Thursday, November 27, 2008

A race!!

My comeback from Achilles injury continued with my first race since March (or was it April?). It was the 10 km event at Ohtawara, where I have run the full marathon the previous five years in a row. When I applied for this race, the Achilles still wasn't great and I thought I might just be jogging around. However in the past two or three weeks it has been giving no trouble at all and I'd been doing 10 to 12 km runs at a steady pace fairly regularly. The Wednesday before the race (which was on Sunday 23rd), I joined our club's track workout and managed some respectable times over 1600 m to 400 m, so I resolved to give it my best in the race. It was a beautiful day in Ohtawara. Fine, no wind, about 12 to 14 degrees. I ran with a heart rate monitor and decided to go out at 160 and bring it home over the last few km at 170 and see what kind of time that gave me. This turned out to be pretty much the right strategy except that I actually did 165 on the way out and was at 174 over the closing stages. So it wasn't a jog in the park! I didn't see any km markers until 8 km whereupon I discovered I needed to make up 5 seconds if I was to beat 40 minutes. I was already going very hard, so this was quite a throwing down of the gauntlet by the running gods. So I really gritted my teeth and pushed into the light headwind. At the 1 km to go marker I had made up only 1 second. Uggghh ... really had to dig in. The race finished with the last 200 m on a running track ... I went in the gate needing to run the last 200 m in 40 seconds ... oh dear! Well, I gave it what for, and as I was sprinting down the last straight like Usain Bolt (or so I imagined) I could see the clock closing in on 40 minutes ... 39:55, 56, uggh, 57 ahhh, 58, 59, eeeeghhh, and I crossed the line. I wasn't sure if I had registered a 39:59 or 40:00, but later when I checked the official results it was 40:00! Although three minutes slower than my PB, I was actually extremely pleased with that as I thought that a time around 42:00 would have been more than acceptable at this stage of the come back.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's Time

Time for a new post that is.

Well, things have kind of come along OK since that last post way back in July. Life has had its ups and downs. The kind of things like the shifting sands of work and family and friendships that don't stand up to the cold hard scrutiny of blog readers.

But the Achilles!! The Achilles, yes, that's what I know you all tune in to read about. Well, it has improved a lot. So much so that I have progressed from walking for 5 km to walking with occasional jogging periods, to walking some jogging some, to walking a bit and jogging for most of 5 km, and finally (well, not finally, but where I am now) to easy running for 7 km or so. One Sunday a couple of weeks ago I got caught up in the excitement of Joachim's 50 km training run for the 100 km race that he ran TODAY in an unbelievable time. The man is a legend.

But I digress. Yes, so I ran 14 km, and you know, it was hard. By 12, 13 km I could not keep up with Joachim (and others) who was chugging along at 5:00/km at about the 40 km mark of his run. So I have been concentrating on trying to get more consistent at more modest distances of 7 km or so. Really I am not training. Just keeping the weight stable. Actually my Polar watch is stuffed and I am running sans time piece and I am logging approximate times. Still, the weather is very pleasant now and I think I am running comfortably between 5:00 and 5:20/km type pace, and I am enjoying it. This week I have run most days, twice on Wednesday and am up to 45 km which has felt easy yet is the longest I've done in ages.

But the other thing that I ams sure will fascinate you all is that I have been putting some time and effort and more than a little money into outfitting my brewery. I bought a refractometer and new dial thermometer and weldless kettle fittings and have equipped the mash tun and hot water tank with thermometers and the boil kettle with a weldless ball valve. Also stocked up on malt and hops and yeast. Brewed a hoppy IPA two weeks ago and will do an even hoppier American red ale tomorrow. Yum. There are still a few mods to the brew pots needed, but I am getting close to what I want. Here are some fascinating photos. Catch you around.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Something to cheer about

Alright, so I was a bit negative in that last post. Sorry. I'm OK, really.

And in fact I have some happy news to share. I won the best of show at the annual Japan home brewing competition, the Wan Cup 2, for my Belgian style beer called "Nenmatsu Tripel" (nenmatsu means "year end", which is when I brewed it; tripel is style of Belgian beer).

This is the second time in three years for me to take out the top prize (Yokozuna) and while I am chuffed of course, I am also a little bit embarrassed about it for the following reasons.
1) I didn't really set out to brew a "champion" beer. I just brewed it to style and simply didn't make any mistakes. It is a pretty easy style driven by yeast character. The yeast was the winner, really. I didn't even have a competition in mind when I brewed it. I only entered it in the comp because it was on hand.
2) I made the same kind of beer a couple of years ago and didn't enter it in any competitions. Frankly, it was considerably better than this one (for subtle reasons that don't bear going into here).
3) I was a bit lucky. My other two beers entered didn't even get places.
4) Some of my brew buddies are demonstrably stronger brewers than me. They brew more often and consistently turn out better beers than mine. Sorry John (runner up) and Chris (probably the best brewer of all of us).
5) My main motivation for entering competitions is simply to promote the home brewing hobby. Competitions give people some motivation and bring a bit of attention for the hobby (we had 40+ people at the award ceremony for just 24 entrants, a number of whom couldn't be there). I support the organizers as much as possible and help with judging. My reward is a successful comp. It was totally out of the blue and embarrassing for my beer to pick up best of show. But there it is. I'm not giving it back :-D

The smile of a Yokozuna (Grand Champion in sumo)

Me getting a splash of Stone Double Arrogant Bastard Ale (that magnum is worth almost US$100 -- all place getters got a snifter of the stuff)

A toast to the brewing gods

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Move along folks, nothing to see here

Yeah, quite literally I'm afraid. Unless you like looking at expanding waistlines.

The Achilles still fails to become pain free. Yet, I think it has improved. I mean, I am hardly aware of it through the day, walking around, going hard up stairs, little run for the bus, and so on. But if I squeeze the little bastard it still hurts and it still has a lump in it. I think the lump has shrunk a bit. Not much, but a bit.

It is summer here now. That means our local outdoor 50 m swimming pool is open for a whole, wait for it, TWO MONTHS!! Yeeeaahhhyy! (feel the sarcasm) Two whole bloody months, and the rest of the time it sits idle. And the greatest crime of all is that it opens each day not at 5 am, not at 6 am, not at 7 am, oh no, not even at 8 am, nor 9 ... but at 10, yes, T-E-N AY EM! So unless I start work at lunch time that does not create a situation very conducive to getting in a couple of km before starting my duties of blinking at a screen for hours on end.

The gym got a second hand spinning bike type thing with a programmable function for setting resistance and time in multiple brackets. I had some fun on that for a while but haven't been back for a couple of weeks. Just too hot and I've tried to swim instead, 2 km at a time.

None of this is any fucking substitute for running.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Found my Achilles heel

Well, I knew it was there all along actually. But yes, my Achilles heel is my Achilles heel. It has brought me down. Undone. A non-runner am I.

There have been further minuscule signs of improvement in it over the past couple of weeks; I even ran a few km on the treadmill a few nights ago (somewhat painfully).

But today I finally got around to going to see the highly recommended orthopedic surgeon in Hatsudai (thanks to Numasawa-san for giving up her yoga to come and help interpret for me). The doctor did a lot of head shaking and saying, "You really should have come in when it was first sore. It is too late to do anything now. Even top runners stop running when they get Achilles soreness...yadda yadda yadda." But he was also very understanding and sympathetic. He basically said if I get it better to come back and tell him how I did it because he doesn't really know what to recommend except complete rest ... no elliptical, no bike ... swimming and weight training, sure, but nothing that puts the Achilles through repetitive stresses. I respect him for what he said. It wasn't borne out of ignorance because he said cortisone, bah, you don't want that because it will weaken your tendon and it will snap. Operation, well, it might work and it might not and you can't run for six months after it. He himself had an Achilles operation and it didn't work, so he was not falling over himself to recommend it. He basically said you just have to suck it and take the time off. As long as it takes. Which was OK because it just reaffirmed what I had already set my mind to do. But his stridency about the complete rest was going a step further than I had been able to bring myself to do. I am going to keep up the heel drop (eccentric contraction) calf strengthening though. I asked whether anti-inflammatory creams would be worth trying and he said yes and prescribed one.

He took an x-ray too, by the way, and it clearly showed the thickened lumpy bit in the tendon, not that I needed an x-ray to know it was there. But something new it showed was that right behind the tendon in line with the thickening there was a bit of bone protruding off my heel bone. He thinks that is probably contributing to the pain, so that is a bit of a worry as it is not going to just dissolve.

So, that's it folks. No Ohtawara this year. No Tokyo Marathon next year. No trail running on sweltering summer days followed by swims in the river at Musashi-itsukaichi. In short, a bit of a bummer.

The great challenge is now to see if I can keep up the motivation to exercise at the gym and whatnot, because just a couple of evenings of that really bites into work/family time so much more than when I was getting up at 5:30 three or four mornings a week and logging
100 km a week of running -- so much of my workout time was done while the family slept.

Anyway, that's where I am at. Updates will follow as and when I can.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bumpety bump, bump, bump

That's me at the moment. Bumping along in the current of life. I'm enjoying certain aspects of being able to put some focus on things other than running--family, brewing, lazy afternoons--but it is certainly different not having that driving pull of the next run hanging over the head. No sooner one hard session under the belt than looking to the next one by avoiding late nights, sleeping in, over-indulgence, and overtime. None of that any more.

Last Sunday night I "celebrated" my first entire week with no run in, well, I don't know how long. It would have to be measured in years rather than months. A far cry from last September when I ran every day in the month.

I nearly made it a second consecutive week, but late this afternoon, with a sense of some improvement in the Achilles (and a DVD that needed returning--I am Legend--don't bother if you haven't see it), I headed out for a "jog". Yes, it really was a jog. About 5:30/km pace most of the least the times when I wasn't standing at lights or handing in the DVD or, and this shows how slow I was going, being stopped by a funny little old lady who insisted on giving me two nodoame (throat lollies) because she likes to, "minna ni shitsetsu shimasu" (be kind to everybody--she was a cracker, in every sense of the word).

I clocked exactly 6 km (according to the footpod) in 34:13...average pace 5:42/km. See? It was a slow jog. There was even a couple of minutes when I was tearing along at 5:00/km, so I guess the "5:30/km most of the time" that I mentioned above was a bit optimistic.

Anyway, no point dwelling on the stats. There is no joy to be had there. The point of the run was just to see how my Achilles is going. And the goodish news is that it was not as sore as it was two and a half weeks ago when I last ran. On a pain scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no pain (and the target I am aiming at) and 10 is sharp, shooting agony, I guess I moved from 6 to 5. Waaay hooo! Such progress!

But really, I am encouraged. Encouraged enough to know that very little to zero running is the right course. And to keep up with the tedious heel drop exercises.

Apart from this, I have been along to the gym sort of semi-regularly (twice a week if I'm lucky). Managing about 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer-like thing (actually called "Arc Trainer": picture; discussion) and 20 minutes on a bike followed by an upper body strength workout from "Run Strong" (edited by Kevin Beck). The main point of all the weights is to get a body like Harvey Keitel in "The Piano", you know, a few muscles to go with the gut ;-)

Gym sessions are best endured by borrowing Mr 15-year-old's MP3 player and listening to his collection of Offspring, RHCP, Nirvana, Sum41, etc. and, his latest, Hadouken!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stayin' alive

I have received a few very much appreciated off-line queries as to my well-being. I'm sorry it has been so long between posts, but with no training to write about, it is hard to find the motivation to write anything at all.

I guess April hasn't been a good month because not only have I maintained very low running frequency and mileage, I haven't made it to the gym much either. I had a mini-resurgence mid month and ran around 15 km one Sunday, but the Achilles was really no better so there was still no chance of a return to more regular running. Then last week I went for an hour run with Gareth & Colin on the Tuesday public holiday, then another easy hour+ the next night. I was subsequently stiff and sore and completely not in the mood for running for the next three days. That's kind of knocked my motivation even further and I'm getting into that well, I just couldn't be bothered state.

The Achilles itself at times feels marginally less painful, but it is still quite sore and still has a pronounced lump in the middle. UK-based Nambanner Alberto reported a satisfying sub-3 hr run in the London Marathon last month and mentioned this was after an Achilles operation in January last year and a long and frustrating rehabilitation. So I wrote to him for advice about the Achilles (and congratulate him for his great race of course). He put me on to this web page about Achilles tendinosis. I am doing the heel drop exercises. Three sets of 15 reps of two different exercises twice a day. As I said, I think there has been some slight improvement, but the physical condition of the Achilles remains the same. I have decided though that I am going to give these exercises a chance to work before going to a doctor. So ask me again in 22 weeks.

I'm starting to feel some expansion of the girth, facilitated by a bit of renewed activity in the beer and brewing scene (an IPA is conditioning and an extra special bitter in the primary fermenter). Apart from interesting developments with our home brewing group, including a couple of kick-ass parties, I co-organized a seminar by Chris White, the president of White Labs liquid yeast company, here for the Japan Craft Beer Festival. If you have consumed any craft beer in the USA, Australia or Japan (amongst others), the chances are pretty high that you have drunk beer with yeast produced by his company. I was also lucky enough to spend a couple of sessions with Chris and his marketing manager, JoAnne, over the last couple of days. It has definitely helped deepen my knowledge of brewing yeast, which is a topic close to everybody's heart, I am sure.

My job is going alright, but despite their being numerous little things I could say, to be honest I think it is just too boring a topic to write about. One day I might be able to give a brief, not too coma-inducing overview. One thing is that, unlike my previous situation, I definitely can't blog on the job, which also partly accounts for the drop off in blog posts. It is a four-day weekend here this weekend, and that has afforded me the time to write this.

So that's about it. The different kind of reality continues. Maybe I will get back to some serious running again one day, but it doesn't look like it will be any time soon. In the meantime I have to try to find the time and motivation stem my outward expansion.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A different kind of reality...

Thanks to a prompt from Ewen I guess it is high time I popped up an update on what is going on with me at the moment.

Well, in a nutshell, life is different.

The change of jobs in January did not bring many dramatic changes at first as my boss was overseas for almost the entire first month, so I was twiddling my thumbs a bit. But once he got back I discovered what an earnest and intense and, er, moody, person he is, so work life has been a bit interesting since. More pressure, more stress. The job itself isn't especially taxing except that I am forced to try and perform it in Japanese, business meetings and the like, which was not something I represented myself at the interviews as being capable of doing-- in fact I was careful to explain my Japanese level fairly accurately. Daily conversation fine, but native Japanese technical and business discussions are beyond my comprehension, so I have a long, hard challenge ahead.

I have not been running much because I have decided to try to get my nasty left Achilles better. It is slowly, slowly improving, but the change is barely perceptible really. It doesn't hurt much in daily life, except sometimes in the mornings for a little while. It has a kind of hard swelling in the middle of the tendon, which is tender when gently squeezed, so I really think I am in for a long haul getting it to come good. My concern then has been how to keep my weight down. I've been going to the gym sometimes for weights and bike or X-trainer, but can only do that in the evenings and can therefore only fit that in once or twice on week nights and maybe once on the weekend. I ran a long-committed-to 6-km ekiden leg on March 20th that showed up my dwindling fitness (and made the Achilles hurt like buggery). I did a short (6k) easy run last Sunday and another last Wednesday night ... partly social, partly just to burn a few calories and partly to see how the Achilles felt. I haven't even logged them yet. In both cases the pain in my Achilles was much as it has been all along -- not enough to force me to stop, but enough to make running unenjoyable. So I continue to abstain and hope that the damn thing starts healing soon, but I am prepared to give it as long as it takes.

The other thing, of course, has been Dad, Mick, passing away. He has been on my mind, if not constantly, then at least very very often. We shared our birthdays, you know, and he was always such an enormous part of my life, my consciousness, even my identity. I am not exactly sad and mournful, because he had a good and long life and his death went about as well as death can go. We all had enough forewarning, got to say our goodbyes, and he himself was absolutely ready to go and kept his dignity through to the end, passing peacefully at home with a pain-managed terminal-stage cancer of the liver. So, his death itself is easy enough to accept and deal with. At the funeral we were able to celebrate his life while shedding some tears for the loss of this remarkable person from our lives. So I am not sad, and yet, I just miss him so much and somehow feel different with him being gone...I can't really put it any other way.

I suppose, in summary, I am currently dealing with three losses: the loss of my previously comfortable (though tending towards boring) work life; the loss of Mick; and the loss of least for the foreseeable future. Considering this situation I think I am bearing up reasonably well (at least I still have beer and brewing and my family!) and am aware that it is just one of those flat periods that life throws up and it is up to me to deal with the issues involved with each loss. Work I am accepting as an interesting and exciting challenge, the pain of Mick's loss I know will fade with time, and running, well, that's the hard one. But I'm determined to get this Achilles right so that I can make and reach some new goals in the future, like running Six Foot Track!

I am also improving on my didgeridoo, so be warned, I might put up a little video one day!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mick 10.2.1922 - 3.3.2008

James Thomas Lacey it says on the birth certificate, but we called him Mick. We called him Mick because Mick is what he was called. And though fathers are normally called "Dad", our dad, our Mick, somehow transcended the role of father. "Dad" was too plain an epithet for someone so unique.

He was our supporter, our rock, our mate. He loved quietly, with restraint, and without flamboyance. He never embarrassed you with showy displays of affection. But it was love that was no less fierce and no less felt. In fact it was intensified by its restraint. To feel his love and contemplate his mortality was something I could, from an early age, find crushing. So I have been preparing for this moment for a long time. He was mischievous, enjoyed a laugh, a yarn, a tease that bordered on torment. But it was the most gentle and affectionate torment you could ask for, and instead of being injured by his velvet barbs, you felt the more loved. Didn't you?

He never took life, or himself, too seriously, and was quick to make a rude face at anything or anyone that smacked of pomposity, self-importance, or self-promotion: politicians of all types and across the generations, the Royals, bureaucrats, Rex Mossop and Tony Greig were all objects of his scorn. Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety Bird and Precious Pup were more his style. He even spent years using the same snicker as Precious Pup.

He loved the Australian bush. Not the obsessive and studied love of an amateur naturalist, but a sheer uncomplicated love of the simple and sensuous pleasure that the bush offered. As a younger chap living at Five Day Creek, he would roam bare-footed up and down the creek fishing for perch, affectionately accused by the locals of being half-native, though that is not the word they used. Later, on return camping visits to the Macleay, the fishing was just an excuse to be out there surrounded by the water, the gum trees, the gnarley hills, the cicadas, the birdlife, the dry summer heat, a bloody good campfire, and his mates...some of whom may not have even been family. When in this element, Mick was truly at his happiest.

Unlike most blokes of his generation, he cooked: meat and three veg, stews, steak & kidney, curried this or that, pea and ham soup, damper, Mickles Pickles. His flagship was definitely Mickles Pickles. But no baking as far as I can recall. No, he left the Anzacs to Nancy. But his nightly cooking, his support of Mum, was one thing that stood as testament to the rock and pillar of the family that he was. There are many things he may not have been, but he was there if you needed him. Always.

He had his faults too. He was a hopeless handy man and I don't think I ever saw him do more to a motor car than put in petrol or fill an over-heated radiator. Changing a tyre was possibly achievable, but a challenge. Maybe he changed a spark plug in the mower once. He had a weakness for pulpy Westerns and could snooze away the afternoon at the drop of a hat. Until his final years he loved a drink with friends -- the mainstay being beer, but port or muscat with soda made a refreshing change…and in later years an occasional snort of Butterscotch Schnappes (or was it snatch? He was never quite sure.) For 50 odd years he smoked. Rollies, never tailor-mades. Log Cabin or Havelock, thanks. He also had a weakness for black jelly beans and crystallized ginger, but these are hardly faults are they? They were just some of his guilty, or maybe not so guilty, pleasures. Along with mangos, fresh prawns, oysters, mud crab, and Crème de Menthe and ice cream. He was an epicure before his time, was Mick.

There is more, so much more that could be said, that will be said, about his life. What he did and what he achieved. His teaching, his golfing, his marriage, his friendships. But not now. Not here. In these few words, I just wanted to try to capture a little of what he was. At least to my eyes. The essence of my Mick. My dad. And to put down this memory, the one that I shall carry of him forever.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TM 08, Post-race Analysis

I've had the following half-written post sitting in my drafts folder for the past couple of weeks. I was probably going to write some more, but it is gone now. I will just pop this up as is in case it is of interest to someone and for my own future reference.


This chart shows a week by week summary of my training between Ohtawara marathon on November 23 and Tokyo (Feb 17). Things went pretty well up until the 23rd of December, just recovering and slowly building back up, but then the travel to Australia upset the usual routine, and although I managed to keep up reasonable mileage, I wasn't able to churn out the 110+ km weeks with 35+ km long runs that I felt were needed to go up another level in fitness. The inability to crank up both mileage and intensity was determined more by niggles than any other factor. I definitely had the motivation and opportunity to train more, but was constantly having to take a more conservative line just to keep my poor old old chassis on the road. The main injuries were the chronic problem in my left Achilles and then some recurrences of minor strains to the biceps femoris (one of the hamstring muscles) in both legs as well as a few other less serious niggles that just added up to make running a lot less enjoyable than it should have been.

Because of the niggles I had no particular problem doing a proper taper. I was reasonably keen to do another long run two weeks out, but knew it was too close to risk it. So after that it was a model taper except that there were not as many speed workouts as I would have liked, again, a decision taken to try to keep the injuries at bay.

Final Preparation
Nutrition from Thursday to Saturday was key. I think the advice Joachim gave me about maltodextrin loading prior to Ohtawara has proven invaluable. Not that I am convinced that malto has any magical properties of itself, but it really does make sure that you take in plenty of carbs without stressing the digestive system. I couldn't get malto powder this time, but stocked up on some cheap energy gels and took one on Thursday and two each on Friday and Saturday, plus I bought a whey-protein drink and some amino acid supplements because I have come to believe that this important, but can't really explain why.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tokyo Marathon 2008 Race Report

To cut to the the purely statistical description of my race click here.

Qualitatively, what can I say? It was simply the most satisfying race I've run. Or at least very close to it. Not because it was the best result, but because I think I ran the best that I possibly could for my fitness level. In particular, I am quite sure that being just that little bit more conservative in the first half was instrumental to not suffering a nasty fade. Though maybe there were other factors. The only blemish was the pee stop at 12 k. I tried to run through it, I tried to ignore it, I tried to pee into a used sports drink cup while running along (take it from me, it doesn't work!), I thought seriously about just letting go on the run ...I actually did that in the rain of last year's race, but just couldn't manage to do it here in the dry ... in the end I decided that the improved comfort would be of more overall benefit to my race than the short stoppage. As it was, 53 seconds was quite a lot longer than I expected it to take.

After the pee break it was really just a story of controlled running. I had one of those wrist bands with required split times for a three-hour goal (freebie from Nike at the marathon expo). I was about 50 seconds behind the required target at 15k and could have probably been forgiven for just giving up on the sub three then and there...I mean who apart from elite runners and people who start very conservatively picks up 50 seconds in the last stages of a marathon? But I knew that this deficit wouldn't be quite so bad on net time, so a really good run might still jag me a net sub-three. So I didn't give up.

At the halfway point I'd shaved some time off the deficit, but was still 30 seconds or so slower than 90 minutes. I felt that a 30+ second negative split was highly unlikely, time to the start line and pee break notwithstanding, but the fact I'd reduced the deficit slightly gave me some cause to stay positive. From there I kept telling myself over and over, just hold it together until 28k (from the Shinagawa turnaround at 15k to the Asakusa turnaround at 28 k was into a light headwind -- here's a map of the course). Fortunately the section of the course from around 20 km to 33 km, roughly from Hibiya through Ginza and up to Asakusa and back again, was just the most fantastic part of the course for crowd support. Huge crowds of flag-waving, cheering people lined the road on both sides (we ran up one side and back the other). Many strangers reading our shirts and cheering "Namban Rengo, fight!", "Namban Rengo, ganbare!". I even heard one little kid go, "Ganbare gaijin-san!" There were also taiko drummers, dancers, bands. It was jsut fantastic. So even though there was this light head wind, the crowd and my motivation just kept me moving along through this section at or about goal pace.

After the 28 k turnaround I gradually found that the readout from my footpod was showing some very fast paces. I knew I was now running downwind, but was worried that it was too early to be making any kind of major move, that it may come back to bite hard. So I attempted to curtail the worst excesses whilst still allowing the faster pace to occur naturally. By this time my legs were starting to ache all over, and the front ball of my right foot was quite sore, yet they were still doing the job. So I just kept plowing along. As the pain levels rose I tried to channel as many positive thoughts and images as I could. I tried to keep a good running posture. I thought about good runners, I thought about motivating factors like the people who sponsored me for the Tyler Foundation, my dad, who is not well, my family and friends, the lovely people who read this blog...any reason I could think of to just keep it going.

As things progressed after 32 km, the watch was starting to give some really freakish readouts, like 3:50/km, 3:48/km, 3:40/km. I knew I was moving well, possibly faster than I had been all race, but didn't think that it was quite that good. So I stopped worrying about it and just concentrated on doing the best I could. Soon there was only 7 km to go, then 5 km, then 4...there are a few nasty little rises for bridges and expressway ramps after 35 km, two of them after 40 km! Somehow my momentum and hunger to get there, knowing I was now ahead of the target time, allowed me to take these at a good pace and I was passing people constantly. Even nearly ran right up the arse of one guy who had come to a stop. Good to know the old footy side-step was there when I needed it!

The last few km passed really quickly. There were much better crowds than last year, but by this time I was just totally zoned out and was only just barely aware of them let alone able to respond. I knew I had to concentrate on holding pace, yet I was able to relax because I thought I had a reasonable buffer. And so it proved, though it was a bit nervy making the final turn to the finish line with 2:59:00 on the clock, but the line appearing some way down the long will it take to get there? Just keep going, keep going hard. It took 36 seconds is how long it took. And then I was there. Finished. Did it, sub three. Just fantastic!

To see me finish, follow this link. Then type 10512 into the search line and click "Search". When the little "Play" signs drop down, click on the one on the right.

Checking my data in the watch later, I discovered the reason for the fast pace readouts. For some reason the pod suddenly started measuring long. Early in the race it had been great, measuring splits to within 1-2% of actual, but it got put out...not sure what would cause that, but it was pretty amazing thinking I was running around sub 4:00/km late in the race, when in fact I was probably going more like 4:10 to 4:15 /km .. still not to be sneezed at, I might add.

Well, I think I will end this tome here. Thanks for all the the wonderful congrats and comments on yesterday's brief post. And without going into details, yes, I did do some damage to quite a few beers through the course of the evening. And Ewen, yes, what you wrote in Japanese makes sense, especially if you intended to say "My, what a handsome beard you have!" ;-)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Got there...,just!

Another sub-three by the skin of my teeth.  2:59:35 gun time, maybe 30 sec better on chip time (yes, I was up pretty close to the front). Strategic mistake was to start needing a pee. By 15k there was no choice but to stop. That was 50 sec. Went through half in 90 min 30 sec. So for the first time I had to negative split and somehow pulled it off. It was amazing. There was a grey haired old man sitting on my shoulder urging me on. More later. Off to celebrate now!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fragments of a Racing Mind

So much to say ... so many thoughts buzzing through my head ... so little time to do them justice ...

My blogging regularity has been awful for various reasons. Sharing one computer at home among five of us (there is another machine, but it is painfully slow to use and in a cold, cold room), a less amenable environment at work. The same factors have screwed up my blog reading and commenting, so sorry folks. I will return when the weather warms up a bit.

Tokyo marathon looms. I am ready, yet not ready. Sounds familiar, huh? I am 100% certain that I have not logged the distances I need to be in PB shape, and probably not even sub 3-hr shape. But I am not beating myself up. I did the best I could given setbacks with niggling injuries, the change in work circumstances, and so on. I feel like I have slipped in fitness in the past three weeks of reduced mileage even though my legs have undergone a lot of recovery. Maybe the day of Chiba Marine was the day I should have run a marathon!

I'll be fast enough to feel comfortable at sub 3-hr pace for a while, but I think with the inadequate long-run base of the last two months it is a question of when, not if, the legs will give out and I then have to hang on for grim death to grind out whatever semi-respectable time I can salvage. That is my prediction, but I will not change my strategy and will go out to give myself a chance of a sub three, taking care not to start too fast, and hoping that the old body holds up to the demands of the pace.

I still have that damned sore left Achilles. Post Tokyo I resolve to stop running and get treatment. I have said this before, right? Well, I mean it. I am trying to think of how to keep somewhat in shape during the convalescence, but at the same time I hear the sirens. The beer sirens. They are calling to me from the rocks, "Steeeve, make more beeer!" Will my running obsession be dashed to a thousand pieces on the jagged edges of my brewing addiction? Time will tell.

I mentioned my old body. Well it is officially one year older than last time I posted. I turned 45 last Sunday and attended a real ale festival in the afternoon. Nice way to celebrate!

I am absloutley gobsmacked and overwhelmed and humbled and all of those things about the response to the Tyler Foundation sponsorship. I sent out one mass email to selected friends and business acquaintences from my contacts book, plus the post here and a post on another networking site I belong to, and bugger me if I haven't raised over 100,000 yen (>AUD1000)!! that is really just an awesome result and really, words can't express how grateful I am to everybody who kicked in. Thank you!! The whole campaign has raised over six million yen (>AUD60,000), which is a pretty bloody good effort. Last Sunday we (the sponsored runners) got to go for a jog with Mara Yamauchi (winner of Osaka women's Marathon a few weeks ago).

So, I think that's going to be it from me now until after the race. I will try to get back on with a report just as soon as I can. Until then it will be much eating and drinking and resting followed by much running followed by much eating, drinking and making merry!

Ciao, and thanks to all of you who read and comment on this blog. It is a really, really important source of motivation!! I love yas all,


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shine on Tyler

Tyler Ferris was born to Mark Ferris and Kim Forsythe, long-term ex-pat residents of Japan. Less than a month into life, Tyler was diagnosed with cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia to be precise). After a valiant 22-month struggle, he died in June 2005. Tyler spent many, many months of his short life in hospital. He was by all accounts an incredibly cheerful and happy toddler with a joy for life and a knockout smile.

Having experienced the stresses and strains of Tyler’s illness and extended periods of hospitalization, and ultimately the grief of his death, Mark and Kim decided to ensure that Tyler’s battle would not have been lost in vain. They set up the Tyler Foundation to support children with cancer and their families in Japan.

The Tyler Foundation has many goals and activities to ease the suffering of childhood cancer patients and their families. Foremost among them is to create Shine On House, "a support centre accommodating local Japanese and expatriate families with pediatric patients afflicted with cancer. Shine On House will aim to provide short and long term (1-2 years) accommodation, counseling space, daily and weekend care; and activities for siblings of patients."

Tyler’s mother, Kim, said, “Tyler spent more than his fair share of time in the ICU during his two years of treatment…and my husband and I spent too many nights sleeping in hospital waiting rooms wishing something like the Shine On House was available as an alternative. Other families of children with cancer, doctors, and adult cancer survivors echo again and again how this type of facility is desperately needed in Japan.”

On the 17th February, 2008 I will be running the Tokyo Marathon in support of the Tyler Foundation and, specifically, it's Shine on House project. If you would like to sponsor me with a small donation to this tremendous cause, I and the Tyler Foundation would greatly appreciate your sacrifice. It really does not need to be much because as the Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly once said, “From little things, big things grow.” My pledge page is here.

With sincere thanks,


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Half on a treadmill

Well, the schedule for today was a half marathon at about marathon pace. So that is what I did. It had to be on a treadmill at a gym in Yotsuya to which I still have a few tickets, a gift from my former employer.

I did 2k warm up, then got into the half marathon at 4:05/km pace with the slope at 0.5%. At 8 km I had to stop for a number two, then with 13.1 km left I broke it into two lots of 6.5k + 6.6k with a drink break in between. The temperature in the gym was probably 24 degrees and there is a pool in the building that seems to increase the humidity. So I sweated like crazy at that effort and had to reduce the pace a few times as the run progressed. I found the last 3 km really, really hard, both physically and mentally. It was definitely difficult to suppress the urge to stop early, and each 0.1 km seemed to take forever.

I took the complete 5 minutes cool down cycle of the treadmill and really needed it. One tough little run, but certainly better than being turned into a snowman outdoors.

Good day for polar bears

This is the scene I woke to out our kitchen window this morning. After chatting with some of the gang yesterday we had decided if it were raining (as vaguely forecast) we would not run at Kanagawa. Not because we are afraid of running in rain, but there is simply no shelter at the race precinct for before/after the race and the grass/earthen assembly area turns into a quagmire. It is cold. It would have been miserable. So when I woke to see a thick blanket of snow and the storm still sending it down, I said right, that's that then and went back to bed.

As the morning unfolded, it turned out there has been even more snow at Kanagawa and the race was in fact cancelled. Good thing I did not stoically head out there to do my pace run. Poor Owain ... I also heard that Ome, the 30 km race he came all the way from Korea to run, has also been cancelled :-(

The snow is still coming down at 10:30, so I think I will be heading out soon to track down a treadmill. This might my longest ever run on a tready.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The nays have it

Well, after due consideration I have to accept the voices of reason that I would be better off just running marathon pace on Sunday. Pete's analysis was early and has stood up to the test of seeing how it goes. Joachim also echoes Pete's thoughts and another experienced runner said the same thing tonight. So even though I probably could go out and give it a nudge on Sunday, I have to just accept that it would not be the right thing to do for the sake of a good result at Tokyo. So I will aim for 4:10/km to 4:05/km and see how it goes. If my marathon pace is going to be anything close to this then I should be able to pull up feeling relatively fresh, then a week of shorter faster runs next week and recovery and carbo loading into the final week.

I have had a bit of trouble with the right hamstring, which flared up on the Wednesday after Chiba. It is settling back down again now though. I managed a nice solid 37 km last Sunday at a fairly sedate pace though I was able to pick it up over the last 6 km. But I got the distance under my belt and, more importantly I hope, some adaptation into my legs.

My Achilles continue to yap away and cause almost continual discomfort. I have resolved to take time off after Tokyo to try to get them, especially the chronic left one, fixed up. It is getting so as it is just not fun any more.

I met up with Owain Lewes tonight, a Welsh/Australian who I first met through Australian Cool Running. He lives in Korea and is here to run the Ome 30 km road race on Sunday. I entered for him and had to give him his registration card. We had a pleasant 10 km run of two laps around the Imperial Palace and dinner in a (predictably) Italian restaurant afterwards.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A near PB at Chiba Marine Half Marathon

So anyway, as I was saying, after returning to Japan the first two days of training involved a short, slow and fairly painful run on Tuesday (later in the day after we arrived home) followed by an easy 18 km on Wednesday evening catching up with my mate Colin. These must have been a good couple of recovery runs because on the Thursday night I headed out with no particular plans but ended up warming into a fairly solid 16 km, a large proportion of which was at sub 4:10 and for a while verging on 4:00 flat pace. I then took Friday off and, with Chiba Marine half Marathon scheduled for Sunday, just had two very easy 4-km runs on Saturday to and from my brewing partner's place to bottle a tripel we had brewed before my trip.

So Chiba Marine. It is a mostly flat, mostly straight course and the conditions were ideal: cool and calm. But after a period of not particularly encouraging training, I had just about given up on my goal of snagging a PB in this race and was preparing to relax a bit and just run it as a solid workout for Tokyo. But with a couple of easy days before the race and lacing up the flats, I went out at a good pace and realized after a few km that if I wanted to suffer a bit later in the race that a PB might be on. I decided to hold what I was doing (about 3:55 to 4:00 per km) until 16 km and then see how hard I could race the last 5 km. A really good last 5km would give me a PB. While I worked very hard over the last 1 or 2 km, I did not pick up much more pace -- the climb up and over bridge between 18 and 19 km did not help my cause, but I suppose you pick up on the down what you lose on the up.

My gun time of 1:23:16 was only ten seconds slower than my Kanagawa PB gun time from two years ago. Close, but no banana. But when I looked at my splits last night, I discovered that it took me 41 seconds to get from the 21 km mark to the finish timing mat, a pace of 6:50 min/km, yet I was just about sprinting. Huh? A time of 20 seconds, 3:25/km, would have been more likely. If the course really was long by 100 m, I was denied a gun time PB. Bugger! Still, I am extremely happy to have run so evenly at that pace and been strong enough to finish hard. The fact I wasn't faster from 15 to 20 km, despite pushing hard, suggests I got the pacing about right and did not go too slow in the early part of the race. Splits were:
0-5k 0:19:37 0:03:55
5-10k 0:19:50 0:03:58
10-15k 0:19:42 0:03:56
15-20k 0:19:46 0:03:57
20-21k 0:03:40 0:03:40
last 100 m 0:00:41 0:06:50 ????

Hmmm...creates a bit of a dilemma for how to approach Kanagawa Half in two weeks. A marathon-pace supported training run or an aggressive tilt at a new PB?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dusting off the cobwebs

Well, it has been a while between entries hasn't it. Once we left Sydney it was a bit difficult to find enough time to write blog posts even though I did have access to a computer. Anyway, last time I checked in I mentioned the run with Ewen. He subsequently documented his thoughts on it here, with pretty pictures and all. I think that the commenter called I Hate Toast made the most profound comment. The only thing is I think I am a bit uneasy about the sections of Sydney in which such a calendar might be a hit.

We spent a few more days in Sydney and I had some runs down to Lane Cove National Park from Chatswood and basically enjoyed the hills and birdlife. After Sydney we spent a night on the Central Coast at Macmasters Beach and I had a nice run that was about 3 km on road, 2 km on nice even fire trail, then down to a beach and back up the coast via a very rugged little trail. For a total of 11 or 12 km in an hour 15, it was a truly tough little run.

Then it was a night in Newcastle and a day off running before moving on to Coffs Harbour for 9 nights with my brother and parents all leading into the parents' 60th wedding anniversary on the 10th and party on the 12th. All five of my siblings were able to come together and many of my parents' grandchildren as well. So it was very special occasion and an emotional farewell.

I didn't really enjoy the running in Coffs so much, though I got a fair bit done. It was very steamy and at times warm. Running courses were not particularly obvious, though there was one section of bicycle path for 6 km from Coffs to Sawtell. The most enjoyable run I had was one morning when I drove to the boat harbour, ran to Sawtell (Toormina actually) and back and then had a dip in the Harbour before driving home again.

My eldest son, Tatsuya, who is now back with us, is nagging me to give him a massage for his sore legs from soccer yesterday. is impossible to find enough time to blog properly, so that will have to do for now.