Nagano Marathon 2018

Net Time 3:52:26

Preparing for a marathon is always tricky. But basically, you want to have your best month in the last 6 weeks before the race. This was not the case for me and my first Nagano Marathon. However, before I get into the details, I should point out that I was delighted to actually be able to toe the line at all. This was the 4th Nagano marathon for which I had applied and the first that I actually made the start. In 2o11 we had the horrific North East Japan earthquake and tsunami on the 11th March which caused the cancelation of the marathon in April. In 2012 I was fortunate to be invited to the wedding of a good friend in Ireland. And in 2014, I had to work. I cannot complain about any of these, but I was really happy to make the start on the 4th attempt.

So I turned 50 in March. I know, hard to believe. How could someone born in 1968 ever turn 50?  Well apparently it happens, so you have to get used to it. I had such a wonderful 50th birthday! It lasted several weeks and really filled me with gratitude for all that I have in this world.

The first event was when my running club, Namban Rengo, sprung a surprise birthday party for me in Tullamore Irish Pub in Yoyogi Koen 2 days before the day itself. It was the first time that I had the honor of a surprise party and I was thrilled that all my friends from Namban Rengo were there. My Irish friend Paddy had suggested that we go for a couple of pints with a couple of people after the Wednesday night workout and when I showed up, they had taken over the whole bar and filled with all my friends. It is a very special occasion when a lot of people show up for your birthday and I truly appreciated it. I just wished I could have expressed myself better, and remembered to take off my coat for the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

My actual birthday took place on Friday the 9th March and when I got home from work my wife had put on a great vegetarian spread and decorated the house. 

The next day the two of us dumped the remaining kids on the in-laws and Akiko took me off to the Maldives for 1 week. Going to the Maldives from Japan is not easy. First, you have to fly to Singapore and then hang around a bit. Then, you fly to Male and hand around a bit more. Finally, you get a fixed-wing plane down south to the islands where you hang around for the last time before taking a speedboat to the island where you will spend the next 5 nights. However, once you get there it is amazing. The island has a circumference of 1.6km and there are no shops. Well, there is one shop, but it does not sell much. All you can do is eat, relax, drink, swim, snorkel and maybe run 6km in the morning before it gets too hot. It was a wonderful vacation for both of us and a great start to the next 50 years.

The good life

Drinks by the pool

Snorkeling

Sunset

Nightime

Happy Birthday to me

Snorkeling

My morning run

Sunset


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the celebrations did not stop there. A week after we arrived back from the Maldives, my brother and my 2 nephews arrived from Ireland. We had a full schedule planned in Kamakura, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. It was a wonderful trip. It is always great showing Japan to your family and we did a lot together. Perhaps the highlight was feeding the deer in Nara. Such a simple thing, but it brought such great joy to everyone. It was also great to get my kids together with the cousins who do they do not see a lot as they live 10,000 miles apart.

Harry Porter at Univeral Studios Japan

Kyomizudera in Kyoto

Kinkakuji in Kyoto

Running with Antoin and Kevin

Antoin feeds the deers while Sean looks on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there I was on the 1st April, 2 weeks out from the Nagano Marathon, and only 173km to show for March. I had run double that in February but I was not worried. I just had one of my best months and my best birthday. I knew that it was going to be a slog, but I was prepared for it and knew that I could just do my best.

 

Marcus and myself on the Shinkansen to Nagano

Getting ready to leave the comfort of my hotel.

With Goto san and Kiran at the start!

Nagano Marathon is one of those early start marathons. And by early, I mean 8:30am. That means you cannot get to the city the day of the race and you need to come up the day before and hang out. I went up on the shinkansen with Marcus and we met Kiran in Nagano station shortly after arriving. The three of us then headed off to the Expo which was rather disappointing. And by disappointing, I mean that there was not a lot to eat. I really enjoy stuffing my face the day before a race, but this time there just was not a lot of options. The only good thing was that we ran into Brad as we were leaving the Expo and realized that we were all staying at the JAL City Hotel. It is always hard knowing where to eat the day before a race but Marcus and I found a nice Italian restaurant not too far from Nagano station and Kiran came and joined us. Kiran was a little surprised when he arrived and saw us drinking wine, but we assured him that it was too late us to affect the outcome of the race so we might as well enjoy it.

With the early start to the race, it meant an even earlier breakfast. The hotel had advertised a 6am breakfast, but I had been fooled by that before and headed up to the dining area at 5:50am which was already in full swing. After eating well at the breakfast buffet, we checked out just before 7am and head back to Nagano station to get the train to the start. I had chosen not to bring any bag with me and to leave all my stuff at the hotel. At the start, I met Kiran and Goto san. Both were in good form and looking forward to the race. A light rain was falling and I wore a plastic raincoat that I was soon to discard. I knew that I had not trained enough but hoped that I could hang on to a 5 minute/km pace for the first half of the race and then dig deep later on.

 

 

 

 

 

The truth was something different. Once the race started, I knew that I was in trouble and that a 5 min/km pace would be too much for me. The Nagano Marathon, despite being set in the center of the Nagano Mountains, is not a hilly race. There are a few inclines at the start but they soon give way to a fairly flat course. However, I still was not able to maintain my desired pace. I struggled early on and was soon paced by the 3:30 pace makers and later on by the 3:45 pace makers. At 17km, Hayakawa san tapped me on the shoulder with a grin and then flew past me. I saw him later after a switch back and then he was gone and I never saw him again.

I knew then that I was fighting myself and fighting Kiran. Myself, because I had run 3:52 in my last marathon in Ohtawara in November and I wanted to do the same again. Kiran, because we work together and I did not want to lose bragging rights. He had been training well and looking good on Strava and had run 3:56 in Kyoto in February. I knew that if I slowed down more, or walked, he would easily catch me. So I pushed on. Down along the Chikumagawa River that I know so well from my time in Ueda and back up the other side. I stopped a couple of times to make use of the free Cold Spray which was readily available but did not walk or stop to eat.

It was a tough finish around the stadium but I kept going and kept ahead of Kiran … barely. He had a really good run and came in right behind me as did Marcus. Goto san ran the same time as he did last year and was very happy. As soon as I was done, I got my medal and towel and headed for the bus back to Nagano station and the Onsen and soba that awaited me.  It was a great weekend and a very enjoyable race. I am glad that I finally made it.

 

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1st Matsumoto Marathon Race Report

3:42:58

This year a new marathon was added to the race calendar of the already over-reached and undertrained runners in Japan. Matsumoto is a city I have always wanted to visited, but when your in-laws have a house in Ueda, on the other side of Nagano, you do not get much of a chance. Hence, I was quite surprised when I strolled up to the JR ticket booth on Friday afternoon to find that it is not served by a Shinkansen. I was under the impression that everywhere of note in Japan was by now connected to the Bullet Train SuperHighway. Instead I had to go to Tachikawa and get a Limited Express. It was not all bad, as there is now good food and drink to be found in Tachikawa station to make the 2 and a half hour journey to Matsumoto less challenging.

The Limited Express that I assume stopped more times than an Actual Express which left Tachikawa just after 12:30 and arrived in Matsumoto at 3pm. It was a very pleasant journey winding up through the fields with the autumn sun beating through the window and again I wondered why I had never done this before.

I booked the race and travel in March after a friendly tip off from Chika san but it was already too late to get any of the cheap rooms for the marathon weekend. I ended up spending 20,000 yen on a lovely double room in Hotel Dormy Inn when I really only expected to pay half that. Still, it did have its advantages. The Dormy Inn is really nice, the room was fairly big and the onsen was great.  I checked in at 3:15 and by 3:20 I was out on the street again, heading for Matsumoto Castle.

Matsumoto Castle is one of the main reasons that people visit Matsumoto and painted against a clear blue sky it looked absolutely stunning. I tried to go and get a tour but there was a 50 min wait, and since this is not Tokyo Disneyland, I declined and went for a walk around the grounds. There were many tourists about but it was not packed and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. As I was leaving I came across a poster announcing that there would be a moon viewing from the castle and music that evening, so I headed off for some omori pasta and came back in time to hear Michelle by the Beatles performed by a flute quintet. It was really fantastic.


I was up before 5am the next morning and off to get a shuttle bus to the starting point at 6:15. It was all so smooth that I got the 6:22 bus from Matsumoto station, arrived at the start at 6:32 and I was done checking-in at 6:35. I then had to wait around for the 8:30 start. Next year I will know better and leave the hotel around 7am to get the bus. The last shuttle will leave at 7:10.

I was in A block as I had put a rather optimistic finishing time on my application last March. Still, I did not feel too bad as I hung around in the morning sunshine with some serious looking runners. The temperature was allegedly 8 degrees when I left Matsumoto Station and 13 degrees when the race started but it felt much warmer in the sun and I felt just right in my Namban singlet. The speeches started around 8:10 but they were short and good humored. The highlight for me was seeing Kenji Kimihara who ran the marathon in 3 olympics and came second in Mexico in 1968. He is now 76 (same age as Bob Dylan) and was running the Matsumoto Marathon. I checked the results just now and he did not even come in the top 6 for the over 70s.

The race started at 8:30 exactly. The man doing the count down hit the man with starter’s pistol on the back, he fired and we were off. I love this ceremony. My plan was to run at 5 minutes per km but I had not studied the start of the race very well. It was all downhill and before I knew it I was running at 4:35/km and feeling great. I knew that it would not last and I tried to put the brakes on but to no avail. It took me until the 9th km before I could slow down to a 5 minute pace and it was too late by then.

 

 

At 4km the 3:30 pace maker went by me running at 4:40, a time that would see her finish in 3:16 if she kept it up. At 5km Chika san flew past at about the same pace. I had met her at Motozo’s birthday party on Friday night and she had told me that she had planned to run under 3:30.  She was already looking much better than that. As the course went up and down I managed to fall into a nice rhythm. The countryside was beautiful as we ran along small streams and through lush rice fields with distance mountains looming over us. The organization was great with aid stations every few km, which was just as well as the temperature gradually increased. It might have gone to 25 degrees by the end of the race, but who can be certain.

At the 14km mark, just before a switchback, I saw Chika san again and calculated that she was about 2:30 ahead of me. I then saw Nick and Yuri and calculated that they were about 4:30 behind me. I was surprised at the gap but then realized that they started in C block and I would need to pull up my socks again to stay ahead of them.

I went through half-way in 1:44:33 which is right on a 5 minute pace but I knew I was in for a struggle as my previous kilometer was 5:09 and I had a long way to go. This was the first marathon that I had run drug free. It was a pure accident as I forgot to bring up my Ibuprofen from Tokyo and I decided to give it a try while having a Yona Yona beer on the train up on the Saturday. Normally I take 200 ~ 300 mg with breakfast and then another tablet around the 27km mark, but this time I decided that I would feel the pain. David Layden, I hope you are happy.

And feel the pain I did. There were quite a few aid stations with cold spray and at 27km I stopped and liberally covered my legs. I then had my first gel as I headed further into the War of Attrition. After a while I started taking extra cups of water and pouring them on my knees and my hips. I ran on feeling more sore with every step and consuming more sports drinks. I even walked through several of the aid stations so I could get more drink into me.

The road went on and on and while my pace gradually decreased, it only went into the 6 minute are a few times at 36km, 41km and 42km. At 32km I saw Chika san again and she was 13 minutes ahead of me. Shortly after that I saw Nick and he had reduced the gap between us to 2:30. He was looking strong. I could tell because when I saw him he was not stopping to get a drink at the aid station he was passing. I, on the other hand, was leaving no aid station go untouched. At the 35km mark I stopped again and gave myself another liberal dose of Cold Spray. At the  38km mark I saw Nick again and he was just 40 seconds behind me. He did not see me but I yelled at him anyway. Soon after that he passed me and kept going to deliver another amazing PB.

I struggled on. It got harder and harder but I was determined not to stop and walk. At the end the organizers make you run all the way around the outside of the Shinshu Sky Park Athletic Stadium before you go inside and do 3/4 of a lap. It goes on forever and I had to sprint at the end to get in just under 3:43.

Afterwards I relaxed in the sun with Nick and Chika san, drinking beer and waiting for other runners to finish. It was very peaceful and enjoyable. I then took the shuttle bus back to Matsumoto and Dormy Inn where I enjoyed the onsen again.

A wonderful race and one that I would like to do again, and again, and again.

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

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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

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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.

MAF Test #5 and HRV Collapse

After a great weekend running in the Nagano Hills, I was ready to try another MAF Test and I was actually looking forward to it. My pace in the hills had increased, my Heart Rate Variability (HRV) hit a high of 70 on Sunday morning and it was now much cooler. I was hoping to finally run all the MAF miles under 10 mins. Looking back I guess I should have called it off when I woke up on Wednesday morning and my HRV had dropped from 65 to 42 and my ithlete iPhone app was showing yellow. This is an indication to take it easy. However, I thought that a few kilometres at MAF pace in Yoyogi Park could not hurt. Unfortunately, things continued to not go to plan. I felt slow and sluggish and, as shown below, did not mange to improve my MAF  at all. I ran a 2km warm up, 8km at MAF pace and continued for a 5km cool down before heading to the sento (public bath).

The next shock was at 5am on Thursday morning when I got up to do my morning run, still hoping to make 100km for the week. I took my HRV as usual and saw that it had fallen again to 30 and that the indication was now red, meaning “don’t even think about running”. With a heavy heart, I reset my alarm for 6:30 and got back into bed. I felt slightly better knowing that this is why I was measuring my HRV each morning and thought that I would just need another rest day and I would be ready to run again.

Fast forward 24 hours and the same thing happened again. My HRV had fallen further to 24 and the indication was still red. With a heavier heart I sighed “shoganai” (it can’t be helped) and reset my alarm. Truth be told, I have not been feeling great these last few days so it is nice to have an iPhone app to tell me not to do anything stupid or there might be no way back.

Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF)  140 bpm

Average Heart Rate 139 bpm

Time In Zone 64%

16-Oct-13 10:22/10:48/10:29/10:40/10:40

17-Sep-13 10:28/10:25/10:13/10:17/10:04

29-Aug-13 10:36/10:36/10:34/10:45/10:47

15-Aug-13 10:29/10:32/10:37/10:28/10:30

27-Jun-13 9:56/ 9:52/9:45

HRV 18 Oct 2013

HRV 18 Oct 2013

 

HRV 18 Oct 2013 (All data)

HRV 18 Oct 2013 (All data)

 

Week 18 7th to 13th October

Runs 5
Distance 100.6km
Weight 77.8km

Highlights
This was a good week.

I managed a 36km long run Saturday even though it was 27 degrees and sunny. This is important as I want to run 5 x 34km+ long runs by Nov 3. Two down, three to go. This was a tough run in the sun. During last week’s long run I let my heart rate drift by 5 beats over MAF after 20km and 10 beats after 30km. This week it was up 5 beats as soon as I stepped into the sun after 3km and was 15 beats over MAF for the second half of the run. I really had no choice as I would not have gotten home if I had stuck to MAF.

The weekly total was again over 100km for the first time in two months and it gives me a real chance to reach my monthly target of 400km.

My mid-week run was 20km. Stan in my club told me this was a pillar of his successful Boston Marathon so I am giving it a go.

My heart bio- feedback is improving. On Friday my resting heart rate was 40bpm and on Sunday my HRV reached 70 for the first time. This gives me confidence that MAF is working and that I should continue with it. I have to plan a MAF test next week to check the progress.

On Saturday night we came up to Nagano where it is much cooler. Although I was running in the hills on Sunday, it felt much easier to stay within MAF than back in Tokyo. The Ohtawara Marathon will be held at the end of November so I will hopefully be getting much cooler weather as well.

Tuesday Aerobic 14.1km
Wednesday Aerobic 20.2km
Friday Aerobic 14.1
Saturday Long 36km
Sunday Aerobic 16.2km

Week 5 8th to 14th July

Runs           5
Distance    80.7km
Weight       80.2kg
Highlights
The weather in Tokyo is getting very hot and we had a few consecutive 35 degree days.I was fortunate that I managed to get out in the mornings because even at 8pm it is too hot to run. On Friday morning I noticed that it had not cooled down much from the previous evening and I found the going very tough. Fortunately we were able to escape to Nagano for the weekend and I could do my longest run since February. I cannot imagine running 25km in this sort of heat in Tokyo so I am hoping that it cools down a bit by next weekend. Other than the relatively moderate temperature, the other advantage of being in Nagano is great food and drink.
IMG_1975 IMG_1976 IMG_1978 IMG_1979
Next week will be the end of my first mesocycle so I plan to drop the weekly distance down to 65km to give myself a chance to recover before bumping it back up the following week.
Tuesday Aerobic           12.4km
Wednesday Aerobic     14.1km
Thursday Aerobic         14.3km
Friday Aerobic              14.1km
Sunday Aerobic            25.8km (Nagano Hills)