Monday, January 19, 2015

Shibuya Ekiden 2015

Our Shibuya Ekiden Master's team reunited yesterday to defend our crown.

This year I ran the second leg, and I received the sash with our team already way out in front.  I have always found that having other runners around me has pushed me to run much faster but yesterday it was just me and my adrenaline and my teammates yelling at me that someone was gaining on me.  I had been taught since my earliest days of running that one must never, never look back.  Driven by the absolute terror of being overtaken, I bolted through the 2.9-km course in 9:55 - a full 12 seconds faster than my time last year (which I felt represented my optimal effort).

In fact, throughout my run I was actually light years ahead of the next team   and so by the time I handed off the sash I had managed to give the team a 45-second cushion.  But there was still drama to come our archrivals 4th runner ran the days fastest time to catch up with our anchor Brett.  Fortunately Brett is as tough and gritty of competitor as you will find, and he powered through the final 500 meters at a full sprint to give us a 4-second margin of victory.

Here is team projected onto big screen in front of adoring crowd --> 

Again I am reminded how much I appreciate the teamwork of these ekidens (relays) --  probably the key reason I returned to competitive events in my “second running life” --  long after “growing up” and abandoning such frivolous endeavors.  

Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014 Training (Run)

Here is my run mileage chart for all of 2014:

The mileage chart above indicates an increasing percentage of my mileage is classified as EASY.  My easy runs are very EASY – over 6-minutes per kilometer.  The remaining mileage is generally more fast and intense – intervals, races, and short hill sets (long-runs diminishing through the year).  Increasingly I find myself doing a Polarized Training regime – essentially either high or low intensity and avoiding anything “moderate”.  As usual this has much more to do with the social nature of my run training than some deliberate, tactical effort on my part to embrace any particular program – I am keen to maintain the weekly hill repeat session I started or join some relay or stay up with pace of certain teammates in interval sessions.

I maintain around 250-kilometers during the year, even my “off-season”. Not that I really have an “off-season”.  Not that I have any “seasons”. 

But for 2015 I do intend to have a bit more structured training effort - like all my disciplined triathlon teammates.  

Monday, November 03, 2014

2014 Barbecue 10k

I run 36:59 at Namban Barbecue 10k.

I intended to run at about 85% of full effort.  But my pace rabbit, George (pictured to my left), takes it out at 3:41 per kilometer pace and so, inevitably, that is precisely the pace that I maintain for the whole 10k.

The time is very close to the time of 36:48 I ran at Fall City two weeks earlier, this despite a lingering cough, and despite my intentions to run at less than 100%.  Once again the competitive dynamics kicks in and I feel compelled to push through to end -- and avoid getting passed (I finish in 2nd place, completely exhausted by the effort). 

My plan for October had been to focus on a painfully difficult and highly competitive cross country race in Seattle.  But with the aforementioned cold, and with my Seattle teammates split among several events, it was just too easy to decide not to enter the cross country race on the rainy morning of the event.  Such poor form how quickly I decide to abandon my "A race" 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall City 10k

I am "comped" for Saturday's Fall City 10k.

This suggests that the race directors expect me to be a somewhat "elite" runner (my entry code is ELITE2014), and I feel an obligation to run the race with a bit of intensity.

But I don't start the race with particular intensity.  My first mile split is 5:55 which is a slower than I expected, and I find myself in 7th place. 

It is a flat scenic course with long straight stretches of roads through farmland, and the morning sun is rising over the Cascades and burning through the patches of low fog clinging to the Snoqualmie Valley.  I tell myself I feel strong and somehow my body believes me.  I pick up the pace and catch up with two 20-something guys and a spectator yells out that it is a battle for 3rd place.  My 5th mile is even faster and I mange to drop the two young guys.  My 6th mile is my fastest mile of all at 5:43 and I cross the finish line in 3rd place. 

The 3rd place finish means I am on the podium for top overall finishers which I have to assume is worthy of being comped.  The 3rd place overall finish also means that I am not eligible for podium in my ancient age-group class.  I had met these old guys in my age-group before the race and I wander over to congratulate them.  They were eager to tell me how they battled each other and how triumphant they felt.  One of the guys, unaware of my age, asks me how I did and what age division I am in.  I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of superiority, but am reluctant to even admit I am in their division (especially as I immediately think about the caliber of the Seattle CNW master's cross country team).  

My time of 36:50 is a bit disappointing - it seemed so much faster.  But then for me at this point I try to subscribe more to the yoga philosophy of racing - the results don't really matter, it is all about the experience.  

Monday, October 06, 2014

Cross country training in typhoon

In order to prepare for the upcoming cross-country campaign, I join Mike Trees today for a bit of  race-specific interval training:

15 x 400 at 80-seconds on 2-minute cycle  (20 x 400 for Mike).

Of course we try to time the session so that we are running around a muddy field at the peak of a significant typhoon --

amidst gale force winds

and through 3-inch deep standing water.  

Surely the upcoming cross country races will not seem so intimidating after this?

Murakami Triathlon 2014

I complete last week's Murakami Olympic Distance triathlon in 2:25.
The time is over 3 minutes off the 2:21 I recorded in 2011, which I suppose is as good as I could expect given my leisurely training.

If my result is a bit disappointing for me, the race experience itself was particularly desultory.

I am seeded in the first wave, the fastest of the five waves.  It is cool and flattering to be in the faster group, but it mostly serves to 
demonstrate how relatively weak my swim continues to be.  As we swam I actually felt like my swim form is strong - but I watched the other orange caps (my wave) pull farther and farther away from me.  At the halfway turnaround it is disheartening to see how far ahead the mass of orange caps are.

After a 31 minute swim and 3-minute transition the disheartening feeling is only amplified as I find myself cycling into headwind with no one near me - at the turnaround I see my teammates powering farther and farther ahead of me in tight draft packs.  I tell myself to stay competitive and stay in the moment - focus on powering through each pedal stroke and keep overtaking the slower cyclists in front of me.  Toward the end of the 40k when a fast cyclist from one of the slower seeded waves does overtake me, I surge to stay with him, blatantly drafting off of him for at least 3 kilometers until a combination of fatigue and shame causes me to lose contact (I usually never draft).  I feel like my bike effort was reasonably good, but the time of 72 minutes really sucks relative to previous times and the times of guys I kept up with in the past.

The run is a similar story - it really takes a lot of effort for me to clock the 40-minute 10k, I certainly did not give up like some people imply afterwards.  I feel like I poured 100% into the run when I stagger across the finish line.  But yeah I have to assume if I was battling neck-and-neck for a podium spot I would have tapped into another level of speed (I was hardly battling for a podium spot--- my age-group friends Mark Shrosbee and Brett Whiteoak are astonishingly fast and their times were some 15-minutes or so faster than mine).  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shimoda Triathlon 2

I finish 2nd in the 3rd installment of our club's triathlon series - last Saturday's Shimoda Triathlon. 

My time is well over 30 minutes faster than the June event; splits for this Olympic distance event:

Swim   30:43    3rd 
Bike  1:49:55    3rd
Run     41:13    2nd

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

East Coast Park Run

I run the Singapore Park Run on Saturday.

Park Run is a free, weekly, timed running event - our teammate from Tokyo, Carol Cunningham, launched the Singapore version of ParkRun in June.

It is a splendid little event.   Arnaud and I run the 6 kilometer distance from his apartment to the Park Run starting line as the warmup part of our workout.  We schedule our arrival at 6:55am, only five minutes prior to the 7am starting time, so the warmup will flow directly into the hard session.  Only 5 minutes is no problem given the informal nature of the event: no long speeches at the starting line by local dignitaries, and no complex registration process with lines and pins, Park Run cleverly uses these digital bar codes for recording all the participant's time trial results.  

38 runners participate this morning.  Carol tells us that ParkRun has relied mostly on word-of-mouth for marketing, and the group is largely composed of expats, with what seems to be a large contingency of Australians.

I had planned to do this as an 80% tempo run effort.  But of course as usual the competitive dynamic causes me to run at more like 95% perceived effort.  I go out in 4th place in 3:50 per kilometer pace.  By the halfway mark I am in second place with a split of about 9:10.  The leader (Bradley a 40-year old from Australia), is over 100 meter ahead of me, in sight, but far too fast to catch.  I struggle through the return portion of the out-and-back, somehow managing to run faster on the second half and finishing in 18:15.

By 10am that same morning my results were already posted:

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Atami Triathlon

I "win"the first annual Atami Triathlon!

I dramatically run down the talented and accomplished triathlete Jean-Marc in the final kilometer to cross the finish line first.  
Granted Jean-Marc had essentially lapped me on the bike leg and was well ahead of me, but the large staff of Atami race officials, after much careful deliberation, declared me the winner for my interpretation of the bike route - I seemed to have missed a turnaround though I am still not clear on the precise course. 

Well never mind that bit, the Atami Triathlon was great fun.  Another club organized triathlon like the Shimoda Triathlon described below, Atami had been organized by teammate Chris Parry, after we were not able to register in time for this year's Numazu Triathlon Relay. 

I am way too poor to afford to enter very many of the real, officially-organized triathlons with their $200+ registration fees, JTU membership, inevitably expensive travel costs, difficult registration process, and frequent weather-related cancellations.  Better to organize casual and convenient team events.   

Soon after this stunning sunrise, the dozen triathlon participants sprinted into the clean, clear water.  This fast beach start meant my heart rate and breathing were far too rapid and frantic, and I had to slow down, settling into a "B group"of swimmers.  I managed to concentrate on my swim stroke and pull away from the rest of the B group, but the half-dozen A group guys remained far ahead of me.  

Any time I gained accelerating at the end of the swim was quickly squandered on my transition to the bike when I could not find my sunglasses.  After a minute I abandoned the search for the glasses, and the resulting challenge of cycling directly into the rising sun contributed to my not adhering to the proper bike route.  I had managed to overtake 3 of the guys ahead of me from the swim, but Jean-Marc and Phil were still ahead of me when Jean-Marc suddenly sprinted past me.   I followed Jean-Marc back to the transition dropping farther behind as my competitive instincts diminish, and traffic builds.  At the bike-to-run run transition, Greg tells me that I am now 4 minutes behind Jean-Marc and he expects me to catch him.  I doubt that, but figure I should make an effort, and find that I am feeling surprisingly strong.  It is a scenic run course on a steep bluff overlooking the sea and i actually kind-of enjoy the run - unlike the typical triathlon run segment when I feel so fatigued from the very start.   

I look forward to the next of our informal triathlons.  Here are my splits

Swim (1k)- 21:58
Bike  (30k?) - 1:02:29
Run  (9k) - 35:49

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