Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ondo Ekiden

February 2nd, 2014

(Lost pics from this race)

The previous race, (Kurahashi Ekiden) led me to running the Ondo Ekiden. After Team Uwagi took 1st place at the Kurahashi Ekiden, another member from Team Uwagi, Nakada San, invited me to run the Ondo Ekiden with Team Doi-Chan. Later I would find out Mr. Doi is the mayor or some leader of Kure city. Didn't know the teammates and only got around to doing 1 speed word exercise the week of the race. These interval and sprints left my legs feeling pretty sore going into the weekend, however, it felt necessary to wake them up after doing so much climbing and slow miles recently.

A couple weeks before the Ekiden, got up to 60 miles in a week for the first time since last May and one of the runs was a 21-miler w/ almost 7000ft of climbing. This was followed by Kenshu and my routine going to a hot spring and then going to Nanshu Ramen shop for Oomori Chanpon-men, Nanshu Ramen, and a rice ball. It has been so much fun doing these kind of runs on the mountains and will miss it when back in Minnesota. How lucky I am to have pretty much in my backyard, a 1200 mountain that has both road and trail routes.

The day before the race, Kenshu and I went into Hiroshima city because he had to buy some things followed by a hotspring session in Kure city at the Yamato Onsen. Spending several hours bathing in hot outdoor baths in the cool winter air, relaxing in a sauna, and dipping in the cold bath can cure any pain in the legs and subdue any nerves in the mind. After the Onsen we went to a nice udon restaunt similar to Marukame in Waikiki and I had a large portion of curry-udon, fried pumpkin, then decided to go for round to and got another portion of udon with another fried pumpkin.

 Nakada-san picked me up the AM of the race and we drove to Ondo. We met with the 2 Team Doi-chans, both which I found out included females and middleschool students. Not to discredit women and children, but I ruled out any chance of placing in the relay race because I heard there were two teams of Japanese Self-Defense Force runners who have won the last few years. Realised it was best to just enjoy the comradeship of running together on a team.

We hung out in the parking lot and I found out another runner from our team (Yusuke Ikeda) is a triathlete and hopefully will be meeting him for a run soon.  We were given 2 sports drinks, amino acid drinks, and other goodies for running. We all then headed over to the gymnasium where the opening ceremony would be held. It was cool to see so many students from Kurahashi Middle school, Meitoku Middle school and a school I just started going to, Ondo Middle school. Each of these schools had at least one team running in the Ekiden. Saw many familiar faces from around Kurahashi and also saw Morimoto Sensei’s team. Unfortunately, Morimoto Sensei invited me to join his team after Nakada-san had invited me to Team Doi-chan and I felt bad to have to decline his invitation. In hindsight, it might have been better to check with Morimoto-Sensei to see if he had a team before accepting to run w/ Team Doi-Chan, but live n’ learn I guess.

We were driven to our respective relay starting points in which I was dropped off at the #3 spot in which I would be running a 3.8km (2.3mile) segement. By chance, Kenshu and Uwagi’s Iwamoto-san were both running in the #3 position as well as several students from the schools.  We began on the “main” island road in which there was an elementary school right up a set of stairs from the road. This was nice because there was a large school ground where we could warm-up despite it being pretty soggy from rain the night before. Still, it was a nice area away from all the cars and people. Did some slow jogging around the grounds w/ another Team Doi-Chan member and Kenshu. Kept warm clothes on and heavy Brooks Ghost in the meantime. Did some slow jogging along the road and came back to change into the change into the lightweight shoes. Boy did they feel nice. Was pretty warmed up and did some last minute accelerations and tried to wake up the legs/lungs/heart for the ensuing struggle.

I get so nervous before races that are relatively short because I’m anticipating how intense and tough it will be. Usually my heart gets pounding well before the race starts and I have to consciously take some deep breaths to calm down.

Hung out at the transition spot where our #2 runner would pass of the shoulder ribbon. Saw several official vehicles drive by, followed by a motorcycle that was leading the front runners. They were calling out the team bib #s of the upcoming runners so the next respective relay could be ready on the transition line. After 9 runners left the #3 transition, I heard them say “28” which was our team’s bib number. Was so ready to run and just Needed the ribbon. The ribbon was passed off to me and I ran nearly as fast as I could as I quickly put the strap around my shoulder and tucked in the lose string into my pants. Felt like I was flying and didn’t feel the slightest bit of fatigue. Looked down at the GPS to saw low 4:00min/miles and wondered if the watch was broke. Figured I better slow down regardless but the watched stayed around the 4:40 range for at least the first kilometer (.6miles). Was passing runners who were going relatively much slower. Slowly came up on Kenshu and exchanged words of encouragement as I tried to keep a quick pace. As I was continuing to pass people, it was quickly becoming tougher to pass runners and a.) the runners I was catching were becoming progressively faster, and, b.) I was becoming progressively more tired. 1st mile split was 5:05 and was a bit surprised as this is my fasted 1-mile time to date. Continued to try and pass other runners and eventually saw the lead few runners along with the motorcycle leading them. They didn’t seem too far away become I was quickly losing the spring in my step. I thought to myself, “Why the f did I start so fast..” but nothing I could do at the moment besides run run run. I kept wondering how fast some of the other fast runners were doing at this time.

Came up on the 4th place runner who was wearing a Team Soldier bib. Did my best to pass him and leave him behind but his footsteps continued behind me. Tried to stay as relaxed as possible while trying to speed up if at all possible. I was enjoying the competitive feeling of fighting like this and it was definitely helping me keep a decent pace, despite slowing down significantly from the beginning of the race.  As we got closer to the finish, the soldier made a move on me and I tried to keep his pace. Tried so hard to keep up with him but the legs weren’t responding as I’d have like them to. Felt like we were accelerating as my GPS now said 5:20s and we were both approaching the front two runners. He continued to speed up as we approached the finish which was just infront of the Hayase bridge (connecting to Etajima island). Here I passed off the shoulder ribbon to our #4 female runner.
Was pretty tired right after but it didn’t take long to walk out the soreness in the legs and regret not pushing harder. Definitely will benefit from more speedwork before the next race.
Congradulated the soldier for the battle we had at the and as I genuinely enjoyed getting beat by him. With him running up on me, it make me keep a pace that would have not been possible without the influence of other runners around.

Watched all the other runners finish and congratulated Kenshu, Iwamoto-san and Meitoku’s Keito on their job well down. Saw Morimoto-Sensei take from the #4 position and hoped in our team van to drive back to the start/finish area. I felt bad for the runners beginning at #4 because the road was congested with tons of cars that the runners had to run alongside. Yucky.

The finishers came through and saw Doi-chan himself (Mayor Mr. Doi) finish as he was the #7 runner. Met up after the race for a post-race photo and enjoyed bento lunches together on the steps over looking the see. Morimoto-Sensei came buy and informed me I was recthe eived Kukanshou which is the award for having the fasted time within your race segment. Hung out and talked with the team members for a bit before heading back to Uwagi to get ready for the celebration party.
Headed into Kure with Nakada-San, Nakanou san and our DD for the night. Had our after party and a nice Japanese style resturuant and quickly drank to much. Had a rough day at school the next day. Enjoyed the time our from what I can remember, and have been giving some serious thought to giving up drinking.
With Doi-chan-san
Nakada-san and friend
Enjoyed the second experience of an Ekiden relay race and look forward to running the Saijo Ekiden in a week and a half. Only thing is I’ll be running an 18-mile race 4 days before. Hmm might not run it.

Surprised to see how I am still getting faster without putting in much speed specific work outs. Have been doing a ton of climbing and was biking about 50miles a week to and from schools but now need to replace back tire! Cripes bikes are too much maintenance.  Still think I am benefiting a ton from the weekly yoga. Now during the day, I am often consciously thinking about my body position and posture.  If only I was a PE teacher and could move around more!

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