Ohtawara 2013 Marathon Race Report




Suffice it to say, things did not go to plan today. Yesterday I took the afternoon off work and went up to Nishinasuno by Shinkansen to spend the night before the race. After a big meal in Big Boy’s I managed to get to bed at 9pm and enjoyed a fairly good night’s rest before the race. Looking back that was quite fortuitous as one of my club mates got stuck in traffic on the way up from Tokyo on Saturday morning and he missed the start of the marathon. He jumped into the 10km and ran a good race but after training for a marathon for 4 months I don’t think he was quite satisfied.

I got up at 6am and checked my resting heart rate (43) and my HRV (52). The underlying trend of my HRV had continued to increase all week and I was very happy with it. The Route Inn hotel in Nishnasuno servers up a mean breakfast – eggs, fried food, yakisoba, oden, vegetables, bananas, toast, coffee juice and of course rice. Breakfast starts at 6:30am and if you do not get there by 6:25 there is a big line out the door. I learned this trick last year and got down nice and early with my jar honey to smoother the bananas. I then went back to bed for another hour’s sleep before heading out to the start in the taxi I had booked the night before. Even though I had requested a taxi for 9:00, when I went down at 8:50, it was already waiting at the door. Such is Japan and at this point I was thinking so far so good.

I got to the start about one hour before the race began and met up with my club mates who had the foresight to come up by Shinkansen that morning. The day was beautiful. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky and about 10 degrees raising to 15 degrees. I had been thinking of wearing a shirt under my singlet but when I stepped outside I thought that this was perfect weather and decided to forego the shirt.

Before the race

Before the race

The first half of the race went well. I did not really have a plan but I thought that I would find a pace that felt good and try to stick to that. This resulted in me running around 4:40/km and I got to the half way mark in 1:40:23 which put me on target to run 3:20, if I could keep it up. Unfortunately I couldn’t. I was worried that my heart rate was too high (182 – 186) but I did not feel under any duress so I thought that I could continue. At the turn-around at 17.5km I could see that I was 1:20 ahead of Teri and 8 minutes ahead of Taro. Taro shouted that Rie was one minute ahead of me and I started to look for her in case she slowed down. She didn’t and finished in a great time.

At around 22km mark Teri passed me. He was looking good but  shouted to me that he was worried about finishing. In last year’s race Teri passed me with about 4km to go and I passed Rie with 1km to go, but this year I was not to see either of them again until we were in the hall at the end. At 26km the wheels started to come off. My breathing was fine, I did not feel sick but my legs were really sore, especially my right hip. It was a feeling that I had not had since Tokyo Marathon 2012. I was getting slower and slower and starting to worry if I could finish. Once that happens if is very difficult to keep going. I pulled over to the side of the road and started to walk. My initial intention was to walk for a bit and run again but I just did not feel up to it. I spotted the First Aid bikers and told them I wanted to retire and asked where was the bus back to end. It was a bit of shock when they said that the bus was at the back of the race and would probably not get to that spot for another couple of hours.

I restarted my watch and decided to try and make it to the next water station. Shortly after that, I got a thump on the shoulder from Taro as he passed me inquiring if I was alright. I told him not to worry and to keep going. And the bastard did. At that point I was very envious of his plan. We had started the race together and he told me that he planned to run at just under 5min/km pace until 30km and then push on. I had no such plan.

The water station was quite a bit a way so I started to run again to get there. There was already other road casualties lying around the place and I didn’t feel like joining them so I decided that I would try and make it to the next water station. I looked at my watch and realised that if I would maintain a 7 min pace I would be able to finish inside the 4 hour time limit. Although it was not very glamorous, I adopted a walk/run policy. Whenever I got to a 1km marker, I would walk for one minute and then run to the next marker. My legs were getting more and more sore but I was able to continue in this way and complete each 1km in about 6:30 min.

The night before the race an Irish club mate mailed me and told me to remember the Fighting Irish. He professed to not knowing why the Fighting Irish were called the Fighting Irish but said that I should think of that instead of all the “Gambares” and “Fightos” that I would hear. This advice came back to me and I could not get the Fighting Irish out of my head for the best part of 18km and 2 hours. It somehow worked to get me through a dark place.

Ohtawara Result

Ohtawara Result

My goal for this marathon was to improve on the 3:21:43 that I ran in Tokyo in February. I changed my diet, lost lots of weight and started a whole new training program called MAF. Unfortunately it did not work . For 2 hours I crawled through Tochigi praying for the bus to come along to sweep me up but also running and walking just fast enough to keep ahead of it. My fellow club mates, who had run the 10km and were already finished, had waited on the roadside at the 1km to go mark. Normally this is the highlight for any race for me. Today it meant that I could not walk that part as it would have been disrespectful to their encouraging cheers. I did walk when I got further down the road.

I now have to think about how things went and what I could do differently. I think that nutrition and strength training were areas that I neglected. However I hope that I can continue running MAF and finally get the base that I need to run a good marathon.

Drinks with Taro on the way home

Drinks with Taro on the way home


6 thoughts on “Ohtawara 2013 Marathon Race Report

  1. Bad luck, Podge. I have various thoughts and ideas. This is probably not the best place for them, but suffice to say, I don’t think that strength and nutrition were the missing links in your training.

  2. It was great to finish and of course under 4 hrs which although not your plan is still a good effort. I also have a few thoughts. I think you will smash that 3-21 in the not too distant future. Well done again.

  3. I can understand the sore legs, but why the sore hip?
    The problem, I think, is not that you were undertrained, but that you were undertrained _for the time you tried to run_. This seems obvious, but it never is. When the legs go at 35k, or 30, or even 26k, it means you are running too fast for the amount and type (both important) of training that you did.
    This is exactly what happened to me in all of my marathons. My legs would go dead at 35k or sooner, and the last 7k would be a death march. I kept changing the amount and type of my training, but the same thing would happen. The real problem, however, was that I was trying to run 3:04 pace, which I was just not capable of (unless maybe I had run 160k a week). I would finish in around 3:10. If I had tried to run 3:15 pace or maybe even 3:10 from the beginning, I would have been ok, I’m sure.
    So the problem is, how do you know what pace you are capable of running? You can’t just say, “I want to run 3:20” (like I said, “I want to run 3:04”). For me, 3:04 was an easy pace for 25k, so I convinced myself that I should be able to run another 17k at that pace. I should have realized, “No, you just can’t do it, try running slower.”
    You have to _know_ that you can run 3:20.
    I used to do marathon pace runs, which I (and lots of other people) think are very important. But I would only do them for 15k. Maybe you have to do one or two good ones (30k with 3 taper/rest days beforehand) and see how that goes. That is probably a good test of what you are capable of.

    • Yes! And it involves a lot of things. Since Bob has started it. Here is my take. Putting in a lot of km (10, 12, 15, 18 km runs) about 5-10s slower (aerobic conditioning) and a good number of km 5 to 10s faster (8-10 km stamina runs) than M pace are crucial (can convert these to heart rates too if you like). And yes, to really set yourself up for an optimum marathon, on top of all these quality miles, a few longish runs (20, 25, and then 30 km separated by a couple of weeks) at target M pace are key workouts, not just for conditioning (but there is that) but to let you know how you feel at that pace for that distance. It is a really difficult program to put together, stay on the right side of the knife-edge of injury, but it is the only thing that really works, IMHO. Also, you cannot expect to get through a fast marathon (for you) without pain. Hip, quad, calf … somewhere, something is going to hurt. And that is where mental strength comes in .. to keep your pace up as best you can through the pain. When you’ve run the first half without much pain on pace, but pain cuts in at 26 or 28 km … what are you going to do? Throw away that platform you’ve built for yourself, or grit your teeth for an hour for the ultimate pay day?

  4. Sorry to see bad marathon. Great advice from Bob and Steven. I agree 100%. You have to train at Marathon pace to run marathon pace.
    Yesterday at Tsukuba, I died at 35k and had to walk/shuffle, and i know why, I did not do tempo runs at target marathon pace. I was slower than you.

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