it was a marathon or something. Caught Shoji and Teruyuki (Terry) , but soon realized I needed to back off a bit and then Terry shot off and left me in his dust. I felt a bit uncomfortable in the tummy, and started eyeing off somewhere I could duck off to the side -- somewhere private, if you know what I mean. Around 5 or 6 k I finally got onto the back of Keren, but he looked in good control while I was not feeling well. I soon saw a nice little bluff off under the track and ducked down and had what was probably a 5-minute toilet break. After that I decided it wasn't my day for a big, hard run and just tried to run a bit easier and enjoy the event more. Run is not quite the right word. I don't know what the overall elevation gain is, but a lot. We had heaps of nasty uphill, real hands on knees trudging rather than running, and still at 88% of maximum heart rate. These would be followed by breakneck speed downhills skating over loose rocks, dodging tree roots, and quad-pounding steps and micro-terraces. Sometimes there would be a few meters of relatively flat terrain but not much. Running at "easier" pace was still darn hard work.

At some point, perhaps around 9 km, I noticed Mika a little way behind me, so I slowed up and let her catch up. We ran together for a few kilometers, but on the uphills it is really hard to control your pace, 'cause you just trudge away the best you can. It turned out I was trudging quicker than Mika, so I decided to press on. The last several kilometers before the 15k turnaround were all uphill. And brutally steep. It was like Ohyama all over again, only this time with lots of pounding downhills and three-and-a-half times as long.

At around the 12k mark our man Stefan, a young Swiss chap, came through right on the heels of the second placed runner. I yelled out to him that he was in third, but he probably knew it. He actually went on to win the race!! Pretty good effort for his first race in Japan. Here is a photo of him at the presentation.

I reached the 15k turnaround at the mountain-top shrine in 1:41:18 (6:45/km). They were hanging little talismen around our necks and you could ring a bell and say a prayer if you wanted. I remembered that I am a godless heathen and declined that opportunity. But I did scoff some bananas and grapefruit and water and set off again. I was feeling a lot better by this time and gradually started working it harder. Being a net drop in elevation back, the uphills were not quite so many nor so long (but many were still brutally steep) . The cramp bear was nipping away at, but never quite got a good purchase on my calves. Phew. At 5 km to go I realized I was a chance of breaking 3 hours, so really started putting in and was actually overtaking heaps of people, especially on the more moderate uphills. There was one particular bunch of blokes and women who kept overtaking me on downhills but who I would re-take on the uphills and evens. I eventually broke clear of them as the downhill became a bit less wild and woolly.

But as hard as I worked, I never did catch up to Keren again (and didn't he gloat afterwards!) and did not quite break the three hours, finishing in 3:00:18 -- just 18 seconds over. Never mind, I have my excuses, and I'm going to be sticking to them, especially around Keren. The second 15 k was 1:19:00, or 5:16/km. A lot different to a road marathon. A lot.

So, will I do another trail run? Hmm...ask me in a few months. But I have to say, it was an experience worth doing. And if I do do another one, I will prepare for it with more specific training and certainly keep myself in better shape viz a viz day before activities. I think I now finally have just a little bit of insight into how tough the Six Foot Track Race (45 km) in Australia's Blue Mountains must be.

These flowers are for you KitKat! Enjoy your marathon next week!

(acknowledgement: all photos in this post are linked from Shoji-san's blog -- thanks Shoji!)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wind Chill Factor Fifty Five Eff

The cherry blossoms are blossoming! The irises are irising, and the wind is still chilling us to our bones. Such is spring in Japan.

It hasn't been much of a running week so far. I could put it down to a taper for the 30-km trail run at Ome on Sunday, but I think it would be more honest to just say it has been a pretty ordinary week. I got to work on Monday morning all ready to hoe into the mountain of writing course exercises which threatens to strangle me, when what should happen but I get not one, but two urgent translations land on my desk. I farmed one out to my trustworthy outsource translator, but was stuck with the other and that basically took care of most of my waking hours for the week, since a proper translator I am not. Anyway, got them sent off to the clients tonight just in time to meet the deadline.

Still, I did manage to run a couple of times. Once on Tuesday morning, 14.2 km up to Komazawa Park. Calibrated the footpod after first setting the calibration factor to 1.0000 and then doing a run calibration over 2 km. It was very accurate after that. Then on Wednesday night, after working at home all day to get my wife's help with the translation, I went to Yoyogi Park. My wife was not that pleased about this. It seems it is easier to go running after work if I am at the office than if I spend the whole day at home. So, laden with guilt, I got away late and just ran to the sento at a fairly brisk pace, dropped my bag, and then met Colin in the park for another 7 km at a slightly more sedate pace. So a nice mix of upper and lower aerobic there. Pleasant dinner at the Vietnamese place in Shibuya afterwards.

I was at work until 11:00 last night (yes, working on that bloody translation), and not in bed until 1:00. So there was not going to be an early Friday morning run. I took some gear to work and after getting all the deadlines out of the way (the pile of writing course exercises are still mocking me) decided to run home. That was just over 10 km in 54 minutes of mixed pace through Gaien, Ometesando, and some back lanes of Ebisu. Many were streets I hadn't run before, and it was kind of interesting. Heard the roar of the crowd from Jingu stadium where the Swallows were shading the Tigers 4-3 in a Pacific League baseball game. And it was c-o-o-o-o-l-d. Well, 7 degrees C seems pretty darn cold to me for this time of year.

So that's about it. That gives me 340 km for the month, which is not too bad, really considering I am just trying to keep up my aerobic base and have enough miles in the legs to get through the trail run in one piece.  Speaking of which, the next update will be after Ome (pronounced Oh, May!) on Sunday. Perhaps some piccies eh? Unless I sneak in a hanamipost tomorrow.