Sunday, May 15, 2016

Great Bear 5K Race Report

Well, there's still some fight in the dog.

Today is one of those incandescently beautiful spring days that reminds you why you live in New England. The apple trees and lilacs are in bloom; it's cool and sunny, with a pleasant breeze. The Great Bear is a local race, so I could walk over in the morning, enjoying the fine weather.

I got back from Japan with just my residual fitness, but since then I've gotten a good 5 weeks of training in, with two solid track workouts. I haven't really been racing enough to know what to expect from my body; everything felt good, although I didn't feel very aerobically strong. I didn't line up at the start with a particular time goal, just a desire to put in consistent effort and finish strong. Since the track is near the race finish, I had practiced the final kick, concentrating on my desire to not fall apart over the last quarter mile.

I went through the 1st mile in 5:21, starting in 5th, then falling to 6th. I was pretty isolated--not quite fast enough to run with the lead group, but still well ahead of the main pack. I hit the 2nd mile in 11:00 and looked back to see I was being chased down by a group of 4 runners.

In the third mile, uphill with the wind against us, I started to labor. 20 years racing hasn't cured me of starting, um, "ambitiously", I guess. Two of the runners from that chase pack had slipped ahead of me by the time we made the penultimate turn.

All too predictable. Much like last year. Except, I felt oddly unresigned to letting them slip away. I was aerobically maxed, but there was still a lot of spring in my legs, and I found myself accelerating. I got the lanky BAA guy by the final turn. Then in the final kick, caught and passed the compact black-haired dude in raybans. Finished gasping up a lung, in 6th place overall.

I've missed 5ks!

17:35, 6th place overall, 2nd AG.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

In Fukuoka

I'm starting my 2nd day in Fukuoka today! This is just a quick note to say that I'm doing well. It's all been a lot to absorb, and I haven't sat down to process my thoughts into writing yet--but that will be forthcoming, along with pictures. This morning I'm going to see  Sumiyoshi Shrine and Rakusuien Garden, and then in the afternoon a friend of my host is going to visit the Fukuoka City Museum with me. So much to do!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

First Day

I'm writing this morning from the shared kitchen of the hostel I'm staying at in Ikebukuro, the morning of my second day in Japan. Yesterday was mainly planned as travel and recovery, but I had a great walk around the blocks surrounding Ikebukuro station, and had my first real Japanese restaurant experience (not counting the shokudo in the airport). I was a little anxious, but it was all very simple--I was even able to understand when the waitress asked if I wanted my soba noodles hot or cold (I'm not sure what exactly I had--it was some kind of tempura-don with a side of soba noodles in broth--hot. おいしかった!) 

I checked in around 1:30, and then proceeded to start crashing hard around 2. Not unexpected. Jet lag will get to have its say.

The room I'm staying in is about half the size of the smallest hotel room you've stayed it in the States, exactly as long as the pairs of bunks on each side, with a narrow path down the middle. It sleeps 8, although fortunately only 4 bunks were occupied last night. I'm not complaining though--it's a cultural experience! The Korean guy and the Chinese girl in the bunks closer toward the door from me were flirting in awkward English, until, like true children of the 21st century, they exchanged Line ids and continued on their phones. I had a conversation with a Malay family in the shared kitchen, who were putting together their own supper--they complained good-naturedly about the challenge of finding "safe" food when you can't eat pork. 

I've been struck several times by the global reach of English--English as a default second language in signs everywhere, English as the expected lingua franca, as it was between the Korean and Chinese. I'm the only native English-speaker on this floor, and I get the sense that those signs aren't so much for me--they're for everyone else, travelers from all over who have probably learned at least a little English to aid their journeys.

A strange coincidence--I wonder what it would have been like if an east-asian language had become the international tongue of choice. Maybe we US citizens would have been forced to be a bit less parochial. 

Out the window, it's blue skies and wispy clouds, an improvement over yesterday's rain. The corvids here are really something--huge, with great long, hooked bills. They caw back-and-forth at each other in the cadence of a conversation. English has not been adopted as a lingua franca there, at least not yet.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A beginning

I'm writing from the spaceship-like confines of my capsule in the hotel 9 hours at narita. I was right that I wouldn't have the gumption to negotiate mass transit after my int'l flight--wrong that the airport hotel would be a completely simple alternative. (It's in a different terminal; I wandered for a while, lost in mazy underground concourses, before mustering the courage to ask an omawarisan to straighten me out)

In some ways it's been all pretty quotidian so far--customs line, terminal shuttle, and then this hotel--which you could almost imagine in a US airport, if Americans were habitually so tidy and quiet.

But then the PA announcements in Japanese, the 日本人 everywhere, conversations almost understandable, but still ultimately mysterious. I found myself staring at the stop button in the shuttle; in glowing letters it said

, like that--and felt a quiet thrill. I'm really here! Japan!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

All packed

It's super late; one day I'll learn to get organized well in advance of a big trip.