10 July 2019

Update













Fear not my little cherubs for I am still here, running harder and with more purpose than ever before. I have a sneaky suspicion that the upcoming year will again be fruitful as I continue to strive for a sub three, more personal bests and one day a Boston Marathon finishers medal.

I left you last basking in the glory of an unlikely 3.08 Senshu Marathon result and since then a lot has happened. There’s been one major setback but more than one step forward to compensate. As a maturing 51-year-old I wish I had more prime years to run. I reckon I’ve figured out most of the intricacies and secrets to this wonderful sport we simply call running. Something astonishing is about to happen, you’ll see.

The fall. I lovingly named my favourite training course the ‘Katsurazaka loop’. An 11km run that begins with a 240m climb over 4km, mercifully followed by 3km on the flat and then finally a 4km gallop downhill all the way home. It has everything. On the descent I can muster a maximum speed of 3.30 min/km with ease. At night though I never push faster than 4.20 pace and just as well. You see 10 weeks ago, while hurtling downward on the hardened cobbled road, I suddenly found myself flying parallel to the ground. It happened so quickly. I’d tripped on an out of place stone. Time then seemed to stand still which was fortuitous. How should I fall? On my right knee or on my right wrist, elbow and shoulder. Note: nothing broken. Recovery time: one month. 












The Katsurazaka streak. Coach Scott Brown recently completed a 37-day running streak. Good on ya mate. In summer here, that’s quite an achievement. Inspired, I decided to run my loop course every day in June after work at around 10.30pm. Over the 30 days I learnt a lot about myself. For example, run through niggles. They are rarely injuries or anything to worry about. Stretching mid-run is vital. Night running is easier than morning running for me anyway and rain never hurt anyone. Physiologically a lot changed. Check out these numbers: 























Back home. I’ve been catching up with family in New Zealand. Just one more week remains before I head back to the summer in Japan. I love being here. The Redwood forest, mince pies, cheesecake and corn beef. It’s funny though. The thing I most wanted was to run the roads and tracks I used to. Gosh I’d missed them.











19 February 2019

KIX Senshu International Marathon 2019


















On an absolute perfect late winters day here in the Kansai region of Japan, I ran a marathon in 3.08.16 to edge closer to the goal of running sub 3. A 4-minute PB and 6 minutes faster than what had been an absolute devastating Kakogawa Marathon just 7 weeks earlier. 

A quick read over my last blog entry was sobering. For one thing it was brutally honest which on reflection did me the world of good. So, where was I? 

  • Weekly mileage well below par. Just 3 of 12 weeks above 80km.
  • My workouts were packed with purpose but I missed the point of the long run. 
  • Meek attempts at running long. Just 5 at 30km in 12 weeks. 
  • Moderate core work with zero stretching. 














I can’t remember how I stumbled on this page ‘Eliud Kipchoge – Full training log leading up marathon world record attempt’ in the week after Kakogawa, but somehow, I did. What struck me at the time were his long runs. He marked them in his log as 40km cross country tempo runs which he sauntered through in 2 hours 15 minutes. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, how about his weekly mileage (km) at 117, 175, 176, 185, 181 and 183 in the 6 weeks prior to Berlin. 

We mere mortals however have jobs and family for crying out loud but I reckon there’s no excuse for at least committing to the long run and a minimum 80 plus kilometers for the week. 7 weeks later I’d managed:

  • 5 weeks of the 7 at or above 80km.
  • 4 long runs at 40km and 2 (tempo) long runs at 30km.
  • More carbo restrictive dieting.
  • For the first time in my life I experimented with ‘donkey kicks’.
  • Guess what? Groin and knee pain all but gone. Damn my sedentary working lifestyle! 
  • Nightly core work again. 

















Coach Scott Brown recently talked about breaking up the drudgery of the long run by sprinting the last 200m of each of the final 10 kilometers. Over the last 4 weeks I found this to be a real game changer. I reckon it flushes the lactic build up or perhaps helps with blood flow when muscles are tight and fatigued. Either way I used this strategy on Sunday and it worked a bloody treat. Thanks Scott. Legend.


























24 December 2018

Kakogawa Marathon 2018
















Writing a blog post so soon after a marathon is never a good idea. The mature, seasoned marathon runner knows all too well their post-race state of mind is usually chaotic. Often mired in a state of overblown self-adulation, utter despair or nothingness. I reckon in the past 24 hours I’ve bounced between the latter 2.

I’ve made no secret of wanting to get close to 3 hours. On Sunday morning I truly felt I was in 3.07 shape. That would have given me a 5-minute PB and a significant confidence boost in the pursuit of that magical milestone. 

I’ve enjoyed the training plan I’ve been following of tempo, Yasso, long and double runs. While I haven’t always hit every workout objective, I’ve felt like a better runner overall. A PB in the Kameoka Half (1.26) just two weeks earlier added to my optimism. Yet something didn't feel quite right. Sure, I’m faster over the middle distances but am I hardened enough over 42? A quick look at my weekly mileage over the past 12 weeks may explain that nagging doubt I felt. Week 1. 61km then 57, 67, 46, 51, 84, 34, 0, 93, 40, 90 and finally 60. Enough said. 

My first 5km split was a good 20.57 followed by 21.36, 21.29, 22.11, a 1.31.14 half then 22.36, 23.43, 24.17. With 5km to go I honestly crashed into one of the biggest walls ever. Every joint hurt and the groin weakness I’ve battled for many years hit me hard. I pride myself on being mentally tough. I’m stronger mentally than I am physically but that last 5km seemed like forever. 25 minutes and 33 seconds in fact. Mercifully the Kakogawa Marathon for 2018 was over for me in a time of 3.14.27.
















The day after I have a dull ache in the outer left groin area. It hurts when I lift my knee skyward. A quick google search suggests its origin is an earlier iliopsoas injury. I now have a series of exercises which I’ve been doing since 3pm today. I reckon I’ll stick with my current training program but add distance to my Friday long runs.

12 hours later those feelings of utter despair and nothingness have passed. I reckon it’s not too late. I’ll need to begin tomorrow though. Damn this sport we call running. Damn, damn, DAMN! Where are my shoes?

The Senshu marathon is just 7 weeks away.




10 December 2018

Kameoka Half Marathon 2018













My alarm had been set to go off at 6am but I didn't need it. I’d woken a little after 5.30am. Perhaps it was the cold morning or perhaps it was the nervous anticipation of a half marathon! Nah, it was absolutely the cold. I turned on the air conditioner and scurried back to bed and waited for the warmth to settle in. It was December the 9th, race day for the 2018 Kameoka Half Marathon and the first bitterly cold morning of winter.

















Waiting at the bus station I crossed my arms to protect myself from a strengthening breeze. My race t-shirt, arm warmers, long sleeve sweater and heavy jacket did little to comfort my aging and overtrained body. It’s a silly sport, I thought to myself. 

I’d trained well. Plenty of long runs, hill runs, Yasso 800s at the track and tempo runs too. I should have felt confident but I didn't. Four days earlier I’d run 30km off the back of a plus 90km week. The next day I felt sore all over. I never feel sore! I felt lethargic and miserable. Too much I think. It’s not that I overdo the mileage. Not at all, but the program I follow is intense. Most of my workouts are hard knacker. 

Fortunately, at the start I was completely disorganised. Two toilet stops, unable to find my good mate Scott and breaking my heart rate strap meant, no warm up and no time to think about what lay ahead. We were off. The second time I’d run Kameoka. The difference this year was the light dusting of snow on the hills above us and the gusty wind in our faces. 



























I love the course. It’s perfect for a fast half. Uphill for the first 6km then flat for 9km then a charge downhill for last 6km to the finish. The adrenalin rush from the start helps a lot to get you over that hill and in no time, I was at the top. Up on the flat I immediately ran a 3.56 km split and felt strong. It was probably there, just 7km into the race, I knew a PB was on. 

The course is there and back so at some point you get to see the lead runners heading home. As the first of them rocketed by I scanned their faces intently searching for any signs of discomfort or anguish. Nothing. Nope, absolutely nothing. Astonishingly each runner looked kind of happy, elated even! And then it was me making the turn. 

The tail wind is to a runner the single most joyous sensation one could ever experience. The stronger the wind the greater the running high intensity. Amazingly stupendous. The rest they say is history. I ran a 5km segment in 19.15 to finish in a time of 1.26.42. 

Not such a silly sport after all ...



























5 November 2018

Rinku Park 10K













Kansai International Airport was built on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay back in 1994. It has 2 terminals. The first, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is the longest airport terminal in the world at a length of 1.7km.

The day was perfect. A gentle cool breeze and blue sky as far as the eye could see. The smell of the ocean mixed with the familiar whiff of liniment meant it was once again race day and with an afternoon start time, I was raring to go. 













The Rinku Park course runs parallel to the ocean and in the distance, Kansai International Airport was easy to see and marvel at. Terminal 1 was harder to spot. The days required distance was a touch under 6 lengths of it. My goal, anything under 40 for the 10K.















At 6k it felt 21 degrees. In reality it was only 19. The second race of the season seemed bloody hard and I struggled to up the pace for the last 4k which is what I’d planned pre-race. I had no excuse. I’ve been in good nick for the past 18 months. Training has been going well but it just wasn't happening. They say 12 degrees is ideal. Was that it?

Finished in 39.40. 43 seconds slower than my best. I wore a heart rate strap too for the first time in a race. Averaged 173 which for me was way up there. In training I never get above 160 so I guess I’d given the day a decent nudge.

































Can’t wait for the next one in just 3 weeks. Won’t have a large body of water to motivate me but that’s OK. Every race I run is a true gift. Best sport ever.


15 October 2018

Nagai Park 10K 2018













I feel a little sore, very thirsty and yet eager to get back into training after my first competitive run of the season. In previous race reports I’ve tended to dwell on the negatives but after 7 years of consistent running I figure concentrating on the positives may work better from here on. Now that I’m 50, I find myself counting the number of good years I have left in me. I reckon I can run long if I just remain positive. 

That said, I want to announce some really amazing news. I’ve now made it to a podium! The wonderful and insightful organisers of the Nagai Park 10K event in all their wisdom recognised the top 6 places ... and I finished 6th (plus 40). You bloody beauty! It felt as good as I thought it would too with plenty of pomp, ceremony and photographers (actually more than half of whom were my family and of course coach Scott Brown). The only thing missing was the New Zealand flag being raised among what would have been 5 Japanese flags. 













The Nagai 10K was the first race of the season after 6 long months of dreary training. It was great to be finally back at the start line once again. The race itself was fairly uneventful. A 3 loop course in 20℃. I’d targeted a sub 40 to start the season but fell short of that. Despite some really good summer work you just can’t substitute racing. On reflection and in my new mindset I know that now. I think I did well with a 40.52.

















So, what’s new? Well, I’m sticking with my new training routine:
  • Monday tempo run
  • Wednesday Yasso 800s at the track
  • Friday long run and
  • Sunday doubles

Oh, and I’ve begun a carbo restrictive diet. I’m not so much interested in losing weight but rather reducing the amount of body fat I carry. I’m now down to 17% and wonder what life would be like as a runner at 15%. Really hard though. Running on fat feels like running in a swamp with a piano on your back. 

Couple of great songs to finish which sum up my first post of the season. Happy running everyone. I love this sport ... I really do.
























16 August 2018

I feel great ....
















So the question was, is sub 3 possible ...

Home page. Double click ‘Google'. Type, ‘sub 3 hour marathon age 50 training plan’. Wait! Oh this looks promising, I thought to myself. Third entry down. The page with the additional text, 'a just enough training approach'. Click. 

This 4th paragraph really spoke to me (link here) ...
When I finally broke 3 hours for a marathon, I was nearly 50 years old and injury prone. My training approach was to train just hard enough to be able to run a 3 hour marathon, but not train so hard that I got injured. A delicate razors edge balance between training and recovering to avoid injury. I stripped out all running and training that was not exactly specific to the goal of running a 3 hour marathon. In the end, I realized, I needed only three different focused workouts a week, affording lots of recovery days.

Only 3 ... come on, really!
  • The tempo run at marathon pace (Monday).
  • Yasso 800s (Wednesday).
  • The long run with the ‘last half’ at marathon pace (Friday).

The program builds in duration but not the type of workout. They remain constant. It’s honestly that simple. At the end of his blog post there were 482 (at last count) comments. A few more than my average of 2.0345 (a rough calculation). There certainly was a fair bit of interest in what he was proposing but I was a little sceptical. I mean, honestly, 3 runs a week! That’s it? I read every comment because many were evaluations. The measure was easy after all. Was a sub 3 achieved or not?

Inspiration on my wall at work.














The verdict? I’m so excited. 5 weeks ago I committed to the plan and since then I reckon I’ve made phenomenal progress. Yes, I’ve cheated but that’s OK. I’ve added a Sunday workout but please! Without that tweak, I don't think I could have slept at night. Are you ready? Here it is.

  • The tempo run at marathon pace (Monday).
  • Yasso 800s (Wednesday).
  • The long run with the ‘last half’ at marathon pace (Friday).
  • The easy double. Morning run on the flat. Evening run up a hill (Sunday).

It’s bloody perfect ...

Stretching routine before I run.


22 June 2018

Is sub 3 possible ...












I've been contemplating my own mortality of late. It might have had something to do with the large quake we had here on Monday morning. Or perhaps it's recently turning 50. One of those mid-life crisis events. The urgency of achieving those few remaining goals life has to offer has all of a sudden taken priority. However I fear I may have left the sub 3 marathon a little late. 

A couple of days ago I stumbled on the above video.  It encapsulates the runners dedication and the careful planning that went into a training programme packed with variety. The payoff, a sub 3 at the 2017 Boston Marathon. 

Is it beyond me?

31 March 2018

Run out of puff





































I’ve been lucky this running season. No injuries, a couple of decent PBs but more importantly, a deepening love for the sport that provides me with so much. In many ways running defines me. I’m a lucky guy. 

I ran the Nagai City Half Marathon a month ago. Prior to the start I remember thinking a 1.26 was very doable. I’d trained well and mentally I was prepared for the hurt to come. What I hadn’t anticipated was the heat. The temperature on the day unexpectedly went above 20C which you might think was ideal but when you’ve trained and raced in only 6 to 9 degrees it came as a big body shock. I just couldn't adjust and rather feebly finished in a time of 1.30.33.

A younger version of myself may have taken that disappointment badly but these days I find happiness in every run. Fortunately, the bad ones have been rare.

I’ll be 50 in 6 weeks and strangely the milestone has filled me with a determination to make next winter my most memorable, packed with PBs and new adventures. 

Rather than shy away from a foreboding summer to come here in Japan, I intend to use it to my advantage. I’m determined to run 80 kilometer weeks packed with variety and purpose. In the evening when my day is nearly done, I’ll push on further with strength and flexibility challenges I’ve never done before. 

I’m excited at what’s to come. Nothing will get in my way, nothing.

Happy running everyone.

















20 February 2018

Osaka Half Marathon 2018
















I searched with all my might to pinpoint the start line. I reckon it had to have been nearly 300m away. My race number read C11207. I had one pinned on the front of my t-shirt and another on my back. How the hell was I seeded in C group I thought to myself!

To make matters worse I felt like I’d been mistakenly teleported into a live pantomime. The chatter and nervous laughter was relentless in this block which only added to my frustration. Clip-on drink bottles and hydration packs were another foreboding sight but what nearly tipped me over the edge were the selfie sticks which began popping up as the starter announced there was less than a minute to go.

I felt really good leading into this race. Over the past couple of weeks, I’d hit all of my training goals. I’d shed a couple of kilograms too. At 74 I felt I was at my optimal race weight. The course was fast and flat. There wasn't a breath of wind either. In my sights, a PB of 1.28.09 or better.

It took an agonising 66 seconds to finally make it to the starting mat. Probably a further 300 metres to progress from a shuffle into a bloody jog. The constant weaving left and right. The acceleration to make the next clearing then the deceleration required to prevent running over the top of Cinderella in front of me didn't help my mood at all. I was running angry which in hindsight wasn't a bad thing.

At 4km I finally ran unimpeded and from that point on ran the race of my life.
  • My first 4-kilometer splits read: 4.44, 4.21, 4.02, 3.58.
  • Temperature 3.9 degrees Celsius. So cold in fact that light snow fell at the finish line.
  • First time ever I ran in arm sleeves. The verdict: I love them.
  • Final 4-kilometer splits read: 4.12, 4.12, 4.08, 3.59.
  • Overall race pace: 4.08
  • Official time: 1.27.18 (PB)










26 January 2018

Takatsuki City 10k ... 2018















Coach Scott Brown and I at the finish line after this years Takatsuki City 10K race. On a beautiful day, having run a fast and pretty course you’d have to say we were looking rather pleased with ourselves.

But look a little more closely. Can you see it? There’s no hiding the agony of falling just 10 seconds short of a PB. Would I have taken 39.07 an hour earlier? You bet!

It’s fair to say that the honeymoon period of last month’s marathon PB extended longer than it should have. I’d run just 9 times since that race 4 weeks ago. Making my way through a crowd of runners I sheepishly looked for my coach and friend. His recent text messages still haunted me. “What’s happening man? You OK” or “You still haven’t run! No pressure but time is moving ahead”. 

With bravado I proclaimed to all who would listen, I’ll be happy to break 40! At the time I meant it too. I felt heavy and slow. A couple of tempo runs earlier in the week proved it. I was scared.

On the start line I convinced myself that aerobically I could still produce a sub 40. It’s just 40 minutes I kept repeating to myself. I’ll start with a 3.50 and try to hold on. Buggar the pundits!

BANG!

And that’s pretty much how my race went. My splits were as follows: 4.01, 4.00, 3.51, 3.56, 4.04, 3.56, 4.04, 4.02, 3.58, 3.13.

In just 2 days I have the Osaka City Half Marathon. Am I confident this time? 

You bet!











31 December 2017

Kakogawa Marathon 2017













I pushed hard up a short rise to the bridge, turned right then began to cross. It had to have been 400m long but I could see its end. I don't know what it is about bridges but for some reason I seem to run faster when crossing them. That surge filled me with an excitement that dulled any pain or cramp I’d felt earlier. The turn for home quickly approached. Just 7 kilometers remained. I was well ahead of my pre-race target splits too. This was indeed uncharted territory. I hadn’t bonked, I hadn’t bloody bonked! Not even close! I was literally on the edge of glory but then ...

I awoke from what seemed like no sleep at all to the sound of my relentless alarm clock strategically I placed in the farthest corner of the room. It was 3.50am Saturday 23 December. Race day for the Kakogawa Marathon. It was cold too. Barely 3 degrees. Kakogawa was a couple of hours away by train which was long enough to entertain the thought of taking a nap on the journey, which I did. 

Coach Scott Brown arrived a few minutes after me. A non-running observer would probably grapple to understand the pre-race habits and rituals of the middle-aged, amateur marathon runner. When in groups of two or more the excitable chatter is relentless and now having been recorded over many events, somewhat predictable but no less bewildering:

  • Weather is bloody perfect. Would you say 4 ... 5 degrees? 7 is optimal you know. 
  • Is that wind? It’ll die down. Are you sure? I can’t run in the wind! 
  • How many gels are you taking? Lemon or coffee? 
  • What do you reckon, a toilet stop 30 or 15 from the gun? 
  • I feel good. Hey, is that wind picking up? 
  • I should have worn the Hokas. Road looks a little hard.

I passed the halfway point in 1.32.46 and felt good. 4.23 splits were a little ahead of where I’d planned earlier. I worried about whether I’d pay for it later but pressed on. The course was super-fast. Flat for the most part and scenically engaging too with the Kakogawa river either to our left or right on this there and back course. The public support was amazing too with some locals setting up their own food and drink stalls for runners to stop and enjoy.

The turn right for home quickly approached. Just 7 kilometers remained. I even felt I had something in reserve to push hard over the last 5 kilometers. I steadied myself, trying to contain the excitement within and not to get too far ahead of myself.

I pressed harder on the flat below the bridge. 6 point something kilometers remained. Soon I became aware of a guy in a blue t-shirt on my left shoulder hanging with me. Surging and then falling back to sit where he’d been earlier. He grimaced a little and then said to me ... it’s like this every year. Then, all of a sudden it dawned on me. We were running headlong into the teeth of a persistent blustery wind. Buggar.

I fell back slightly as I felt all enthusiasm suddenly drain from my tired body. The man in the blue t-shirt now ran 10m ahead of me. Without thinking I pushed hard and the gap closed to a metre. I knew he was pushing so I stayed with him. The increased effort helped a lot and I felt more and more energised.

Tucking in behind him now for what must have been a kilometer felt easier. The drafting had made a big difference. It was my turn now and I pushed ahead. That bloody wind was a real disappointment for sure but I wonder now if it had been for the best. We exchanged the lead 4 or 5 times to the finish. No words as we crossed the line, just a pat on the back for the man in the blue t-shirt and a smile. 

My splits to the finish into that wind ... 4.43, 4.39, 4.40 and 4.32.

A 4 minute PB in a time of 3.12.10.



11 December 2017

Kameoka Half Marathon 2017














I have tightness on the right side of my lower back. My left ankle feels a little weak and my quads hurt somewhat whenever I make my way downstairs to our bathroom. 24 hours earlier I’d run the Kameoka Half Marathon. 

My time of 1:28:10 is another cheeky PB. Why cheeky? Well, I like to nibble away at personal best times. Like a delicious dessert you want to saviour and take longer to finish, my PBs are very much the same. I chip away at them little by little. 

Kameoka is no more than 30 minutes away from Kyoto by bus. A small rural settlement made up of mostly older people that work their land to produce rice. The course on a good day with little wind is ideal for fast times. Uphill for the first 5K, then flat and finally a 5K descent to the finish. Yesterday the weather was perfect.

Before the race I’d targeted 4.13 per kilometer splits to pinch a PB. To run 4.10 splits came as a bit of a surprise. On refection, I reckon it had a lot to do with:

  • a stronger core 
  • more consistent longer runs with some big hills 
  • coach Scott Brown’s advice and encouragement 
  • running a negative split and 
  • better running form

Scott of course had finished before me and waited. Post-race chatter is something I always look forward to. We both agreed that the run had been perfect preparation for what lay ahead. The Kakogawa Marathon was now less than two weeks away. 

I had family waiting at the bridge 1K out from the finish line armed with recording devices. Here is one comment that resinated with me a lot. The lead runners seemed to be going through a lot more hurt than I. Why they almost seemed to be shitting themselves! Maybe it’s time to cross that line in two weeks and see where it takes me ... or not.

We’ll see.