Ohtawara Marathon 2018 – 40 days to go!

Week           8 ~ 14 October 2018

Runs:           8

Distance:    91km

It’s been a hot summer. Here in Tokyo and everywhere else in the world. It really impacted my motivation to run for the past few months. While I was able to get out the door, it was very hard to do any quality runs and I found it tough. On top of the heat, Tokyo and Japan were hit by several storms and typhoons which made running seem unbearable. By the end of September, I felt I had had enough. The only problem was that I was due to run the Matsumoto marathon on 30th September. I had run it last year and enjoyed it so I signed up again for the 2018 event. But my heart was not in it. I traveled up to Matsumoto on the Saturday with fellow Nambanner, Andrew. He had been training well with a new coach despite a hectic schedule and was clearly excited at the prospect of earning a new PB.

With Andrew at Matsumoto Castle.

With Andrew at Matsumoto Castle. He is clearly excited. I am carefully hiding the fact that I am not.

That evening we met up with the rest of the Namban crew who had planned to run the marathon. We knew that there was a typhoon approaching Japan but it looked like it would pass through on Sunday night and that there would be no rain or strong winds on Sunday morning so we expected the race to go ahead. Therefore, it was a bit of shock at around 7:30 pm when Banno san told us that the race had been canceled. I felt that a life sentence had just been lifted. I knew that I was in no condition to run a marathon and the prospect of Andrew getting a PB and beating me in the process was very real. We did the only thing that we could do and ordered another round of drinks.

It was already too late to get a train back to Tokyo, and as we had paid for our hotels and checked in, we decided to make the most of it and go for a run in the morning before heading back. As it turns out, Sunday was a lovely day for running and we had a nice trot around Matsumoto while trying to find the best route on our iPhones and hardly ever getting lost. I felt sluggish and slow and it reaffirmed my feeling that this was not to be my day.

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Matsumoto Morning Run instead of running a marathon.

On the train back to Tokyo, I was not in great form. I knew that I had dodged a bullet but also that I could not continue to do so forever unless I decided to give up entering races. I was lacking in motivation and willpower and needed something to jump start my engine – so to speak. My saving came in the form of an email from Richard. He described his own recent dissatisfaction with his running and how he planned to sort it out by going on a running streak. This would involve running at least 1 mile per day for the month of October, and then maybe longer. He invited anybody who was interested to join him.

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The motivational email

I thought to myself that that sounds like just what I need. Achievable. Goal Oriented. Group Related. Relative. Perhaps I have been on one too many Leadership Courses but I was sold on the idea. The next day, 1st Oct, I started and managed to complete the first week without too much stress by getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal and running the 2.8km loop around my house most days.

The other thing that has gotten me motivated it again was this blog. I had expected to be writing my Matsumoto Marathon Race Report around this time, but as luck would have it, I never got to run the race. In previous years, I had written each week about my training for the Ohtawara marathon, but recently my enthusiasm had fallen off. It was a chance encounter with an old Namban friend, Arnaud, in Starbucks that made me want to write again. He was over from Singapore and having coffee with Jay when I bumped into him one lunchtime. He told me how he enjoyed my blog and how he was interested in how I fitted everything in with life and kids and work and running. It really got me thinking about how much I enjoyed writing it myself and how it motivated me to run. I decided there and then that I would restart it, at least until after the Ohtawara Marathon this November.

So armed with my daily run and my weekly blog, I am going out to try and recapture all my motivation and run a good race in Ohtawara on 23rd November. At least, that is the plan.

Monday 8th October

Resting Heart Rate:          47

Heart Rate Variability:    107

Run:                                       5.3km

Avg Pace:                             5:45 min/km

Avg HR:                                137 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     180

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Monday was a National Holiday in Japan. Normally, I would try to take advantage of this and go out and do a long run. However, we had plans to go outlet shopping in Gotemba, so I sneaked out for a couple of laps of Mizonokuchi before we left. Had I not been on the running streak program, I would never have gone. I was happy with the run as I managed to keep my HR under 140 and get some points on the board at the start of the week. The outlet was not too packed and I got a nice pair of Nike Odyssey React for half price. These have turned out to be a great investment and I have worn them on almost every run since I bought them.

Tuesday 9th October

Resting Heart Rate:          50

Heart Rate Variability:    97

Run:                                      5.3km

Avg Pace:                             5:00 min/km

Avg HR:                                153 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     187

I was pleased that my Resting Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability were in the correct ranges. My average RHR is around 56 bpm so anything below that means that I am well rested. Likewise, any HRV above 90 is a good sign that I am not too stressed. I use the ithlete app first thing every morning to record these. I woke before 5:45 and was on the street by 6:03. I felt I could run a bit faster than Monday in my new Nike’s and my pace improved in the second half of the run. I was in good condition and enjoyed weaving through people on the pavement heading to work early.

Wednesday 10th October

Resting Heart Rate:          54

Heart Rate Variability:    92

Run #1:                                5.3km

Avg Pace:                             4:43 min/km

Avg HR:                                162 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     188

Run #2:                                11.2km

Avg Pace:                             5:38 min/km

Avg HR:                                148 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     178

I managed a double on Wednesday. This time I was on the street at 5:55 to do my 2 laps of Mizonokuchi and I also managed to run in Yoyogi Park with Bob J on Wednesday night. I was very pleased with the morning run as I was able to push my pace a lot more again. It was no surprise that I was a little tired by the evening run and ran at much more relaxed pace. Bob had started early but stayed around to help me through my first 3 laps of Yoyogi Park.

Thursday 11th October

Resting Heart Rate:          63

Heart Rate Variability:    81

Run:                                       5.3km

Avg Pace:                             5:56 min/km

Avg HR:                                133 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     175

It was no surprise that I was tired again on Thursday morning since I got home late on Wednesday and did not get enough sleep. This was reflected in my RHR and HRV. I still managed to get up at 5:45 and plod around Mizonokuchi for 5km at an easy pace and low heart rate. I was just happy to get the run done.

Friday 12th October

Resting Heart Rate:          55

Heart Rate Variability:    93

Run:                                       2.8km

Avg Pace:                             5:43 min/km

Avg HR:                                134 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     178

I had a meeting at work from 7 pm on Friday, so I knew that it would be challenging to get in a run after I got home at 9 pm. The plan was to get up again at 5:45 and do my usual 2 laps before work. However, I totally slept in and missed my run. That meant I was out on the streets at 9:20 pm running around the neighborhood to ensure that I got the run done when I should have been sleeping and getting ready for the long run in West Tokyo early on Saturday morning. This is when the streak gets tough but the challenge is all part of the fun.

Saturday 13th October

Resting Heart Rate:          56

Heart Rate Variability:    89

Run:                                       30.6km

Avg Pace:                             5:44 min/km

Avg HR:                                145 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     176

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On the banks of the Akigawa River in West Tokyo.

The plan for Saturday morning was to meet Namban running legend, Mark Feeley, at his home in Haijima and do a long hilly run around the Akigawa river. We both plan to do the 55km charity run with Knights In White Lycra (KIWL) in November in aid of Mirai no Mori and the Ohtawara Marathon is not exactly flat so we this run was the start of my preparations.

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Elevation

It was great. Mark dragged me up and down lots of hills as we ran around his neighborhood greeting his neighbors. It is very enjoyable to be out of the city and running past rice fields and beehives while herons stood still in the river waiting to pounce on unsuspecting fish. The run was long and hard as I requested and afterwards, we retired to the local Ishikawa Brewery for some delicious craft beer.

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Alan in Tokyo

Saturday evening an old college friend, Alan, was in town for one night and we met up for some more craft beer in the Taproom in Nakameguro. I knew that I had another long run on Sunday and that Alan would probably be back in Tokyo in a few months, but the call of the Teikoku IPA was just too strong.

Sunday 14th October

Resting Heart Rate:          58

Heart Rate Variability:    90

Run:                                       25.4km

Avg Pace:                             5:53 min/km

Avg HR:                                138 bpm

Avg Cadence:                     177

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Tamagawa Ohashi Bridge

Despite going drinking twice on Saturday, my RHR and HRV were still in a good range on Sunday morning. I was still tired from Saturday’s hilly long run so I decided that a nice easy run, trying to keep my heart rate well under 140, would be a good idea. I headed off to the Tamagawa, turned right and then down to Kawasaki. The temperature was cool and the run turned out well. My HR stayed under 140 until I was about 75% done. At around that point, I switched from the Rich Roll Podcast to Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and my heart rate started to creep up as I made my way home.

All in all, a good week of running. I kept my streak going and I feel that I have gotten some of my motivation back.

40 days to the Ohtawara Marathon.

 

 

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Tokyo Marathon 2017 – Race Report

Net Time: 3:34:10

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Gaining entry to the Tokyo Marathon is like winning the lottery. Actually, it is winning the lottery. Around 330,000 people apply for 27,000 places and then there are an additional 3,000 places which can be purchased with 100,000 yen donation to charity. This year I was in 2 lotteries. My company, Colt, had agreed to sponsor 4 runners in the marathon and I joined the mass lottery as well. As luck would have it, I failed to get selected in the Colt Lottery which had a ratio of 2:1 but I did get selected in the mass lottery with a ratio of 12:1. What are the odds?  Well 12 to 1. I learned of my good fortune while lounging in bed with jet lag and a hangover in the Tallbot Hotel in Stillorgan last September. I was back in the old country to help Daughter #1 get set up in college when the news came through. I had been out the previous night meeting up with my brother, my oldest friend Niall and a certain Arthur Guinness in the hotel bar. My brother, who had also applied and not been selected, could not understand how fate could be so cruel.

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At the time I was training with Harrisson for the Ohtawara Marathon in November and everything was going well. Even though I had to travel a bit, I completed all of my quality workouts and finished Ohtawara in 3:24:48, my third best marathon. However, somewhere along the way I felt a strain at the top of hamstring, or the bottom of my glut (I am never quite sure), but instead of taking a few weeks off after Ohtawara, I kept training and started going out to the track again, with my club Namban Rengo. I also managed to complete 320km in Jan by running everyday over the year end holidays. However, on the 18th January I finally accepted that something was wrong when I did the Namban track workout in Yoyogi Park.  Initially, everything was was going great. I was running fast and kept all 4 of my 1000ms at 3:50 or less, something I had not been able to do for a long time. However, during the final 2 x 500m I felt a lot of pain in my left hamstring and struggled to complete them.

The following Sunday, 22nd January, I had the Chiba Marine Half Marathon with a great bunch of Nambanners. I could only manage 1:35:37 in near perfect conditions and not the 1:32:00 I was aiming for. My leg was sore the whole time and I could not push the pace even though my breathing was fine. It was time for drastic measures. When I arrived in work on the 1st February I saw a message from my friend Steve Flynn in Manchester. He had just finished January without a drink for charity, and was asking people to join him for February. I signed up hoping that it would help me lose weight, but also help my leg recover. I had been getting sports massages and while they provided relief, were not really fixing the problem as I continued to train. 3 Weeks on from the Chiba Marine, on the 12th February and after 6 days of rest, I ran the Inzai Half Marathon in 1:36:17. I had been hoping to improve and but it was not to be. I pushed my pace early on but died greatly in the second half.

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My colleagues from work were all training well and we headed to the Expo together on the Thursday before the race. Three of us had done marathons before, and three of us were doing one for the first time. I had arranged the Colt running shirts through my friend Tim Williams in Namban Rengo and even if I say so myself, they looked pretty good.

The day of the race itself was gorgeous. Sunny, moderate temperature and virtually no wind. I opted to run in just the running singlet with no T-shirt underneath. I also bought a cheap hat and pair of gloves that I planned to dispose of a long the way. However, it was so warm standing in Block B that I need not have bothered. Based on my two half marathon results, I knew that 4:30 pace was well out of the question but thought that I might have a chance at 4:40 pace and slip in under 3:20 for only the second time.  As we headed out on the new course from Shinjuku, the atmosphere was great. Thousands of people lined the streets as always and the runners were all in good form. I was feeling good myself as I took my first drink at the 5km mark. Normally I do not drink so early in a race but as the temperature was set to rise to 13 degrees and the sun was out, I knew that I would need it later. At Idabashi, I heard the first shouts from the Namban horde. Throughout the course, they were popping up everywhere, behind bus shelters, on bridges but always roaring out encouragement.

At 10km the race changed from its original course. For the past 10 years it would turn right and run down to Shinagawa but this year the new course turned left and headed up to Asakusa. Shortly after that I saw Derek running in the opposite direction. He is easy to spot in his green tinted sunglasses. We yelled at each other and kept going. My pace had now settled around the 4:50 mark but I felt I was in control and did not need to worry. Near Asakusa I was awakened from my trans-like state by a shout of “Gambare Mako-gan”. Matsushita san from Colt had come out to support us and was holding a teal Colt T-Shirt. On and on and the craic was good as Van Morrison might say and we turned around at Asakusa Temple and headed back towards Ginza, but before we got there we took a sharp left at the 16km point and headed to Monzen-Nakacho and back, an area I know well. Right after I turned the corner I saw Michael Hegarty  from Namban flying down the road. I wanted to shout at him, but I failed to recall his first name in time and all that came out was “Go Go”. Later at the post marathon party, he told me he knew who it was. Then as I passed the 17km point I saw Harrisson and he was just passing the 24km point. I yelled “Go Harrisson” but he totally ignored me. I guess he was in the zone. All the way up to Mozen and back I kept looking out for other Nambanners and maybe a Colt runner, but I missed them all.

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At the end of the road we turned left and rejoined the course towards Ginza. My family said that they would be at the 29km point just outside Takashimaya department store. For that 5km I thought that it would be great seeing them and I imagined that one of them would have a steaming hot cup of coffee for me. It practically kept me going. Of course they had no such thing, so after exchanging some pleasantries I headed off again to see the Colt people who promised to be at the 34km point. Up until 24km I had managed to keep my pace under 5 min per km but I could not hold out any longer as the war of attrition set in. The stretch from 29km to 34km was very tough as we ran down from Hibiya to Tamachi. My pace slowed to 5:30 over this stretch but fortunately it did not reduce much more after that. At Tamachi station the Colt folks were out in force and had brought the cold spray that I had given them. I used it liberally and headed on to the final turn around in Shinagawa at around the 35.5km point.

As I passed through Tamachi the second time, I looked out for the Colt supporters but I missed them as they had crossed the road. It was around here that the local Autobacs store was handing out Coca Cola. I have rarely tasted anything as good in all my life.  It was well past noon now and the day was warm but it was not an oppressive heat. I took my last gel at around the 37km mark with my second Nurofen to ward off the pain and put my head down for home. I know the road from Tamachi up to Otemachi very well. It is wide and open but there was not much wind so I was able to keep an even pace. Just before Hibiya Park, there was a big crowd of Nambanners cheering and taking photos as we went by. It was very encouraging to hear them all in the final stages of the race.

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Finally, I made it to the paved streets of Otemachi and as I turned the second last corner I saw the sign that declared 1km to go. I was holding on to by 5:30 pace as best I could when I saw my family lining the road, holding out a cup of coffee for me. I was hardly going to take it with 500m to go but I appreciated the gesture, however late in the game. A middled aged American woman kept sprinting past me, stopping and walking, letting me pass her and then doing the same again. I thought that I had her beat but in the final run in, she found some extra strength and pipped me at the post right in front of Tokyo station.

I was very happy to finish and while I was a little disappointed that I could not maintain my early pace, I knew that my training had not been sufficient I was lucky to be able to complete this great new course on such a beautiful day with my family, friends and colleagues along the route.

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After the finish there is a 1km walk back to the bags where hundreds of volunteers line the route and cheer and clap and give High 5s. Had it not been such great weather, it would have been a bit tedious, but under the circumstances, it was also a lot of fun.  That evening, the Namban crew were back in FooTNiK in Osaki for the by now traditional post marathon party. There was a great turn out of runners and supporters. Here’s hoping that we get to do it all again next year.

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.

peters-graphs

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.

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 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.

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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
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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.

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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.