Sunday, March 28, 2010

Summer is Coming

I can't wait for more of this pretty turquoise blue water:

Friday, March 26, 2010


Remember the Tokyo Marathon?  Remember all that pain I had in my right leg that I complained kept me from achieving my goal time and put me in a wheel chair for my Disneyland visit?  Well, it didn't go away.  Last weekend, three weeks after the race and still hobbling around, I took a visit to a Naha sports doctor.  He immediately recommended me for an MRI.

Here is what it looked like:

[this was about midway up my leg, right in the middle of my calf]

To imagine what you are seeing, pretend I am laying on a table and you are looking up at my body from my feet.  So in the picture, my right leg is on your left, and my left leg is on your right.  The black spots are bone, the white are vessels/arteries, the rest is muscle.

Now let's look at the problem area down by my calf, from knee to foot:


The doctor described this as inflammation between my muscle and bone.  I'm sure there's a more correct clinical term, but I wasn't worried about it.  He did say that this is what happens just before a stress fracture (in my bone), so I guess it's good I wasn't running an ultra-marathon.  The doctor told me he could start me rehabbing with therapists on Monday, until I reminded him I live on a small island.  Then he said "Ahh.. yeah, hmm.  Okay, I'll prescribe you some cream." (Thanks!)  He said I'll just have to wait this injury out, but eventually it'll get better. 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Leaving My Mark

[If you only saw 50% of this post the first time, here's all of it.]

Every year at Geruma the students get to do a little seascape mural on the sea wall between the school and the ocean. It lasts about ten years until it gets painted over by the ensuing generation. It's pretty fun to track back the paintings of some of the older students to when they were 1st and 2nd graders.

[the 6th grade and junior high paintings]


[me and the fish most associated with me, the Giant Trevally]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moving On (But Not Quite Yet)

I was watching a young student practice his baseball swing during graduation rehearsal last week and it got me thinking about daydreaming. When I was in grade school I spent any down time at school dreaming about what I'd do in the woods with my friends after school. In high school, as I approached adulthood and independence, my daydreams gained steam into trips I would go on or places I would find myself. In college there was a disconnect between what I wanted to do - spend every September-December in the woods hunting - and what what I was schooling myself to do - work in New York. Just in time, I cured myself of those New York ambitions and proceeded to graduate then go into the woods. It was my first taste of independence and I did exactly what I'd daydreamed about during so many years in a classroom.

Less than a year later I found myself on an adventure that solidified the importance of 'adventure' in my life going forward: Peace Corps. But restlessness set in even there, and during my second year I began dreaming in earnest about subsequent adventures. For three years after Peace Corps I didn't stay in place more than three months at a time (and those three months came 30+ miles from the nearest road!). It wasn't a rule of mine to keep moving, but rather I kept finding interesting things to pursue.

The theme here is that when I get restless or bored with a place, I begin to think about what I would do if I didn't have responsibilities. Invariably that thought process takes me to a new location. When watching that boy practice his baseball swing, undoubtedly wishing he were 100 other places than that gymnasium, it got me thinking about why I haven't yet started daydreaming here. I certainly have plenty of "stuck in a gymnasium" moments. I'm not sure that I came to anything solid enough to write out as a conclusion, except that I've only (!?) been here 2.5 years. I have no doubt that at the end of my fourth (or fifth, should it come to that) year I will be ready to go. Right now I still have some adventures yet to accomplish here but I can see the end of the list. That's not to say I won't rewrite the list, but I also understand the novelty of the place will wear down. And I'm pretty sure I won't ever be satisfied staying in any one place forever.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossoms. They bloom in Okinawa earlier than the mainland of Japan, where they are famously popular. We're closer to the equator, so everything blooms earlier here.

Photographing them is tough because our winter weather is gray. I only managed one hour on one day to photograph this year. I wasn't pleased with my shots, but I wasn't disappointed either.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Cave

I woke up early and kayaked over to Aka this morning in search of some of the island's deer. Other than tons of scratches, some cool birds, and a pretty stream, the highlight of the 2.5-hour hike occurred in the first five minutes when I found this cave:

It was clearly man-made and I am making an educated guess it is from the time of the war.

My light, which I coincidentally had along, barely allowed me to determine this right branch went about 20 feet before stopping (or continuing underwater! oooh...).

So I went left.

The end, where I was hoping I would find skeletons or relics or something (like a land mine?). I was slightly unnerved about being this deep in a cave alone so I didn't stay long, but I'd like to go back and dig down under that loose soil and see what's there.

[see the entrance way out there?]

[oh, and I found a large glass fishing float! (and some small ones, which I promptly lost when a big wave crashed over my kayak on the return trip)]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

As Seen In Tokyo

[If only the other LDS could see what was being sold inside this store]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tokyo Disney

I wasn't terribly excited about this portion of the trip, but it was a compromise for Mariko's giving up a day for my marathon. I was much less excited when I tried to walk the kilometer from the train to the entrance gates and old ladies were passing me (I'm not kidding). My stiff leg was a serious impediment to our progress - enough for Mariko to take seriously a joke I had offered the day before: renting a wheelchair.

[en route to the wheelchair rental stand]

My pride threatened to reject the wheelchair, but my secret hope that it would get us to the front of the lines relented. It turned out to be the best idea ever! It would have been a miserable day with me limping around and waiting in regular lines. Instead, Mariko pushed me (until 3pm, when I figured out how much more efficient and fun (and safe) it was to roll myself) and we went anywhere she could walk. As for the lines, we got a card that allowed us to go up to the ride and get the card marked off for the 'line wait time' at that moment. We could then go off and do whatever we wanted (except sign up for another ride) and return when the wait time had elapsed. This allowed us to ride the 'short line' rides and never have to wait in line. Brilliant!

Tokyo Disney was remarkably similar to how I remember Disney Land. Same themed regions and rides, albeit on a smaller scale (Splash Mountain was 1/2, maybe 1/3 the size of the U.S. version).

[Who's the Tokyo Disney spellchecker?]

Something I noticed was how passionate many of the Japanese tourists were about Disney. An absurd number of people were wearing fancy mouse ears (see woman in castle picture above) and many little girls were dressed up as princesses.

[pathetic or awesome?]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tokyo Marathon 2010, The Numbers

A Tokyo Marathon report from Japan Running News:

What a day. With 6 degree temperatures at the start, strong winds, rain turning to snow as temperatures fell, and a tsunami warning for the waterfront finish area, this year's Tokyo Marathon had the worst conditions in the event's four-year history. That is saying quite a bit after the cold rain in 2007 and the gale-force winds last year. Times were never on the table as runners fought simply to survive.

Further down in the article he mentions the wet snow that started falling at 28k for the leaders, which more-or-less coincides with the extreme cold I started feeling in my arms around 17k. I might have been too cold to notice that it was snowing. I was also just 2k into 13 straight kilometers of a notable headwind.

Anyway, here are some of my stats from the run, including my splits for nearly every kilometer:

Official Time: 3:15.55
Watch Time: 3:15.53
Estimated Chip Time (Real Time, adjusted for time it took to cross start line): 3:14.25

Average Heart Rate: 168bpm
Heart Rate at Finish: 172bpm
Heart Rate Range: 112-182
Time spent above 180bpm: 20 sec.
Time spent below 160bpm: 5 min, 20 sec.

Splits from my watch:

Official start: 00.00
Crossing start line: 1.28
5k: 23.48 (22.20)
6k: 28.07 (4.19)
7k: 32.29 (4.21)
8k: 36.52 (4.23)
10k: 45.46 (8.53, 4.27/k)
11k: 50.11 (4.25)
12k: 54.33 (4.22)
13k: 58.59 (4.26)
14k: 1:03.29 (4.29)
15k: 1:07.52 (4.22)
17k: 1:16.47 (8.54, 4.27/k)
18k: 1:21.13 (4.26)
19k: 1:25.43 (4.30)
20k: 1:30.14 (4.31)
21.1k (half): 1:35.20 (5.05)
22k: 1:39.24 (4.04)
24k: 1:48.30 (9.06, 4.33/k)
25k: 1:53.08 (4.38)
27k: 2:02.43 (9.34, 4.47/k)
28k: 2:07.23 (4.39)
29k: 2:12.00 (4.36)
30k: 2:16.32 (4.32)
31k: 2:21.14 (4.42)
32k: 2:25.52 (4.37)
33k: 2:30.33 (4.41)
34k: 2:35.17 (4.44)
35k: 2:40.03 (4.50)
36k: 2:44.59 (4.55)
37k: 2:49.41 (4.42)
38k: 2:54.32 (4.51)
39k: 2:59.29 (4.56)
40k: 3:04.36 (5.07)
41k: 3:09.48 (5.11)
42k: 3:14.57 (5.09)
42.195k: 3:15.53 (.55)

You can see things started to go downhill right around the halfway point. And that's just too early to start losing so much ground. I had a 1 min, 10 sec. lead on my goal pace (if we use the chip time) at the halfway point, but that is just not enough to hold up in the later kilometers. And as I mentioned in my last post, my failure to reach my goal became apparent to me around 30k. You can see my splits suffered after that, when I was no longer motivated to my goal. I was just running to reach warmth at that point. It's interesting - and probably helpful for the future - to see all those splits, though.

The other note that I can't reiterate enough is my heart rate average. Last year's Tokyo Marathon had a 174bpm average and a max of 192bpm. This year's average was only 168bpm - the lowest of my last six marathons - and the my fastest time by 4.5 minutes. I ran faster than ever and my heart beat slower than ever. There was a lot of unused fitness left in my body at the finish line, wasted by a pain in my right calf.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tokyo Marathon 2010

Here are my results, including splits.

The race was terrible. I'm fairly surprised I ended up with the time I did (3:14.30ish, which accounts for the 1.28 it took me to cross the start line). There are two reasons I credit with the failure to reach my goal: the first caught me off guard, the second I was just hoping wouldn't happen.

(1) The temperature on Saturday was around 10-12C (50-54F) and the weather forecast showed 9-11C (49-52F) on Sunday with a 20% chance of rain. Cold relative to my training weather, but still feasible for me. I debated until the last minute on Saturday buying some running "sleeves" which roll up or down on your arms to adjust to the temperature. I opted not to since 9C isn't terribly cold - and less so when I'm running fast.

[this is where we shed our non-running clothes and put our finish line bags into a truck, then stand around for 45 minutes waiting for the start]

I woke up to heavy rain on Sunday morning. It didn't let up until I reached 30km, or about 11:30am. I succeeded pretty well in keeping dry until the start, using a scavenged plastic bag as a poncho and sharing an umbrella while waiting at the start. But it didn't take long after the start for everything to soak through.

[the last picture before it got not fun]

There's nothing I can do in my Okinawan training to prepare for cold, so I relied on hope. Which turned out to be a little dangerous. The temperature at the start was 5C (41F). After 30 minutes it ticked down to 4C (39F) and never climbed back up. The heavy rain is what made that temperature so difficult to manage. I thought running would keep me warm, but it didn't. 17k is a distinct memory because it was then that I realized how cold my upper body was. My arms were just flat cold and my gloved (wet) hands didn't have much feeling. I was eating two Clif Shot Blocks (electrolytes) at 8k, 18k, and 28k. At 18k I could barely get the package back into my pocket and at 28k I couldn't - I had to drop it. Using my mp3 player in the latter kilometers was not an option because my fingers weren't usable.

(2) Two weeks ago my right calf inexplicably started hurting. This in itself wasn't worrisome because over the course of a six-month training season lots of things hurt. The hope is that nothing decides to hurt during the weeks immediately preceding the race. This calf issue had bad timing. It wasn't something I could stretch and it never seemed to improve, even with three days off just before the marathon. I did run 13k last weekend and was able to run through it so I was optimistic. But once the marathon started, I knew it was going to be with me all day. And I guessed that in the last 10k, when everything needs to be working perfectly, that this calf issue might sink me.

I was partially right, except for the distance. It was really the last 30k that the calf dragged me down. I was aware I wasn't running at full strength because my heart rate was too low. Even as late as 35k, my heart rate was dipping below 170. It should have been in the mid-180's. At 30k, when the rain stopped, I started to feel good. I had mostly given up on reaching my goal, but once I did some math I realized I might have a chance if I could hold my goal pace (4.30/km). So I stepped it up and felt good, but my calf just wouldn't let me go. I checked every kilometer and my pace was 4.38, 4.36, then 4.42 and it continued to get slower, even though I felt strong. I knew that if I couldn't gain ground at that point, I wouldn't be able to do it later in the race, so the marathon became a "run 10k to get to the finish because that's probably the quickest way to reach warmth."

If you were watching my splits you saw me going downhill late in the race. No question there - and I knew it. I really lost the wind in my sails early in the race when my calf flared up, but the cold rain just about capsized me. I wasn't dressed nor mentally prepared for it. There were numerous times during the marathon when I was shivering as I was running, which was a little bit scary. I was running to reach a goal, but also for survival. It was hard to concentrate on meeting my splits under such conditions.

I crossed the finish line and immediately stopped. I leaned on a volunteer who asked me "大丈夫ですか?" (Are you okay?) to which I responded "大丈夫じゃない" or "No, I'm not okay." He was torn between amusement and concern. I immediately had trouble walking on my right leg and had to limp the couple hundred meters of walking to get my chip removed, get beverages and food (which I didn't take because my fingers couldn't hold anything), a finisher's towel, medal, then a long walk to the unheated 'warehouse' where we could pick up our finish line bag and change.

[I look happy, but I'm really not]

I got a guy to take a picture of me (he was shivering pretty badly and struggled with the task) before collapsing to the floor and quickly removing my clothing (yes, I was sitting there naked with many people around, but that was the last thing on my mind - and probably the last thing on their minds as well) and started changing into the pile of dry clothes I'd left in my finish line bag. I tried to warm my hands up in my armpits and crotch, but those places weren't warm either! It was a monumental struggle to stand up, but I made it on my own, then limped my way through more giveaways and big rooms and hallways and escalators to the place where the runners meet the world again. Mariko was fortunately waiting there and she allowed me to put my hands on her stomach for warmth. She also went and got me some hot tea to start the rewarming process.

[a self portrait while I wait for the dry clothes to work]

I think if either of the two factors that worked against my marathon had been absent, I still would have fallen short. The calf really slowed me more than I could have overcome (and is still keeping me from walking two days later) and the cold just stole too much energy. But I did get a solid Personal Record (PR) out of it.