May 30, 2007

Catching up on some business

Time to do some blogging. Where have I been? I'm still here, always have been. Blogging has lost the luster that it had though so I'm visiting my own sight less frequently. Anyway I'll continue to update but it might not be so consistent.

First order of business: Kanuma Satsuki Half Marathon. What is there to say? 1:43:47. Obviously a sub par performance but about on par with where my training was at that point. Nice day, decent course, just didn't have it. I got out to a 1:35 pace and held that through 10k or so even though after just 4-5k I knew I didn't have it. I was surprised at how quickly I got into the "I don't care" phase. Didn't care about pace, finishing time, drinking water, anything. I just wanted to be done running. I carried a gel with me that I planned on taking at about the half way point. At that time though I had such indifference that I thought it was too much trouble. Not only that but it might make me feel better and then I'd run faster and that didn't sound like much fun, just more work. So there you have it.

Now on the other hand was last night's 5k time trial, in the rain, around Oda field. I was shooting for a time under 19:30 but figured I'd go out at a 19:10 pace and see how long I could hold it. Turns out I could hold it the whole way, finishing in 19:07. Quite happy with that, given my recent training (see paragraph above). In fact that is my 4th fastest time since moving to Japan. So now I have a little more confidence that I can perhaps step up the pace of my training a little bit. Put in a little tempo run here or there and see how it goes. I'll keep you posted.

May 8, 2007

TELL 10k

The TELL 10k last Saturday turned out to be a hot and hilly affair. But then I knew that going in and so I wasn't expecting a very fast time. Still I was hoping for a decent time and since the first kilometer is downhill I went out a little bit fast, 3:53. After that came a long hot, sunny stretch that made me realize I was going to have to slow down. the 4th and 5th kilometer being uphill, were even slower. I finished in 43:36, 4:36 per k. I suppose given my recent training that is about where I should be. Now the goal will be to step up the training in order to be able to step up in the races.

This weekend is a half marathon. When I originally signed up I had high hopes for an attempt at a PB. But since my knee started acting up those hopes went out the window. Now I'd just like to stay under 1:40 and would be happy to stay under 1:35. Anything better would be like an extra present at Christmas. Anything worse would be grudgingly accepted as a sign that continued work is needed.

Finally I'm able to state that I believe my knee is fully recovered. Mentally I'm still a little wary of it but I've been trying to pick up the pace during recent workouts with no negative impact (so far). However it seems that with the fading of the knee injury, the hamstring tightness/pain is coming back into the forefront. Maybe because of the increased pace? I am trying a new stretching regimen though and hoping that will help. If not the next step is massages. Now that sounds good.

Apr 28, 2007

Back At It

I've been able to run for about a week now. At first I wore a knee brace that I bought. It seemed to help with my knee but bothered the rest of my leg. Finally I've been running without that for the last few days, slow and easy, and things seem to be okay. Now I need to start trusting it more mentally and hopefully speeding up a little bit in my workouts. That being said I did test it a little bit last Wednesday night when Namban Rengo had our monthly 5k time trail at the track. I ran it in 20:41, which, even though it is a little slow for me, I was happy with as I really didn't want to push it at all.

Next week at the TELL 10k I'd really like to be under 41 minutes. I think it's possible but I would really have to have a good day, considering my training hasn't been optimal for the last couple of weeks. In reality though I guess I'd be happy if I survived without any problems in my knee and anything under 45 minutes. Relatively pedestrian but I'd take it. I don't even know what to think for the Kanuma Satsuki half. Just surviving?

Apr 19, 2007

Shut Down

I haven't been able to run since last Friday. I went out Saturday morning for what is usually an easy run. This time I was going to add a few hills. However from my first steps I noticed something wasn't quite right with my right knee. Totally out of the blue. It isn't in the joint itself, but in the tendons on the inside, back part of it. The medical term is pes anserinus, number 5 on this picture. There really is no pain, especially when I'm not running. More it is a different sort of sensation that there is movement back there that shouldn't be happening. I went maybe a half mile walking and jogging to try to loosen/warm it up but it didn't work. I tried it again on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and after a couple minutes it acted up again. With the rest it wasn't as bad but I still wasn't able to run on it. To be more accurate I didn't want to run on it. More rest.

So this week I find myself to be a little restless and mildly irritated. Didn't notice it in the back of my mind at first and didn't actually place the cause right away. But now I see it is there. I want to run and train and gather the data and analyze and pass judgement. In two and three weeks respectively I have a 10k and half marathon coming up. Hopefully I'll at least be able to get around on the courses even if I'm not in racing form.

Apr 12, 2007

An Improvement

I've gone back to the FH workouts with better results this time. Still not sure if I will push to do all 4 of the workouts he specifies but I do like the 8k in 33 minutes one. Basically it is a tempo run. Anyway, I wrote a few weeks back that I did this workout for the first time with okay results. Not great, not bad. This week I've done it two more times with better results.

I could have had even slightly faster times this week with a stronger mental approach; in each session I let one lap slide a little too much. 100% mental error. But I'm still happy to be working my way down to the goal time and with a lower HR. I will continue with this workout for a few more weeks and see what kind of progress I make. I'm hoping it will be a key contributor to PB's in upcoming races (see sidebar). Confident it will help in the 10k, less so about the half.

I guess the motivation to run the extra workouts lasts about one week. That's okay, I'm still happy to get in my in my normal runs, just didn't feel the need to do the extra ones.

Apr 8, 2007

I'm back...

...from Hawaii at least. But the running is slowly coming around too. Hawaii was beautiful. We spent most of our time on Kauai, mostly in the pool and exploring for waterfalls, beaches and big waves. Luckily, on Kauai none of those are hard to find.

I did get out for a couple easy runs while in paradise, just around the resort grounds but that included a stretch by the ocean so it was nice enough. All in all it felt pretty good but I definitely noticed the effect of the heat and humidity. The effort and HR were slightly elevated compared to the pace.

Since returning I've kind of been enjoying running a little more. Mostly I've cut back on the pace in order to get more miles in. I have this half marathon coming up in May. Since I seem not to be able to get in a lot of quality miles, at least I can get boost the quantity of miles. That being said I did have a good run yesterday of 12 miles. The first 8 averaged 7:52 per mile and the last 4 were 7:19. I like to do the fast finish long run occasionally but usually it is too much for me to handle. I think I need to slow up the first part a little bit more so that I can speed up the last part.

Last week I had an odd sort of desire to run; unusual for me. Wednesdays workouts are usually in the evening at the track. However I wanted to run that morning so I got out for a short, slow little run. Thursdays are usually my day off because of the Wednesday nights speed sessions but again I wanted to run. Another short, slow run. Today, Monday, is another normal day off for me and it looks like it will stay that way. I wonder if this motivation will continue.

Mar 27, 2007

Vacation Time

Sunday was very windy and raining when I first got up so I decided to take the day off. Especially with the way my hamstrings felt on Saturday, all tight and sore. That's been niggling me ever since TYO marathon. A little later in the day though I had to go get my son from his first ever sleep over and since the weather had lightened, I decided to take the long way around and have a little run. After returning home I decided that it felt so good that I wanted to go out again and so I did.

Since we go to Hawaii this evening (Woo hoo!) I definitely wanted to run this morning before relaxing this week. I decided to start doing some runs recommended to me by my friend and club mate, Steve. Last year while training for the Nagano marathon, he suggested I do some runs where I get my HR to 80-90% of maximum for 60 minutes. These worked very well and eventually evolved in to the marathon paced runs I used to train for TYO. So this morning I got out for 7 miles with the middle five at an average pace of 7:06/mile. Not bad, I'll take it although I would have liked to have gone a little farther before my HR started to drift up and my hamstrings begged to differ. Anyway, I think I'll stick to some of these runs until I feel up to tackling Mr. Horwill once again.

See you in a week or so, all tanned and rested.

Mar 22, 2007

Tamako Ekiden et al

The Tamako Ekiden was a fun little race. Not a particularly big ekiden but a good turnout for Namban Rengo with three men's and three women's teams. Congratulations to the women who took the top three spots. However since we were two women short, two of the teams had to have a repeat runner. In spite of this obvious disadvantage, when one of the women was recognized, that team was disqualified. As for the men, my team took second in the intrasquad competition. It was worth it to see Gareth's childlike enthusiasm for their victory. Shoji-san put up some pictures here. (For the non Japanese, the pink box on the upper right will take you to a slide show page. When there click the left of the two buttons on the bottom.)

As for me, I ran my 5.9643 leg in 23:57, not great, not terrible. I just missed going under 4:00/k as I would have liked but it was quite a bit of a hilly course. If it was flatter I would have done it.

Yesterday I had a decent 5 mile run that averaged 7:17/m-4:31/k. Thursday morning is normally a day off for me because I run track workouts with the club on Wednesday nights. But since the ekiden was in the morning I was able to get this workout in.

Finally, today's workout. I wanted to attempt another of my FH workouts. Unfortunately, that is about all I did, attempt it. I certainly didn't complete it. I was going to do the 4x2000 in 7:30 with 60 seconds rest. The first circuit I managed in 7:39, acceptable. After a 90 second rest I went around again but this time in 7:59. Obviously I didn't have it today. Maybe I just don't have it period. I did another after a 2:30 recovery but didn't really push myself, I just wanted to get another one in. That last one was 8:20.

So I've done 3 of the 4 FH workouts over the last 9 days. Two of them not within the specified time parameters. These 4 workouts are meant to be done over the course of a week and then repeated for several weeks! Are they too tough for me? I don't know. I do know that I haven't been running so well since the Tokyo marathon; I still feel sore/tight hamstrings when I run. You'd think I'd be recovered by now though. A couple club mates have even run second marathons since Tokyo. Where will I sit a month from now? Still languishing in my attempts to accomplish this program I've decided upon? Successful in it? On to something more manageable in relation to my current running? I don't know. What I do know is that next week we are going to Hawaii for a little vacation. Perhaps then I'll return refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle FH once again.

Mar 19, 2007

Why the long face?

Because running has been difficult the last few days. Sunday I wanted to do 13-14 miles with about half of it at a good pace, maybe 7:15 per mile. I was only able to manage 10 at an average pace of 7:55. Not so inspiring. Yesterday was a planned day off but today I turned off the alarm and slept in. Now I'm stuck with the prospect putting in a few miles on the treadmill. Boring.

I must balance all this out with a couple positive marks though. Last Saturday I did another of my FH workouts. Although the program calls for me to do 8k in 33 minutes, I completed 8k in 34:04. Slightly off the mark but I'm happy with that for a baseline to start with. I ran that around an oval that is about 2 miles from our apartment. The oval itself is 1,325 meters and is marked every 100 meters. So 6 laps in 5:28 with an additional 50 meters would have given me the correct pace. I finished with these splits:
So I was slightly off the pace from the start but to be honest the only split I'm really disappointed in is the 5:52. Given the laps before and after I think that was just a matter of losing concentration and allowing my pace to slip. This workout is likely the cause of my lackluster performance on Sunday.

Tomorrow I'm running in the Tamako ekiden. Each leg is about 6k. I'm not sure what to expect. I think it will be more off the pace of my 5k PB than a normal 6k would be; I just don't feel like I'm running as well right now. Can I even keep it under 4:00/k?

Mar 15, 2007

No Running...

...well a little on the treadmill but I don't really count that. My wife is in Bangkok this week so it is just me and the kids. Normally I could still run when they are in school but Cole's school is out for parent/teacher conferences. So a short half-hearted effort on the treadmill.

But, since I have no workout to discuss, I'll go into my heart rate training a little bit. Basically I graph my average HR and speed for each run. Then, comparing that days information to prior data, I can see if I was running efficiently or not. Most reasons for inefficient running are not yet recovered, illness or heat and humidity. More efficient runs are usually at a faster pace or if my fitness is improving.

As an example I'll give data for a normal workout I was doing when training for the Tokyo marathon. In total I would run for 14-16 miles with 8-11 at marathon pace. Usually this was about 7:10 to 7:15 per mile. Data for 9 of those runs from last December and January is below:

The raw data isn't very fun to look at but if you look at the averages for the first three, middle three and last three, you'll see the trend (I left the Jan 3rd data out of the middle 3 average because that run was completed the day after flying to Tokyo from the U.S. I think that is the reason for the outlier of such a high average HR):

So you can see that as the miles increased and the pace decreased, my average HR actually came down. I believe this was a direct result of these very runs and the aerobic boost that they gave me. It was at this point that I PB'd in the 5k, 10k, half and full marathons within the next 3 weeks.

So how does this help me run faster? I can use this data to see how my current training is going compared to previous months. If my running is more efficient then it is going well, if it is not so efficient then maybe something needs to be changed. Also I know if I am recovered enough to do hard training or if I need more rest following a race.

I'm sure there is more that I can do with my HR monitor and the data I keep but this is where I am at this point. I'm always happy to read about this stuff though so leave a good link if you have one. This is the one that got me started.

Mar 13, 2007

Good Start?

Today was the unofficial start to my Frank Horwill workouts. Unofficial because I won't continue with the other workouts he outlines this week but I did want to try this one just to see how it would feel. I ended up with 12 x 200 in 37 seconds. I'm not really sure how to judge this workout. Horwill doesn't give a specific number, only saying to do them to exhaustion, ie unable to complete 200 meters in 37 seconds. The recovery period starts at 90 seconds and declines by 15 seconds every repetition and then starts over again at 90. My last 200 was within 37 seconds but after only a 15 second rest I really felt I couldn't do another 200. However if I had muscled through that one it is likely that a 90 second recovery would have enabled me to continue on with a few more repetitions. Anyway I think this gives me a good baseline to start with.

I think it's time I give a shout out to my running club, Namban Rengo. We usually meet for speedwork at Oda Field on Wednesday nights, long runs in Yoyogi park on Sunday mornings and various races and ekidens (relay races) throughout the year. I highly recommend a running club to anybody out there. Having a team to run with is very motivational and pushes you to push yourself much more than you would do on your own. This is especially true with speedwork. Also a club provides a great reservoir of knowledge for all of runnings little questions.

Mar 9, 2007


I've been trying to run a little farther, a little faster and a little more efficiently these past couple weeks but it doesn't seem to be working so well. Slowly and slowly the pace is speeding up and I'm able to run a little farther. Today I ran about 4.7 miles at a 7:45 pace which is a little faster than I have been running. So I decided to look at my running log and see how my recovery went for my last two marathons. It seems that exactly 4 weeks after each I was able to pick up the pace and distance of my runs. Furthermore, I noticed a boost in my running speed another 4 weeks after that. So as I sit here 3 weeks post Tokyo marathon it seems another week of rest is in order before I will be able to start some quality training. As an additional note, I ran a 10k race 3 weeks after each of the previous 2 marathons. Of course, since I wasn't recovered each was a poor 10k for me. Likely that delayed my recovery a bit, but like the rule of thumb says (1 day for each mile of a race) 4 weeks sounds about right for the marathon.

P.S. Today was my first "efficient" run since the marathon as measured by tracking my HR average vs. average pace of my run. This is a good sign but more on that in another post.

Mar 5, 2007

Nuts and Bolts

With my last few posts you have seen the recent marathon influence on my running. It does have an addictive sort of nature. Or maybe I do. But now, after providing you with that history, I'll dive into the nuts and bolts of my training. Actually, I won't exactly be doing it "now" because I'm still in the recovery phase from the Tokyo marathon. At least that's my excuse for my low mileage weeks and relaxed pace.

However when I do resume serious training in a week (or two) I've decided to use the plan of attack outlined by this Frank Horwill article on training. I am basically the example he uses, therefore my workouts will be those he outlines:

*200's in 37 seconds to exhaustion (unable to run 200 in 37 seconds) with recovery of 90 seconds declining by 15 seconds each interval and then back up to 90 seconds and repeat
*4 x 2000 in 7:30 with 60 second recovery
*8k in 33 minutes
*16k in 69 minutes

Quite honestly all of these workouts sound difficult and fast for me. The 200's will be doable because it doesn't give a set amount so maybe I'll just end up being able to do 4 or 6 or 10 of those. The 2000's sound more difficult with the short recovery but I'm confident on being able to do those too. As for the 8k, I've recently run a 10k at a pace faster than that so I should be able to accomplish that one too. Finally I've recently run a half marathon at a pace faster than that of the 16k so I should be able to do that one. At least my recent performances give me confidence going into these workouts, however they still sound hard. Also I plan on adding a fifth workout to my week. Probably hills or another tempo run similar (but not as fast) as the 8k run.

Feb 28, 2007

Marathon Running

In my opinion running a marathon is not something you can do your best at the first time out. Maybe not even the first 3-5 times out. It, more than any other race, is so mentally challenging that without the experience of having done one (or two or three) you really can't know how to prepare for that side of it. I've made mistakes in every one of mine and I'm sure I'll make more in the future but as I go I'll continue to learn and one day (maybe) I'll have the perfect race that'll leave me basking in its glory.

Warning: Mistakes Ahead!
Mt. Rushmore Marathon
This was my first marathon so I cut myself a little slack. I was hoping for a time of 3:30 to 3:40 and training was going at about that pace. I ran a 20 mile race 4 weeks before at a 8:06 per mile pace and that would have put me at 3:32 for the marathon. The mistake was this: in my training and the 20 mile run I had been following Jeff Galloway's 10 minutes running, 1 minute of walking routine. It seemed to work and was okay for workouts but I definitely didn't like it in races. So with just 4 weeks and basically the taper left, I changed strategy and tried to run the full time, all the time. The results are predictable.

Grandma's Marathon
In order to secure an entry into Grandma's marathon, you need to apply 6 months before the race. I did so and training started well but somewhere in that time my wife and I decided to make the move to Tokyo. Not a decision I regret at all, in fact I love it here but with the details of moving and getting the house in order etc, I ran a total of 76 miles in the 2 months preceding the marathon. That's not a mistake I'll make again.

Nagano Marathon
I was fairly well trained for this marathon but still not sure what to expect. The lesson I learned here is one that is as old as the marathon itself. I think every runner of every distance has to learn this one and usually the hard way. I started out too fast. I had a goal of 3:10, ran the first half in 3:06 pace (a new half PB at the time) and after 25k started the slow death spiral to the finish line. Yes, I still start races too fast, just not marathons.

Portland Marathon
I really don't think I was sufficiently trained to run a qualifying time for this marathon. I was training through a hot Tokyo summer and the heat and humidity prohibited me from doing enough long marathon paced runs. Add to that a massive case of jetlag and lack of sleep the 3 nights before and out comes a disappointing time. Also, the hill leading up to St. John's bridge is a killer! Easily the single worst hill I've ever run in any race at any distance. How could they put that thing in a marathon?!?

Tokyo Marathon
I was well trained for this marathon. I put in a lot of miles and a lot of long marathon paced runs. I felt good and was running well. And that turned out to be my problem. In the 2 and 1/2 weeks before the marathon I ran PB's in the 5k, 10k and half marathon. The first two weren't a problem because I'm sure I would have still recovered in time. However the hard half marathon seemed to throw me well off. In the two weeks from that half to the marathon I was never able to get back into any rhythm. Marathon pace felt too fast; faster than it had previously. I don't mind so much because I was still able to get a PB and Boston qualifying time at Tokyo, but it is obvious I could have done better.

Tokyo Marathon

The Tokyo marathon was a bit of redemption for me. I finally ran a qualifying time for the Boston marathon which I plan to run in April, 2008. I have had this goal for the last year, a time span that encompasses my last three marathons. Last March I ran the Nagano Olympic Marathon and finished in 3:21:18; a measly 19 seconds away from qualifying. Then last October I ran the Portland marathon with my friend LBG and ran a disheartening, disappointing, crushing 3:50:38. Finally at Tokyo I was able to train sufficiently and in spite of a crucial error in judgement (more on that later) I broke through the barrier. Throughout the marathon I never felt like I was in a good running rhythm. Towards the end I started to slow and was mentally calculating what I needed to do over the last 5-7k's in order to hit a qualifying time. Although I wouldn't admit it to myself, I pretty much knew I would make it this time. When I did finally cross the finish line I didn't feel the huge rush of relief and accomplishment. Maybe I was too tired. Maybe I knew I was going to do it and so wasn't that relieved. Whatever it was, I sit here now, satisfied with qualifying but still knowing a PB is out there for me.

Another note I'd like to make about the Tokyo marathon is the pleasure it was to run in such a major marathon with so many of my friends and compatriots. You see I belong the the Namban Rengo running club. There were 50 or so of us that were lucky enough to get selected to run. With the two long out and backs in the Tokyo course, this made for prime viewing and cheering of passing friends. Also LBG came to Tokyo with his family so he could run. I don't imagine I'll soon have the opportunity to compete in such an event with so many of my colleagues again.

Feb 24, 2007

Running History

Since this is the first post of my first blog, I thought I'd provide a little history. I ran cross country and track in high school but that was 20+ years ago. I was only as dedicated as a middle of the pack teenage boy would be and didn't really know much about running. When I look back upon it I don't think my coaches at the time knew much about running either. Although to be fair I probably just didn't listen to what they were telling me and only ran as much as I need to in order to get by. The years from high school to present were passed with sports and activity but not much running. About 5 years ago that a friend mentioned that he and his wife were running some road races. I thought that sounded like fun so I entered a few myself. For the next few years I played basketball 2-3 times a week and entered the occasional race on weekends. As I started to get into running a little more I added 1-3 miles after basketball and maybe a little weekend running. In 2003 I decided to train for and run the Mt. Rushmore International marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I debuted with a 3:57:58 marathon. Not bad, not great. I have since run faster and slower ones, the most recent was the inaugural Tokyo People's Marathon on February 18, 2007. I ran a PB in 3:18:13. Pretty good, but I think I can do better. You see I've only been running seriously for about 20 months since we moved to Tokyo. I had to give up my basketball playing and now running has taken its place. That mostly brings you up to date for now.