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.

There’s more to come.

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!

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.

17 September 2017

The ravages of time

These photos were taken nearly 50 years apart. On the left, a recent trip home to New Zealand dressed in dashing salmon pink. On the right, back in 1970 when I lived in Fiji. At 2, I didn't have a care in the world. These days I subconsciously choose to live in a state of freneticism. I know it’s not good for me but for the moment I can’t see any other way. Whoever coined the ‘work life balance’ concept didn't bloody live in Japan and that's for sure.

When I run, everything is way less complicated. Time slows and life again seems orderly and as Spock would say, logical. For me, it’s that simple. Running is the greatest medicine/placebo known to us humans.

I reckon I’ve managed summer really well. There’ve been no heat exhaustion incidents and no significant injuries. PBs are again likely this coming season. There I’ve said it … an absolute certainty no less. My coach reckons I have two very soft personal bests. My half at 1.29.14 and my full at 3.16.14. Fair suck of the sav I thought at the time but on reflection he’s probably right.

My 10k PB of 38.57 came out of nowhere earlier in the year and will definitely be near impossible to beat. So, there you have it. I’m serious too. Now marvel at the following. The perfect race progression to achieve the before mentioned goals.

· 10km at Awaji on 15 October
· 10km at Oizumi on 26 November
· 21.1km at Kameoka on 10 December
· 42.2km at Kakogawa on 23 December
· 42.2km at Senshu on 18 February

- my training programme:

I have to confess at being a little excited. I currently train on a route that begins with a 4km incline which eventually levels out for as long as I want. Then on the way home I’m able to work the quads with a fast downhill over that same 4km stretch. It’s perfect and I’m lucky to have it so close to where I live. In addition, I’ll need to do daily core exercises, lose a little weight and keep my head down when the odd missile passes overhead.

Legends of the 2017 UTMB. Having run a couple of ultra-marathons in the past I can only imagine what it must be like to run the times these guys did over one of the most challenging courses in the world. A 166km route through France, Italy and Switzerland with a total elevation gain of around 9,600m. They are superhuman for sure. I’d love to run the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. Just getting there would be an achievement. However, as Spock would say “you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting. This is not logical but it is often true”.

Happy meaningful running my friends.

2 June 2017

Long may we run

A fledgling business is said to be one that is immature, inexperienced and still underdeveloped. The definition certainly fits my little operation here in Japan but it also suggests that one should have all the time in the world to update their blog weekly. Not so my friends. As a good mate of mine recently said, I’ve been as busy as a one-armed taxi driver with crabs.

My running route had become a little predictable these last few months. It didn't seem to capture my imagination like it used to. I no longer noticed the quaint wooden arched bridge or the small town that modelled itself on a bygone Japanese village. I didn't even notice the river surging along after a recent burst of rain. Despite the course being dead flat, it felt stale and worn having run it so many times before.

A few weeks ago, a mate of mine shouted me out to a buffet lunch. His way helping me cushion the blow of turning 49. The restaurant wasn't that far from home. It nestled among the many hills that surround the city. We could’ve taken a bus but instead decided to walk. The trek up through a beautiful bamboo forest took no more than 30 minutes. The restaurants patrons were a mix of university teachers, administration staff and the general public.

It was on the walk home I found my new running route. Instead of the trail we’d used to get up the hill, we walked a cheery blossom tree lined road all the way down to the city. With a few minor modifications, I now have an 8km run that meets all my summer season running requirements. It's:
  • very steep. A 3km continuous climb followed by a 500m drop then climb again.
  • sheltered most of the way with overhanging trees or embankments of manicured gardens.
  • extremely quiet. In fact, at one point the road is closed entirely to cars. Just me bounding along in the shadows of one of Japans most elite university campuses.
  • of course, downhill too for the same 3km distance to finish. Essential to build pace into my workout and to increase strength in my quads.
  • a distance short enough to get out of the heat in Japan. 36 degree days in the peak of summer literally kills. That said the workout is hard enough in its intensity.

I’ve missed updating this silly little ‘runningraggedy’ site. I wonder why? I may not be running the distance or the frequency I used to but that's not to say I don't love it just as much as I always have. Am I getting better? We’ll see … I determined to try.

That's what we all strive for, right?