Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ohtawara Marathon Memories...bittersweet

Motozo's goal (and folly) was to run a solid yet easy 3:20ish tuneup marathon for the Tokyo International Marathon in February, but the race turned out to be a big and hairy challenge to break 3 and 1/2 hours. In retrospect the goal was unrealistic but a decent learning experience and a fantastic festival afterwards in the georgeous Tochigi automn setting.

It started innocently enough, but Motozo faded badly in the 2H of the marathon.

5K splits were:

22:43, 23:00, 23:48, 24:54, 24:11, 25:10, 26:09, 27:28, 11:31 (2.2K)

for a 3:28:58 race, about 20 minutes slower than my marathon PB! The first 20K went well at 1:34:26, which put me well under my goal of low 3:20s. At this point I felt semi-decent with little knee pain, but at about 30K I hit "the wall" while running with Paddy. We both slowed to a tortoise pace 26:09 5K at 30-35K, and tried to pump each other up with "Fighto" or "Last one across the finish is a rotten egg" or Keren's favorite, "you're a very attractive man, and don't think I haven't noticed". The last 7K was excrutiating, and I nearly threw in the towel (if it weren't for Paddy and Leng Leng (caught embarrasingly in this photo) from Singapore Singapore I would have walked those last few K). I saw my low 3:20s goal erased before my eyes but my stiff legs could not toil any faster than a pitiful jogger's pace. I knew I was in trouble when the 3:30 pacers passed me at 40K, but at 41K somehow I managed to pick up the pace and crossed the finish with over a minute to spare under 3:30.

The 2H clearly showed my lack of long run training.

Below is a handy list of excuses for my poor performance (feel free to incorporate them for any of your underperformances):

1. Lack of long runs: only 2 "long" runs of 25K in past 2 months (not including the 40K Yamanote run, which took over 4 hours). Note to myself; run more high quality runs...Mika, let's challenge in December/January!

2. Jet lag: returned from Hawaii less than 3 days before the race (5 hour time difference). Note to myself; don't go on an international trip before a big race!

3. Wind was a much heralded negative factor: several nanbanners ran slower than expected due to the "headwind". How this slowed people down, I am not exactly sure, since rationally, a headwind should become a tailwind on a circular course like Ohtawara.

4. Lack of overall mileage: only maxed out at 70K per week in September and October. Average was about 55-60K per week. Note to myself; run more!

5. Heavier training shoes: I wore my Kayanos to protect my sore runner's knee. Note to myself; use the light trainers for Tokyo, Motozo!

6. A gash on my left toe (surfing accident in Hawaii). This turned out to be a non-factor virtually, thanks to Mami's wrapping supplies and free advice from several nanbanners. Note to Motozo; don't go surfing, skiing, play rugby, party like a rock star, or engage in any other horseplay before the Tokyo marathon or Japan Ironman next year!

Congrats to those that ran PBs!! Chika, Rie, Mika (last week), Stuart, Paddy, and Majime Mike...did I leave anyone out? Both Rie and Chika passed me early in the 1H (quite damaging to my male ego, but the beer and onsen soothed my wounds), and they both slowed considerably in the 2H not dissimilar to my own splits. So perhaps the wind did play a role in their performances as well.

Some of the festivities and debauchery are depicted in the photos below. Notice Chika giving Stuart, Rie, and herself a warm round of applause (atatatatatakai hakushu) for their marathon PBs. Thanks to Gareth for organizing and skillful MC tasks. Respect! Motozo

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Edogawa 10K

25 Nambanners participated in Sunday's Edogawa 10k, carrying home eight awards including Brett's second consecutive overall first place trophy. Moreover a remarkable seven Nambanners achieved a Personal Best time despite warm temperatures and a course that while fast, is not necessarily the optimal PB course. Thanks to Shiba-san for organizing this wonderful event, and thanks for support of Taeko and Paul's wife Junko.

Motozo's time was a PB 39:41 !

I thought I was in big trouble right before the race -- the Tullys near my house was not open on Sunday morning at 7:30am. Thankfully I managed to find a combini less than 30-minutes before the gun went off and was able to consume a caffeinated beverage. It seemed like we had been talking about this race for months, and it was my first big 10k race in a long time, maybe over a year. There were no less than 6 of us who were going to shoot for a sub-40 race (Keren, Simon, Paddy, Adam, Anthony, Motozo), so I expected it to be fun and competitive...

When the gun went off most of my teammates around me (Keren, Adam, Stu, Paddy, Jun, Simon, Anthony) went out fast. All the excitement of the Edogawa start on the track with the band playing and the crowd cheering causes people to run the first 500-meters way too fast. I knew I should stay behind Bob, the savvy veteran of innumerable Edogawa campaigns, but soon lost him in the crowd. Instead, I ran with Keren and Simon from the get go at a blistering 3:48 first 1k, and just under 4 minute/K pace for the next 4k, which felt quite fine. The back half was tough as the heat began to take its toll, and we all slowed to 4:02 pace for 6-8k. At 9k, I felt more confident that I could get under 40 with still a 5 second cushion, and shifted gears once more. The last K was about 3:40 which gave me almost identical 5k splits of 19:50 or so.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sado Island Astroman power activate!

The "longest day of our lives" started with a quick dip in the Sea of Japan at 7AM. We were fresh, albeit sleepy, feeling the full benefits of 2 days of carbo and protein loading at the ryokan Yuukei Sado, which served up no less than 8 types of fish the previous 3 meals.
Here we are at the start. From left, Keren, who unfortunately, was unable to retain most of the delicious fish dishes. (But doesn't he look marvelous in the photo?)
Motozo, your humble narrator.
Adam York, who loves New York.
Jay, a serious runner who enjoys porpoising in his spare time.
After a few "tattemae" speeches from the locals, the gun sounded and we were off into the Sea of Japan (actual a warm 25 degree harbor in Sawada beach) at 7 AM sharp.

Swim: The swim began with the usual chaotic kicks, splashes, and other chicanery. We managed to get in at the near beach point, which was slightly closer to the 1st buoy. This allowed us to run and porpoise for the first 100 meters and get away from the pack. This worked well for Keren and Adam, but unfortunately for Jay and myself, the fast swimmers soon converged on us, which only delayed the inevitable kicking, sideswipping, biting, and other horseplay so typical of a triathlon start. At about 200 meters some 50 or so swimmers swamped us from left, right, and center. I got my goggles knocked off by inadvertant kick and feared a lost contact lens. (No photos available due to lack of underwater camers.) But alas, I could see that my 700 meter time was 14 minutes, so right on time and full vision intact......I settled down after that and got into my groove, which is mostly breaststroke with an occasional flurry of free style strokes. I have to admit that although my swim was slightly faster than previous races, I felt uncomfortable in the wetsuit and couldn't wait to get back to the beach. At the 1200 meter point, we turned for a last time and headed back to shore. At about 26 minutes I had slowed down a bit, but was still under my goal of 45 minute pace. The last 800 meters was tough. The view of the shore was deceptively clear, and I kept thinking that I was closer than I actually was. The water was also pristine. At about 200 meters out, I could see the bottom and tried to touch, but the depth was actually well above my head, and I sank awkwardly below the surface. I tried again at about 100 meters and finally was able to porpoise and stagger on to the beach in 42 minutes. A quick peek around but no sign of the others......

Bike: The transition (depicted in this photo) went fine and I was soon cranking away on my bike, loaded with rocket fuel (gels mixed with sports drink), power bars, advil, etc. I did see Jay right at the start, but was eager to accelerate, so I didn't stop to chat. I figured I would see Jay later during the run.....It felt great to get on the bike saddle again. The weather was getting hotter, but I cruised at about 35-39 KPH for the first 20K over relatively flat terrain. I passed dozens of bikers before catching up to a faster pack on the other side of the island. As I attempted to gain on the pack, I heard a soft voice calling "David, David" from behind. What? nan desu ka? It can't be Keran or Adam, and I didn't think Jay was that close. But it was Murray, a friend from Westy Bike Club, on his brand new $7,000 bike, with a head of steam. I took some rocket fuel and tried stay with Murray. In this bike photo, we are climbing one of several hills at around 30-50K on other side of Sado, having gained and past some of the riders in the big pack. At this point, I made one of the few regrettable moves of the day by attemping to eat a power bar while riding. How not to eat a power bar during a race! I could write a book...In my bento box sat 2 power bars poised for consumption, which I had cleverly chopped up the night before (or so I thought). The dilemma was there was no way to get the bars out of the ziploc bag without crashing. I couldn't get out the bars from the bag with one hand, and my humble Giant bike was too unstable to risk riding no hands. So finally I tried to bite thru the plastic bag to no avail. Not only did I fail to get any nourishment, but I lost Murray and most of the riders around. I put the bars back in the bento box, and settled for some rocket fuel again. The rest of the ride was fun and exciting. After the power bar comedy of errors, I settled down and increased my speed. I was on a good pace, well under my 3 1/2 hour goal for 105K, which was about 32-34KPH. It was heating up to over 30 degrees C, but the wind and tunnels cooled us down somewhat. At about 50K, I bumped into Keren. He was having a bad hair day and normally would have been further ahead. We road together for a few minutes. Then I hit "Heartbreak Hill" at 80K. Most had billed it as a nasty climb, while Keren had toned it down to a small anthill. It turned out to be relatively tough. The actual slope wasn't too bad, but the distance was. About 3-4K of solid climbing, than a short downhill, than a few more Ks of uphill. It didn't help that this was the hottest part of the day. I was in the lowest gear under 10KPH for a good 2K at one point....
Back on the Sawada side of the island we climbed up a large cliff, anc coasted down into a gorgeous coastline view of Sawada and adjoining areas for the final 15K. At 1 point my bike was approaching 60KPH and I felt euphoria and terror equally as I leaned into the turns like a motorcycle racer would. Similar to the end of the swim, I was happy to get off the bike. Although it had been a joyful ride, my ass was killing me!

Run: The run was by far the most exciting and emotional part of the race, as we all converged on that 20K course thru the rice fields of Sawada. I caught a glimpse of Adam on the run as I was pulling into the bike area, than saw Keren on his bike as I got into the first 2K of the run. My legs felt stiff, particularly the inner thighs, but I was more concerned about my knee. Thankfully, there was no usual twinge of discomfort on my left knee, so I continued to rumble on at a 5 minute pace. The day had turned out to be a scorcher and we were heading into the unshaded rice fields, but I kept telling myself to simply get thru the first 5K, than to the turnaround at 10K, than another 5K, than the home stretch. It worked rather well. At 3-4K, after a toilet and stretch break, I got into a groove and the cramps went away from inner thighs. I was extremely overheated, but I guess those hot runs in the palace twice a week this summer accustomed my body to the heat (thank you Jayne!). I was also very keen to see where Adam and Jay were, and I got a shock at the 10K turnaround. First shock: Adam, who I figured was 2K ahead of me, was only 200 meters in front of me! Second shock: Jay, the running demigod, was a mere 300 meters behind me. At 11K I caught up to Adam, who appeared to be cramping up in the heat. We chatted about, you guessed it, the freaking hot weather. Adam said, “you get going” (to maintain my lead on Jay). I predicted Jay would pass me in 2-3K, although I kept a glimmer of hope that I could outlast him. At 15K, I was still in the lead and couldn’t believe that Jay was still behind me. My 10-15K split was about 24 minutes, so a little faster than the 51 minute first 10K. Still, I didn’t think it was fast enough to hold him off….

At 17K, I heard those familiar steps. Deju vu all over again (at Saipan 1 year ago, Jay had run me down during the 15K run of the Tagaman Triathalon in blistering heat as well. I groaned but had to pat him on the back, “What took you so long?” I asked sarcastically. Jay grunted and we exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. Than he was a few meters ahead, than 10, 20, 30….
At about 18K, Jay was 100 meters ahead, but didn’t appear to be gaining any more ground. It occurred to me that I should try to gather up my Astroman powers and try to chase him down, but I didn’t have even gas left in the tank. I pondered….

Had I been able to get open the bag of powerbars?
Had I not braked so hard on those last bike hills?
Had I not run the 20K at Fuji Yoshida?
Had I only practiced my porpoising technique more??!!

So it goes. The finish was bittersweet. I completely shattered my goal time of 6 hours, which I had deemed as an aggressive goal, so I was extremely satisfied with that result. Getting passed by Jay was not fun, but I’ll take as a blessing and use it as motivation to train harder next time!

My stats were:

Swim 2K: 42:15 (216th place out of 628 triathletes)

Bike 105K: 3:21:23 (75th)

Run 20K: 1:37:07 (71st)

Total 5:40:45 (70th overall out of 628 triathletes)

64th out of 522 men14th out of 83 in my age group

Many thanks to Keren for setting up the whole joy ride, and Jay, Adam, Yoshida san for just being there! I’d also like to thank the nanbanners who have encouraged me to run, bike, and swim hard over the past months. This race was a truly gratifying experience and the course was simply breathtaking. I recommend it to any triathletes out there. Now a few days later as the stiffness in my legs resides, I feel a rekindled desire to run faster than ever before this fall and swim, bike, and run to new goals next year. For now, I’ll fold up the bike and gear up for the fall run season…. One last thingie….those who had put up with my moaning and groaning over runner’s knee and general pre-race stress, I salute you. Respect!

Fuji Yoshida results

Conditions were fortuitous and a soft rain pleasantly cooled us down at the start, but the course itself was tough, with a big uphill thru the woods for the first 2-3 K, followed by a massive 4-5K downhill that did no justice to my shins. Carol and I passed each other several times, encouraging each other thru the undulations and fluctuations. At 14K, an old runner's knee injury flared up, and I had to stop for a minute to stretch it, which blew my 2nd half time. I averaged about 4:20 pace thru 10K, but slowed after 12K to over 5 minute pace, and finished the 2H with about 4:47 pace. Granted there was another heartbreak hill the last 3K, which thru my 2H split more out of whack. Came in at:

10K: 43:34
10K: 47:48
20K: 1:31:22

Not an ultra fast time, but given the course and taper for ironman next Sunday, I'm fairly happy with the result. The weekend on Lake Kawaguchi was excellent, great BBQ, fire festival, oyaji gyagus, lots of quality hanging time with everyone, etc. Thanks to Yuka for organizing and Colin for driving, and Carol for pushing me up those hills.

Fuji Yoshida pre-race

Prior to start of 20k in Fuji Yoshida...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Oshima Triathlon

We bodysurfed, we biked, and as Nanbanners, we ran past most of the triathletes in the field...Read our stories below on the Oshima Triathlon, the largest of the 7 Izu islands.
Final times were:

Mika: 2:29 Stuart: 2:12 Akira: 2:18 David: 2:11

See also our in-house IT specialist post of the action photos of the race

Mika Tokairin
overall place: 120thoverall time: 02:29:15women: 7thswim: 0:22:25 188thbike: 1:20:55 133th (overall 151st)run: 0:45:55 70thIt was soooooo much fun! I really enjoyed this pack of assorted aerobic sports. The swim part was not easy even it was cut in half because the sea was so rough. While I was waiting at the starting area watching the big waves that kept coming, I almost wanted to run away. I am so glad that I didn't die, really. The bike part was super enjoyable! Just enjoyed hills and curves so much. The 10k run part was totally different experience, especially at the beginning, my legs were like puppet's, so awkward. But gradually I started to enjoy catching people in front of me. I passed 22 people and finished within my target time range. At last, I would like to thank Taeko- san, Mami-chan, Kanako-chan, David, Gary, Akira-kun and Stuart for sharing this great race experience with me.
Arigato! Yoroshiku, Mika

Stuart:It was a pity they shortened the swim - it wasn't as bad as last year once you got past the bigwaves at the start.Felt good during the race, even though I did Ironman Japan only two weeks ago. Improved both mycycle and run times by several minutes each compared with last year! 48th place overall, totaltime 2:12:06 Swim 17:27 Bike 1:12:46 Run 41:53Really appreciated the Namban cheering section - thanks guys!-Stuart.

Akira: Akira Hoyanagioverall place: 79thoverall time: 02:18:43swim: 0:19:26 130thbike: 1:13:13 75th (overall 85th)run: 0:46:04 74thIn this race, I was targetting only the finish. Because I wasn't confident in myself due to retiring Ironman Japan two weeks before. So I am satisfied with my result basically, but I would be happier if my result this year was better than that last year ! Incidentally, I appreciate Nambanners' cheering me up in the race and giving me lots of delightful memories. Cheers, Akira

David Motozo: Ooohhh shima Whadda big feeling!Other than the sudden change in swim course, this was the most gratifying tri for me in my shortand humble triathlete life. The swim was tough over large swells for the first 100 meters, butbike and run showed good improvement. I finished in the middle of the pack for the swim, about75th percentile on the bike, and 86th percentile on the run. 2:11:15 time was 43rd overall out of 206 men. (winning time was 1:53)Swim was 101st place, 18:17Bike was 51st place, 1:10:38 Run was 28th place, 42:20Swim: I think we were all a bit more nervous than usual before the swim. The weather was partlysunny, but the ocean was kicking up large swells and the breakers on the beach were a bitintimidating. Indeed, after the first few meters, I could see 20-30 little men in green capsgetting swamped. It seemed like they stopped swimming at a few points just to steady themselvesover the tsunamis.They shortened the course from 1.5k to about 0.9k or so (judging from the fasterswim times of 13-14 minutes, which are usually around 20 minutes for a 1.5k swim). Anyway, it wasfun to ride the waves into the finish (but a less than auspicious start) and get off the beachwithout too much trouble..Bike: Really good ride. I pushed it a lot harder this time and improved from last race by about 8minutes. I passed about 40 riders and tried to keep the speed above 35KPH as much as possible.Great to have the cheering nanban section of Kanako, Mami, Gary, Taeko near the start. Maido domo! Run: As usual, the legs were stiff for the first 1-2k, but quickly found the groove and ran a21:17 first 5k. At the turnaround, I got a second wind and picked it up slig
htly, brought it homein 21:03. Nice to have that fantastic view of the ocean and red rocks on the 5k run back to base.Total of 42:20 for run was a 1 1/2 minute improvement over last race. Overall, a great day and satisfying result of 2:11. My last Olympic distance was 2:33, so addingon the extra 600 meter swim would normalize my time to about 2:25. I think we all could have swamfaster if the ocean had been calmer, so an encouraging sign for future ironman races. My strategyto go hard on the bike worked. The key point being that a 100% effort on the bike won't inhibityour run performance too much, at least at the olympic distance level.Thanks again to Kanako (Kamu!), Mami, Gary, Taeko for riding the jet foil all the way down tosupport us. Ouen shite kurete arigatou! Good stuff from ironmen Stuart and Akira to show up andcompete at a high level a mere 2 weeks after the Japan ironman. And congrats to Mika on finishingher first triathalon and not drowning!

-David Motozo

Total: 2:11:16

Previous best was 2:32 for olympic distance, which is about another 15 minutes of swim...