Friday, July 28, 2006

Vicarious running

Look what I missed out on last Sunday because of this darned knee! But on the other hand, had I attended I wouldn't have had lunch with the lovely Sally and her hubby, Steve (and Colin and Gareth). Sally is the younger sister of Tracey, my bestest friend and neighbour from high school. Sally blames me for her strong association with Japan. After I came back from my working holiday in the late 80s, apparently I met at some point and encouraged her to do likewise. She did (and studies Japanese at university). Now she works for Austrade and is the Australian consul in Sapporo!

Answers to a couple of questions in comments
GoGirl: Has the heat subsided a bit yet?
Me: Actually, it is a weird summer so far. We had a few days of proper scorching weather at about the right time. That was two weeks ago. Since then we have had overcast skies almost constantly and comfortable mid to high 20 temperatures. But very, very humid. So even if it feels a little cool, it doesn't take much to break into a sweat. August is usually the hottest month, so we are not out of the woods yet.

Tesso: Have you seen anyone (eg physio) about it?
Me: Um, no, not yet. I know I should, but physios are way expensive here (>$110/visit) and also it is hard to find time. It is strictly a running injury with no real pain at other times. So rest and self-treatment, which does seem to be working, is the current approach. I am also thinking of visiting an accupuncturist!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I kneeded that

After three days of no running and a fair bit of stretching and massage my knee felt a lot better today. But then the old twinges in the upper thigh were back. So I think somehow it is all tied in together -- left lumbar, down into rear thigh, into knee, and then even the achilles in that leg is a little tender. Meanwhile the right leg feels like it is made of solid titanium. Anyway, I took myself off on the regular Wednesday routine of sento and then...whatever. I decided to just run easy in the park. I was going to be happy if I got in 5 km, but in the end managed ana easy 10 or 11. The knee did get a bit sore (it is kind of a dull generalised ache rather than an acute pain) towards the end. But I was encouraged to think that if I just continue to rest it and run every two or three days, with stretching and massage, it might come good.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Knee trouble

I have run exacty twice over the past week. As I type this I would normally be out there clocking up the weekly long run in Yoyogi, catching up on news of the week with Namban colleagues, or perhaps prising the life story out of some hapless vistor. But after the knee pain and tummy troubles I felt last weekend, I did not run Monday or Tuesday, but then ventured out for a tentative run in the park with Gareth and Jane on Wednesday evening. The knee went alright for a little while, but I could feel it after a few km, and then when we picked the pace up it gradually got worse and I had to pull up after about 9 km and then just jogged slowly back to the sento.

So I didn't attempt to run again on Thurday and Friday, which fortunately coincided with a visit from Australian friends Alastair and Brenda, who had a one-night stopover en-route back to Australia from the UK.

Yesterday our treasured Hong Kong-based Nambanner, Aya, was in town briefly en route to Nagano to celebrate her recent wedding. Satohi organised a chance to run with her around the Imperial Guest House yesterday (Sat) lunchtime, and since I was working at my office only a km away, I decided to join. The first 400 or 500 m were without pain, but it soon set in, especially after a stupid taxi lurched suddenly out of a side street forcing me to pull up hard. I met Aya, Taeko and Shoji as soon as I hit the course (perfect timing) and ran two laps with knee discomfort the whole time, though with the easy pace the pain did not get worse. Satohi eventually found us after being waylaid looking for Rie. The photo on Shoji-san's blog is a nice little record of the pleasant company of the run (L-R: Satohi, Taeko, Aya, me). It was about 8 km all up and the pain was worth it to see Aya again.

In four years of running my knees have been remarkably resilient. But no longer, it seems. The pain is right in the centre of the back of my knee and feels like a pulling sort of pain when my knee is extended for the landing--it hurts a lot less going uphill and is worse at faster pace. It isn't all that deep and seems to extend slightly up into the hamstring area, so it may be related to that long standing hamstring "niggle". It seems to be more like inflammed tendon or ligament than cartilage or other structural damage, so it might be just a case of more rest and ice and self massage and short runs to test it out every few days. The only concern is that these inflammation things can be stubborn to get rid of, and the affected part can become completely pain free (when walking) after just a day or two of rest, but then flare up again within a km or two of starting to run. So I think enforced rest for a longer period than feels necessary is actually what is, well, necessary.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Me Yokozuna!

Two weeks ago I mentioned in passing that I had been to judge in a home brewing competition into which I had also made a couple of entries. Today was the award ceremony and party. So I dutifully took myself off in the knowledge from advance notice by email that my beer had won its category (naturally, I had not judged that category!)

Well at the award-giving, there was a big surprise in store as my California steam beer was awarded the Yokozuna, or Beer of Show, award. The prize is pretty amazing: one batch of my recipe will be made at Loco Beer, a commercial brewery in Chiba. I also got a trophy of a traditional Japanese carving of a bear with a salmon in its gob (see photos). I'm a happy chappy. The award party was good fun with lots of great home brew to try.

Running hasn't been great these past couple of days. I did not mention that my left knee got a bit sore during intervals last Wednesday. It stayed sore during Thursday and Friday runs--a sort of general soreness, but more towards the rear of the knee. The weather has remained hot, and Saturday (yesterday) was in fact in the high 30s all over the Tokyo region. With sore knee, hot weather, a need to go into work, and a bit of a tummy upset, I didn't even attempt to run. This morning I thought I felt better and the weather was slightly cooler (about 29 degrees!). There was a charity run for Africa at the Imperial Palace, but I was just not in good enough condition to get going and get over there in time. I did venture out a bit after 9:00, but it was mistake. I didn't feel great right from the start and then suffered with stomach cramps and only ran about 14 km. The hot weather? I don't know, I just know it hurt and made for a very unpleasant run, especially when I had to duck into the dunny a couple of times and then walk at other times until the tummy pain settled down. I think I need a few days break from running for the knee and also to see if this tummy problem sorts itself out.

But hey, who cares, I'm a Yokozuna!!

Friday, July 14, 2006


And humid.

Ran home from work last night at 8:30 and took it very easy. There had been some light rain that had only served to increase the humidity to 101% while the temperature stayed up around 30 degrees. I kept my heart rate in the low to mid 70% range and yet still ended up feeling like a steamed beetroot by the end of the run. A wet and dripping steamed beetroot. The time for the 8.7 km was 49 minutes...that's 5:38/km pace! When I walked in the door I was not surprised to discover that my wife had turned on the air conditioner for the first time of the summer.

Running to work this morning over the identical route was not much better. I suppose the humidity was slightly lower, but the temperature was still 28 or 29 degrees. That is the thing with Tokyo summer: you don't get that diurnal variation, the slightly cooler morning, that we get in Australia. At four minutes faster overall, the pace was a more respectable 5:09/km. But hang on, at times my heart rate was up around 80%! Certainly rarely less than 77%.  About 30 minutes into the run I stopped for water and just basically took a few minutes break. It was ridiculous how uncomfortable it felt.

Two more months of this? Yuck!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Quick one...

Last night (Wed): 13.2 km

Main component: Mile time trial (5 min 44 sec) followed by 5 times 800 m repeats.
...and was not holding back on those last two, so pretty good set of repeats.

Now about to run home in the sauna that is Tokyo in July.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pesky Germans

I was out there this morning doing the second in my summer series of benchmark runs, just about half way through the crucial measurement lap, when what should happen but I gradually gain on and draw level with Horst, father of Namban junior, Friedrich. I haven't seen him for ages, and his country has just come third in the soccer World Cup, so it would be a bit rude for me to just run ever so slightly away from him. The result is that I do slow a little, and he does speed up a little so we remain together for the rest of the lap, discussing all the what-might-have-beens of the WC. My average heart rate for the lap is 147, or 79% of max compared to last week's 149 (80%). And as a result, the time this week is slower: 4:28/km last week versus 4:37/km this week. So should I chuck that data point down the gurgler?

Well, it got me to thinking about how I could convert these data into some sort of a heart-rate adjusted fitness index. I'm not sure yet if it is valid, so I'll describe what I came up with and see what people think. What I decided to do is divide the number of seconds faster than 5:00 pace by the number of heart beats above 130. So, how many seconds of pace better than 5:00/km do I get per heartbeat above 130 at the given heart rate. Compre? It means if I run at 4:30/km at a heart rate of 160, the index would be 30/30=1sec/hb. But if I became fitter and the pace at 160 heart rate became 4:00/km, then it would be 60/30 = 2 s/hb -- I am now getting two seconds of pace per heart beat over 130. In other words, bigger number means fitter boy. In theory this should help the comparison of numbers like this week and last week, where something went slightly wrong with the pacing.

Well, the index for last week was 1.684 and this week 1.353. So, on both measures, straight pace and heart-rate adjusted fitness index, I did worse this week than last week. Possible reasons include heat/humidity (not much difference), lack of toilet break this week (greater cumulative heat load), total mileage of the week before last (two weeks back I only ran 48 km), or fatigue from last week (circa 85 km). If the last two factors hold true, then next week should show an improvement as response to last week's mileage kicks in. We'll see. I'll show a graph next week.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


I managed to rack up a healthy amount of kilometers (84) this past week. There were 8.5 km home on Thursday night, and 8.8 km back again on Friday morning. I went out for 10 km yesterday morning in the sweltering heat and humidity, and managed to somehow turn it into 14.5 km. I was then lethargic and dopey for the rest of the day, with the most active thing I did being to watch DVDs with Kohta and his four girlfriends that invited themselves round (noisy little critters they were too). Believe me when I tell you that we watched Yellow Submarine, and later, after the girls (fnally) left we watched the Born Free and Living Free couplet. A bit of cultural back tracking.

This morning I was up early enough and got dressed and headed off to Yoyogi Park. After the extra km yesterday, I would have been happy enough with 20 km, but things went alright, if slowly, and I managed to grind out 26 km in 2 hours 29 minutes. But again, the rest of the day was not exactly a picture of energy. I did manage to vacuum the apartment, then it was more DVD watching (My Dog Skip) with the three boys.

Not looking forward to work tomorrow. I have some deadlines on a couple of projects bearing down on me that are raising the stress levels. Several weeks have gone by without enough forward progress, and this week is crunch time. Let's hope this past two days have been a case of re-charging the batteries and steeling the loins for a full-on assault.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I seem to have become a right little regular at the Wednesday night track sessions of late. I do enjoy interval workouts, both for the running and the opportunity to do a bit of socializing. My efforts last night were nothing remarkable. It was 6 by 1000 on a 6:30 cycle, and I did something like 3:43, 3:41, 3:40, 3:34 (oops), 3:40, and 3:37. Maybe a tad on the slow and cruisy side, but still fast enough to have the desired effect I should hope.

A young South Australian, who has come to Japan via a stint in London, joined last night for the first time. He introduced himself by saying, "Hi, I'm Gordon, I have been running for three months and have only done a couple of races. Two months ago I ran the Yokota 5k in 18:01". Running three months? 18:01 5k??  Chatting to him later he also revealed that he ran the London marathon without any training in 3:31. Has this lad got potential or what? Turns out he is really a cyclist and has just come to running because after moving to Japan discovered that there is nowhere to ride (not strictly true, I think the triathletes will sort him out). So that puts a slightly different slant on it. He already has an aerobic base. So it will be interesting to see how much he does improve. Will he go sub 16:00 one day? I think probably yes. I'd say sub 17:00 this coming winter and sub 16:00 the following year. And, if he wants to train up for it, a sub 3-hour marathon on his next outing. Its kind of exciting seeing all that potential right there in front of you.

Mentos and Diet Coke: An experiment in embedding video

This is only worth watching if you enjoy innane frivolity with a science flavour and slight "wow" factor:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Solemnity of the Tuesday Morning Run

There is something about my Tuesday morning run that makes it important to me. It is always a decent distance, usually no less than 12 km, and generally involves a fair whack of it at a heart rate up around 80% of maximum. It makes me feel good to get the running week under way with a nice solid hit out like that (Monday is always a rest day). So if I miss it, well, I kind of miss it. It is a chunk out of the week. Last week I missed it because of the football, and as a result only ended up with 48 km for the week, which felt kind of low, whereas 60 or 62 km would have felt respectable. And the main thing missing was Tuesday.

Anyway, after a bit of recent lethargy and waning motivation, I got out of bed this morning and got into it and ran 14.1 km in 1:06:18 at an average heart rate of 140 (75%max). That was split between the first half being at around 70% and the second half at around 80%.

It occurred to me during the run to adopt this precise run as a sort of standard fitness metric. The routine will be to run to Komazawa Park and run one lap maintaining a heart rate below 75%. Hopefully, somewhere within that time I will get my morning constitutional out of the way (as I did this morning at the end of lap 1). Then on the second lap I will increase the pace to get the heart rate to 80%. Then, the third lap, starting around 39 minutes into the run, will be the metric with the heart rate kept at as close to 80% as possible, speeding up or slowing down as required as slope changes. I will plot the pace for the third lap and track it to see if it changes over the summer. I'll have to record temperature as well. It might make for some interesting data analysis. Here is the first graph (temperature today was 24 degrees and very humid):

Yes, yes, I know there is not much of a trend there just yet, but give it time ;-)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Low-key week and time for a stocktake

Today marks the end of one of my worst running weeks in quite a while...if you measure in total distance and number of runs. There was no particular reason except, oh, the Socceroos keeping me up late one night, too much work on Friday, and today I went off to judge in a home brewing competition (more about this in a separate post soon). I did fit in a 22 km long run in the heat yesterday morning plus two other runs (Wednesday night 14k and Thursday night 12k). With the heat and humidity really setting in now there is not much for it but to slow down and just keep grinding out the sessions. Anyway, I ended up with 48 km from the three runs. Being the end of June, it is useful to do a quick look over the year to date:
Jan: 309
Feb: 210
Mar: 340
Apr: 210
May: 292
June: 241
Total to end June: 1601 km

Races run include:

Jan 15: Shibuya ekiden: Our masters team came second while the other Namban masters came first
Feb 05: Kanagawa half: PB of 82:55 (net time; 83:10 I think was the gun time)
Feb 19: Ome Marathon: Fantastic 30 km race run on Gareth's card...mainly paced Mika and enjoyed the run.
Mar 12: Ohyama Tozan: The 9 km race up a sigmoidal growth curve before the bit where it turns over.
Mar 21: Tamako ekiden: Just a good day out with the club -- no team prizes or personal glory to speak of.
Apr 02: Ome 30km Trail run: First off-road run of any kind. Just over 3 hours and very satisfying run over a rugged course.
Apr 30: Inagi ekiden: My masters team won our division.
May 27: Nippon Koei ekiden: My team came  5th and I got the prize for 2nd fastest overall
My 28: Arakawa ekiden:  Good day out with the club -- no team prizes or personal glory to speak of. Muddy handover area.
Jun 04: Great Nosh Run (15 km off-road run in Sydney): 72:46 ...I think about 40th overall (as sung out as we crossed the line)

I'm pretty happy with this. A good mix of runs done for the experience and a few hard competitive efforts. This is far more races than I have ever run in the first half of the year, mainly because I managed to keep full-scale injury at bay this year, though I have been carrying niggles in the left leg. Who said age shall not weary them?