Monday, June 8, 2015

On the Road Again: Osaka Marathon 2015 you hear that sound? Listen carefuly. It seems like the distant rustling of motion as the rising sun shines upon lycra shrouded shoulders while fleet feet beat the streets of an island nation's well paved paths once again. Something big is happening. That big something is the return of the Vegan Marathon Runner.

It fills me with equal amounts of elation and trepidation to announce that I will once again stare at the frothy snarling ferrel fangs of that beady-eyed beast of burden known as the Osaka Marathon this October. This will be my 5th marathon and, by far, the most out of shape I've ever been going into one at the onset. I don't want to be melodramatic and compare this trek to the likes of traipsing an all powerful ring into the heated heart of Mount doom, but this ain't no picnic in the Hundred Acre Wood either. The marathon is a lovely race and one that I've become addicted to if not for anything else the pure pleasure of high fives and medals. I attribute the penchant for possessing precious things to growing up in an era where consumerism made every box of cereal a treasure trove of collectible trinkets. The marathon, in finite terms, is the adult manifestation of this predilection. 

So kids, stay tuned on that same Bat-time and the same Bat-channel to see how this whole thing unfurls. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Solid first half at the 2014 Chicago marathon, cut down by cramps in the second half

So I’m happy to share with you that I’ve finally run a marathon, in contrast to that mess that was the Tokyo marathon.

I’ve since departed the concrete jungles of Tokyo for the green burbs of Chicago, and at the beginning of the year my firm offered to pay admission to the Chicago marathon for anyone who wanted to do it. Unable to say no to such a fine offer (including people to run with in the office), I signed right up.

Fast forward to when I actually needed to start training for the marathon. The first two weeks went just fine. I was following one of Hal Higdon’s training programs to a T. Then work intervened, and one week not running quickly became eight weeks. I didn’t pick up my shoes again until Labor Day weekend.

Now that I basically had about six weeks to train, I had to do the best I could with what little time I had. I decided to use one of Hal’s training schedules as a basis, but just ramp up mileage every weekend until two weeks before the marathon, at which point I’d just hop back onto Hal’s two taper weeks. The plan actually went surprisingly well for the most part. Sunday runs ramped up to as high as 22 miles (two weeks before the marathon) and midweek runs were generally about 60% of the distance of the Sunday run (I ran a half midweek the week I ran the 22 miles). I also decided that I’d try to push speed on the taper weeks, and I found myself knocking off four-mile runs at 7:15 to 7:30 mile pace.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tokyo Marathon 2012

I'm not really a superstitious person. I don’t make a particular point of smashing mirrors while chasing black cats under ladders, but, as long as it’s not on a Friday the 13th, I don’t go out of my way to avoid these activities either. I am, however, very much a creature of habit (something that bears a mental image akin to an okapi, but compulsively functions more like an albatross), especially when it comes to race days. Though I may be quick on my feet, when things deviate from the expected routine, I have the capacity to go from placid casual to Chicken Little at the slightest sign of the falling sky. 

In the final weeks leading up to the marathon I was nursing a knee injury in the form of ITBS. I was forced to cut training days like a sushi chef surgically slicing away the poison pieces of a puffer fish (no fugus were harmed in the use of this metaphor). Unfortunately, even with the additional rest days, the rigid build up of miles that far along the intermediate I program path never gave me enough time to warm the bench long enough for full recovery. So, just when I started feeling up to the task of returning to the full running schedule once again, I'd be promptly put back in the corner like Baby without a Swayze to save me, only to repeat those ole dirty dance moves down recovery Road House road once more. I was certainly at a disadvantage going into the marathon in such a compromised condition, but after sinking so much effort into months of training, I wasn’t going to let the little fact my leg was out of whack keep me from crossing the starting line. Now crossing the finish line…that’s a different story. 

Oh wait, that’s this story. Seriously, keep reading…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

20 Miles On One Miserable Monday

Though I'm currently coursing through an increasingly thorny thicket of sleep deprivation, in preparation for my return trip to Japan in just a few hours, I've been back in the States for a few weeks now. Upon my late January arrival I was greeted, near immediately, with a snowstorm. It was somewhat appropriate, I suppose, since my family celebrated a faux-mas that weekend as a welcome back party (I was away in Japan during the real deal), providing us with the pleasant kind of white Christmas that Bing Crosby would be proud to croon about dreaming of. Aesthetically, I enjoy snow. As a runner, though this winter has been eerily warmer than it was during last year's training circuit, it's a complete bummer. Apropos of the Wet Snow, my running schedule was pushed back by two days. Instead of running, I spent that Saturday morning on a stationary bike, somewhat sleepy-eyed with jetlag, gazing out the window into the bleak specks of white blanketing the streets below with a foreboding glisten.

Waking up after a long weekend of not running, I found myself, understandably, more than a bit eager to make the most of my Monday morning. The local meteorologists weren't brightening my day with anything they had to say: Monday = cold & rainy. Though the rain washed away some of the snowier spots on the sidewalk, it did me no favors in making the streets any easier to get around on by foot. My clothes, though their labels boasted of a resilient water resistance, were soaked within minutes. My shoes were even worse off. They felt like Sisyphisian bolders bolted to the bottoms of my feet with slender ice cycles.

I charted a course with five 4 mile loops for the day. Four miles into the 20, I ditched my ipod back at home, for fear it would float away in my pocket. I changed my socks and shoes, which I knew was futile, because that only kept my feet dry long enough to walk out the front door into the downpour. At least it provided me with the comforting memory of a dry footed 15 seconds that I held onto for much of the remainder of my run.

So it goes...more wet weather woes below.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Gambit: Transitioning to Minimalism Via Vibrams

Lately, I've picked up a bit of a rather bad gambling habit. It's probably not as sadly seedy, nor as gaily glamorous, as you might think. I'm not jamming every last yen I have down the jugular of a blinking machine that's gurgling hand over fistfuls of chump change, all while choking on the smoke filled air floating through those prevalent pachinko parlors, nor am I applying salve to the paper cuts received from wriggling out from under a massive Mount Fuji of unlucky lottery tickets. I suppose the truth, in a sense, is a bit less capricious (or maybe more so, depending on your particular stance on biomechanics): I've been trying a variety of new approaches to marathon training all at once; most of which, were probably attempted way too soon after completing my last marathon in Osaka.

Basically, if the schedule said rest, I ran. If I was supposed to run 4 miles, then I ran 8 instead; packing the extra workouts into pretty bowed boxes, and parcelling them out at either end of the day. Where I would usually stretch after a run, I made a new habit of lounging (and lounge indeed I did!). When I thought about needing new shoes, I grabbed a used pair from a friend—the very same footwear that forced him out of marathon training with a stress fracture: Vibram Five Fingers (more specifically, I believe they are the Treksport model). I've been rolling heavy-handed dice over rice paper thin ice for this entire third round of training. I haven't decided on one specific reason why I've been so restless with settling for the same routine that has successfully led me to the finish line of a marathon twice thus far, but this third round of training has just been a hodgepodge of mad experiments aimed at improving my running agility, though, in practice, most of them have been too Tanya Harding on my legs to be worth the gamble.

More about minimalism...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nothin' or Double...

It was a perilous idea form the start. I knew this about the idea almost immediately after conjuring it up. And yet, I was helpless to its allure: perilousness flickered around the penumbra in a yellow hued glow of a precarious pumpkin pie scented soy candle, as I made like a curious moth, and fluttered ever closer to its flame. Merely three weeks after completing the Osaka marathon the thought of doubling my efforts—like a commander on the Deathstar fearing failure accompanied by a swiftly executed force-choke from across the room—by running twice my allotted schedule per day, inexplicably came slinking out of the shadows like a skilled ninja assassin with a sharpened blade to my back, goading me on.

Finishing the Osaka marathon at the end of October put me 2 weeks behind schedule in training for the Tokyo 2012 (coming up in February, for real!). In addition to a zero week for recovery—in which, despite the slight misnomer in its title, I was actually allowed to run three times—my first official week back on track for training was already one spent solemnly tapering my miles. So I felt like I was in a haze of half-assed-ness while being smacked on the cheek with the hand of undesired laziness in those initial training weeks. This was something I was aiming to change as I went all in and anted up with a handful of doubles.

I gave myself the self-proclaimed "all clear" to proceed with project Nothin' or Double when the last twinges of awkwardness dissipated from my legs as I confidently came to the end of a 6 mile run, only one week to the day from the event in that little race recap I wrote about in the Osaka Marathon post. So after spending the following day cross training like a fiend on a bicycle—thinking that I would compensate for lost running time by cross training harder—Tuesday's short 3 mile morning run felt, well...too short. Even though my thighs were a bit sore from the over cycling routine—accomplished in my basket & bell adorned bicycle!—the run went off without a hitch and I had a surplus of energy left to dispense like Pez at a candy convention.

A few hours passed, and the urge to run again shoved me out the door like a benevolent poltergeist that spent their past life as a motivational speaker & physical therapist who now just wanted a few hours of downtime for his or herself in the haunted house. I'm not accustomed to double workouts. Outside of running marathons, I'm an alarmingly lazy person, but I was too curious not to give this first attempt a solid go. Logic led me to believe I would be far too fatigued from earlier to meet any type of prolonged success, but I found once I got into the rhythm of running I actually had more energy to burn.

And so...

Monday, November 14, 2011

The 5K Diet

Today: 5K (3.1 miles) @ 5:11/km (8:22/mile)

So after much not running, whatever injuries I've had seem to have disappeared. I've got no particular running goal in sight, so I've decided I'm just going to try to run 5K everyday, and take breaks only when work forces me too (which it will without fail do). I've tried this plan a few times over the past few months, but injuries kept rearing their head, work would smash down upon me, or I'd be lazy and it'd peter out.

Well here's to hoping it doesn't do that again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Osaka Marathon 2011

Once upon a time in Osaka, Japan...

Osaka was my second marathon. After completing the Tokyo marathon back in February, I had decided to make the marathon an annual event in my life, but I suppose something in me grew too fond of that great distance, and I was drawn right back in to participate once again, by the one race that rules them all, far sooner than I had anticipated allowing myself to do. So, 8 months after Tokyo, I found myself crammed into a 9 hour midnight bus ride to Osaka, on my way to meet the source of the sweet siren song sung by such a seductive serpentine beast, in order to see if I still had enough charm left in my legs to flee free from harm once again, in a race renowned for killing the messenger.


I suppose race day actually starts on the eve of the event. I was certainly sure that sticking to the pasta carb-loading tradition was the way to go, as it had helped me immensely last time around, but being on the road made things a bit tricky. The residence apartment I was staying at for the week did have a kitchen, at the foot of the bed, which, as you might imagine, wasn't the ideal stage to attempt a culinary magic show on, but I sloughed the straightjacket, and went to work with the space I had, sawing my nutritional assistants in half. The stove was little more than a single hotplate with 3 setting: 1) off 2) two people 3) three people. If you find it odd that the heat of the hotplate is measured in silhouettes of people, that's probably because it was odd. I thought at first they represented matchsticks, but upon closer inspection, I had a hard time refuting the very nature of their people-esque appearance. Maybe this stove was purchased at a clearance sale after the Soylent Green factory shut down, when the economy sank, as if tethered to a stone, at the end of the Salem witch trials? Anyway, I did my best juggling routine, working between the one source of heat and a variety of cookware, to keep an array of pasta, bread, & veggies swirling around my plate, while remaining ever cautious in leaving just enough pasta leftover for the all important predawn recharge.

Sleep came as a pleasant surprise. I really wasn't expecting to get a wink, but ended up with nearly 5 hours rest. I'd occasionally wake up in "pounce mode", expecting to get a jump on the alarm, but after a bleary inspection of the room, I realized I still had a few hours to go. When the alarm did sound for real, I lurched right into the leftovers as if I were answering the door at the Adams family estate, flinging open the refrigerator with a bellowing "you rang?".

Unfortunately there was no marinara sauce left; nor veggies or seasonings of any kind. So I sat, shoulders slouched, with my spindly legs dangling over the foot of the bed, as if it were the curb in front of an empty little league field where my absent-minded professor of a father, once again, had forgotten to pick me up after practice, shoveling cold forkfuls of plain, semi-crusty, capellini into my half awake face. This was a mechanized maneuver born from rote memory of simply intaking fuel, rather than anything resembling enjoyment of the meal itself. The carbs were a necessity, and I was determined to take them in, flavor be damned! I also had a spread of supplements ranging from ginseng to B-12 that I slowly began downing with glass after glass of tap water over the course of the next hour and a half. This copious quenching of thirst by the dawn's early light would play a Francis Scott Key role in complicating matters once I arrived at the castle gates ready to run the marathon.

Vegan Marathon Runner Supplies

Next up...the weather check. I had been combing over reports from the night before and found that, at best, I could expect clouds, at worst, rain (Though I suppose this also means there would still be clouds...moving on). By morning I knew the predictions were on target, as I stepped out onto the phone booth of a balcony and felt, not only a surprising warmth for such an early morning hour, but an ominous curtain of grey shrouding the dawn sky. The temperature here in Japan is a lot warmer than I was used to back in the States, as the fall season began clasping its cold calculating hands around the supple neck of the Philly 'burbs. The predicted high was going to be 75°F, which didn't seem all that bad to me. It was dressing for the chance of rain that was throwing me off. Over the course of the past 18 weeks I kept thorough notes on temperature and weather patterns during my runs (something I never bothered with in my previous training circuit), so I simply browsed back through ical and found a few places where I dealt with similar conditions while training and suited up accordingly. No worries!

It was time to head out the door, and even though I had written down very detailed directions on how to get from the apartment to the marathon check in area, I knew it was most likely an unnecessary step—other than satisfying my predilection for being obsessed with minutia—because: 1) the starting point was at Oskaka castle. This is probably the easiest place to get to from anywhere in Osaka. The subway map for the city itself carves out a rather unique negative space around the existence of the castle, so finding it wasn't even going to enter the spectrum of challenges that day. 2) when you're one of 30,000 runners heading to the same event, at the same time, chances are you just need to follow the influx of running shoes and plastic bags. This is one instance where the crowd knows best, so I didn't even doubt for a moment that I was heading in the right direction.

Starting the marathon around the outer moat of the Osaka castle was a flash of genius on the part of the race coordinators. Even though the area was packed with peoples, I never felt too boxed in (other than leaving the platform at the train station), because there was an abundance of open space surrounding the area. The only obstacles I did run into at that point were time constraints for the bag check coupled with the ill-fated bathroom situation. After leaving the station, we were collected like trading cards into an open baseball field. Along the way, I hopped in the first bathroom line I saw, and started changing my running gear while waiting in a near standstill line. This went on for several minutes without more than an awkward step or two forward. My anxiety grew like a fresh tilled garden of good grief while watching the clock click closer to check in time with no foreseeable end to my current circumstance in sight. I knew these races are run by sticklers for punctuality, so I was worried if I missed the bag check deadline, I'd be shouldered to the back pack of the starting line.

A small band of cantankerous old timers fomented a revolt from the back of the bathroom line. A chain, 5 links strong, pushed past the rest of us young whipper-snappers, murmuring something about this taking too long, and they shouldn't have to wait. While I agree, in general, with most of what they said, I found it in poor character that they leaned on their age crutches and hobbled to the front of the line. Nobody said a single word to them. I suppose it's understandable, if you consider Japanese society is influenced, at its core, by hints of Confucianism, in the sense that deference is due to the elderly—plus, with such a display of brazen lunacy, nobody probably wanted to deal with the potential backlash of craziness these coots were capable of—but that's when I decided to ditch out of the line.

My new plan was bag check first, then circle back around to find a whiz palace on the outskirts of the castle, while doing my best to resist the hypnotic shimmer of the surrounding moat. This new plan went smoothly up to a point. The check-in lines were nearly non-existent (probably because everyone was busy waiting in the bathroom lines). I threw the rest of my belongings into the sack and headed back to find a new relief area to a greater degree of success.

The starting blocks were set up as a siege surrounding the castle, after which we were meant to take the city by storm. I liked the way they had laid out the line up area. We wound in and around the smaller outside moat area, with the green & yellow canopy of ginko trees linning the streets, then went through a series of small bridges & fancy gates on the way to our designated start areas. All the while Osaka castle perched upon the hill, like one of the many tigers that adorn its upper level facade, watching over the proceedings with a keen cautious eye.

There was a slight drizzle of droplets falling from the drab canopy of clouds lingering above, and with 20 minutes to kill until start time—which, from where I was, equates to at least 35 minutes of overall waiting to cross the starting line—I perused my ipod for something to settle my jittery nerves. I found the upbeat optimistic swing of Ella & Basie's On the Sunny Side of the Street was a fitting juxtaposition to the otherwise overwrought air of the pre-race atmosphere. The runners in my area (H) had space to spare, which was a luxury that afforded us some much welcomed last minute warm-up stretches to stay loose & limber for the task ahead. Right about then, it became clear that I was in need of another whiz break—damn that diuretic indulgence of caffeine!—but I bulldozed those thoughts to the back of my brainpan, because there wasn't enough time to risk getting to the lot & back again; I was stuck, unless I was ready to rekindle, and concede to, reconstructing the moat idea.

I was also getting hungry again. I guess I didn't recharge enough in the morning with those cold Capellini noodles. After all, breakfast was a dish best not served cold, but at 5am, all I had was the ever vengeful Wrath of Khan plate of refrigerated carbs to settle the score; now that it was 9am—and I had burnt up a lot of fuel walking to get here—I really wanted something more. I had meant to stop at a conbini to grab an onigiri (rice ball) and some orange juice along the way, but ended up with no time to spare, as I was Spirited Away in the migratory motion of the morning's marathon milieu. It was here that thoughts of bananas began prancing pirouettes in a perennial play throughout my head, and there they would stay, in a far off fantasy filled fog, for quite sometime.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rhythm Method: Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop"

Fueled by a constant fondness for indulging in flowing fits of nostalgia whenever possible, I feel compelled to post this particular song, on this particular day, because this particular blog began with a reference to the Ramones. Not that I really need to search hard for a reason to validate placing the Ramones in a post (because the Ramones are great!), but the added bit of relevance is all the more comforting.

It's been a year since it all began, and though I didn't intentionally plan things to happen this way, it's as if I'm commemorating our humble beginnings as vegan marathon runners (in training) by running the Osaka marathon this Sunday.

If any of you folks out there care to shout a "hey ho, let's go!" from your corner of the world for me come Sunday morning 9am JST, I'll be listening on the streets of Osaka, and appreciating the support.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Hindsight of 20/20

Two weeks ago I ran the first 20 miler of the intermediate schedule—the longest I've gone since completing the Tokyo marathon, which seems like a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away—and I was surprised, just how easy it was to do. Now, unless you're a seasoned ultra-marathoner, getting to the other end of 20 miles is surely an intimidating feat. I had apprehensions all morning prior to running the first one, even though I knew It could be done. In essence, somewhere subconsciously, I was aware that it was well within my realm of potential to complete, but that innate knowledge didn't prevent the neurosis attached to such a daunting task to arise regardless of past successes. Though doubt, becomes inconsequential once doing takes charge. So I broke the run into quarters, as if I was heading to the arcade to play some pinball, and prepped myself a hearty proton snack pack of goodies, which included:

1) a container containing cut-up slices of apple (Ginger Gold), banana, and dates.
2) a vegan cliff bar & GU energy gel
3) raw almonds
4) a whole heck of a lot of water, and a few other liquid themed variations on it (i.e. coconut water with chia seeds).

This was a fine assortment of fuels for any LSD well over an hour (this particular 20 miler took me 3 hours at a comfortable pace). I was happy at the conclusion of the run, and even briefly considered embracing Galloway's method of a 26 mile pre-marathon training run, which was acknowledged, then quickly dismissed as probably a bad idea to burst into spontaneously. The last time I ran an 18 miler left my legs feeling as if the distance had gnawed my muscle to the bone, leaving me with nothing more than 2 spindly nubs of ivory, and what little equilibrium there was left to wobble around on my own accord.

A brief, yet well appreciated, taper week later, and I was back on the starting line, staring down the spine of another 20 mile beast that I was pretty confident would sail right by without so much as sending a sneer in my direction. I'm going to speculate that this overconfidence, so early in the run, was what eventually hindered me the most later on. 

Now, about that second 20 miles...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The 18th Amendment

As has been the case for every second week of increased mileage I've ever done on a Hal Higdon schedule, the second bump in distance is almost always easier than the first. Last week's 17 mile LSD run felt 2x harder than this week's 18 miles*. I suppose this makes sense, because once the body adjusts to the initial increase in distance, what's one more mile? It certainly seems to vouch for the validity of the program itself.

Take a quick glance at Higdon's methods and you'll see, the 1st week tunes the strings, the 2nd week subtly amps up the volume, and then the 3rd week drops back to an acoustic rendition of your favorite Quiet Riot song** (repeat for 18 weeks). What starts to happen, especially in the latter weeks, is that the invisible miles—the Silent Running, if you will—hit you harder on that first week Back in Black. Then, come the second week, you ante up, and find it's not as big a bet as you once thought it was.

I won't lie to you. Running 18 miles is no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. But, running 18 miles subsequent to charging through a 17 mile LSD the previous week makes it a whole hell of a lot easier to handle. The route I ran was a mixture of new and old. The way that the peak hills were laid out reminded me of a half pipe. I'd start out in one direction slowly heading uphill, just to roll back around to the flat center, before heading up and out in the opposite direction. Something about the mental simplicity of this image made the whole thing more easily digestible than a chewable Flinstones vitamin. If I have any advice worth giving at this point in my running career, it would be to break things down into the simplest accomplishments possible along the way. You will do yourself far better to see small victories in your runs, than to be consumed by a horde of ravenous zombies set to feast on your doubting mind while focusing on the enormity of the entire task ahead.

In other words, if you've never run a mile, then you focus on the stop sign at the end of the block, and high five yourself as you pass by it on your way to the next block. If you want to run a 5-K, then you focus on the half miles that get you there. If you want to run a marathon, you break it apart and put it back together like a 26.2 piece jigsaw puzzle depicting yourself crossing the finish line, because once you group the miles into nice little blocks, the long runs just become that much more fun to play with.

At times, your mind will tell you to stop. This is basic self-preservation. If there's pain, you have to quickly decide if the consequences are worth the risk. If it is fatigue, you just have to push through it. I know everyone is different, but I have found, time & time again, that when I hit a slump, as long as I persevere, I'll make it to another comfort zone that I never knew existed before. If I had to boil down long distance running to a single word, it would be perseverance. If you persevere then you will eventually get there. I believe that is a mantra you could do well with even outside of the context of running.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kale & Pineapple Pairing

Fancy Feast!* 

There's not much to this dish, which, by no mere coincidence, makes it amazingly simple to throw together. I found myself with an abundance of kale chilling in the crisper, a fresh pack of Dr. Praeger's veggie burgers, and some frozen pineapple chunks all begging to be combined in some such fanciful way today. I felt the true gentlemanly thing to do was to oblige them.

Using a covered frying pan, I heated a splash of water (about a 1/4 cup, or so) until it was near boiling, all the while chopping the greens (kale, broccoli, & okra) in preparation for their sauna. The kale shrinks rapidly when it's steamed, so don't worry if it looks like a lot when you first toss it in. Once the greens go all in, drop the heat to a low temperature, and squeeze a bit of lemon juice to add a touch of tanginess. I like to balance the lid across the halfway point of the pan, so the steam isn't completely trapped inside; this way, there's some air flow. Once the kale wilts, toss in the pineapple and add in the spices & Bragg**. Waiting until this point makes it a lot easier to mix everything together, as opposed to doing it immediately, when things are crisp & bouncy. Since this is a simple steaming process of fresh vegetables, it really doesn't take long for things to be ready & edible. The veggie burger is microwaved for under 3 minutes, diced, and stirred in after the veggies are done steaming.

The bellow recipe ratios represent my individual appetite on this particular day, at that particular moment. So if you're feeding more than yourself, or you're just ravenous from running around, it's probably best to up the ante on the portions I've laid out. Also, this is a meal that, if you desire slightly more sustenance, could be accompanied by a base layer of any grain (or pseudo-grain) or pasta, from brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, to couscous (the usual suspects***). I opted for eating it as is, without any additional accouterment, and was fine with it. This recipe lets the natural flavors of all the ingredients sing a subtle song of sweetness, and I'm happy with the harmony in their tune. When all is said and done, this is a nice quick meal—though there are plenty of directions to go in with this all-terain vehicle, if you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen—that adds up to less than 200 calories. The kale & the pineapple combo is what really sells this dish (the okra isn't half bad either), beyond that, go nuts kids.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wheels of Fortune

Finishing off yesterday's easy slice of half marathon pie, like a returning champion at a food eating contest, struck a line through another taper week on the calendar, and left me feeling refreshed & optimistic about today's cross training challenge. I received a new-to-me bicycle over the weekend (thanks Pete!), and was eagerly eyeing it up all Sunday with anticipation for a nice long ride on Monday's scheduled cross training session. 

A sunny, yet brisk, 68°F day & a new bicycle led me on an adventure to Valley Green park (a long and winding stretch of public park that reaches out like an artery from the heart of Philadelphia to touch, ever so lovingly, the shoulder of the wide suburban sprawl. Edgar Allan Poe was even a noted fan of the area). It had been a long time since I was last there, even though in the past it has served as a staple of activity for walking, running, and even hiking*—it's an especially perfect path for HOT summer days, because it's such an oh so shady lane—yet, I've never biked there before. I suppose the main reason for that previous life omission is because I've never really had a bicycle before, at least not one tempered to take on the off-road elements of Forbidden Drive (that's really its name kids, no foolin').

Classy Covered Bridge!

I left home with thoughts of taking it easy on the ride, since I know all too well that I'm standing in the shadow of the colossus that is this weekend's 20 mile long run, but husbandry be damned, the day was just too nice to lend worry to such things as excess. Although I set out to ride no more than 14 miles (22.5km), I ended up pulling in a total of 20 miles (32km). I know this, because my sweet new ride has a fancy old odometer. I'm no longer confined to the preplanned routes of yesteryear, and because this bike is a hybrid (as opposed to the road bike I had been riding before**), I can finally follow fleeting whims and go off road for a bit of unpaved shenanigans. 

I knew my last bicycle was a bit of a lemon, but didn't realize just how sour it was until today. Riding a bike with a frame that actually fit my height, being able to switch gears effortlessly, having pedals that aren't being held together with duct tape, and so forth, are all contributing factors to a relatively fear free jaunt through the forest road. For once, I could simply enjoy the ride with the confidence that less things were likely to go wrong. 


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Risky Business of Shaolin Shadow Boxing

I woke up to a phone call from my grandma this morning. What, on the surface, sounds like something pleasant enough, actually wasn't: her basement flooded again, and she needed help cleaning out the water. With all the rain we've been inundated by lately, this is starting to become a biweekly task. I threw on an old pair of running shorts & shoes, that I had put aside to donate but deemed worthy of one last job before passing them along, and headed over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go...

A simple system was put in place: my aunt ran the wet vac, I ran the water buckets up the stairs. The routine was akin to the kung-fu training process seen in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin: once the wet vac fills to the brim, I dump it in a 6 gallon bucket and trudge it up a narrow flight of stairs, then tip-toe through the house making sure not to spill a single drop, pour it outside, then by the time I get back to the bottom of the basement stairs again, the wet vac is already full and waiting to be emptied. It's a non-stop stream of motion that gives no respite, like trying to douse an increasingly intense imaginary fire by passing a pale of water down a line comprised of only yourself. I'd claim that it was a Sisyphus-like endeavor, except eventually, it actually yielded noticeable results.

It was certainly an unconventional morning, but it undoubtedly covered my strength training for the day. So while I don't necessarily recommend flooding your grandmother's basement for the purpose of exercise (or any other purpose for that matter, unless it's literally on fire; or she has given you permission to freeze it and skate around on), if you happen to find yourself in the situation, the 6 gallon bucket water workout is pretty thorough! Once we were done (about 3 hours later), my grandma treated my aunt & I to coffee. I headed home figuring that since I was already wearing my running gear, there was no point in putting off the 5 miler on the day's schedule for later; though I did throw on a new pair of shoes and dry socks before hitting the road.

Now, about the run...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Building a Better Runner

Though I missed the Philadelphia Naked Bike Ride* (this year, though last year is a different story), this week did see me figuratively don The Emperor's New Clothes and parade through the streets with a suit sewn from the finest fabric that a surplus of cycling has to offer. That is to say, I barreled through week 10 with a lot more cross training than I normally take on. Not for any particular reason, other than I felt like I had extra energy to burn like an Autumn scented aromatherapy candle, in addition to rather enjoying the prolonged state of functionality Schwinny Cooper has graced me with lately, by remaining, mostly, intact. In the typical course of marathon training, perception of miles is prone to shrinkage, like a sack of hand knitted Cosby sweaters in an Alaskan laundromat, so if a round trip to the produce junction, or the library, adds 5-10 extra cycling miles per trip to the week, what's the big deal? 

Dapper, indeed! 

For the most part, despite mildly fatigued legs from time to time, the benefit of sticking to a more consistent cross training schedule has done exactly what it promised to do: build a better runner by balancing out slightly different muscles, without adding too much additional stress. This week's excess of energy speaks volumes on behalf of the benefits of steadily building up the experience points from cross training, and then cashing them in for a higher endurance level across the board. So, even with these unscheduled additional miles everything was going good this week, that is, until the slight glitch in the matrix during yesterday's 17 mile LSD. I had completely forgotten how far that great of a distance on foot actually feels. 17 miles is the longest run I've done since actually completing the marathon way back in February. So, while I remain somewhat familiar with its face, I had forgotten certain less-than-desirable personality traits that begin to grate on your nerves when the distance overstays its welcome. One of the more vexing aspects is that it just plain takes forever to complete. At least, if you run it like you're supposed to, which is near the speed of a Galapagos tortoise, which has a life expectancy of 170+ years! So, they don't really need to rush.

More long slow distance shenanigans below...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Heart-Shaped Box

3 mile Heart-Shaped Box Loop

To keep things interesting, but still keep a finger on the pulse of how far I've gone on any given run, I often use pre-planned routes. When you can't get to a park with mile markers, don't have technology to take with you on the road, or don't want to do much more prep work than closing your laptop and stepping out your door, these Google mapped neighborhood runs are handy. On hotter days I keep the loops short, so I can hydrate & refuel in consistent intervals at a makeshift waterstation I have set up near home. It works out well because, despite early possible suspicions to the contrary, my neighbors, as far as I can tell, do not have designs against me, and leave my water/food supply alone while I'm spending hours at a time running patterns you might find in a box of Lucky Charms* past their windows at any given moment of the day or night. 

I've had this particular little 3 mile loop (the one shown above) mapped out for quite some time now. It's the least hilly of my running options that still covers the 3 mile range in one go**. Just yesterday, I was faced with a 13.1 mile run on my training schedule—the halfway half marathon, as it were, because there's only 8 weeks left of training!—and I went at it alone, as is often the case, running slight variations on this same heart-shaped pattern in just over 2 hours. 

This past week saw another kind of heart beat me to the punch: right smack dab in the middle of Tokyo. Joseph Tame ran his own half marathon with a course that resembles the ubiquitous Apple logo, as a thankful send off for Steve Jobs. I'm familiar with parts of the path he made this logo's run in, and am quite envious of the nice areas he ran through. If this is a race that catches on as something annual, I'd be interested to give it a go. 


Monday, August 22, 2011

Last of the Less Than Halves

For those keeping track, I just wrapped up week 8 of marathon training, as if it were a birthday present for my cousin and all I had for paper was the comics section of last Sunday's newspaper. With the swift exit of taper week 6 (two Sundays ago), I've seen the last of my less than half marathon long distance runs. I've wandered into the uncertain terrain of Tusken Raiders' territory that I was initially intimidated by, way back when, while I was deciding over which training program to embrace for my second date with miss marathon. The weekends are where the intermediate milage really diverges the most from the Novice 1 & 2 programs. Higdon calls for 2 hefty runs stacked back to back at week's end. Saturdays are a medium distance "marathon pace"* run, and then there's Sundays' Oolong Tea slow distance run.

I've found it helpful, when no other scheduling conflicts are present, to separate my weekend long runs as much as possible; like prize fighters after that end of the round bell dings, returning to their respective corners to gather their strength before jumping back out into the ring to bludgeon each other with their padded fists. Which is exactly what happens when running the long runs, especially if you don't space them out adequately. The recipe for recovery, that has been doing coin & card based sleight of hand magic tricks for me, is resting in between bouts as much as possible. On Saturdays, I'll run as early in the morning as possible. As soon as the sun is in the sky, my feet are on the ground. Then, on Sundays, I'll push my longest run of the week as far into the evening as possible, without intentionally interfering with any HBO programs (though there's always On Demand, and not all of them are all that great anymore). 

Mondays are reserved for cross-training, usually cycling, which is a relief since those double digit socks full of quarters that are swung at my legs repeatedly on Sundays' LSDs don't really take too much of a toll on those slightly different muscles being exercised like Linda Blair the following day on Schwinny Cooper. When I was using Novice 1, for Tokyo 2011, the LSD was on Saturdays, leaving Sunday as a cross-training day, sandwiched between Friday & Monday rest days. It was a typical occurrence that the long run would leave me nearly incapacitated with ITBS symptoms, to the point where I often skipped out, or cut back, on the amount of cross-training I could do. Thankfully, so far, I've been able to adhere to a fully implemented cross-training routine of cycling or walking. I must admit, I do feel a benefit from "active resting" as cross-training sometimes seems to be, so I'm glad to feature it more prominently, or at least practice it more consistently, in my current training schedule. Looking over the Novice 1 schedule right now is slightly reassuring; if I've made it this far without incident, I must certainly be a better runner than I was back in December. 

During the moments prior to my first marathon, before we lined up for the race, there was a bit of nonchalant wisdom imparted on me while Vin was having a conversation with a fellow runner. It has stuck with me ever since hearing it, and it's practical advice, or if nothing more, a clear reality check, which I will share with you now. Vin was chatting it up with someone from his running club, an experienced marathon runner from Australia (I think). Vin was explaining his runner's knee injury during the training program we both followed, and he said, since he was concerned with further injury, "I'm in survival mode today". His fellow club runner, not even looking up from his seat, scratched his shoulder while he stared off out the window and muttered, "It's all survival mode". And there you have it folks; marathons: in summation, "It's all survival mode". Wise words indeed... 


Monday, August 15, 2011

Running in the Rain

With the start of week 6 I had officially glided onto the center stage of the 2nd taper week on Hal Higdon's intermediate schedule, like I was auditioning for the Ice Capades. This was a rather notable week of training, because this was the last of the low mileage runs, the last of the less than halves, if you will. Sure, there's other taper weeks peppered throughout the coming schedule, but as of Sunday, I've seen my final single digit LSD—until the week prior to that rascally old marathon—and now I'm greeted accordingly by an across the board mid-week bump in distance. This is when the intermediate nature of the path I've chosen becomes ostensibly challenging, and who am I to argue otherwise? As for far, so good.

Wednesday was exactly what I was waiting for: predictions of rain had meteorologists agreeing that the temperature would make a steep, almost instantaneous, drop, and I had been looking forward to running in a light summer rain ever since, well, summer started. So when I woke up in the morning to see a backdrop of clear skies and the same old mid-90's train traveling along the elevated heatwave track, I was more than mildly disappointed. So I waited for the weathermen to get it together, or the weather systems to bend to their collective will; one of the two was bound to happen eventually. In the interim, I was left pondering precipitation of past days on Philosopher's Way. 

Is there really ever a bad time to stroll down
Philosopher's Road (哲学の道)? 

and so...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Run For Your Lives!!!

With Halloween right around the corner—well, close enough, anyway—the horror fan in me rejoices for a season where I no longer have to look for sheepish excuses to repeatedly play Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead II, & Shaun of the Dead (or any number of movies with dead in the title really*); I can just do it without having to worry about being thought of as some sort of social deviant, for 'tis the season to be jolly...

But what's a running enthusiast to do during the autumnal equinox? on the horizon, coming to a Baltimore near you, we have Run For Your Lives, a fun looking 5-K race that embraces those basic survival instincts one might require during a zombie apocalypse. While I'm wearing my incredulous cap that the promo video might not be quite accurate to the actual event, I am intrigued that the event coordinators have seemingly found a way to blend the increasing popularity of mud running with the fantasy fulfilling horror thrills of a haunted hayride, but, presumably, without the tractor.

As I personally won't be able to participate in this run come October—I'll be half marathon & full marathoning my way through the streets of Tokyo & Osaka, respectively—I'm extremely interested in how they pull off this event. I'm hoping for its success to spread like the zombie plague, so that someday I'll have a chance to test my mettle against the pretend undead, you know, before the real thing is upon us. I am slightly reeling from sticker shock of the admittance fee on what is just a 5-K ($67!), but I also expect this to be one of the more unique running experiences of the year. It might be one of the few races that coming in last place, means you probably had the most fun, since, with multiple paths to choose from, you finish either as a survivor or a zombie**.

For more information go to the official site: here.

In the meantime, people looking to participate may want to brush up on their living dead knowledge by reading through Max Brook's The Zombie Survival Guide & World War Z. After that, maybe a viewing of The Adventures of Milo & Otis is mandatory. Not because it has anything to do with Zombies, but because after all this bleakness, what could be more appropriate to cleanse the palate than a quaint narrated tale of a puppy & kitten who fast become lifelong best friends?

*Except for Dead Man Walking; that movie was nothing like I thought it was going to be.

**I am rather curious what the appetite of a vegan turned zombie would be. I posit that zombies crave brains because the human head is melon shaped, therefore a vegan zombie would raid the pumpkin patch—where Linus awaits the arrival of the Great Pumpkin—sinking his or her teeth deep into hordes of gourds found within.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quinoa Sushi

Continuing with the trend of failing successfully, I tried my hand at making quinoa sushi over the weekend. It was my first attempt at working with quinoa beyond just being a base for something else as the main dish, and while I can't claim it a culinary masterpiece, I will say that I tasted the potential for something special enough that I'm willing to go at it again in the near future, in order to perfect it.

Nori Maki Roll + Assorted Veggies

The main issue, as you might gather from looking at the near crumbling columns in the photo above, is that, unlike short-grain rice, quinoa doesn't cling to itself very well. So once you slice into the norimaki, you are instantly at odds with an avalanche of sandlike grains dropping onto your plate as if you just flipped over an hourglass and you're desperately running out of time trying to keep it all together well enough to eat it in a decidedly decent manner. Quinoa sushi, is basically the "sloppy Joe" of sushis.

If you had planned on dipping your sushi in the traditional soy sauce dish, forget about it. Introducing liquid to the quinoa equation will exacerbate the already delicate situation. It essentially melts away like tossing a bucket of water on the wicked witch of the west. Oh, what a world, what a world....

Though this is technically a failure, I've already formulated ideas for succeeding the next time the sushi mood strikes me like a katana blade to the stomach. Maybe this time around I overstepped my boundaries and tempted fate by introducing too many outside elements that were never meant to be sushi: quinoa, spinach*, & sweet potato** being the main culprits, but I also used carrots & the more traditional kappa (cucumber). I'll certainly post any further discoveries in the swashbuckling misadventures of amateur sushi making, but for now I leave you with a failed swipe at glory; one in which I swallowed my pride, as much as I swallowed a paucity of blundered plunders. Moving on...


Monday, July 25, 2011

Failing Successfully

There are many methods to maintaining coolness.
Is this one of them?

The alarm was set for 5:30am, though I woke up at 5:25am and flicked the switch to a preemptive off position. Yesterday's weather forecast had called for not only thunderstorms, but 90°F+ heat. So, while sipping on a glass Garfield™ mug (from circa 1980) of cool water, with a couple of ice cubes clinking together, I peered through the blinds at a perfectly blue sky. I reasoned, since I didn't feel all that well rested, that if it wasn't going to rain, then I would just sleep in some more and push my 11 mile LSD off until the evening. Hopping back in bed, I was immediately happy with this decision.

I woke up around 8am, to see there were still clear skies abound. So I went about my day humming I feel fine up until about 1pm, when the clouds closed in like a red velour curtain dropping after the final act of a play, met with thunderous applause, and soon began pouring rain on my parade. Checking with various weather sources, there was a predicted window of "less likely to rain" weather coming up between 3pm and 6pm, after which thunderstorms through the night was the general consensus. At 2:45pm things were looking brighter, and I headed out into a reasonably light mist, ready for some Singing in the Rain as I Ran for 11 miles.

The first 2 miles of the run were fine. I was taking it extremely slow, and although it was still blazing hot, what little rain there was, served as a refreshing buffer between me and the much harsher heat element. But the sun would not let the clouds linger for long, and soon was turning the wet pavement into a sauna of steam rising up and enveloping my every move with a cloud of uncomfortableness. Fortunately, I planned the course out as a 4x4x3 mile loop, so after my first 4 miles, I grabbed water and poured it over my head (not unlike the photo above, but less classy for sure), then guzzled a good amount of it down my gullet. I Immediately headed back out for the second 4 miles.

It was noticeably hotter now than when I started running. The rain was long gone, and there was nothing between me & the 93°F afternoon except a hat and a completely drenched shirt*. I made it past the halfway point, and with 2 miles left on the loop I was parched. It was here that a lady yelled to me from her front porch, "be careful of the heat!", as I waved and thanked her for her concern. This was the seed that started my unravelling. Physically, I was languishing, sure, but I still had enough energy to keep moving on. If there's one thing you learn while marathon training, it's persistence. Mentally, I began questioning my sanity for continuing this run in such unforgiving conditions. Was it worth jeopardizing my overall safety for sheer tenacity?

At the end of 8 miles I opted out of finishing the remaining 3 miles of the run. I came home defeated by the heat, but at least I came home safely. It's disappointing to leave a run incomplete, as it feels like each goal along the way is a small victory on the path to marathon, but what's important is not to focus on failure. Marathons are mental & physical challenges, and come Tuesday, I'll be eager to lace up my shoes and get back on track.

Going by this heat index chart, I made the right choice by cutting out early on the run. Yesterday's combination of 93°F with a 55% humidity put me at the apparent air temperature fulcrum of being anywhere between 98° to 110°F. Making anything from heat cramps, heat exhaustion, to heat stroke a potential threat. It's sad to say, but I miss the days when the streets were paved in snow, and my biggest threat was falling over into a nice fluffy mound of soft serenity. Ah, if only making snow angels could be considered cross training in July; I guess it will have to wait until January comes again.

*For the curious, yes, I was also wearing shorts...and sunblock.
Photo via Library of Congress

Friday, July 22, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn

Week 4 of Intermediate training has me feeling pretty optimistic about the way things are going. Of course, what has been demanded of me up until this point hasn't strayed too far outside of my comfort zone. I missed the first week, and week 3 was already a taper week, so it's only with this current week that things start to become more challenging. By week's end I'll have run an overall 7 miles more than the previous week; most of which can be attributed solely to Sunday's 11 mile run, which indeed, will be the first LSD on the schedule to break into the double digits.

This being my second tango with marathon training, I'm somewhat familiar with what steps are expected of me out on the dance floor. The one and only problem that I've had this time around is combating the East Coast's excessive heat index, which has made the days hotter than a Haitian humidor*. I'm certainly not alone in suffering through the air akin to an inferno, but I may be the only person in good old O-town with a training schedules that requires dedicating so many egregious miles to the molten lava-like landscape. It's an old adage that, "if you can't stand the heat then get the hell out of the kitchen", but what if the kitchen is your entire neighborhood, and it stays open from dawn till dusk?

Of course the simplest answer is to embrace vampiric habits of nocturnal activity, thereby avoiding the taxing trauma of soaking in the direct rays of the sun at all costs, but this solution of late night/early morning running is not without its detractions. Mainly, if you adhere to a routine of running on the rim of darkness, I've found that either method tends to interfere with, among other things, basic recovery/fueling options.

The conundrum: when to run & what to eat?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Merrell Down & Dirty: National Mud Run Series 2011

The Starting Line

I didn't run this one. Every time I was asked to join in all the reindeer games, I sorta shrugged my shoulders and simply stated "eh, I'd rather not.", which was met with a disappointed look of bemused frustration. "You're a runner, right?" I could almost hear echoing through a megaphone of sheer telepathy that nearly had me recoiling in shame. I am a runner, but a 5k or 10k race with obstacles including mud, walls, pits, & potentially fire seems to invoke the flight instinct, on the fight or flight spectrum, whenever the idea tickled my medulla oblongata. Honestly though, besides the fact I don't enjoy getting dirty, I had one specific reason why I didn't want to run through a Double Dare-esque obstacle course, and it wasn't Marc Summers, it was the fact that I was worried about the risk of a game ending injury 3 weeks into my marathon training schedule. If not for my training mode mentality, I may very well have been more malleable in forming a participatory shape.

Unlike me, my friend Pete was more than eager to take on the mud run. I tagged along as a supportive force, even though that that meant forcing myself out of bed at 5:30am on Sunday morning. We arrived at Fairmount Park in good time, even including the quickie stop to grab coffee along the way. Though it was a sold out event, the registration line was basically non-existent. Pete had his packet of race supplies in his hand and ready to go in a measly matter of minutes. There was nothing left to do but wait...

Onto the race...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sweet Potato & Broccoli Rabe Orzo

I've been doing pretty well with clinging to the raw vegan diet, like ivy writhing its way around the paint chipped lattice work of a gazebo with a lakeside view adorning the lawn of an old victorian home, I proclaimed at the onset of these summery days. I've found glee in an endless variety of green & fruit smoothies that make the perfect start to facing another hot & humid summer day. I've also started experimenting with fruit infused water this week, and have been pleasantly surprised by how well that's working out. 

As I said before, this raw adventure was going to be approached with a certain amount of leniency, which would fluctuate around the 70% mark, and it has, pretty much, faithfully remained around that percentage without all that much effort. Sure, I still snag an iced coffee from time to time, I partake in my fair share of falafel sandwiches, and I'm sometimes struck right on the crest of my cranium with an oversized cartoonish anvil of an urge to really cook something special. I love cooking vegan foods, so I'd probably be pretty miserable if I went all summer without whipping up a nice batch of vegan cherry almond cookies, or maybe, when the mood strikes (like said anvil), what you see in the photo below:

Sweet potato, broccoli rabe, onion, & tomato
 on whole wheat orzo

Other than the orzo, none of the other ingredients required more than a slight sizzle to get the job done. All in all, it probably took less then 20 minutes to go from opening the vegetable crisper to setting the plate down and taking this photo. I used a splash of olive oil with some minced garlic in the pan and treated the veggies much like a stir fry, without really frying them all that much. There's also a bit of ginger in the mix to add a slight kick. I made up the recipe on the fly, and just kept in mind the flavors I wanted to have naturally compliment one another. It was a great success. The overall taste was light & breezy; perfect for a summertime meal. The sweet potatoes offset the airy bitterness of the broccoli rabe, and the whole wheat orzo grounded everything with a earthy touch. 

Since I didn't really go into this meal with a plan—I just sprang into action when I saw the bat signal that I confuse the refrigerator light for from time to time—I don't have a specific recipe to give you fine people. I will list what I used, with approximate measurements, and just note that the portions were plenty enough for 2 people, or maybe, if you're really hungry, just one. 

Onto the recipe...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rocky II: From Osaka With Love

I hinted at something in the weeks prior to this post, something big, and now that I have confirmation on both events I can reveal my next act, like the reincarnation of Houdini himself, with great aplomb and prestige. Ladies & gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I can inform you, both contributing writers to the Vegan Marathon Runner blog are going marathoning once again! Though this time around we've thrown a slight curveball into the game by adding a half marathon race into the training schedule, a mere 2 weeks before the actual marathon takes place.

First up, thanks to Juergen at Running in Tokyo/Japan, the Turtle Half Marathon in Tokyo takes place in Arakawa on October 16th, which fits into the 12 mile run that Hal Higdon calls for in that week's LSD. Technically it's a taper week, so with the reality of the full marathon looming, like a gilded edge of a guillotine blade dangling precariously by a frayed & weathered rope above our sweat beaded necks, I doubt we'll be setting any major time records on this one.

Next up, the Osaka Marathon in, well, Osaka, takes place on October 30th, which fits into the marathon run that Hal Higdon calls for at the end of his 18 week training program. This being my second marathon, I decided to go with an Intermediate 1 training program to give me a better shot at the title during this rematch. While with my first marathon I merely wanted to cross the finish line, with this one I'd like to not only do that again, but do it a little quicker than the last outing. I have my mind set on a sub 4 hour race, and my heart set on a 3.5 hour time. I figure that the intermediate schedule will put me in better shape to accomplish this goal by the time October rolls around. Starting at an intermediate level also gives me the option to hopscotch back to one of the novice programs, should it prove too many miles too quickly. I obviously need to walk that tightrope of getting back into marathon shape without sacrificing myself to injury by failing off due to overtraining. The novice schedules are thus, the net below me.

I've already made the potentially damning mistake of miscalculating the timeframe I have until race day. I've been slacking off this past week, staying out of the heat & eating lots of vegan treats, giving my body a bit of a rest before the commencement of training. Then today, I realized my schedule was supposed to start LAST Monday, not this one. Sigh...Hal Higdon's 18 week Intermediate I training schedule just became a 17 week program. Let's hope that's not as detrimental as it seems.   

So, here we go again...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Race for Rylie 5K

Nockamixon Marina
I'm not a speedy guy. Aside from the occasional fartlek, I rarely do any speed work at all. I know this might sound counterintuitive, but when I focus on going fast, running starts to seem more of a bothersome chore, losing that pristine Martin Sheen glean, compared to those happy-go-lucky long distance runs that I thrive on. 

Today was my second race ever. The last one I ran was a bit longer, by about 38km, so I wasn't too worried about going into a 5k, somewhat, untrained. I have been running leisurely without a schedule for the past few months now, so I knew my base endurance was covered, it was the speed that was up in the air like a kite with a key waiting to discover electricity. As a bit of a strategic precaution, I opted not to wear my marathon hat, even though it is the most comfortable cap I own; I just didn't want to be singled out as the guy to beat (because I'm certainly not), nor did I want to face the chance of embarrassment incase I was unable to finish a 5k while parading around like a peacock in my precious Tokyo Marathon 2011 commemorative headgear. If it came to that, I probably would have cannonball ran into the lake to hide my tears in the wake of the sailboats drifting by like rippling reflections of the clouds above. 

The plan was to wake up at 6am to sip some coffee and eat bananas, blueberries, and maybe an apple. The plan changed when I woke up at 7am instead. Luckily, I had leftover green smoothie from the day before in the fridge. There was just enough for a full pint glass. Pete & his Pop came by to pick me up at 7:30am, for a race that was 40 minutes away and starting in about an hour.

Onto the race...

Know thy enemy

This week was yet another week where the rhythm of running was sacrificed at the altar of work. I think I only ran once or twice over the week because I was so busy. One of those runs was a memorable "I just got home, it's 2 a.m.; screw it, I'm going running anyway" sort of run. I ran down a street I had never ran down before in the dead of night, and enjoyed the slight drizzle that was coming down, even as I prayed for more rain. The street took me towards Gotanda, and I turned back near the station.

Today was my long run. Seeing as I hadn't gotten as much running as I had hoped over the week, I considered cutting it back. But then my earlier attitude resurged, and I said, "Screw it, I'm doing the whole thing."

That was the plan, but since I didn't really map out a route beforehand, and I still haven't calibrated my Nike+ with my Vibrams, I was sort of winging it on the distance. I figured my pace would be about 9:30/mile, and with a target distance of 9 miles, I figured I'd just turn around when I hit 42:30.

But what really made today's run fun was that I ran nearly all of it along the route of the Tokyo marathon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rhythm Method: The Black Keys "All Hands Against His Own"

Before they broke through the top of the billboard with a brass-knuckled-blues-rock fist and went gold (toothed) with Brothers, before they started collaborating with Danger Mouse, and before their songs started showing up as background tracks in pretty much every television commercial for anything from videogames to lingerie, film soundtrack, or HBO series preview, Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney, who aren't really brothers, lest you be confused by the title of the aforementioned album, wandered into an abandoned tire factory, in Akron Ohio, to record their third album, the aptly titled Rubber Factory. In that factory, they captured the immediacy of their garageband inklings, while never straying away from their grimy blues swagger. It's the sound of a garageband in a much bigger garage, and a blues band without all that mopiness. The album is stacked, like the tires on the cover, with tracks ready to be plucked as ripe singles. It's no wonder so may of them were, indeed, used as such. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To Yoyogi and back

So my Thursday run got nixed by work. I was actually in Osaka from Thursday night to Friday on business, so I brought my running stuff with big plans to sneak in a morning or afternoon run as a nice little hors d'oeuvre of the Osaka marathon, but it was not meant to be.

I decided to flip weekend cross training and the long weekend run so I did my cross training on Saturday. I stationary biked through two episodes of Mad Men. An hour and a half of that bike and it still doesn't feel like I did all that much.

Today I ran the 8 miles on Hal's Novice 2 training guide, "a slight step upwards in difficulty from Novice 1". I thought Novice 1's never-ending 3-mile runs at the outset were a bit to short for me, but Novice 2 seems to be a bit better fit. That said, I got injured on Novice 1 so perhaps that was even too hard. I'll just sweep that argument under the rug for now.

I decided to run today's 8-miler in normal running shoes. Since I haven't ran in Vibrams since last Tuesday, and took a break from them after that because my feet were kind of sore, I didn't think it'd be a stellar plan to jump back into them with an 8-miler. I'll be back to Virbam's for Tuesday's 3-miler.

I clocked in today's 8-miler at 9:18 per mile. As usual, that was not counting water breaks and stopping at lights and other times when I lazied out, as I pause Nike+ whenever I'm stopped or walking. I ran up to and around Yoyogi Park (which is about 3 miles from my apartment). There were two water fountains in Yoyogi Park that I hit coming in and going back, and another near Arisagawa Park, closing to my apartment, all of which were long break point to drench myself and drink.

I can't say today's run was too challenging, but I was definitely hoping to hit red lights towards the end to get those sweet forced breaks. Because I thought I had copped too many breaks during the run, I decided to tough it out on this hill towards the ends that I often take a walking break on. From that point on, it was basically sweet cruising home.

As an aside, one of the major downers of running in Tokyo at night is the smokers. Running next to cars, I can rarely smell their exhaust, but a single smoker will give me 10-20 meters of oxygen-depriving tobacco smoke. The worst today was at the water fountain near Arisagawa Park; a smoker was sitting right next to it puffing away and the wind was pushing it right to the fountain. At that point I was dying for a drink (it'd been more than 2 miles in Yoyogi Park since my last drink), so I just had to bear it. I wonder if I can come up with a route that lets me avoid smokers...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Snake in the Hills

[photo by:@cdharrison]
I don't know if you want to consider it a sport (marathons are olympic events), but to me, it's hard not to think of running as more of a game. It's fun to play, and you don't necessarily have to be athletic to run, you just sorta need to start moving your feet faster than you can walk with determination; eventually, you start racking up miles like heart containers in The Legend of Zelda, and every time you pick up the controller, ready to play again, you wonder how will this one go? 

Look at Kelly Gneiting, a 400 pound sumo wrestler who finished the L.A. Marathon nearly 15 minutes shy of 10 hours. He was quoted as saying "I honestly think I'm one of the best athletes in the world". Who am I to argue? Running a marathon is personal. You set your own goals, then go out and be whatever type of all-star you want out on that road. 

To avoid growing tired of the same old routines I modified my hometown running course recently, or essentially, changed the level I was playing on in order to keep it exciting. The newest addition to the running repertoire is a 6.3 mile course, coiled like a King cobra in a snake charmer's basket, that I've front loaded with five heavy hills within the first 3 miles, then a relatively flat, if not downhill, middle 2 miles, and lastly a hybrid overlapping final mile with two more major hills that sit like venomous fangs inside the reptilian mouth of an old familiar friendly bit of road ready to strike my spindly legs as I coast into the homestretch. I affectionately refer to this run as snake in the hills, with its course length weaving back and forth through streets in side neighborhoods like a game of chutes (AKA, snakes) & ladders.

Since I haven't started training for any upcoming races yet (though something big might be on the horizon), my approach to runs recently has consisted of how far I feel like going at any given time. Sometimes, I'll stick to a familiar course like wet angel hair to the kitchen wall and omnisciently know exactly how far I have to go & how long it will take to get it done. Other times, I'll just head out the door & Google map my trail after I get back to where I once belonged. Since Apple never responded to my emails, I'm back to running Zen again, effectively putting my gameplay statistics on pause, with only the sounds of nature to keep me company along the way. It's how I started as a runner, and it's what I've returned to once again. No big deal.

I'm not really much of a gamer, but I spent a fair amount of time as a youth mashing buttons on my NES controllers (when I wasn't out skateboarding). Mapping out courses on Google maps makes me giddy at times, mainly because it comes with a kick of nostalgia, reminding me of what it was like to play Excitbike as a kid on Nintendo; specifically the part where you build your own course to race through. Ah, the halcyon rainy afternoons of childhood...