Tuesday, March 31, 2009


A couple of events this weekend reminded me that I live on an island. Except in cases of medical emergency (helicopter), we are only accessible by boat. Food, building materials, tourism - everything depends on boats crossing the 25k stretch of open ocean between us and Naha.

Yesterday we had a small festival to welcome spring. About half (29) of the boats that reside in our harbor went out packed with people and they paraded around the channel in front of Zamami, then came inside the harbor. It made me think that most families/businesses in Zamami own a boat. Our economy - whale watching, diving, and fishing - is all boat-based.

[A tradition possible because of a concrete departure]

Our school year ended last week, so the teachers who were transferred back to the mainland moved away Saturday. Living on an island makes community gatherings at one's departure easier, since the boat schedule dictates an exact time. Cars going to the airport can always fudge a few more minutes and going-away parties can last all night long, but the boat leaves at 3pm.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Zamami's Water and War Woes

I saw this interesting article about Zamami on an English language news site today:

Limited rainfall has left tiny Zamami Island short of the water it needs, and Zamami Village officials are looking for some help from the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces.

The island’s four reservoirs and five wells provide most of the water necessary, but a burgeoning influx of tourists is pushing the water supplies beyond capacity. Officials say there’s enough water for the residents, but not for the 90,000+ tourists visiting each year. The lack of rainfall this year isn’t helping, so the JGSDF is being asked to help out. A dam is under construction at a cost of ¥2.6 billion, but it’s not to be completed for nearly ten years, and even that won’t solve problems without rain.

Complicating the water issue is the mistrust many villagers have toward the Japanese Self Defense Forces, who are still being blamed for group suicides forced during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Residents opposed to asking self defense forces for help are still arguing history textbook descriptions of what happened on the little island nearly 64 years ago must be resolved.

Other residents want their neighbors to put aside the animosity. They say “We just need to get water and make life safe for everybody,” Zamami Village is the most financially troubled community in Okinawa Prefecture, and is on the verge of going bankrupt. They acknowledge that the island’s successful tourism promotion has brought on the difficulties, but are asking for help in getting water support.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Running Log 3/16 - 3/22

3/16 off
3/17 4k
3/18 5k
3/19 off
3/20 off
3/21 3k
3/22 42.195k, 3:19.48

You may remember way back here when I started posting these weekly running logs. With the exception of a couple weeks in October and January when I didn't run, I posted the distances every day of every week. Probably nobody has been paying attention, but if you have you've seen what it takes to go from running little to achieving a 3:19 marathon. There was no other training beyond what was posted on this blog.

Here are some other numbers from the last year of running:

4, 2008: 127k
5/2008: 82k
6/2008: 85k
7/2008: 104k
8/2008: 57k
9/2008: 261k
10/2008: 122k
11/2008: 218k
12/2008: 265k
1/2009: 103k
2/2009: 174k
3/2009: 92k
Total: 1690k

I ran on 176 days of the last year.

If you don't run because you think it's boring, I promise you it could be worse. I have two routes to choose from: I ran my 13k route 53 times in the last year, my 8k route 65 times. All of my other distances were variations of these two routes.

My slowest time on the 13k route was 1:12.50 on September 23rd. My fastest time was 58.43.4 on December 6th.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Tokyo Marathon Numbers

If you saw my last post before the marathon then maybe you already saw this, which was a real-time breakdown of my 5k splits on the Tokyo Marathon website. At the bottom of that page, the third link leads you to a video of me crossing the finish line.

I woke up the day before the marathon and my watch was dead. At the marathon expo, my friend Wren suggested I hit up the Suunto booth, which I did. They opened up a brand new battery, installed it right there, and sent me on my way. Awesome. But some of the settings got reset - like heart rate limits (above/below 160/140) - and I didn't fix them in time.

Official time: 3:19.49
Chip time: (don't have it yet, but it should be around 3:18.55)
Watch time: 3:19.48

Heart rate average: 174 beats per minute
Heart rate range: 81-194

Ascent: 320' (~100 meters)
Descent: 330' (~110 meters) (barometric pressure played a part here because descent should have eclipsed ascent by over 100')
High: 167' (~50m)
Low: 26' (~6m)

5k time breakdown (taken from the website, all within 2 seconds of my watch times)
0-5k: 24:06
5-10k: 22:59
10-15k: 23:14
15-20k: 23:40
20-25k: 23:21
25-30k: 23:52
30-35k: 24:18
35-40k: 24:18

10k time breakdown
0-10k: 47:05
10-20k: 46:54
20-30k: 47: 13
30-40k: 48: 36

Half breakdown
1st half: 1:39.11
2nd half: 1:40.37

Heart rate breakdown :cumulative average (spot HR)
0k: 81 (81)
5k: 157 (166)
10k: 163 (173)
15k: 166 (171)
20k: 167 (176)
25k: 169 (179)
30k: 170 (178)
35k: 172 (181)
40k: 173 (184)
42.195k: 174 (193)
I hit the high of 194 about 30 seconds before the finish line.

I spent a lot more time watching my heart rate during this race than checking my times. I tried to spend much of the first half of the marathon under 170bpm. It was interesting how easily I could tell when I was too high. I'd check and say "yep, 172.. take it down, Dave." At the halfway point I moved my threshold up to 175, then 180 at 30k. At 35k, everything was fair game, as that 194bpm recording exhibits. It's pretty amazing I reached such a high number. Ordinarily heart rates that high are reserved for short bursts/sprints, so I must have been pushing hard.

Here are some pictures of the Tokyo Marathon swag (and I assume a certificate is in the mail):

Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 Tokyo Marathon

I woke up at 5:45am and proceeded through my usual 'marathon morning' routine, which took about 1.5 hours. At 7:20 I took the train a couple stops down to Shinjuku and then followed the crowds. The start was well-organized, considering there were 35,000 runners attending plus at least as many fans.

[The day before with my time prediction, and my muscles]

Being in the 'B' group was awesome because the A's, B's, and C's had special holding areas close to the start. It made me feel cool being able to walk freely with a B on my number. I peed in some bushes twice and addressed an issue at the medical building (forgotten Bodyglide) before jumping onto the race course at 8:30. I peed three more times into an unfortunate little 10" hedge that found itself at just the right height on its road barrier. The wheelchair start was at 9:05am and then, after various 'move ups', I was about 30 meters from the start (and peeing) when the gun went off. It was an awesome start with important dignitaries, beautiful women in kimonos, and confetti guns.

[Exit train, follow everybody - photo credit: Yuki (all others by Wren)]

It took me somewhere around 55 seconds to get across the start line, but I started my watch with the official gun, so that's what I used all day. The start was slow and people didn't spread out for over a kilometer. I figure I lost at least a minute in there just trying to get up to speed. I weaved and danced through openings, but I was also careful not to do anything stupid. At around 1k, I spotted my friend Wren in the crowd, standing on top of something that put him 6' above everyone else. And a few hundred meters later the girl I was staying with (Yuki) spotted me and yelled.

[Japanese like to show the peace sign when they pose for pictures, apparently I like to flex (me in blue)]

Once things sorted out in the race, I became unsettled. My stomach gave me a lot of issues during the first half and rarely did I feel good. I kept the energy drink/water consumption up even though that seemed to be contributing to my stomach problems. My pace was solid, if a little fast. I paid attention to my 5k splits half-heartedly and knew I was doing fine. I didn't think I could maintain a strong second-half pace so my goal was to go out hard (Prefontaine style) then just hope to hang on long enough to salvage a good time. The first half of a marathon is always tedious for me because I don't even begin to think about the race until the halfway point. But my friend Wren broke it up nicely by somehow (he had a bike) showing up to catch my attention again at ~13k and ~17k.

I hit halfway around 1:39.11, which was only 30 seconds faster than this and last year's (PR) Okinawa City Marathon. This bothered me because I knew to get a PR I would have less than 2 minutes to give up on the second half.

The weather was good. Temperature was around 15C and the sky was dark and cloudy. There were also some unfavorable high winds blowing around.

[I'm so fast I'm blurrier than everybody else]

The second 21k of a marathon is an equal part mental and physical battle. My body is going to fatigue, but I do my best to distract my mind from it as long as possible. I watched the leaders going the opposite direction on the out-and-backs, I looked for pretty girls in the crowd, I thought about people following my real-time results online - whatever I could concentrate on other than impending pain and the finish (it never helps to think about the finish).

At 30k and 35k I knew I was still on pace - and surprised by it. At 40k I knew it would be close, but I was encouraged by my physical and mental states. I had to run the final 2.2k in an under-5-minute/kilometer pace. So off I went. I didn't go into a sprint until 400 meters to go, but I was running real well for those last 2k. There was a clock about 100m out from the finish and I could see I was going to make it, which I did in a time of 3:19.49.

[Only about 400 meters to the finish]

That's cutting it pretty close to my goal time, but it's also not quite accurate. That is my 'official time' which started with the gun and ended with me crossing the finish line. My 'chip time' started when I actually crossed the start line and should be around a minute faster. I didn't get a certificate yet, but maybe I'll find that out later this week.

The Tokyo Marathon was awesome. They had a massive volunteer staff, the crowd support was incredible, and the organization was unfathomable. The aid stations, the start, and the numerous clocks were all designed for fast runners, which I really appreciated. The course was great (flat). I only saw a few of the sights I was meant to see, but that's okay by me.

I ran a great race. I'll post the numbers tomorrow, but my first and second half times only had a ~1.30 time differential. My mind was clear and I was able to formulate real thoughts all the way to the finish. Usually everything is sort of a mess as the race nears its end. This was a great marathon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

..in Tokyo

This Tokyo Marathon is the real deal. 30,000 runners, big sponsors, and $80,000 each for the men's and women's winners.

Today I heard about a cool service: you can type in a runner's number (23149) on this site starting at 9am and check the progress of that runner. Times are updated every 5k. Hopefully my 5k times will be in the 24-minute range, though that is likely to fall off after 25-30k.

My number is B23149. The B designates my place in the starting queue. B out of K. I'm in the second-fastest group, which is pretty awesome. The weather will be interesting, with temperatures around 14C during the marathon. The wind is also predicted at 43km/h. Eeek! I'll have to experiment with my friend Wren's drafting suggestion.

I don't have any big predictions except that to say I haven't thought about it much. I am aiming for a 3:20 but don't think that's actually possible. I've had my requisite pasta dinner tonight and laid out everything for tomorrow morning. I have to be at the site around 8am to drop off my bag and get in place before 8:30, which leaves 40 minutes to stand in the cold. That's a greater concern for me than running the actual marathon.

Friday, March 20, 2009

..to Tokyo

Sunday is the culmination of this winter's running. Tokyo has found itself as the season's priority race because Okinawa City suffered from January's knee problems. The circumstances are not set up well for running a PR (personal record) this weekend because I ran a hard marathon just four weeks ago, but that is my goal anyway. It shouldn't be possible with my training.

The weather looks good: 14C (57F) and a 60% chance of rain. I'm slightly concerned with how much time I'll have to wait outside prior to the race start, though.

I watched the sped-up video of the race course from the Tokyo Marathon website. The course appears to be full of turns and really flat. By lacking late-race landmarks like hills, it will be more difficult for me to break down the final 12k. Maybe this will toughen me up. Flat courses equal fast times for most people.

My body (joints excluded) is in good condition right now. I don't mean that I feel good (though I do, kinda), I mean that I look good. You may recall my 30th birthday post from last summer, which was made during my first week back training. My weight then was 83kg, now it is down to 80kg. My times on the 13k route were over 1:12 back in September, now they are regularly, without much effort, around 1:05.

It's nice to be in my best shape of the year, even if I know it'll go away soon enough.

I'll post the race report Monday night.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


[my processing of this image is bad, but the focus is great!]

This is my friend, Emina. She's a yo-chien (幼稚園) (kindergarten) teacher on Zamami. The woman before her got pregnant six months ago, opening the position for Emina to move here (and live with her boyfriend). Emina lived in New Zealand for six months and her English is comparable to my 1.5 years of Japanese. Emina has a great (quirky) personality and has thus catapulted into one of my best friends. Of the things I love about her, these stand out: she doesn't care how her hair looks nor does she dress up, and when I tell her she's beautiful or smart she says, "I think so."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I don't do it often, but I love waking up early, making a breakfast that requires baking, then putting it in the oven while I run. It's perfect to come home and smell it while I take a shower, then eat it hot.

[I know, I need to learn to photograph food so it looks good]

This is called "Apple Stuffed Pancakes." It's comparable to another recipe I grew up with from my mom's library, called Dutch Babies. Base ingredients are flour, milk, and many eggs. The trademark of this recipe is that it grows big while it's still in the oven before collapsing when taken out.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Sample Schedule

I was so busy last week that I hardly had time for my visiting friend, Wren. The reasoning was a bit ironic: that my busy schedule developed out of not having anyone around. He suggested that I do a post on my schedule, so I'll summarize last week:

day: 3 classes (one junior high, 1/2/3 elementary combined, and cinnamon bread baking with 6th grade)
night: eisa drumming practice 7:30-9pm
Also, the teacher who scheduled the bread baking only gave me 45 minutes, so (idea credit: Wren) I actually started a different batch an hour earlier so they could make their dough then skip straight to the next step. But I had to stay after school (until 5) to finish their bread, then go home and finish my bread.

3 classes (one junior high then 2 periods with the other junior high baking cinnamon rolls)
night: taiko drumming practice 6:30-8pm

1 class, then the rest of the day was spent preparing for Thursday's graduation
night: baseball 6:30-9pm

graduation, then a luncheon, then hang out in the teacher's room until I could leave at 4pm
night: taiko drumming 5-8pm, also baked bread (started at 4pm, finished at 9:45pm)

2 classes (elementary 4/5 and 6)
night: 7pm party, 7:30-9pm eisa drumming

Usually I have more classes in a week, but this was graduation week. And usually I have less evening activities, but we have a big performance on March 28th. And usually I run four weekday mornings, but this week was just two.

Running Log 3/9 - 3/15

3/9 off
3/10 5k
3/11 off (accidental)
3/12 10k 53:46
3/13 off
3/14 10k 50:46
3/15 21k 1:58.03

Wednesday was either the first or second day since August I have accidentally slept in. My alarm accidentally found itself under my shorts.
I wrote in a letter to a friend on Friday that my body felt like it was ready to break. Many of my joints hurt and the runs didn't feel strong. My schedule stretched me thin this past week, but Friday night I slept well and decided that the mental side of my two weekend runs would improve. It worked and by the end of today's 21k I felt sharp again.
One week to Tokyo. Leave Thursday night.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Being Different

Today at graduation I noticed this pink blazer in a sea of black, blue, and white. I was impressed with her (or her parents'?) choice to stand out. In a country of conformists, I couldn't help but hope she grows up to do something different. Like be a feminist.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pictures of Kids

From this weekend:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Running Log 3/2 - 3/8

3/2 off
3/3 10k 54:12
3/4 5k
3/5 5k
3/6 off
3/7 13k 1:10.32
3/8 21k 1:57.19

I'm following a special training plan designed for 'four weeks between two marathons'. I feel alright, if not a little fatigued. My 21k today was slowish and my left hip ached a bit (leaving my left knee and right hip as the only joints that haven't hurt yet).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Land-based Beachcombing

This is what beachcombing looks like when I don't have a kayak to haul the stuff. I needed some wood for a recent garden project, but it was too windy to go kayaking. So I loaded up the bike with a rope and headed 3km to the north side of the island.

On the way back my shirt fell off the back of the bike as I was walking up a hill. Fortunately some people were passing by and they ran it back to me. I couldn't put the kickstand down, nor could I lay the bike over. Turning it all around would've been a huge pain.

[The wood is situated so I can actually ride the bike on flats and downhills]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Garden Production

I know you're probably tiring of garden pictures, but here is a salad I put together tonight that, before dressing, was grown entirely on my balcony:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Running Log 2/23-3/1

2/23 off
2/24 off
2/25 off
2/26 3k
2/27 5k
2/28 13k 1:11.45
2/29 11k 1:21.36

Quads were really sore this week. I should've run on Tuesday and Wednesday according to the training plan, but my legs were not amused with the training plan. No worries, I'm back on track after my 'recovery' week. Today I ran with some people who were out for the weekend - Roy, Cliff, and Eri. This was the first time I have run with anybody on Zamami. The pace was slow for me (and good for recovery purposes), but it was nice to have some company.

In case you missed it in last week's running log, which was posted moments before the Okinawa City Marathon race report, I bought my plane tickets to Tokyo. My knee doesn't hurt and my legs even feel good. For the first time this season I am optimistic about a race.