Monday, December 31, 2007

A meeting of blog minds

One of the great meetings of blogging minds occurred over this past weekend. Ewen came up from Canberra to stay with a friend, Bruce, not so very far from where I am staying. On the Saturday afernoon Bruce took us for a run around the Harbour foreshore from Little Sirrius Cove around Bradleys Head and back to where we started. A nice easy 6 km with some special views over the harbour, including the site of where one of the Japanese mini-submarines was caught during WW2. After the run we went for a swim in a harbourside pool (MacCallum Pool) at Cremorne (where I had dumped off a carload of kids prior to our run; everybody happy).

Yesterday morning I set off from Chatswood at 6:50 for a 7:30 appointment with Ewen at the steps onto the Harbour Bridge at Milsons Point. I made a wrong turn and had to stop to take a load off my mind and was therefore running (literally) a bit late). Some 4:15/k mileage down the hill from Crows Nest to Milsons Point made up time and I was only 5 min late.

We ran across the bridge on what was an absolutely perfect Sydney morning. Deep blue skies, barely a cloud to be seen. A warmish 23 to 25 degrees, but lowish humidity. Extremely comfortable as far as I was concerned. The Harbour was a deep dark blue and sparkling in all its glory, the Opera House sails gleaming bright and the colours of everything blaring loud in the lurid sun. Tokyo's charms are subtle and lie beyond its drab physical appearance. Sydney hits you between the eyes like a sledgehammer with her gaudy glamour, "Here I am baby, look at me!"

Ewen took me for a tour of various sections of the noted Sydney race courses such as the Sydney Marathon and Half as well as the Blackmore's Half and the start of the City to Surf. We ran around the Rocks, around the Opera House, around the Botanic Gardens and Mrs macquaries Chair, past the Art Gallery and through Hyde park before making our way back to the Bridge and Milsons Point. Back at Milsons Point Ewen called Plu (his blog URL not at hand) and we had a chat for 5 minutes or so, which was great.

I then ran back up the hill to Chatswood to finish with 32 fantastic kilometers in 2 hours 52 minutes. Just the run to get the long runs happening again and a priceless experience to boot. I think Ewen will be posting photos at his place in due course.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's Australia, mate!

After some anxious moments, with both my wife and middle son coming down with bugs 24 hours before we left, and after a 24 hour journey via Bangkok and Singapore, we finally arrived in Sydney at lunch time Thursday. It is now lunch time Friday and I have already managed to fit in two runs and a visit to the Australian Hotel in the Rocks to try a couple of craft beers.

The first run, yesterday afternoon, was just a 10 km jaunt from central Chatswood, where we are staying, through Artarmon to Flat Rock Reserve and back. After tyhat I went out to the pub and had many little Australia versus Japan experiences, like the absolutely useless level of organization surrounding the construction at Chatswood Station (but good , then getting change of a couple of dollars and feeling like a ton of metal, and having to ask for a glass when purchasing a bottled beer...

The second run was this morning to Lane Cover national Park. Running past Blue Gum Creek and Turrumbra reserve, there was no doubt what country I was in. I mucked up the roads a bit an ended up on a bush track for about 3 km. Slow bush bashing kind of stuff, but also really beautiful through that classic Sydney sandstone bushland. At times you could think you were hundreds of miles from the city, not a few kilometers. After I broke through to clear ground I crossed the bridge on Lane Cove Road and then ran back to the Park entrance via the proper road at a decent clip. Very steep hills back up to Chatswood. All up 16 km in 1:30, slower than normal due to the bush bashing and hills. But a nice run.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

End of year greetings!

The last week or two have been very hectic, not to say chaotic. The disruption of routine is a bitch to running schedules; throw in foul weather, seasonal lurgies, preparation for overseas trips (learning how to make a photo tribute for my parents 60th anniversary in iMovie), keeping up a commitment to brew once before I all adds up to one hell of an awful past week of running, with a couple of days before any light at the end of the tunnel (we leave on a marathon flight very early tomorrow morning). The two lovely runs last week were followed by several days of almost nothing. Sunday rolled around and I was desperate to run prior to brewing, but it dawned bitterly cold, windy and wet, and I was still heavy with a head cold. Needless to say I stayed indoors and grabbed more sleep. Yesterday (Monday) dawned much better and I managed 31 km at an average of 4:57 with a slightly faster finish. Then last night until midnight I was working to finish off the iMovie project, and today (December 25th) was flat strap preparing to leave for Australia, not a tremendously smooth process with my wife and one son down with various lurgies and desperately hoping to improve enough to fly. It will probably be Friday before I can run again, Thursday perhaps if I am a bastard to all around me and just go. I really hope it picks up after we get to Australia.

So, all I can do is conclude by saying that my stated objective of a sub three marathon at Tokyo is looking rather shaky. To those who thought I might be shooting for a big sub three (yes you, Tesso and Robert Song), I can understand your thoughts, and I will confess to mine having strayed into exactly the same place, but I knew that life and thus training was going to be disrupted like this. The head cold and a few other curve balls have made it even worse than I imagined. I hate December. If I really get in some quality training in Australia, maybe things could turn around, but it is very difficult to see it happening.

I'll try to keep you posted.

Au revoir for now...

Friday, December 21, 2007

End of an era

I am in the last few hours in my present job. In fact, as soon as I pack up some books and clean off my computer, I am out of here.

Last week at our end of year party, which doubled as a farewell, I was given a tiny little package of crepe paper wrapped up with a ribbon. When I opened it I was just knocked, over, flabbergasted and reduced to a near blubbering mess. It was a little booklet done up in Photoshop by the lovely Kaori from one of our sister companies, B&C. It chronicled the six years I have been in the company, mostly with photos from our annual company ekiden, but also two trips we went on and various shots around the office, not to mention Kaorin's artwork. It was pretty hard to compose myself to make any kind of speech, tired and emotional as I already was, but I think I managed to blurt out a few rounds of "honto ni arigato gozaimashita!"

Here is a quick sample of what it contained:

If anybody in Japan is in the market for a tribute type booklet, portfolio, or any type of package like this, get in touch with B&C. They are great!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Two nice runs

My last two runs were very nice. Last night was 6 km of warm up in Yoyogi Park with assorted Namban friends, after which we moved to the track for the weekly Namban interval workout. The schedule called for a ladder workout of 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400 metres. I felt really smooth, relaxed and kind of fast. I suppose the cool but still 8 degrees Celsius and the funky just purchased AdiZero CS 3 WD shoes (6,990 yen from B&D Pro Sports Authority in Yoyogi) may have had something to do with it. My times (in pace) for those reps were: 3:30, 3:31, 3:34, 3:35, 3:22, 3:03. I felt fairly comfortable throughout and simply enjoyed this workout.

Due to the gym being closed and other commitments I had to either rest today or run before work. Getting to bed at 12 midnight was not a good portent for an early start, but I set the watch for 6:00 am anyway with the thought of doing an easy 10 km. Somehow I woke up fairly easily, got the shiny, happy shoes on and clicked the watch at 6:12. Surprisingly, my legs felt very little fatigue from the intervals and I simply rolled through the run, starting out at around 5:00/k for the first few km, gradually easing up to 4:30/k and staying around that level until I touched down at home with 12 km in my dilly bag for the log book. It was also a startlingly beautiful morning to be out and about.

I'm now starting to wonder what kind of shock to the system it will be to suddenly have to run in Australian summer conditions next week. Just looking at the weather forecasts, though, it seems quite mild with daily ranges of 21 to 26 or so. Sounds pretty nice actually.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wobbly but steadying

My self-assessment dropped a point to 6/10 after last weekend because I missed a day of training on Saturday due to a particularly heavy bonenkai/farewell party on the Friday night (and until 4:30 Saturday morning...I hate Roppongi!). The hangover developed into a cold and sore throat on Saturday night. Sunday morning the throat was not good and the head still doughy, so I rested more, downed vitamin C, and resigned myself to a crap week of not nearly enough running. It was a colder than normal day as well, which did not help any incentive I might have to get out the door.

After lunch that nagging voice got louder and louder and finally at 2:30 I got dressed and headed out the door with the intention of running at least 10k, just to salvage some pride. As I got moving I realized I wasn't feeling too bad after all and ended up running 20.5 km at 4:44/km average (and pretty slow start, hard finish). One thing that run did was take me over 4000 km for the year. Not a bad achievement I suppose, but still pretty modest by some people's standards.

This is my last week in my current job, so even though I am scrambling to get things finished, it feels a bit like a holiday. I called into the gym yesterday morning and did 10 km on the treadmill, 5k fairly easy and 5k on a moderate sort of hill program. Last night the boss took me out for a goodbye drink. Several flasks of good sake (cold of course) and lots of fish! Then today I ran three laps (5k/lap) of the Palace at lunch time. The first was north of 5:00/km pace as I ran with Ms Uchida from my company, then the next two were at a bit slower than 4:20/km. So like the title says, steadying. I just have to follow through for the rest of the week. I think all the partying is over for least I hope so.

Here is something to show you what 16/17 year-old boys get up to for kicks (pun intended) these days. To make it easier, Tatsuya is in the darker colored shoes. His mate is the better trickster, but Tats is proud of his free kicks:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going for goal Part II

I left an important part out of that last post. I mentioned how I am travelling with the training. And generally I give myself 7/10. The lost marks are due to the effects of not being quite as successful on the socializing front. It is end-of-year party season here in Japan. Last Saturday we had our running club end-of year bash (bonenkai), which was a self-catered pizza, salad, sushi, snacks, and copious amounts of booze affair. I organized a partner race (run to an allotted pace for 6 km with no watch) in the afternoon, and when announcing the winners at the party startled everybody by stripping down to my Namban vest and shorts...hee hee. It was a wonderful, happy and ever so slightly boozy party. I got home well after midnight and was not terribly fit the the next day. Late morning I ventured out to run to Renald's place (photo credit and fellow who hosted the party) to see if I could help clean up. But it was all done and I just had to keep on running. I covered about 16 km at a very slow, gingerly pace. Every minute of that run felt like 5. I was also so knackered on Monday that I just didn't even try to run. Score one for the parties.

Then on Tuesday night I had a farewell party with my two English conversation classes. I will not be able to continue the classes when I start my new job. So we went to a craft beer bar, and well, I had a few craft beers and a jolly good time. Actually, the next morning I wasn't too bad. I couldn't get up and run at 5:30, but I ate into work time and did that tempo run in the gym that I mentioned in the last post. So not too bad really.

Tomorrow I have my main company bonenkai, which will also have an element of farewell party for me. The evil co-workers will be hoping to see me written off. We will be going to a restaurant in Roppongi, which is a place I prefer to stay well clear of. Anyway, I will just have to be strong and limit myself to a few glasses of better quality sake.

My boss also wants to take me out next Monday night for a farewell drink. They like to mark occasions over a drink.

So, the season is presenting plenty of shoals upon which my training is frequently threatening to be dashed. But so far I have escaped with only minor damage to the hull. Sta tuned for the next exciting installment.

Going for goal

I want to make it clear that I have a very firm goal of going sub three hours at Tokyo Marathon on February 18. Last year's weather and my performance, which were not necessarily intrinsically linked, were a bit of a disappointment and I want redemption. I wish to go into this race determined and motivated, and I need that to be reflected in my approach to training and socialising (the second of these being the most difficult).

The first part of the training plan required a conservative, restful recovery from Ohtawara. That was achieved quite nicely and now I've entered the second phase, which means getting back up to modestly high mileage while putting a certain degree of emphasis on speed work. For the next couple of weeks I want to run 80 to 90 km a week comprised of a couple of 14-16 km lower aerobic efforts, a not-so-long-not-so-slow (say 25km) long run, and two speed-oriented sessions (perhaps two items per week off a four-item menu of 1 k to 1600 m intervals, 6 to 10k tempo run, short hard intervals, hill repeats). Then any additional mileage would be just easy pace.

So how am I traveling? Last Wednesday I did a 6 x 1k interval workout with the club. Saturday I ran a short hard interval session of 10 x 30 s hard followed by 60 s easy. I also did a few plyometrics...just jumping from a static start up onto a 25-30 cm high block. Yesterday morning I did 11 km on a treadmill with 6 km at tempo pace of 3:52 to 3:55. I had the incline set at 1.5% at first, but after a while was going too lactic so backed the speed a tad and the incline back to 1%. I enjoyed this workout, especially since I'd had to squeeze it in to a tight day. Going pretty hard makes a treadmill more bearable.

This morning was scheduled as a 16km steady (lower aerobic) run. I awoke at 5:20 am fairly bright-eyed and ready to roll and was a bit shocked to see the steadily falling rain outside. Still, it didn't deter me and I got the run in without too much trouble, but I was a cold little boy at the end of it (it was 8 deg C). I am finding that a pace of 4:20 to 4:17/km is a nice comfortable aerobic run these days. I remember a time when I thought that 4:30/km was far too hard to be doing aerobic training! It eventually left me feeling a little fatigued this morning and perhaps I should have been a few seconds slower or should have shaved a couple of km off the distance. Finding that precise workload that pushes you to adaptation but from which you can recover for tomorrow is a fine line.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the training will begin on December 26 when we leave for Australia. The sudden switch to heat will be interesting. I'll have a few days based in Chatswood (Lane Cove Nat Park?), then maybe somewhere overnight on the way to Coffs Harbour, then almost ten days in Coffs with hills, heat, and humidity. I think this phase of the training will be a switch back to distance and endurance. I have a feeling that this period in Australia, timed as it is, will either make or break the ambitions for a good Tokyo. A few days after we get back to Tokyo I'll be running a hard half marathon, so that will be a good test of the efficacy of the speed and heat training.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bits and bobs

I've been so busy since the marathon that I hardly have time to scratch myself let alone write blog posts. I'm changing jobs at the end of the year and have been preparing information for the new company and involved in trying to recruit my replacement at the present company; I have been trying to create a DVD movie thing from photos to commemorate my Ma & Da's upcoming 60th wedding anniversary; I have been organising the race to precede our club bonenkai (year-end party) on Saturday the 8th; I have been trying to be a bit supportive around the house (and failing); I have been trying to get the running kicked off again...

The week after the marathon (which was on Fri 23rd Nov) I only ran on Wed 28th, 7k, and felt great at first but some calf weariness by the end. Then I ran the same run on the Saturday and got through it fine. Then 15k quite slowly last Sunday and then this week 10k, 12k, 15 k (with 6 x 100 intervals at 3:45 to 3:32/km--weary after that), rest, and then 12k this morning. The aim has been recovery and settling back easily into it. Next week I will try to notch up the work load, but I have several year-end parties coming up and feel a bit run down from lack of sleep. Why am I writing this instead of going to bed?

Marathon Nutrition
Clairie wanted to know about what I ate before the marathon (I think that was the question). Well, Joachim got us a fix of maltodextrin from his secret source in East Germany, so a few of us were having 1g/kg of bodywweight per day of that for the four days before the marathon to supplement regular carb loading. I also made an additional effort to try to keep up protein intake; wherever possible I was trying to generally observe the 3-4g carb to 1g protein thing. I was taking protein in the form of soy milk, yogurt, eggs, that kind of thing. During the race I didn't have anything much until about half way, then had a gel. At 30k I had a special drink which contained sports drink and some gel with a protein component. I don't think the protein counted for much at that stage. Then I had another gel at 35k. Bloody wind was the limiting factor though at that point. I don't think the attention to protein ended up contributing so much to my performance because my calves were still holding me back. Maybe if I had the right shoes the calves would have been better and I'd have had a stronger second half...but I really felt mostly free of pain very quickly after this one and I think that may have had something to do with the extra protein.

Other stuff
It is now a bit cold and dark in the mornings and I am finding it interesting to try to get up at 5:30 after going to be at 11:00 to 11:30. I have no running tights at present and need a new heart rate chest strap to replace the one I lost. But I simply can't afford these investments at present, so I am running with icy knees and no metering other than time and, on the rare occasions the footpod decides to work, pace. At least I have gloves thanks to Jim.

So that's where I'm at. I think that will do for now.