Monday, February 28, 2011

Tokyo Marathon 2011

I didn't sleep well Friday night then walked around way too much on Saturday (I always do) and had hunger issues all that day as well.  I think I ate four meals, finally settling on a huge bowl of ramen at 7pm to make it all go away.  I went to bed at 9pm Saturday night and slept pretty well until 6am, when I again broke from tradition and ended up eating a lot (2 bananas, an orange, and 3 big pieces of toast).  Usually everything is very calculated for me, but this year was a big contrast.

Even when I got on the train I realized I might be late, which was further exacerbated when they stopped everybody in a tunnel (seriously?) to check our bags for explosives, except the check was only a peek inside.  Stupid security.

The temperature was 4 degrees (39F) when I left my friend's apartment, so this left me with an important choice to make when dropping off my bag at the truck: do I wear a long-sleeved capilene shirt over my short-sleeved running shirt, or do I just go for the one arm warmer (I found it in an airport, which is why I only have one) and gloves?  I opted for the latter, noting the clear sky and lack of wind.  Though I shivered for the final 20 minutes of standing around near the start line, I made the right clothing choice.

[loading our bags, which we'll pick up at the finish line]

I stood where I always stand: on the far right edge next to the planters so I can take a final pee in the hedge in the last two minutes before the start.  The start went off without a hitch and I was glad to go out slowly because I wanted to test my right leg, which I hadn't run on in three days (and I'd forgotten to take most of the inflammation medicine for it on Fri/Sat).  It ached a little, as usual, but this pain disappeared after 1-2k and never resurfaced.

If you followed my splits (thanks to those who did and wrote me!) you'd see that this year they accounted for the time it took me to cross the start line (1:14).  There is some slow going afterwards while the crowd spreads out, but I thought things picked up pretty well this year.  I tried not to pay attention to my pace much and just run something comfortable while keeping an eye on my heart rate to make sure I wasn't overexerting.  Since my HR was solidly under 170 I just kept going.  Also, I ditched my gloves and arm warmer into the belt of my shorts at around 2k.

There were some stomach issues and feelings of "I can't keep this up" as there always are for me in the first 10k (44:18, 42 seconds ahead of pace), but I settled out nicely thereafter.  Near 15k I spotted some ditched arm warmers in the median of the road.  This was about the 5th set I'd seen, but it was always too late to bend down and grab them (ever since attaining one arm warmer, I've been keen to acquire a second, but I am not keen to buy it - I even went so far as to write to Asics Japan with a picture of my one warmer and a sad face, but they rejected the idea of completing my pair).  So since we were on an out-and-back part of the course, I paid attention to landmarks so I could pick them up on the way back, which I did.  This created a small-sized load of laundry that i was toting in the waist of my shorts, but I correctly assumed I wouldn't notice it anymore after a few more kilometers.

I hit the halfway point (around 1:33) in fine shape.  I was sticking to my regimen of taking 2 cups of energy drink (which equates to about 2 sips) and 1-2 cups of water every 5k.  I'd also been sucking on my Clif Shot Blocks (gummy calorie things) well.  I struggle to take those or gels on the go, so this year I adapted to sucking them and taking a chomp every couple minutes - much better on my stomach.

At 25k (1:50.54, or about 1:30 under pace) I started feeling really optimistic, which I always do at this point.  I felt strong and fast and knew I was over halfway done.  "If I can just keep this up..."  is a thought I couldn't succeed at keeping away.

The day really started to warm up at this point so I was trying to keep myself in the shadows of the buildings on our second out-and-back.  At 30k (2:13.38) I started to feel my quads, which is a bad sign, though in line with my predictions about lack of endurance.

I would say I was still mentally aware and stable at 35k (2:36.40, still 50 seconds under pace), but I deteriorated from here.  I'll post my split breakdowns by kilometer later in the week, but things started to fall apart at 38k.  My quads were just giving out and my mind started to go with them.  I was grasping at anything to pull my mind off the pain.  Some of those tricks - like getting through 1.5 songs on my mp3 player to equal a 5-minute kilometer - sorta worked.  But by 40k (3:00.29, right about on pace) I was done and it was just a matter of getting to the finish line upright.  I stopped for the first time at the 40k drink stations and took in 3-4 cups of each beverage, which did help for a few hundred meters.  But the last 2k were very much of the mindset "what the.. stop.. go..." as my thoughts could only last about 1-2 seconds.  My vision got a little cloudy, which takes me back to the days of my first marathon.  My legs were obviously wobbly and I did sway a few times.  I got passed by quite a few people as I was just fighting to stop.

The relief at the finish line (3:12.06) needn't be stated.  I will, however, note that I did think about my experience at the finish line last year and subsequently told myself to 'suck it up'.  I could still walk on both legs, so I made my way through the chip removal, medal and towel pickup, then all the drink and food stops before going into a giant warehouse to pick up my bag  (how they get those 32,000 bags across Tokyo and organized in less than 3 hours is amazing).

[a little ragged]

I was really hungry, but I wasn't allowed to exit the building as in years past, which would have led me right to an Italian restaurant.  Instead they made us walk some long distance outside and to a train station, so I just went ahead and made my way to the airport, where I arrived at 2:30, ate a lot, then watched the Tokyo Marathon live on television as I waited in line to board my 4pm flight.

[one of two blisters (the other under my right pinky toenail) - that other thing on the middle toe is left over from Tokashiki] 

[for some reason my left shoe rubbed quite a bit against my right calf]

[my trusty Asics GT2150 shoes]

3:12 is not my goal of 3:10, but I don't know where I could have found those extra 2 minutes yesterday.  It's a big question and it's going to take some thinking, reading, and strategy to come up with a new plan.  While I like the training plans I've been following the last couple years, they are leaving me out to dry in the last 5k of my races, so I've got to address that.

Anyway, I'm happy with the time.  Quite pleased, actually.  I wasn't psyched about my training habits or diet this year, nor my time at my only warm-up race, the Tokashiki half-marathon. I didn't think much about my strategy for Tokyo - I just ran what felt comfortable.  Which worked pretty well until it got uncomfortable.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2011 Tokyo Marathon Final Preparation

This year's training regimen has been a little less than last year, when I was fit enough to accomplish my goal of 3:10, but a near stress fracture in my right calf had me limping across the finish line and unable to walk properly for two months.

My times have been slower and distances shorter this year.  I just haven't been into it, mostly because I was nervous about my leg acting up again.  Which it did.  I am taking inflammation medicine right now trying to keep the pain down just enough that I can run for over three hours.

If you want to follow along, you can check this website beginning at 9:10am Tokyo time (4:10pm Saturday on the U.S. West coast) this Sunday for 5k updates:

Here's my number: 23073

It'll take me about 1-1.5 minutes to cross the start line, so subtract that from whatever shows up on the website.  I guess my official goal is 3:10 again, though I'm 95% sure that is not possible.  I am probably looking at something closer to 3:20.  I am going to try to go out semi-hard and just hold a comfortable pace without checking my splits (goal pace is 22:30 5k's), but my endurance is down this year so it's very likely my splits will start tailing off around 25k, or maybe sooner.

But I can't dawdle too long - my return flight to Okinawa leaves Tokyo at 4:05pm.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Security Theater

Today our school received two of these long, Y-shaped metal poles.  I was unsure of their purpose and was surprised to hear they are to keep away intruders.  If a bad dude decides to invade Zamami school this pole is supposed to be used as protection.  Caught by the hilarity of such a prospect, I laughed out loud, which amused a few people who apparently agreed with me.  I defended my position, pretending to be an intruder.  I had one of the guys try to protect himself against me with the pole. I quickly showed the uselessness of the pole by just grabbing it myself and (a) lifting the hoop over my head or stepping over it or (b) spinning around it and walking towards the guy.  Pretty soon everybody was laughing at the stupid pole, but they hung it up anyway.  I really hope this was a national mandate and that nobody at Zamami thought this was a good use of money (especially because we live on Zamami, where a crime has never occurred).

[Seriously?  We're going to have a single bad guy come into Zamami and somebody is going to think "get the pole!" before all of the male teachers just tackle him?]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mariko 2

Remember, this is for stock photo:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mariko (picture)

Mariko let me photograph her a bunch this weekend, which was quite nice (since she signed a model release).  She's getting to be a decent model:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Making Pottery

Pottery-making is a traditional Okinawan craft (isn't a traditional craft of every culture?).  I was scheduled to go to bull fighting a couple weeks ago as a 6-months-late birthday present from Mariko, but couldn't go because of canceled boats, so when she asked me what I wanted to do as a replacement I blurted out "make pottery!"

 [I kinda sucked at it, though.  I was supposed to be making the wall of this bowl much thinner, but eventually the guy gave up and said this would be fine.]

Sorry there's no picture of the final product.  It looks like a bowl.  I'll get it back in a few weeks.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hazy Sunset

There's so much haze in the air the last couple days (dust from China?) that visibility is limited to just two kilometers.  Makes for good sunsets.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tokashiki Half Marathon Pictures

One of the secretaries passed along some pictures she took from the half marathon on Saturday:

[stretching like an old man]

[when I see pictures of myself in running attire, I can't help but think that I don't fit my mental image of what a 'runner' looks like]

[Team Geruma, who ran the 3k Trim Marathon, then vacated the grounds so I had nobody cheering for me when I came to the finish]

[Wow, you're so good with chopsticks!]

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tokashiki Half-Marathon

A perennial event for ~18 of us from the Zamami-son islands, this year's Tokashiki half-marathon drew 100 less people than last year.  It also drew the hottest day (I think) of the last couple months of winter. 

I went out approximately at marathon pace (4:30/km) but the intense hills of this course (total ascent: 1440 feet) slowed me up.   There's 2km of overlapping out-and-back near the 13k mark so I was able to count up and find myself in 15th place, a full 15 places higher than I was at the same point last year.  I also had a few people within 200m of me.  My strength is apparently uphills ('apparently' not because I like them but because I pass so many people on hills) so I pushed it a little and caught up to that group at 15k.  I traveled behind them for the next 1.5k, but then there was one last big (1km long?) hill and I swept them all up by the top of it, putting myself in 11th position overall.  I pushed harder than I wanted for the last 3k to preserve that high positioning because I like the idea of finishing high in a race.  It makes me feel cool. 

So I did: 11th overall (out of 388), 10th for men (out of 296).  Time was 1:35.50, which is amusedly a minute slower than last year, when I finished 27th place.  The field was likely weaker this year, but the weather was also much hotter (and I really noticed the paces of those in front of me suffering after 13k).  My pace didn't suffer because I'm awesome and because I'm smack in the middle of training for a full marathon: this little half was like a sprint.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Being computerless for all but three days of the past 1.5 months has taught me how much I depend on my computer.  The internet is a big part of that, including Skype for phone calls home, email to all sorts of friends, checking facts and quelling curiosity on Wikipedia, and entertainment downloads like music or movies.  But there's also the non-internet time when I listen to podcasts, use the calculator or dictionary, and work on my photos.  I'm not going to say I can't survive without my computer.  I absolutely can.  But in this life - my alone-in-an-apartment-on-a-small-island-with-no-English-speaking-friends life - that the computer helps bring sanity to what might otherwise become a difficult environment.  And it's not until I find myself computerless that I learn this.

At first it was cool - I used all the extra time to jump into Anna Karenina and begin work on a sewing project that's been on my list for two years.  But then when it became really cold and winter vacation came and I wanted to just chill and watch some movies, it got old.  Then it lasted another month.  I nearly finished said sewing project and read A.K., Reading Lolita in Tehran, Harry Potter 6 and 7, and Memoirs of a Geisha.

What stands out the most from this time is how quiet it was.   I don't have a radio (we don't receive any stations) nor a tv (no interest), so when my computer goes down, it takes my music, streaming radio stations, podcasts, and movies with it.  Quiet is nice, but I don't live in a city so I don't long for it.  

But now I have a new computer and should be set for my remaining time in Japan and well beyond.  Hopefully I can adopt some of my computerless habits and keep up the reading, though I have a loooong list of computer projects to get to first.  If anybody is still reading, hopefully blog posts will pick up.