Sunday, October 31, 2010

Week in Review

Time: 841:25
Distance: 113.31 miles

I logged a ton of miles again this week which is what I'm aiming to do. I didn't get in a real workout but was able to help out Meagan and Tyler in theirs. There was some harder running thrown in to keep the legs used to a quicker pace. This week was much easier to triple digits both physically and mentally. The legs didn't feel quite as tired and the mind is getting used to running 2 hours a day. If I can keep up this sort of training for the next few weeks, if not months, then I'll be super strong in the longer events and will start focusing my efforts on something more specific.

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

Time: 119:32
Distance: ~15.42 miles
Pace: 7:45

I've heard a lot about the mouthful that is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, but I had never actually run here. Today I got my chance after a quick clinic Meagan had to do back at West Stride. We had hoped to pick up Leo on the way, but our car was way to full to fit another body. I would have liked to have had him show me the trails. Instead, I got in a nice long run with Meagan and forced her to go longer than she wanted. That's what she gets for pushing the pace on the early uphills.

We were out on the trail for about an hour when we came to a water fountain. We asked another runner where exactly we were and that's when we learned that it was the farthest possible point from the visitor center where we started. Only one way back and that was to knuckle up and run. The trail was fairly technical at section, but nice and wide during others. We even saw one of the Kenyans that live just outside of Atlanta who make use of this park. I started to feel really strong around the 90 minute mark just as Megan was starting to fade. We kept it together and finished up strong back at the main entrance in just under 2 hours. The loop measured just under 15.5 miles, but I would guess that it was closer to 16 if not longer as Mr. Garmin probably missed a few turns. However, looking at the map I'm impressed with the relative accuracy of our plotted course. This was a fun way to end the running for the weekend. I wasn't looking forward to the 4 hour drive back to Charlotte, but at least we got stuck in a traffic jam which only prolonged the excursion.

We were late getting back to Charlotte, but still managed to make it over to Brazwell's to see a bunch of our friends. Meagan's birthday is tomorrow which means she's even older now. It's almost time to find her an iceberg.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chattahoochee River Run

Time: 65:43
Distance: ~8.45 miles
Pace: 7:46

Meagan brought me to the McAlpine of Charlotte or the Town Lake of Austin this afternoon for a second run. I had been here a couple of years ago, but didn't get to experience the full trail offerings then. We took the long way around to the upper trails and put in about 30 minutes on rocky, rooted, sinuous, hilly, single track. It was fun chasing mountain bikers up the hills and trying to hold them off on the descent. I dropped Meagan several times, but always waited for her to catch up. Her little shuffling legs couldn't keep up with my bounding stride on the technical stuff. I enjoyed being up in the hills, but didn't like not knowing where we were going or how long we were going to be out there. There was really no destination and we just decided to take a side trail back that luckily got us to the starting point.

After the run, we hurried back to our hotel so that we could meet up with Leo and Jenny. I met these two while up in Providence for the 5k and Meagan has known them for a couple of years when she used to work at Brooks. L & J were taking us to an authentic pizzeria called Antico. The pizza is made with ingredients imported from Italy and has on occasion been forced to close early when they run out of items. It's not like they can just go around the corner for more meat-a-balls. I'm not even sure what we ordered but it was delicious. The seating was communal, the beer and dessert were brought and the commotion all intertwined to create a great atmosphere. If you're ever in Atlanta, look this place up because you won't be disappointed.

West Stride Training Group

Time: 77:53
Distance: 11.49 miles
Pace: 6:46

I was up early in order to drive over to one of Meagan's accounts in Atlanta. Sometime since taking her new position with Karhu North America, Meagan suggested doing a Craft baselayer wear test run at West Stride. It's a small boutique running specialty store that has done a great job merchandising and fitting into the affluent Buckhead neighborhood. The owner, Genie Beaver, is legendary Arkansas coach John McDonald's niece and there is quite a few articles around the store featuring her uncles' teams. Also, Genie is from the great state of Oklahoma where I spent some time and started this blog.

The training group was getting ready for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving morning and, as with every race in Hotlanta, is being put on by the Atlanta Track Club. The training groups that I have been a part of are much more casual than this one. The pace group for 1:30 and 1:40 got started right at 7:30 am with a few members wearing Craft. I started slowly as I do in every run and was soon gapped. The groups were strung out and it wasn't until around 2 miles before I caught the lead group.

I was surprised at how hard everyone was running. The group leader was 2:44 marathon Laurie Knowles and everyone around her was clipping along. Some dude in Newtons was one-stepping the group during portions and a tall bald guy seemed to be hanging on running the uphills. That's something that Atlanta definitely has over Charlotte, legit hills. Our hills are rolling while theirs are steep. Laurie was quite chatty and kept the group together despite the pace being too hot for some. I was content to sit at the back of the group and observe. We looped a small park twice and I was momentarily dropped when I hopped into a port-o. I managed to catch up before the final hills and actually felt really strong on the ascent, strong enough to gap the group by a few meters. I backed off on the way down and jogged it in to the store before deciding I wanted another 10 minutes on the feet.

This run reminded me that not everyone trains properly. I'm not knocking the training group's enthusiasm or work ethic, but it wasn't necessarily what some of those runners needed. For instance, this was just a "training run" not a workout and we ran faster than race pace (1:30 half marathon goal pace) for 10 miles. However, this is what you have to do if the 10 mile run is your weekly long run and is probably 25% of the total mileage. Think about that, that would be like me going out on a "training run" and putting in ~25 miles at sub-5:25 pace. I forget that runners don't always run 6-7 days a week, take the easy days easy and run hard when it's a workout.

The post-run goodies were excellent. There was bread from Great Harvest (I thought this was just a Charlotte thing and was a little disappointed to learn GH is a chain) and I really took a liking to the cinnamon chip with whipped butter. There was also coffee, hot cocoa and pumpkin bread. The customers were also hanging around the store to try-on apparel, shoes, chat and eat. In my experience, runners have dispersed quickly so I'm not sure what it was that kept them around so long and had them so excited. Maybe it's the bigger market? Regardless, it was cool to see and be a part of.

Friday, October 29, 2010

McAlpine and Finding Pezz

Time: 63:08
Distance: ~8.5 miles

I ran with Meagan from the Boyce parking lot at McAlpine. We ran into Pezz about 10 minutes into the run and continued along together. The three of us were content to run relaxed chatting about training, races and upcoming travel. Meagan and I finished up quickly so we could get ready for our trip to Atlanta. I've been chosen as the designated driver since we are taking my vehicle and she can't drive a stick.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(Un)Common Market Run

Time: 62:04
Distance: ~8 miles

After cooling down with Meagan from her workout and dropping her off back home, I drove over to Common Market for the Meetup Group run. I was interested in the running comradery and post-run pints, while she wanted to nerd out at a book club meeting.

I joined up with Tyler and Jay a little early so we could run the loop once prior to running it with the big group. Somehow the three of us managed to miss a turn and we ended up across The Plaza. We still managed to get back in time to see all the Halloween costumes. Nobody told us about the costume party so we stood off to the side and looked at the wallflowers (not that any of us would have worn a costume).

We came as the A-Team. Photo courtesy (stolen) from Kati Robertson.

The group set off shortly after 6:30 pm and I ran in the middle of the pack. I ran up on Batman (Allen Strickland) a few minutes into the run and we steadily picked people off. By the time we finished the pace was quite honest and I was ready to call it a day. I believe Bruce Wayne had a few of those miles clocked at just over 7:00 (BQ pace) too. Back at Common Market, Kati, Tyler and I each purchased a drink of our choice and imbibed while chatting about religion and politics. We really did. Prior to leaving Kati snapped a pic of me feeding her Yoda backpack which was part of her Jedi costume. If you think Yoda talks funny in the movies, you should hear him after a couple pints. I couldn't understand a damn thing.

Where do you think Yoda got all his wisdom?

Meagan's Workout

Time: 66:14
Distance: ~9 miles

W/u: 17:30 for ~2 miles
W/o: 6 x (600m @ 8k, 100m jog, 300m @5k, 200m jog)
C/d: 19:22 for ~2 miles

Meagan and I drove over to the AG track and found a parking spot just as school was getting out. We thought there might be a football game, but luckily the team was boarding the bus and leaving instead of coming. We did a casual warm up around Myers Park HS and came back focused to run hard. This would be Meagan's first real workout in a few months and I was using her most recent 8k as the fitness gauge to come up with her effort.

I thought up this workout the other morning on a run and can explain a bit more. Meagan's next big race is USATF Club XC in December out at McAlpine and the course is more like a track than a true cross-country course. The ladies have to run the hill twice during their 6k distance and just by the nature of cross-country the pace is usually never the same like in a marathon. The purpose of this workout was to mix in a tempo based effort (600m), with a shorter/faster burst (300m) all run with short rest. My hope was for the workout to simulate the change in pace and effort going up and coming down the hill.

2:10.53 (28.87), 59.01 (63.49),
2:14.69 (31.25), 60.26 (65.80),
2:14.94 (34.00), 61.31 (68.81),
2:13.25 (35.75), 60.76 (70.19),
2:14.19 (34.36), 60.33 (70.67),
2:12.33 (34.36), 58.26 (64.88) for 29:22 total and 7200 meters.

I played pacemaker this evening and tried to keep Meagan on my shoulder. I could tell the 600s were fairly easy, but the pace change off short rest was more difficult than I imagined. She still hit the splits and finished well. We could probably come back to this workout sometime in late November to see how she's improving.

Morning Shakeout

Time: 27:59
Distance: ~3.5 miles

I ran with Meagan this morning around Myers Park. It was an easy loop to shake out the legs in preparation for her first workout back in about a month. It felt nice to run easy and not be concerned about the pace knowing the real work was to be done later in the day.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tyler's Night Workout

Time: 60:32
Distance: ~8 miles

W/u: 18:40 for ~2 miles
Target: Help Tyler with his 8 x 400m workout
W/o: 8 x 400m w/ Tyler, 200m fast, 200m recovery
C/d: 19:26 for ~2 miles

Mr. Wichmann hit me up this morning wondering if I wanted to run a workout on the track. We planned to jog over to the AG and cut some shapes in the dark. It was good seeing other people out there as well and while the track was dark, it wasn't impossible to see or judge pace. He was going to run 8 x 400m in about 90 seconds or faster with about equal rest. I decided that to get a better workout, his rest would be my second lap of split 200s where I would run hard/easy.

86.48, 32.12, (54.99),
86.00, 32.07, (51.94),
85.50, 32.88, (51.36),
85.81, 31.95, (50.62),
85.43, 32.65, (51.61),
83.69, 32.62, (50.06),
85.45, 31.74, (48.62),
81.56, 31.27, (50.36) for 22:26 total and 4 miles

I think both Tyler and I would agree the workout went well. The 400s were kept nice and even for him to pace off of me and then I followed with a hard 200m. Nothing too crazy fast, but just a long stride with a brisk recovery to pickup Tyler again. It was good having the responsibility of keeping the second lap (Tyler's rest) quick because had I slipped up, it would have effectively ruined his effort. I had to remain on point as ultimately this was his workout. We had a nice easy cool down back to the house and called it a night.

More Recovery

Time: 61:24
Distance: ~8.75 miles

Meagan and I ran together again this morning through Freedom Park only this time we parted ways along Queens Road when we got to Princeton. She ran home and I continued with a larger loop to add on more miles. I trying to keep the miles high for the next several weeks and 5 mile runs early in the week aren't going to help my cause.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dark Solo Loop

Time: 60:49
Distance: ~8.6 miles

I was on my own this evening for another loop into and around Freedom Park. I didn't get out the door until after 6:00 pm so it was well on it's way to being dark. I have a hard time judging pace and effort when it's hard to see so the pace was a little slower than normal. That and the fact my legs are simply sluggish from all the miles over the past 10 days.

Humid Fall Tuesday

Time: 63:40
Distance: ~8.6 miles

Meagan and I hit up the Medium Freedom Park Loop this morning. She is still feeling a bit sluggish from her race in Dallas on Sunday. I felt good to clip along next to her and not worry about the pace. The weather continues to be un-fall like and quite humid for late October. Good thing I haven't put away all my summer clothes yet.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Recovery Monday

Time: 53:03
Distance: ~7 miles

Caitlin came over to meet Meagan and I for a run from our side of town. We ran along the bike path to Freedom Park and then did Meagan's new loop that hits the gravel trail near Myers Park HS. I was looking to go for an hour and nearly hit that mark with a second run to put me close to two hours of running on the day.

McAlpine Monday

Time: 59:24
Distance: ~8 miles

I ran out at McAlpine this morning from the Boyce parking lot with Meagan and Tanya. After yesterday's long run I was in need of a good recovery run. I never felt great, but was content to jog along with the girls. Near the end I started to get more relaxed with the activity. The cool weather has disappeared as it was humid and overcast out on the crushed gravel. So much for it being fall.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week in Review

Time: 800:21
Distance: 118.54 miles

This is by far the most miles I've run since the winter of my senior year at Brown. When I returned to California over winter break that year I was committed to putting in the miles. I strung together 8 weeks of triple digits and probably topped out near 120 miles. I've run 100+ miles a week at various other times since then, but never with any true consistency. Sometimes it has been a week or two here or a month there of big miles, but my goal now is to keep the mileage high.

I have to consider how my body feels after jumping the miles so much in a week and I'm glad to report that it feels good. The leg muscles are a little sore due to all the pounding, but nothing that I'm concerned about. I don't feel any extreme aches, tightness or pain. I definitely need to use the foam roller and stick a bit more now to keep things this way.

What else happened this week? I raced with great mediocrity twice on Saturday, #1 ranked OU lost to #11 Mizzou, the 49ers gave the Panthers their first win and the Giants clinched the pennant. The Giants clinched the pennant! It's going to be a Giants vs. Rangers World Series which means it's Nor Cal vs. the Republic of Texas which means it's Kinley vs. Nedlo all over again. It also means that Columbia alum and Izumo Ekiden teammate, Steve Sundell, has to run 1000k in the month of November. We made a little bet when the Phillies and Giants were tied at one game a piece. Looks like he better get a new pair of shoes in preparation for his big month of running.

Long Run Misunderestimation

Time: 146:24
Distance: 23.59 miles
Pace: 6:12

I had dreams of getting up around 5:30 am, driving over to my storage unit to pick up a water cooler with Nuun and then meeting up with everyone for 20 miles over at the Dowd YMCA. However, those were just dreams and I rolled over and went back to sleep. Hard. I slept until around 9:00 am and even when I got up I had little interest in jumping out the door. I messed around on the intertubes, sent some emails, made some phone calls and then contemplated my run. I had the urge to run 20 miles, but didn't want to do it all on the roads. I figured that I could run to the Old Bell entrance at McAlpine, run a loop of the Footlocker course and then run home. It would definitely be around 20 miles and the middle 7 would be on the crushed gravel. That's where I misunderestimated the route.

In my mind it was at most 7 miles from my house to Old Bell, but it turns out that it was just over 8 miles to the parking lot. James Haycraft gave me some "words of encouragement" as I barreled past him. During this run I also wanted to do some 400m pickups followed by 1200m of easy running for the time I was on dirt. I started my other watch when I hit the wood post and ran easy to the .25 mark before picking up the pace. I hit splits of:

1:33 (easy), 1:21 (pickup), 4:40 (easy), 1:20, 4:34, 1:19, 4:33, 1:19, 4:38, 1:15, 4:40, 1:17, 4:38, 1:18, 3:06 (800m) for 41:37 and ~7 miles at McAlpine.

I was starting to feel a little fatigued by the time I left the park. The remaining portion home was mostly uphill and the temps were starting to get to me. I had stopped at Providence Day School on my way out and planned to do the same on the way back. The water fountain near the tennis courts allowed me to slurp in some necessary fluids to keep me rolling. Up until this point I didn't know how fast or how hard I had been running. As I've mentioned before my Garmin's strap is broken so I was carrying the watch face in an enclosed wrist pocket. I took my first glance at the watch while I was at PDS and saw that I was 17+ miles at an average of 6:17. This is where the realization hit that the run was going to be long. Very long.

I still felt strong and continued on my way home. The remaining 6 miles had long gradual stretches of uphill or downhill. I cruised along back to the house and called it a day. The legs took a bit of a beating, but they still felt strong on the final hill less than a half mile from my door. It should be noted that I was running in my Karhu Racers which allowed me to run a little faster than normal as they are lighter and more flexible. For whatever reason, I've started training in them a bit more this weeks on runs other than workouts.

Overall Splits:
7:46, 6:59, 6:49, 6:22, 6:27, 6:23, 6:13, 6:12,
5:59 (started pickups near here), 5:58, 5:56, 6:04, 5:45, 5:43, 5:51,
6:26 (hill on Sardis Rd), 6:11, 6:08, 5:47, 6:04, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00, 3:23 for .59 miles (5:46 pace)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mediocre Day of Racing

Time: 76:32
Distance: ~11.75 miles

W/u: 18:40 for ~2 miles
Big South 5k: 15:33 for 3rd

W/u: 6:19 for ~1 mile
Matthews Rotary Club Fall 5k
: 16:20 for 2nd
C/d: 19:45 for ~2.5 miles

I should have stayed in bed this morning, but I felt like being a tough guy out on the roads. I was out the door around 6:15 am and heading down to Blakeney Shopping Center where the Big South 5k was being held. The race was putting up airline vouchers to the first person across the line and I thought I had a shot at capturing that prize. I should have know better though as I had already logged over 80 miles in 5 days.

It was incredibly cold when I first got to the shopping center and I was hesitant to register. I imagined that Matt Elliott would be in attendance and I didn't think my chances would be good given the miles on the legs. I didn't spot him until my warm up, but decided to sign up anyway. I jogged around the neighborhoods with Kent prior to putting on my singlet and racing flats.

The race started suddenly just as I was congratulated Justin Breland on getting married. I'm not sure why Queen City Timing or Run For Your Life couldn't spend the $100 for a decent starting gun. The whole 3-2-1 countdown is getting old. I settled in behind Matt but never felt comfortable. I ran close to the front as we were joined by Ricky Flynn before we hit the mile in 5:05. I was already starting to fade and ran solo the rest of the way hitting two miles in about 10:13. Ricky and Matt were up front and would duel it out to the end as I brought things home in third. I believe the course was a little short because there is little way for my final 1.1 to be 5:29 based on my early splits.

I pulled a Steven Spada and jumped in the car less than 10 minutes after the race. I quickly made it over to Matthews where the Rotary 5k was putting up some money for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I think B-Mac was a little upset when he saw that John Compton and I were in attendance. There were no mile markers on the course so I don't know splits, but I stayed close to Compton for about two miles. I basically made it to the top of a long gradual hill before my legs called it quits. John danced away from me the final mile to take the win. I crossed the line several tics beyond 16 minutes on a course that I would say was long.

After the race I picked up a spoon, bowl and ticket which I got free with my race registration. The Rotary Club of Matthews was having a Bluegrass and Chili Festival. There were probably 15 different groups each featuring their own take on chili. Some were spicy, one tasted like bbq sauce, another was made with venison, and the best was made with Angus beef. It was filling way to end the day of running, by 11:30 I was stuffed with meat and beans and in need of a nap.

Some things to take home from today's mediocre day of racing:
Don't race two 5ks on the same day when you've run more than 80 miles in the week already
A short course + a long course = 10k
Angus beef makes chili better
Find a 3rd 5k next time if you want to win
Staying out with Chris Lamperski the night before a race is a bad idea
Larry Seavers is a good pitchman as he talked me into racing last night

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Evening Loop

Time: 97:15
Distance: 14+ miles

I made pancakes instead of going on a run this morning. Good decision? I think so. In the late afternoon I got out the door for some miles through Freedom Park and added on three consecutive Booty Loops. The cyclists were out and I got to see some multiple times each lap. The body is a little tired but I ran strong. I wasn't wearing Mr. Garmin because he's still broken which makes it difficult to bring him along. I believe I was clicking off splits around 6:30 or faster for the last hour. The roughly 5k loops allowed me to zone out and concentrate on form and breathing comfortably. The quads were a little sore on the uphills as expected.

A few hours after getting home from the run I went over to Rebecca Thomason's house for Chris Lamperski's going away bash. It was a fun evening with half in attendance wearing costumes. Things took a turn for the better once the "beer buddy" came out and the drinking contest began. I won't name names, but there were several performances under 5 seconds. I'm talking out of bottles too which made it even more impressive. And, add to it that the beer was the good stuff like Sierra Nevada, Blue Moon and American Ale. I avoided the contest at all costs, but fully enjoyed watching. Even better was watching the Rangers slay the Yankees. Now it's the Giants turn to eliminate the Phillies.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hawthorne Track & Common Market Run

Time: 84:29
Distance: ~12 miles

W/u: 14:46 for ~2 miles
W/o: 4 sets of: 1k, (200m jog), 400m, (400m jog)
C/d: 39:34 for ~5 miles

Chris Lamperski and I met up over at the Common Market off Central Ave. as we wanted to fit in a workout prior to the Charlotte Meet Up Group run at 6:30 pm. Our plan was to jog over to Hawthorne HS and do something a little faster and then have a long cool down with the bulk of the running group. I thought up a basic workout that mixed a little bit of strength with speed and figured Chris and I could work together by sharing the lead.

When we showed up to the track at Hawthorne HS there was a pretty fit looking guy doing some faster laps. He told us that the track seemed to be accurate despite the grass growing in lane one, substantial cracks across the track and awkward shape to the oval. The track has really long straights and tight turns that would make the 400s a little tough.

3:10.08 (60), 70.31 (2:12),
3:06.44 (63), 71.56 (2:17),
3:08.70 (62), 69.82 (2:14),
3:06.62 (65), 63.06 (2:07) for 30:09 total and 8,000 meters.

We used the first interval to get the pace down as we were shooting to hit 5:00 pace on the thousands. We ran evenly throughout and worked together well. On the third set, I asked Chris to lead out the first 500m and then stay close for the second half. He was hurting a bit after his chowdown/throwdown at The Burger Co. with Billy Shue, but he ran tough. The pace was relaxed and my legs felt fine at both speeds. I was ready to open things up by the time the final 400m came around. However, the tight turns made the 63 feel like a 60. I should also make note that we ran in lane two as to avoid the grass in lane one, but this also made each lap about 10 meters long.

We finished up with just enough time to jog back over to Common Market and meet up with a large group of other runners. Everyone headed out for the loop which is four miles long. I was surprised that some guys up front really pushed the pace and others were kicking to the finish. That's such a different way to train than I'm used to. I ran with Erik and Tyler and we gradually worked our way up to the top third of the group. My cool down was a bit faster than I would have liked, but having all the people out was great.

After the run a bunch of the runners stuck around and drank pints in Common Market. It was the typical CM crowd with piercings, skinny jeans, tattoos and sweet haircuts mixing it up with short shorts and moisture wicking clothing. Fun run, good group.

Long Shakeout Run

Time: 38:34
Distance: ~5.4 miles

The miles might be catching up with me a bit as I felt sluggish for the first 20 minutes of this run. However, I was intentionally taking it really easy as I'm working out with Chris Lamperski this evening. I let the body gradually warm up and was feeling strong coming up the final hill. I haven't decided on a workout just yet, but having company on the track will be nice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Charlotte Running Co. Group Run

Time: 57:40
Distance: ~8 miles


I just looked at the time totals for this run and completely forgot that I actually ran with the Charlotte Meet Up Group at the Charlotte Running Co. There was a group of about 20 that went out for various distances. I ran an hour with Alex Wernikoff and Kevin Phillips through the Dilworth neighborhood. When I showed up I figured people would be running 7:45-8:15 pace but soon we were running at a much faster clip. We probably knocked out a few miles in under 7:00 minutes by the time we were done. The streets were dark when we finished and I'll have to come out to this run more often now.

Freedom Park Miles

Time: 56:40
Distance: ~8.6 miles

Guess which run I did this morning? Yup. I went back out for about an hour through Freedom Park and around the Booty Loop. No thinking involved. I ran it a little harder this morning as I waited until around 11:00 am. I was on the phone and computer all morning and then jumped outside for the run. I felt relaxed and smooth after about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tues. Evening

Time: 59:25
Distance: ~8.6 miles

I did the same run this evening as this morning because it's uncomplicated. I didn't get back from Greenville, SC until around 6:00 pm and then jumped on the computer for an hour. It was dark by the time I got out the door which made running around parts of the Booty Loop a little questionable. My pace this evening felt faster, yet I ran 22 seconds slower. It's hard to judge pace when it's dark and the footing is bad. Meagan has gone to Dallas for work so I'll probably be running solo a number of times this week.

Tues. Morning

Time: 59:03
Distance: ~8.6 miles

I ran solo this morning on my customary loop through Freedom Park and around the Booty Loop. I felt pretty good out there with few complaints. The weather is great and the body is holding up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scary Movies

Time: 36:29
Distance: ~5 miles

Meagan, Caitlin and I went out for some easy miles this evening. I had run close to 90 minutes this morning so I was content to call it a day when Caitlin wanted to head home just after 35 minutes. The rest of the night was spent eating soup, cupcakes and watching the original Pet Semetary. It was my first time seeing the film and probably the last. I'm not a scary movie fan because they are usually too corny to be taken seriously. This movie was no different which is why I fell asleep about 70 minutes into it.

I will say that Pet Semetary was a better choice than the Blair Witch Project which Meagan also rented from Blockbuster. I saw BWP in the theaters when I was in high school while I was at a cross country camp at Lake Tahoe. The team was camping in the woods at the time and decided to see the summer's biggest film. I wasn't impressed then and I wouldn't be impressed now.

Other films would be Poltergeist which was okay but I think I fell asleep in the sixth grade the first time I watched it. Silence of the Lambs is probably my favorite suspense/thriller movie. I'd pick Bad Boys II any day over Scream, The Exorcist, or I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Longer Monday Morning

Time: 88:00
Distance: ~13 miles

Last night Simon and I planned to meet up for a few miles in the morning. We agreed to going 8 miles at 8:00 am. However, I was going to run to and from the run which would add around 4 miles to my total mileage. As a result, it was more like 88 minutes at 8:00 am for me.

We met up at Ovens on Queens campus and then ran around Myers Park, Freedom Park, the Booty Loop and elsewhere. It was good chatting and Simon got tell me about his summer, training, business and classes. I was feeling pretty good on the run this morning as well despite the 100 minutes of running yesterday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week in Review

Time: 603:19
Distance: 86.11 miles

This week started in Japan with the Izumo Ekiden, took a trip to Tokyo and ended back in Charlotte. I raced twice covering a total of 21.2k in 67:49 which is the most racing I've done since the Tobacco Road Marathon in March. I'm glad I was able to fit in 80 plus miles this week despite the travel halfway around the world. The body is still getting used to the east coast time zone. It's also starting to get dark much earlier in the evening and stays dark later in the morning. I'm not 100 percent behind the time switch either as that just means it will be dark by 6:00 pm. I guess it's time to bust out a headlamp.

German Long Run

Time: 100:30
Distance: 14.61 miles
Pace: 6:52

I ran out at McAlpine this morning and linked up with the Queens team. Simon and I ran the entire run together and we were joined by John Compton about a mile in. It was a good effort with us just making continuous loops of the Footlocker Course. Pretty boring, but there was little thinking involved. The pace got a little faster each mile and was respectable by the time the run was over. The splits are over the place and it might be because I haven't used Mr. Garmin in nearly a month. Maybe the satellites have rejected him.

7:21, 6:58, 6:57, 7:23 (hill), 6:43, 7:26, 7:21, 6:39, 7:39, 7:07, 6:34, 6:46, 6:05, 5:52

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meagan's Return

Time: 40:22
Distance: ~5.5 miles

This afternoon I took a huge nap in front of the television. I'm not sure how long I was out, but I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to function. Meagan's flight landed about an hour after I got up and we were reunited for the first time in over a week. She spent a few days down in Ft. Lauderdale getting an account ready for a race. I asked if she wanted to put in some easy miles this evening and she agreed if we ran her new loop.

The loop took us toward Freedom Park but we turned once we hit Princeton. It ran by the ginormous house on the corner that looks a bit like a castle minus the moat. There was a big party going on that somehow we didn't get invited to. The invitation must have been lost in the mail or something. We continued up Queens Rd. and on to the new trail near Myers Park High School. When we got to the Taco Bell, I did a few strides while a homeless man mumbled at me. The rest of the evening was spent hanging out and recapping our trips.

LungStrong 15k Recap

Time: 93:09
Distance: ~14.5 miles

W/u: 22:26 for ~2.5 miles
Race: 48:49 for 15k
C/d: 21:54 for ~2.5 miles

I wouldn't have believed running sub-49 minutes would have gotten me rolled by over a minute, but Ryan Bender took it to me for the second time at a distance over 10k. I do think I was working under a bit of a handicap having just returned from Japan, but to see Bender press the last 5k was impressive.

Last night I didn't sleep much having gone to bed around 11:30 pm not feeling tired and waking up at 2:15 am even more alert. I couldn't fall back into a slumber so I got up and satiated my hunger. I was starving and put down crackers, cheese, my leftover pasta, trail mix and some water. I still couldn't sleep so I pulled out my mini laptop and watched the 2010 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20km Qualifying Road Race. During the video race coverage I followed Brett Larner's twitter feed that explained what was going on in English. To put things in perspective of how I was to race later in the day, the leaders went through 15k of their race in 43:30 and the chase pack was just over 45 minutes. The guys who split just under 49 minutes would go on to place 250th or above. Yikes! I realized what I was watching was a group of legit athletes running desperately to qualify their university for the biggest race in Japan. It was great fun, I just wish it wasn't at 3:30 am.

I tried to catch some sleep after the race, but still wasn't able to do so. I headed up to Cornelius around 6:00 am and got myself situated for the Lungstrong 15k. I felt a little sluggish on the warm up and was starting to get a little sleepy. I combated this with a bit of coffee and geared up to run hard. My goal was to run between 5:10s and 5:15s as comfortably as possible. If I felt good once finish, I considered doing a second loop as a long tempo.

When we were lining up for the race I noticed Bender was in the field and figured he was fit. I've only raced him twice in the past and he seems to only show up when he's ready to hit it hard. Hit it hard we did as our opening mile was sub-5. I was content to let him control the pace and in the second mile he managed to gap me by a few strides. I maintained my race target splits for the first three miles and let Bender do his own thing up ahead hoping he would come back around 10k.

I kept clicking off respectable splits through 6 miles, but Ryan was still hammering away 50-70 meters ahead. The gap never closed and he never tired. By 7 miles I was starting to slow and my 8th mile was terrible. Aerobically I felt very comfortable, but the legs just didn't have the strength in them. On the rolling hills I struggled to climb with any sort of efficiency.

4:58, 5:08, 5:08, 5:13, 5:16, 5:16 (31:00 at 6 miles), 5:20, 5:31, 5:20, 1:44 for 48:56 according to my watch. ~5:15 average

Post race I was not in a place to run the course again as a tempo. My stomach was feeling the 3:00 am snack and I was lucky to shuffle a few miles with Compton who closed really well the final 5k. Rocky Falcone and Paul Mainwaring also had good days on the course that everyone seem to measure a little long.

The Grand Prix Series has come to a close which is a bit of a relief. It's difficult to race 10 times consistently and still fit in workouts, other races and work. The series is great, but I'll have to reevaluate it's benefits next year before signing on. I am both happy and surprised that I was able to race all 10. I would have put money down in March that I would have missed at least one to travel, injury or illness. Further, the longer race today gives me the motivation to really put in the miles this fall. My body feels healthy and I'm ready to start logging bigger mileage in preparation for racing 10k and above. Seeing and hearing how the Japanese train has me almost convinced that it's necessary to run above 170k per week.

After the race I drove to Birkdale Village where I was able to visit Fleet Feet Huntersville and have lunch at Red Rocks Cafe. I was starting to feel really tired by the time lunch came so my social mood was not the best. It was a good group of Charlotte Running Club members in attendance including Allen Strickland, Scott Helms, Compton, Jay Holder, Paul, and more.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Evening Miles

Time: 36:47
Distance: ~5.3 miles

This evening I went back out for some more miles. I wore some of the new voodoo devices that I bought while in Japan to help with bloodflow and body alignment. I also tried to take a brief nap this afternoon and wasn't very successful. My body is going to revolt at some point and I hope it's not at 7:45 tomorrow morning.

Back to the Routine

Time: 57:37
Distance: ~8.6 miles

I got up this morning and did some early morning emails before heading out for a Medium Loop. I felt decent despite the travel and not getting much sleep. The pace was gentle and gradually picked up over the course of the run. I had a vision of what my form wanted to look like and kept that image in my head throughout. The LungStrong 15k is tomorrow and I'll be toeing the line so the focus is on staying loose for that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Double Thurdays

Time: 60:10
Distance: ~8.6 miles

Today started in Tokyo and ended with a run in Charlotte. There was no sight seeing today as our bus left for the airport around 11:00 am. I had to get breakfast, Skype and pack up all my dirty clothes. Traveling for a race is always fun but figuring out what to do with gross clothes, gifts and not combining the two isn't. We got to the airport with tons of time to blow our remaining yen in the gift malls. I purchased a few items for my boys in Let Me Run who will probably not enjoy any of them. I got sardines, a bean curd dessert and another traditional Japanese snack.

The flight back to the states was uneventful. I asked for an exit row and slept most of the way which made for a boring time. I wanted to do a bit of reading and perhaps watch some movies, but that didn't happen. When we arrived in Chicago the customs lines were longer than usual. I had a two hour layover, but it turned out that I only had about 30 minutes to get to my gate. I arrived just as the plane was boarding and I situated myself for the final flight back to the Queen City.

I picked up my bags, found the car and key that Meagan left in long term parking a day earlier and drove home. When I got home I unpacked some of my clothes for the wash and opted to get in a run. I only wanted 5 miles, but I was feeling good and turned it into an hour long jaunt. I got home and had trouble sleeping so I messed around reading blogs and explored the intertubes before ending my second Thursday of the week.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tokyo Tour By Foot

Time: 81:56
Distance: ~10.5 miles

This day was jammed packed with activity and fun. A small portion of the team ate breakfast buffet style at one of the three eating locations in the hotel. I won't bore you with the details today, but after we all returned to our miniature hotel rooms to sort out our day. We've been staying in business hotels where there is not a whole lot to the individual rooms. However we were only able to relax for a few minutes until we were being beckoned downstairs to the lobby. We then walked over to the Shinjuku train station to start our day of sight seeing. Apparently over 10 million people pass through this station every day too. The Tokyo station map also makes the New York City subway system look like the Charlotte rail system.

Everyone thought that we were heading for the Imperial Palace but we later learned that we weren't. Remember with Yoshi leading the way you never really know or understand where the team is heading. We jumped on one train only to soon realize it was going in the wrong direction. We got off and ultimately navigated our way to the destination of Asakusa which is a Buddhist temple and pagoda. At the time we didn't really know where we were and had to figure it out on our own since it definitely wasn't the Imperial Palace. There was a long row of tourist trap shops that led right up to the grounds of the temple.

Entrance to the grounds.

Sight after the tourist shops and approaching the pagoda.

Don't mess with this guy!

Golden spire.

Buddha and Mr. Ben Stern.

Large koi fish willing to eat anything, not that we tried to feed them.

The new Tokyo tower in construction.

We had our fill of of Buddha after a couple of hours and everyone wanted to get back to the hotel in order to meet Brett Larner of Japan Running News. He runs an absolutely fantastic blog about the Japanese running scene which is relatively unknown in the US. He also manages a couple athletes, does translation for Adidas Japan, plays a traditional Japanese instrument, coaches a group of amateur athletes and I'm sure much more. I have followed his blog for a couple of years now and when the opportunity presented itself to meet up I wanted to make it happen.

Zac Hine navigated subway system beautifully and we were back at the hotel around 12:20 pm. The plan was to meet Brett and go on a running tour of the Imperial Palace. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon by killing two birds with one stone. Everyone was suited up in their running costumes for the jog over to the Palace. Perhaps the best part of the run was picking Brett's brain about Japanese training methods, the university system, the professional corporate teams, the Japanese running market and the running boom that is currently taking place.

Japanese Training Methods: We were told top runners in Japan run 1000 kilometers a month. Do the math. That's 620 miles a month. Do the math. That's 155 miles a week. The Japanese also often train in Tokyo where most of the surface is concrete. We were also shown where I believe it was Toshihiko Seko ran 80 laps of a 1300 meter loop in the middle of the city on a relatively regular basis. That's 100k right there! Seko is also know for his quote, "The marathon is my only girlfriend, I give her everything I have."

The University System: The Japanese collegiate system is much different than the NCAA in terms of the fall racing season. Essentially there are three big ekiden races which are the Izumo Ekiden (the one we just ran), the National University Ekiden and the Hakone Ekiden. They each get progressively longer in distance and prestige. For example, the Hakone Ekiden is held over two days, averages about 20k per leg, and requires 10 runners from each school. There are some legendary stages that Japanese runners take enormous pride in. In fact, most Japanese runners who are good enough to go run for a professional corporate team after high school, opt to go to college just to run in this race. One element of the race that I really like is that there are time limits and penalties to teams that fall too far behind. For instance, when the 5th leg on day one gets the team sash a clock is started and the remaining schools have a set amount of time to hand off. If they don't do so within that time frame, the runner is released wearing a white sash (aka white sash of shame). Brett said that every year there is a runner within 50 meters of being able to hand off the team sash and isn't able to do so. As a result, the team sash isn't able to continue on and the runner is left in tears for his shortcomings. I should also mention that 50 million people watch the Hakone Ekiden and the streets are lined with alumni, bands and entire towns. There really is nothing in the US that compares to this race. Think maybe the World Series Game 7 and NBA Finals Game 7. Combined.

Professional Corporate Teams: I didn't learn too much about the corporate teams, but every big company in Japan operates a professional team. Athletes are paid well to race and win for their company. Recently Arata Fujiwara, an athlete that Brett manages, decided to part ways with his corporate team in order to pursue the international marathon scene. This year Fujiwara won the Ottawa Marathon in 2:09:33 and will toe the line at the NYC Marathon in November. There is a funny story about him buying a computer if he did well. He ended up with much more than that due to his race winnings (ask me about it). His quote post-race is great too when he told the Ottawa Citizen, "When I drove the course earlier, I saw cafes and pubs and thought it would be nice to go in. Now that I've won, I'll have a few drinks." I'm not positive if the athlete runs for a corporate teams, but the guy who placed fourth in the World Junior XC this year lived a few blocks from the hotel in Tokyo where we stayed.

Japanese Running Market and Boom: Everyone in the states knows Asics and Mizuno. But what people don't know is that marathoning is getting much bigger in Japan for amateur runners like you or me. Races within an hour of Tokyo fill up almost immediately. Brett shared that the new Tokyo Marathon has close to 40,000 participants and that gaining entry is very difficult. More and more citizens are catching the running buzz similar to what took place in the US during the 80s. Also, the Japanese are big time consumers of fashion, technology and new products. We visited a running store and got to see some cool shoes that aren't in the US market.

Brett directed the run and brought us to the loop surrounding the Imperial Palace. It's a 5k loop that surrounds a moat which is the most popular running locale in Tokyo. The team did one loop asking questions about the royal family that is basically kept prisoner inside the palace. We were told that one of the princes is a recreational jogger and once he was allowed to run a loop outside the residence at 4:00 am. Individuals in the media still recognized him and snapped a couple photos.

The run was an out and back loop and we returned past the 1964 Olympic Stadium and got to see the Marathon Gate where Abebe Bikila entered to victory. I'm sure that I'm forgetting some of the other highlights of the run, but I did my best. On the way back we dropped in B&D Sports which is a run specialty store like Charlotte Running Co., Run For Your Life, Fleet Feet. They had tons of shoes, all the new apparel, nutrition, running on the tv and more.

Even in Tokyo I wanted to go visit a running store.

The Izumo Ekiden was on loop in the running store to Frank's chagrin. Our lead off man was really the only one who got air time. That little guy in front is Cosmas Ondiba.

Once back at the hotel I cleaned up and met Brett back downstairs for some more exploring. He, Steve, Sam and I went out to purchase some items at the running store, walk around and grab a couple pints at a small locally owned chain restaurant. I didn't catch the name of the joint, but Brett explained that the owner is a big time amateur runner and he started his own corporate team for "B level" athletes. Think of it as your Brooks-Hansons team for Japanese runners. While seated the waiter came up really apologetic and nervous to tell us that there was a two hour time limit for sitting in the booth.

The next stop was needing to get back to the hotel for dinner in one of the hotel restaurants. I invited Brett to stay since two of our team members were absent and there would be plenty of food and drink for all. Yoshi splurged on us and ordered a bunch of sashimi, tempura, rice dishes and pitchers of beer. The tuna at the dinner had to have been the most tender I've ever enjoyed. It literally melted/dissolved in your mouth. Johnny Photogs, Brett and I had a good conversation down at one end of the table that sort of wrapped up the whole international marathoning scene.

After dinner is when things got really out of hand. I will only post the photo below to document the tamest part of the evening when we were asking Brett where the real trouble could be found. We shotgunned Asahi, I had a versus battle with Frank and other guys got iced. We took the subway to the Roppongi district and tried to avoid the Nigerians where only lead you to shady strip joints. The club that we were looking for had closed down, but we asked a couple Irish guys and they told us where to go. When we got to the bar DJ Ibuki was scratching away on the 1s and 2s. He was surprisingly good and a whole rotation of djs followed his performance. The night ended when the old guys of the team (me, Ben and Steve) cabbed it back to the hotel only to find another Japanese guy completely passed out on the tile outside on of the hotel entrances. Nobody was around, just a guy flat on his face similar to the scene last night.

The team and Yoshi listening to Brett on where to go in the Roppongi district of Japan.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Going Back to Tokyo

Time: 48:51
Distance: ~7 miles

This morning I had a traditional Japanese breakfast instead of the Western option. The meal included fish, rice, fruit, egg plant, egg, salad, sticky beans and some other unidentifiable items. It was my first time having sticky beans which are bland to bitter in taste, full of protein and incredibly sticky. I think they are coated in some sort of enzyme that makes them difficult to eat with chopsticks and funny to watch. After grabbing food I went upstairs to pack up stuff for the trip back to Tokyo. I had to figure out what to do with all my sweaty, smelly clothes from the race as I didn't have time to wash anything in the sink. I packed rather quickly and had just enough time to grab a run back along the bike path. It was nice and easy for 25 minutes out and just over 23 on the return taking a little longer route on the way back in.

I only needed a few minutes to get ready to be back down in the lobby for a trip from the New WelCity Hotel in Izumo to the local airport. Security at the Izumo Airport was very different than what we have here in the US. The team carried several water bottles through, didn't take off our shoes and probably could have boarded without a ticket. It all seemed very safe and after a short flight to Haneda we were back in the Tokyo prefecture. We hopped a bus to our hotel and arrived around 3:00 pm which gave us plenty of time to get in trouble.

View from my hotel room. The start of the new Tokyo marathon is between the two walking bridges.

The group headed out for an adventure early in the evening with Yoshi at the helm. We never really can tell where we are being taken when he starts off. The team typically gets lost at least once on the journey, but we eventually get there. This time we traveled to a district of Tokyo where we could shop and take in the night. The crosswalks were always jam packed with people getting off work and heading home. We wandered through Takashita Street which contained hundreds of little tourist shops that none of us really took advantage of. Two stores that we were interested in seeing were Nike Town and an Asics store. The Nike Town was selling shoes and racing flats that none of us had ever seen. Across the street at the Asics store the mood was much less fashion focused and dull in comparison.

Who would have thought that finding a bathroom on Takashita Street would be so hard.

We started to tire and get hungry which shifted the focus to food. We found one of those restaurants with a grill in the middle of the table where you can cook your own meat and vegetables. The booth of Ben, Steve, Sam and I definitely won out with our selection as Yoshi kept ordering bizarre meats like tongue and fatty beef. The good news was the tab was picked up by one of the sponsors which kept some spending money in our pockets. We felt the urge to find a pub and blow some yen in a hurry.

Ben spotted an Irish pub and immediately ordered 10 Guinness. The tab came out to over 10,700 yen which is well over $100 but we felt good about the decision. We wandered around some more and even witnessed a fight. Two guys were stumbling around and started kung fu fighting. In fact, one guy tried a sneak attack that involved a flying hay-maker. In the mayhem a pair of glasses was knocked off someone's face and I took home a souvenir. We also saw a guy completely passed out in the middle of the street surrounded by friends who had coned off the area. They just sat around as he rested with his face in the pavement.

270! Yea! I have no idea what this sign says. Girls? Food? Drink?

We decided to call it a night and realized nobody had any idea which direction the hotel was in. We must have walked for about an hour before finally figuring it out. As we brought the night to a close we were all amazed at how many people were still out dressed in business attire carrying their briefcases. The crosswalks were still busy and this was only a Tuesday night.

The Japanese ride fixies too.

Typical Tokyo crosswalk at 11:30 pm.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Track Race, Post-Race Banquet and Karaoke

The ekiden race ended about 3:30 in the afternoon and is followed by the closing ceremony. All the teams line up in the big dome and awards are presented to the top 3 teams, top runners from each leg and the other 5 teams that comprise the top 8. As usual, the Ivy League Select Team was not featured in the award ceremony. We finished 15th out of 22 teams and were just over 8 minutes behind the winners. Waseda set the course record running 2:10:05 for 44.5 kilometers. It helps when 4 of the 6 legs are won by a runner from the same school.

We left the Izumo dome and traveled back to the stadium where two heats of 5ks were being run. I was able to jog a few more minutes while Bobby and Paul warmed up. They ran in the second heat and crossed the line in just under 15 minutes and 15:10 respectively. The first heat was the top heat, and a battle up front took place as the leaders just dipped under 14:00 flat. We showered up and put on casual clothes before heading off to the winery where the banquet takes place.

The first time I came to Japan the banquet, from what I can remember, was an absolute blast. However, the evening ended early for Ben Stern and I because we were a little too aggressive with the "ikii" (sp?). Last year the party didn't get out of hand enough as some of the guys were in serious training blocks and didn't let loose. This year the plan was to find a happy medium.

We sat in the middle of the room instead at the front this year. There were also more Japanese people around that were divided amongst the team. I'm not fully sure who they were but they all played roles in getting us to Izumo. They also were sure to keep our Asahi cups full and food cooking on the grill. Ben, Johnny Photogs, Frank and Robert (our Irish translator) all sat the same table which was a great group.

There is a stage outside where each team gets up and does some sort of song, dance or combination of the two. The two "best" songs of the night included cheerleaders and some dude who yelled, waved his arms and flexed constantly. It was one of the weirder moments of the trip and none of the guys could figure out what was going on. The second best performance was a Japanese radish dance that involved a huge crew of athletes waving around giant radishes. It made no sense and I'm not sure if it was supposed to. While most schools perform their fight song or vegetable dance, the Ivy League team doesn't have anything special to give that is common for all of us. In the past we all just get on stage and dance around like a bunch of idiots to a song that everyone knows. This year we invited a couple guys from the Waseda squad up with us to sing the national anthem. It without a doubt sounded terrible, but it was less painful than a dance.

The rest of the banquet turned to drinking, trading clothes and not causing an international incident. We walked around with bottles of Asahi and offered its contents to anyone who had an empty cup. The other teams would return the favor and then we would all take pictures together. I hope to post some at a later date but have none at this time. I ended up trading a hat for a Chukyo University shirt while other guys did the same. I think Paul managed to snag a Toyo University jacket which was the biggest win for the evening. The beer ran out earlier than it should have which meant the party was winding down and it was back to the hotel to drop our stuff.

The guys weren't ready to call it a night so we grabbed Robert (Irish translator) and headed off to find the nightlife in town. We hit up No. 1 Bar and Salsa, but both places were deserted. We still had a fun time and Robert showed us his karaoke singing skills. The performance of the night had to be when Bobby sang something by Creed. He made a spot on impression of whatshisturd's voice which made a terrible song hilarious. We called it a night around 12:30 am with everyone saying sayonara to Mike who left early the next morning.

22nd Annual Izumo Ekiden

Time: 84:07
Distance: ~11.5 miles

Shakeout: 9:27 for ~1 mile
W/u: 27:48 for ~3.6 miles
Race: 19:00 for 6.2k (13th fastest overall)
C/d: 9:25 for ~1 mile
C/d II: 18:36 for ~2 miles

**I am posting this but check back later (especially if you use an RSS feed) as I'm going to update the race recap in a bit more detail. We are traveling to Tokyo today and hopefully I will have internet access later this afternoon.

Race day started with a few easy shakeout miles along the bike path with Sam Luff. We saw other teams out doing the same thing. I felt good which is sometimes a bad sign as I tend to run better when I feel terrible on the shakeout and warm up. Back at the hotel I ate a decent breakfast consisting of coffee, toast, eggs, cereal and fruit. It's much more than I normally eat on race day, but I figured I wouldn't get the sash until around 2:00 pm.

Everybody loaded up on the bus around 11:00 am and headed to the Izumo Dome where the race would eventually end. All the guys racing had guides that help us get checked in and on the start line with no troubles. They were along for the ride as well. We dropped off our two alternates (Bobby and Paul), the manager (Ben Stern), Johnny Photogs and Frank Tinney who would be running the lead off leg. The rest of us remained on the bus and we were dropped off one by one at the start of our respective legs.

I hung out in the parking lot of a grocery store for an hour trying to get some rest. I've been getting really tired around noon here because it means that it's close to midnight back home. I was able to doze off just a little bit and stay loose under a tent. The race commenced at 1:05 pm and all of the 4th leg runners huddled around the tv to watch. The pack usually takes it out really hard for the first few kilometers and this year was no different. I missed the opening 1k, but saw the leaders had gone through 2k in under 5:30 which means they were running 2:45/k pace. I had to go warm up at this point, but I later learned that the leaders went through 4k in 11:06 and 5k in under 14:00. Frank didn't have the best leg, in fact it was terrible, but he owned up to it after the race. (Frank finished with a time of 25:52 which was well off the 23:07 run by the first athlete from Waseda University. Our buddy Comas Ondiba, who pushed the pace early, finished 2nd in 23:24).

My warm up consisted of me running really slow along the course. I ran out 15 minutes and came back in around 13. I purposely kept the pace really easy and was feeling good doing so. Last year I had a terrible race on this leg and effectively took us out of the top 10. I wanted to run close to 19:00 and finished in 20:00. This year the goal was to run 19:00 and keep us in the race.

When I got back I found out the Ivy League team was getting worked by nearly every school. Our goal is always a top 10 finish and looking at the race packet we felt that this was a great year to do so. I didn't see any of Michael Maag's leg and the tv coverage cut to the leaders just before Zac got the sash. Turns out that Mike passed 1 runner bringing us to 18th overall, and Zac ran down 3 teams bring us to 15th overall by the time I grabbed the white sash. Mike ran 17:36 for 5.8k (12th fastest) and Zac went 23:55 for 7.9k (11th fastest). The winners of those two legs were Yutaro Fukushi of Nittai who ran 16:45 and Yuki Yagi of Waseda with 23:15.

I was 15 seconds back of Chukyo University when I started my leg. I knew there was a team close behind too. I tried my best to run the guy in front down and I picked a couple of points and counted out the lead. I think the gap closed to around 12 seconds at one section but at the end of the leg we both ran 19:00. I felt the best I had in weeks chasing the runner as my stride was really smooth. It might have been the fact that the wind was at my back, regardless I was pleased with how I finished the stage. I ran 53 seconds before coming to a k mark on the road. My next thousand was covered in about 3 minutes. I knew the halfway mark would be about 10 minutes into the leg and I could calculate the remaining distance from there. I glanced at my watch several times telling myself that the pain was almost over with 5 minutes of running left.

I ended with the 13th fastest time on the leg, but had I run 18:57 I would have been the 10th fastest. It's hard to make up time and push yourself when you're essentially time trialing way back in the field. There were 6 guys who ran between 18:58 and 19:04 so I can take pride in my mediocrity. The winner of my leg was Hiroyuki Sasaki of Waseda in 17:54 which was also a course record. Are you seeing the theme here with Waseda? Of the 6 legs in the ekiden, they would win 4 of them and set an overall course record of 2:10:05 for 44.5 kilometers.

Sam Luff ran the next leg and he didn't lose or gain any places. Sam finished in 19:59 for 6.4k (17th fastest). His leg was won by Wataro Ueno of Komazawa in 18:30. Our anchor was Steve Sundell who has run the final leg two other times. Steve ran respectably but couldn't pass anyone either. This is similar to the first year I came to Japan and we went from 3rd to 12th on the third leg and stayed there the rest of the race. Steve's time was 31:54 for 10.2k (12th overall). His leg was won by Shota Hiraga of Waseda in 30:00. I'll note that last year Daniel Gitau ran a foolish 28:17 for this distance.

I will recap more about the 5k alternate race, post-race banquet and night of karaoke later. I will however offer some insights to Japanese distance runner and marvel at how efficient their strides are. While Kenyans appear really fluid and lanky, the Japanese have no wasted motion in their arms, torsos or legs. All their momentum is going forward which is really something to replicate. Also, they are incredibly light weight. My guess is the average weight on a Japanese team is 120 pounds and it's not because they are all that short. Third would be the choice in footwear and most runners opt to train in flats or a shoe that is really lightweight. The shoes aren't necessarily of the minimalism concept, but they are definitely lighter and less shoe than in the states. The Japanese also really like their Phyten, magnets and other blood flow boosting paraphernalia. It's definitely not doping/cheating, but almost every athlete sports some sort of necklace, bracelet, waist belt or magnetic band-aid looking devices. Finally, the Japanese can go to the well like no other athletes I've ever seen. If the Kenyans "train hard and win easy," the Japanese "race hard and look in agony." Countless athletes collapse at the line completely spent from their race. The face of some of the runners 4k from the finish line look like it's going to be a terrible day yet they manage to hang on a run ridiculously fast splits.

Here is great recap from Japan Running News that is a must read.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Week in Review

Time: 403:03
Distance: 54.95

This week turned out rather light in terms of mileage but it was due to the travel to Japan. I only broke the hour mark on two of the nine runs this week, but I'm feeling good. The race tomorrow should go well as my legs have been feeling fresh. One concern is the lack of sleep that I've gotten since being in Japan. I keep waking up at all times during the night and get tired right when the race is scheduled to go off. If anything I'll be fresh and geared up to really train post ekiden with this being a bit of a recovery week.

Watching Races Online

Last night I went to bed while nodding off to the live feed of the Chicago marathon. I eventually passed out, but awoke to learn that Japanese based Kenyan runner and Olympic champ, Sammy Wanjiru, had won the race over Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia. Also sometime after midnight I got up because, guess what, I couldn't sleep. It was great that Chicago had live coverage of the race and even better that the athlete tracking was top notch. I was able to quickly find out about the results of the race that I cared about:
  • Scotty Downard ran a PR of 2:26:52
  • Jerry Faulkner looks to have had a fast start, solid half, but rough finish. It would have been great to see things come together for this guy who put in a lot of work during the Oklahoma summer, 2:39:05
  • Chad Crockford rolled to a 2:53 finish while his wife, Danielle unfortunately DNF'd
  • Fasil Bizuneh had an aggressive start and didn't make it to the finish line
  • Sage Canaday formerly of Cornell and now of Hansons just missed the trials qualifier with 2:19:18
Well done to those who ran PRs and good job Chicago for having your marathon together.

This brings us to how to view the Izumo Ekiden online. I will refer to Brett Larner's blog, Japan Running News, on how to do so. It requires a bit of a download, but in the past I've been able to watch some other ekiden races.

Also, while you're visiting Japan Running News, take a look at the two teams that he highlights. Look at their personal bests for 5,000m and 10,000m! Further try to ignore his dig at the Ivy League team which has never placed in the top 10 for several reasons. I can't help but disagree on his argument about having Oregon or Stanford come over to race as that's not the purpose of the trip, type of team that is fielded or time of year that is convenient.

Izumo Ekiden Opening Ceremonies

Time: 33:46
Distance: ~4.8 miles

It was the same routine this morning for breakfast. I was one of the first down to the hotel restaurant and we were all served the same dish of eggs, undercooked bacon, Texas toast, salad, soup, and yogurt. I continued with the heavy coffee drinking too. Also at breakfast we got to chat briefly with the Yamanashi Gakuin University manager. Last year their team placed second overall and they have a tiny Kenya dude named Cosmos Ondiba. It was also last year that Yamanashi gave the Ivy League guys a pair of sunglasses and two stuffed animals that sit atop my bed. Meagan affectionately calls them Franny and Freddy.

Our run was also at the same time where the team went out for an easy jog along the bike path. The pace on the way back picked up considerably, but I think we were all feeling fresh. The goal tomorrow, as with every Izumo Ekiden, is to get top 10. However, the highest the team has ever placed in 12th and we've done it twice.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon included a lot of lounging around. I watched more MTV music videos and checked up on sporting scores. Lunch was a buffet downstairs for several hours. The guys on the team stayed exceptionally long telling boring stories of glory days and it was great. There wasn't anything else planned other than the opening ceremony for the race.

At 4:00 pm we met down in the lobby and were introduced to our guide/interpreter for the race. They follow us around and make sure we don't mess things up on race day by not understanding the language. After we funneled into the building attached to the hotel where a theater holds the team and all the important officials. The old mayor, new mayor, delegates of the Japanese NCAA equivalent, and presidents of both Fuji TV and Fujitsu are there. This race is apparently watched by close to 20 million people in Japan. I'm not sure if something was lost in communication, but that's what Yoshi told us.

The opening ceremony includes a performance which has been drums in the past, but this year it was female dance group. It was a cool but sort of weird routine that incorporated some traditional music, but mostly pop stuff. The rest of the ceremony is speeches, the Japanese national anthem and all the teams parade across the main stage. It gives the Ivy League time to pick out which school has the best uniform in hopes of trading for their kits during the post-race banquet. Our Asics warm ups are not of the highest quality and the whole team was sweating bullets which made for a very uncomfortable final 15 minutes. Upon leaving the ceremony we had free time until dinner which was back down in the hotel lobby.

We kept things relatively simple tonight as most guys ate some sort of beef dish. I had a stew like dish with the most tender meat I've ever tasted along with miso soup and rice. Later a group of us walked in the direction of Jusco which is similar to our Target. We got distracted and went in a Family Mart store for some Pocari Sweat, ice cream and other treats. On the way back to the hotel we dropped in a shoe store called Shoes Love Land which had all sorts of interesting styles. Nobody bought anything, but they would definitely be some interesting conversation starters if you were to get a pair.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mall Rats in Izumo

Time: 45:49
Distance: ~7 miles

W/u: 21:19 for ~3 miles
W/o: Cruise mile, 800, 2 x 400
C/d: 15:06 for ~2 miles

Last time I left you the team had an interesting meal down in the New WelCity Hotel restaurant. All of us returned to our respective rooms to try and find some sleep. I failed miserably as I woke up at midnight, 2:00 am, 4:00 am and finally decided to get up at 5:30 am. I'm not sure why, but I think this is the worst adjustment to Japan time that I've had to make. I along with Yoshi and John "Johnny Photogs" Deputy were the first three down to breakfast on Saturday morning. The two Americans ate the western style breakfast while Yoshi had a more traditional Japanese spread which included fish, rice, radishes, egg and soup.

The rest of the team joined us downstairs eventually and we got to have a good running conversation. And by running, I mean it was all about running. Johnny Photogs is the official photographer for John Hancock during the Boston Marathon. He also knows the owner of the Boston Red Sox (who just purchased Liverpool) and many other big time sponsors of sporting events. He was here last year taking photos to document the trip and this year he's playing more of a chaperone role since Jack Fultz (former Boston Marathon winner) wasn't able to come due to health complications. Mr. Fultz has been coaching this team for over a decade so I'm sure the race officials will find is peculiar that Ben Stern is filling the void.

After breakfast we returned to our rooms and prepared for our runs. We drove over to the track stadium and ran a few laps around the athletic fields before getting to work with a light workout. It was cool running in a team atmosphere as Frank, Mike, Sam, Zac, Bobby and I all ran a mile together, followed by some 800s or 400s. The goal was to stretch out the legs and feel fast for Monday's race.

4:51.20 (90), 2:18.37 (89), 66.56 (92), 65.06 for 13:54 total and 2 miles total.

I felt decent, but not fantastic. That will certainly have to change come Monday if I want to run respectably. It's been decided that I'm running the 4th leg again this year which is 6.2k in distance. Last year I ran 20:00 minutes which is about a minute slower than I wanted and felt absolutely terrible doing it. However, I got deathly ill two days later which is my poor excuse. I presented my case for the second leg which is the shortes (5.8k) but was shot down as Ben really wants the two Princeton Towers to lead off. Right now the line up is going to be Frank (8.0k), Mike (5.8k), Zac (7.9k), me (6.2k), Sam (6.4k), Steve (10.2k).

When we were done training it was time to head back to the hotel for a quick shower and then lunch. We all piled into our bus and drove over to You Me which is a huge mall. It's the first time that I've been in You Me, but I've seen it a couple of times before. We wandered around until we decided to eat at the Food Court. It was very similar to an American food court but all the places served Asian cuisine, minus the McDonald's that some guys chose to eat at. I'll admit that I had a McFlurry. While we were eating a girl from the states came up to us and asked if we were American. Her name was Sarah and she was doing a year abroad, living with a host family and teaching at a high school. She almost never sees English speaking people in Izumo so she took the opportunity to hang out with us. Sarah has only been in Japan two months and doesn't really know the language which means she sometimes goes days without speaking. It sounded a little lonely, but she was fun to chat with for the couple of hours we were at the mall.

The next stop on the day was the Taisha Shrine which is a must see when you come to Izumo. It's one of the oldest, if not the oldest shrines in all of Japan. I've been twice before, but it's always relaxing to visit the sacred grounds. It's also amusing to throw coins into the big ropes hanging in front of some of the buildings. I can't really describe what I mean by this without photos, so you will have to wait until I'm back and on my other computer.

The final important activity of the day was to go on a course preview. The race starts at the gates of the shrine and runs downhill through the city. Each guy took a turn at the front of the bus scoping out the leg he will run come Monday. By this time I was getting sleepy and took a brief nap on the bus. I also fell asleep when we got back to the hotel and missed the first 30 minutes of dinner. Whoops. When I did get down to the restaurant most of the team was eating steak strips that we each got to cook ourselves on a small filled with sauce. I ate quickly so I didn't hold up the team. Yoshi handed out our bib numbers, fumbled through some of the requirements for race day and released us for the rest of the night.

Before sleep most of the team went down to the "onsen" which is more or less a spa. You first have to ceremonially wash off before entering either the mineral water or bubble water. Basically it was a bunch of skinny athletic Americans chilling naked with older Japanese dudes. We were pretty proud of ourselves if you know what I mean. By the time we left I was exhausted and ready for sleep. I made it another few hours watching MTV and more recent Snoop Dogg videos before finally passing out.

Tomorrow is going to be relatively low key with the race's opening ceremony being the highlight.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Second Run in the Rain

Time: 33:18
Distance: ~4 miles

When I fell asleep the NFL's Arizona vs. San Diego game was being aired on tv. When I got up the game was over, but I found an MTV station that was playing a collection of Snoop Dogg songs. They were also unedited which I found strange. Zac Hine and I went out for a short run in the rain this time running in the opposite direction from this morning. It was dark and the roads were wet so we were extra careful when crossing numerous intersection. The other direction is definitely the better way to go.

Dinner was served just after our arrival back to the hotel. I should have taken some pictures of the meal but I didn't. I couldn't have uploaded the photos to my mini-computer anyway. I can describe that most of the team got the same meal which included crab, "roast beef," all sorts of fish (cooked and raw), shrimp, rice, miso soup, funky root vegetables in a sauce, small clams, salad, caviar and mushrooms, and a salty dish that none of us could stomach. I'm probably forgetting some items on the tray, but you get the idea. All of the dishes were served in really small portions that left you satisfied, but not full. There was no ice cream this time, nor was there an adventure into town. It was still raining and everyone was content to head up to their rooms to sleep.

I passed out for a few hours, but it's currently just after midnight on what is now Saturday, October 9th.

Sea of Japan

Time: 64:36
Distance: ~8.5 miles

"I slept like a baby, woke up every two hours and cried," that's basically how you could describe my first night of sleep. I may have slept the worst of the entire group, but I bet I accomplished the most work. During the night I watched terrible Japanese television shows, maybe it wasn't terrible, but I couldn't understand and the graphics were at least bad. I will say that while the people of Japan look incredibly fit and healthy, there are no obese people that I've seen at least. I suppose there are sumo wrestlers, but I'm yet to see any of those guys. Besides, aren't they athletes in the same way Albert Hainesworth is an athlete? My point is that a lot of the late night television is similar to ours in the US which is of course... infomercials. Meagan would love it. I saw two adds for fitness machines and both were for core strength, and another for "removing that unwanted hair." Clearly the Japanese want to be us, but do it better.

When I felt like it was a reasonable hour (4:30 am) I got up and made some Starbucks Via and unpacked my clothes. I decided to go down stairs around 6:30 and wait for the first person to arrive at breakfast. It was Yoshi who I have met three times before. I believe he works or volunteers with the Japanese equivalent to the NCAA. I ate the "American breakfast" which consisted of toast, eggs, fruit, salad, and soup. I also drank an obscene amount of coffee.

An hour after breakfast the team convened in the lobby for our run. We ran from the New WelCity Hotel to the Sea of Japan. There is a bike path that runs through the city and makes it very convenient to travel by foot or bike. Everyone touched the sea before heading back. Some guys took an "onsen" (sp?" which is a natural hot bath while I watched the Giants defeat the Braves 1-0. Take that Billy Shue!

Lunch was buffet style so everyone was able to find a little of something that they liked. The big hit of the meal was the ice cream which Ben was convinced had a little butter in it. He might have been right. It was so rich and delicious. Afterward some guys went upstairs to watch a movie, others walked into Izumo and I took a nap. It's raining here so getting out to see the sights has been put on hold.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Posting from Izumo, Japan

I am in the future. It's currently Friday, October 8, 2010 and I am 13 hours ahead of all you folks on the east coast. I'm a time traveler. Want to know my secrets?

My flight left Charlotte at 9:00 am on Wednesday, October 6th destined for Chicago. I made a few last minute phone calls, business emails and met up with Team Ivy League prior to boarding United Flight 881 to Narita Airport in Tokyo. It's a great group of guys which includes: Steve Sundell (Columbia), Zach Hine (Cornell), Ben Stern (Princeton), Robert Hartnett (Columbia), Sam Luff (Cornell), Michael Maag (Princeton), Paul Morris (Columbia), Frank Tinney (Princeton) and myself. The first three listed have all been on the trip before while the others are all new comers.

During the eternal flight from Chicago to Tokyo I read parts of What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, took naps, listened to podcasts and watched movies. I viewed three of the four movies that played during the flight which were Cyrus, Dinner for Schmucks and The Back Up Plan. The first two had their moments, but the third was utterly awful. J. Lo isn't even hot these days which you combine with her terrible acting and an even worse plot... Ben and I agreed that we were even more bored watching the movie than just sitting watching the map of our airplane slowly cross over the US, Canada, Alaska (basically not the US), water, Russia, more water and then Japan. During the flight I was sure to get up and walk around as much as possible. I spent most of the time at Michael, Frank and Robert's (Bobby) seats because they scored an exit row, granted both Mike and Frank top 6'4" which means they will be two of the tallest guys in all of Japan.

We finally arrived at Narita around 3:00 pm, walked through customs, grabbed our luggage and were greeted by a guide. She told us that we had to wait for two mystery guests who arrived around 5:00 pm. Our team plus the photographer (John Deputy) walked around the airport eating Bagel & Bagel sandwiches. We found an observation deck where we killed 30 minutes watching planes take off and land. Very cool if you were three years old. When it was time we walked back down to meet our guide and the guests. It got to 5:15 pm before the guide came over and asked for Mr. Stern in a cute Japanese accent. Turns out we were waiting for a guy that was on our flight the entire time and arrived with us. It made for a funny, awkward Lost in Translation moment (I'm not a fan of that movie either, but thought I'd sound cool by referencing it). I felt it was a better comparison to the Dos Equis commercials featuring the "most interesting guy in the world." Ben is so important that he waits for himself to arrive late.

All of us had a bus ride across Tokyo to the old Haneda airport where we would be flying to some town that was not Izumo. The flight was about 90 minutes long and we were all exhausted. I did, however prior to the flight, score a cafe misto at a Starbucks that was overpriced but not half bad. Upon landing we hopped a bus that would drive us an hour to our hotel in Izumo.

So it's now a little after midnight, but I'm wide awake. I've showered and can't smell myself anymore. Tomorrow I will update more on the trip and fill in the last few workouts prior to coming to Japan. Keep reading...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Leaving for Japan

Time: 42:12
Distance: ~5.3 miles

Before heading to the airport this morning Meagan and I put in some dark miles through Freedom Park. We shuffled our way to a Short Loop. Today's travel calls for a flight from Charlotte to Chicago (easy), a second from Chicago to Tokyo (tortuous) and a third from Tokyo to Yonago (not so fun either). There will be many naps, some reading and movie watching. I'll basically lose Weds. and Thurs. to travel. Catch you in Izumo...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Confidence Booster

Time: ~52:05
Distance: 7.25 miles

W/u: 18:15 for ~2 miles
W/o: 2 x 200 strides, 3 x 1 mile w/ 2 min recovery
C/d: 18:50 for ~2 miles

The goal this evening was to get some confidence back and get used to hurting again. I haven't run a real workout in about a month or whenever it was that I went to DC for the Nation's Triathlon. I've tried to make my races the hard efforts with a couple days of strides and maybe some uptempo work, but nothing that I would classify as a true hard workout.

Meagan and I drove over to the AG where we met Dean Otto for some light miles to warm up the body. We hit a new trail that surrounds part of Myers Park High School. I did a few strides and light stretches before shedding the jacket and getting to work. The wind was about 10 mph, but not too much of a concern.

33.15 (59), 33.12 (1:55),
4:38.75 (2:00), 4:42.20 (2:00), 4:45.40 for 22:07 total and 3.25 miles

I needed this one and am happy with the results. My original plan was to run 72s on the first, 71s on the second and 70s on the third mile, but that went out the window when I rolled off the line. I was a bit quick through the first 400m with a 68-69 second lap. I basically maintained that pace and felt relaxed doing so. I didn't even care when on the third lap a youth football team crowded the homestretch and I had to weave in and out (I have experience now that I ran Race for the Ta-Tas). I couldn't believe how easy sub-4:40 felt. I jogged a bit before the second repeat and caught my breath pretty quick. The second mile was a little tougher, but not that bad either. On the third I wanted to go out more relaxed and then close hard. I hoped for an opening lap of 75, but I went 73, 73, 70, 64.

I'm ready to race confidently and well now in Japan after this workout. It helped that the weather is now ideal for running fast. What a difference 65 degrees with little humidity makes.