Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Training in my sleep

Just for something completely different, here is a post about not running. Not a non-running post, a not-running post.

Tonight is the monthly 5k time trial, so what I'd hoped to do is get up this morning and take my 20-km mid-week IV drip of aerobic goodness and then back up at the track tonight for the time trial. That's how good I'm feeling at the moment.

But sadly, last night I couldn't get out of the office until 10:30. I was home by 11:15 and fed by 11:40 or so, but feeling pretty tired.

Climbing into the farter at midnight, looking down the barrel of waking up five hours later to run 20 odd km...I thought, nup, I think it would be far better for my body to take an extra two hours sleep, move the 20k run to this evening, and toss the time trial out the window. So that's what I plan to do.

Now wasn't that a fascinating training session!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More good omens

Not so much omens and woo woo as hard, clear data. For the fourth consecutive week I did the 80% of HRmax pace test.

Last week I was over the moon that the third lap, the test lap, was in 9:03. This morning I actually had to work like crazy on the pace-up lap just to get my heart rate anywhere near 149. Finally by the start of the measurement lap, which is on a slight uphill, I was able to get up to the target of 149. On this uphill section in previous my heart rate would easily creep up to 151 before I would have to adjust; today it only made it to 150 and then the slightest of easing would halt the increase and soon get it back to 149, or 148, or 147...I had to be really careful or it would just start dropping. And this was going uphill.

The time for the lap: 8:51 ... that's bloody 4:07/km!! There is no conclusion to be drawn from this other than that long, hard aerobic runs are just a veritable pot of training gold. My Tuesday and Wednesday runs over the past three or four weeks have really paid off in aerobic endurance. The comfort at a stiff pace in the race on Sunday was very real. And speaking of that, I felt absolutely no fatigue or soreness from the race until about 12 km into today's run. At this point I had to decide whether to do another lap of the park (that would result in over 18 km for the run) or head home. I was a bit torn, but was feeling that my legs were definitely not real happy about the pace we'd been running. I took that as a sign not to overdo it and pointed the pony for home. I still managed a reasonably fast park to home leg, but had to crack the whip to keep the legs turning over as they were definitely interested in a more relaxed pace.

This certainly bodes well for Tokyo, but still leaves me with a bit of head scratching to do. In particular, the sense of being underdone for genuine long runs. I could squeeze in a run of about 30-33 km this coming weekend, leaving 14 days for recovery, or just keep churning out as many of these 16 to 22 km aerobic runs as possible. It is also going to make a pacing strategy interesting. I am definitely fit enough now to be able to confidently go out at 4:10 to 4:15/km pace and hold it long into the race...but for just how long? And how bad will be the fade? I really want to avoid another fade of Ohtawara-esque proportions, so am inclined to try and be more conservative and feel relatively fresh coming into 30 km. Well, I suppsoe these are good problems to have. Better than worrying about how to optimize a running/cross training regimen that could get me to the start line of the marathon, which is where I was at only a little over a month ago.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Shinjuku Half

I felt very relaxed about the Shinjuku half today. I decided I'd run it hard, but not aggressively. I think of aggresive as when you go at a pace that you really honestly don't think you can hold, but if all goes well, somehow you do, or close enough to end up with a great time. A couple of people asked me what my goal time was and I truthfully said I really didn't know but would be happy with anything under 85 minutes.

The race started and finished on the running track of the national stadium. Oh my, it was so crowded. And that was the theme of the day. I got with an audacious group of Nambanners right up near the front in the 1:15 to 1:25 group.  Even so, it was a very slow start, and those that started further back later said that, for them, during the first kilometer "running was optional". I was able to get up to a steady pace after four or five minutes and eventually went through the first 5 km in 20:43. Not bad considering the slow start. And I figured I wasn't too much slower than 4:00 pace, but feeling fairly comfortable. The course consisted of four loops around the local area, and during the first loop we got, as a special treat, to run through a road tunnel. Yippeee!

The second 5 km split was 20:09, so tracking nicely. Still felt hard but comfortable. I had picked up a passenger too, a young chap named Christian who spoke to me at the starting line and had decided that I seemed "experienced" and he would try to stay with me for as long as possible -- his goal was to finish under 90 minutes. He was still there at 12 km but somewhere after that dropped off.

The 10 to 15k split came up in exactly 20:00.2 minutes. Somewhere around here things got ugly as the multiple loops meant we were running through the back markers, and in places we had a total of one traffic lane of space. Mostly there was a way through, but there would always be the odd dimwit who would stray over to the right and block the path prompting me to have to yell for them to make an opening. One guy did it wearing earphones and couldn't hear the call, so when I went through I tapped him on the shoulder to make a point. Probably not really the right thing to do, but the point is it was pretty frustrating because actually I was building up pace and feeling strong and wanting to really bring it home.

Anyway, I hit the 20 km mark with a 19:32 split. So, yes, I really had been building up. Then I had another curse-fest as there was a point after the 20 k mark where you had to leave the main course and head back to the stadium. Only it was just after a drink station so all the slower runners on their third lap were obscuring the exit point and the marshals were doing an awful job -- the exit lane wasn't even marked with cones or anything...blah! I wasn't the only one who missed the turnoff. I realized something was wrong pretty quickly and cut back across to the right course, but I reckon it cost me at least 20 seconds, and it also broke my rhythm and concentration so that I probably just coasted home instead of building to the big finish, so maybe it cost a few more seconds. So the final 1.1 km was 4:29 for a final gun time of: 84:56!!  Exactly 4 seconds off my estimate. Not bad eh!  And I was pleased that each successive 5k split was faster than the previous.

A very nice postscript was that young Christian came in under his goal of 90 minutes. I think we have added a new Nambanner to the ranks!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Busy couple of days

My last training entry was for Thursday morning. Here we are Saturday and I have had three runs since that post. I ran about 11.5 km around the Imperial Palace on Thursday evening at a fairly easy to moderate pace.

Had a sleep-in until 6:45 on Friday morning and then joined a few Namban friends last night at the Palace again. I ran three and a bit laps for a total of 18.5 km. The first 5k was just a nice steady pace around 4:50/km. The second lap I kicked it down a gear and averaged about 4:20/km for an average heart rate of 148(80%). At the start of the third lap I was joined by TRD and shortly after Motozo and they pushed me along for a slightly faster lap and an average heart rate of 151(81%). So this was a good upper aerobic run. It felt a bit harder than that pace has been at other times this week. So I think some accumulated fatigue is there even though I am recovering quickly and feeling pretty good during the day. So this morning I just got out for an easy 7 km. My average heart rate was only 128(69%) for that run, but on three occasions I accelerated up to top pace over a distance of 100-m or so.

I have a half marathon tomorrow. Shinjuku City. I haven't even mentioned it to now because it is not really a target race. I entered it because I thought it was a good proximity to Tokyo for a nice fast tune-up. I am partly regretting it because the leg troubles and then Shibuya ekiden last week meant that I haven't done as many long runs as I would have liked. And tomorrow is about the last chance. Still, I am in for a penny in for a pound. Let's see what happens. If I feel up to it I might do a further slow 10 km after the race. Could be tough.

I haven't filled my log in for days but I must be already up to about 90 km for the week.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sayonara baby!

Thanks for all the kind comments on Tatsuya. We saw him off last night. It might have been more emotional for us if his 24 current and former schoolmates hadn't shown up at the airport! We could have got a good game of touchy footy or cricket going. Half the kids, even the boys were bawling (actually I don't think the girls were!) He lost it a bit giving everyone a hug goodbye, and I suppose it must have hit home to him as hard as it possibly could that he is very popular and greatly loved here. Let's hope the quiet and lonely first few weeks in Australia aren't too hard. I had a long hug with him and let him have a good cry. I told him to be strong. He said he was. Told him to sieze this opportunity with two hands and use it to forge his identity as being firmly of two countries and two cultures. Not half Japanese and half Australian, but fully Australian and fully Japanese. He said he would. I was so impressed by the words from the Prophet I posted yesterday. So I told him that Mum and I are just a bow, and you are the arrow, and now we are releasing you to fly straight and true and make your mark in the world. He nodded, and I think he understood.

For a laugh, you might want to try looking at the boys' blog when run through Google translator. Don't ask me to explain!

Three in a row

Today was the third day in a row that I was up for a run with less than seven hours sleep under my belt. After getting back from the airport at getting on for 10:00pm it was time for a snack (fish & a rice ball) and a beer and check emails before getting to bed around 11:30. Set the alarm for 5:30 and managed to prise myself out. I want to run twice today so decided not to head off on the 4-km jaunt to Komazawa park. Instead I set out to run three or four "post-office loops", a 3.3-km circuit course from my home that takes me past Meguro Post Office. At first I was thinking of doing one lap easy, one hard, one easy, one hard. But that just didn't seem very attractive, so I decided to try and run a progressive pace. It went pretty well actually, especially the relatively low heart rate for the pace of the last two laps. All up, 13.3 km in 0:58:45 for an average heart rate of 142 (76%). Here are the lap data:
Lap time Ave pace Ave HR(%max)
0:17:01 0:05:09 123 (66)
0:14:35 0:04:25 140 (75)
0:13:43 0:04:09 151 (81)
0:13:17 0:04:02 158 (85)
It was hard work keeping that kind of pace on the last lap, particularly because a little brown skin diver was knocking on the escape hatch.

Tonight's run will just be an easy 10k. The leg is feeling pretty good, as in not hurting much.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A rare Wednesday morning run

With the airport trip tonight I won't be doing my usual Wednesday run in the park with Namban mates. So I got up early and headed out for a mid-week kinda long run (as Hal Higdon calls them). It wasn't quite as intense as the ones with Adam last week and the week before, but I still ran much of the second half at a heart rate up near 150 and pace between 4:10/km and 4:20/km. The averages are dragged down by the easy cool down.
Total distance: 22.3 km (week to date: 41 km)
Time: 1:40:10
Average HR: 140
Average pace: 4:30/km

Your children are not your children

Tatsuya will be leaving tonight to start year 11 in Australia and we head out to the airport with him later this afternoon. I mentioned to a friend yesterday that this would be just a little gut-wrenching (if gut-wrenching comes in degrees). It prompted him to send me an excerpt from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It echoed what I already hold to be true, but I just thought it was worth posting as I prepare to see off my eldest. It seems it was only a few days ago that I pulled into a shop in Military Road on my way home from Royal North Shore and bought a teddy bear for my newly born son (the very same bear my wife discovered a few moments ago in his hand luggage!). Anyway, here is the passage from the Prophet

Chapter 3 Children
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


TRD put up a lovely little post that I think you all should see for the quote about the greatest compliment that can be paid to a distance runner. It is so true and gives us all something to aim for apart from raw speed and clock times.

Which kind of makes me want to buy this book...


I'm feeling a bit down on myself about food. I have been eating far too many empty calories. Breakfast is alright...usually meusli, sometimes of late porridge. Lunch is alright...usually a tomato, cheese & lettuce sandwich and soup. Dinner itself is usually quite good, but often due to my our hectic lifestyles, especially on weekends, can be just rice and a piece of fish/meat, not much in the way of vegetables. But my dinner serving isn't much bigger than what the kids eat. And if it is bigger it is mainly by having more rice. So, for those that are doing some quick calorific accounting, you will realise this isn't really enough calories to sustain someone training for a marathon. The problem is, I top up with shit. Chocolates and cookies (bikkies) at work, maybe some chips on the way home. I keep telling myself to quit and buy something healthy instead. What I mean by healthy is simply something with some vitamins and minerals, maybe even some protein, for much the same kind of calorific value as the other rubbish. I'm sure it would help my energy levels and overall well-being if I could cram in a few more vitamins etc. The main impediments are laziness (to get up and pop out to the convenience store or getting organized), stinginess (I would have to pay out of my own limited pocket-money), and self-gratification (I actually do like the naughty foods, especially chippies and chockies, so it is kind of a comfort food I guess...but totally unecessary!)

I wonder if anyone else can identify? Anyway, I hope this post gives me the impetus to start doing something about this. In any case, I must try to eat more natto, even if it doesn't help you lose weight after all.


This morning's run bears testament to the oft-quoted line that it takes two weeks for a training stimulus to show up in your physiology. Yep, the old heart rate test again.

The protocol in brief for those who come in late: third lap of Komazawa Park, first lap at around 138 to 143 HR, then second lap getting the HR up to 149, then the third lap is the comparison lap.

Two weeks ago the time of the third lap was 9:15 (4:18/km) and that marked the first measure after I had really started to pick the training load back up following the knee soreness. Then last week the lap time was 9:23 (4:22/km), which might have been discouraging if I were not a man of great patience and forbearing. And today, ta-daaaahhh ... 9:03 for 4:13/km! Yeeeahhyy!! It might have been exaggerated slightly by the fact that partway through the second lap I had to stop and tie my shoelace, thus giving the cardio system some recovery time. But still, I had a sense right from the get go this morning that my aerobic system was in pretty good shape as I felt I was putting in quite some effort with the legs, and the pace was reflecting that on my watch, and yet I was breathing easily.

So things are coming together on the general aerobic fitness front. Endurance is going to be another thing as I feel a bit underdone for long runs. Never mind, at least I'm getting to a point of developing enough confidence to have a go.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New Shibuya Ekiden, 2007

The shibuya Ekiden changed its location this year from Oda athletic track and surrounds to inside Yoyogi Park. Each leg is 2.8 km. The Ekiden is for the community of Shibuya Ward, and since Namban Rengo's registered address is in Shibuya, we attend each year. Our numbers have really taken a bit of a jump lately, I suppose with a peak of interest in running due to the Tokyo Marathon and a bit of a raised profile for us.

So today we had more teams than ever before: 8 open mens, 3 masters mens, and 6 womens. Our top teams won the open mens (Gordon finally making it to the starting line and having a good run and Brett running with a broken toe) and womens divisions. Seeing Mika sprinting her guts out to catch a junior high school boy right at the end of the women's victory was a marvellous sight.

I was in the so-called masters A team. Our masters B team kicked our butts for three legs, and then poor Gareth, who had been unfairly drafted into the anchor position of Team B by the dastardly GPAA, was never going to hold off the flying Juergen. But alas, there was one team ahead of both of us, our arch enemies, the Shibuya Police. So we got 2nd and our Masters B came third, so not a bad effort overall. I was pretty happy with my run of 9:46 (3:29/km) on that fairly tight little course. A number of people said they thought the course was a bit short, and now that I think about it, I don't think I could have averaged 3:29 with all those twists and turns. Still, I know I worked very hard and was breathing like a steam train, so who knows...all I know is I ran hard and was happy enough with the result.

Due to family and some work commitments I wasn't able to get a long run in yesterday and had to settle for a squeezed-in 10k. So after the ekiden a group of us did not hang around but stowed bags in lockers at the nearest subway station (Harajuku) and ran to the Imperial Palace for a couple of laps and back to Harajuku for a 20 km run. With 5 km warmup before the race and the race itself and a few other odds and bobs I recorded about 31 km for the day, but not exactly comparable to a continuous 31 km. I was tired afterwards though!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Six-minutes times five

I took advantage of the fact that I am alone in the office today to slip out for a midday run. I ran to the Imperial Palace, hitting the course at Hanzomon, and then continued down to Sakuradamon at easy pace. I then hit the split button and took off running at long interval/hard tempo pace, aka cruise intervals. Rather than run mile repeats and record the time, I decided to make use of the footpod and ran for precisely six minutes with three minutes recovery. McMillan says my mile cruise intervals should be in 5:56 to 6:04 minutes. While it is a bit meaningless because of differences in terrain, the distances recorded for the six-minute efforts were: 1.56km (flat), 1.51km (uphill), 1.6 km (downhill), 1.44 km (flat + uphill), 1.49 km (flat & downhill). The pace readout showed zero a few times during the last two reps, so if the pod and watch were having trouble talking the distance might be underestimated slightly. But maybe not...

This was an interesting workout because it required a different mental approach. It seemed somehow harder thinking about how long I had to go rather than how far I had to go.
Total distance for the run: 14.6 km
Average heart rate: 141 (76%)
Maximum heart rate: 166 (89%)

It is the Shibuya Ekiden on Sunday. Many of us are anxious about when to do our long runs. The ekiden legs are only about 3 km, so it is a little bit of a hassle to be honest. Some people will do long runs after the ekiden. If I can find the time, I think I'll do mine tomorrow and then just take things pretty easy on Sunday (apart from the 3 km blast).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What doesn't kill me...

Got out for a "recovery" run today lunchtime. I headed from my office over to Gosho (the Imperial Guesthouse). I just ran at a relaxed pace, which began at around 5:00/km and peaked at around 4:40/km. Oh, there was that one little downhill where I let fly for 100 m or so and smiled as I saw the pace readout on my watch say 3:09/km. Ha ha ... it was fun. It would have truly been a nice recovery run if I'd stopped at two laps (around 8 km total). But no, I had to go and run another lap didn't I. No damage or anything, but with 11.4 km all up I am feeling a little more fatigued now than I should be (but think of the adddition to the weekly mileage!)

I also spent a bit of time wrassling with Bloglines and learned how to add a Blogroll, which you should now see over at the right. It lists all the Namban Rengo bloggers. Please let me know if you notice any omissions.

More hard aerobic

Last night, Wednesday, I had very similar workout to last week: 5 km of warm up followed by eight hard-aerobic laps of the 1.9-km loop in Yoyogi Park. The average pace per km of each lap after the warm up, comparing last week and this week, were as follows:
This week: 4:29, 4:24, 4:21, 4:20, 4:19, 4:14, 4:09, 4:05
Last week: 4:23, 4:21, 4:20, 4:20, 4:16, 4:14, 4:12, 4:12

Slower at the start than last week, consolidated to about the same in the middle, but then finished quite a bit harder last night. It felt it too. Actually, I didn't feel that great and was a bit dissapointed with how it was unfolding around lap four or five. That sort of spurred me to try and lift the effort a bit and resulted in the last two faster laps.

I did the workout with young Adam. He is a relatively new runner, joining us perhaps seven or eight months ago, and is now powering towards a great debut at Tokyo. Both last night and last week he gradually pulled away from me after the first few laps. He is actually a chance to break three hours on debut, but I fear he will not have the necessary long runs in his legs to hold pace through the final 7 km. It will be very interesting to see how he goes. Mika and Paddy also joined us for about four laps before dropping off to run at a more sensible pace. Paddy was far and away our club's most improved runner of 2006, and considering where he has come from, the fact he was running fairly easily with us at that pace last night was awesome. If his creaky knee holds out he is primed for another great PB at Tokyo (and if the crowds don't get us).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No need to panic

Bit of a steady-as-she-goes day today. I basically did exactly the same run as last Tuesday except that I added a fourth lap of the park to make it 16 km instead of 14 km. I ran the first three laps according to the heart rate protocol as per last week. Last week the third lap averaged 4:18/km and this week...4.22/km! Gack! Backwards. The average heart rates were identical. I suppose it could be random variation caused by being slightly under or over pace on different parts of the course than last week, or it might be a function of the relatively hard week last week. I'm inclined to think the latter. But the legs were quite good so you are not hearing any complaints. But if next week is also slow you might! I also did the hard finish again and the return leg from the park to home was slower than last week by ten seconds or so.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Penn and Teller on Physical Fitness

Kevin Beck has embedded a video clip of a pretty funny take on something that I would hope you already know. For your discretion, the clip is about 27 minutes long and contains some strong language.  As Kevin mentions in comments, the genetic predisposition line is over-simplified by Penn & Teller, but it is still an amusing look at the diet and fitness industries.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

One down, two to go

I asked for three good weeks and the running fairy says she granted them to me. She has been good to her word for the first one. After the 16km on Friday I had a nice 12-k run yesterday morning at mainly steady pace, but I also wended my way to my favourite 350-m hill and did six repeats. Instead of running up really hard and jogging slowly back down, I ran up at about tempo pace and then turned and ran back down fast and recovered at the bottom. Tokyo has 5 km of downhill at the start, you see, so I figure that some fast downhill running in the legs won't go astray.

Today I went to Yoyogi Park and ran 36 km in 3:03:15. There were some slow stretches in there disguising the substantial portion late in the run at under 4:40/km pace, and even a good bit at sub 4:30/km pace. Of course this is all pretty pedestrian compared to what some people do on their days off.

Still, that gave me 108 km for the week. Nothing to complain about for a broken down old man who only has one leg.

After the run we had a very enjoyable (read boozy) lunch at La Verdy in Shinjuku to celebrate the 53rd birthdays of my two goodest friends, Colin and Gareth. Happy birthday fellas!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

What are the good places in Brisbane to live for runners?

I know at least two of my beloved readers live in Brisbane. Maybe there are some other Brisbane-based lurkers. Anyway, a great friend from the running club needs some advice. She is moving to Australia at the end of February (a week after she runs Tokyo Marathon in fact). She is from the UK and has scored a permanent residence visa to Oz and basically it is a blank slate for her. If she followed the easy road, she has some friends in Sydney and could start off there. But my counsel has been, no, Sydney is a den of iniquity and as expensive as all get out. You want to follow the sun. Southeast Qld is a growth center, land of opportunity, and a pretty darn nice part of the world (you are hearing a born and bred cockroach swallowing his pride here). Carol's qualifications are in accounting, so she probably needs to head to a large center to pursue career opportunities; to me, the logical recommendation is Brisbane.

So the question I throw open to you good people is, what are the best suburbs in Brisbane for a runner who wants to be less than 30 minutes by bus from the CBD? Or at least a runnable/cyclable distance. I am asking here because Carol reads the blog and can easily pick up your answers in comments. And while her main need is advice on places to set up home, a longer bow is that if you know anybody nice that may be in a position to take on a short-term boarder until she finds a job and can get her own place, I'm sure she would be open to offers.

Brisbane readers who have other Brisbane readers, if you could post a short entry with a link to this post, it would be very much appreciated.

Over to you guys!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hard Gay Meets Natto Meets Kids

I'm not going to even try to explain this, but you guys in Australia are going to love, perhaps hate, perhaps be just a little bit freaked out by this. Anyway, don't watch in an environment where laughter or non-PC might be frowned upon. But do enjoy (thanks Ingo for the prompt to have a peek at what is already on YouTube):

16 km of cool

Today: 16.7 km
Week: 60 km

I got to bed at a reasonable time last night but it seemed to take forever to go to sleep. This has become a recurring theme lately whenever I have an early training session scheduled.

Although I'd penciled Friday's in as 1600-m intervals, the failure last week has shaken my confidence in my ability to produce appropriate times on these chilly, chilly mornings -- about 2 degrees today. And there is always that knee to consider. So I just ran aerobically. Not quite as hard as Wednesday night, but something like first 4km at 68%, 2 km at 75%, 6 km at 77%, and the last 4km home at progressive build up averaging 80% (but finishing with a hard near-sprint reaching 88%). (Percentages are heart rate as % of HRmax.)

The whole run felt pretty comfortable, but a definite feeling of moving along at a good clip. Kilometers six through 12 averaged slightly faster than 4:30/km pace. The harder run home averaged 4:23/km. With three more weeks of training the way this week is unfolding I would expect to see these paces dropping by 5 to 10 seconds.

And related to Scott's post, I had some natto with dinner last night. I felt compelled to stir it briskly for 60 seconds and got a good slimey, icky texture going. It was almost enough to motivate me to learn how to post clips to YouTube. If anybody would like to see a gross-out video of me slurping up some natto or raw egg, mention it in comments and I'll see what I can do. Or Scott and I should perhaps compete to see who can come up with a clip of their most, er, adventurous Japanese dining experience. I still relish the day that a visiting former work colleague from Australia took me out to dinner and told me to order anything. He could handle anything, no problem. But it was sure fun watching him try to eat that chicken liver sashimi without gagging!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Medium long upper aerobic

Tonight 21.7 km
Week: 43.7 km
Average HR: 77% of HRmax

Since I can't do speedwork, long, hard aerobic stuff is the next best thing. So tonight it was into Yoyogi park and after 5 km of warming up at around 5:00/km pace, I got stuck into an upper aerobic workout: 15 km at heart rate close to 80 of HRmax. It went well. It involved seven laps of 1.9 km each plus 1.3 km to make up the 15 km. The average per km pace of the laps was: 4:23, 4:21, 4:20, 4:20, 4:16, 4:14, 4:12, 4:12 . The average heart rate of the last few laps was about 84%. My leg hurt a bit, but nothing unbearable or lasting. Thanks Adam and Stuart for the company, not that there was a whole lot of talking by about the third lap.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My running club makes the news!

One of our members, Yukari Pratt, is a chef, sommelier, raconteur, writer and all-round nice person. She sometimes contributes articles to the Japan Times. Last year she forced at gunpoint a JTs photographer onto her motor-scooter and made him take photos of us as she buzzed us on the scooter during last October's Yamanote Mawari. Now she has used them to write this article about how she took up running and joined Namban Rengo. It was in yesterday's paper. Have fun picking me out in the photos. I must have been a bit camera-shy that day.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Interesting heart rate test

Today: 14 km (yesterday 8 km)
Week: 22 km

First, let's get the tedious news of the leg out of the way. It's holding up. There are two distinct problem areas, one behind the knee and one higher up the rear thigh extending almost into the groin. When the knee is bad, which seems to be brought on by things like intervals, I feel alarmed and want to stop running and rest for a day or two. When the thigh is bad, it is uncomfortable, but doesn't feel like it is going to get any worse and I can carry on. Topical anti-inflammatory lotion seems to be bringing the knee under control.

I felt alright yesterday despite the 34 km the day before and ran a nice easy 8 km at lunch time. Nice and easy for the most part, but I did some accelerations up little hills and steps and things. It was quite a nice refreshing run.

Although my new regime with the cross-training emphasis had today down as a cross-training day, I decided the leg was good enough to do a heart rate test like the one I was doing last year in the lead up to Ohtawara. So, I ran to Komazawa Park, got the heart rate to the low 140s, then on the second lap accelerated to get it up to 149 and held it there for that and the next lap. That third lap is the test lap. Interesting result. The average pace was 4:18/km. This puts me almost exactly where I was at almost exactly the same time out from Ohtawara. That is, on the 10th October when I did this test the average pace was 4:19/km. Effectively identical. Ohtawara was on the 23rd of the following month. Tokyo will be on the 18th of the following month. So I have four days less from now until Tokyo than I did from that previous test to Ohtawara. This is actually pretty encouraging.

I think a couple of things let me down at Ohtawara. My long runs were done a bit too slowly, I didn't do enough miles at upper aerobic pace, and there were possibly some nutritional/energy supply problems on the day. If I correct the last one with better management, I can get back some time with just the same level fo fitness. And if I can get some pivotal training runs in over the next three weeks, hey, then who knows, maybe I can even get my fitness back to and beyond where I was at Ohtawara (if nothing else I now have one more full marathon in my legs than I did then ;-)

After the heart rate test lap I ran home firstly at regular heart rate of 143-146, but then as I was getting closer to Toritsu-daigaku, about 2.5km from home, decided that I should put in a bit more effort. It really hit me then that this is what I have been lacking in some of my training over the past year -- the hard finish to recruit higher level muscle fibers. When I was at a much earlier stage of running, I used to run with these hard finishes, though with no particular purpose, it was just something that approximated racing, and to get faster I just figured you had to run faster. And it worked, though I never strongly attributed it to that type of training  because I had a lot of potential improvement left in me and just about anything should have worked. Then I switched to heart rate based training and got a lot of benefit from it by getting much better conditioning of my aerobic system. And sometimes I would run intervals and sometimes a tempo run. But the progressive, hard finish type runs basically went out the window. Well, now that tempo and intervals are currently suspended from duties, it is time to bring back the hard finish. I ended up running the last couple of kilometers home at under 4:10/km pace, dipping down to 4:00 and below in places. I actually had to back off from the really hard sprint finish because of some twinges from the knee at about 500 m from home. But I still held the close-to-tempo type pace and ran it home strongly. I was pretty happy to have such a good quality aerobic workout while realising there are still things I can do to improve my condition without necessarily endangering the knee.

Three good weeks. That's all I'm asking for. Three good weeks.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Long Run Achieved

Today: 34 km
Week/month/year: 81 km

Some friends, including Tokyo Running Days, were planning a very interesting long run this morning through the highways and byways of western Tokyo. The pace was planned to be a little on the stiff side, which would have been perfect from a training perspective, and I really wanted to join, but I was just a bit concerned about it (the pace) being too stressful on the leg at this stage. So I headed off to old faithful Yoyogi Park to see what I could accomplish. Again the leg had improved since the Friday morning run, so I was hopeful it would hold up for something upward of 25, hopefully 30 km. I was very pleased to notch up 34 and squeak over the 80 km mark for the week from four runs. Probably not an ideal regime, but it is what is helping me lurch ever onward towards Tokyo.

So Scott's son recognized my boys! That was pretty cool. I thought they would remain pretty much incognito on this blog, what with it being in English and the fan base being pretty much Japanese. But they've been outed now. So, yes Tesso, the two younger lads are cast members on a Japanese TV show on NHK (the national broadcaster) for kids called Tensai Terebi Kun MAX. It has music, talk spots, comedy, special guests, location shoots of things like "how to make xxx", etc. Until a couple of months back there were a bunch of clips on YouTube including some with the boys. But the Japanese broadcasters got wind of it and stacks of clips on YouTube that had been grabbed from various  Japanese TV programs were unceremoniously removed. There seem to be a few from the show back on at the moment, but not featuring the boys. Here are a couple of links just to give you an idea of the show:
From last year's live stage event  (Kohta is at far right, Chiaki 2nd from far left, both in the back row)
A version of Happy Birthday from the ending of the show during the 2005 season.
Riho learns to make tofu

The eldest boy, Tatsuya, also gets a little bit of modelling work and, Scott, if you keep your eye out you might see him in a PSP ad on TV at the moment where they have all this blue, white, pink, grey paint flying in slow motion (indicating all the colours that PSPs now come in). Then his ugly dial pops up in black and white for a second. He is looking up and then a blob of blue paint drops on his cheek. He is going to be moving to Australia at the end of this month to live with my brother in Newcastle and attend year 11 and 12. We will miss him.

As for me featuring in Flash magazine, I will first have to work hard on doing something worthy of a scandal. I suppose it could happen when I have the halo in at the dry cleaners.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: the boys also have their own blog operated through their agency. Good luck reading it. If you go back a few posts you will see a very dodgy looking Santa.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The old two-step

Target workout: four by 1600-m cruise intervals amongst a 16-km run.
Actual result: Aborted intervals after two poor efforts. Clocked up the 16-km, aggravated the knee/leg.
Distance this week/month/year: 46 km.

The old two-step: As in, two steps forward and one back. You hear this all the time from runners with one eye on a goal race while trying to deal with annoying injuries. So why should I be any different? After my 19 km on Wednesday I was very encouraged that the knee/leg was feeling quite under control (not cured, but not painful either). I was also proud of myself for sticking to the regime and not hopping out for a run yesterday in celebration of this relatively happy state of affairs.

Today was the first day back at work after the new year break. I had four times 1600-m repeats on the program. I got to bed a lot later than I planned, but somehow willed myself out of bed at 6:00 am. I ran up to the park at easy-moderate effort; everything, leg included, felt fine apart from the fact that the perceived effort seemed a little harder than my pace or heart rate were saying. I started the first mile repeat and decided not to push too hard. But I still thought I was going at about normal mile-repeat pace, maybe slightly slower. It turned out to be a full 15 seconds slower than the first repeat one week ago. Blech. And I felt a twinge in the leg. Still, I gritted my teeth and started the next one. It was still 7 seconds slow AND I was putting in pretty hard AND my leg now felt decidedly sore AND I need to take a crap. So that was that. I decided that this session should be hereby terminated without prejudice and a resumption to normal aerobic running. And so that is what I did (after attending to business of course), at around HR143.

The leg is now sore/tender again, but not as bad as it was two weeks ago. I suppose this at least justifies the truncated training approach. The next task is to give it some TLC tonight and tomorrow with a view to completing an LSD on Sunday. <sigh>

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The lads...

We bought a new digital camera just before Christmas. I just downloaded the first batch of photos and there was a nice one of the boys; for no particular reason, here it is for your viewing pleasure. L-R are Tatsuya (16), Chiaki (12) and Kohta (14).


Today's target workout: medium long upper aerobic (HR145-150)
Actual: 19.8 km with 13.2 at average heart rate of 149 and average pace 4:29/km

I met up with some Namban friends at Sendagaya. We left our gear at the Tokyo gym and ran one easy lap of Gosho, a 3.3 km loop with a couple of stiff little hills. The others then split off to do some intervals on a flat neighbouring course. I picked up the pace and continued another four laps of Gosho. Late in the third lap I met up with the others again and Jay fell in with me for the rest of that and the final lap. Both being on the wrong side of 40 we spent the time (when talking was possible) comparing notes on our respective battles of the niggle.

The pace for heart rate show I am certainly off my aerobic peak, as would be expected after the past month of disrupted training, but it was an encouraging run all the same as the leg was as good as it has been for a while and I generally felt strong throughout. I ran the downhills pretty hard and eased up on the uphills to avoid major fluctuations in heart rate. I am feeling a few twinges in the upper hamstring (probably not the right anatomical term) tonight, but nothing too serious. I'm feeling fairly upbeat about this new regime, though it is still very early to tell if it will actually deliver a decent training stimulus.

Do you like the photo I added t the previous post? I suppose you could call it "New Year Day Still Life". The picture of the runner is actually a digital television stream called "Wanseg" (one segment) that can be picked up by certain mobile phone handsets. It only started last year and is very cool--that phone is shared by two of my kids who need it (not teh TV so much) due to the fact that are often travelling to and from NHK by themsleves for work. I took the photo during the New Years Day Corporate Ekiden. The green sash the guy is wearing is called a taski and is the functional equivalent of a relay baton. The small ceramic cup shows my sake with the flakes of gold -- the bottle it came from is at upper right. The little green packet is some seaweed -- the snack of choice for discerning sake drinkers. The peanut and Lindnor chocolates are exactly what they appear to be.

Off the Mark for '07

Running on Gantan (New Years day) is pretty much out of the question in Japan. Instead you just lounge around, eat lots of traditional food and assorted treats and drink as much as you like. I had a bottle (750 mL) of sake with breakfast and then abstained for the rest for the day, I do mean day, and then knocked over another one over the course of the evening. The first one had gold flakes in it for visual effect and tasted quite good to boot.

The pattern for today was not much different. I watched the first couple of legs of the Hakone ekiden (two-day event for university teams that absolutely drips with tradition, having been held continuously for some 85 years apart from a brief break during WWII) and then got out for a steady 11 km in 51 minutes before we had our main meal of the day. The left leg is still far from cured, but was vastly improved over where it was a week and a half ago. My aerobic condition, as evidenced by heart rates, is definitely down a little, but having done a few speed sessions and the trail run, I think I am in a good place to stick to mostly aerobic running. As much as I'd love to launch into a lot of mileage, I think I will stick with the plan I have established of three key runs per week plus cross training and see what happens. If the leg continues to improve I might add in a few more aerobic runs later in January.