Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday 31st December: New Years Eve 2006

Summary of Distances (km)
Today: 6 (recovery at average pace of 5:29/km & HR of 129; easy, legs relatively good)
Week: 66
Month: 307
Year: 3580

Overview by Month
Jan 309k Shibuya ekiden; Namban Rengo placed 1st & 2nd (my team) in masters
Feb 210k PB'd half at Kanagawa; ran Ome 30k--a joyous race
Mar 340k Oyama mountain climb; very tough and unique 9 km race + Tamako ekiden
Apr 210k Ome Montrail 30k trail run; one word: hard! But fun! Plus Inagi ekiden; my team first masters
May 292k My company's ekiden; I had the 2nd fastest individual time: 5k in 18:12 Plus Arakawa Ekiden 10k leg in rain and mud
Jun 241k NOSH race in Sydney straight off a plane from Japan: A hard trail 15k in 1:12:58
Jul 223k summer drifting
Aug 234k Fujiyoshida Fire Festival. A funny old race, lots of uphill and lots of downhill. 20k in 1:33:20 -- shame about the hangover
Sep 431k Marathon training
Oct 481k Marathon training
Nov 303k Ohtawara marathon: 3:04:01
Dec 307k Recovery from Ohtawara & trying to start re-building for Tokyo

I have never approached my running by setting rigid plans or goals. I tend to just drift and enter races that come along or set bigger goals (like marathons) with a "just-in-time-delivery" approach. I set time goals based on what condition I'm in coming into a race, not by some kind of long-term absolute objectives (though another sub 18-min 5k would be nice!). At the start of this year I realised that this casual approach had led me to start doing the same races each year, and I decided that in 2006 I wanted to try a few different race experiences. I took on the Ome 30k road race at less than race effort (through lovely countryside and cheering crowds) , Oyama mountain climb, the Ome 30k Montrail trail run (a real eye opener), the Great NOSH in Sydney, and the Fujiyoshida fire festival. No flat, fast efforts these. Great settings and/or wonderful support and each with some unique defining character. So I consider the goal of acquiring some new experiences well and truly achieved.

The Ohtawara marathon was probably my main goal race of the year. It was the fourth time I'd run it and my fifth marathon overall. See the problem? This race is dominating my marathon record and I really want to start changing that. I have memorized all the aid stations and toilet stops and am starting to give nicknames to some of the potholes. It will take a lot to get me to do it next year, though the overnight trip to the Shiobara Onsen is very hard to beat. Perhaps I'll do the 10k and pick another fall marathon. Perhaps. The upcoming Tokyo Marathon Festa is going to make a contribution to balancing out the disproportionate representation of Ohtawara in my marathon record, and yet another different marathn later in the year would help a lot more.

After Tokyo I have no specific racing plans for 2007. Throughout 2006 I have, as this blog attests, struggled with minor niggling injuries to my left leg. A tender achilles, drifting, shooting pains in my rear thigh, and more recently, inflammation of some sort around my knee. I have, in the four and a half years since I started running, been a pretty low-maintenance sort of runner. No massages, except what I can do myself, no visits to the physio, no personal trainer or gym-based strengthening programs, no yoga. I don't have any particular pride about this; it is mainly a function of a lack of spare cash and time. In fact, it is really catching up with me and 2007 is the year to start addressing these niggling injuries.

But for now, my aims are to keep beating to windward, torn mainsail and all, and just get through Tokyo as best I can. I want to enjoy the race and the occasion, but also record a respectable time. Sub 3 hours is probably out of the question, but I will take the training one day, one week at a time and see what happens. After that, perhaps some time off or easing right back, some treatment for the legs and lower back, maybe have my biomechanics checked out, and just focus on recovery. If all comes good, I will probably have to go back to a period of base building, then, whether I do another marathon or not, I'm not prepared to say right now. Maybe I'll focus on reducing my 5k and 10k times.

So, that's 2006 in review and 2007 in preview to the extent that I am able. It is 15 minutes to midnight in Japan, so it would seem the only thing left to do is to say thanks to all who have stayed with the blog this year and lent their support, both in comments and through private email. May we all have successful years in 2007, and above all else, let's not forget why we run: because we can!


Saturday, December 30, 2006

A week of recovery

Last Sunday I fought the root and the root won, forcing me into a layoff from running on Monday and Tuesday. The thigh was very sore and I was limping on Monday and Tuesday, much less so on Wednesday. On Tuesday morning I went to the gym and divided an hour between the bike and X-trainer (perhaps aka an elliptical trainer). I much prefer the X-trainer to the bike. Getting the heart rate up to a respectable level on the bike causes a sort of burning in the butt. Not the most pleasant of sensations. However I will persist with it in measured doses to see if my butt becomes conditioned to the stress that biking places on it. The other painful thing was that I couldn't get the little personalized TV on the bike to work. Apparently the volume button is a poor substitute for the power button.

On Wednesday evening I went to the track to make my first attempt at running. It went alright. I kept my ambitions very low and just toddled around at whatever pace felt tolerable. I ended up chalking up 11 km, so it wasn't too bad. I think it was good for the leg too as I was much less sore on Thursday.

Thursday. Last day of work before a week's break for New Year holidays. I resolved to give the leg(s) another day of rest from running, but hit the gym again in the afternoon prior to our office break-up party (pizza, sushi, and beer; what more could you ask for? What's that? Yakitori you say? Yes, there was some of that too). The biggest achievement in the gym was that I worked out which button made the TV work. Yaay. But alas, if only there were something worth watching. I did 20 minutes on the bike, 25 minutes on the X-trainer, and about 12 minutes ( 2.3 km) on the treadmill. I know I said no running, but I couldn't help myself.

Friday. Home on holiday I started off by sleeping about 12 hours. Lounged around with the family for an hour or two and then finally headed out for a run. The program I had made up last Saturday night (the night before the fall) scheduled 14 km with 3 x 1600 m intervals. Now, this schedule was put together to try and give my knee a better chance of recovery by cutting some days of running, mainly the shorter runs, to have three key running workouts per week: a long run on Sunday, a longish upper aerobic (race pace) run on Wednesday night, and long intervals or a tempo run on Fridays. The other days would be spent in rest or at the gym. I don't know if it will work or not but it is worth a try. Anyway, I ran to my nearest park that has a running course and being not too hampered by the leg launched into the 3 x 1600s with 500 m jog recovery. It was a bit taxing running hard after such a break, but I kept the level of effort within reasonable limits and was pleased with the times of 6:07, 6:04, and 6:07.

Saturday (today). Well, after that reasonably hard run yesterday, it was always going to be tough heading out today for a long run. But head out for a long run I did. I left home at 7:15 am. It was a bright, fine morning, but very cool or cold, depending on your standards. I guess it  was about 2 or 3 degrees. I ran to Tamagawa (Tama river) and turned left until the pedometer registered 15 km, just short of Gas Bashi, for those that know it. It had been very comfortable and I'd been motoring along at a bit better that 5 minutes per km most of the time. As soon as I turned around I discovered why it had been so easy; I had a tailwind! Which is what I now had to run back into. A stiff, bitingly cold  headwind. The next 8 km back to where I could turn out of the wind were some of the hardest kilometers I've ever run. My legs were stiff and yapping with little and not so little pains.  I was struggling to keep a pace above 5:20/km.  It was hard work, but I slogged away and eventually turned right and had a reasonably straightforward, if somewhat fatigued, 7-km run home. Taking out a few stops (toilet, drink), I managed 30.75 km (according to the footpod) in 2 hours 39 min. 30 sec. It was a very tough run actually, being a slightly faster pace than a lot of my long runs and the longest I've run since the marathon five weeks ago. But with Tokyo only 49 days away, it was a run I had to do.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rooted for Christmas

Last post saw me cursing about an overuse injury. As foreshadowed in that post, I gave it the royal treatment with rest, stretching, self massage and anti-inflammataries. I also had a session in a gym that gave me confidence that I could substitute some running with gym machines and swimming.

By Saturday night the leg was feeling pretty good and I felt confident that it would stand up to a trail run being organized by Jay from Namban. I had a quick chat with my supportive wife and she sent me off with her blessing (well, a kind of through-clenched-teeth blessing, but you take what you can get).

The photo shows that it was an absolutely beautiful, though crisp, day out in western Tokyo. By the way, that is still technically Tokyo that we are standing in despite the mountainous and forested surroundings. Note also the prominent snow-capped peak in the background. I'd tell you its name if only I could remember it! I wonder if you can help me...

Well, the trails were firm, the company was good. The christmas carols on the uphills not quite so good as nobody could remember enough words, though Mika was in pretty good voice on some of the downhill sections -- the tunes were familiar, but I could swear she was singing in Japanese. Who would have thought there was a Japanese version of "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer!" Well, I can now assure you there is.

In many parts of the trail, there were countless erosion-exposed roots of the surrounding sugi trees. Just as I was thinking what a sure-footed fellow I am, my foot caught one. I lurched, regained my balance, then came to a short sharp drop that threw me off balance again, but after a fight with gravity, eventually came back to a safe equilibrium with dignity mostly intact. Phew, close call. My running partners said it was an impressive performance over a good ten or fifteen metres; something to rival the Bolshoy (what was that about dignity?)

Well, we were then discussing our various past near misses and mishaps and how you always have falls just when you think how clever you are...and then bang, my foot caught another tree root and this time there was no chance to recover. Hit the ground like a sack of spuds. I rolled nicely and, again, my pals said it was quite a good visual display. I would have got out of it unscathed but for a vicious tree root to the thigh on initial impact. After a bit of a stop I was able to continue, but the damn thing was bloody sore, and for the rest of the run it was quite a challenge to keep up with people I would be normally galloping ahead of. Today I am sporting a classic corked thigh that is helping me relive some of the least pleasant moments of my rugby league playing days. It was quite a hobble to the train station this morning. So if anybody has tips on how to quickly recover from a corked thigh, I'm all ears. At least it has given me something to take my mind off the knee niggle.

When I got home I showered and applied ice to the injury and then joined the wife in completing preparations for our Christmas dinner. We had a friend and her daughter over for traditional roast chicken (my job was stuffing and roasting the birds) with a mix of traditional (peas, carrots, gravy) and not so traditional (chips, egg salad) accompaniments. Afterwards we did our presents (Xmas day here, today, is just business as usual) and there were some smiling faces with a Play Station Portable, a Creative Zen V Plus, Buffalo Air Station for the Nintendo DS...and I think there was even some stuff for the kids too ;-) I scored a nice looking backpack for running and my wife got an o-cha pot and cups decorated with images of Totoro, her favourite character.

Well fed and with a few drinks through the evening and a body weary from the 24 km of trails, I ran out of steam at 11:00, and, once asleep, enjoyed the sleep of a dead guy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Things not quite tickety boo

Well, I don't like to be a grizzle-guts, so I haven't said much lately. Things were kind of going along OK last week. I did an upper aerobic run in the park on the Wednesday night, then a rest on Thursday, partly enforced by a year-end party. Then I ran home on Friday night and had a couple of 5 km runs Saturday. So that was all going alright. Then on Sunday morning it was supposed to be the Magical Mystery Tour. Due to some sudden family issues I wasn't able to join that, but could squeeze in 18 km at a reasonable pace. During that run in particular, my old knee(?) niggle flared up. The one I'd moaned about prior to Ohtawara but managed to just keep under control. I had to run back to work on Monday morning (see above re: the previous Friday night) and it hurt during that run. So then I rested it Tuesday and tried to run again last night. But bugger me, it is still sore. I ran six km of warm-up and started the interval session but had to quit. It is such a bummer because apart from this I am running the faster stuff really well and things would be right on track to do a few more speed sessions before going back to strength and endurance.

Change of plans needed. It isn't a joint problem, so that is one thing in my favour. It is in the fleshy/tendony area at the rear and above my knee. So kind of below the hamstring and to the medial (inside) side. I think it is a tendon inflammation type of thing and it may even be related to my lower back issues. So I am thinking very seriously now, if I can get a release of funding, to visit a chiro-cum-acupuncture dude whose clinic is not far from where I work. At 6,000 yen (A$70) a pop it isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than the 12,000 yen (A$135) a pop for an Australian physiotherapist practising in this city (growing fat off the back of well-insured expatriates).

At the same time, my company has soome vouchers to a sports club near the train station I use, so I am thinking of seeing whether I can cut back to three runs per week and then spend a couple of sessions on the stationary bike, pool and weights. It might at least let me get through Tokyo. I am sure this puts paid to my hopes of raising the level of training to be able to run a really good time at Tokyo. But that's OK, it is more important to me to run it than to run a record time.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Falling behind...

I'm having trouble even keeping my running log up to date let alone my running blog...

Had a good hard aerobic run of 15 km on Wednesday night. Nothing on Thursday due to work commitments, which included a bit of a drink in the evening with a committee of engineers I have been doing an editing job for. Turned out the chairman of the committe had just run his first marathon (Honolulu of course), so we had a bit to chat about as the sake flowed...

Hung over on Friday morning but ran about 15 km in the evening including some fartleks. Then two 5-km runs today to and from my mate's place to so some beer bottling. Then Christmas shopping this afternoon ... oops there goes the bank balance.

Tomorrow we are doing a Magical Mystery Tour 30 km run around the streets of Tokyo. About ten or eleven people have signed up, but only Gareth and I know the course (and only Gareth really knows .. I just have a rough idea.)

I have recently discovered this guy, Mr Keb Mo... a modern day bluesman in the Robert Johnson mould. I hope you enjoy his music. I certainly do.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Wisdom of Nic Bideau

Nic Bideau is an Australian athletics coach who used to coach "our" Cathy and currently coaches our Buster and our Benita.

Thanks to a heads-up from Ewen, I came across a nice overview article by Bideau called“Coaching Middle and Long Distance Runners" that was reproduced from Modern Athlete and Coach (with permission) on Speedy Geoff's blog. As Speedy Geoff published it in parts over several posts, and as with all blogs the most recent post appears at the top, it is a bit hard to follow, so I have decided to set out links here to each of the parts in the order that they should be read.

Here it is:
Regular long runs
Fast distance runs at around the anaerobic threshold
Intervals or repetition work (I found this the most useful)
Speed work
Recovery runs
Gym sessions

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Training for Tokyo has started

So, this morning I got up and did my first official Tokyo Marathon-oriented training run. I really should make a formal program I suppose, but the idea is to do several weeks in which there are are a couple of speed sessions per week before going back to three or four volume-oriented weeks that will include some longish marathon-pace runs and a half marathon (Shinjuku City, 28 January). If my body holds up.

This morning I ran 14 km all up, with six km in Komazawa Park being a speedwork session. I did seven times 400 m with a fairly long jog recovery, 1:30 to 3:00 minutes, between each one, so it was actually a little bit like a fartlek. The times for the 400-m efforts were a little uneven, but the course has some undulations and I have never done a string of 400s before, so probably OK. The times were: 84s, 80s, 80s, 80s, 75s, 81s, 76s. McMillan says I should be doing them in 79s to 84s (which I forgot to look up beforehand), so I guess it was about right.

A bit of running, the partner race, and our year-end party

It's time I updated. Life seems to be getting the better of me lately and the days between posts seem to mount.

I didn't do anything very exciting late last week. Just a steady 10-km on Thursday night to run home, similar return journey to work the next day. I regarded it as still a marathon recovery week, but getting towards the end of that.

On Saturday it was the Namban Rengo bonenkai (year-end party). I got the job of organising a pre-party race. The format was a partner race. Each person had to have a nominated time (not necessarily a flat-out time, anything would do) and attempt to run as close to that as possible, but without wearing a watch. The partner with the faster nominated time would start after the one with the slower time by an amount equal to the difference in their nominated times. So all the slower time runners started together and then the faster one started afterwards as the necessary time difference elapsed. In theory, if they ran to their nominated paces, the faster partner would catch the slower one just before the finish. And to make it interesting, the two partners had to finish together, so if one person screwed up their pace, it could affect both partners.

Anyway, on the day the weather was pretty bad. Very cold and light drizzly rain. We wavered between cancelling or not, but eventually went ahead despite losing a few wumps (that's "wimp" in Kiwi, eh Jason?). It really was cold, damp, and gloomy. This photo from Rie's blog would give you some idea (though Brett was the only one mad enough to wear shorts -- he is Canadian after all). Unbelievably there were some people doing a 24-hour race on the course we were running on! I was glad to be us and not them.

The winner of our little event was our club captain, Bob, and his partner (for the day) Ken. Actually they were the only pair to both have the same target time. Ideally that shouldn't happen, but it was so damn cold that when the random draw threw up that matchup, we weren't going to muck around trying to fix it. They nominated 5:00/km (for the 6.6 km distance) and finished within six seconds of their nominated time, that's a deviation of just 1 sec/km. Pretty darn good. I nominated 4 min/km (to provide a reasonable approximation of a tempo run) and my partner was 4:30. I caught him about half way through the last lap (it was five laps of a 1.33-km loop) and we ran the rest at about my pace. We ended up being 3 seconds per km out which put us in third place (out of eight teams). I'm not even sure if we were fast or slow, but I was happy enough with the result.

The party went very well. "A blast" would not be an unfair description. There were about 60 people and we held it in a large private apartment and ordered pizza, sushi and copious Yona Yona (beer) and wine etc...

Despite getting fairly happy at the party and home at about 1:15 am, I still managed to get out for a long run the next day, though not until 11:00, clocking up 23 km in just on 2 hours.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I like 1-km intervals

While I am still regarding this week as part of the reverse taper after Ohtawara, I wanted to do the Namban Rengo workout last night. The first Wednesday of the month is 1-km intervals (or 800-m should you so choose). This is my favourite interval workout for reasons I am not sure of. Maybe it is the simple maths, and ease of getting your head around the times, splits, and run versus rest cycle. Or maybe it is because this was the very first type of workout I did the first night I came to a Namban Rengo track workout. Anyway, I like 'em.

And last night I found myself as the most senior member of the group and had to lead the workout, which I certainly didn't mind doing. Juergen turned up later and helped with timing -- he had been detained for several hours of interrogation by the finest of Japan's police force for riding a bicycle not registered in his name (following a random check).

Anyway, I had a nice set of repeats last night: 3:35, 3:31, 3:28, 3:29, 3:25, and 3:30. I'm not sure what got into me on that second last one, but it felt nice to run that fast. I felt a little bit sore in the left lower calf after that and backed off on the last one, but was surprised that it still ended up at 3:30. I'd have to go back through my records, but I think that an average repeat of 3:30 would have to be close to the fastest I've ever done for this workout. It suggests that the fitness is there, but has been masked by fatigue from marathon training, and that perhaps the marathon itself was run with too much residual fatigue, OR that I am overcoming this digestion problem that I suspect had a little bit to do with me running out of steam in the marathon. Anyway, from next week I'll be doing more speedwork sessions as a part of my training strategy for Tokyo...

Monday, December 04, 2006

A brief update

The scare with my lower left leg has passed. I ran an easy 10 km with friends on Friday night and while the tenderness appeared, it wasn't very bad. Another 10 km on Saturday afternoon, some of it at around 4:30 to 4:40/km and again, no problems. Then Sunday I faced up to the ritual of the long run with the ambitious plan of perhaps racking up a mighty 15 km. I was happy to knock over a leisurely 20k in 1 hour 47 min and no sign of injuries (though my lower back was a bit stiff from a day of brewing on Saturday).

The pins are now feeling pretty good, but I will still not push the issue this week. Just try to get in some modest aerobic distance while joining the 6 x 1000s on Wednesday night. No ambitious mileage targets. We have our club bonnenkai (year-end party) on Saturday and I will be helping organise an "Inspire Your Partner" race to precede the party. More on that later.