Ohtawara Marathon 2016 Race Report

Net Time 3:24:48

My fifth consecutive time to run the Ohtawara Marathon was really great. I had great support from my coach Harrisson for the 5 months leading up to it. There was a great gang of Nambanners up from Tokyo (and Saitama). Although it was very windy, it didn’t rain and the temperature stayed above freezing. And afterwards we went to a great onsen with our complimentary tickets on the complimentary bus to recover before heading back to Tokyo and the Aldgate Pub in Shibuya for a swift half. All in all a great day. I think you get the picture. Although the stated aim of this blog is to run a marathon in 3:10, and I have been training specifically for that, I think that we can let numbers get in the way of enjoying ourselves and the company of others. One of my Namban friends put it very well in a Facebook post last Sunday that resonated with a lot of runners.

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Gareth’s Wisdom

Unlike the previous 2 years, I had to work on the day before the Ohtawara marathon this year so I was late getting up to Nishi Nasuno. I had bought my Shinkansen reserved seat ticket on Monday morning with the intention of traveling up on the 18:36 train on Tuesday evening. However, when I got to the gate I discovered to my horror that I had actually bought the ticket to go up on Wednesday night, 8 hours after the start of the race. I raced to the JR counter to change it for the right day. Fortunately, this is Japan and it is very easy to do this, but there were no reserved seats available so I had to settle for a free seat. I was worried that the train would be crowded as Tuesday was the day before a National Holiday and I would have to stand all the way to Nasushiobara, so I joined the queue 40 minutes before the departure time to ensure I got a seat. I need not have worried. The train was far from full but I did have a nice conversation with the couple ahead of me in the queue.

Tokyo station was packed. There are lots of places to buy obento but not so many that are vegetarian. After struggling through the packed aisles for 15 minutes I spotted a onigiri specialist shop. Even if there are few vegetable only obento, you can always get lots of seaweed onigiri. Readers of this blog will know that each of the previous 4 years have seen me in Big Boy restaurant in Nishi Nasuno for a pasta and curry rice meal. This year with my vegetarian diet and arriving later in the evening I wanted to eat on the train so I was considering eating 5 ongiri as my pre-marathon meal. However, lady luck was shining on me and the woman in the onigiri shop pointed me next door where they did have vegetarian bentos. The train had not long left Tokyo when I tucked in.

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Vegetarian Bento

It was sad to see my ritual broken but at least I was staying at the same hotel, The Route Inn, and I feel that they recognized me as I checked in and got the  key for my room on the 10th floor. I eventually got to bed around 10:30pm and fell straight to sleep. However, 30 minutes later an earthquake hit Fukushima which woke me up rather abruptly as my 10th floor room started swaying back and forth. There had been a big earthquake followed by a small tsunami that morning in Fukushima that made everybody remember the terrible events of 2011 and this was an aftershock, albeit a weaker one. I texted my wife but she did not feel anything in Tokyo. After that I tried to go back to sleep but never quite managed it. I was nodding off for the next 4 hours and eventually got some decent sleep from 3am.

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In the hotel room, trying to decide what to wear

I woke up with the alarm at 6am and wished that I could sleep some more. In previous years there has always been a line to breakfast room 20 mins before it was due to open. I reckoned that it would be the same this year so I ended up waiting by myself in the lobby of the hotel at 6:15 although I had been told breakfast was from 6:45. Fortunately there was free coffee in the lobby and they actually opened the dining room 15 minutes early. Not eating meat was not a problem as they had lots of vegetables, bananas, bread, rice and okaiyu (a watery form of rice). I loaded up and stepped outside to check the weather.

The days preceding any race, but especially any race that will last longer that 30 minutes, are filled with speculation about the weather. As I am Irish, I find warm weather very difficult to run in but I am also not thrilled about freezing weather either. And while a light drizzle does not bother me at all, a strong wind will have a big impact. The forecast was for a bright day with 5 m/s winds from the north west and as I stood outside the Route Inn looking up at the morning sky, I felt that they had got it right.

Obviously, the great thing about staying a 10 minute drive from the start of a race is how much time you save in the morning of a race. After breakfast I took my first 400mg Nurofen and then went back to bed for an hour before getting up and getting my taxi over to the gymnasium at 8:45. The other Nambanners were already there and had marked a good spot out in one of the corridors by the weight room. We chatted and discussed the route until  little by little people started to head off to the bathroom and the start of the course. I had discussed what to wear with Harrisson and as the temperature was going to be 7 ~ 9 degrees celsius he suggested that a singlet with no long sleeves should be just fine. Just fine for running that is but not for standing around in the wind at the start, so I was almost the final person to leave the gymnasium. And that is the great thing about the Ohtawara marathon. You can leave the warm gymnasium at 9:45 and be in your block at 9:50 for a 10am start.

As I arrived in block B, I saw Bernard and then Gildas and Derek and we chatted for a bit before Derek headed off to block A. Standing in the wind it was cold. I tried to crouch down but as I was on the outside of the block there was nowhere to hide as the wind ripped through the event flags that lined the course. I took one of the 4 gels that I had in my pocket, mainly to reduce the weight. It was a water based Hi 5 gel so I could take it without a drink. I normally don’t take gels at the start of a race but this time it felt like the right thing to do. The race started and we were off. I got to the start line in only 20 seconds and had no difficulty exiting the stadium ahead of the traffic jam that Ohtawara is famous for.

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Ohtawara Marathon Race Course

The Ohtawara Marathon course is one big loop. It starts off by going down hill for 23.7km and then goes back up to the finish. This year we had the wind with us for most of the first half of the race. Of course that means that we had it against us for the second half as we were running uphill. I found the first half of the race OK. Well, I was running downhill with the wind at my back. Harrisson had advised me not to let my heart rate get over 170 so I never really stuck to my goal of running at a 4:30 pace  but I was close enough. I knew that the race would be won and lost in the second half so there was no need to be pushing early on and not being able being able to close out the race.

The countryside around Ohtawara is really beautiful with wide open fields divided by the Houki river and lined by evergreens in places. The first 13km were uneventful as I concentrated on my form and pressing the lap button on my Garmin at each km marker. I have long since given up on the automatic 1km lapping of the GPS watch as it quickly goes out of sync with the actual race markings. I was worried that pressing the lap button every 1km would have a bad effect on me mentally, but it was not the case. I found that the km passed smoothly and later on it helped me concentrate on the remainder of the race.

At 14km there is a sharp downhill that you have to mange carefully or you will end up going too fast before the road rises again and turns off to the left. This is the point when you know that you are in a race. Although the course continues to go downhill for a further 8km, your heart rate has spiked and you have started to look out for the next drinks stand where before you were not bothered about taking a cup or not.

The only switchback in the race comes at about 17.7km. I always love these switch backs as I look out for my Namban friends and shout encouragement to them. I saw Derek about 700m from the turn around and he was looking strong but Gildas and Khalfan had already gone and I missed them. As I got to the turn-around cone, I saw Bernard just ahead of me. He was also looking strong and powerful with his arms swinging. 300m after the turn, as I reached the 18km point, I heard Chika call to me and shortly after that Terri. The two of them are always my rivals in races and have beaten me many times. There are both very good in the second half of a marathon when I start to fade and I was shocked to see them so close to me at this early stage. It made me refocus my efforts. During this stretch, I missed Nick, Gareth, Mika, Rui, Yasuo and Yukiko but I heard later that they were running in a group and really enjoying the race.

Shortly after the 18km point there is a left turn and a 5km straight stretch down to the 23.7km point. I caught Bernard just after the turn and eased past him and headed down the road concentrating on my pace and heart rate. It was still downhill and I just needed to avoid overdoing it. I went through half way in 1:37:51 which is 2 minutes faster than I ran the Sendai Half Marathon in May this year and a minute slower than I ran the first half last year. I tried to drop out of this race at the 22km point 3 years ago after having had anemia so this has always been a key point for me. Since then I always tell myself that if I can get through here I will be fine. Mind games I know, but they work. It was around here that I remembered that I had a second 400mg of Nurofen in my pocket and I took it before the pain in my legs got too much.

At 23.7km the road takes a sharp turn to the left and if you did not know you were running a marathon up until then, you found out quickly. The road quickly starts to rise and this year we wear running into the wind. There is a very hard stretch from this corner to the next one at 30km. It is all uphill and  a lot of it is exposed to the wind. Last year I found a runner to run behind and I maintained my pace and this year I desperately searched around to do the same. I found a few people but nobody who could take me all the way and I found myself surging from group to group to get shelter.

I tried to take a gel at 24km, but as I ripped the top off with my teeth it fell out of my hand. I decided to leave it and grabbed another gel from my pocket. I had no more Hi 5 gels left and my other 2 gels needed water so I had to be a bit more clever where to take them. I was now taking sports drinks at each drinks station and pouring the water over my legs as my muscles started to burn. Harrisson had told me that the intensity training on a long run would pay off in the second half of the marathon as my legs would know what to expect. He was right. Although my pace slowed and I struggled against the wind, I never wanted to give up and I never wanted to walk.

The turn at 30km is a welcome relief. Not a lot changes in terms of terrain or weather but by breaking through the 30km barrier you feel that you are on the home straight. You are on major road and there are more shops and people cheering and you feel your spirits lift. I put the head down and counted off the kms. At 35km I took my last gel. I was feeling the pain in my legs but not in chest. My heart rate remained in the low 170s except when I was cresting the hills. The wind had not abated but there was no rain and it was getting warmer. Wearing a singlet was the right decision.

Just before the 40km mark I came up on Derek out of nowhere. Normally a sub-3 man he was clearly struggling that day. I yelled at him at the top of my voice and although I briefly passed him, he got back to me in 30 seconds. It was great running along with him as I don’t get the run with my friends in a race that often. At 41km we saw Taeko from Namban on the pavement. She had already run the 10km race that morning. She took the photo of Derek and myself at the top of post and it turned out really well. We kept going, getting closer and closer to the finish. With 1km to go I looked at my watch and saw my time at 3:19:51 and said to Derek that if we maintain this pace we would finish with 3:25:20. Derek told me to just concentrate on finishing throwing both arms forward over his head. I took his advice and upped my pace and ran as fast as could to the end. On the stadium track I kept going and passed a bunch of guys who looked my age to finish in 3:24:48. I was 334 in my age group and 686 overall.

It was a great race. Although it was not a PB, I did thoroughly enjoy it and the company of my running club mates.

Afterwards, my collage friend Peter in Nice went through the race link that I sent him and put this graph together. I think that it is a very good depiction of the race and the struggle in the second. It just needs to capture the joy and the fun of running through the countryside with your friends and having a great time. I think that Peter can work on that for next year.

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Peter’s Graphs

After I got back I looked up my old race records. Unfortunately, I could not find the one from 2012 but here are the last 4 races and how I did.

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Finally, I would like to close this blog post by saying a big thank you to Harrisson. He stuck with me for 5 months and gave me the best advice to stay healthy while getting fit and preparing for a marathon. I am sorry that I could not follow all his advice and shed the kgs needed but such is life in the modern world. I learned a lot from him and believe that the work he made me do really helped me get through the tough conditions and come out the other side.

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Week 18 Training Ohtawara Marathon 2016

And so ends my 6 months of training for the Otawara Marathon. It starts in 2 and a half days and I would like to think that I am as ready as I ever will be. Of course that is not true. The amateur runner with a job and children and other commitments will never be as ready as he ever will be but he can be as ready as as he could hope to be. There have been many real life events that have interrupted my training over the last few months. Some I could not have avoided, some I chose not to avoid. At the end of he day, the overall choice was my mine and I will live with it. I have trained as hard as I wanted to and not as hard as I could have and I when I out my toe on the line on Wednesday I will know that this is my race.

Now all I need to do is to get three good nights sleep and eat well. There is no more running to be done until 10am on Wednesday.

Week Total

  • Number of runs: 5
  • Distance: 40.3km km
  • Time: 3 hour 35 min

It was good to complete five runs and 40km in the week before the marathon even if three of the runs were 5km. Last year I completed 3 runs and 28km but I don’t think that you can compare one single week. However, I have always been lax the week leading up to a race and I feel that this has been a problem. We will soon find out if the extra runs will have had any benefit.

Monday 14th November

  • RHR: 45
  • HRV: 67
  • Weight: 83.6kg

Although Monday is generally a rest day, I had hoped to run as I was getting over a cold and had not run over the weekend. However, when I got back from work on Monday night it was raining. I generally don’t care if it is raining or not, but this time it was too close to my race and I was afraid that my cold would start up again. So I took some extra rest and hoped that I would get better.

Tuesday 15th November

  • RHR: 43
  • HRV: 72
  • Weight: 83.4kg

Tuesday I had a real life event after work so I could not run. My cold continued to improve.

Wednesday 16th November

  • RHR: 53
  • HRV: 61
  • Weight: 83.7kg
  • Run: Easy
  • Distance: 5.3km
  • Time: 29 minutes
  • Avg HR: 146
  • Avg Cadence: 175
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Autumn in Chiba

On Wednesday I woke up feeling terrible. Life had eventually caught up with me and I was miserable. Unfortunately after waking at 5:45 I could not go back to sleep so I went out and did an easy 5km. This was my first run in 7 days. Totally unplanned and unpexpected I made it out the door just after 6am and broke the spell.

Thursday 17th November

  • RHR: 47
  • HRV: 72
  • Weight: 84kg
  • Run: Easy with 8km at goal HR
  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 1 hour 13 minutes
  • Avg HR: 154
  • Avg Cadence: 173

On Thursday I was feeling a lot better so Harrison gave me this workout to see how I was fixed for the race.

  • 3km easy warm up with 3 x 15 sec strides
  • 8 km @ 165 ~ 175 heart rate which was the same as Ohtawara 2015
  • 3km easy cool down

 

This was my first hard run in over 10 days and it went well. I was able to run the 8km portion in 36:31 which is at a 4:34 pace and with an average HR of 169. The first half was  better than the second half as I was wearing too much clothes and I started to heat up when I was running into the wind on the way back. However, my right foot was sore right after I had finished the 8km part and I had to take my shoe and sock off to massage it. I then ran home very gently.

Friday 18th November

  • RHR: 47
  • HRV: 72
  • Weight: 83.4kg
  • Run: Easy
  • Distance: 5.4km
  • Time:  30 minutes
  • Avg HR: 133
  • Avg Cadence: 171

Friday was another easy day with 5km around the neighborhood. I was finally winding down.

Saturday 19th November

  • RHR: 50
  • HRV: 72
  • Weight: 83.3kg
  • Run: Easy with strides
  • Distance: 5.3km
  • Time:  29 minutes
  • Avg HR: 140
  • Avg Cadence: 172
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Juicing

Saturday was an easy 5km run with 30 seconds of strides at the end of each 1km. It went well and I was finished before lunch. I made myself a whooping big juice with beets, curly kale, apple, turmeric and wheatgrass to celebrate before heading out to see the art exhibition by my friend George and meet my other friend Alan who was over from London.

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George’s Art

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Alan in Japan

Sunday 20th November

  • RHR:
  • HRV:
  • Weight: 83.7kg
  • Run: Easy with pace work
  • Distance: 10.3km
  • Time:  53 minutes
  • Avg HR: 150
  • Avg Cadence: 177

On Sunday morning I got up at 5am to bring my son to the train station for his rugby game. I got up as soon as I woke up so I had no chance to take my heart rate or HRV. After dropping him off I went back to bed for 3 hours before heading out for my last training run just before lunch.  Harrison hag given me the following:

  • 3k easy, 500m @ 4:05, 1000m @ 4:15, 3k @ 4:25 ~ 4:30, WD

and it went  to plan. I ran it at

  • 500m in 2:00
  • 1km in 4:09
  • 3km in 13:01

with no serious impact. I then went home and spent the rest of the day getting my car tested. I finally succeeded sometime after 6pm.

 

Week 17 Training Ohtawara Marathon 2016

So Week 17 was not a very good one for me. It started off fine and I was expecting to do two hard runs to cap off my training but I felt sick on Wednesday, got worse on Friday and hopefully am making a recovery on Sunday. Anyway, this is how it went. 10 days to race day.

Week Total

  • Number of runs: 2
  • Distance: 10.8 km
  • Time: 1 hour 12 mins

Monday 7th November

  • RHR: 47
  • HRV: 73
  • Weight: 83.4kg

Again a rest day and I was feeling fine just chillin’ at home. Nothing to see here.

Tuesday 8th November

  • RHR: 46
  • HRV: 76
  • Weight: 83.4kg
  • Run: Easy run with Michael
  • Distance: 5.3km
  • Time: 37 mins
  • Avg HR: 115
  • Avg Cadence: 164

Harrisson had put Tuesday down as an extra rest day but as my boy was going for a run about the time I got home from work, I decided to go with him as it would be nice and easy. It was an easy run and I finished it feeling great although the boy refused to get into any photos with me.

Wednesday 9th November

  • RHR: 42
  • HRV: 75
  • Weight: 82.9kg
  • Run: Easy run as it happens
  • Distance: 5.5km
  • Time: 34 mins
  • Avg HR: 130
  • Avg Cadence: 162

I am not saying that it had anything to do with my run and condition, but all day Wednesday we spent every available minute checking in on the US Presidential results. It really captured everybody’s imagination in Japan. Even my wife was texting me as it became more clear that Trump would win. It was quite a shock.

I got home at a reasonable time and headed out the door to do my run. At the beginning I was feeling great as I bounded down the road and made the second corner in extra quick time. It was shortly after that that things started to go wrong. I started feeling dizzy and lightheaded. The plan was to run 5km at 4:15 ~ 4:20 pace but when I got to the river I knew that I was not up to  it and just turned back for home, stopping at a Convenience Store to get an energy bar. I don’t know what had gone wrong, but I really felt out of sorts.

Thursday 10th November

  • RHR: 49
  • HRV: 65
  • Weight: 82.7kg

On Thursday morning my HRV had dropped 10 points to 65 and turned yellow. I did not feel too bad and still had hopes of doing the hard run that evening when I headed out for work. Even as I was walking home from the station, I was trying to talk myself back into it. However, when I reached home I was admitted to myself that I was just too tired and needed to rest more.

Friday 11th November

  • RHR: 46
  • HRV: 68
  • Weight: 82.9kg

My HRV had recovered a little my Friday morning but I was feeling cold with a runny nose and sneezing as I headed out the door. I felt OK during the morning but after lunch my sneezing and runny nose just got worse and worse and by 3:30pm I had to accept defeat and head home to bed. My wife collected me at the station and 10 minutes later I had drunk a Hot Lemon drink and was in bed shivering.

Saturday 12th November

  • RHR: 44
  • HRV: 73
  • Weight: 83kg

Saturday my HRV was back to normal but I was still feeling weak and I spent most of the day in bed.

Sunday 13th November

  • RHR: 44
  • HRV: 72
  • Weight: 82.9kg

Sunday and you are probably glad that this blog post has to end. Hopefully I will be  fully recovered in the next couple of days able to get in a few more runs before my race on 23rd November.

Week 16 Training Ohtawara Marathon 2016

I got back to 5 runs this week but it was not a particularly hard week. Even still, I could not hit all the paces on the Sunday run and had to miss one interval. I now have just over 2 weeks to my marathon. I think that I will be OK on the day,  but it is unfortunate that I missed several key workouts over the previous three weeks.

Week Total

  • Number of runs: 5
  • Distance: 77.9 km
  • Time:    7 hours 13 mins

Monday 31st October

  • RHR: 43
  • HRV: 82
  • Weight: 83.6kg

Monday, as always, is a rest day and I took it easy. I had planned to go for a swim after work but daughter #2 was down with a cold and I had to head straight home. The extra rest was very welcomed.

Tuesday 1st November

  • RHR: 42
  • HRV: 77
  • Weight: 83.3kg
  • Run: MAF
  • Distance: 10.8km
  • Time: 1 hour 3 mins
  • Avg HR: 136
  • Avg Cadence: 171

I went to my osteopath, Mizugami sensei, after work and then hit the streets. My hamstring was gradually feeling better and I was able to manage the run with no issues.

Wednesday 2nd November

  • RHR: 45
  • HRV: 78
  • Weight: 82.6
  • Run: MAF
  • Distance: 10.3km
  • Time: 57 mins
  • Avg HR: 140
  • Avg Cadence: 171

The plan for Wednesday evening was

  • First 5k @ MAF, the rest @ 5:20 pace

It was the first time that I had run at this pace since I admitted to myself that there might be something wrong with my hamstring and went back to Mizunami sensei. Harrisson was clearly easing me back into it. The run went fine and I felt good after it.

Thursday 3rd November

  • RHR: 48
  • HRV: 73
  • Weight: 82kg

3rd November is a holiday in Japan as it is Culture Day and we all need a bit of culture. Harrisson had written on my chart

  • A 30min swim would be very nice here

so I duly obliged and headed off to Esforta Sports Club in Shibuya for a 1.1km swim in the morning. The pool was empty and it was a lovely way to spend a Thursday morning.When I got home I made myself a delicious juice with lots of fruit and vegetables from my new juice book. I was beginning to feel like I was recovering.

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Friday 4th November

  • RHR: 42
  • HRV: 73
  • Weight: 82.3kg
  • Run: Progressive Run
  • Distance: 17km
  • Time: 1 hour 34 mins
  • Avg HR: 142
  • Avg Cadence: 172
Friday I was back at Mizugami sensei for the third time in a week and my hamstring was definitely improving. The scheduled run afterwards was as follows:
  • First 10k easy @ MAF, then 1k @ 5:10, 1k @ 4:50, 2k @:4:30, back to easy
 It was a fair bit harder than the other runs that I had done in the last week and the 2km at 4:30 pace really felt hard. However, I did manage to complete it and I was still feeling good afterwards with little soreness.

Saturday 5th November

  • RHR: 48
  • HRV: 73
  • Weight: 82.4kg
  • Run: Easy Run with the boy
  • Distance: 5.3km
  • Time: 35 mins
  • Avg HR: 119
  • Avg Cadence: 169

+

  • Run: 8km MAF Run w/ 6 x 20 sec strides
  • Distance: 8.3km
  • Time: 48 mins
  • Avg HR: 137
  • Avg Cadence: 169

Saturday was planned to be a 12km MAF run with strides but I had a very rare opportunity to run with my son so I took it and split the run into 2. It was good running with the boy even though we started in the evening. He ran at a steady pace and my heart rate stayed nice and low. After that I went down to the Tamagawa for another 8km. It all went well, even the strides, and I felt not reoccurrence of the soreness in my hamstring.

Sunday 6th November

  • RHR: 53
  • HRV: 75
  • Weight: 83kg
  • Run: Long Run with intervals
  • Distance: 26.2km
  • Time: 2 hours 15 mins
  • Avg HR: 156
  • Avg Cadence: 177

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Sunday I woke to find that my heart rate was slightly elevated but my HRV was still in a good place. Actually, my HRV has been in the green for 9 consecutive days and was still trending upwards. It is clear that the reason was that I had recovered well since I had stopped the high intensity workouts for a week. That made me feel good knowing that I was not over trained and that I would be in good shape for my marathon after my taper. The only issue was that I had missed several key workouts and I could not squeeze them all into the remaining 2 weeks.

I managed to get up early on Sunday and hit the road by 7:20am. That was very fortunate as it was one of those freak days in November when it was hot and sunny. Unfortunately it is not such a freak day anymore and they are becoming far too regular. My legs did not feel sore but they were heavy and my heart rate was quickly going well above MAF. I made it down to the river where the plan for the day was as follows:

  1. 1 km @ 5:25 3km @ 13:15
  2. 1 km @ 5:25 3km @ 13:15
  3. 1 km @ 5:25 3km @ 13:15
  4. 1 km @ 5:25 3km @ 13:15
  5. 1 km @ 5:25 3km @ 13:15

I found it very tough and only managed to complete 4 of the intervals and the last one was well off the pace

  1. 1 km @ 5:16 3km @ 13:15
  2. 1 km @ 5:11 3km @ 13:15
  3. 1 km @ 5:12 3km @ 13:15
  4. 1 km @ 5:17 3km @ 13:33

Although there was a big headwind for the 4th interval, it wasn’t the only reason that I slowed down and did not attempt the 5th one. My legs were tired and heavy and I felt that it would have taken too much out of me 2 weeks before my race and opted to run home at MAF.

Now I have only 2 weeks and 3 days to the race and only a handful of training runs left. I hope that I have done enough over the last 6 months to make it all worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 15 Training Ohtawara Marathon 2016

And before I knew it Week 15 was over and I was just 3 weeks out from my marathon. Although I started base training almost 6 months ago at the beginning of May, it all seems to have happened very fast and I don’t feel at all ready. That may be because I have had a rough couple of weeks and I feel battered and bruised. I can expect that things will get better after the taper but truth is, I have never really performed well during the final three weeks before a marathon. I run too little, I eat too much and I generally start to doubt what I can do. The confidence that I had running around Gaienmae in July seems all but a distance memory as I stumble from one niggle to another and another week of 2 or 3 runs instead of 5 or 6.

At least this time I know that I experiencing the blues because I am rather sad that my training is coming to an end. I  have enjoyed it immensely, especially the motivation and support from Harrisson. I will miss his late night mails with my weekly schedule and his WhatsApp early in the morning with inquires about my latest injury or a request for me to restart logging all the Cinnamon Rolls I eat on MyFitnessPal.com. It has been a good and enjoyable journey and like all journeys it must come to an end.

This week I only managed 3 runs and only 1 was a quality run. The soreness in my left leg has continued so Harrisson cut back my training and gave me extra rest days. The good news is that it started getting better towards the end of the week and my HRV has come back to where it should be.

Week Total

  • Number of runs: 3
  • Distance: 54km
  • Time:    5 hours 3 mins

Monday 24th October

  • RHR: 47
  • HRV: 71
  • Weight: 83.5kg

It was good to wake on Monday morning and see my HRV and RHR in the green. As the previous week had been so bad, I was afraid that I was on a downward spiral but reducing the beers and getting a bit more sleep seems to have had some effect. I could not complete all the requirements of Sunday’s workout but I had done enough to sleep well and wake up rested.

Tuesday 25th October

  • RHR: 45
  • HRV: 71
  • Weight: 83.8kg

As we parted on Sunday after the Long Run, Harrisson had told me to take 2 days off to rest my legs and get back on track. I was happy to do this as I had a real life event after work on Tuesday and got back late.

Wednesday 26th October

  • RHR: 46
  • HRV: 76
  • Weight: 83.5kg
img_5788

The environment under change

On Wednesday I was due to restart training but I had another real life event in the evening and got home too late to run so I knocked it on the head. Still, I was happy to get an extra day’s rest. Wednesday was also the day that I noticed how far the construction around our office had advanced. All the old shops and restaurants are being demolished to make way for a mega-building. Tokyo is changing so fast these days, there are few places that I can recognize from the early days. I remember taking the Yamanote Line in 1991 from Meguro to Hamamatsucho to work on the Irish Network newsletter and seeing the old Minato Sports Center from the train window. I did not live in Minato Ku and I longed to be able to use that center. Now it has been knocked down and replaced by the construction site beside my office and I go to the new Sports Center 200m down the road.It’s a funny old rock ’n’ roll world.

Thursday 27th October

  • RHR: 48
  • HRV: 69
  • Weight: 83.2kg
  • Run: Long Intervals 5 x 2,000m
  • Distance: 21km
  • Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
  • Avg HR: 149
  • Avg Cadence: 165

Thursday I got back to running after 3 days rest. Long Intervals are not as difficult as Hard Intervals as the intensity is less, but they are still hard enough. The plan for today was

 

3 x 400m (1:50 / 1:40 / 1:30) with 60s rest between them, 2min rest (walking)

5 x 2000m @ 4:15 pace with 3min panda jog between them (continuous run)
I never did ask what a Panda Jog was but I managed the run fair enough with the following splits
8:25
8:23
8:24
8:24
8:20
I was happy enough with the time as all 2,000 intervals came in just under 4:15 pace but I still had a nagging feeling in my left hamstring.

Friday 28th October

  • RHR: 54
  • HRV: 63
  • Weight: 82.5kg
  • Swim: 1km
  • Time: 30 mins
img_5793

Halloween at the office

Friday was another scheduled rest day which was good as my HRV had taken another dive. It was also the day we celebrated Halloween at work. In previous years, my children had come in to see the office but this year they were all too old. However, it was nice to welcome in the children of my colleagues and give out candy. As I was heading out of the office I got a mail from Harrisson that his latest Q&A on his site had been updated. It was an answer to a question from my colleague as to the reason for cramping late in a marathon and how to avoid it as well as how to avoid hamstring issues. It was very well written and I quickly shared it with all my running colleagues.

That evening I finally kept my promise and made it to the pool. The Minato Ku pool was closed for inspection so I headed up to Shibuya where the pool was almost empty as usual. I was glad to still be able to swim 1km without stopping (too much). The good news was that my leg felt great afterwards.

Saturday 29th October

  • RHR: 51
  • HRV: 71
  • Weight: 82.9kg
  • Run: MAF Run with 6 x 20 second strides.
  • Distance: 11 km
  • Time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • Avg HR: 136
  • Avg Cadence: 174

+

  • Swim: 1km
  • Time: 29 mins

On Saturday morning my HRV had returned to normal and I had an appointment with Mizogami Sensei, my local osteopathic council. I had set up an appointment the previous morning when I felt that my leg was not getting any better and I was beginning to run out of time. At this stage, I think that Mizogami Sensei is well used to me calling him urgently a few weeks before the Ohtawara marathon with some injury or other and I am always amazed at how he can find out the issue and help me out. This time he pushed my leg up and down and to the left and right before homing in on the weak spot and working on it.

After leaving the clinic I headed into Shibuya for my run and another swim. This time I ran in Yoyogi Park in the heart of Tokyo where the autumn leaves where just beginning to fall. It was very beautiful and hundreds of people where out enjoying the weather and looking for Pokemon. I found the MAF portion of the run no problem but I was still sore during the strides. I texted Harrisson afterwards and he told me to only do a 21km MAF run on Sunday with no speed work.

img_5820

Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

 

After the run I headed back to the gym for another 1km swim. After not swimming for months I was delighted to swim twice in 2 days.

Sunday 30th October

  • RHR: 49
  • HRV: 78
  • Weight: 83.8kg
  • Run: MAF
  • Distance:  21.7km
  • Time:  2 hour 3 mins
  • Avg HR: 135
  • Avg Cadence: 175
ithlete-pro-30-oct-2016

ithlete Pro 30th Oct 2016

My HRV was still in a good place on Sunday morning but because my leg was sore on Saturday, I still planned to just run 21km at MAF. The day was cloudy and a little cold and it was the first time that I wore a long sleeved shirt since spring. The run went well and I was able to run MAF at a 5:41 pace which is good for me. I hope that that means that my fitness level is good and that I can taper well.

img_0648

Marukobashi

Next week I should start my taper. I am not really sure what Harrisson has in store for me but I am looking forward to finally getting ready for my race in 3 weeks time.

Week 14 Training Ohtawara Marathon 2016

Week 14 was a hell of a week, and not in a good way. I saw my HRV tank the day after my long run, recover a little and then drop again. I couldn’t complete my midweek hard intervals as I was just too tired and had to turn around and head home. My long run was miserable but at least I completed the distance. The only good news is that my foot pain did not return and I am nearly finished. My race is in just over 4 weeks which means that I can start to taper soon and hopefully recover some badly needed energy.

Week Total

  • Number of runs: 4
  • Distance: 58.2km
  • Time:   5 hours 17 mins

Monday 17th October

  • RHR: 58
  • HRV: 55
  • Weight: 82.6kg

I had a hard run on Sunday and woke Monday to see my HRV plummet to 55 and my resting Heart Rate shoot up to 58. It is very unusual for my RHR to be above my HRV and even if Monday was not a rest day I would have taken one.

Tuesday 18th October

  • RHR: 48
  • HRV: 73
  • Weight: 83.5kg
  • Run: Easy
  • Distance:  8.4km
  • Time: 48 mins
  • Avg HR: 136
  • Avg Cadence: 171

On Tuesday morning my HRV and RHR had returned to normal territory and I congratulated myself on only needing one day to recover from such a hard run. I got up at 5:30 and headed for the Tamagawa River for an easy run. The run went to plan but my legs felt very tired for the rest of the day which is very unusual for me.

Wednesday 19th October

  • RHR: 48
  • HRV: 67
  • Weight: 83.6kg
  • Run: Hard Intervals – FAIL
  • Distance:  7.2km
  • Time:  46 mins
  • Avg HR: 128
  • Avg Cadence: 153

I spent Wednesday walking around Data Centers which, while very interesting, is not the best preparation for Hard Intervals. I got home and took a 30 minute nap and then headed for the Tamagawa again. I knew from the beginning that I was not in good form. I was lumbering along and every step felt heavy. I got to the river and did my warm up drills and then 3 x 400m. By the end of them I knew I was done. Sometimes I feel bad after the 400ms but once I start the intervals I feel fine again and can continue. I knew immediately that this was not one of those days and I finished my isotonic drink and started my slow jog for home.

Thursday 20th October

  • RHR: 45
  • HRV: 72
  • Weight: 83.2kg
img_5776

With my former colleagues talking about old times

Thursday I had a real life event and had not planned top run. As with Monday, even if I had nothing on I would not have been able to run. I still feeling tired and glad I could rest.

Friday 21st October

  • RHR: 52
  • HRV: 66
  • Weight: 83.5

Friday was another real life event and no running. I was feeling a bit less tired and got the results of my health test from the previous week. All the results of my blood tests were virtually the same as last year which is very good news as I have not eaten any meat all year. Maybe this vegetarian life is not so bad after all.

Saturday 22nd October

  • RHR: 52
  • HRV: 61
  • Weight: 83.5
  • Run: MAF with 8 x 40 sec strides
  • Distance: 12.4km
  • Time: 1 hour 7 mins
  • Avg HR: 139
  • Avg Cadence: 178
ithlete-pro-22-oct-2016

Low HRV on my ithlete Pro and the overall trend (Blue Line) is continuing to drop

Saturday morning saw another drop in my HRV and a clear indication that the trend was heading south. I took an extra rest in the morning and headed out around noon for my MAF run with some strides thrown in for good measure. The run went fine and I enjoyed the strides and trying to complete 200m for each 40 seconds. I never did.

I was rather tired at the end of it so I made myself a large Beet juice with carrot, lemon, ginger, turmeric, celery and spinach. I then had a nice nap hoping to prepare myself for Sunday.

img_5780

 

Sunday 23rd October

  • RHR: 45
  • HRV: 79
  • Weight: 83.1
  • Run: Long Run w/ goal paced segments
  • Distance: 30km
  • Time: 2 hours 36 mins
  • Avg HR: 160
  • Avg Cadence: 176

img_5784

I knew things were not going well his week. My HRV was on a steady decline, I had failed to complete the hard intervals on Wednesday and I missed runs . I had to put things back on track. So I decided not to drink my usual beer(s) on Saturday night and head to bed early, get up early and do the run early. Of course the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I did manage to not drink beer and to go to bed early, but I had not reckoned on not being able to sleep and as I checked the half-time scores of the English Premier League on my phone, I knew things were not going to be easy the next day.

I eventually dragged myself out of the scratcher sometime after 7am and after dropping the Missus off at the station, I started to get ready. Harrisson had told me that he would meet me somewhere along the Tamagawa so I did not want to hang about. This week’s run was even more complicated than last week and I wrote it on my hand again as there was no way that I would remember it.

3k WU @ MAF (include a 2 x 30s strides randomly @ HM pace during that)
2k @ 4:05
6k @ 4:30
8k @ 5:30 
4k @ 4:25
1k@ 5:30
4k @ 4:25
WD as far as you want to end up in the 30~33km range

 

I got down to the Tamagawa River without any hassle and started the first section. It was hard enough as I ran up to Futakobashi and then turned around to run all the way down to Tamagawa-Ohashi. I knew that things were not getting any better as I thought that I had been running into the wind only to turn around and think the very same thing. I kept going and managed to keep the pace within range.

It is always difficult switching from 4:05 pace to 4:30 pace as I instinctively want to take a rest. Today was no different and I was playing catch up until the end of the 6km and just managed it with one second to spare. Moving from 4:30 pace to 5:30 pace is a dream and I began to feel good again. I stopped at the rest station just before Tamagawa-Ohashi and had a gel and a sports drink. After a couple of minutes Harrisson came along and we continued along together over the Tamagawa and up past Gasubashi where we turned around again and retraced our steps back to Tamagawa Ohashi where the next hard section started.

This time I suffered miserably and could not keep up with Harrisson as he gracefully ran back up the Tamagawa. My pace kept dropping and during the 1km @5:30 I stopped for water and another gel. Harrisson told me to cut this one to 2km and I readily agreed. I could not keep 4:25 even for 2km and was very glad when it was over.

  • Target 8:10 Actual 8:02
  • Target 27:00 Actual 26:59
  • Target 44:00 Actual 44:20
  • Target 17:40 Actual 18:45
  • Target 8:50 Actual 9:36

All in all a very miserable day despite Harrisson’s good company and encouragement. However I can take some solace from the fact that I have now completed four 30km runs in October with some crazy ass goal pace segments thrown in. I always say that four 30km + runs the month before a marathon is a must and now I have completed that.

I said goodbye to Harrisson at Kita Mikata and began the slow jog home (again). He told me that the good news was that I was near the end of the hard stuff and I could start the taper in the next week or so. And I am not injured so it is not all bad. I won’t do any running for the next two days and I might try to reacquaint myself with the local swimming pool which I have been neglecting for several months.

Week 13 Training Ohtawara Marathon 2016

Week 13 was rather tough as I had a sore foot at the end of week 12 and several real life events impacting on my training. I was only able to run 3 times, but 2 of these were key workouts and should be of benefit. At the end of the week the soreness in my foot seems to have gotten better and I hope to have 5 good runs next week.

Week Total

  • Number of runs: 3
  • Distance: 53.3km
  • Time:  4 hours 40 mins

Monday 10th October

  • RHR: 45
  • HRV: 71
  • Weight: 82.8kg

img_5735

Monday was a National Holiday in Japan called Sports Day, so we went and had a BBQ with some of my Irish friends. It was a beautiful day down by the Tamagawa and I enjoyed hanging out and resting my foot. I also had a beer or two …

Tuesday 11th October

  • RHR: 44
  • HRV: 89
  • Weight: 82.8kg

 

Tuesday I had a real life event after work so I missed my run but I was happy to wake up with a HRV of 89. I think that using the Sleep Cycle app helps me wake up easily with our a sudden start.

Wednesday 12th October

  • RHR: 43
  • HRV: 75
  • Weight: 83.2kg
  • Run: Hard Intervals
  • Distance: 16.2
  • Time 1 hour 26 minutes

Wednesday was my first hard run since I hobbled home on Sunday with a sore foot. I was a little worried but also hopefully that it had healed after 2 days rest. These hard intervals was always going to be tough:

3k Warm Up
Warm Up Drills
3 x 400m 1:50/1:40/1:30 w/ 60 sec between & 2 min rest at end
Actual 1:41/1:40/1:29
5.2km
(400m @ 3:50 1:32
1,400m @ 4:05 5:43
3,400m @ 4:30 15:18)
Actual 1:31/5:27/14:34
4 min easy jog
5.6km
(400m @ 3:50 1:32
1,000m @ 4:30 4:30
400m @ 3:50 1:32
1,000m @ 4:30 4:30
400m @ 3:50 1:32
1,000m @ 4:30 4:30
400m @ 3:50 1:32
1,000m @ 4:30 4:30)
Actual 1:33/4:13/1:38/4:23/1:42/4:26/1:42/4:22
Warm Down
As you can see from the Actual Times that I ran, I did OK at the start but struggled on the 400m in the second half. Harrisson said that I ran the first part too fast and he had a point. For the 1,400m I ran 5:27 instead of 5:43 and for the 3,400m I ran 14:34 instead of 15:18. It is hard to tell how these differences impact latter intervals but I can only assume that there is some impact.
I ran all the intervals without any pain in my foot, but as soon as I stopped and started to warm down my left foot got sore again. I did my usual trick of taking off my shoe and sock and massaging my foot but it had no affect. I was left with no choice but to walk home slowly and hope that it would get better by my next run.

Thursday 13th October

  • RHR: 49
  • HRV: 71
  • Weight: 81.9kg
bob-dylan

Bob Dylan – My all time hero. Seriously!

Thursday was my annual health check so I could not drink alcohol on Wednesday or eat after 9pm. This is always a good thing and I wish I could do it everyday. I don’t really. I enjoy drinking and eating everyday. However, I do enjoy waking with a clear head in the morning after not drinking. Not being able to eat breakfast, not so much. I will say that Starbucks at 9:45 after the health check, has the greatest food in the whole wide world. Mainly because I can reach it in 3 and a half minutes.

Obviously the results of the blood tests will take some time to come out but I am the same height, and more or less the same weight, as I was this time last year and my sight seems to have not deteriorated. So Yeah!

Thursday evening I had a real life event so I could not run. Even if I could run I needed to rest my foot. I was delighted to find out during the event that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel prize for literature from the BBC notification on my phone. I was really shocked as I did not even know he was in the running. Despite what many people have said, I believe that it was well deserved, although I am biased, and I enjoyed reading all the nostalgic articles online.

Friday 14th October

  • RHR: 55
  • HRV: 62
  • Weight: 83.9kg
  • Run: Easy
  • Distance: 7.2km
  • Time: 41 mins
  • Avg HR: 131
  • Avg Cadence: 167

img_5748

On Friday I went out to test my right foot for the first time since Wednesday. My boss from the UK was in town and he was keen on getting in a run while he was in Tokyo so we ran from Tamachi up to Hibiya and back. It was a very pleasant evening and I had no adverse impact on foot so I consider it a success.

Saturday 15th October

  • RHR: 52
  • HRV: 69
  • Weight: 83.6k

Saturday I was driving up to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture so there would be no running. Although the changing of the colors had not started in earnest we had a good day viewing the waterfalls, going for a walk in the woods, visiting Toshogu shrine and eating tofu for lunch. Although there was a bit of driving, it was a great day.

 

Sunday 16th October

  • RHR: 49
  • HRV: 69
  • Weight: 82.4kg
  • Run: Long with intervals and goal paced segments
  • Distance 30km
  • Time: 2 hours 33 minutes
  • Avg HR: 161
  • Avg Cadence: 175

img_5767

Sunday was the big run of the week. After missing so many runs during the week, I needed to make Sunday count. Harrisson had put a very complicated workout on the schedule and I had no choice but to write it on my hand least I forgot it.

This week, substantially more time spent at Goal pace, we’re getting into serious business.
3k WU @ MAF (include a 4 x 20s strides randomly @ HM pace during that)
2k @ 4:05 + 6k @ 4:30
9k @ 5:30 (you can take a water/gel break between the 2nd and 7th kilometer here)
1k @ 4:00 + 6k @ 4:30
WD as far as you want to end up in the 28~32km range

 

I think that you can see what I mean. There was no rain but I had sweated a little and by the end, the instructions were illegible. As you can see below, things were going fairly OK until I hit the last 6km which was supposed to be run at 4:30 pace. I couldn’t do it. I pushed the 1km at 4:00 pace as hard as I could and after that I needed to take a break before I got back to 4:30 pace. It took a lot longer than I expected and when I got there, I could not sustain it. I tried and tried but my pace kept slipping and by the end I was running at 4:50 pace. My legs were just too tired. Hopefully they will be better next week.

  • Target 8:10 Actual 8:02
  • Target 27:00 Actual 26:58
  • Target 49:30 Actual 49:09
  • Target 4:00 Actual 4:03
  • Target 27:00 Actual 28:26

The good news is that my foot did not hurt me and I was able to run home pain free. I want to get back to 5 runs next week and up to 80km.