Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Quick report on yesterday's upper aerobic run

Yesterday morning I did the third consecutive week of exactly the same workout: 16 km with 2.5 km warm up and 13 km at 76% to 83% of HRmax. It was really a bit too soon after the weekend racing to be doing this and my body complained quite strongly for much of the run. The pace ended up being ever so slightly faster than last week, but the average heart rate one beat higher, so not much in it. I think the residual fatigue made it hard for any fitness progression to show through, if there was any to be seen, that is.

I am planning hill repeats tonight while others do the 5-k time trial. If I am to run this flaming hilly mountain goat endurance race in four weeks, I think I need some serious hill and trail running. The Nosh run on Sunday will be a helpful preparation. It is going to feel weird jumping off the plane and within a couple of hours being in a hard run through the Angophora costata and Eucalypus saligna of Sydney Harbour! Will Davidson Reserve be the way I remember it? 

Monday, May 29, 2006

10 Ekiden Leg & "Water of Life"

Sunday dawned just as cool and rainy as Saturday. The Arakawa Ekiden is a mass-participation event and I remembered how the transition area last year was a dust bowl. So with all the rain we have had recently, the words "hippopotomus" and "wallow" came to mind in close proximity. We had to meet at the ungodly hour of 8:15 at Shinjuku and then made the short trip out to Akabane. Light rain was falling almost constantly. We found a position under a railway bridge and with only 20 minutes before the race, quickly sorted out our teams. I suddenly found myself being one of the first-leg runners, i.e., 10 km. So without much time to really think about it or get warmed up I hit the start line with Anthony and Peter and Juergen and Dayan. My goal was to run hard, but not absolutely all out. I was thinking that maybe 40 minutes flat, 4:00/km, would be a good hit out, but not too painful.

Despite being less than 10 m back from the start line, it was a very crowded start. The pace was OK, but no clear path and lots of jostling. I think my first km came up in about 3:54. The only other splits I got were 4k: 15:39 (3:55/k average), 6k: 23:39 (4:00/k from 4k-6k), 8k: 31:44 (4:02.5/k from 6-8), Finish: 39:49.

I was pretty happy with that, but it hurt a lot more than I wanted, especially the second 5k. I was breathing very hard and couldn't pick up the pace over the last kilometer. I am sure there was fatigue in the legs from the hard 5k on Saturday. And that hippo wallow - yuck...We had to run through it twice -- between 4k and 6 k and again at the end. A couple of hundred meters of pure unadulterated mud. We reckoned that we must have lost at least 30 seconds through there. Chiba-san got a good photo of my mud-caked legs -- I'll have to post it if I can get a copy.

In the afternoon I begged off from the Namban lunch because I'd had an offer to attend a Scandinavian themed lunch at my brewing friend's house. It was pretty funky. There were many types of Aqvavit (Norway, Denmark), smelly cheese, pickled herrings (Danish), rye bread, and some re-constituted dried mutton from Norway. Plus a few different craft beers, including the two that Bryan and I bottled recently. I was very measured in my drinking, taking plenty of water and rests, and finished the day in good shape. Our two beers were declared good by most, though one guy, a professional brewer, reckoned there was an abundance of diacetyl (buttery taste) in our steam-style beer, but nobody else thought it was there at all. Pro brewer? What would he know phhht!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

NKG Ekiden

Mixed results.

I ran a Palace-loop PB of 18:12.

Had hoped to go a bit closer to 18:00 flat, but 1) I might have gone out slightly too fast in the first kilometer, and 2) I guess I just wasn't in that shape. Still it was a PB by five seconds (from memory) and I did work very hard, sprinted home, finished exhausted, so I cannot complain about my effort. Reviewing the splits I seemed to lose too much time on the third (uphill) and fourth kilometers.

So, a good time, but I was beaten into second place in the overall rankings by an ever-improving Mr Nakagawa. The bugger ran about 18:17 last year, so I thought I might have bagged it, but then when they read out the results, I was announced in 2nd place, then he was announced in 1st in 17:45!! げえ〜〜〜! There's nought I could have done about that. So well done him! And I am happy with my 5000 yen of gift vouchers (which I handed straight over to my wife).

On a more sober note, literally, the buggers didn't provide any beer this year. Just because it was raining off and on throughout the event is no excuse. We still could have done with some crappy mass-produced lager. Still, I made up for it by heading to a Belgian beer afterwards and sharing several interesting libations with a friend. Not a bad way to end the day.

And tomorrow, bring on Arakawa Ekiden

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thunder, lightning, torrential rain, and glorious sunshine

The first three were what characterized last night's Wednesday at the Track. A very unstable weather system came through last night and decided to deposit a lot of water on Tokyo and make a lot of noise and lightning and frighten the bejeezus out of those of us who were too stupid to stay indoors. After some warmup in the park we ventured to the track, nervously relieved that the worst of the lightning-producing cells seemed to have moved away a bit. The other people (an amazing dozen of us braving the conditions) did a ladder, but I decided to do 6 x 600 m with 200 jog as a reduced workout and sharpener for Saturday. I went out a bit hard on the first and the times were: 2:03, 2:07, 2:08, 2:09, 2:07, 2:09. That's an average of 3:32/km. Given that I would dearly love to run this race on Saturday at 3:35/km (for a 17:55 finish), these times seem to have me up there or thereabouts.

I was going to have today and tomorrow off completely, but today broke with glorious sunshine and low humidity. So I got out at lunch for a slow recovery run around the Imperial Palace and made sure I checked where the kilometer markers are for Saturday. The 1k is just before the flower beds near the  Palace front gate. The 2 km is right on Takabashi bridge, The 3 km is just before the corner up near the British Embassy, and the 4 km is just near the bottom of the hill after Hanzomon. Required splits at each of those respective points are: 3:35, 7:10, 10:45, 14:20, and, finally 17:55.

I feel nervous just typing this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dabbling with the dark side

I'm thinking of running this race (July 2). It would be my first ultra, though it just barely qualifies, and would certainly be a tough trail run. look at that 1000 m ascent from 10 to 15 k! The organisers provide a 12-hr time limit to finish (a bit generous); last year's male winner got there in 4 hours 11 minutes.

I wonder if the Great Nosh Footrace in Sydney on June 4 will be an adequate preparation? Or perhaps during my stay in Coffs harbour later in the week I will get my four-wheel driving brother to take me out the back of Coramba to run up a few fire trails...can you tell I'm looking forward to the trip?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

There's a track winding back...

From this rather amazing and in some cases disturbing, some cases amusing, collection of images. This is about the only one that has anything to do with running, but just thought I should share.

Another upper aerobic

This morning I hauled the old carcass out of bed at 5:15 and got out for an upper aerobic run following exactly the same format as this time last week. The only difference was that I changed the program on the watch to correctly get me back closer to home before it would switch from upper aerobic heart rate zone to cool down zone.

Comparing the four laps in Komazawa park yields a very interesting result. Today was 3 or 4 degrees warmer than last week. The four laps last week had an average time of 9:18 per lap. Today the average was again exactly 9:18 per lap. The big difference though is that last week's average heart rate was 153, while today's was 148. Seems almost too big a difference, but that is what the monitor tells me, so it must be true. I guess this can only mean that I have had a boost from the last three weeks of training since getting back on the straight and narrow.

Here is a dilemma. I have the ekiden on Saturday. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the track is the monthly 5-km time trial. I don't intend to train on Thursday or Friday. What should I do on Wednesday night? I feel that an all-out 5-k might be over-doing things that close to the 5k race. But I'd like to do something with a bit of final top-up value. I'm thinking of jumping into the time trial with the faster group and going out at harder pace than my 5-k time but pulling up at 3 km. I probably won't make it an all-out 3-k time trial, but it would be at slightly faster than 5-k pace.

Any comemnts on this option? Is it still too close to the race to do something like that? Can it do any harm? Can it do any good?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sunday not so long run

I received a late request from one of the ladies in our club to pace her through 20 km at 4:50/km. That's a bit faster than I do my long runs, and I was keen to do at least 25k, but I am an obliging sort of chap so agreed, especially if we started at 8:30 so that I could still maybe fit in 25 and keep my 11:00 appointment to bottle beer at my brew-buddy's place.

So I met Ma at a shade past 8:30 and after a few preparations we started with a slow warm-up Pettau lap (2.5 km) and then a steady Fulton lap (1.9 km). Then we had a short break to meet the others at 9:00. We were joined by a guest, Tim, who works as a stage hand for the New York City Opera, which, it seems, is coming to town.

With the group re-start, Ma and I started our pace run. To get the target pace we had to run Pettau laps in 12:05 minutes. The first one was in 12:09, so about right. The problem was that Ma's ambitions exceeded her capability as she has had some time off with a cold, and basically wasn't quite in shape for that pace and duration. It didn't go pear shaped too soon and the next three laps were in 12:20 plus or minus. I asked her how many more laps, thinking to myself that six at that pace would probably do, and she actually opted for one less than that, and then on that fifth lap, she really fell off the pace. So that was that and we joged back to meet the others and ran another slow lap with them as we coaxed katakura san through his longest run ever (20km). Ma's run was all by way of preparation for a half marathon that she will run next week, so I wish her all the very best of luck.

In the end I finished up booking 20.2 km for the day, but not nearly enough of them at that pace Ma had wanted to run. Never mind. The five laps at 4:50/km was a decent sort of aerobic run and probably suited me pretty well coming into next week's two 5k races.

And the big news: Satohi ran 3:27:15 and qualified for Tokyo International Women's Marathon...wooo hooo!!! I was a bit overwhelmed when I got her email yesterday and had to explain to my wife that I just had some dust in my eye, that's all.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cyclone Season

Yep, it has started already and is killing people in China. Although we call them typhoons. And with the big typhoon near China, the weather here is alternately wet and hot and humid. Today was hot and humid's turn.

I got up early and did much the same workout as last week. Run to Komazawa and 10 by two-minutes hard with one-minute jog recovery. It went a little bit better than last week I think, although I was flagging by the end with the extra heat. Bloody watch re-set itself on the first rep, but at least I could use it for the rest. I think I averaged about 0.54 km for the 2-minutes reps compared to 0.52 or 0.53 last week.

So, 14 km all up, 54 for the week. Twenty-six tomorrow would give me another week of 80...just the thing for a 5-k training schedule!

Good luck all running the Sydney half tomorrow, and please all send good vibes to my friend  Satohi, who is running Toya-ko in Hokkaido tomorrow trying to get under 3:30 to qualify for Tokyo Women's International. Go Satohi-san!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Neither Arthur nor Martha

A rather unusual run last night. We have our company's ekiden coming up next weekend, and the guy who should be our second fastest runner has not put in the work he should have, so last night I tried to put him through the wringer to give him a bit of a fitness boost. Two or three years ago he ran about 20 minutes flat. At that time he'd been playing a lot of futsal and was in reasonable shape -- with proper training he could break 20 minutes. Last year he only ran about 23 or 24 minutes and was well beaten by one of the ladies on our team, Mrs Nakamiya, who is in her 50s. It actually annoys me a bit because we have placed around 5th to 7th these last couple of years, and if our two other guys really got in and trained solid for just two months, shaved a couple of minutes each off their times, we'd probably place at least in the top three, and possibly even win. And it would be great because we are a team with one old fella (me), and two ladies, one of whom is in her 50s. The rules are that a team can have up to four young bucks and one man over 40 or a woman; this "weaker" member only has to run 2.5 km, whereas the other four run 5 km. Both Mrs Nakamiya and I run the 5 km. So under those conditions, I'd really love to win this thing, or at least go close. One of our guys, Mr K, gets in and has a real go at training, but is not quite as athletic as this other fella, Mr A. As for Mr A, well, he does a few runs late in the piece, but it is just not enough. What's worng with these people? Where is their competitive spirit? Harumph!

So last night I made Mr A do an interval workout. Running around the palace we ran easy from the office to Sakuradamon, the zero point of the 5-k loop. There are markers every 100 m. So we ran hard from the start to the 1 km point. I hoped he would do it in about 4 minutes, but no 4:15 or so. We jogged very easy back for 100 m, then turned around and jogged back to the 1-km, so a 200-m recovery, and then started another rep. We did five repeats altogether to bring us back to Sakuradamon, then completed the second loop back to Hanzomon at an easy pace. Unfortunately he couldn't get much under 4:30 for the last four reps, even though one of them was downhill. I didn't think he was breathing hard enough at the end of the reps either, so he was probably barely even going lactic. Bludger! He told me it was a very hard workout though, so I guess I just have to accept that that is his fitness level at the moment. Doesn't auger well for any improvement on last year's result, but I guess we'll have a good time all the same. Despite my moaning and bitching, I know that it is really just all about the participation and I am not nearly as narky in real life as I have been in this post! (I hope!)

Anyway, for me, it was a funny old run, much of it at a slowish recovery pace, but with those five 1-k repeats at around 4:00 to 4:20 pace thrown in. I'm not really sure what kind of run you would record it as, but I feel pretty fresh today, even though I will take the day off, so I suppose on balance it was a recovery run.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The indicators for a strong interval workout last night were very weak given that I started the day a bit worse for wear after a work party the night before to welcome a new starter. At lunch time I even had a short kip on the floor of the meeting room. By 4:00 I was feeling like there would be no problem running, but wouldn't be doing anything remarkable. It turned out that wasn't exactly true. After a 5k warm-up in Yoyogi in cool drizzle, Gareth, Colin, Mika, and I hit the track just in time for the pre-workout spiel. The workout had been ordained to be 6 by 1000 m. Satohi will run her marathon in Hokkaido this Sunday, so I ended up spending the first repeat running with her at 4:20 pace deciding what she was going to do for the evening. I prescribed that thereafter she should run several 1-k repeats attempting to hit her target marathon pace. I then resolved to do the next five reps at my interval pace and left Satohi to manage her own workout. (She ended up running them all a bit fast, so let's hope that helps her understand how important and difficult it is to start the marathon at the right pace!)

Over the next fve repeats I ended up running the fastest, or very close to it, set of 1-k reps I have ever done. Compared to last Wednesday morning when I could only manage five reps of around 3:43, last night I pulled out the following: 3:35, 3:33, 3:30, 3:33, 3:26  The last one was very hard but satisfying.  Juergen, who is at least 20 seconds faster than me over 5 k and nearly always leads me around the intervals, drafted me the whole way and then tried to pull out and overtake me down the last 100 m, only to discover that I still had a finishing kick left. Hee was good.

So, I don't know where that came from or what it means with respect to a potential 5-k time, but I'll take it and hope that it puts a little bit more juice in the tank.

Total distance: 12 km
Distance for week: 28 km

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Upper A1

That's the name I use in the rs200sd for this morning's programmed upper aerobic workout, which can be written out as: run at 70-75% of HRmax for 2.5 km to warm up, then run at 80-87% (mainly lower 80s) of HRmax for 11.5 km, then cool down for 1 km at 65-70%.

However, those distances are based on running three laps of Komazawa, but I miscalculated and ran four. So I ended up with 12.5 km at 80% and a bit over 16 km all up and overall HRavg of 147 (79%). The laps after hitting the park were as follows:

Lap 1: 0:9:24 (avg HR 80%)
Lap 2: 0:9:18 (83%)
Lap 3: 0:9:19 (81%)*
Lap 4: 0:9:13 (84%)
(one lap is 2.15 km)
*: 5-min toilet break during lap

Couple of observations pertinent to recent discussions. Using a distance/pace measuring device nicely frees you from having to worry about marked distances on your course. So I could program this workout with changes to occur when it suits me, not when a convenient marker comes up on the run. Same too with the ability to use pace as a controlling parameter instead of heart rate (as per the interval session last Saturday). This comment relates to a conversation with a friend who owns a Timex Speed-Distance system but has found he doesn't use the GPS because he always runs on courses with marked distances. I'm not sure if it is that I feel I have to justify my purchase by using it, but Saturday's run and today's run do show how speed and distance mesurement functions can be put to good use even if you do have a measured course.

The other comment relates to a Cool Running thread about some people feeling unable to run without their PMP (personal music player -- just to keep it generic). I can't relate. Running at a fairly stiff pace like this, I have no need at all for music or other distractions. I am much happier listening to my body, letting my thoughts wander, thinking about the run, and being connected with the surroundings. The PMP is for coping with the crowded train to and from work.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Long and slow

26.2 km in 2:21:13 (5:22/km) giving 80 km for the week

Nice complement to yesterday's effort by getting out for the longest Sunday run in a good while. Pretty gentle pace for the first 20 km, but picked it up over the last couple of 2.5-km laps. finished feeling like I was ready to finish, especially in the hips and upper legs, but still running reasonably strong. The 80 km in the tank should pull back some of the damage done the week before, particularly with those two fairly good quality interval sessions in the mix as well as quite a few of the other km spent at close to 80% of HRmax aerobic pace. There is probably enough time for it to feed through into an improvement in speed for the ekiden, especially with another similar week coming up, then ease back the week leading into the race. I have  Namban ekiden the day after the company ekiden, so that will be a fun weekend of racing...and social activities...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A bit tough

I ran 12 km on Thursday night with some people from work, my ekiden team members in fact. Nothing too fancy, 5k around the Imperial Palace in 25 minutes and then 5k in 21:30, sort of upper aerobic, borderline tempo pace. Just a couple of weeks now until the big day!

So I had yesterday off. No point overdoing things I reckon. But then today I wanted to do another speed workout. I thought of doing a fartlek, but opted for an easy run to Komazawa park (3.8 km) followed by an interval workout dictated by my trusty(?) rs200sd. I set it for two zones: 1 minute 15 seconds at 5:00/km to 6:00/km pace (recovery) followed by two minutes at 3:20/km to 3:40/km pace. Well, it turned out 3:20 was waaay ambitious and I was sometimes struggling to stay above 3:40. Next time I could go for 3:35 to 3:42 and it would probably be about right. So, I decided to do ten of these. Since they were based on time, the only way to really measure the evenness is by the distance covered, with a longer distance equating to a faster rep. Since the precision is only to the nearest 10 m this is probably less precise than timed splits over set distances. Have to remember that the course has a long gradual up and a long gradual down, so they are not all exactly comparable (not that I know which are which now). Anyway, here we have the splits as distance (km) of 2-min rep/distance of recovery, (average HR of rep/ave HR of recovery), maxHR(%) in 2-min rep:
1  0.55/0.22  (162/158) 92%
2  0.54/0.24  (164/158) 93%
3  0.54/0.22  (176/164) 95%
4  0.54/0.22  (169/160) 96%
5  0.54/0.23  (166/159) 94%
6  0.52/0.21  (167/161) 96%
7  0.53/0.19  (167/158) 95%
8  0.55/0.20  (169/159) 97%
9  0.52/0.18  (166/157) 95%
10 0.55/-----  (170/----)   97%

The most striking thing is how short the distance of recovery dropped after the fifth rep. Basically I was knackered and I didn't care that the watch was beeping its head off at me to jog a bit faster. Get stuffed, I said, I set you too fast for the recoveries!  I must admit, I have not breathed that hard while running for a long time, so there was a real sense of it doing good, in the old anaerobic training kind of way. Having that many reps was a different psychological game as well. I was able to keep pushing through, but around rep 4 and 5 I was talking myself into cutting back the number. After six I actually physically fet more comfortable with it even though I was getting more wrecked towards the end of each rep (as shown by the HRmax). Overall I am pretty happy to have gotten through it and happy to have kept a reasonably even pace, through the hard reps at any rate. It certainly makes for a different set of numbers to get your head around as compared with, say five or six 800s or 1000s.

Nice easy social long run tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reaping what you Sow

Happy birthday my son Chiaki. Twelve today! But because of that, you little rat, tonight I won't be at the track. Fancy that!

So, up at 5:30 again this morning. Gentle 3.8 km up to the park and then five times 1000 m with a reasonably short (200 m jog) recovery. I put in pretty hard on the reps, but the times were seven to eight seconds slower than I should be at. Not that I have anyone else to I? Then 3.8 km home, again slowish, but elevated heart rate of 81% of max due to the intervals. I have a bit of work to do.

Rep 1: 3:48 (200 m jog recovery in 1:31)
Rep 2: 3:47 (recovery in 1:48)
Rep 3: 3:46 (rec: 1:48)
Rep 4: 3:48 (rec 2:00)
Rep 5: 3:44

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A week of excess

A friend commented to me by email yesterday that my blog, heavens forbid, is a week out of date. Holy Schamoley, so it is!  I'll give you one guess why...yes, Mac came back! It has been an eventful week. This post is, as a result, long. But if you want to know what i've been up to, you'll just have to persevere. If not, I don't mind, that's what theBack button is for.

Where to start? Well, first, to set the context, last week there were three national holidays in a row from Wednesday to Friday. This string of holidays is called Golden Week, for somewhat obvious reasons.  The last post was my race report about the Inagi Ekiden (I wrote it for our club email list and just copied it to the blog). So lets take things from there:

Monday 1st: Went to work equipped with running gear in case an opportunity for a run arose. Luck was on my side as my Monday night teaching appointment was cancelled due to Golden Week. So I headed out about 5 pm and ran to the Imperial Guest House (a 3.3 km loop with two stiff little up-downs). It was a warmish humid afternoon and turned out to be a tough little run with a nice illustration of cardiac drift:
Lap   Time  HRmax HRavg
1      15:05    90%     80%
2      15:27    93%     83%
3      15:38    95%     85%

Tuesday 2nd: Took the day off work and kept an appointment to brew beer with my friend Bryan. We made a very hoppy darkish ale with lots of Northern Brewer and Amarillo hops. I would have liked to include some more crystal malt in the recipe, which we didn't have, so the body might be a little thin. We shall see. Before going to Bryan's I ran around the block a few times and re-calibrated the footpod. Nothing too spectacular, but 10k all up. In the early evening Mac returned from his travels to Hokkaido. We had a few quiet beers at home, then a couple of quiet beers up at a local pub, but back home by 11:00 and in reasonable shape.

Wednesday 3rd: Spent the morning mainly at home except for a walk around the neighbourhood sights with Mac, including a visit to the riveting Meguro Parasitological Museum, a popular date destination for young couples for some strange reason. See here for a charming little virtual tour of this museum, which I actually walk past every day on my way to and from work.

In the afternoon I had an appointment to run a half kilometer time trial with Satohi, a young woman I am helping to train for her upcoming marathon. We planned to run it on the approximately 2-km loops of Yoyogi Park, and a handful of others were planning to join in. But alas, with the holiday the paths were just too crowded. For Satohi, this was her only chance to run this time trial. The coming weekend wouldn't be good because it would be just two weeks from the marathon and a more regulation 25 km would be more important for her. Any time after that would be too close to the marathon. So I suggested we run it on the 400-m running track. You might well imagine that there was strong resistance to this idea, but I had the strength of my conviction to insist. Three or four people suddenly remembered root canal appointments, but Satohi, Rie, Matthias and I braved the monotony and launched our assault on a new PB for Satohi. With the change of plans I got the pace calculation a little bit wrong so was aiming for around 1 minute 50 per lap instead of 1 minute 48 (aiming for a 95 minute finish). Her previous PB was 99 minutes and 42 seconds, so the miscalculation was still going to bring us in with a PB. As it turned out she ran a good constant pace, but started to fall off the 1:50 a little bit in the middle section. I was terrified of forgetting to push a lap split -- bloody 52 of them I had to push, and then run 300 m after the fifty-second lap! Luckily I kept on the ball and we finally finished in 97:18, a 2 minute 20 second PB for Satohi, though she was quite disappointed she missed out on the 95 minutes. The girl is certainly hard to please, but it is great that she has such ambition. I had to explain that the half marathion is not the main game at this stage, and while a sub 95 minute would have well been possible, it would be more danger than it was worth to push that hard. She soon came round. Rie stuck with us all the way too, for a great run. I think she has a PB closer to p1 or 92 minutes. Matthias decided to count every two and half laps for one-km splits. Somewhere early on he pushed on ahead, but guess what? He lost count! I would never have predicted it (he says sarcastically). In the end he just kept running until we were done, so he should be able to interpolate his half time. It was the first time he'd run one! So well done to him for his PB as well (Interesting guy actually; a professor of linguistics specialising in hunter-gatherer languages from southern Africa).

We went out to dinner in Shibuya with the whole running club afterwards and had more red wine than Pavrotti. After dinner it was still early, so someone suggested karaoke. So karaoke it was. And after karaoke, most people dispersed, but Mac and I, well, we found a bar with pulsating music and more Africans in the one place than I have seen since Nairobi Airport, August 1987. (For the initiated, the bar was Gaspanic  -- and yes, that was the first time I'd stepped foot inside one.) After that we had some yakitori. I think we arrived home at 4:00 in the morning.

Thursday 4th: A write off for running. Fairly well hung over, Mac and I went to Akihabara looking for camera and electronic gear for him. Had sushi for lunch and as the afternoon wore on my stomach became more and more uncomfortable. Eventually I lost the whole load in a less than dignified location. I don't even want to say where, but Mac thought it was pretty funny. Almost as funny as the handbag of a woman we had seen earlier on the train, the sides of which were made of a row of upright life-like embroidered carrots -- green tops and all -- what an amazing thing that was. Anyway, I managed to get home and crawl into bed. I was up and down dry reching most of the night. Finally stopped in the wee hours of Friday and slept for a few uninterrupted hours. I don't know if it was food poisoning from the sushi (or a parasite?!) or just a reaction on top of the alcohol abuse. Anyway, it happened.

Friday the 5th: Very weak. Eventually good enough to go out with Mac again looking for electronics. He bought a set of speakers that his iPod could dock with. Damn thing weighed a ton. Later, he treated our whole family to a yakiniku dinner, which was very kind and much appreciated. We had a few beers after dinner at the Black Lion, but I was in no condition to go beer-for-beer with him and I finished the evening in pretty good shape. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Saturday the 6th: The day of the annual Great Japan Beer Festival in Tokyo. I have been to this almost every year since I have lived in Japan. I thought it would be fun to go with Mac. It was. We had a nice peaceful time at home with the family in the morning, then he and I went off to the festival at Ebisu (only a 25 minute walk from my place!) His flight out of Japan was at 11:30 the next day. OMG! I was determined to keep things under control and get home in the early evening. This resolve was probably what managed to enable us to get home shortly after midnight! We firstly kicked on after the festival with some of my beer friends that we met there.  Then, Mac was absolutely determined to eat fugu before he left Japan. His other ambition, to see Hokkaido bears in the wild, had been dashed by the minor matter of it being about two months too early. But fugu was more attainable. All it needed was to walk into the restaurant and say, "Setto A wo kudasai!" So we did. The fish we would eat were swimming around in an aquarium facing the street. When the food arrived, the fresh chunks of fish to be put in the nabe (pot of broth boiled on the table) were still twitching. The fugu was very nice. A very clean, neutral tasting fish to be honest. After fugu, we had a few beers in the Black Lion. We didn't really need them, but it was a good evening. Until the night before, I hadn't been in there for a long time despite being a regular in my pre-running days. I caught up with a few guys and even had a game of cribbage. The guys told Mac he had to  visit more often so that I'd come to the pub more...hmm!

Sunday the 7th: Set the alarm for 6:00 and we got up and duly got out the door and up to the railway station. I escorted Mac to Nippori and made sure he damn well got on that Skyliner for the airport! It had been a fantastic week, but totally exhausting. I spent the rest of the day nursing a bit of a hangover and working on a report that had been hanging over my head. I was in deep deficit on the family side of the ledger, so in the evening I cooked up the kangaroo fillets that Mac had brought us from Australia. Absolutely lovely meat. If you ever get a chance to eat it (and you are so inclined), take it. I cut them into medallions and marinated for a short time in olive oil and seasoning and then a short fry (maybe two minutes or three minutes total, turning a couple of times) in a hot frypan.

Monday the 8th: Back to work. Feeling washed out, dull, and lifeless. Annoying residual cough from my cold still annoying. Is life worth living?

Tuesday the 9th (now): Set the alarm for 5:30. Miraculaously hauled my carcass out of bed and ran an even-paced 12 km in 60 minutes at an average heart rate of 71%.

Normal service resumes. As long as this post was, it really only provides the bare bones of what was an eventful week with lots of laughter, fun, and "incidents". In fact, it was so much fun I hope I don't have another week like it for a long time! But at the same time, it sure is good to cacth up with old friends and re-cement those bonds. Speaking of which, Tatsuya (eldest son) and I will be heading to Australia for a week in early June for my mother's 80th birthday party and to check out school (years 11 and 12) for him for next year.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Inagi Ekiden race report

(sorry folks, somehow this one got to be a long 'un)

Sunday April 30, Inagi City, Tokyo

On a warm and windy pre-Golden week Sunday, a very healthy contingent of 24 Namban runners attended the 2nd Inagi Green Tokyo Verdy 1969 Ekiden (yes, I swear that was its official name). It was held in Inagi Central Park, centered on a very nice dirt running track circumnavigating a beautifully grassed soccer field. Just about every bit of signage and bunting was either for Tokyo Verdy or Saucony. About three-quarters of the teams were Tokyo Verdy something-or-other -- and somewhat surreally they were all named after some kind of vegetable. There were teams named broccoli, celery, and tomato -- almost enough ingredients for Fabrizio to whip up a minestrone (if they'd stood still long enough). All the prizes were plastered with Saucony logos. But that's OK, every race needs its sponsors, and in this case we were left in no doubt about who they were.

The facilities were good, the organization a nice mix of efficiency and laid-back/friendliness. Tthe race started 10 minutes late and nobody seemed too concerned -- a refreshing change for the country that epitomizes the term anal retentive. On the other hand, there were timing mats and chip-enhanced sashes. The field was relatively small, but quite strong at the pointy end, as testified by our strong men's open team being run into a close second place.

The course was a tight and twisty little 3-km number that wound its way through the trees, around the fields, past the water feature, down the hill into the valley, and (oh my heart rate!) back up to the top of the hill for a lap of the oval to the changeover point.

Overall, it was a fine outing for Namban Rengo. Out of our six teams, our ladies and men's veterans A team picked up 1st place in their categories (yeeaayy, loud cheers and applause!), the speedy men's open team was pipped into second place, and our mixed team had a well-deserved 2nd placing. Congratulations all round.

Result Summary


A: Stephan Felix, Rie, Katakura, Anthony (2nd place in 0:51:30 out of seven teams)

Mens open

A : Stefan, Daniel, Omar, Brett (2nd in 0:40:06 out of 19 teams)

B : Gary, Katara, Peter, Paddy (9th in 0:48:06 out of 19)

Male Vet's teams

A : Jay, Fabrizio, Steve, Terry (1st in 0:44:16 out of 9 teams)

B : Don McMillan, Chiba, Gareth, Shoji (strangely omitted from the results)


A : Yuka, Yasuko, Takako, Mami (1st in 0:56:12 out of ahem, cough, three teams)

Full results at (Japanese only):

Official report at (Japanese only):

And now for some selected and edited-without-prejudice comments on the day:

Stefan Husler (Mens open A)

It was very nice to compete as part of such a fast team. I gave my best on the first leg and it also went ok until the bottom of the course where I was still in contact with leading guys but I felt totally worn out on the remaining uphill part and lost precious seconds there. The whole Inagi Ekiden event was another great experience for me here in Tokyo. I liked in particular the post-race event. [Ed.: They say a picture paints a thousand words: ]

Takako (Womens Victorious A)

That race was just supercalerfragilisticexpialadotious!!! Running through the verdant copses of lowland Japanese lucidophyllous forests was as exhilarating an experience as you could hope for. The uphill was excruciating; it seemed to go on and on like one of Juergen's pre-workout speeches. But the eye candy was fully bodacious and the prizes were, like, totally bling bling; we were like back-flippin, dudes! We'll be back. [Ed. Takako asked me to lightly edit her English and I was happy to oblige]

Gary (Mens open B)

Yuka and I were chatting at the start line about why the announcer hadn't announced her team when the gun went off unexpectedly. I got off to a slightly slow start as a result but by the bridge had made up the gap, and then went on to pass about 9 people. A really nice friendly race and the onsen was very sulphurous! [Ed. Brrt! "eee kusaaaiiii!"]

Gareth (Mens Vets B)

A jog around the course quickly planted foreboding of the race to come. Only 3k, but along an initially rolling route that gave way to a last 1.5k or thereabouts of deep downhills followed by even steeper uphills. Tough, demanding, and any thoughts of a PB quickly put aside. Our team astonished all present by failing to capture any of the copious volume of prizes that Saucony generously provided, despite a sterling first leg from Don and good performances from Chiba and Shoji. The race itself was a bit slapdash about starting times and organization generally, a (refreshing) first for me in Japan, but was both testing and fun. Definitely a keeper and well found by Takako.

Brett (Mens open A)

The university team was so far ahead when I started (~2 min) that I didn't realize it when I passed their anchor; I thought he was just another 3rd leg runner [Ed. So hapless he must have been, especially compared to his team mates]. As such I have to apologize for letting the guy from the triathlon team pass me at the top of the hill. If I'd known I was in the lead I would have tried harder. Thanks to Takako for setting this up. I thought this was a great little event and hope it will become one of our regular races. Excellent course, well-organized, and 1st-rate prizes considering the entry fee. Congratulations to the women's and vet's teams, too.

Triumphant Jay (Mens Vet's A)

I was the lead-off for our team, and when the gun went off the other 60 runners burst down the track like they were shot out of a gun. I struggled just to keep up. A kilometer into the race I began to overtake some people, and at the halfway mark I caught up to the individual wearing a prosthetic leg from just above the knee. It was very impressive and inspiring to see how smooth and fast this guy moved on the prosthetic leg - a flat curved piece of metal with Nike racing flats on the foot. I would have been content to stay behind him, but teammate Steve Lacey had urged me on before the race by saying - "At make sure you beat the guy with one leg," so I managed a burst of speed, and then held on through the hilly final kilometer of the course.

Anthony (Mixed team)

As we were waiting for the other runners to come in we'd see them come down the backstretch of the track and try to urge them on to catch the runner ahead or to hold off a challenging runner from behind. This is what I was thinking as I was chasing the boy who was ahead of me, all of 12 years old maybe. I felt a little bad passing him but I figured Namban Rengo was cheering me on what else was I going to do, let him beat me? The bags we received are nice and the first place team was eyeing them while they held their shirts. I told them to run slower next year.

Steve (Mens Vets A team)

"Did we win, we f%&$'n sh%tted it in!!" (old Australian victory cry). Jay got us off to a great start. I especially liked the way he mercilessly ground his one-legged opponent into the dust. I expected nothing less of this steely eyed aspiring ironman. Fabrizio consolidated our position with a solid run. I was the third runner, and after a week of not running and expelling about four gallons of phlegm daily, I was what you might call, well-rested. Got off to a good start and passed five people during my leg, at least one of whom was a veteran "Here, stick this up ya jumper ya old b@stard" I said as I breezed (or was it wheezed?) past. Then I especially enjoyed having the opportunity to pass a guy on the running track coming into the change-over point in full view of the cheering barbarian horde. Terry (aka Teruyuki Minegishi) ran a very solid last leg to bring home the bacon. Judging from the incriminating photos floating around, we may have erred in not joining the onsen crowd.

Ijou desu.