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.