Monday, July 20, 2009

Obuse half marathon: The namaste zone

My right hammy was my achilles heel this year at Obuse. It had been acting up in the past 2 weeks before the race, sidelining me last week during a track workout, so I was apprehensive going into the race on Sunday morning. We also had a huge meal the night before at our favorite Nagano Italian place and woke at 4 am to make it to the early 7 am start. I again had eaten too much and slept too little. On top of that the clouds pulled away our sun cover just at the start time, so we had the extra heat to deal with.

At the start I lined up near the elite runners hoping to latch on to Paddy and others for the initial 5k. I could see Paddy running just in front of me as the gun went off, and accelerated up to him. I joked, "Isn't this a 5k race?" to Paddy as I went by him very temporarily. He soon was off and away into the sunny morning hills. At 1k my watch said 4:05 so I took my foot off the gas pedal as I was looking to do 4:30 pace. Next came Terry at about 3k. It was very hot as the sun was fully sizzling, so I didn't stay with Terry long. At 5k, I went thru at a reasonable 22:20 just as Simon came up to join me. We stayed together for most of the next 10k, which was a nice push for me.

My hamstring started to scream at 7k, so I needed that extra push to get me thru and take my mind off that aching feeling. I had pulled slightly ahead of Simon, but he reeled me in again just at the 15k mark. I saw 22:56 for the 10-15k split and noted, "going too slow", and gently pushed down on the gas pedal. It became harder to breath, but I used my limited yoga experience to adjust my breathing pattern, and somehow fell into a nice groove. I began to feel outside my body and had reached the "namaste zone". With only a few k to go, I started chatting with the other runners, again trying to take my mind off the physical aches. I finished without major incident and ohh that water fountain at the finish line was heaven on earth. I was starting to feel human again...


22:20 5k
22:37 5k
22:56 5k
23:02 5k
5:04 1.1k

1:36:03 total gun time

I was happy with that time, although far from my sub-1:30 PB. My last time in Obuse was 2005. Upon reflection into the deep archives of my running records (a big cardboard box in my closet), I note a 1:38:40 in 2005. I remember it being pretty hot 4 years ago, maybe a little hotter than this past weekend. But I give myself credit given my lack of high mileage over the past 2 months. Megumi had a nice race too with a 1:46, which was much better than her expectation of 1:50 plus alpha. This race could be a nice warmup for the festivities in October! More to come on that soon....

Many thanks to the Chandlers for splendid organization. If Sara Cummings is the queen of Obuse, than Mami and Gary are the princess and prince. This is a wonderful race and fun weekend. Highly recommended.

Kamakura Roughwaters 5k swim

I did my first open water non-triathlon swim race 2 weeks ago in Kamakura. It is called "Roughwaters Swim" due to the usual large wake coming in from the south. I think the long 5 kilometer distance of the event also implies that it is rough for some people. For most of us ironmen doing the event (Jay, Mika, etc.), there was little doubt that we could complete the course without incident. (An ironman swim course is 3.8k followed by some 10 hours of grueling bike and run.)
It turned out to be a mild day with little wake, although it was very hot espescially inside my full body wetsuit. As it was my first outdoor swim race, I had little expectation for the top tier as I had reckoned the competition would be stronger than a typical triathlon. (I finished 60th out of 195 triathletes in the Murakami swim last month). So I was quite surprised to see my name of the top of the list, #7 overall and #1 in my age group. My time was 1:28:30, which was a faster pace than my 1:17 swim in ironman last year for the 3.8k distance.

The course started from the beach and I raced ahead of the group, confident in my porpoising ability. I stayed in the lead for a good 150 meters as noone could match my dolphin tactics. After 150 meters, finally some decent swimmers caught me and whizzed by. I tried to draft off the fast guys for a few strokes. At the last buoy, I felt pretty good, made the 180 degree turn, and headed back to Kamakura beach. I noticed that I was swimming comfortably without much breast stroke, a change from my previous races. At the beach I saw Jaynie cheering. In between gambares she indicated that her boyfriend Jerome was in front of me and Jay was behind, while Mika was still missing in action. I ran thru the start gate and entered the water again. I focused on a couple of swimmers that I recognized, and drafted off of them most of the 2nd loop. After that the race was pretty much a blur. I actually took one water break at the raft parked in the middle of the course. I did not go 100% until the last loop given my inexperience in open water swims. I also felt a little worried about the heat as it was about 25 degrees, the temperature borderline for wetsuit usage. I need to get a sleeveless wetsuit one of these days.
After Jay and Mika came in, we relaxed on the beach and watched Omar do his 3k swim, which was his first time also. He is fast but had a problem with his wetsuit top, and fell off the leaders after the first lap. We than ran 10k thru the hills of Kamakura and had a couple of beers on the beach to round up a perfect day. Thanks to Jaynie for her support and pics. Mika maido domo for signing me up at the last minute.