Sunday, May 27, 2007

20k in the hot, hot sun

Well, a lot of it was under cover, and the humidity was mercifully low, but we had a lovely 20k today on a different route to our normal Sunday loops around Yoyogi Park. In temperatures that ranged from 24 at the start to 28 at the finish, about eight of us set out from Hatagaya Station at 8:35 am, ran along the Kandagawa (a "tamed" river) and then to Inokashira Park at Kichijoi, then back towards our starting point along the Tamagawa Josui, a heritage canal built to irrigate the rice paddies of the Tokyo granary some 250 years or more ago. Some of us cut off a few boring km along a major road by jumping on a train, but about half the group completed the full 24 km. After a lightning shower in a sports centre we repaired to a 1000 yen ($10) all you could eat buffet of quite good Indian/Thai dishes. Hmm...

In response to comments on the last post: firstly, thank you all for the kind words. I'll play diplomat between Robert Song and Ewen by saying that it was both. Yes, the residual base from marathon training was very important for endurance while red-lining. But there is no doubt that for that extra bit of fizz on my 5k time I desperately needed the VO2max topping up and mechanical strengthening, form, and leg-turnover provided by the quality interval and tempo sessions included over the last four weeks. Reading Mikes blog and his Mystery Coach's comments over the last several months I have become more wedded to this notion of periodicity in training, especially in the form that the Lydiard system espouses. Weeks of running base mileage, weeks of hills, weeks of sharpening up -- all designed to have you at the best you can be on race day. I also think a few weeks here and there of putting emphasis on speed workouts can also be helpful in making faster aerobic paces more manageable during base building. I haven't really invested the time I should into taking on a full-on Lydiard system, but I am getting a lot from Mike's blog and other sources and will continue to learn and apply what I can. Eric, whose comment I really appreciated, also just ran a sensational debut marathon in Fargo. I strongly recommend you pop into his place and read his riveting report (that alliteration just popped out there, sorry).

One last thing: Ewen, htf are you getting hold of Fat Tire in Canberra? Did you have a friend bring it in from Colorado? Or is it really travelling that far. I've never tried it myself. One day. But then, you've never tried Baird's Spring Bock. So nyeh nyeh! :-) I'd also be happy if you'd go out and drink lots of my friend Mr. C. Zierholz's marvelous libations. Here's to beer!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

F@#K me! A PB!!

Well , there I was thinking that maybe all my PBs were behind me. After a nice couple of weeks of solid but not over the top training, I was starting to feel like maybe I was coming into some reasonable condition. The set of 1200s the other night was certainly encouraging. I also decided to not back off too much this week. I ran 10k home from work on Thursday night and 8k easy back to work on Friday morning.

So today was the company ekiden around the palace, regarded as 4.96 km by purists, but called 5 km by most people. I was hoping to go sub 18:10, and in my wildest dreams, maybe sneak under 18:00.

I ran the first leg and wasn't sure whether other teams would also put their faster guys first, which is in fact the conventional tactic in ekidens. We got off to a fast start and after a couple hundred meters I soon settled into third place. Stayed like this for the first couple of km until the uphill from Takebashi when the 2nd place guy immediately ran out of steam. First place was a good 10 or 15 seconds further ahead (yes, Mr bloody Nakagawa!).

But somebody else was on my tail all the way up the hill. I could hear his number card flapping in the wind. He stayed there across the flat in front of the British Embassy. I worked pretty hard through this section and this guy probably benefited from some drafting. But if I'd backed off to dice with him, it would have meant giving up all hope of chasing down first place, so I pressed on. Around Hanzomon the third place guy made his move and went ahead and opened a 4 or 5 second gap. Try as I might, I could not pull him back in. Maybe I was mentally weak here and hoped he would fade rather than attack to my absolute physical limit.

Mr Nakagawa was unthreatened up front. And that's how we finished. I was spent at the end and didn't really feel that there was much more I could have done. My time was a quite unbelievable 17:47. Considering it was a 20 second course PB over last year's race I am actually extremely happy with the result. Have to be. But running such a narrow third in a competitive race took some of the edge off my euphoria, but overall made it a far more enjoyable experience.

It was hot too, about 24 degrees and a stiff little wind in our face at the top of the course. Actually, on any objective analysis, there is no getting away from the fact that this was my best 5k run ever.

Our finishing order also ended up being the placings in the individual times contest, so I brought home 7000 yen worth of shopping coupons for the wife and kids. Not something to sneeze at. Or so you'd think, but in fact my right nostril has been irritated and dripping and making me sneeze ever since the race.

Celebrated over a couple of beers at a German festival in Hibiya park. They tasted GOOD!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

5 x 1200

Well, the Wednesday track workout went pretty well last night. After a 6.5 km warmup, the prescribed dosage of pain was administered in the form of five lots of 1200 m on a cycle of 7 minutes between each repeat and with a 200 m jog recovery. My times were 4:24, 4:18, 4:18, 4:23, 4:13. I definitely gave it a bit of a kick in the guts on the last one and imagined myself running hard the last part of the 5k (ekiden leg) on this coming Saturday. Now to see how it goes. I think I've got a bit of a response from the last couple of weeks of harder efforts, so it should be a solid run, but no matter how hard I go, I don't think it will be spectacular.

Plu: no I haven't been following Andrew Bartlett's blog (or any Aussie political blogs to be honest), but I checked it out yesterday. Thanks for the tip. Good stuff. Got him on Bloglines now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Just an Average Joe

I just read something that has inspired me to make a rare political post. Apparently Joe Hockey, Australia's federal Minister for Workplace Relations, believes he is doing poorly in polls compared to his opposite number Julia Gillard because he is "not as pretty as her".

Holy smokes, when will these troglodytes get it? He is trying to diminish her for being a woman. Pure and simple. Nice one Joe. Crikey, if there was even a grain of truth in his logic, why weren't Kerry Chikarovski or Natasha Stott-Despoja as politically successful as they might have been? They were clearly prettier than their adversaries. I wonder if Joe also thinks that Helen Clark only made it into the PM's chair in NZ because she looks like she might be a good root (don't answer that ...), or is he suggesting that ALL half-attractive women are succesful beyond merit because of their looks? I mean, really, what message does he want to send to the women of Australia with a statement like this? Poor old Joe. To think he used to be my local member.

And the most delicious irony is that he said it after "addressing a conference on advancing the position of women in the workplace". Ha ha ha ha !! I wonder what he told them ... ten top tricks with foundation and lippy? How to make it to the top with just two simple implants?

OK, back to running next time, but this just tickled me so much I had to write about it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

An upper aerobic run & some blogger fun

I had yesterday off as two hard efforts in two days had left me feeling a little tired and leg weary. Better to recover I thought and run quality the next day rather than two junk runs. So got up early this morning and out for 12 km with 4k warm up then the next 8k at heart rate in the high 140s peaking at times in teh low 150s. Overall average HR for the run was 141 and the time 54 minutes.

And since someone is always trying something new with their blogs, here is a slideshow generated from Picasa Web Albums. The photos have nothing to do with running ... in fact they were taken by my brother and his wife when they visited Japan a couple of years ago ... hope he doesn't mind them getting a global audience here:

Hmmm... that seemed to work OK, though it is probably necessary to follow the link to the album to see the photos in all their full pixelated glory.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quick Hupdate

Well, the company ekiden is just a week and a half away now. This involves a 5-k lap around the palace and the prospect of a top three finish for individual times for me. First prize is 10,000 yen (about A$100) in shopping vouchers, 2nd place is 5,000 yen worth. Three years ago I got first, but the last two years Mr Nakagawa has beaten me into 2nd place. I have been a bit late getting my ass into gear, but finally the last couple of weeks I have been gradually getting more motivated towards improving my condition for this race. I racked up 85 km two weeks ago and 75 km last week. A few lactate threshold and VO2 max workouts thrown in for good measure, but perhaps not enough upper aerobic miles. It is probably too little, too late I suspect. Last year Nakagawa-san ran more than 10 seconds faster than 18 minutes. So I have to get down into the low 18s to be even in with a remote chance (I have no idea of his relative change since last year).

I had an easy 10 km run yesterday morning, and then in the evening got out for a training run on the actual ekiden course with my team. We ran our own paces so I decided to give it a blat and see what I could come up with. What I came up with was 18:54. I don't know whether that's good or bad. It isn't a bad time for a training run, but then again, I pretty much kicked it in the guts. I'm not sure I can find another 50 seconds or a minute in there!

Anyway, with fatigued legs I did a 6k warmup in good company this evening before joining the Namban ladder intervals workout: 600 m, 800 m, 1000 m, 1200 m, 1000 m, 800 m, 600 m. My times were as follows: 2:07, 2:49, 3:35, 4:18, 3:35, 2:50, 2:00 ... not too bad at all really, especially hitting so close to the same times on the way back down as on the way up. That seven second improvement on the 2nd 600 was also encouraging. I did push very hard on the last one and was happy with the result. My left knee, groin and achilles are all complaining about it now though :-(

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Nothing too exciting going on, but at least I have an iota more motivation and energy this week ... just enough in fact to pop up this mid-week post.

That hamstring strain I mentioned that I picked up during the TELL 10k race was real enough, but not too serious. Rather than run on Tuesday morning I swam about 1500 m, the first as general laps and the next 500 as five repeats of 100 m at hard effort with a couple minutes rest. I got out for a run in the afternon with a work colleague, Ms. Uchida. Our company's annual ekiden taikai is coming up in a couple of weekends time. For training we do a lap of the Imperial Palace (5k) and I try to encourage her to run at a challenging, but not debilitating pace. The week before last she did it in 27:11, last night she brought it home in 26:51. Without a lot of other training in between, that represents decent improvement. For me it was just a nice relaxing leg turnover effort and showed that the hamstring was not too bad, but I'd still need to be careful with it this week.

Last night was the regular interval workout at the track. With the lovely, balmy late spring weather there was a big turnout. Club leader Bob decided we would do Yasso 800s -- a set of 10 x 800 m run in the same number of minutes & seconds as target marathon time in hours & minutes with a 400 m jog between repeats. I was not too keen on this workout, but the niggle meant that whatever we did I was going to have to back off the intensity anyway, so I joined a 3:15 group, and because of time constraints we only did eight. All repeats were pretty close to the mark. Here are our times, dropping off the "3:" minutes: 17.0, 14.8, 17.5, 14.8, 13.3, 14.6, 13.6, 15.0. Did you notice that last one? It took us eight tries, but we finally did one in 3:15.0!

I plan to run home tonight and back to work again tomorrow morning. If I have a decent run on Saturday and Sunday as well, that will get me close to another 70 or 80 km week. I guess that's a reasonable enough base mode to be in.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Inagi, TELL

Creeeeeaaak. That's the sound of the blog being opened. I'm still not all that upbeat and excited about my running at present, but I guess I have a little to report with two race efforts and logging 85-km for the past week. The races were Inagi Ekiden, a low-key affair (3 km per person), last Monday and the TELL charity race (I did the 10 km) yesterday (Saturday 5/5).

Last year my team won the Inagi ekiden mens masters category. This year we didn't have quite the same talent in the team. My 11:26 was a few seconds slower than last year. Everyone busted their balls, but we just weren't in the hunt for the prizes unfortunately. One thing that caught my eye was that Mr Keren Tryhard recorded a time only a few seconds slower than me. He has been gradually gnawing away at the difference between us over the past year, especially on the back of his herculean ironman training -- and that difference was once quite substantial. He is strong on hills and Inagi had a vicious little hill near the end. Still, the world was in it's natural order because, marginal though it was, my time was faster.

Well, that natural order came crashing down at the TELL (Tokyo English Lifeline) race yesterday. This photo tells the story Keren (black Namban singlet with yellow writing) ahead, me 20 m or so back in the shadow (both figuratively and literally in this instance).

I started the race 10 or 15 m adrift of Nambanners Keren, Stuart and Christian (the young Swiss guy I met at the start at the Shinjuku Half Marathon -- he has now become a regular Namban member). We all started too fast and the conditions were very warm ... perhaps 25 degrees. I can't remember if it was the first or second lap, but Stuart eventually faded more than I did and I passed him. I had Keren in sight the whole way, but sometimes the gap was pretty large. I worked really hard on the last couple of km, despite the pace getting more and more ugly. On the final hill I pulled back 10 or 15 m or so and may have been reeling him in until he heard someone call my name and that spurred him on to stay 20 or 30 m ahead to the finish. I suppose every dog has to have his day (the bastard!). No, just joking. We are mates and he thoroughly deserved his victory. I'm not sure exactly how many seconds ahead he was, but I ran a 39:24, which given my current condition I was pretty happy with. I think I strained my left hamstring though. Christian powered away to record a low 38 minute time. He has a lot of improvement left in him too, that boy.

After the race I went to an awesome homebrew party out in Chiba, but somehow managed to not get too under the weather. But I was afflicted enough that it was still a slow start to the day and I did not make it to Yoyogi Park. But once the fog lifted a bit I managed to get out for a steady 21 km to round out a reasonably solid 85k week.