Friday, November 30, 2007

Pollution or what ?

Int he run-up to the Olympics 2008, there are many press articles about the problem of pollution in China and Beijing in particular.
Due to the sensitivity of the issue here, real data are unavailable or anyway not realistic.
Being a long-stayer here, I guess that my lugs are already thickened by NOx and particulates and getting accustomed, but I can bring here some evidence of what is in front of the athletes.

This morning, 7.50am in Dongguan. Due to the northen monsoon, the air is cold and dry. This is the view from the balcony of my Dongguan's flat. What is that mist ? it does not really look like "morning mist" ....

Few minutes later, on the road to the factory...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"weird" feeling

I do not know if other marathon runners had the same feeling before their marathons, but I feel basically "numb".
I am tapering 20/30% off from my peak, 3 weeks ago I set my lifetime PB on 10k, no more heavy workouts in the past 10 days : I would have supposed to feel pretty energetic and in "runner's high" .... no, I feel like: legs like stones, I would rather sleep 24hr and I do not see myself running for 2h3x' in 3 days ...
possible explanation:
- typical "pre-race" nerves ...
- mental and hormonal build-up: I can guess that the body "knows" that Sunday will be a great battle so it is storing energy for that day
- I am in physical burn-out already

What I feel at the same time daunting and fascinating about the marathon:
- actually have to run the first 30km before knowing the answer about your true form
- it is a "one-shot" race, no second attempt (for some months) if something goes wrong

Running a fast marathon is probably one of the hardest mental and physical efforts for the human being ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Samuel Wanjiru's tapering strategy

if you feel doubts about how to taper for a marathon, either you follow the advice of "Runners' world", either you read this incredible news from Japan : Sammy Wanjiru scores a new record in an Ekiden race just 8 days out from his marathon debut .... I guess that "take it easy" for the 15 days before the marathon has different meaning for different athletes

Monday, November 26, 2007

Race Predictions for Fukuoka

First a weekly recap and later my predictions/committment for my incoming marathon:

- total weekly 90km/56Miles with a good long run of 21k/13M
- total weekly drive: 982km/610Miles (year peak ..)

- I feel like crap: a Herpes in my mouth, but worse of all I feel a sciatica-like pain in the right buttock from last week long run (silly idea to run without orthotics) ... The pain is decreasing day by day but still there especially at higher speed. I guess that I need to pile up in Voltaren and other anti-inflammation pills ... a real mishap after avoiding even the slightest leg pain or injury for all the training cycle !!! I hope everything goes for the best before Sunday.
I should be also rest more because I do not feel too energetic at the moment.

- more than 2h45' : a real disaster. This also mean a DNF, due to the time cut-off in Fukuoka
Shall be unlikely unless the pain in the leg comes out very strong
- 2h42 to 2h45: mmm .... disappointment. I think I am in better shape than Boston (2h42') and Fukuoka is faster. But it can happen if the leg pain shows up in the last 12km
- 2h40/2h41: great ... a PB
- 2h39: fantastic. If everything goes well, I must be shooting at this
- 2h37/2h38: wild dreams, supported by Jack Daniels' Race time predictor (34' for 10k = 2h37 for FM ...). In such outcome, I buy you a bottle of wine

Sunday, November 25, 2007

There are never "easy" wins .... you must give 100% when you wear a race number

The estate where I live in Hong Kong houses 9600 residents (10 block/40 floors/6 flat per floor). That is pretty standard in Hong Kong (do not raise your eyebrows ...). The management usually sets up several activities all year round to enliven the community (tournaments, interests classes, etc, etc). Today was the day of the annual Running Festival, where on the 1km driveway around the estate, they held a bunch of races for kids, youths, adults, families resident in the Estate.
Coming out from 3 wins in the past, I was pretty confident in another easy win of the "Male Adult" 2k race: a solid pace with the leaders and a surge in the last 500m was usually enough to earn some admiration from my neighbours. There are plenty of runner enthusiasts in the Estate, but the best of them are around 38min/10k runners, so easy prey of a very fit "BY7".

So I crawled out of bed 15 minutes before the start, slip on short/shirt/shoes and jog to the (early) 7.15am start. The plan was for a "recovery" day: warm-up, race, some cool-down to reach 8/9km easy after yesterday's long run.

At the gun, the unexpected: a young guy (probably just turned 18 and who likely raced in the Youths in the previous years) started fast, very fast. My legs were cold and heavy like marble, my Polar was showing a 3'10"/km pace (!!!) but the guy was simply pulling away. I guessed that it took me at least 600m to react from the shock and made up my mind that even if it was supposed to be an easy day, I did not like to lose my winning streak. With 1k to go, i was probably running in 3'15" (!!) and 10 seconds behind (crazy ...). I slowly gained space to him and let him ahead to cook for a while, placing a surge with 500m to go right while I was passing him.

At the end: win in 6'18" for a 2k on cobblestones !!! This for a "easy" neighborhood race ....

Legs like stone for the rest of the day ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Someone have suggestions ?

I am looking for suggestions from the readers (few) of this blog:

how would you carry some gels during the marathon ?
I plan to intake 4 gels during the race, that should give me some small energy for the final miles.
2 can fit into the small pocket of the running shorts, but I am tinkering on where to stick the other 2....
using arm pouch ? (horror...), sticking them to the number bib ?, pinning to the singlet (will not they bounce all around ?) ?

NOTE: in the past I never made too much use of gels during marathon, but in the last Boston, I started with 2 on my own and than take other 2/3 given out at the food station at mile 18. It was really a good boos and felt full of energy also in the last 2/4 miles, when I would be normally struggling (placebo effect ... let it be)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Trial Run

Hong Kong has many pleasant aspects, one of these is that roads/paths/cycle tracks are all lit, well kept, safe, well organized. It is basically all set out for a 24/7 life.

So heading out at 9.15pm for a long run after an hectic Sunday was an excellent way to close the day and the week; the air was getting cooler and there was a sustained northerly breeze from the sea. The cycle track from Shatin to TaiPo spans for over 20km along the sea and it was the ideal setting for a trial run: around 30km, with 15/16km (10Miles) at Marathon Target pace.

after a 10km warm-up, I did made 15km at a 3'44" pace (6'00'/M sharp). The HR was in perfect target (167-168bpm) for the first 10k, than started to drift over 170bpm mainly because of the breeze getting stronger (around 10Miles/hr), so it was more demanding to keep the pace.
I cut short of the last km because of persistent pain in the right buttock: I guess that wearing the NB RC600 without orthotics was not a good idea as i was probably overpronating too much and straining the muscles too much. This is a corrective action to test asap.... or I will have troubles on race day.

total weekly: 103km/64M

Will you run a sub-2h45' marathon once aged 53 ????

The organizer of Fukuoka Marathon have released the complete starters list.
Obviously the top-guns like Paul Tergat and Sammy Wanjiru make headlines but I am more impressed by

No. name age nationality
576 TSUKAMOTO,Namikazu 53 JPN
644 UCHIYAMA,Tokuhiro 53 JPN

Hei!!! these guys DID run a marathon in less than 2h45' in the past 2 years !!!! (this is the entry requirement to Fukuoka).
I am amazed .... 53 years and still running in the best 0,5% of the running population...

We still have time to achieve our PB then !!!!

Other small notes:
- there will be less than 10 "whites" at the start (excluding Japanese, Korean and Kenians), so I will not pass unnoticed...
- around 580 at the start ... a small pack, hope to find a group to hang with for as long as I can
- compared to Japanese runners, I am FAT !!! those around 180/181cm like me are 60/65kg !!! I am probably the heaviest in the starting field ?? (at 181cm/69-70kg)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Now you know if the Starting Gun can be harmful or not

I got this incredible news from South China Morning Post (a Hong Kong newspaper)....
I think we all wandered if the starting guns used in track races are "real" guns.
My best wishes to the injured teacher, I saw his pic on the papers and he is not really in good conditions.
From now on, take care if you have to do the starter at the school race...


The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has suspended the use of starting guns at its sports venues after one of them went off accidentally and injured a teacher at an athletics meeting in Wan Chai yesterday.

Ho Koon-lam, 24, a Chinese-language teacher at Heep Yunn School, took the handgun from a colleague before the start of the 4x400 relay in the school's sports day at Wan Chai Sports Ground. The accident occurred at 11.45am. He was checking the gun to see if there were enough blank cartridges in it before the race started, the headmaster, Lee Chun-hung, said.

"Suddenly, there was the sound of gunfire. We saw him covering his eyes with his hands. There was blood on his face," he said.

A police source said the victim was taking a close look at the gun before the accident. "An initial investigation showed that the gun went off accidentally and sparks flew and hit his eyes," the source said.

The teacher was not wearing protective goggles at the time of the accident, the department said. Eye protection is provided by the venue.

Police have taken the starting gun and more than 20 blank cartridges to the force's Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau.

Mr Ho, who has worked at the school for about three years, was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital and later transferred to Eastern Hospital. He was in a stable condition last night.

After the incident, the school used an air-horn in the remaining three races.

Chief Inspector Leung Sai-kau, of Wan Chai police, said an investigation found nothing suspicious. He added the injured man had a permit allowing him to use a starting gun.

After the accident, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department decided to stop the use of starting guns at its sports venues.

"For sake of precaution, we have stopped using starting guns while the police complete the investigation over the incident," a spokeswoman said. Air-horns would be available.

She added that pistols were maintained regularly by a contractor. There were safety guidelines over the use of starting guns and staff members were required to show people how to use them.

Starting guns are converted revolvers and can be loaded with five blank cartridges.

The cartridges contain gunpowder but no bullet.

A police spokeswoman said starters had to apply for a temporary permit from the police under the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance before being allowed to use the guns.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fukuoka pre-race panic

it is only a mere 17 days to go to my Fukuoka Marathon.
everything seems to go as planned (training, health, race results), but I am assailed now by a dramatic pre-race panic about being able to complete the race.

Because the main trick is that their cut-off time is a 2h45' pace. Every 5k, they have cut-off at 3'55"/km pace and if you are too slow .... race over.
For a 2h40' runner like me, basically means that even a toilet stop in the first 10k would already put me out of the race ...

Most of the marathon in Japan are for "elite" runners: entry fee is very low (only 20$ for Fukuoka) but the entry requirement is a recent PR under 2h45' or less (was 2h30' for Tokyo)
Fukuoka has been for long time one of the most prestigious marathons and the winners list is impressing (Frank Shorter, DeCastella, Densimo, Dionicio Ceron, Seko, Thugwane, Gebre being the last ..).
In Asia it is recognized as the fastest course (give a look here)

Said that, for a "AlsoRun" like myself, I would feel the pressure to be basically almost dead last and having to push like hell just to make the finish line. I can not imagine to fly back home saying to my wife that I was out after 30k because too slow ...
The main advantage it is probably one of the few races in the world where the starting pack is small (300/400 at the most), and many runners would be close to my level, so I hope to run in a pack as much as possible.

I am really starting to freak out on this ...

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Uncle" Yip

Uncle YIP is local legend and I must pay tribute to the vitality of this gentleman who aged 87 (!!!) take the starting line every week-end and can show all the well being of a active lifestyle.
he is beloved by everybody in the running community in Hong Kong. It seems he picked up running quite late in his life (in his 40s) so his running career spans only over 40/50 years (No comment)
His "PB" in the last couple of year is around 1'05/1'10" for the 10k : every time I see him, I just remind me to wish myself to be able to walk on my own once I am over 80 too ....

Nike 10K ==> mission accomplished

So it cames the day .... the Hong Kong Nike 10K Race is the largest running extravaganza in town (besides the Hong Kong Marathon) and gathers 7000 starters in a far-away district in the North West corner of the Territory.

This races marked my personal "first anniversary" of the conversion to a different system of training. Last year, same time, I was doing wonders in my interval training workouts but that Sunday, after only 5k, I was struggling ... the last 3k were like climbing a hill, even if the speed was much lower than my interval training.... at the end, I crawled in with a 35'35", with HR climbing to 197bpm by the last 300m (some unforgiving organizer set the finish line on the top of a long overpass).
So this year was very meaningful to see how much improvement could have be seen with
my new training philosophy...

so we go .... I started very conservatively and I was not better than 30th after 1 or 2k. Then little by little I started to pick-up runners ... the HR climbed to the low 180s and was quite steady. By half race I was in the top 10 and still feeling ok. With 3k to go, I reached a pair who was in 6th,7th place, while the leading group of 4 was definitely too far ahead. I actually started to pay the effort and the stride was a bit heavier than before. So I hang on with them, until the final 500m "climbing" the overpass were an all-out sprint among us, but I was with no more kick and settled for 8th overall (2nd Master) with a gun time of 34'02".
I really gave it all in the final 100m to stay under 34' but legs were really too heavy ...

  • 1'35" improvement in 52 weeks,
  • my new PB on 10k,
  • achieved my target to stay in the low 34' and be in the Top 10 overall ...
WOW! Well done!
I went home with a pair of Nike Katana Racer and 100USD Nike voucher, so it was really a good occasion to celebrate with a huge lunch with the family.

I raced at 3'24" pace and basically I never trained at that speed : the validity of the "aerobic" approach to Road Running is in my opinion undisputed. On a faster course and cooler weather, I guess I could have done 10sec better (just my new personal target ...)

Now some images:
here a gorgeous view of the runners after 500m (I am very well behind still) ===>

This is a brutal picture of sheer suffering on the final sprint

but if you want to see more, click on this fantastic photo album with many nice pictures of the race (you can see a guy chatting at 18km/hr .... that's me)

Total weekly count:
Car: 883Km (551 Miles)
Run: 85Km (54 miles) (no long run ...)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fresh milk

this morning I saw a very amazing scene ... 8 years in China, but still many things to learn ....

A guy was driving a motor-tricycle with 4 goats on the carrier. He stopped at different houses and customers walked out with an empty bottle. The guy started to get milk straight from the goats to the bottle !!!! He was the most "just-in-time" "organic" fresh milk distribution seen in my life !!!!!!!!!! Unfortunately I did not have a camera ...
This is the meaning of FRESH in China ....

otherwise it was a good medium pace run, with 5km @MP because the legs were going well and I was bored to death to run slowly...

Sunday is the big race: "Nike 10k", the most important short race in the local calendar. I hope to make a good race and stay in the low 34' range. It is a very important milestone to check my progress towards the marathon. For more details, check out the website of Nike HK

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pijamas as running singlet ?

This morning was a very quiet 5x1000m @ 3'24" pace + some strides on the school track. I did not feel "Reactive" legs, probably I have not really recovered yet from the sunday's long run. On top of poor recovery, I feel some tightness in the right leg, I guess due to some poorly-made stretching (I start to believe the stretching can be sometime more dangerous than helpful).

Anyway the main topic of this post are the folks who populate the track in early morning.
Knowing the secretive nature of chinese institutions, it was quite surprising for me to find out 2 years ago that the primary school 1km away from my house had a all-weather tartan track, and most amazingly the track was open to the public in early morning (from down to school start).
Basically it was the real factor that prompted my return to running, because I was really not very keen in running on treadmill all my life. And the track is at a mid-hill location, very quiet and in a good environment. So in late 2005 I resumed running, mostly for the pleasure to make some fast track workout and feel again the unmistakable smell of tartan rubber.
The only drawbacks:
- the track is 300m long ... and the stretch is only 70m
- the other folks: it seems that everywhere in the world, many like to go to a track to just walk or stroll around (there are reports about even a walker with a dog).
In China, there is more or less the same, but obviously all in Chinese fashion:
many people run backwards (Chinese believe it is very healthy for the back ... I guess it can be healthy until you crash against someone alse...), many run/walk barefoot but the most amazing are those running in pijamas. Every time I spot 2/3 ladies who jogs in pijamas or night suit. It is definitely a good way to cut on the time needed to reach the track from the bed, but I would not like to try to sleep in my running singlet either.
And finally, a group a old ladies who behaves in typical Cantonese (south china) fashion: they walk 10 meter apart from each other, so they have to shout very loudly to make themselves understand. Cantonese (both in HK and mainland) are very very noisy and the noise is part of their culture, but still now I am not very clear because the people should greet each other with a shout when they are 20 meters away and not wait to get closer ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Farewell to my shoes

I publish this post in tribute of my Asics Tarther , that after a long life of service have taken the way to the rubbish bin.
The photo reveal clearly that they had gone a long way for supporting my heavy stride (I am 70kg/155lbs) with a marked pronation.

I am very sentimental about my running shoes, usually hanging on on every excuse to keep them for years: my Adidas LA trainer (used in the 80s during my first spell with running), are still in my parents' house with the excuse that I could need them for a run if I pass by there (....12000km from here...). Also in my cabinet the Reebok used in NYC marathon in 1999 (supposedly I should use them as leisure shoes...) (this pair can claim to have done a around the world trip: purchased in China when I was still living in Europe, they took the plane back to Europe, than come with me to US for the NYC Marathon, and later transplanted back to China for their retirement) and I still take care of a pair of Diadora running flats that I was using in the mid 90s' during my second running phase, very remarkable these Diadora are too tight and too short so I really must find a good excuse to keep them ...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Peaking Long Run

This morning was the peaking session for my marathon training.
It was a 10k warm-up + 3x7km @MP
Everything quite well, I felt good legs all the way, but I struggled in the last interval because of the wind coming from the sea
- 1st interval: 3'46"/km average HR avg 161, felt very easy (even too much ... was the wind ?)
- 2nd interval: 3'51"/km, HR average 167the wind was gaining strength and in some section I had to push the throttle
- 3rd: 3'52"/km . HR average 168. I was obviously getting tired, but still manage to respect both the pace and keep the HR inside the 170bpm. My biggest issue was strong pain in the feet.
I was probably running "heavy" and my NB lightweight trainers are abandoning me ... So I felt every foot landing very painful.
total 35km/22Miles .

What I envy most to the Pro runners is that after a tough run, they take a long bath, massage and a nap. My recovery was a quick shower, making breakfast in 30 seconds, and having my daughter wanting to be carried around on my shoulders and running all around the estate ... her leg speed would rival Veronica Campbell ...

total for the week: 109km(68Miles) run and 870km(550Miles) driving the car ...

today's issue: do you also make long runs with intervals or other kind of variations in pace ? or still prefer the long steady pace run ?
Personally, in a modern marathon training, we can not avoid simulating more closely the specific of marathon also in training. For a runner on 70/90 Miles/week, a steady run of 20M can be like "too" easy and not very stimulating. The real challenge of the marathon is keeping the pace also after the 20Miles with depleted reserves and muscular fatigue and this need specific conditioning.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

daunting mental challenge

What would be more challenging for your mental toughness than a workout on a treadmill watching chinese TV political news ??

I got into it and lasted only 36minute at easy speed....

This morning I hit the road (by car) very early so I had to skip the daily outdoor run and resort to a evening treadmill run in my china weekday house (all the large housing complex in china have e gym, pooln etc).

But at 7pm sharp, all the 100+ chinese TV channels simultaneously broadcast the same news program that follows always the same format:
- a report on the day activity of. the President Hu Jintao (visit so me model factory, receive some foreign president, etc)
- a report on the daily activity of the Premier Wen jianbao
- some similar report on Politburo's member
- more report on PCC meetings
- several reportages on how the government is well taking care of the problem of ordinary people
- 2 minutes of international news
- sport (usually Yao Ming...)

After 30 minutes of this torture - hit the remote and switched to the 7.30pm english language news on Hong Kong Pearl TV.
The main news was that Police had raided a famous fashionable homeware store because it was selling a shirt with a logo "K14" that allegedly similar to the banner of a triad society gang !!!!
The 20+ shop assistants and store manager were ARRESTED and now could face up to 5 years jail !!
Beware of the T-shirts in your closet:also a owner of a seditious T-shirt can face the same sentence !!
This can happen only in a place like hong kong where the criminality is almost absent and the Police has anyway to spend the time somehow.

UPDATE: read more about this on the Standard

Watching such a news I was almost tumbling down from the belt from too much laugh. It was anyway too much to bear and I quickly closed the session with 36' at 136bpm
Now I feel ready to run in any circumstance, even watching a Oprah's show !!