Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Japan's National Sailing Team

Japan's 470 class national sailing team winters on Zamami each year from December-February/March.  Apparently this is one of the best places in the world for winter sailing because the air and water temperatures are warm enough that the sailors can get in a six-hour practice day without freezing.  Also, we have very strong winds and the formation of the island chain means that the sailors can get practice outside on the big waves or inside with varying wind patterns and currents.

I have an interesting relationship with these sailors.  For the last five winters I have passed them on the road, in the dark, at 6:30am while I'm running home and they are walking out to an observatory to do their morning stretches.  So for five winters we say good morning every morning, but never have we had a real conversation.

But I decided they would make a great subject for the photo project I'm doing so I met them two weeks ago and organized a chance to tag along last weekend.  There are two male and two female sailors and they are all very humble and very nice.  We had a great time talking, in no small part because I was awed to be conversing with two people (the women) who are attending the London 2012 Olympics.  The men are hoping to qualify next month at the World Championships in Spain.

Here are some pictures from the first day:

 [がんばろうNIPPON has become a post-tsunami meme that means "Let's Go Japan!"]

 [before and after each sail, the sailors take a few measurements of the mast and the guy-wires]

[I'm really hoping he makes the Olympics so I can brag about him being my Facebook friend.]

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tokyo Marathon, 2012 - The Numbers

Here are my one kilometer splits from the marathon.  In the cases where the times are listed in parentheses, I missed hitting my watch at a kilometer marker so I've averaged the time from the next marker.  Remember that to get a 3:10 I needed to hold a pace of 4.30/km.  Also, the 4.38 during the 20th kilometer was because I stopped to pee in a bush.  That took ~10-15 seconds.

1k: 4.41
2k: (4.14)
3k: (4.14)
4k: 4.16
5k: 4.15
6k: 4.06
7k: (4.14)
8k: (4.14)
9k: 4.17
10k: 4.19
11k: (4.20)
12k: (4.20)
13k: 4.20
14k: 4.24
15k: 4.21
16k: 4.22
17k: 4.28
18k: 4.23
19k: 4.21
20k: 4.38
21k: 4.20
22k: 4.24
23k: 4.21
24k: 4.23
25k: 4.26
26k: 4.26
27k: (4.25)
28k: (4.25)
29k: 4.26
30k: 4.29
31k: 4.27
32k: 4.31
33k: 4.32
34k: 4.45
35k; 4.23
36k: 4.37
37k: 4.34
38k: 4.37
39k: 4.41
40k: 4.41
41k: 4.43
42k; 4.36
42.195k: 48 sec.

Tokyo Marathon, 2012

I woke up at 5:30am in my friend's fancy apartment in Ikebukuro, then spent the next two hours showering, stretching, eating, and killing time while trying to decide what to wear.  I walked out the door with my tights on, but decided at the train station to switch to shorts.  The online weather said 5C, but it really didn't feel cold to me.

[it looked like this for blocks]

A quick Yamanote train ride and a 15-minute walk and I was at my baggage truck with plenty of time to spare.  I added some more Bodyglide, lip balm, then triple-checked I had everything I needed before turning over my bag to the truck to be delivered to the finish line.

[this is what I wore to the start line]

I proceeded to the start through the special A/B section and, since it wasn't really that cold, I went into my start area 45 minutes before the start of the race.  I was checked four times for my number to make sure I was actually a "B".  They're serious about making sure you go to the right block.

I've been in this block three times before so I'm familiar with how things work as we approach start time.  I also know where the best bushes are to pee in, which is important.  About 8 minutes before the start I removed my pants and both extra shirts, then got my arm warmers in place.  Also, you may remember from the Tokashiki Half-Marathon a couple weeks ago that my heart rate monitor broke 15 minutes before the start of the race?  Well, I glued and taped it back together and had it working until 15 minutes before the start of this race when it broke again.  I was bummed about that.

The start was uneventful, but I remember seeing that the confetti that was shot out of the cannons was heart-shaped.  Oh Japan.  I crossed the start line around 1:15-1:20 and bided my time until things opened up a couple hundred meters later.  My first full kilometer was 4.41, which was great considering the logjam I had to navigate and that I needed to hold a 4.30 pace to reach my goal.  I only lost 20-30 seconds due to the crowd, which is 30 seconds less than I account for.

As usual, my first 5km was a mess.  My pace was all over, as was my feeling.  Fortunately I didn't have inclement weather to complicate things.  No, this turned out to be the best weather day I can imagine for a marathon.  The first 5k was 21.45, which is 45 seconds under pace.  To be expected for the opening 5, but I felt it as a bit slow so I unreeled a 4.06 for the sixth kilometer.  Realizing that was stupid I backed off and settled into the 4.17 range for the next few.  "Settled" is a tricky word, though, because if anything, I did not feel settled at all for the entire first half of the marathon.  I thought my pace was all over the map and I didn't feel like I was banking enough time for later in the race, but I also felt like I shouldn't push it too hard.  

I hit 10k in just under 43 minutes, which is good.  Two minutes ahead of schedule.  But I do remember looking longingly at the few people who were finishing the 10k race.  I didn't want to run another 30k. And then the destructive thoughts came.  I started questioning my motivation and the parts of my training that were less than satisfactory.  I started thinking maybe I am just becoming too old for a good time.  I dont't know why I went through this, but it was probably because I was having so much trouble finding a rhythm.  Even though the numbers are showing (I'll post them tomorrow) that I was holding a pace in the low 4.20's for each kilometer, I didn't feel consistent.

I hit the halfway mark (21.1km) in 1:31.40, which I think is a new PR.  But I don't even think I noticed at the time; I was too busy thinking about how my body should be feeling springy but it wasn't.  I remember getting a resurgence in my mind over the next 5k, which went well.  25-30k were mediocre.

Then the magic happened.  I passed 30k feeling decent, but aware that I always feel deceivingly decent here.  The next 5k always go well, then the ensuing 7k do not.  But at 31k something struck me and I knew it was going to happen today.  I knew I only had an hour to go and when I objectively analyzed my body condition, I was still strong.  An hour to go shouldn't be a problem.  So I set out on the most concentration 'tear' I've ever had running.  I set my eyes on the back of a runner about 20m ahead and didn't shift them for anything.  Then he dropped out, so I picked another guy.  He dropped out, too, so I picked another (clearly my stare was strong enough to break people).  Then I caught him, so I picked another.  I need to point out that my goal was not to catch and pass people,  I was only trying to focus all of my attention on something other than what I was doing and just hold a steady pace.  I don't remember what I was even thinking, but I was in another world.

I hit 35k with no issues and kept going - and the kilometers kept rolling off.  They did start to get a little more difficult, as my times show, but I was never in danger of losing it.  I had banked enough time early in the race that I could afford to fall off the 4.30 pace a little without worrying. 37k is usually where I disintegrate, but I was determined to not let that happen so I kept my focus on the runners ahead and paid attention to my music.   When I hit 40k I was pretty sure it was going to happen - and I was happy to log a good 35-40k time for those who were following the live 5k updates online.  41k came without issue and I knew I was good, but I didn't push it because I was not interested in breaking myself to gain a few more seconds.  I have tried so hard for so many years to break 3:10 that I was happy to just roll to finish and accomplish that goal.  I did pour on a little extra for the last 200 meters, but that was it.  42.195 kilometers in 3:07.08.  More than five minutes off my previous PR and, being under 3:10, qualification for the Boston Marathon.

I congratulated the guys around me, whom I'd been running with for a long time.  I had a fit of hacking/dry-heaving trying to get the sticky saliva out of my throat, which wasn't very fun.  I picked up all my schwag, then my luggage bag.  The luggage delivery blows my mind every year.  They get these bags across Tokyo (around the marathon course) and organized numerically into this huge warehouse - all in less than two hours.

[30,000+ bags!]

I felt surprisingly good at this point - and still do now.  This is easily the best marathon finish I've ever had.  A solid time and my body is still functional.  Even my mind seems to be clicking on most cylinders.  I have had a little trouble with stairs, but for the most part my body feels great.  It's a very nice feeling to accompany such a fast time.

[it's impossible for me to look cool after a marathon]

[collateral damage]

[the spoils]

Just like last year I scheduled my flight back to Naha at 4pm on marathon day.  So I had to hurry through getting dressed then get myself to airport.  But I got to my gate at 2:30pm, which was fun because all the televisions were doing live broadcasts of the Tokyo Marathon.  And they were still doing them at 3:45pm when I boarded.  The flight was sort of awful.  It's three hours and my body did not want to be cramped up.  Also, I was terribly hot because I didn't want to remove my layers and expose those around me to my marathon smell.  The price I pay for being a nice guy.

So I'm in Naha tonight feeling superb.  I'm very happy with the run, especially with the determination I was able to muster in the final 11k. I don't know where it came from and I don't know if it is replicable, but I'm glad that during this, my last marathon for awhile, that I was able to surpass my goal so resoundingly and still walk away from it.

Thanks to everyone who followed along online; I'm glad I was finally able to deliver to those of you who follow every year.  I'll try to post the time splits tomorrow.  Also, just for record keeping, this was my 11th marathon.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tokyo Marathon Pre-Race 2

I made it to Tokyo okay last night, but didn't get to bed until 1am.  I woke up at 6am because my body is dumb.  I did a quick 3k test run this morning.  It was 7°C(44°F), raining, and windy.  Not fun at all.  I wore shorts to see how that would go and it didn't go well.  Neither did my exposed face.  The problem with making judgment calls on a 3k run, though, is that the marathon has another 39k.  Looking forward, the weather is supposed to be clear tomorrow, so I'm thinking my head will be alright.  But, shorts or tights?  I'm yet undecided on that one.  I will have four shirts on and two sets of arm warmers and at least half of that is predicted to come off during the race.

My body felt okay during today's run.  By that I mean that I didn't feel springy (that should hit around 10k), but I also didn't feel any pain or soreness, so I shouldn't have any injury concerns.

I went to the expo mid-day to pick up my race packet and t-shirt and I was annoyed for the second consecutive year that they got my t-shirt size wrong.  Fortunately the design is terrible so I wouldn't wear the shirt anyway.

[B-group again (B stands for Badass)]

I haven't mentioned this, but it's looking to be a big race for the fast guys.  It's part an Olympic qualifier for the Japanese men and some of the Africans who are here are also quite good (former world record holder).  Here is a good link on the elites who will be at the race.

And once more, if you want to follow along for the 5k live updates, go here: and enter in my bib number: 22997
Race starts at 9:10am local time, 4:10pm Saturday PST.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tokyo Marathon 2012 Pre-race

I'll be leaving for Tokyo tomorrow night for the marathon this Sunday. I've been training for this, my fourth consecutive Tokyo Marathon, since August.

The weather is shaping up to be potentially good, so long as Saturday's rain stays on Saturday. The temperatures are predicted to be between 0°C and 8°C(46°F), so probably in the 2°C(35°F) range at the start, maybe 5-8°C(41-48°F) at the end. That's pretty chilly, but it's easier to strip off layers than to try to not get hot. I have a junk pair of pants and a couple of throwaway shirts to wear during the hour of standing at the start line, but I still expect to be shivering badly by the time the gun goes at 9:10am.

I will likely wear tights (instead of shorts) and my usual t-shirt along with one or two sets of arm warmers. Maybe I will pick up a hat at a 100 yen store on Saturday, too. The hat and the outer layer of arm warmers (also acquired from the 100 yen store) will probably be discarded to a fangirl along the way as I warm up.

[wondering how many things I've forgotten...]

My goal again this year is 3:10. The usual problem for me is not the first 7/8 of the race, but the last 5-7km. I have attempted to mitigate that this year by upping my three long runs from 32k, 32k, and 32k to 37k, 41k, and 32k (which followed a race pace 21k the previous afternoon). But I'm not optimistic that those lengthened runs will solve my 37k crash. Instead, my goal, as usual, is to try and run well in the first 37k to bank enough time that when I'm fighting the death throes at the end I'll slip by the finish line under my goal.

Here were my splits from last year (3:10 pace in parentheses):

5k: 22:25 (22:30)
10k: 44:19 (45.00)
15k: 1:06.21 (1:07.30)
20k: 1:28.36 (1:30.00)
half: 1:33.29 (1:35.00)
25k: 1:50.57 (1:52.30)
30k: 2:13.40 (2:15.00)
35k: 2:36.42 (2:37.30)
40k: 3:00.32 (3:00.00)
42.195k: 3:12.18 (3:09.55)

You will be able to follow along online again this year with live 5k updates. Go to this site <PC  Mobile> and enter in my bib number <22997>. Remember to subtract out the time it takes to cross the start line (1-1:30, but it might be listed on the update page) to calculate my 'actual' times. The splits above have been adjusted. Clearly I am hoping to be a bit below those splits this year, though if through magic I find myself feeling less destroyed at 37k, I would be able to pull it off with those times. The key is that I must be [well] under 2:15 at 30k and 2:37.30 at 35k.

I suppose I better make a prediction. My training year has gone well, but I don't think it's been necessarily strong and if my only evidence to support a strong ending to the marathon is those three longer runs, then I would say I don't think that is enough. I expect I will suffer hard in the last 5k, not because I'm lacking any training, but because I seem to do it every year and I haven't yet figured out why. So I'm going to guess right in the middle of the range I expect to finish in and say 3:12.30. I would be surprised if I came in higher than 3:15 or lower than 3:10.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Weekend Shoot Teaser

Those two women in the foreground are going to the Olympics this year.  More next week.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Goat Update

Instead of going in for goat recovery the next morning before work, I found myself still awake at midnight  and so decided to head up then and not be limited on time.  I rode up to the beach and headed off into the crashing waves in pitch blackness, as the low cloud cover eliminated any star or moon light.  I brought along three flashlights and searched until all their batteries started to wear down.  I found myself in very dangerous situations (atop cliffs with no apparent way out) and very frustrating ones (a blood trail leading seemingly nowhere).  At 3:30am I decided to call it quits.  I got home at 4am and slept until 7am, then struggled through the day at work before heading back up in the evening for another 2 hours of searching in daylight.  But unfortunately that didn't help as I was still unable to catch a glimpse of white attached to a dead goat.


I don't know what happened to her.  I'm sure she's dead.  I just don't know where.  When I wrote in my last blog post that I really didn't want her going into the forest, this is why.  It's a nasty place only navigable by goats.  She managed to find enough energy (despite having a three-pronged razor blade bouncing around in her chest) to climb a ridge and disappear into the underbrush.

Looking back on the scenario there's numerous things I could have done differently that probably would have resulted in a freezer full of goat meat.  But this is only helpful if my errors were egregious, which I don't think most of them were.  When I first found her bedded down on top of the cliff I probably should have left her there to die overnight instead of shooting her again.  But with the information I had at the time - that she was bleeding heavily and should have been cut through the vitals and in a place I'm not sure I could have reached - it seemed like the right thing to do to try and finish her off.  Unfortunately her adrenaline fueled a leap across a dangerous gap and into freedom, if only for a few hours until she bled out.

Knowing that she would have eventually succumbed to starvation helps a little.  She ended up dying from what I think was a low-risk attempt at salvaging her meat.  It bugs me that I made such a good shot and have nothing to show for it.  Fortunately there are many more goats and nobody hunting them, so I can take the lessons/experience from this and be a better hunter next time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I was tipped off last night to a goat that's been stuck on a cliff for four days on the north side of the island, so tonight I hurried through my after-school errands and rode my bike up to investigate. I'd been told the goat was about 10 meters above the water, so my plan was to just wade to it and shoot from the water.  But when I arrived I saw that she was a good 40m above the ocean and in a very difficult spot to even get close enough (~20m) to take a shot.

[white spot in the middle]

I analyzed the situation for about as long as I could before needing to make a decision (it was getting towards 5:15pm and it gets dark at 6:30pm).  I decided to wade around and try to scout out a good shooting location, then come back tomorrow and make the shot.  But once I got over beneath the goat, I realized the place where I was standing was probably going to offer the best shot.

[I was closer than this when I shot]

I hem-hawed around for a few minutes balancing out the remaining daylight and the likelihood this goat could survive a fifth day standing in the same place.  Eventually I decided I should take the bird in the hand and hope for a good shot, then a death plunge.  So I set everything up quickly, including the camera.  I have never practiced shooting at a near vertical angle, but since I don't have sights on my recurve bow, I just aimed high.

As you can see in the video, I was a little premature in declaring the goat's death.  My shot was almost perfect, as it went into the right side of the chest cavity (should have caught lungs).  I fully expected her to die within a couple minutes, but she was a little stubborn.  She climbed back up the cliff then bedded down.  I came up on the back side of her and got close enough to jump her from her bed, at which point she ran back to this side.  So I came back and scared her back to the other side, then snuck up on her again.  This time I had the bow ready and I took a <10m shot at her through some brush.  She didn't like whatever happened (I don't know if I actually hit her, though I assume so) and she jumped the gap above me and ran into the forest.  This was bad news.  I wanted to keep her on the rocks where I knew her location.  Now that she was in the forest she could go anywhere.  And it was really starting to get dark.  I hurried after trying to see if I could spot her.  I found tracks down on the beach and on the next knoll I spotted her up through the trees.  She was moving very slowly uphill and looked sick, so I backed off and waded back to my bike.  I returned home, confident that she'll die overnight.  I will have to go back in the morning to retrieve her.  Unfortunately I have to catch a boat to Aka at 7:45am, so I will need to be home by 7:20am to assure a shower, which means I need to be done up there by 7am.  So I need to head out at 5 or 5:30am and find her in the dark with a flashlight to have enough time to cut her up and get the meat into my refrigerator.  I'm already nervous that some of the meat will go bad overnight, so I need to get it cooling asap in the morning.

[how she climbed a cliff with a hole in her chest, I do not know]

Update tomorrow!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tokashiki Half-Marathon Publicity

I made the front page of one of the two Okinawa newspapers:

[front page]

[looking.. not so great.  Interestingly, that guy in the blue shirt is giving me the eye here - he ended up finishing a few places back (I think he might have been the guy who stuck close to me through most of the latter half of the race) and he and his gf took pictures with me afterwards.  I'm not sure if that's weird or not?]

[303 men and 83 women finished the race, so I'm in the 1%]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tokashiki Half-Marathon 2012

For the fourth consecutive year I took the Zamami-sponsored boat - along with 15 other people - to go run the Tokashiki (neighboring island) half-marathon.

[Team Geruma, and Dave]

My training this year [for Tokyo Marathon] has been mediocre so I wasn't too sure what to expect out of my performance at the race.  Three years ago I finished in 31st place (overall), two years ago 26th place, and last year 11th place.  But my time last year was actually slower than two years ago, so the overall ranking has a lot to do with who shows up to the race.

The start surprised me this year as just two guys took off to the front and I found myself in the "chase" pack.  This is strange because.. well, I'm not really a runner and yet here I was near the front.  I thought I must be going too fast (oh, my heart rate monitor belt snapped in half 15 minutes before the start of the race, so I couldn't use my HR as a guide to energy output) so I kept trying to slow down, purposely letting people go ahead.  At the 1km mark I was able to check my pace and found that I was exactly on my full marathon pace (4:30), so I let go a little and caught back up.  I figured I was around 10th-11th place at the 3km mark, which is where a giant hill (~2km?) begins.  I reeled in at least four guys on that hill, which is not unexpected because I am just strong on hills.  I expected them to get me back on the ensuing downhill, but they didn't and instead I ran the next 6km completely alone.  Occasionally I could spot a couple guys way out ahead of or behind me, but otherwise it was really quiet.  From 11km to 13km is an out-and-back, so I could see who was ahead of me, then after I made the turn, I could see who was behind me.  I was seventh at the turn with one guy ahead who I thought I could catch, but another guy gaining quickly from behind, so I figured it'd be a wash and I'd be fighting to hold onto 7th from the big pack that was behind me.  It took 2km (all uphill) to gain the guy in front of me, then I caught glimpses of the next guy so I started working on him.  There was one last big uphill and I knew that would be my chance to both catch the guy ahead and lose the guy behind me, who was still there.  Both of those things happened and I came out on top of that hill in 5th place.  I cruised across the flat until reaching the downhill that leads to the final, flat 2km back to the village and the finish line.  At the bottom of that hill, confident I had 5th place secured, I noted that the 4th place guy was out ahead of me. He was pretty far away, but appeared to be struggling.  So I kicked it up a little bit, thinking if I could catch him sooner rather than later then I'd avoid any last minute power surges he might be saving up for. This strategy worked and I passed him in less than 1km, with more than 1km to the finish.  I was in the disadvantageous position at this point (ahead), so I had to exert a little more to assure my place, but I checked over my shoulder a few times and confirmed I was opening up my lead.

So that was that.  I came into the stadium and all the Geruma kids were cheering for me as I crossed the line in 4th place (out of 433 overall, 343 men).  My time was 1:34.41, which is really not a fast half-marathon time, though the 1440' of ascent (~470m) needs to be taken into account, as does the warm weather.  I didn't actually ever feel very great during the race.  I ran 'well', of course, but I had some stomach issues and I lost my energy gels in the second kilometer.  I never really felt like I found a comfortable pace and I was pretty dead at the finish, which has me worried for Tokyo.

[there is a 1.5km out-and-back at the start, so people can cheer/photograph when you come back through the starting gate.  I hate seeing pictures of myself running as I always think I look ridiculous..]

Though I missed out on the podium (by six minutes!), I was able to score first place in the 30-39 age bracket (out of 88).  Jeez, I just noticed one of those guys I chased down in the last half of the race was over 60 years old!

[Rei, a third-grader from Geruma, won the 3km trim marathon (you enter the time you think you will run, then the person whose ending time is close to their guess (no, you aren't allowed to wear a watch) wins) by missing his guess time by just one second!  He and I each got the BIG certificates and the heavy award medals.  Awesome!]

[on the boat ride back to Zamami we came across a pod of whales!] 

[my medals and certificates]

This morning I woke up at 4:15am to do my long run for the week.  I was hoping to do more, but I ended up with the prescribed 32km.  But I was pretty dead at the end.  Three weeks to Tokyo!

Friday, February 3, 2012


Today a monster (oni) came to scare the kindergarten kids.  I got pictures:

[the kids throw soy beans at the monster to scare him off]

[edited with VSCO film]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Off Camera Lighting Workshop

This past weekend I went to an off camera lighting workshop put on by Chris Willson and Pete Leong.  It was a nice refresher and I even picked up a few new things like the settings and mindset with which I should approach flash photography.  Here are a few images I took: