Lessons Learned: Yokohama Marathon, November 10, 2019

Here’s the story, in short (in no particular order)…

1. Japanese volunteers, race officials and spectators are more vocal on the whole than perhaps any spectators I’ve encountered this side of Boston.

2. Japanese spectators outstretch their hands more for high-fives than anywhere else I’ve seen.

3. At 28k, there are gorgeous Carnivalesque dancers clad in sequined thongs. 😌

4. Besides my girlfriend, I may have seen the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever seen dancing in the belly dancing zone.

(Yes, you read that correctly. )

5. Yokohama Marathon is incredibly well organized–port o potties strewn along entire course, Aquarius sports drink and water (and various foodstuffs) every 2-3k, incredible spectator zones, etc. Volunteers cleaning the course constantly. More assiduous cleaning during any marathon I’ve run.

>>>>>I pray for the man who lie felled on the pavement at 4.2k. It looked like a medic was giving chest compressions as blood streamed down his face.

It was the most unsettling running injury I’ve ever witnessed.

Thought about him the whole way.

Afterwards, Ayako in the medical area (they gave me blankets as I was feeling real cold and my temperature was down a bit) told me he is okay, alive.

6. However, what’s the deal with the corral assignments?! Why was I assigned to L (!) when I registered with expected finish time of around 2:55 [later amended to 2:57/:58 range]?

Why were a fair number B corral runners and some A runners already drifting back by 15-20k?

Shades of Shanghai Marathon ’17 for me.

Aladdin and Mickey Mouse started way before me.

I caught them, though!

7. Dang it!!

Nearly ideal preparations for this race except one critical detail that escaped me, until last Saturday.

How could I have possibly NOT contacted race organizers months back to inquire about my corral and starting position??!!

Of course, it was too late last weekend, 8 days pre-race, when I sent the race director an e-mail.  Totally understand that.

So, I decided to not think much about it and be as positive as possible. Maybe L means A in Japan??😁

Maybe a wave start would thin out crowds along course?

Maybe I could push through traffic efficiently enough to not waste energy (as I wasted in spades 2 years ago, my last marathon run before today)?

MAYBE. MAYBE. MAYBE.

This was the thing which awakened me around 04:30 this morning, nearly 40 minutes prematurely.

8. So, 4K took me about 18:30. At 3k my average pace was 5:27 per km (goal pace was 4:11-4:15 range overall, with 4:17-:18 first few kilometers).

Needless to say, there was some anxiety. I anticipated this as a possible scenario so blood pressure was not rising. But I could not help pushing through heavy traffic. I had to do it. Suddenly, I realized if I didn’t, I’d be Munsoned out there for the duration of the race.

It was brutal, though. Weaving was non-stop. There was some curb jumping, including a couple of high curbs, (going up and back down as I passed by folks). Feet banging into hard boundary cones periodically.  Tremendous energy wastage during a race which demands energy conservation.

The first 10k especially was both mentally and physically draining. I felt strong, but I am sure the energy wastage caught up with me from 30k onward.

9. I realized I can still thrive under pressure and get a job done–in this case bringing pace down considerably over time from 5:27k average to 4:36 average (fell to about 4:38k average by finish line).

But it took some serious work and incessant weaving. It was not a relaxed race at all for at least 30 of the 42km. Just imagine being a fleck of seaweed in the midst of a seemingly endless rushing sea. Except much of the sea is not truly rushing–well, everyone in his/her own way, perhaps–and the sea is hemmed in to the very narrow confines of miniature Christmas Village-like streets, such as they are in Japan.

Operating within the tightly honed strictures of Japanese culture and customs, I always was ever-mindful of paying respect and deference to others. Virtually everyone was far more gentle than what I’m used to from many races in the USA and China. Almost to a fault. Therefore, I incessantly said, “Gomen-nasai!” (I’m sorry/I apologize, I think) as I cut in and out of the massive crowds. Every time that I remember, folks would move to the side a bit and/or say “Hai!” (Yes) and allow for safer passage. Usually, I could slide my wispy frame between folks, but a few times I know I knocked elbows and for that I bow in apology.

Seriously, everyone was running their own race and it wasn’t their fault that I got stranded back in L.

10. My training paid off: A. There was no “Wall ” My fueling before and during run was solid (although warm temp today–about 64 at finish led to a lot of lost electrolytes and caked salt on my arms. Could’ve used the electrolyte salt pill I carried in pocket but did not use [but took one at breakfast]).

B. This was one of the very few marathons I’ve actually raced in the final kilometers. I was still picking off dozens all the way through the finish line. Very few folks passed me throughout the marathon–but, as mentioned, I had major extra work cut out for me.

C. I finally got my training mileage back up. Hit about 83 one week for peak mileage. Need to double-check, but carried an average of around 65 miles for at least six weeks.

D. Gym work with trainer Andy–9 sessions, 9 hours thus far–is making me a stronger, more resilient runner.

E. Did my best to stay relaxed during training, taper and adverse circumstances today. Have regained my confidence, BUT

11. Lessons Learned:

A. I must savor this life experience. I’m in Japan for a 4th trip. Third in 1.5 years.

Glory to G-d! Eating awesome vegan food. Meeting wonderful people.

B. My older version of Nike ZoomFly 2% shoes did help preserve my calves [see “The Day After” below], both during and after race, and they do have a soft landing. However, my left big toe fits too tightly against end of the shoes, at least with the socks worn during marathon.

Also found they took me absolutely forever to ensure the final shoe tying pre-race was done correctly. (My Shanghai “mates” will get a kick out of that one.)

Will I race next marathon  in them? Not sure yet.

C. Really enjoyed the new Italian-made compression socks. First race ever in compressions.  They definitely helped prevent Charlie horses that most likely would’ve hit post-race.

D. With Faith, there is always another race. Granted, I’d hoped this would be my break out race…the pick-me-up to get me back to a decent standing within myself. To prove to myself that I still have it. At 41.5 years, to run masterfully as a Master.

This was not to be in Yokohama for aforementioned reasons. But I know what must be done. I am so thankful to be healthy and well trained. This is key. And these are all means to an end anyhow as I plan The Trek for next summer.

A lot more on that in due time.

12.  Post-left foot fracture, my training resumed in Japan during Chinese New Year break. It was wonderful finally being able to run a true long run in this enchanting land. G-d Willing, I will always be back here, again and again and again.

                                                           The Day After…

Some normal fatigue and soreness–mainly one stabilizing hip or adductor muscle, front left side. Felt that for past few days, but now much more sore and tired. Maybe a muscle which never fully recovered from training.

Left knee sore, mainly when walking stairs.

Hunger pangs.

Overall, walking fast and feeling strong.

From my view here in Shanghai’s Qing Pu district, this is what I see:

Hope. Ambition. The eventual fulfillment of a dream–To PR anew in the marathon, 2:45 or faster.

The dream I’ve had for several years which scares me most? To run 2:39.

I will give my all to get there.

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