Monday, February 27, 2012

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.


Anonymous said...

If I Could Play The Piano

(1)もしもピアノが 弾(ひ)けたなら
思(おも)いのすべてを 歌(うた)にして

雨(あめ)の降(ふ)る日(ひ)は 雨(あめ)のように
風(かぜ)吹(ふ)く夜(よる)には 風(かぜ)のように
晴(は)れた朝(あさ)には 晴(は)れやかに

だけど僕(ぼく)には ピアノがない
君(きみ)に聞(き)かせる 腕(うで)もない
心(こころ)はいつでも 半開(はんびら)き伝(つた)える言葉(ことば)が 残(の)こされる
アーアアア アーアアア アーアアー

Anonymous said...

(2)もしもピアノが 弾(ひ)けたなら
小(ちい)さな灯(あ)かりを 一(ひと)つ点(つ)け

人(ひと)を愛(あい)した 喜(よろこ)びや
心(こころ)が通(かよ)わぬ 悲(かな)しみや
抑(おさ)えきれない 情熱(じょうねつ)や

だけど僕(ぼく)には ピアノがない
君(きみ)と夢見(ゆめみ)る こともない
心(こころ)はいつでも 空回(からまわ)り
聞(き)かせる夢(ゆめ)さえ 遠(とお)ざかる
アーアアア アーアアア アーアアー