Monday, July 07, 2014

3-hour Team Relay




Saturday's 3-hour relay is supposed to be a relaxed running party.  Balloons, band, kebabs, dancers  --- I anticipated a longish interval workout at 80% effort

But my team - appropriately named Team Work -  was all business.  



Five of us rotate running 1.8k around a winding course.  I struggle mightily to get going on the first leg, running 6;48, one of the slowest times among my five teammates.  By by my 5th leg I was able to get around in 6:22.   While most other runners seemed to grow more tired over the 3-hour event and slow down, I somehow got steadily faster.  Strange.







I felt pretty trashed - not sure if this would be a recommended workout - but it is good fun, good photo-ops and Team Work manages a 3rd place finish and captures the coveted firework prizes. 


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shimoda Triathlon


It continues to be challenging to actually do a triathlon.  

I miss the registration deadlines in several spring/summer triathlons I had hoped to enter. Carrying a bike and wetsuit around is such a hassle, and so unlike with running events, I am unable to casually jump in to races during journeys to San Francisco, Cambodia, Singapore, Seattle etc.  

Last week’s Oshima Triathlon is completely washed out by bad weather.    

My fellow triathlon teammates have come to scoff at me, saying I am merely a “runner with a cross-training problem”. 

Fortunately David organizes the Shimoda Triathlon last weekend – an informal, Olympic-distance team event in idyllic Shimoda. 

It is a wonderfully scenic course – as spectacular as any triathlon you will find anywhere in the world – we swim through crystal clear ocean water to a beach turnaround in an amazing cove.  The bike route is along breath-taking cliffs, and the run takes us along a quiet trail/road through dense forest and picturesque farms. 
It is not necessarily a fast course – my time is like 2 hours and 40-something minutes. I manage a pretty strong bike ride and finish 2nd among the 8 of us doing the event. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Munatsuki 10k

It was unseasonably hot on Sunday.  But I had signed up for a local 10k.  And the party afterward featured an intense cake baked by one of our teammates, Harrisson, who is a renowned pastry chef.    
 


I would have found the concept of racing 10k to be overwhelming in Sunday's weather conditions.  Except for the knowledge that the majority of my teammates were running the half-marathon distance, or even more appallingly, were attempting to run a full marathon in the searing mid-day heat.  Running a mere 10k in comparison seemed conceivable – in contrast to a marathon it felt relatively sensible even.  

So when we started our 10k race at 10am I went out reasonably fast – probably too fast in retrospect.  At the 2k mark I was distressed at the thought that I was going to slow - I calculated that I was running just under 3:50 per kilometer pace, slower than my pace for 21.1 kilometers at the Cinco de Mayo Half-Marathon four weeks earlier.  I was in 7th place at this point and tucked in behind a fast slender looking guy in red singlet and we proceeded to overtake 3 other runners and move into 4th and 5th position.  At around the half-way mark the course climbed a short hill up to a sluice gate crossing the river, and my new friend in the red singlet raced away from me (ultimately finishing a strong 2nd -- over 2 minutes ahead of me).   

I struggled at this point, running with no one remotely close to me but managed to hang on for 5th place position in a time of 38:16.  I felt pleased with my race, though it was a lot more effort than I had wanted to expend. 

But that effort was ultimately worth it –  17 of us descended on Sizzler (a surprisingly upscale restaurant in Tokyo), and were awarded for our efforts with the amazing hazel-nut, passionfruit, cake with hand-made macaroons.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Spring 2014 Run Training

Summary of my run training is pasted below.

I have managed to maintain quite high mileage (for me) over the past 7 months at 60 or more kilometers per week.  It remains to be seen whether I maintain the run volume in the weeks ahead with triathlon events, hot weather, and travel plans making running less enticing.

The training advice I have received in recent years has generally stressed quality over quantity -- focusing on several key workouts per week that should in my case be relatively short and fast.  However this advice has come with the additional note that these shorter key workouts should only be 10% or 20% of weekly training volume -- implying that I would still need to do at least this 60 kilometer level with lots of recovery runs.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

2014 Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon -- 1:19:42

I am so pleased to break 1:20 in the half-marathon.  

And it is so satisfying to run negative splits.  


Just like two years I run the first half of the race with a  pack, relying on the "metronome pace" of two elite female runners - this year the elite females being CNW's Lana and Kimber.   The pace felt so comfortable and we are such a supportive and friendly little band - encouraging one another, yelling out various splits, and promising to buy Lana a beer for pacing us.

I hate to leave them.  But when I saw my split  at the 7 mile mark was 43:15 I knew that Lana's pace was definitely not going to allow me to realize my dream of running 1:20.   And that this moment was probably my last chance in this race to make a move and get back under pace.  So I surged to catch up with some guy in a blue singlet (Pedro I learned later), who had passed our merry band several minutes earlier.   This surge left me breathing hard, and I was thinking that it would be painful and embarrassing if I ultimately fall off the pace and Lana, Kimber and Jordan overtake me again.  

But I just stayed with Pedro.  Thank goodness for Pedro.  I owe Pedro a beer too if I ever see him again, though I would surely not recognize him since I pretty much only saw him from the back (he did the real work, I just ran behind him). 

It felt like we were flying.  Picking up the pace from 6:10 per mile to 6:02 felt like a screaming fast increase in speed at that point in the run.  My splits (40:32 for the first 50% of half-marathon, and 39:10 for the second half may not seems like a big drop, but it felt huge.  

I finish 8th overall.  Cinco de Mayo is fairly competitive for a smallish event (but part of its attraction was having runners like Lana and Pedro to run with).  

The race (especially in retrospect) was an "A race" for me this year - I was kind-of, sort-of training for it -- to the extent that I really train for any particular thing, as I complain about in my previous blog post on my undisciplined spring training.  I was not sure that I would even make it to Seattle in time for Cinco de Mayo and did not actually register until the morning of the race.  I am glad I made and was able to clock a time under 80 minutes.  I still have hopes of getting my half-marathon back under 1:18, but for now I can focus on triathlons, aquathons, climbing, and shorter run distances.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pivot to Rock Climbing 2







Climbing on Mount Miyougi yesterday


Scaling the chains is ideal amount of danger (not much)



Fortunately I am so light I can lift my weight and overcome my clumsy climbing footwork skills 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Disciplined Spring Training


As usual, my training this Spring lacks the focus and discipline of my triathlon teammates.

They faithfully adhere to their coach's advice, performing a recovery-based series of precisely paced workouts leading to their A race.  I on the other hand do not have a coach and am guided more by social calendar than race periodization.

Last Sunday's Kamakura run for example is brilliant fun - I lead a festive group around Kamakura's scenic and cultural highlights





but of course it is as much about sightseeing as training - many of the early splits are 10+ minutes per kilometer











Meanwhile my weekly Saturday  hill repeats have become great photo ops.  Even as my speed on the 60-second hill climb fades and I wonder if I am capturing the benefit from "high intensity training"












Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Enduro Bicycle Race

I compete in the 4-hour Team Enduro Bike Race on Saturday.

Team Enduro is essentially the first true bike race of my life. For years I did century and double-century rides – long, slow, epic, endurance journeys like the 200-mile Seattle-to-Portland where my friends and I started at 4am and rode into the late evening – 18 hours of cycling punctuated by frequent breaks to stuff ourselves with pastries.  And I’ve done numerous triathlon bike legs where drafting is not allowed and participants ride on long strait roads enveloped by a comforting cushion of empty space.

So it is a bit of an adjustment for me to deal with the tactical riding and frenzied, intensity of going round and round a 5k circuit desperately trying to optimize my drafting opportunities.

Keren and I had formed a two man team for the 4-hour event, and we decided to alternate one-hour each -- Keren started off on the first hour and I rode the 2nd and 4th hour.  The goal is for the team to do as many 5k loops as possible in 4-hours. Keren is a grizzled cycling veteran and when he handed off the ankle-band after an hour he had powered through 7 loops and put is in middle of the pack and no doubt near the front of our age-group (if the race officials tracked age-groups).  Of course I felt obligated to make some effort to maintain our strong position.  I wobble out of the transition pit area and onto the course and am immediately passed by a swarm of cyclists.

I have not done in any cycling training since last September.  In fact going back to my Taiwan debacle in November 2012 I have only done maybe a few hundred kilometers of cycling on my TimSmith racing bike.  I am not sure if this lack of training really mattered so much during the first hour.  Really at first I was just trying not to crash.
 
A strong wind creates a tremendous headwind on the front stretch and tailwind on the backstretch. I generally manage to hold my own on both of these long straightaway sections – it is the tight hilly turns on either end where I lose ground.  I manage 6 laps in a bit under an hour before passing the ankle-band back to Keren. 

I consume several gels and a banana during my one-hour break, and am feeling reasonably strong when I start my second hour, however the bursts of intense effort to accelerate and maintain draft positions start to take a toll.  I find it challenging to maintain concentration and full effort - rather I find myself sitting behind other solo riders who slow down and I just coast along too dazed to pass.  With a few minutes remaining until the 4-hour mark, my leg muscles are burning and I am feeling nauseous, but I am only manage to accelerate and  squeeze out one more recorded lap.  

We finish 133rd out of the 500 men's teams with 27 laps and an average speed of 32.44 km per hour.  




Friday, February 28, 2014

Tokyo Marathon 2014

I run the Tokyo Marathon last Sunday in around 2:57:30.


With over 300,000 entrants vying for 30,000 coveted spots I felt compelled to go ahead and enter the event after winning a place in the registration lottery. 




And it was a festive experience - here is group at starting line 







During most of my endurance events, particularly long trail races and triathlons, I have experienced pronounced ups and downs in energy over the course of the event. So on Sunday it was striking to encounter a simple, steady, linear decline in perceived strength almost the entire way from around 5k to the finish line.  Here is picture of me toward the finish line trying to look like I am not fading…


Sunday's marathon experience largely reinforces my general dislike of the 42k distance.  The toll on my body, the long recovery cycle and nature of training did not seem justified by the performance and the challenge/enjoyment level relative to other events.  My added mileage volume,  precise training taper,  improved nutrition, and caffeine taper did not seem to have much impact.  If any.    Granted, the caffeine taper is good for its own sake.  And I do certainly acknowledge the charm and mystique of trying to achieve the right pace to make it all the way through the marathon. 

Immediately after the race, right at the moment I was feeling the very worst, I told teammate Don that yeah, I would still do marathons again in the future - I mean I really should do Boston Marathon at some point - (I have been talking about it for decades and I did meet the 3:05 qualifying time for Boston in 2015), and it would be fun to do a big Europe marathon like London or Berlin.  But even then I and am inclined to revert back to run/walk style.   




January 5k Time Trial


17:31 again.

Had hopes of going faster. 

But tired at end.




Wasn't necessarily trying to write this post as Haiku

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shibuya Ekiden 2014

I capture much of the glory at the annual Shibuya Ekiden.  My team is tied for lead when Brett W hands off to me for the 3rd 2.9-kilometer leg of the 4-man relay. 

I immediately am passed by our arch-rival master's team competition and a high school girl's team.  

I have such a hard time trying to run at a fast pace so early in the morning – the exception being the Chiang Mai Half Marathon (described below) when I overslept and all the adrenaline racing to the starting line got me pumped up.  At Shibuya I was still feeling sluggish and sleepy as of the 8:30am start and I thought about the 5 hour wake-up rule - which suggests waking up at least 5 hours prior to the expected END of your event - so for a mile you would need to wake up at least 4 hours and 55 before the event starts, and for an ultra-marathon you can just wake up and go.  

So 500 meters into my 2.9-kilometer leg of the relay I am well behind the arch-rival and the high school girl.  But at this point I start to wake up, while my competition starts to suffer from their faster start -- soon I pass the high-school girl who is making absolutely horrible noises, and by the halfway mark I pass the archrival who doesn’t look so good either.  When I hand over the sash to our anchor runner, Kuri, our team has a 30 second lead, and Kuri extends it to 52 seconds.  Our team is honored in the elaborate award ceremony and I am hailed as the hero – though my time of 10:07 is the slowest of our team - all 4 of us completing the course within 10 seconds of each other. 



Friday, January 24, 2014

Phnom Penh 50k Ultramarathon






Is this the coolest race number ever?  









 I don't wish to run the entire Phnom Penh 50k Ultra-marathon.  So the organizers provide a rider who gives me his bicycle at the 30k mark and then he proceeds to run the final 20k while I ride this bike to the finish line.


It is a spectacular run at dawn - across rice fields, past magnificent Khmer temples, and through villages. 






 Children keep running out to yell 'hello' at us.  







I run at 6 minute per kilometer pace with Denise from Canada who had mastered the Khmer language enough to banter with all our supporters lining the course… 





Saturday, January 18, 2014

Phnom Penh New Year's 15k

Another triumphant podium finish (admittedly with a rather small field).  I win the Phom Penh New Year's 15k.

Racing through the fields and villages of Cambodia is magical. We start in the late afternoon on a broad, quiet boulevard on outskirts of Phnom Penh. I am escorted by a fleet of Cambodians on bikes and motorcycles until the course leaves the road and heads on to a hard pack trail through wide open fields.

I am seeking to maintain 4 minute per kilometer pace (like at Chiang Mai and Watarase Half), but and am faster than planned at 10k in about 39:40.  I feel pretty good and perhaps I could maintain this pace, but the scenic trails get more uneven and as we wind through a small villages and flocks of chickens I lose a bit of intensity and focus.  I finish in just over an hour.  


- and where does one go after the New Year's Day 15k race for an authentic Cambodian culinary experience?   Of course, where else? - Mike's Burgers.  My food snob foreigner
teammates refuse to join us, but I take "the when in Rome do as the Roman
do" approach and join the local Cambodians.  When we arrive Mike is happy to
learn that I have been to California's In'N'Out Burgers and tell me about
his business story over bacon burgers and Khmer Curry.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chiang Mai Half Marathon 2013

I am relaxed about the Chiang Mai Half Marathon.

So relaxed I almost sleep through the 5am start. My $8 per night guest-house does not offer wake-up calls, or alarms, or even an illuminated clock. Given the paper thin walls of a $8 guest-house I am wearing ear plugs, and I sleep through the feeble chirp of my watch alarm and Arnaud's quiet knock on my door.  Somehow I emerge from a deep, deep sleep and decide to check the time on my iPad at precisely 4:34. It takes a few seconds to register that I am supposed to be racing in only 26 minutes. Fortunately the guest-house is very close to the starting line and I am able to throw on my shoes, pin on my number, eat my Espresso Love Power Gel, use the restroom, sprint to Thapae Gate, and push my way through the 700 other runners to the front of the starting line.  


When I do get to the starting line the adrenaline of rushing to make it has totally kicked in – normally I would be too groggy to run hardly at all only 20 minutes after waking up, let alone race. But I feel completely wired when the gun goes off, and tuck in behind Arnaud and Brooke to keep from going out too fast.

For the first 4 kilometers rather than go out too fast, we cruise along in total comfort. I glance at my Garmin which indicates we are running at 4:10 pace, not the sub-4 minute pace I hoped for.  So when I do pass Brooke at around 5k I surge dramatically and for the next 10k average about 3:40 per kilometer moving from 10th place into 3rd

I hang on for 3rd place overall (the top two guys are light years ahead of me), and I finish in a time of 1:30 for the 23+ kilometer course (I figure it was about 1:22 half marathon equivalent – which I am pleased with given my uneven pacing. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Run for the Cure 2013



However I feel completely drained at the start.  The night before had been pretty intense and the lack of sleep along with the week's heavy running had taken a toll.  At the starting line I have largely concluded I will run this as 10k tempo run - I really don't want to experience any physical discomfort.  

So then I felt a bit distressed after 500 meters when I found myself in 4th place and in contention for those coveted prizes awarded to the top 3 overall finishers. I feel distressed because I know I will be upset with myself later if I simply wimp out and slow down and not make at least some sort-of effort.  And I feel distressed because I have a vague desire to throw up. 

My teammate George who I train next to during weekly interval workouts is not too far ahead of me in 3rd place.  And I summon the effort to tuck in beside him.  This allows me to benefit from George opening up a path for us on the crowded sidewalk around the Imperial Palace.  

Basically this becomes my strategy for the race -  do the minimum necessary for the maximum payoff.  OK, this is pretty much always my strategy, all of the time, but on this particular day I am unusually keen on executing on the strategy.

A group of the top 5 runners jockey for position over the two loops and I just try to stay right behind someone and hope I can find some kick toward the end of the race.  Fortunately there is a 500-meter downhill section toward the end of the race where I can lower my hands, lean forward and gather some strength, and then sprint into 3rd place.

I am happy to hold on and cross the finish line in 3rd place in 36:35ish.  The little competitive dynamic, the nice weather, the post-run autumn festivities in the Park make for a great event.