Sunday, 30 January 2011

Not Perhaps the Best Preparation

So I have a few running goals this year, and one of them is to run a PB at 10k. I've never actually managed that 'standard' of running my age in minutes, over the 10k distance. That said I'm getting older which helps and amazingly I'm actually getting faster. The proof was to be the Rokko Island 10k. An absolutely pancake flat 10k around the outskirts of the island. But this week was also my birthday so Thursday's B&B meant a little more eating and drinking than usual.

 The Izakaya was good. It's managed by an ex musician who spoke great English and who is now going to rearrange his schedule so that he gets some Thursday evenings free to come join us.

It all counts as cabo - loading right?

Then Bob discovered the 5 6 7 8's were playing in Osaka the night before the Rokko race, so we went. They were playing in the soon to be renamed Rock Rider club, a basement underneath a Golf store in Namba.
It was not exactly a big venue and I think the three of us were perhaps the only non smokers in the place. 4 hours in a smoke filled basement and a late night, not ideal preparation for an attempt at a PB. Damned good fun though.

 Apparently The 5 6 7 8's featured in Kill Bill.

5678's @ Rock Rider

Registration and kids race warm up as seen from our apartment
So to the day of the race, up bright and early, breakfasted, registered, strapped foot, changed running clothes at least twice, and with all the other, entirely necessary, race morning preparations taken care of, I toed the line (well in fact I stood and shivered about 50 metres from the line engulfed in a crowd of people) and waited for the gun. A mix up over the settings on my Garmin watch meant that it did not start counting the run until 250m in. I always forget that this race, though chipped, has no start mat. The time starts on the gun and finishes when you cross the finish mat. The up shot of all this is that I have a selection of times to choose from for my run, which went pretty well all things considered.

Times - the official time for me was 48:03. My watch said 46:16 for 9.73km but had a 4:45/km average pace throughout which would equate to 47:30. The watch also registered 1:05 biking prior to the run (I forgot to change the settings until just after the start) making a 47:21 as a total.
Regardless of which time you choose (I'm going with the official 48:03) it's a PB, the first time ever I've managed to run quicker than my age in minutes and nearly 30 sec/km quicker than last year.
I have now set PB's in my last 2 races. (Is it cheating to count a race where I've never run the distance before and it is never likely to be repeated?)
Lets hope all those other goals prove to be as achievable. Most of them just involve finishing inside cut off times.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Sumiyoshi do

My first trail run since the Kumano Kodo race and my injured foot. The injury I now believe to be a partial dislocation of the cuboid. There have been a couple of pops from the foot followed by the pain lessening, still it is generally ok if  I keep it strapped and I'm a little careful with it. It did not particularly like the uneven surface and gave me moments of pain, but for the most part it was ok and it was just brilliant to be up in the hills with Sarah again. It was a bit cold getting up there on the bike though.

Running up from the pond was a bit of a challenge particularly with   my foot so heavily strapped and we both quickly reverted to walking. Which is no bad thing.  It may have been the temperature or maybe something else but while the large fish were still in the pond all the small fish had disappeared as had the  terrapin that is so frequently seen. The water was as clear as I've ever known  it. 

Sumiyoshi -do looked completely different with the trees so leafless and the trail so clear of debris. 

And what goes up must eventually come down.

It's a much nicer jog down to the pond and the dirt road back to the bike. It meant a little bit of a dance for me to avoid the jarring to my foot.

One of very few pictures anyone will ever see of me dancing.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

32km 3 Passes and 5500 ft of Ascent

 What a great day out. It started cold but sunny and the day just got better and better. There were only 23 starting the 'race' and I was very, very nervous about being there. The first climb was hard but never too steep, certainly too steep to run though. I managed to keep the lead group in sight for most of the climb.
  I caught quite a few of them on the other side going down the access road. I made the 3rd ferry boat of the day and Sarah informed me I was just a few minutes behind the leader. I could see the next group getting out of their boat just as we got in ours so I knew I wasn't far off the pace. The next climb was steeper and longer. Then came the first real navigational challenge. I spotted the path to Susami (with a little help from a local farmer) but as I looked back down the trail to the road below I saw several others miss the sign back onto the Kumano Kodo and set off running down the road. The trail leading to Susami was steep loose singletrack both up and down and I was actually pleased to hit the tarmac into town.
After negotiating the town I took the trail detour that started with a jog through the cement works before going over some more trail and down to the long(ish) road section. This road went up a beautiful little valley and led towards the trailhead that would take me over the final singletrack section and the last big climb. I considered the trail detour at about 27km but the prospect of an optional 100m climb for 600m of trail and a 100m descent did not appeal at that time, especially when the road was traffic free and the scenery beautiful. I caught and passed a few others on the last trail section - one I think was suffering and another stepped aside to allow me to career down the final descent. We ended up crossing the actual finish line together and to my surprise in joint 5th place just 15 minutes behind the leader.
I had a truly great day, in a truly great place and was pleased to be so close to the front. I do think that several of the people must have taken the unnecessary trail detour and lost a lot of time to those of us who opted against it. I also think that I spent enough time studying the maps and had a clear idea of what to expect. I'm not sure many of the others were used to navigating on the run. I never saw any of the people who took the wrong turn near the top of the second pass again, they had not made the finish when we left with only 30 minutes to go to the cut off.

For those that like numbers and maps you can find the details here

Hiking in Kumano

After New Year we borrowed a car and headed down to Wakayama Prefecture. We stayed at the Subaru Hotel right on the Kumano Kodo path between Koya-san and Kumano Hongu Taisha. The only problem was that the way led over a very wobbly suspension bridge.
However once we had found a way passed the bridge without having to cross it, we were struck by just how beautiful the area, the trails and the mountains are in this part of the world.
We hiked up for a good few miles and found ourselves going over the pass and down towards Kumano Hongu but the path down was snow covered, icy and difficult so we returned to Hotel Subaru.

Christmas in Niseko

We headed off for some snow boarding and snow shoeing in Niseko at Christmas, this time staying in the Hilton in Niseko Village. It was OK but I wouldn't do it again, the runs were a little limiting unless you crossed over to Hirafu and the evenings are pretty much spent in the Hilton itself, again nice but limiting. There was some good snow shoeing though and we went for our usual Christmas day walk with big paddles attached to our feet.
The snow boarding was good but there wasn't really enough snow to make the off piste stuff about the trees fun, at least not for me, there were far too many small trees still showing.
We went for a night walk to Half Moon lake though which was fun and despite the lake not quite being frozen enough to walk on safely we stopped at the side of the lake for a cup of tea before returning to Hirafu.