Jogging Haiku #64

Lascivious dancing
On a steamy summer eve,
Bats are on the hunt.

11km in 95min or so.

Slow first 3/5th or 2/3rds, stronger end thanks to a sweet drink. Separating in my head the trail into segments really helped me to go through it. It was quite hot and humid even if in the evening, though there was quite a bit of wind so it didn't feel like the 29C shown on a road sign, especially since I was along a river most of the time. With a heavy-ish bag again.


Jogging Haiku #63: Wet Sweat

Little drizzle and
Sweat flowing out of my pores,
So wet all the same.

(Shortish 45min jog)


Jogging Haiku #62: Long Job Back

Rivers to my right
Airplanes taking off above
Bats all around me.

(about 11k in 90minutes)

Long jog back from my a worksite in Ikeda. I basically followed the Inagawa all the way back to my place, passing the Itami airport, my favourite tree and shrine guardians. I had to buy a sweet drink near my favourite tree as I was feeling as if my energy levels were going down. I wish I hadn't, but I haven't been exercising much recently, my metabolism isn't there yet. But it did give me the boost to finish strong, something I really hadn't expected considering my current fitness level and the distance. I feel pretty accomplished! Good to be back at it.

Oh yeah, and I was running with a heavier bag than I'm used to recently.


Kisaichi Long Run

It has been moons, years, since I've posted here. Better late than sorry. I haven't run much since, though recently I started trail running again and man does it feel good. Here's a rundown and up of my outing last Friday from Keihan Kisaichi station. To see the full trail, check this link.

The full length is about 15k and the main purpose of the trail, in addition to getting out there and run, was threefold: check out the Takayama Castle ruins which I had seen signs of on a few occasions before; second, see if I could find a trail connecting it to the Hoshida Buranko (suspension) bridge for a possible H3 trail; finally see what the trail was from Kisaichi stn. to the Hoshida bridge to see if I could bring my little ones there (turns out the in-trail is as hard as taking the bus to Iwafune Shrine and then climbing up, so that's probably the best alternative for families wishing to go to the bridge, assuming you're using public transport).

Well, basically, I knew the trail almost all the way to the castle, though as you can see below, I was carrying my dSLR, so I did stop more than usual to capture some decent pics. I got spit on by the clouds a little closing on Kurondo pond (which you could go to with genki young kids on foot, though you could take a bus to the pond and walk back as well), but I definitely got more sun than rain on trail. As it was a weekday, the trails and sights were quite deserted, though the Hoshida area had a few more people.

Step aside the trail a little nearing Tsukinowa fall (月の輪滝)

The fall just below...

Tsukinowa Fall: this one is easily accessible by a little bridge and path

Nature center and toilet about 2/3 - 3/4 the way to Kurondo pond.

As you can see from the pics below, the way to Takayama Castle was a standard but always beautiful bamboo forest trail; they never get old. But along the way, no stone wall, no wells, and at the top... not much. There were some monuments, but nothing else. It was a little disappointing, but oh well, at least the nobles got what they deserved I suppose. Power to the people.
You can get on pedal boats, buy some meal & snacks, or even BBQ (with their kit in season).

Follow the signs at first for the garden, then the castle (though the reddish sign at the bottom is for the castle). This post is from the opposite corner of Kurondo Pond when you arrive to it.

Gotta love bamboo groves.

Those aren't ruins; they were recently built!! 

Google map helped me from that point to find a trail. I had trails going and almost joining after, and I figured there'd be a way to connect the trails. What I didn't expect there was an actual trail, following the high-power lines above. I realized then that pretty much everywhere in Japan there must trails following those power lines, something that might come in useful on future H3 runs!

The trail ended up crossing an overgrown road going to some kind of development. Was it a quarry? A failed housing development? Who knows. I'd like to go around there again and explore to learn more about it. It would make a great location for filming or shooting stills, and I'd love to learn what happened there.

After milling around a bit, I ended up in a small village that was just so quaint and beautiful. The kind of places that you won't find in any guidebooks, but that are just so essentially Japanese.  The trail there was fun and the village will have me going back.

Maybe my favorite capture of the trail.

An orange would have felt good at that point in the trail!

42: the answer to life, the universe and everything.

After running across a river from a busy road I arrived at Iwafune Shrine, known as the rock cave shrine. For fee, you get to crawl through rocks to little shrines in the middle of rocks standing atop of each other like a natural Jenga game. I had been there yeeeaaars ago with my wife, and it was as good as I remembered it. There is a bus going there from Katanoshi Stn., but it only runs on weekends and holidays at 10:30 and 16:00, and the later one would get you there after opening hours. With elementary school kids and maybe genki younger ones, the trail from here to the end is possible, especially considering that the opposite way isn't easier by any means.

Entrance of Iwafune Shrine

Stairway down to...

I don't know of any other shrines like it in Japan.

From the shrine up to the buranko bridge is a long uphill, pretty steep at first. It is all paved and/or at least well-maintained. Before the uphill, there is a little shrine with a waterfall for devotees wishing to meditate under cold waters. I suppose in summer it would feel nice!

Uh, maybe in summer...

Though arduous, the trail up to the bridge isn't too long and there are many signs along the way to confirm you are on the right track (actually, just go straight...). There are rest areas and toilets along the way too, making sure everyone is ok.

The bridge itself is pretty spectacular. At the highest, you are 50 meters above ground and depending on the weather, time of day and season, the view can be pretty spectacular. Since it is a suspension bridge, it does sway a little, so people with fear of heights might not enjoy it too much. Take your time to get your selfies and family shots, because from there, it all goes downhill, well, at least vertically speaking.

Must be awesome in fall!

I'm too sexy for... For? Anyone?

Soon after the bridge you will find a staircase going down the slope. It is fairly steep, and after passing under the bridge you will hit a service road leading to a park center and and serious climbing wall. I don't know what the system is for climbers, I suppose you have to either pay an access fee and/or belong to club of some sort.

Under the bridge downtown...

Get up, get on up! 

From there, follow the trail to Kisaichi stn. At first you'll go on a "railway trail", that is just an elevated boardwalk. After passing the paying parking, the trail will go up a little before settling on an easy course down, passing some cottages before hitting the road back to the station.

Before getting on the train, make sure to stop by the local convenient store just outside the station to grab something to eat or drink, including some excellent local sake from the brewery where Philip Harper learned the craft. There are also a couple of cafes/restaurants around, as well as an outdoor gear shop.

Seriously, stop by Espoa store for some local sake, it is very good!

Happy trails!


Jogging Haiku 61: Lonely Noise

Quite solitary
Yet little peace and quiet,
Crying Cicadas.

(medium run past my favorite tree, with a few dashes up and down)

My pains haven't totally gone. Actually, it feels more like my Achilles tendons were hurt. I've basically completely stopped wearing 5 Fingers around town, save for some water park fun. I ran in them this morning and they felt fine.

I used to opportunity of a jet lag-induced early wake to go for an overdue run, before the summer's heat showed its ugly head. As always after a long absence, the start was a little rough, but once I was going, it felt great. Hopefully I can start running regularly again, I really miss it and I would love to break my record at the Sanjurokumine race next December.

That explains why my dashes, with the last one that had me gasping for air, were mostly done in sections that had ups and downs. I realize that if I want to shave some real time from my personal best I'll need to be faster in the inclines especially. Building powerful muscles is key in this.

Otherwise, thanks to my mom who bought a running book (en français); I haven't opened it yet, but I'm sure it's going to be a great read.


Jogging Haiku 60: It's Been a While

Morning dew caress
First outing in many weeks,
Feelings recovered.

(shortish run, in about 50min)

I hadn't run for a while due to laziness and hurting ankles. While I still love my Five Fingers for running, I'm not sure they're the best option for just walking around town. About 2 months ago I bought two new pairs, including a casual pair I've been wearing almost daily. But in the last two weeks, my ankles and the feet bones near it have been hurting somewhat. It subsided at the end of last week, so after going to capoeira Friday without any problems, I decided to go for a short run this morning when I woke before the family was up.

I used familiar routes near my home, choosing the ones that allowed me to run on grass and dirt as much as possible. It felt great to run as it always does when running for the first time after a long break. I also did some sit-ups and pull-ups in parks along the way.

Part of the inspiration for going out running is my neighbor, Miyuki Fukumoto, who at 36, still managed to repeat her personal best last month at a competition in Australia. I knew she was a gym coach, but had no idea she competed nor that her specialty was high jump. My rationale is that if a 36-year-old mother can compete in world championships, there's no reason why I can't join my own chump-ionship!

The old adage is still true: you don't stop running (moving) because you get old; you get old because you stop running.


Jogging Haiku 59: Familiar Trails

Reflecting waters
Ducks gliding on the surface
By the golden Sun.

(7.5km, with warm up & cool down kilometer+ and two dashes)

Happy New Year everyone. I know I'm a little slow, but the computer hasn't been the thing on my mind during the holidays. Time with family has had the priority. But I did put in two runs since Jan. 1st:  the Kobe Ladies H3 1500th run (tough but great trails behind Shin Kobe station), and this morning's short outing. I want to keep up jogging since I'm toying with the idea of joining either a 36, 42 or 50km mountain race in April or May.

I thought this morning's outing would be more difficult, seeing as I went to an all-you-can-eat-and-drink Korean BBQ restaurant last night, and I had more than my fair share: if you really are what you eat, then mooooh! Returning to this morning's run, I slow jogged the first 1200m or so, then ran faster than MP (marathon pace) for about 5km, dashed across a bridge, then slow jogged until the end, except for a 50m dash to catch the green light.

I recombined parts of different trails, wanting to run in fun places. This meant a few ground trails along rivers and going through little roads and streets that I like. As with work, do something you like and you'll never have to work!

Well, off to eat some fugu with the in-laws. Have a great day!


Jogging Haiku 58: Holiday Season

Past runs' memories
Tiny snowflakes drifting by,
Alone, not lonely

(15-17km, from Takarazuka to Arima onsen, via Mt. Rokko in 3 hours)

With the day free, my son at the daycare and my wife at work, I decided to burn some holiday calories and go trail running. It was my first long outing since the Sanjurokumine race, and I certainly felt it! I was all gun-ho at first, but it is a long way up from Takarazuka to the top of Mt. Rokko, a climb just under 900 meters (the summit is 931m).

Being a cold weekday, the trail wasn't too crowded, and as far as I could tell, I was the only runner, since no one passed me, although I did pass a few people. Not too long after entering the actual trail, I found a recently opened pack of gum and I figured it belonged to the first group I would encounter, and I was right: you should have seen the surprised face of the owner when I asked if it was theirs!

As mentioned before, it was pretty cold, and dressed like the Sanjurokumine race ended up being the right strategy, even if a non-sleeve fleece under might have been appreciated at times. I had new thermo socks I got from the home center, and they proved warmer than the socks I wore for the race. Not perfect, but better. I was also carrying a backpack with hydration bladder, rice balls (thanks, Momo), extra clothes (I forgot my shirt!), wallet and cell phone.

As the haiku indicates, during the run I was reminded of many past runs I've done there: training for the Oxfam Trailwalker - including the time I threw a snowball at Yuriko, it split mid-air to hit both her and my other assailant Akemi -; me completing the whole Rokko trail from Suma to Takarazuka; a run I did with my wife along with a group from the Run-Walk store in Morinomiya; and so on. With these great memories, even if I was alone, I certainly didn't feel it!

There were some flurries at times, and as I got higher, there was ice and snow on the ground. I wish I would have taken a picture of the crystalised formations on the side of the trail at times, they looked like quartz pillars guarding the way to the top. They were amazing. I did take some quick snaps with my phone, here's the best one I feel.

But before that, I wish you all a great end to 2012, and an even better start for 2013. I hope you will have a fantastic time next year, whether you run, jog, walk, crawl or drive!


4:11:50 (Personal Best!)

Black hearses on trail
White snowflakes gently falling,
Million shades of grey.

(Sanjurokumine Mtn Race, 30km, 4:11:50)

Wow, my personal best! I certainly didn't expect that one. At the last station I asked a volunteer what time it was, and she said 13:27. She then asked me it was a good time, and I said "I don't know"! And it took some time for me to do the math and realize my time wasn't going to be bad. But when I got my certificate with official time, and I was a little shocked, and happy of course. Oh, and by the way, the shades of grey mentioned in the haiku have nothing to do with the novel that only alludes to 50 (although it is a sort of reference); here grey stands for feelings (of pain?) between elation and agony. I felt much more than 50 shades on the trail!

I ran my race, and things went better than I'd thought. The main factor, the weather, wasn't too much of an issue, although I'll come back to it in more detail later on. For now, let me just say that it was cold! No rain and the alluded snowflakes were quite few, but there were a few times when I was pretty cold, and I'm glad I wore my jacket and not my fleece; the hood proved to be useful a few times, especially after stopping at the aid stations. Here's a highlight and lowlight report, mostly for myself to possibly improve my time next year.

Let's start with the highlights. My good time was caused by three things. First, I didn't stop at the aid stations for too long, especially the first one. I improved my time by 8 minutes, and perhaps I won half of that time at the aid stations. Was it a good strategy (recovery vs time)? Well, with today's cold weather, I think it was definitely the right thing to do. After the stations I always felt cold, and my legs froze rather rapidly, making the restart difficult.

The second reason is Run Less, Run Faster. The interval training really helped in the uphills, giving me a bit more oompf, even in the last kilometers when I was quite tired. The cross training, which made me an all-around better athlete (cough, cough) came in useful as mountain running involves different muscles going up, flat and down.

Third is I ate and drank more at the aid stations. If I hadn't, those last hard kilometers would have been much harder I think. Maybe carry a bit more food next time (those gels perhaps?), I only had a bit of water and one SoyJoy bar in the pockets of my jacket (something which worked fine as an alternative to wearing a light backpack).

Finally, I think minimal running also helped with those uphills, since my calves have gotten stronger. I didn't get any sort of cramps like last year, and even the last uphill wasn't that difficult on my calves. They were ready to go, it was my overall stamina that failed me there. I didn't encounter too many troubles with the minimal protection, at least against socks. When I did hit rocks or twigs, the immediate feedback had my feet get out of seriously injury quickly enough. A few times I stepped hard on pebbles  and stuff, but I didn't slide where others did.

Now with the lowlights. I think the main factor for me not going even faster is that I hadn't done enough long runs in my preparation. My legs were relatively fresh, but I just didn't have the energy to go faster from the second half - last third. If I want to go under the 4-hour mark, that is certainly something I'll need to work on. In my training, I missed too many long and tempo runs, and I felt it during the course. Loin muscle cramps prevented me the most from running uphill more.

Second, while the Five Fingers behaved basically as expected, I ran into (excuse the pun) two problems. First, with the lack of long training, my feet were killing me in the end. Just a few hours later I feel fine, but in the end it was really difficult. I need more training there, something I actually had anticipated, but not in this manner (I thought my ankles would hurt, which they didn't). Second, at times, which didn't help with the pain and running, my feet were frozen! I think my socks were mostly cotton, which is about the worse fabric against the cold. I'll need to find better socks next year. Also, I talked with a Frenchman who ran with NB Minimal shoes, and the added padding on the soles is something to look into.

Finally, I lose a lot of time in the descents, especially the technical parts. Shoes don't really matter here, as I was slow going down with trail runners and street runners, and again I think that practice would help me.

Well, overall, this was in a way the perfect race: I ran my personal best time, while at the same time learning some valuable lessons. What more could I ask for. So, next year, can I go sub-4? I'll certainly try to!


Last Training

This morning I completed my training for next Sunday's Sanjurokumine race. Similarly to last year, I go in the race with no expectations for three reasons.

First and foremost, and completely my fault, I don't feel I have trained enough. I missed many training runs due to different factors (illness, work, etc.), but mostly due to my own laziness. But where I lacked in quantity, I think I made up with quality. The Run Less, Run Faster program is quite excellent, and even after missing many runs, sometimes whole weeks at a time, I still felt good when I ran my last real long run two weeks ago. Part of it is the separate types of runs (long, tempo, intervals, the last one becoming an unsuspected favorite), but also the cross-training. I routinely ride my bicycle, and the trips to the pool proved a welcome and enjoyable change. So, overall, I haven't trained enough, but quality training might save me... from complete embarrassment.

The second reason is the weather, something I have no control over. Last year's conditions were ideal: sunny and cool enough not to dehydrate. This year however, the current forecast calls for some rain and possible snow, with maximum temperatures of 5. So it will be a cold one, and I'm not sure how I'll dress for it. Especially if it rains, a shell will be essential to stay warm, but I'm afraid to sweat too much under it. If I put clothes that are too warm under, I'll sweat like a pig, but if I underdress, I might freeze. It's going to be a tough to balance. For now, I'm thinking about wearing warmish tights, warmish compression shirt and outside shell. I've run in that gear at night last Monday and I didn't feel too hot or cold, although it wasn't raining. An option would be to bring a sleeveless fleece, and I guess I'll have to make the choice 20-30min before the start.

The final factor are my Vibram FiveFingers. I really like them, and I've been running with them for a number of months now, both on and off trail. On soft trails, they're amazing, and they perform similarly on technical parts as with regular running shoes, but they're not so great on gravel roads, and there are a few of them on the course. Also, I haven't run 30km on trail with them yet, so I'm not sure what to expect. Also, although I've adopted a barefoot-style of running, it still isn't as comfortable as running with regular shoes. I expect my calves and ankles to suffer quite a bit by the end of the course, and certainly the following days. But I really enjoy the feeling and will use the race to improve my technique.

So with all these factors weighing in, the best I can hope for is to finish in relative good condition. Equalling my second best time of 4:30 would be great, but I can't expect that it will be a walk in the park to do so. In any case, I hope to enjoy the race again this year, with encouragement from Yona Yona waiting for me at the finish line!

The Champagne is for another occasion, and yes, I'll share the beer... perhaps!