Back on the wagon…again

I’m in the middle of the third week of the Michelle Bridge’s 12WBT and I’m going strong.  The first two weeks were a real challenge because I was taking a friend on the Dead or Alive Flora and Fauna Tour #2 – The Midwest.  It was a great trip and I managed to stay on the wagon for the first week, but by the time we reached Coral Bay, I had a bit of a wobble and fell off.

Having said this, I still managed to complete my exercise training every morning except one.  And I mostly chose the grilled fish and salad option without chips.  In fact, I didn’t eat a single chip.  And I love chips!

 

 

So after two weeks of following the program loosely at best, I can report that I have lost 200g!  Yes, lost!  Any loss is a win when you’re on holidays.  Terri lost more than 2 kg in the same time period which is fabulous too.  She has had a much better start than me but next week is our 4th-week milestone weigh-in and measure-up and I know I’ll have caught up a little by then!

Shock Test

I had a bit of a shock today when doing a fitness test before starting the 12 Week Body Transformation next week.  It may have not been my best effort because Terri and I decided to do the test together in Perth but I forgot to bring up my exercise gear and had to borrow hers.  This means my pants were too small, my shoes too big and I had no sports bra.  Still Here are my results:

  1. Number of pushups without stopping = 8
  2. Time taken to run 1 km whilst holding my boobs up = 6 minutes 33 seconds
  3. Longest plank (from knees) = 3 minutes 4 seconds
  4. Wall sit = 54 seconds
  5. Flexibility test = -13 cm (I was 13 cm away from being able to touch my toes!)

All these stats were put into a formula and the advice given was that I should start the beginner program.  Beginner!  I ran a marathon a year ago and now I’m back to the beginner program!

It was a shock!

 

Getting into the Swing of Things

Before the 12 Week Body Transformation program begins, there is a pre-season.  This entails doing a bunch of different tasks and challenges each week in the lead up to the start of the program in order to get into the right mindset for success.

Trying to move more was a challenge in one of the weeks.  I read this on Friday and I was bored of sitting in front of my computer all day, so I decided to ride my bike to the nearest decent cafe which happens to be a 20 km round trip.  I felt really good having done some exercise.  Of course, when I got to the cafe, I ate an egg and lettuce sandwich, a bucket of chips and a piece of fudge so it wasn’t a complete success.  I did decide not to get an icecream though as I knew that would make me too thirsty during the cycle home.  Yay for me!

Another such task was to go into your pantry and throw out or donate all the food that shouldn’t be there – sugary and fatty foods.  Well, that just seems an unnecessary waste to me, so instead, I’ve been eating them.  I’m currently getting through a block of delicious Margaret River cheese, bread and butter cucumbers and a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc for tea.  For lunch I had a few old butterscotch lollies I found at the back of the cupboard.  Once I’d finished them, I licked the icing sugar out of the tin.  Mmmmm.

Next Saturday is our last free day, so Terri has invited Uncle Adrian over for dinner and he’s bringing dessert!  Uncle Adrian makes the best desserts in the world.  This is true.  If you don’t believe me, you are wrong!  And his portion sizes are also very generous.  This is actually really good planning because there is absolutely no way we will feel like eating on Sunday which is the first day of the program!

 

Rising Like a Phoenix from the Ashes

Ahhh geez!

Well, I’m drinking a glass of wine whilst I’m writing this and it isn’t my first for the day.  I haven’t run for a week after tearing a muscle trying to do a cartwheel for a couple of six-year-olds and I’m about to tuck into a feed of garlic prawns because otherwise, I would have to throw them out.

In short, my foolproof plan to become tropics ready has crashed and burned.

I’m putting it down to isolation.  Normally, I would be going to work where I would be annoying everyone with my constant chatter about my progress, successes and challenges.  Although this would irritate some in the staffroom, there would always be others that would listen and make helpful suggestions.  Turns out, I need that!

Solution: I’ve joined the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation.

She speaks my language and in an accent I understand.  My sister recommends her whole-heartedly and we will be doing the program together – her in Perth and me in Lake Clifton (at least until the house sells).  The first two weeks will be the biggest challenge as Madrid and I will be travelling around the state!  But not to worry – plenty of chances for exercise whilst swimming with whale sharks and snorkelling on the Ningaloo Reef.  My pescatarianism should be easy to maintain as well whilst heading up the coast.  And if I have to venture beyond that, kangaroo is a very lean meat.

So I’m starting today with the pre-season exercises and this is my shout out to everyone – I’m doing this!

#Horizon

Not a bad environment for some extra exercise!

 

 

Making the Marathon

Winner!

Finally I am an ex-marathon runner!

The Result

On the 19th February in Okinawa, I finally reached my goal after running for 4 hours and 49 minutes on a beautiful sunny 19º C day.

Marathon Details

Phew! I’m in!

I didn’t realise how nervous I was going to be.  I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to finish after banging on about this attempt to anyone who would listen since I’d decided to do this back in July of 2016.  I was especially concerned that I wouldn’t finish, not because I was unprepared for it physically, but because I’d overlooked some key step in the organisation and would therefore look like a total twat.  For example, I wasn’t even sure I had successfully entered the race I’d been telling everyone I was running until just a few days before I left for Okinawa when my race package finally arrived in the mail.

Taxi ride in

A nervous taxi ride in but we made it in plenty of time as planned.

The morning of the race, I noticed loads of people (well, two couples) leave the hotel at about 6 am for the race.  I’d organised the taxi for 7:30 am thinking this was going to get me there in plenty of time.  Why were they leaving so early?  What did they know that I didn’t?  This made me worry.

Another concern was the weather.  It was 10 ºC warmer in Okinawa than what I had been training in for the last few months in Yokohama.  My support crew (Okinawa) had canvassed my chief running advisor and he had told her to make sure I drank three bottles of water the day before.  It’s a good thing I’m a bit of a camel because I stored all that liquid up nicely and in the end, I was well hydrated for the race but I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the extra sweat and salt loss.

Lastly, I woke up that morning to discover that my period had started.  How’s that for timing!  I only had one super soaker tampon with me, I got another from my support crew (Okinawa) but I was worried with all the bouncing up and down, that might not be enough.  I took two paracetamol with a codeine kicker before the race to combat the oncoming period pain and carried another two with me to take around the 10 km mark when my sciatica typically started to flare up in training.  This was not a good sign and all added up to increase my anxiety.

Support Crew Package

Package carried by my support crew (Okinawa). Everything I could possibly need at the finish line!

In the end, it turned out I needn’t have worried so much.  I was able to finish the race which was the goal I told everyone and I did it in under 5 hours which was my real goal that I kept private.  Not only did I finish under my real goal time, but I did so without vomiting from heat exhaustion or needing to change my pants at the end of the race.  That is success!  And just to prove it, my boss handed me my clean, unused, safety pants, framed, and in front of the staff, as a momento of my achievement on my return to work!

Memorable milestones in training

As the training runs got longer and longer, I started getting more and more bored of running around Yokohama.  This is when I started to run to somewhere.

First milestone was running to Kamakura!  This involved running up a big hill with no room for pedestrians.  I got honked at a bit, but the traffic was moving so slowly, I was never in danger.  And it meant that the run finished with a long down hill to help with  my time!

I ran to Shibuya and I did this by following the directions from Google maps without question.  This did take me across the Yokohama Bay Bridge which has no pedestrian access but that was the way Google told me to go and who am I to argue!  The policeman who stopped me on the other side of the bridge wasn’t happy with me but by that time I was already across and what a view I got!

For my final long training run, I went the opposite direction.  I caught the train to the end of the Keikyu line and then ran back home!

Pitfalls along the way

Fujiyoshida half marathon

It would have been less painful to walk home from Mt Fuji!

It wasn’t all smiles and smooth sailing though.  After completing my first half-marathon since Miura in 2014, I developed a very uncomfortable case of sciatica.  The car trip back from the race was agony.  Sitting down for longer than 10 minutes became a problem but I did my usual trick of assuming the problem would go away by itself.  Five months later, I went to Tokyo Physio in desperation.  Sciatica was diagnosed and the great team there gave me exercises and stretches and a torturous weekly massage that got me on the road to recovery.

For a while I had difficulty making it past the 25 km mark.  On my first attempt to do 30 km I failed miserably.  I was already tired by the time I had run 24 km but it then started pelting down with rain.  By 26 km, I was drenched to the skin and my iPhone had drowned.  At the 26.5 km mark, I gave up completely and began walking.  I even considered not finishing and just heading for the train but I knew my chief running advisor was waiting for me at the finish line with all my  money.

My first attempt at running to Kamakura was also a total failure.  I got lost, my sciatica caused me to give up around Ofuna station but worst of all, I had a bit of an accident in my pants.  It was after this that I started to take the paracetamol with the codeine kicker before a long run.  It was dual action as both an analgesic and (thanks to the codeine) a bottom blocker!

My second attempt to run to Kamakura was ultimately successful however it did start to rain about half way into the run.  It was just a light drizzle so I thought it would be ok.  Typically, I hadn’t bothered to check the weather before leaving my home, and as it turned out the rain set in and once again, I was drenched to the skin by the end of the run.  This time however, I ducked into a convenience store and got a plastic bag for my iPhone (which ultimately saved me another ¥30 000+ repair) and I was extremely lucky that I have good friends in Kamakura who were willing to come to my rescue with a clean, dry tracksuit for the trip home.

Post Marathon Goal

People keep asking me now what my next goal is.  It is simple.  I need to shift my marathon muffin top.

I think I’m the only person to actually gain weight whilst training for a marathon.  Despite clocking up 60+ km a week running, I managed to gain 5 kg since last July.  I’m living proof that you can easily overeat your exercise.  My mindset at the time was that I could eat anything I wanted.  I stopped my 2 day a week fasting routine and you had to be bloody quick to beat me to the free cake in the staff room.

Now I’m back on my 5-2 fasting routine, I’ve cut the alcohol right down again, I’m allowing other people to eat the snacks in the staff room (although last week I was spotted licking the crumbs off the table) and I’m still trying to run three times a week to keep up my fitness.

Lessons Learnt

  1.  Surround yourself with supporting people who have a sense of humour!

  1. Always use sunscreen!

Credits

Finally I have a lot of people to thank who helped me along the way.  I really couldn’t have done this without you!  In no particular order they are:

Chief running advisor

Simon Lorimer

Running advisors

Jim Roberts
Ed O’Loughlin

Support team (Okinawa)

Leah Edwards

Support team (The rest of the world)

Elaine Yandeau
All my colleagues @ YIS
Amanda Roberts
Mum
And everyone who commented and encouraged me on the FaceBook, the RunKeeper, this blog or talked to me in person.  You know who you are!

Health and Fitness Support

Don Mackay @ Tokyo Physio
Reneé @ Falcon Anytime Fitness

Time to Get Serious

I have registered for my first (possibly also last) marathon.  It will take place in Okinawa on the 19th of February next year.  I’m super excited and super terrified all at the same time.  I had hoped to get into the Tokyo marathon to be my first 42 km race but unfortunately, my number did not come up in the lottery.  My second choice was Osaka and again, I failed to win that lottery too.

So I found the Okinawa Marathon which must be a lot less popular because there was no lottery involved!  I registered for the race at home and the very next day, applied for my personal day from work for Monday 20th February as I’m pretty sure, I’m not going to be able to stand up.

30 km

Reminded of my denial for Tokyo!

Yesterday I had my first big test.  A 30 km training race in Tokyo.  Jim (one of my marathon trainers) tells me that 30 km is the half way mark of a marathon!  My 30 km was a mixture of success and defeat.  Success because I managed to run further than ever before.  I ran for the best part of 25 km with just a bit of walking at the aid stops to eat my gels.  I felt better than I had during a long run for a month!  At the 22 km mark, I really thought I was going to make it the whole way.  I had a smile on my face almost the whole way.  At the 23 km mark, I started to feel the beginning of some cramping in my legs which slowed me down but was still manageable.  I still thought I was going all the way.

Defeat because at 24 km it started to bucket down.  I hoped it would be just a brief shower and then I could dry off but it kept on raining.  By 25 km I was soaked through and my iPhone had given up the ghost.  Here I started to alternate walking with running.  By 27 km I was wet, cold and miserable.  The smile had gone.  I gave up.  I was worried that Simon might be waiting for me in the rain at the finishing line but not worried enough to compel me to keep running.  So I walked the last 3 km.  Sorry Simon!  I had toyed with the idea of running the last 1 km but after trying a few steps, I realised that I would be faster if I kept walking!

Defeat because once reaching the finishing line (where Simon was indeed waiting for me), I had to collect my bag in the mud which contained nothing to help me.  No towel, no change of clothes or shoes.  Luckily I got a race shirt that I was able to change into but I was still soaked from the waist down.

30 km

I’m so glad he waited for me!

Simon and I were both starving but because of my inability to prepare for the conditions, I had to insist that we choose a restaurant for lunch that had vinyl seats.  Luckily they are more common than not in Japan!  I also had to borrow his towel for the train ride lest I leave an unfortunate sign of my wet pants on the cushioned seat.

Getting Serious

Most of the reason for my failure though has been due to a lack of motivation and an overall slackness on my part.  I’ve counted 16 weeks back from the race which means I need to start getting really serious from the last week of October onwards.  This week I will run a bit for recovery, next week I’m on the grade 7 expedition which will mean little opportunity to run but then, it is going to be all out for 16 weeks.

I will…

  1. Stick as best as I can to my training plan.  It will be my priority.  Above work (where possible) and social life.
  2. Back to no drinking.  This has crept back into my lifestyle but it will be out again come the end of Oktoberfest … I mean October.  I did six months last year so 16 weeks will be a piece of cake.
  3. Stick to a healthy diet.  Basically this means avoiding the staff room at break time.  This will also help with #1 as I will need to work through breaks if I’m going to devote my after school time to training.
  4. Get to the gym a minimum of twice a week.  I’ve found it really hard to do this now that work has started but with the 20 minute workouts I got from Renee during the summer, there really isn’t any excuse.

A Call Out

I’m going to need someone to come with me to Okinawa.  I’m a bit worried about finishing the marathon without having someone there at the end to pour me into a taxi to get back to the hotel.  I’m not sure I’ll have enough where-with-all about me to even remember that I am staying at a hotel.  All the job entails is following my dot on the RunKeeper and turning up at the finish line about 5 hours after I start.  I can’t guarantee that I’ll have dry pants so you’ll probably have to bring a towel.  But that’s about it.  Let me know if you’re interested!

 

21 km Done and Dusted

I’ve had a week to recover and I finally have enough energy to sit down and bash out the story of last weekend and a really fun run!  Here are the highlights!

Road trip!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

Shotgun!

Simon drove me and Ange in his zippy, Japanese-sized car.  It was great to be able to go somewhere with the convenience of a car for a change and I was able to bags the front seat too!

As chief navigator, I relied on google maps to get us up and back.  We questioned google’s advice on the way up and got stuck in a traffic jam so on the way back we decided to just do whatever she said.  There was one point where Simon was still a bit suspicious of the instructions though.  Google told us to continue straight ahead into what appeared to be someone’s gravel driveway.  It did in fact turn out to be a bit of a driveway but google was right and it did connect us to an actual road again and back on the expressway.  And we got to wave at residents as they came out to see who was coming along their alleyway.  We didn’t question google again!

Winter in summer

IMG_1919Since returning to Japan at the beginning of August, I had found running to be quite challenging in the heat and I was worried about doing a half marathon in the summer.  It was hot and humid when we left Yokohama but by the time we got up the mountain, it was raining heavily and absolutely freezing.  Despite all of us being seasoned travellers, none of us had had the forethought to pack anything but short sleeves.  During our visits to the caves and other tourist spots, I kept my eyes peeled for a jumper shop but no luck.

The upside of this though was that the race day on Sunday was also cool with just a light mist of rain – perfect for running up a big hill!

Carb loading

On the rainy Saturday, we had to find indoor activities to amuse us and Mami booked us in for a cooking lesson for lunch.  So all six of us landed at what turned out to be someone’s house to cook ‘hoto’ noodles.  The noodle is made from just flour and water and I volunteered to do the mixing.  Our finished noodles did not look that pretty but they sure tasted great!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

Fujiyoshida half marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fujiyoshida half marathonFujiyoshida half marathon

 

Fujiyoshida half marathon
For dessert we decided to stop by an ice-cream stand despite the fact we were all freezing!  There were a lot of flavours to choose from and some were quite unfamiliar to my Australian experience.  Here are some of the flavours that were unusual to me:Fujiyoshida half marathon

  • cheese and biscuit
  • sweet potato (purple)
  • sweet potato (orange)
  • soba (buckwheat noodle)
  • wasabi
  • macha (green tea)
  • black sesame
  • azuki (red beans)

I settled on giving the wasabi a go but when I tried to order it, everyone around me including the ice-cream lady herself, gasped with shock!  Quite a lively commotion ensued with everyone getting involved in trying to dissuade me.  The ice-cream lady said it would be too hot for me and flatly refused to sell it to me!  I finally convinced everyone that I could handle it but the ice-cream lady felt that she couldn’t charge me full price for what she clearly thought was an insane choice of flavour and gave me a ¥50 discount!

The race

Finally we made it to the race venue and we were all excited and ready to go!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

Next we did a warm-up with all the other participants.

Fujiyoshida half marathon

And about two and a half hours later we were all finished with just enough energy to do one big jump.

Fujiyoshida half marathon

I was really happy with my time considering I did a 500+ m climb over the course of the race!  Here is a snapshot of my results both official (right) and unofficial (left)!

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 3.28.32 PMScreen Shot 2016-09-03 at 3.47.16 PM

 

Thank you

A BIG thank you to our support crew of one – Angela!  She had many duties over the weekend including covering my back in bandaids so that my sports bra didn’t rub all my skin off and being my modesty curtain when I was trying on a top at one of the race stalls.  You’re the best Ange!  She was also the official photographer for the weekend and took most of the shots I’ve used in this post.

Finally it was time for a well earned drink – not the grass we were drinking in this photo below though – and to head back to Yokohama.  Simon’s small Japanese car proved to be a prison of pain for me after about half an hour into the trip but we pushed on to get home as quickly as possible so I could finally stretch my legs out again.

Next challenge – 30km run in October!

Fujiyoshida half marathon

Running is Harder in Japan

Today is my fasting day and I’ve just returned from the gym where I did an upper body and core workout designed by my fabulous personal trainer Renee at Falcon Anytime Fitness.  It was a great workout but when combined with the fatigue I’m still experiencing from yesterday’s long run, I’m finding it difficult to keep my arms in position to type.  Lifting up my water bottle is a challenge.

That aside, this post is about yesterday’s long run.  It was my first 10+ km run now that I’m back in summer weather.  In Lake Clifton, I knocked off a couple of 21 km runs and did them in a good time and fairly comfortably.  Yesterday’s run was quite different.

I had put three energy gels into the freezer after my last run and the unpleasant ‘hot salty banana juice’ experience of midway through the previous training session.  I had a bunch of podcasts lined up on my phone to listen to and I was really looking forward to going out and hitting the pavement for a couple of hours of running.

Due to the heat, I’ve been running in the evenings.  As I planned to run 22 kms, I knew it would take me a couple of hours so I didn’t want to wait too long but I also wanted to watch the West Coast Eagles game as I suspected it might be the last one we would win this season.  The game was planned to finish about 6pm so I was going to be out the door by then and back by 8:30pm which wasn’t too late.  In the end, I didn’t leave until after 6:30pm as mum rang to discuss the game.  She expressed her concern about me running at night but clearly wasn’t anxious enough to get off the phone so I could get going and get back at a reasonable hour!

The run started off great.  It was still light when I started so I ran down to the park behind Sankeien Gardens then back up Honmoku dori.  At about the 7km mark, I took the first of my energy gels and it was still cool and almost pleasant to taste.  It gave me a boost and I ran up Hospital Hill to the bluff.  By now it was dark but there were a lot of people out and about enjoying the warm summer evening so I was never in trouble.

By this time I was very sweaty and I could feel that my brand new sports bra that hadn’t caused me any problems whilst running in the winter climate the week before, was starting to slide around a bit.  Still it wasn’t hurting me and I kept going.

After about 10km I need to take a pit stop.  I don’t think this was because of the gel but merely because I hadn’t gone earlier in the day.  Luckily I was running by the Red Brick Warehouse and the quite excellent public facilities that are located there.  I used the disabled toilet because although I wasn’t that tired yet, I was still grateful for something to hang on to on the way down.

At the 14 km mark, I was ready to take my next energy gel and I was starting to look forward to a good long sit down.  Although starting to feel pretty tired, I was still confident that I would complete the run.  My RunKeeper app reminded me to begin running at a faster pace for the next 6 kms but I decided to ignore it.  My aim for this run was just to finish and I was already feeling it despite running slower than in previous weeks.

With just a handful of kilometres to go, I took my last energy gel at Yamashita Park.   A few minutes later, I really started to struggle as the stomach cramps began.  These were the type of cramps I was familiar with from my time in Ghana where I had leant the hard way never to trust a fart.  Despite my best efforts though, fart I did but mercifully that is all I did!

By now I’m more waddling than running.  I feel a bit nauseous and any left over energy is being channelled into keeping my butt cheeks clenched.  With my apartment building in sight, my RunKeeper app speaks the two most beautiful words in the English language – ‘workout completed’.

It had just past 9:30 pm.  I was exhausted.  When I g0t home, I took off my running gear to assess the damage.  I have four chafe spots on my chest and two on my back from my sports bra that made showering a very painful exercise.  My feet have begun to look pretty gnarly with old and new blisters, callouses and peeling skin.

Although I’ve run this distance before, this is the longest it has taken me to do so.  In three weeks, I’m running the same distance in a race on a mountain.  If the race was in wintery Lake Clifton, I think I could have a crack at doing it in 120 minutes but running is harder now that I’m back in Japan!

Longest run

The final waddle took its toll on my average pace!

 

The Chaser

Some slightly less terrifying chasers.

There are few things as terrifying as feeling the hot breath of an unknown creature on the back of your calf as you are running at dusk in rural Australia.

As it was, my heart was already pumping pretty hard because I was running a fast interval, but it went up an extra notch due to the sheer terror I was feeling.  With great trepidation, I slowly turned my head to look behind me to find out just what was pursuing me.  Hot on my heels was an enormous sheep, barrelling its way down the hill right behind me.

I calmed down a little bit, but sheep still have an impressive set of gnashers so I kept running as hard as I could.  My training paid off because I was able to outrun the sheep which eventually gave up the pursuit and went back to nibbling grass on the side of the road.  Phew!

In unrelated news, I’m really enjoying working with my personal trainer Renee at Anytime Fitness in Falcon.  She is helping me put together a strength a program that I can carry on with at my local gym back in Japan.  She is also a long distance runner so she knows what needs to be done.  So far we have been working on 30 minute sessions that are a mixture of super sets and intensity workouts to target different muscle groups.  She has given me sets of exercises using just basic gear because the Naka Ward gym doesn’t have a lot of fancy machines but is well stocked on general lifting gear.  By the time I go back to Japan, I should be set!