Category Archives: Nature

The last days of autumn

Autumn never stays long enough and winter arrives too early; this year, winter arrived far too early. Over the past four weeks, I’ve watched the golden trees along my running path discard their red, gold and yellow leaves; I’ve suffered the autumn breeze turn into a blustering frosty wind; I’ve observed the migrating birds fly south.  Continue reading

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Running in the rain

Runner with umbrella

Can you see the runner with an umbrella?

It’s supposed to be rainy season (tsuyu, which literally says “plum rain”) in Japan, but I don’t think it rains as much in Tokyo during this season compared to other months of the year. In fact, I find that it may rain more on other times of the year (April, May, September and October, for instance) not just in Tokyo but in other places in Japan as well. For instance, it rained everyday during a week-long October visit to Kyoto, including the day I hiked through a forest on my way to Enryakuji Temple when it rained heavily (to make matters worse, one of my cheap running shoes split apart) but I was able to capture stunning photographs in the rain.

Continue reading

Aizu Wakamatsu: The half marathon and the city (Part 1)

Selfie Aizu wakamatsu 2014

This is a much delayed report on my most recent half marathon. I was happily sidetracked by the Diabetes Blog Week and not so happily by work (work’s always there, isn’t it). Last week presented more work and much needed break from blogging. Although I’ve listed most of my initial thoughts before, after and especially during the race on my May 12 post, I thought this race deserved its own report. In fact, I may just start reporting on some of the races I’ll be joining. Continue reading

Tanzawako 10-K Run November 24, 2013

Tanzawako Lake

Tanzawako Lake

I completed the Tanzawako 10-K run last Sunday. It was my first road race since I broke my fibula in March. I was and still am so ecstatic that I finished it, and within the time limit.

What time limit?

Actually, I did not realize that there was a time limit until my confirmation notice arrived in the mail about two weeks ago. When I signed up, I was so eager to enter any 10-k race by November in time for Diabetes Awareness Month that I did not pay much attention to the details. During my training, I focused only on building my mileage, which I did so slowly. So, when I saw the time limit of 80 minutes, I panicked. My husband reminded me that I’ve run races before so 80 minutes for a 10-k run should not be a problem. Of course, I reminded him back that those races were before I broke my leg. The other thing I did not realize was that the course around Tanzawako was not flat. Another lapse on my part. So, not only did I not train for time, but I also did not train for uphill and down hill running, which would affect my performance and slow me down even further.

I was tempted to crank up my speed during my last few runs before the race. But experience has taught me that I would only be courting disaster. Hence, I resisted deviating from my training plan. After all, if I didn’t meet the cut-off time, the worst they could do was ask me to run on the pavement instead of the middle of the road.

Before the race

Last Sunday, hubby and I rose at around 5:00 and left at 5:30 in the morning. Please understand that for us 5 am, on a Sunday, is the middle of the night. It took all my efforts to rise from the bed.

It was still dark when we hit the road. The sun came up while we were on the way, and the light was in a fluid flow of changing hues of orange and yellow, until the darkness dissipated and the sky was a magnificent shade of blue. As we approached our destination, we were greeted by a pinkish Mt. Fuji looming large in front of us on the highway.

We arrived shortly before 8:00 and found the car park. When I got out of the car, I was shocked by how cold it was that morning. Another one of my lapses – I decided not to take jogging pants with me and wore only warm tights and shorts. Everyone else was wearing thick sweatpants. At that point, I noted to myself that I should finally draft my checklist of things to do and not do on race day. Luckily, the day turned out to be a warm one, and so as long as I stayed in the sun, I was not cold.

On the shuttle bus that took us from the car park to the race assembly area, an elderly Japanese man started chatting with us. He initially quizzed me about the camera hanging around my neck. When he found out that my husband was British, he proudly declared that he loved visiting England, especially London. He said that he was running his fifth Tanzawako race. I saw him again after I crossed the finish line. He came in 10 minutes after the cut-off time, but he was beaming with pride for finishing the race, even if in overtime.

Reception area

Reception area

When we arrived at the assembly point, we quickly found the reception tables and picked up my bib and time chip. After pinning my bib on my shirt and attaching the time chip on my shoe, we wondered how we were going to spend the time waiting for the 11:00 am start of the 10-K race. We wandered about the small assembly area which was located at a school compound, but the place was so small that we found it hard to stretch the time by going in circles. Hubby finally found himself a small corner on a sofa inside a school building where he rested. I, however, couldn’t keep still and walked around with my camera.

Race staff

Race staff

P.G.P. man (volunteer)

P.G.P. man (volunteer)

Race tent

Some runners’ tent

I also inspected the food stalls. I made the mistake of buying amazake, which literally translates to English as sweet wine. It’s a low- or non-alcohol drink made from fermented rice. And yes, it was sweet. Obviously my brain was still asleep.

Somehow I managed to pass the time until the time came for the race to start.

Waiting

Waiting

Quick reminder of Type 2 diabetes

While waiting, I realized that a number of runners were staring at my shirt which read “ジェーンです。わたしは糖尿病2型です。” Although the literal, direct translation is “I’m Jane. I’m Type 2 diabetes.” it actually means “I’m Jane. I have Type 2 diabetes.” (Don’t ask me about Japanese grammar, but that’s what it is.)

My shirt

My shirt

Anyway, by the time of my race, I had forgotten about my shirt. A few weeks ago, I was sick and tired of the misconceptions, stereotyping, and judgmental attitudes vis a vis Type 2 diabetes in media, that I decided to have a shirt printed to tell the whole world that I have Type 2 diabetes. My objective was to show everyone that people with Type 2 diabetes come in different packages, much like ordinary people, and that you can’t tell if a person is diabetic or not just by looking at him or her.

No one approached me and asked me about it, though, so for a brief moment I was disappointed. Then I reminded myself that I was not there to engage people in conversations about Type 2 diabetes. I was there first to race, and second to show people that a diabetic, apart from the diabetes, is very much like them. So, if even one or two people got my message, then I’ve achieved that objective.

The Race

The route around the lake was beautiful. The autumn leaves were out in beautiful hues of brown, yellow, red and orange. Many parts of the lake were breathtaking.

Around Tanzawako 2

Around Tanzawako 2

Autumn foliage

Autumn foliage

By kilometer 3, however, I put my small camera back inside my waist bag as I was getting tired of holding the camera and photo taking was slowing me down. Then I saw this:

Tanzawako's Mt. Fuji

Tanzawako’s Mt. Fuji

I take this opportunity to apologize to the several photographers with tripods and heavy lenses for stepping in front of their cameras to take quick photos of Mt. Fuji. Since they secured premier spots, they must have been there since sunrise, waiting for hours in the cold for the right Mt. Fuji photo moment. I hope their patience was not rewarded with perfect photos of the back of my head!

As the race progressed, I was getting annoyed with all the older, repeat older, people running past me. I mean, they could have been my grandparents but they were faster than me, and despite the inclines and declines. Actually, the hilly route wasn’t so bad, at least not for 10-K runners, although I can’t say what the half-marathoners thought.

Speaking of half-marathon runners, they sped past me, too. We 10-k runners shared some portions of the roads with them, although they started much later than we did. That tells you how fast these guys were running, or how slow I was. They were literally flying past me.

Hence, my biggest worry during the race was that I’d be the last one to finish. My specific goal and mantra last Sunday were “Do not be the last.” The thought that every single elderly person running the 10-k would finish ahead of me spurred me on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Are you chasing me?

Well, I am happy to report that I wasn’t the last, and I was well within the time limit. More importantly, my fastest lap was the final kilometer. Somehow I found the energy and muscle strength to go faster. So, yeah, I was a happy finisher!

After the race

After I received my finisher’s certificate, I went to the free soup stall. Yes, they had free pork soup with mountain yam, radish and tofu. I devoured several bowls of the tasty soup before heading back to the car park.

While waiting for the shuttle bus, I noticed an elderly runner behind me holding what looked like a box with a trophy inside. It turned out that the man indeed won a trophy for being the fastest 10-K runner in the over-60 age group for men. I nearly fainted when I saw his time printed on his certificate. This man was a little over 20 years older than me, he was shorter than me, and his legs were much shorter than mine, yet he beat me by … a lot of minutes (I’m too embarrassed to admit by how much). I have a lot of training to do!

Today, my legs have recovered from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). I read somewhere that older people have longer onset of DOMS, whereas younger people have it within 24 hours or so. So I was relieved that my DOMS set in on Monday morning, instead of Wednesday morning. This tells me that I’m not that old yet.

What’s next?

Now, I’m focusing on ski preparations while looking for my next road race.