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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Going On An Adventure

This Thursday I'm hopping on a plane to Japan! I will be spending two weeks traveling a loop around the Ariake Sea on the island of Kyūshū, taking in the spring cherry blossoms, practicing my 日本語 and eating everything in sight (well, we'll see about the basashi--some sake may be required). I will be bringing myself, my trusty backpack, and my sense of adventure--and, of course, a camera. 

While I'm not going to be "that guy"--that guy that's too busy photo-blogging his vacation to actually enjoy it--I'm going to try to post some of what I see! So, this running blog will temporarily be a travel blog--please tune in for recountings of my adventures over the next two weeks. 

My itinerary: 
3/19-20: Tokyo (mainly to rest up from my flight, but I'll surely be visiting some of the tourist sites)
3/21-26: Fukuoka (and some day-trips). 
3/27-29: Nagasaki and surroundings
3/30: transit from Nagasaki to Kumamoto. I'm going to try to see Shimabara-jo on the way (and ride the ferry!)
3/31-1: Two days in Kumamoto
4/2: Ride the Shinkansen all the way north from Kumamoto to Narita, where I'll be staying my final night near the airport (no last-minute panics to catch my flight home this time). 
4/3: back to America!

I'm using airbnb for my stays in Fukuoka and Kumamoto. I've never used it before, but both my hosts seem super-nice, and my host in Fukuoka even offered to match me up with some locals who would be interested in showing me around in exchange for 英語 practice. Very excited!

Monday, February 8, 2016

midwinter runs

Winter has been fairly gentle on us in the greater Boston area. On Friday several inches of heavy, clinging snow fell, the sort that coats trees, leaves evergreens laden down with their branches drooping, and bars the hardwoods white to their twigs. It was an awfully pretty long run with the club on Saturday, temps in the 30s and the sun shining. We had yet more snow today, and the sidewalks are likely to be pretty messy tomorrow. Funny to think that Saturday before last I had a glorious "spring" run into the local park, temps in the upper 50s, one of those days when the trails are still snow-bound, but running in shorts and t-shirt feels perfectly natural. I do love mud season, but there is another month and a half of winter-proper before we get there.

I was running until recently in a pair of Saucony Kineta Relays, a pretty light shoe, but I managed to almost completely destroy them after 400 miles. Gaping holes on the lateral edge of the shoe, right by my pinky toe (both sides), and the non-removable foam insoles chewed to pieces. Well, I guess that was a reasonable lifetime for them.

I just signed up for the OFTM, so that's the next race on the agenda! I am not getting much quality work in, but nothing new there. Winter!

My ankle is still doing OK. It was sore after running on icy sidewalks last week (in my blown out old shoes), but is doing better now.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Well, I'm back

Well, I'm back (more or less). 2015 didn't see much competitive racing, as I nursed some tendinosis in my left Achilles and explored some other interests. I ran New Bedford Half in the Spring (terrible--but considering the winter, I couldn't have done much better than mediocre, even if everything had gone perfectly), the Needham Great Bear 5K in the spring (mediocre, but it sure felt fun to race), then nothing, then a Tough Mudder in November (alright, not actually a race, but still fun), then lastly the old GNRC Ho-Ho-Ho 5K in early December, where a 17:44 was good enough for a win. 

'Round about August I intentionally dropped my mileage to no more than 4 miles / day, and focused on trying to rehab my ankle. With the help of Dr. Google I settled on a new protocol of 3x 75 toe drops on my weak ankle, and 2x 50 toe drops on my good ankle, every morning, with a 20 lb backpack. Then I added one set of 75 "flutters" on each leg (bouncing up and down on that foot). These sets were enough to leave my calves and ankles feeling like they were on fire, but what I found on the internet suggested that this was actually desirable. 

It took months, but eventually this payed off. I noticed a lot less pain in my ankle during the day when getting up from a sitting position, and eventually no pain at all. Very slowly, with many bumps and reverses, I started raising mileage, and then even adding a little bit of quality back into my routine. I'm now back up to everything but hill repeats. I've kept the toe drops, and I don't have any time horizon for when I can stop that protocol, as they still feel pretty essential. 

Anyway, new year, new hopes, new plans! I started off with the local New Years Day 5K. This race is very flat, with only a couple of mild rollers in the last mile. The conditions were also about perfect, with low wind and temps in the upper 30s. I have my 5K pr on this course, at 16:39, but that didn't fret me today. One good thing about coming back from injury, I guess--I felt most content to measure myself against my recent performance, or lack thereof. 

There's a bit of prize money for this race, so it usually gets some hot-shots. It would have taken 16:19 to crack the top 3 (winner went through in 15:20). I ran a 5:20, 11:13 (goddamn it), and took it home in 17:31, almost exactly what I had predicted. If I had paced better, I could have imagined running ~17:15, but still a long ways from the sub-17 shape I was in in 2011. 

Maybe we will have a mild winter this year, and I'll be able to keep doing track workouts. Hope springs eternal. 

My next race is probably going to be the OFTM. I'm not feeling quite self-flagellating enough to do Derry this year.