Koga Hanamomo Marathon – 21 Days To Go

Week          11 ~ 17 February

Runs           7

Distance     87km

This was a great week for running but a hard one. It started in Nagano and finished in Ome and I am truly wrecked. I have started to rethink this running everyday plan and will get more rest before my marathon on 10th March. The Ome 30km race on Sunday was very tough but I had had signals all week that I needed to rest and I did not take them. I have 3 weeks now to put things in order and I will continue to use HRV to monitor my progress.

Monday 11th February 2019

Run                    19km

Avg Pace            5:37/km

Avg HR               144

Avg Cadence      177

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Monday morning was a National Holiday in Japan and we were still in Nagano. I woke early and got out on the road before the others were awake. The plan was to run down to the Chikuma River which runs through Ueda, run along it for a few kilometres before hanging a right and start running uphill past the Shinshu International Music Village and the 3 ponds before cresting the hill and running back into Ueda and home.

It is a run that I discovered 2 years back when I was looking for somewhere other than the Shimin No Mori run which I did on Saturday. I love that run, but it is long and hard and sometimes I need something a little different. It was nice and cold when I left the house and there were not many people about. Just a few folks heading up to Sugadaira to go skiing. The run along the river was pleasant but it got really good once I turned off and started climbing. It was quiet and still and there were snow and ice on the road and the ponds. Going up was not as hard as I expected but the hill went on longer than I remembered and I was covered in sweat by the time I reach the top.

The downhill is great fun as it is far steeper than the uphill, reaching 10% in places. Every time I am running down it, hoping not to trip or slip on ices, I always tell myself that I should run up this way next time. The only problem is that it is a little difficult finding the point of entry and I am not sure that I can remember it. It was a wonderful final run in Nagano, rounding off the long weekend with 3 runs and a ski trip. You can hope for more than that.

Tuesday 12th February 2019

RHR               51

HRV               92

Run                    5.3km

Avg Pace            5:11/km

Avg HR               141

Avg Cadence      176

I woke up early enough on Tuesday morning to get my run in before heading to work. I had not taken my HRV and RHR while I was in Nagano and I was happy to see that it was still in a good place. Unfortunately, it was not to stay there for long. I didn’t take the HRV and RHR in Nagano because it was too darn cold. As soon as I woke up, I got up and could not hang around the futon for one minute. When it is -6 degrees C you need to keep moving until the heater starts up.

Wednesday 13th February 2019

RHR               56

HRV               79

Run                    17.1km

Avg Pace            5:31/km

Avg HR               150

Avg Cadence      175

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Wednesday morning was the first sign that things were not going great. My HRV dropped 12 points for no apparent reason and I was feeling very sluggish. Fortunately, I did not have to run in the morning as Wednesday night is Namban night. I met Bob J at the sento before we headed off for 10km running in Yoyogi Park including some of Mike Trees’ bounding exercises. I was not feeling great and took it very easy. I then headed over to the track to meet Jeffrey from our Get The Run Done running streak group. We are all trying to run at least a mile each day and Jeffrey has been a member since last year but I never had the pleasure of meeting him until Wednesday. After we greeted each other, Jeffrey went on to do the Namban intervals and I headed back to Yoyogi Park for a few more easy laps.

Thursday 14th February 2019

RHR               58

HRV               84

Run                  5.3km

Avg Pace          6:13/km

Avg HR             125

Avg Cadence     168

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Thursday was, of course, St. Valentines Day and in time-honoured Japanese tradition, Mrs. Mac Colgain presented me with a box of delicious chocolates first thing in the morning. I didn’t have any before my run. If I had I might have blamed my poor performance on them, but of course not directly to Mrs. M. Although my HRV had improved a bit on the day before, I was still not feeling great.

Friday 15th February 2019

RHR               57

HRV               81

Run                 5.3km

Avg Pace          5:59/km

Avg HR             131

Avg Cadence    171

I still was not feeling great as I plodded around my neighbourhood on Friday morning. I had no intention to do anything but the minimum with the race in 2 days.

Saturday 16th February 2019

RHR               58

HRV               87

Run                 5.3km

Avg Pace          5:38/km

Avg HR             134

Avg Cadence    174

Saturday morning saw a slight improvement in my HRV but the overall trend was still going down. I went out for the minimum again and spent the rest of the day indoors before having a race meal of vegetables and potatoes.

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Sunday 17th February 2019

RHR               60

HRV               74

Run                 30km Race (5km splits: 25:09/ 23:30/ 24:33/ 24:12/ 26:11/ 26:15)

Avg Pace          4:59/km

Avg HR             166

Avg Cadence    184

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I woke on Sunday morning to a further drop in my HRV and Simon telling me to take a break. Had it been any other day I would have stayed in bed and recovered. I was particularly disappointed because I had taken it so easy on Saturday. I just ran a slow 5km in the morning and hardly left the house for the rest of the day before going to bed before 10pm. This morning I had the Ome 30km Race so instead of staying in bed, I was on the platform of Musashi Mizonokuchi station waiting for the special train to Kabe that Hayakawa san had booked for me. Normally I have to change trains in Tachikawa, but there was a race express on this morning which went right to the start. Hayakawa san lives up the line from me and got on the train at Noborito.

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On the special Kabe Express with Hayakawa san.

Kabe station is tiny and was packed so we headed straight to the Race Reception to collect our T-Shirts and bibs before heading over to the place the Terry from Namban had picked out for us to set up camp in a park across the road from the hospital. It was a great location and Terry had driven up in the dark hours to make sure that we got it.

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Walking to the start line. Photo was taken by Seung Gi.

I was number 4408 in a crowd of 12,000 men and 3,000 women runners. The starting blocks were very strictly marshalled and I started in Block E. I could bearly see the sign above the start line from where I was and it took me almost 3 minutes of walking to get to it once the starter’s gun went. I assume that it was a gun as I could not hear a thing other than Sydney Olympics Marathon Gold Medalists, Naoko Takahashi, shouting “Gambare” to everyone.

The troubles did not end with getting to the start. The road was narrow and packed with runners. I spent the first 3km trying to find my stride and my pace. Eventually, things started to go OK and I tried to build up to my target pace of 4:40/km. I never really got there but I was around 4:50/km pace at the turn around point and I thought that I might have a chance to gain back some more seconds on the way back as it was downhill.

The course is one I know well as I have run many training runs out there with my Namban teammates and I enjoyed running down the middle of the street instead of upon the narrow footpath. It was a glorious day and the sun was out in all its splendour. I felt I was running well up to the turn around point at 14.5km and was sure I could start to make up time.

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On the way out. Photo taken by Brett.

As you can see above, my pace held up OK to the 20km where I was still running at 4:50/km pace. At 21km there is a hill and here Naoko Takahashi appeared again giving high fives to everybody in the middle to the road. She appears in nearly every race I run these days. I put my head down and powered up the hill as best I could without losing too much time and telling myself that I only had 9km left. Unfortunately, my legs did not know it. Although we were running downhill, for the most part, my pace started dropping to an average of 5:15/km. With 7km to go, Hayakawa san came flying past me. A little later Mika san also passed me. Within the last 3km, Mark Feeley went by. All of them looking great.

I tried to react to each of them but I had nothing left. I kept wondering if I should stop and walk for a bit as my left leg was sore but I managed to convince myself to continue to the next KM marker each time. With 2km to go, I looked at my watched and saw 2:19:30 and realised that if I put my head down and pushed it, I could get in just under 2:30:00. I put everything I had in it and just managed to get across the line in time.

1km to go, taken my Bob P.

1km to go! Photo was taken by Bob P.

I could barely move. I walked gingerly round to collect my medal, a bottle of Sports Drink and an Ume Onigiri before heading back to the park for some pizza that Seung Gi had generously ordered for us. Hayakawa san and Mika san were walking ahead of me and I still could not keep up with them. I got a protein drink from a Savaas lady and some Amazake from a local lady who had set up a stall outside her house. All along the course, local people were handing out food and drinks. I think that it was one of the best-supported races that I ever entered and I look forward to coming back next year.

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Koga Hanamomo Marathon – 28 Days To Go

Week          4 ~ 10 February

Runs           7

Distance     81km

Another good week running. Even though my total distance was less than the last 2 weeks, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and got in some tough runs and some skiing too. Also, it was the week when two of my children had their birthdays and my father would have turned 85 had he lived. Quite a lot to take in but it all worked out well.

Monday 4th February 2019

RHR                  58

HRV                  89

Run                    5.3km

Avg Pace            6:18/km

Avg HR               129

Avg Cadence      166

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Monday was the birthday of daughter #1. I got up and out the door early as we were going out to dinner that night and I ran my 5.3 route through Mizonokuchi. I was very sore after Sunday’s relay race but it was a good pain. The type where you know that you have done a hard day’s work.

Tuesday 5th February 2019

RHR                  53

HRV                  92

Run                    5.3km

Avg Pace            5:17/km

Avg HR               141

Avg Cadence      178

On Tuesday my Resting Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability were back to normal and so was my pace as I ran through the neigbourhood again as soon as I got up.

Wednesday 6th February 2019

RHR                  53

HRV                  92

Run                   Namban Rengo Intervals 6 x 1km

Time                 3:55, 3:53, 3:53, 3:53, 3:53, 3:52

Wednesday I was back at the track with Namban Rengo running intervals at Oda Field track. It was over 2 months since I had done intervals and I was happy with the result getting each of the six 1kms under 4 minutes.

Thursday 7th February 2019

RHR                  56

HRV                  87

Run                    5.3km

Avg Pace            5:18/km

Avg HR               138

Avg Cadence      177

Thursday I was back running around the neighbourhood although I was a little sore from Wednesday night’s effort.

Friday 8th February 2019

RHR                  57

HRV                  83

Run                    8.4km

Avg Pace            6:06/km

Avg HR               129

Avg Cadence      169

Friday I got up early and ran a little more than usual for a Friday morning. We were headed that night to Nagano for the long weekend and I wanted to get the weekend off to the right start.

Saturday 9th February 2019

Run                    30km

Avg Pace            5:35/km

Avg HR               156

Avg Cadence      176

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Friday was my son’s birthday and we all woke up in Nagano. I woke before everyone and got out the door to do my long hilly run, 30km with a total elevation gain of 715m. I ran up to Shimin No Mori in Ueda and straight down again. It was a tough run where the downhills hurt as much as the uphills. I am hoping that it will have a positive effect on next week’s Ome 30km race.

Sunday 10th February 2019

Run                    8.3km

Avg Pace            5:56/km

Avg HR               141

Avg Cadence      170

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Sunday I was planning on going skiing so I needed to get up at 6am and get my run done before I headed out. I guess I could have done it when I came back but I did not know what condition I would be in. It was snowing and cold when I left at 6:30 but I had a nice run-up to the Joshinetsu motorway and back.

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I guess that I waited too long before leaving and by the time I got to Sugadaira all the parking spaces that I usually go to were taken and I had to head up to Davos. Yes, that is the name of the place in Nagano. Anyway, I soon got a place there and had a good 4 hours of skiing before heading down the mountain in daylight. I also met Tony from Namban Rengo in the restaurant having lunch proving that it really is a small world.

Koga Hanamomo Marathon – 49 Days To Go

Week          14 ~ 20 January

Runs           9 

Distance     82km

Although I was travelling this week, I did manage to get in a few good runs. The time difference of travelling East To West worked in my favour as I found myself wide awake at 4am waiting for the appropriate time to go running. Of course, there was no appropriate time as it was dark until after 8am but I like to fool myself. Stella from Colt had suggested some great running routes for me and I was glad I followed them. I also kept my running streak going throughout the trip, although this did require going out for a 2km run at 00:02 on Saturday morning as I had to get up at 3:30 for the flight back to Japan. But more about that later. I arrived at Barcelona Airport around 7pm on Sunday night. Being a Sunday night, the city was very quiet and the taxi made good time getting to the hotel. I did not run that night but ran each day over the next 5 days to ensure that I did not lose any fitness and that I saw a bit of the city as well.

Monday 14th January 2019

RHR                  56

HRV                   90

Run                    11km

Avg Pace            5:28/km

Avg HR               141

Avg Cadence      172

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I was awake from 2am on Monday morning. As always there is nothing that can be done about jetlag unless you are prepared to take drugs. I just lay there waiting for the sun to come up. Around 5:30am I realized that the sun was not coming up and I went out for my run anyway. This involved a 2km run down to the beach and running back and forth for a bit. It was a mild morning and I saw several other people out running. They were all covered up with hats and scarfs so I guessed that they were locals not enjoying the mild Barcelona winter.

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66n7vostto2d5q+sn%k2kgAfter a couple of meetings in the morning, I slipped out in the afternoon to see Sagrada Familia. I had heard about it and seen some photos, but nothing prepared me for how great this cathedral is. If you ever get a chance to go, you must take it and also do the tour with the audio guide. The information you get is well worth the extra 12 bucks.

Tuesday 15th January 2019

RHR                53

HRV                90

Run                  13km

Avg Pace           4:52/km

Avg HR              158

Avg Cadence    188

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On Tuesday morning my RHR and HRV were still holding up. I had expected them to dive with the jetlag but were much better than last month when I went to Ireland. Maybe it was the lack of alcohol or maybe it was the fact that travelling without my family is much less stressful. Either way, I was up and out on the street at 5:30am and heading to the beach again. I had been awake for a couple of hours and I felt wide awake. That might have been why I was able to push the pace a bit and I was very pleased with my effort.

Wednesday 16th January 2019

RHR                58

HRV                 84

Run #1             6.2km

Avg Pace          4:31/km

Avg HR             157

Avg Cadence   190

Run #2              12km

Avg Pace          4:58/km

Avg HR             157

Avg Cadence    184

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On Tuesday night we had a company dinner and on the way back Romain, Matt and myself decided to meet at 6am the next morning to run together. The problem was that I was still waking up before 4am so at 5:20, I popped out and did a fast 6km run near the hotel before the appointed time. The boys were a little surprised when I showed up at 6 profusely sweating.

We then headed back for the beach and a fast run. Matt is a very fast runner but he kept the pace slow enough so that Romain and myself could keep up with him.

Thursday 17th January 2019

RHR                47

HRV                 96

Run                   10.4km

Avg Pace           5:44/km

Avg HR              147

Avg Cadence     176

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On Wednesday night we changed hotels and our new hotel was right beside Montjuic, one of Stella’s running recommendations. I was feeling rather tired in the morning and I was very surprised that my Resting Heart Rate dropped 10 beats down to 47. I knew that I had to proceed with caution as I headed up the hill for Montjuic. I had actually wanted to go to the top but I got a little lost and ran around by the Olympic Stadium for a bit before heading back. I saw no other runners until the end of the run. Although I did not make my intended route, I had gathered enough information to be able to complete it on Friday morning.

Friday 18th January 2019

RHR                 58

HRV                  91

Run #1              8km

Avg Pace          6:09/km

Avg HR             137

Avg Cadence    174

Run #2              12.1km

Avg Pace          5:21/km

Avg HR              159

Avg Cadence    181

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On Friday morning I met Romain again and we headed back up the hill. This time there was no losing my way and we made it all the way up to Montjuic Castle. It was still dark so we saw nothing but it was good to make it to the top.

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On Friday evening I had a free hour before the sun went down and I slipped out for a quick run before dinner. It was my first time running while it was light in Barcelona and I enjoyed it immensely. This time I ran up to the Olympic Stadium and completed 3 laps. There were a good few other people out running and lots of tourists. It was a great way to finish off the week.

Saturday 19th January 2019

Run                  2.2km

Avg Pace          5:15/km

Avg HR             140

Avg Cadence    174

On Friday afternoon we heard that Taxi Drivers in Barcelona had started an indefinite strike. This would not have caused me much concern except for the fact that my flight was leaving at 6:55am and I needed to be at the airport before the subway and Airport Coach started. I thought about getting an Uber but the man at Reception at the hotel advised against it. He said that there had been cases reported of Taxis attacking Ubers near the airport. That was the last thing that I needed and I chose to leave the hotel at 3:45 and look for a regular bus. In order to continue my streak, I got up at midnight and ran up and down close to the hotel until I clocked up 2km and then went back to the hotel and to bed, before getting up again at 3:30 and finally leaving.

Fortunately, I caught a bus at 3:55 am which dropped me off at Terminal 1 at 4:40 am, after driving all over Barcelona. But it only cost 2 euros so it was worth it.

Sunday 20th January 2019

Run 7.1km

Avg Pace 5:52/km

Avg HR 134

Avg Cadence 171

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I arrived back at Haneda Airport at 6:30 am on Sunday and I was home within 2 hours. I did not sleep much on the plane so I was wrecked and headed to bed until almost 3:00 pm. This was reverse jetlag. Once you fixed your jetlag after travelling west, you have to do it all again after travelling east. After waking up in the afternoon I went out for a slow run to the Tamagawa River to keep my streak going and to try and feel better. I was more successful in the former than in the latter.

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.

 

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

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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)