Monday, December 17, 2007 and clear sights on 2008

This was the a perfect day in Shonan touristy old capital town, Kamakura, home of the big buddha and luxury resorts an hour from Tokyo. Thanks to Jay, the trailrunner guru, 20 of us, weaved and bobbed around the mountain trails, beaches, and temples. This was our 3rd annual run, and we seem to be getting into a nice groove. It took us 2:37 to run 25K, so probably the longest time running for your humble narrator in 10 months (since the Tokyo marathon) and over 6 minute pace. After the "warm-up" on the mountain trails, we hit the accelerator button on the beach for a nice 2-3k stretch, than a tough climb up to "Beverly Hills", and back along the beach to the station. Nearly 3 hours of running reduced us to cravings for food, drink, and sento, which were all gratified instantly after the run. Numbers for the week:

Run: 35K, 2 runs
Swim: 2.2K, 1 swim
Bike: 20K, 1 bike

Total time training this week: 5:20

I am starting to feel better in the legs (hamstring), albeit some lower left back discomfort. I have actually been able to improve my endurance and times at the track with only 2 runs per week in the past month, thanks to the cross training I big rush yet as the Tokyo Marathon in February will probably be a 3:40 to 4 hour jog for me, than the half-ironman in Hainan, China in April, than the climax of the year, the July Zurich, Suisse ironman. Bring it on, 2008!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ohtawara 2007, half marathon and pure fun

Needless to say, a great time was had by all at our annual Nanban getaway in Tochigi ken, Ohtawara, near the famous Utsunomiya gyoza (not to be confused with Odawara, gateway to Hakone resort). This was my 4th trip back to the local 42k/10k race, but first time running the unofficial half marathon, which was quite pleasant. I think this race and trip gets funner and funner every year. I had a nice comfortable run of 1:35, which suited me fine since my goal was to get a decent training run under 1:40. I also paced Colin with Phil for the first 10k, and we chatted casually about the fortuitous sunny weather and memories of prior races. The race was a tale of 2 conditions, however, from sunny and pleasantly warm on the first 10k to windy and cold over the last 7-8k. I lost Colin and Phil, who were chasing Paddy, over the windy back course, but caught up to them at 20K. I was indeed happy to pull over at 21k and felt guilty/sorry for the guys that did the full marathon in that tough wind. The fact that several nanbanners ran PBs and placed in both races is a tribute to the depth of our squad. My 5k splits were:


1.1k: 4:45

21.1k: 1:35:55

Other funny tidbits:

-I wore no number and was not kicked off the course.
-There were 2 minor accidents/injuries incurred after the race. Gareth slipped on the floor of the onsen changing room (after a few drinks), and sprawled out naked on the wet floor like a helpless crab, a funny image. Luckily he was not injured and was able to continue partying into the wee hours. Apparently Yuka also slipped and fell in the women's onsen bath, and bruised her torso. She was also able to complete her drinking regime after the mishap.

-I managed to coerce several nanbanners to engage in group massage sessions at the 2jikai party, which featured Chika standing on top of sore marathoners' backs and legs (called level 1). Level 2 was Yuka/Rie. I hope this trend continues in future.

The ryokan was excellent; many thanks to Chiba san. It was slightly further away from Ohtawara than usual, but we did get to view the second longest suspension bridge in Japan on the way up there. It was a nice secluded spot and the snow on the ground created wintery fuzzy feelings, which were enhanced by the evenings' bubbly intoxicants, oishii cuisine, and steamy onsen. The onsen/rotemburo was perfect, 30 seconds from the rooms, and the decent meal featured free karaoke which we took full advantage of, much to the dismay of the neighboring tribes. The washoku meals were quite good, and they even served natto in the morning. It doesn't get better than this!

Monday, October 22, 2007

belated birthday antics

It started innocently enough in the heart of New Zealand, Roppongi. Notice how sedate and relaxed the nanbanners are....

Wait, a push-up counter or some other evil thingie...
No words...

The day after. Nanban brunch post-Yamanote run (20K). A good soreness and ready for another siesta...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Switzerland, Scotland, France, Spain





Spanish Pyrenees Town

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Okinawan Roadkill!

Ishigakijima, the georgeous resort island south of Okinawa's island chains, was the backdrop for an olympic distance triathlon last weekend. This was mainly a tune-up race for the upcoming ironman in June, but I had plenty of concerns going in to the race: a hamstring injury from Tokyo marathon had prevented any serious runs for the past 2 months, complicated by an achy knee on last week's bike ride. My swim was the only area I had confidence I could go 100%.

Swim 1.5K: Although a fast start with 2 or 3 porpoise tactics, the first 300 meters were unusually chaotic and clogged, owing to a lack of open water space. I couldn't get a rhythm for the first 5 minutes as I kept bumping into pink, blue, and silver caps. We pink caps were the last wave of swimmers with a 3 minute delay. The course was an interesting design, out and back twice, or 750 meters X 2 with a 30 second jog in between. The course was in a protected harbor, so no waves, but the narrowness made it difficult to get any private space, not dissimilar to commuting to work in Tokyo, less the kicks to the forehead and bodyblows...I made it to the turn in 14 minutes, jogged to the start, and did another lap in about 14 minutes for a 28:11 total swim. This was my PB for a swim, my previous best at about 32 minutes. Although not rocket speed, I was happy to improve my stroke and I credit the pool drills with our sensei Greg.

Bike 40K: This proved to be the most treacherous part of the race. The light drizzle turned into rain as I made the transition on to the bike, an ominous sign. This was my first race with my blue thunder cervelo carbon tri bike aka Hillary Swank. As we headed out of town up the east coast, Hillary and I whizzed by dozens of bikers as if they were standing still. At 5K, a nearly distastrous event...I was behind 2 guys trying to find a space to pass on the narrow 2 lane road. Up ahead, a truck appeared. For some reason that I will never know, the guy on the left decided that he wanted to move to his right and cut off his buddy. The guy on the right had nowhere to go. It was either take a nasty crash into his biker friend, or smash into a truck. He chose the nasty crash into the biker. They both went down instantly. I was about 5 meters behind and had nowhere to go as I was traveling at a 40 KPH clip. The only path was straight thru the wreck....So I proceeded over the roadkill...I ran over a leg, an arm and a bike. Just before I went thru, Hillary's short happy life flashed before me, "I am going to crash", I thought....but by some miracle, I maintained balance over the wreckage....I could not believe it...the roadkill and my own brakes had slowed me down significantly, and now 5 bikers whizzed by me. I accelerated to catch up, thrilled to be still in the race....
The rest of the bike was tough and wet. My right knee flared up again from 5K-30K, and the hills were challenging. I didn't feel comfortable pedaling hard down the hills due to the wet roads. I did continue to pass bikers throughout the leg and finished in about 1:11:00 (officially 1:13:48 including a 3 minute transition).

Run 10K: I was happy to dismount Hillary, although the sore knee discouraged me at the beginning of the run. I had no stamina as well. Fortunately, the knee held up and I cruised thru the run at a tortoises' pace. My time of 48:56 was my slowest ever for this distance triathlon, well under the low 40's that I usually run in triathlons.

My total time was 2:30:55 (54th place out of 600 men) Swim 28:11 (120) Bike 1:13:48 (50) Run 48:56 (80)...although my bike was most competitive, I was more satisfied with the swim. I never really felt comfortable on Hillary, but I suppose this comfort will come in future races. The bike was actually 1 minute slower than my PB of 1:10:38 in Oshima last year on my old road bike, but we estimated that this course was 5-7 minutes harder than Oshima, espescially in the rain.
Many thanks to Keren Miers, our triathlon spiritual leader, who had a decent race and actually placed 2nd in his age group with a sparkling 2:24 time despite the fact that he did not taper at all! Arigatou Kamu chan for the support and great action shots.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tokyo Marathon: It's not about the rain...

This was a battle between man, pain, and rain.

Motozo prevailed with a 1 minute personal best (PB) at the first annual Tokyo marathon.

Preparation was key...lots of pasta meals to the point of overload..nearly every meal was rice or pasta the final alcohol for the last week and no caffeine for the last 4 days. A nice sleep-in on Saturday morning and off to bed again at 9 PM on Saturday before the race. The taper was enjoyable and my legs healed up nicely following months of pavement pounding. After a peak of 108K 3 weeks prior to the race, I reduced drastically to 64K 2 weeks before and 56K the final week with mainly marathon pace 5K and 10K runs to maintain fitness levels.

The race was a less than auspicious start. I groaned when I heard the rain sputtering on my veranda at 6AM. The subway ride on the Oedo line to Shinjuku Tochomae was a flurry of soggy shoes and umbrellas. At Tocho, I bumped into Shiba san, Robin, and a few others but we never made it to the outdoor meeting place due to the chaos and rain. Instead, the hour before the start was another flurry of bathroom line waiting, coffee sipping, power bar scoffing, and corral crawling. I struggled to get in my D corral without getting wet or trampled. At one point I was walking on the 1 meter divider with an umbrella before a volunteer shot me down. With 5 minutes to go to the start, I was in position at the front of corral D with relatively dry shoes.

Start: Mayor Ishihara pulled the trigger, the white flowers sprayed through the air, and we were off...sort of. They told us not to run after the start gun went off! That was a first. So, after a minute and a half of walking, I trunged through the start line into the streets of Shinjuku...After, a toilet break at 2K, I got into a semi-groove going down those hills in Shinjuku. At this point I was still wearing 3 shirts and a poncho, which made me feel heavy and uncomfortable, but I figured I would take off 2 layers later....

5K: The first 5K was 23:53, which was virtually on plan as I had factored in a 2 minute delay at the start (from the start line). I bumped into several nanbanners and we chatted about the weather. Keren, Rie, and Anthony were both cool and collected. Paul Jones, and old friend in from California, was moving at a nice clip, so Anthony and I ran with him at a 4:20 pace for a few K, caught up to Colin, and pondered our race strategies...this was the fastest split of the day at 21:31...

10K: I went through the 10K point next to the palace and looked for Kanako, who I suspected was armed with gels and energy drinks. At the turn at Hibiya, I heard "Debiddo!", and there she stood, to my left, waiting patiently...I immediately stripped off my sopping extra cotton shirt and poncho, got a jel from Kanako, and was off to Shinagawa...

15K: The run down to Shinagawa was quite easy as I was warmed up, jelled up, and a few pounds lighter. I ran with Colin for a about 1K before as we approached the lead group heading back up towards Hibiya. As I approached the turnaround at Shinagawa, I scanned the crowd and spotted Greg and Steve, than Jay and Martin moving all too easily, than Mika and Terry. I heard yells and screams of "Go Motozo", gambare, fighto, which was a nice little pick-me-up.

20K: I caught up to Terry, who slowed to eat a jel, but promised to catch me at the finish. Than I approached Mika and we stayed close together until Hibiya when Kanako again appeared, this time to my right side, bearing more energy gifts. It had started raining hard, so I grabbed the poncho back from Kanako, and refitted it over my head sans soaked shirt this time, which felt actually quite nice. Thank you Kamu! (chu to dakko shite!)

25K: Scoffing on a power gel, I surged forward having lost a valuable 45 seconds on the gel/poncho break and managed a 23:15 split, which was my slowest of the day excluding the slow start. I now felt really good, knowing that half the race was behind me. The bright atmosphere of Ginza (pictured here) also helped. It was like a white tunnel of love. Bands were playing, cheerleaders dancing, obasans and kids yelling the G word. I was fully fuelled and relatively dry, except for my feet.

30K: I kept pushing the pedal to the medal and felt that my goal time was actually realistic. I ran a 22:12 split, which was under my goal pace of 22:20. Running up towards the Asukusa turnaround at 28K, I again spied at the runners heading down on the right. I called out again to Brett, Greg, Adam, Jay and Martin (again running steady), and Steve before hitting the turn.

35K: The 30K point was where I crashed and burned in Ohtawara last November, but I felt better this time and pressed on at a blistering 4:22 pace, my 2nd fastest split of the day. I was now in the Motozo Zone. Noone was going to catch me, and I wasn't going to catch anyone. I thought of Lance Armstrong's book, "It's not about the Bike", and how pain was only temporarily, but the disappointment of quitting lasts forever. I wasn't going to quit unless my body caved in. It was about how much I wanted my PB...

40K: Well, my legs almost caved in at the 38K point. I felt like I was working 110%, but running 10% slower. My splits from 35K slowing started to deteriorate, from 4:25 to 4:29, than 4:31, 4:35. At 40K, I came in at 22:36, my 2nd slowest split (excluding the start). Those hills in Odaiba hurt me. My right hamstring and calf felt really tight. Several guys had pulled over at the middle of those hills. Still, I tried to push myself. I counted down....5K to go, now 4K, now 3K, just pretend you're in the palace on the 2nd half of a 5K run, coming into the home stretch...

Last 2.2K: At 40K, I was almost sure I would get under became a question of by how much..could I get 3:07 or even 3:06??? I groaned as another big hill came into view. It looked like a war zone ahead. Wounded soldiers pulled over left and right, stetching sore calves and hamstrings, the scanty crowd yelling "Lasto". I tried to sprint, but that only slightly increased my speed. At 1K to go, I had a full 5 minutes to get my goal. Those last steps felt an eternity. I checked my watch at about 500 meters, than again at 300. Where is the damn finish? Still not in my sights....finally, a turn and I can see the finish line, but it's so far! I try to sprint again and this time my legs respond...Welcome to the Big Site! Next stop, Iron Man Japan!!!

5K: 23:53
10K: 21:31
15K: 21:45
20K: 21:48
25K: 23:15
30K: 22:12
35K: 21:52
40K: 22:36
2.2K: 9:53

First 15K: 1:07:14
20K: 1:29:02
Half: 1:33:55
30K: 2:14:29
40K: 2:58:57
42.2K: 3:08:49 (previous best, 3:09:58, was Ohtawara Marathon, 2002)


802 place out of 25,000 runners, approx. top 3%

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pre-marathon running days

Having reached the peak of training 3 weeks before the big Tokyo Marathon race, a mileage report...

The peak week: January 23-28, total=108K

Monday: off

Tuesday: 15K easy pace in palace
5K: 23:49
5K: 23:44
5K: 23:56

Wednesday: 18K hard workout at track thanks to Jay...
1.6K: 6:48
1.6K: 6:41
1.6K: 6:45
1.6K: 6:43
1.6K: 6:38
1.6K: 6:31
1.6K: 6:23
1.6K: 6:20
1.6K: 6:14
+3.6K jog

Thursday: 8K easy run palace
5K: 24:14
3K: 17:07

Friday: 17K Hard palace run with Steve, Mika
5K: 21:32
5K: 22:36
5K: 23:02
2K: 8:20

Saturday: 10K easy run at gym
4K: 23:30
5K: 27:13
2K: 13:31

Sunday: 38K long hard run in yoyogi park and palace with Juergen and Mika
2.5K: 13:16 Yoyogi park 8 laps
2.5K: 12:27
2.5K: 12:23
2.5K: 12:33
2.5K: 12:34
2.5K: 12:33
2.5K: 12:18
2.5K: 12:10
6K: 33:57 streets to palace
2.2K: 10:56
5K: 22:28 Palace
5K: 22:55

On to the taper!

64K for January 29 to February 4
15K: 1:09:04
15K: 1:04:25
8K: 47:13
26K: 2:20:37

Picture: Mt. Takao in December with lots of marathon nanbanners!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A rare mid-winter update

I usually only update this blog after a race, but 2 events have prompted me to post my thoughts and pictures.

1. A brand new toy (triathlon bike).

2. An excellent week of marathon training, as the peak of February Tokyo marathon training cycle approaches.

By popular request (well, my brother, Mary, and a colleague at work), I've took some quick snappies from my living room of the new addition, where she sits still in pristine splendor. I should give her a name such as "Blue Thunder", "Blue Highway", "Fast Mother Fo", "Blew By You", "Carbon Homicide", Jane Seymour, Koyuki, Q-chan, Franka Potente, Hilary Swank, etc. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please let know!

The Tokyo marathon is quickly approaching. Showtime is February 18, which gives your humble narrator exactly 5 weeks left to train. Given the 10 day taper, there are only realistically 3 more weeks of hard training ahead. The past 2 weeks were good, fuelled by a long new year holiday and trip to Singapore to pick-up Hilary Swank. During my 1 week stay in Singapore, I got in no less than 4 runs in +30 C heat, plus a 70K bike ride on Blue Thunder. I think the hot runs and time off helped, because I upped my weekly mileage from 76K in late December to 81K last week and 93K this week without much problem. This past week was particularly satisfying. I don't usually post my workouts, but here goes:

January 8-14

Monday: off

Tuesday: 15K easy run in Palace at about 4:40/K pace.

Wednesday: Hard track workout at Oda field. First, a "warmup" with Carol and Jay of 4 X 1600: Splits were 6:35, 6:32, 6:33, 6:50. Than, Mika persuaded me to do a hard 10K pace run at 4:15/K pace. We were able to hold that pace, although it was tough. Akira and Masako stayed with me the whole way. Total of 18K of high quality running.

Thursday: off

Friday: Hard 15K pace run. 5K splits were 21:57, 21:52, 21:38 for an average of 4:21/K pace. Probably my best 15K training run in many, many moons...

Saturday: Easy 13K recovery run in Akasaka Gosho. 3.3K splits were 17:24, 17:28, 17:07, 17:27, for an average pace of 5:16 K/pace.

Sunday: Hard long run of 32K. Total time was 2:27:00 for a brisk 4:35/K pace (7:22/mile pace). The last 7K were particularly fast with Steve, as we cruised along at 4:20 pace for several K.

Total: 93K for the week (58 miles), with 3 relatively hard runs and 2 easy runs. I hope to log in over 100K at some point in the next few weeks, with at least 1 run of 35K. This should prepare my legs and mind somewhat for the "wall" at 30-42K. Today's long run felt good. I was tired after 32K, but felt I could hold the pace for another 5K or so.

Some other pics of interest over the past month:

Nanbanners countdown the new year at Motozo's, Dec 31, 2006: Nanban jin include Juergen, Keren, and Robin, all in the funny pointy hats. Editor's note: Motozo ran 25K virtually alone the next day on a vicious hangover (Stuart joined for the final 7K).

At the countdown, HG was in the haus! Yahooooo! MC commentary.

Gemba kara nama housou suru 現場から生放送する......3... 2... 1...pop goes the weasel! Happy new year...akebono omedeto gozaimasu, kotonishiki yoroshiku onegai shimasu!

New year's resolutions are to successfully drive Franka Potente thru to the finish of Japan Iron Man in June, 2007, run a PB in the Tokyo marathon, become the top-rated stock analyst in Japan, and last and least, to compose less samui oyaji gyagu.

Meanwhile, a defrost trip to SE Asia beckoned....

A Victorian-looking Singapore street in the old China Town, toured by fellow Binghamton Devil Lord Chris Fix.

And a short trip to Malaysia...Selamat Datang! (Welcome to Malaysia!) in Mersing, while waiting for the ferry to Tioman Isle, we tasted Malaysia sweet liquor from Brunei.

The beach at Salang on Tioman Isle, same as it ever was, serene and deep blue. The beach was a ghost town due to Monsoon season. We could not find a drop of sake in the entire town.

Our plane back to civilization... Plane capacity: 44, Crew: 3, Total passengers: 2 !!! I said TWO!Motozo is dead serious. More next month after the big Tokyo Marathon....sayonara