Greetings from Japan! I am writing this from the comfort of a toasty warm living room in Tokyo! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas: mine was spent having a more 'traditional' Christmas lunch/day a whole day early on Christmas eve (where we pulled crackers, opened presents, ate way too much delicious food etc), before Kim and I took off on a sleeper train to get out to the fresh air of Sapa (North-West Vietnam) for actual Christmas day.
Aaaaannnd, now I'm in TOKYO! I could not be more excited. So far so good: we kicked things off by heading straight to a karaoke joint when we arrived the other night (yep, before even checking in to our accommodation). From then onwards it's been: exploring on foot, Family mart trips for the most amazing food/snacks/drinks, sake and tofu bars, amazingly kind and generous new friends, and a brisk/cold early morning run (SO nice to actually run in the cold again!). First impressions of Tokyo: it is a very clean, friendly, and polite city. The air feels fresh and no one tries to ride over you on the pavement. It is a welcome change from Hanoi, as much as I've loved my time in Vietnam so far.
Stay tuned - oh so much more Tokyo to check out over the next 3 days! Today is some kind of Hello Kitty Land (ahem), and hopefully more karaoke and sake tonight. Because, why not?! When in Tokyo....
Recovery post-race/long run last week has gone well and nothing to report there: the usual moderate runs, and a few strength training sessions. Ooh, I did find out that I actually came third after all at last Sunday’s race, and my time was 1:35, a whole minute faster than I thought. Woohoo. Every minute counts in a nearly-pb.
I flew out to nearby Thailand for a long weekend of R&R which ended up featuring various things that I like to count as cross-training (amidst lots of rest and a few medicinal beers and G&Ts, of course) including boxing, jujitsu, and yoga fly / aerial yoga. Nothing like trying things for the first time in a beautiful setting to get those exercise endorphins flowing! These sessions were all lots of fun, and a lot harder than my usual running, cycling, interval training or bodypump. I think I’ll be feeling this (particularly in my back, arms and core) for days to come yet...
I visited the most beautiful Tree Roots Retreat (http://www.treerootsretreat.com/) for the above mentioned action. Such a peaceful, serene place with an extremely impressive book collection too, not to mention superb coffee. It’s run by a truly inspirational bloke and lovely person, who teaches his unique Crazy Monkey style of martial arts there, and also runs various mindfulness retreats/sessions. I am itching to go back soon, and I highly recommend it. It’s not too far from Bangkok (km wise - takes about 3 hours to drive) but it is a whole world away.... I really should have taken a lot more photos while there: blogger fail I suppose. Watch this space for my next visit! Photos galore I promise...
Must have been too busy having fun (and trying not to fall on my head off a hammock during the fly yoga!) to take any photos here at the retreat, and likewise, took hardly any photos during poolside R&R in a similarly beautiful place down the road, while staying at a friend’s place there (which will also be open for bookings sometime soon in 2017 - watch this space!).Geez it’s such a beautiful part of the world. This is some of what I did manage to take though; one pool shot, and a few random shots from a run to the beach and back one morning:
A delicious part of the world too. I love Thailand, and not least for it’s fresh fruit, green (and otherwise) curries, and exciting, tasty treats from the 7 Elevens there. I’ll be back in about 5 ish weeks’ time for my pre Bangkok marathon carb-loading stint! Mmmmm.....
The marathon is creeping up on me fast. Time to get a few more long-long runs in (need to up them to 30km, then 32km, then 35km ish). This is all around Christmas and New Year’s celebrations of course. I’m sure I will get it all done though. I have the most amazing, understanding and incredibly fun and beautiful soul of Kim joining me for Christmas in Hanoi before we fly for New Year’s in Tokyo (getting an authentic cold festive feel in) and I’m sure she won’t object to me sneaking off for a few runs. Just one more sleep and she’ll be here!! Amazing.
It’s about this time of year that I start thinking of and planning my next year’s goals and dreams. Ahh, ok, who am I kidding: I started a long time ago, with various plans and lists etc. But about this time of year, some of these get crafted in a suitably titled: Goals for 2017 list. As this is a predominantly running blog, I’ll stick with the running related goals that I have so far.
These include: The LDR half marathon on 8th January here in Hanoi, the Bangkok Marathon on 5th February, Ultratrail Australia (doing the 50km!) in May, the Gold Coast Marathon in July, hmmm, not sure about races after that, but I know I want to return to more trail running and ultra events, so again: watch this space.
I would love to crack my pb of 1:34 in a half marathon, and I’m going to be extremely bold here and say I would like to get a sub 3:20 time for the full marathon.
I am also going to run my ‘Eat to Win’ nutrition program for runners again, so if you missed this the first time, fear not, there will hopefully be two programs run in 2017, and I will be offering it as an in-person group option too (for those who are local and work better that way). Again: watch this space!
What about YOU? Any running / fitness / otherwise goals for 2017?
Recovery post Halong Bay Marathon has gone well. So well in fact, that I signed up for the Song Hong Half Marathon, held here in beautiful Hanoi, yesterday. In the past I would have thought that two weeks between events (where I pushed my legs hard during the full marathon and really felt it afterwards) would not have been long enough to adequately recover. However, touch wood (and I hope I don't jinx myself by writing this) my recovery time seems to be a lot shorter these days. These seems bizarre when you think I am getting older every day as a runner, so surely that would make my recovery time longer? On the other hand, maybe I am getting stronger/fitter with every race and it is all accumulatory? Or perhaps it's due to my nutrition being on track most of the time (with many a recovery beer and usually pre-race beer or two too - I am a fan of balance and moderation: stay tuned for another 'Eat To Win' runners' nutrition program in 2017 if you too want to maintain balance and eat foods you love while improving your running performance, times and recovery: www.lousweight.com.au)? Or perhaps, it's simply a case of having way less stress in my life these days, when compared with even just 1-2 years ago?..... Who knows. I'm not knocking it, however, not one bit...
It's allowed me to take part in the wonderful Song Hong Half Marathon and see various familiar amazing running faces at the event, which was held at the Ciputra Club yesterday morning. Perfect weather conditions too, despite the race starting at what I thought was quite a late start (8am compared to the recent 5:30 and 4:30am starts). I thought it may be too hot by 8am already, but it was a nice, cooler morning, complete with sunshine, and some amazing volunteers cheering us on and directing us as to which way to go. Thanks to the organisers, volunteers, and other runners! This was a great run! No placing this time, and I'm not sure of my exact result/position as yet (again: watch this space, could be 4th??) however I think I did it in 1:36, which was a full nine minutes faster than that crazy humid Long Bien Half Marathon in October (which I won, amazingly enough!). So I'm pretty happy with that. I then turned the run into my long run of the week by running (albeit a lot more slowly) the 8km home. Job complete. Legs feel pretty good today too. I think this recovery was helped by good food, a few beers, and good company yesterday arvo.
Here's me with a couple of legends, at the finish line, on that post-race high, ahhh:
Now it's on with my gradual/vague training plan pre-Bangkok marathon on 5th February. I really like using other events to build up and use as training runs pre a full marathon, so I've just signed up for another local half marathon held here in Hanoi on 8th January. Can't wait! Apart from that, it will be my usual runs throughout the week, a bit of strength/cross-training, copious cycling around town (as it's my transport), plus the requisite longer weekly 'long' runs. Oh, not forgetting the food too of course: a KEY part of my training plan. Hmmm, Christmas and New Years + marathon training? Should be an interesting month ahead.... So excited that THIS amazing human will be spending it with me here (and in Tokyo!):
So, it won't all be about running.... Ahh, Kim! Can't wait til you're back here!! Love you lots xxx
...which includes no longer wearing a sports watch/Garmin for my runs or races (this might be mainly owing to the fact that it's back in storage in Oz after the strap broke some time ago). Usually there is a giant clock at the finish line, and halfway too, so I can get my time from that before the official results come out. Not this time however, and I've been checking daily (ok, twice ish a day) on the race organisers' website for my result. Because I knew that I came THIRD (yes, that's right!!!) but had no idea about my actual time. I thought it felt like a PB, but I couldn't be sure...
...until I was told yesterday that the results were out (you can check them out here:http://halongmarathon.com/42km-result.html), and lo and behold: a new PB!!! I am stoked! I was stoked anyway, as this was such a beautiful, amazing course, made all the tougher by the crazy strong windy condtions and the fact that it is NOT a flat course as I had assumed it would be. Add to that that I met some awesome new running (and drinking) buddies along the way, and caught up with a few familiar faces and friends from previous races in Vietnam. Of course, coming in at 3rd place was the achey icing on the cake (FYI: first and second place were a couple of young professional athletes who ran the whole thing together and made it look super easy! They came in just ten minutes before me, at the same time. Like I said: professional athletes! So, wow, made my third seem like a total win for me.)
My new marathon PB is now 3:26. A full ten minutes better than my previous best (which was on the flat Gold Coast course two years ago). Like I said: I am stoked. Especially given that the weekend before was pretty wild and spent partying a bit too much.
Recovery has gone well since the race too. Although I had my doubts at first, as my legs seemed more sore than the last time, and the last 5 or so kilometres were really really tough, not going to lie... Recovery started by copious beers on the bus back to Hanoi with some excellent, pun-loving runners who I met at the starting line. Highlight (of the journey? Of my life?) was when I started singing the all-time classic 'Horses' by Darryl Braithwaite and as if practised and on cue the whole gang spontaneously joined in for some impromptu karaoke. (Disclaimer: they are Australian, so know the song very well. But this was still amazing!)
So, here's my week's recovery (some of it anyway) in pictures:
I went for my first run back on Wednesday, and that was great! Mainly was itching to try out my new runners that were part of my prize winnings from the Long Bien race: Adidas Pureboosts. These are sooo comfy! Seriously light too. Feels like running in comfy slippers. Not sure how they will go with longer distances however, but they made for a great 10km jaunt. Hoping to do a short run later today and then a longer one tomorrow. Going to get straight back into it as my legs feel fine now, plus next week is the Song Hong Half Marathon, held nice and locally just a few km from where I live. Excited for this one too!
I would definitely recommend the Halong Bay Heritage Marathon. Great support from local high school students too, who were taking part in their own Colour Run event afterwards. Beautiful views, a challenging yet scenic course, but crazy strong wind! But what can you do about that except persevere and push through... Singing songs (and changing the lyrics to be about running, carb-loading and training) helped get me through, as did picturing various friends or remembering recent good times, and thinking of my dad helped a lot. If I'm being totally frank and honest: every race I run I am running for him really, and aiming to get a good result for him. I would love to share my time and how the race went with him, just one more time. I tend to get quite emotional when I've crossed the finish line too whilst thinking of Dad, and this race was no exception. Tears a plenty. But happy tears mainly.