I woke up early on a Sunday morning to get a run in before it became too warm. Somewhere along the way I went from sleeping in really late (especially in college) to waking up early without any alarm. Nowadays I wake up automatically around 5:30 am on workdays and between 6 and 7 am on weekends. For my birthday I knew that I wanted to get an outside run and for that I had to get up early. I have been mostly logging treadmill miles because of the heat wave that has been plaguing Sacramento.
Once outside I came across a momma turkey and two poults (young baby turkeys).
I thought that was a good sign of my first outdoor run in awhile. I decided to head on down to the river and see what was up. It is so peaceful when you get out there on a weekend early morning. I imagine most/many people were still in bed or getting ready for church.
The river was flowing fairly high compared to previous years. The day was turning out to be a beautiful one (albeit still warm by mid day).
I ran across the Guy West Bridge, the mini-replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it so empty and managed to snap this pic with no one else on it.
I made my way back and finished off with 4 miles. It was good to get out and my foot felt okay after my run. It was also my 3rd straight day of running and this morning my foot felt just fine. So hopefully I’m on my way to recovery for my left foot. Below is me and my old mug. I have moved up to another age group for most races though it doesn’t make too much of a difference because I don’t think I’d ever be competing for an age group award since I’m not a speed demon.
We awoke on our first full day in Kyoto with some big plans. There were quite a few locations we wanted to tick off our boxes in Kyoto and we only had so many days to see them. We decided to head over to the Imperial Palace as it was supposed to be prime sakura (cherry blossom) viewing. There is a web site that lists the various locales within Kyoto and the status of the cherry blossoms in that location – ranging from peak viewing to not blossomed. The Imperial Palace was a short subway ride and walk from our AirBnB.
The Imperial Palace actually sits in the middle of a very large park. Upon first entering the park, you could see that others had the same idea of checking out the cherry blossoms. With it still being mid-morning, the lighting was actually quite good for picture-taking and so we did like the other tourists and posted in and around the trees. We didn’t actually go to the front of the Palace and elected to check out the Shirakumo Shrine, which is located towards the south-eastern portion of the park.
After the Imperial Palace, we took the subway and went to Nijo Castle, since it was relatively nearby. This castle was built in 1603 and is a current UNESCO world heritage site. There were quite a few large tour buses parked out front and so I figured it’d be crowded. This time we actually did pay the entry fee and walked through the castle grounds. They had a few buildings you could walk through and also some well cultivated gardens. What I noticed about the tourists is that a lot of them were from mainland China (they have a certain twang to their speech) as well as Japanese people who apparently were touring their own country.
Since it was getting to be lunch time (actually a little past), we hit up Nishiki Market. This is a labyrinth of small alleyways, some of which are lined with many different shops and food places. You could pick up some street food (think octopus legs on a stick, sake sampling, etc).
Since I’m a big fan of cooking, I had thought about getting a Japanese knife, since they are some of the most coveted. There was a shop that the wife had looked up where they will engrave the knife for you after you purchase.
I picked out a multi-purpose knife and had them engrave my last name in Chinese character.
I had done quite a bit of research on various eateries throughout Kyoto. There were a few that were located in the Nishiki Market area though we ended up not going to them. We found this Udon noodle joint that looked like maybe it was a chain.
Nevertheless, there was a line almost out the door and it appeared to be all Japanese people so I saw that as a good sign (like in the U.S. when you go to a Chinese restaurant and most of the patrons are Chinese or same with Mexican food, etc). I wasn’t sure how it was going to go ordering because you had to order a specific type of bowl and then noodle/soup. Luckily it worked out and we got some delicious, quick, and relatively cheap food.
Our afternoon was then filled with more travel (subway, foot, subway). The first stop was Fushimi Inari-taisha. This is the main shrine of Inari. The main thing about this place that stands out is that it is on a mountain and they have this walkway that is filled with hundreds (if not thousands) of Torii gates. The Torii gates are the bright orange structures that most people have probably seen if they’ve looked at pictures of Japan. This area also was packed with tourists and it felt like we were sardines at one point within the hillside of Torii gates.
I thought we could make it to the next area by walking so convinced my wife we should hoof it over. We made our way on foot over to Rengeoin Sanjusanjendo in eastern Kyoto. This temple is famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. In the center is an 11 foot tall seated Senju Kannon. Surrounding this statue are 1000 standing statues of the Senju Kannon. There are numerous other deities housed in the same building. Unfortunately picture-taking is not allowed in the main building.
It was getting to be closer to sundown but we hopped on a bus to get to one more temple, Kiyomizu-dera. This was up on a bit of a hill. Because of cherry blossom season, they were gearing up to do some sort of night event that you had to purchase tickets for. This temple was also undergoing construction.
We didn’t stay for whatever “special event” was going on that evening but headed back to our Air BnB and then found some dinner. I tried the Kyoto style sushi, which is different than traditional. They use more preserved fish since they’re not a coastal city. I wasn’t too impressed with the small joint we went to but I’m sure it can be much better.
I was still hungry after dinner so picked up some snacks for before bedtime.
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up feeling hot and also with some tummy issues. I then proceeded to be up every hour or so to use the bathroom. My entire body was also very hot and I suspect I was having fevers. So the next day (Day 3 in Kyoto) I stayed in the AirBnB while my wife went out and explored on her own. She did bring me this fairly tasty box from the local convenient store.
Even though I was still hitting the bathroom every 20 minutes or less, I decided to try to venture out a little bit in the late afternoon with the wife. We elected to try taking a bus over to the Philosopher’s Path and also Higashiyama Tisho-ji. The weather was a bit overcast and it had been raining throughout the day. I am glad that I went to Higashiyama Tisho-ji because the views of the gardens were something else. It looks like a postcard. I had to find the bathroom a few times there so we didn’t stay too long and then it was back to the AirBnB for me.
The next day (Day 4 in Kyoto) was a complete wash for me as I was down and out. I have nothing to report from that day since I didn’t leave the AirBnB. I continued to have GI issues though the fever had abated finally. I don’t know what it was that I contracted. I thought at first it may just be a food poisoning type situation but the fact that this disease persisted for the remainder of the trip and even back in the States means I suspect it was something more infectious.
Up next, Miyagima Island and Hiroshima and the final day in Tokyo.
I remember when they called it National Running day. While it was a work day, and a long one at that, I still wanted to get in at least a few miles. Getting some In N Out for dinner helped spur me to get off my butt and run. I wound up getting 3 miles on the treadmill. It was also a good night since the Warriors beat the Cavs in Game 3 of the Finals.
I’ve not been doing a ton of running since the Big Sur Marathon. I’ve still had weird foot pain/soreness after I run. Sometimes it is sore even after just a long day on my feet. I’m just too stubborn to call a doc and schedule to be seen. Ah well, we’ll see how it goes.
Here’s a pic of me from the Austin Half Marathon many moons ago.
I lost my original post for these days. Oh well, I’ll just re-start it and not try to re-create the old one that I had made.
So it was our last day in Tokyo and at the awesome Park Hyatt. Before leaving Tokyo I wanted to try to get at least one run in while in Japan. I decided to head up to the fitness center in the Park Hyatt. This is located up on the 47th floor. If you’ve seen the movie Lost in Translation, there is a scene where the main characters are swimming in this pool. I didn’t get any pictures because you’re not supposed to take pictures in the gym area. To actually get up to the fitness center you have to go through their spa (and actually tell them you’re a guest to get up there). They have a row of treadmills that face outward towards their floor-to-ceiling windows. You have this great overlook of the city and being so high up you get a bird’s eye view. It was a nice way to wake up for the day.
After sadly leaving the wonderful confines of the Park Hyatt, we made our way back to Tokyo Station by way of Shinjuku station for the ride over to Kyoto. Prior to taking the bullet train (Shinkansen), we needed some lunch. Within the underground mall area of Tokyo Station is Ramen Street. This was our first experience with ordering from a vending machine. So you walk up to a vending machine and can choose the type of Ramen you want (as well as any extras such as extra noodle, meat, other things), put money in the machine and then it spits out a ticket. You give the ticket to the attendant and wait in the line outside the restaurant. Once there is an open seat, they take you to it and then your food shows up. This place also had a paper bib for you to wear in case of splatter from the ramen. It was very tasty.
We had reserved some seats on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. We had obtained the JR pass when we first arrived in country. This 7-day pass allowed us to ride on the bullet train and other JR trains without paying during that time period. We did not get the fancy JR pass that allows you to take the fastest bullet trains (they’re not faster, they just have less stops so your trips are shorter). The distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is 514 km (or 319 miles). If you took a regular train or a bus, it would take a LONG time. The Shinkansen gets you there in about 2.5 hours or so. I definitely recommend that as a way to get around Japan. They have restrooms and on some trains also have a person with a cart of food/drink (including beer) that walks by every so often. Most people bring their own food onto the train to eat.
We arrived in Kyoto and after a transfer ended up at the train stop nearest our Air BnB. We had never stayed at an Air BnB before so didn’t exactly know what to expect. Our hosts were great in communications before our arrival. The place we were staying is closest to the Higashiyama train stop. I believe our hosts actually had multiple small units in one building. We quickly obtained our keys and found our way into the small studio. While it was quite cozy, it had everything you needed in a place when on vacation. The Japanese are great about fitting everything into a small functional space.
Our AirBnB was located near the Heian Shrine. In fact, you could see the large Torii Gate of this shrine from the balcony of our AirBnB.
By the time we had settled into our place it was dinner time. Our hosts were kind enough to leave us a list of local eateries along with what they had there. Since we weren’t going to the surrounding areas of Kyoto known for their Okonomiyaki, we went to a local place that had it. They had a set 2 person course menu where you split a Okonomiyaki, sauteed noodles with vegetables and meat, cooked radish, and a pork egg omelette. I also had a highball (mix of Suntory whiskey and club soda).
The Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake dish that can have a variety of ingredients.
Overall I thought it was good and very filling. After dinner, while the sun had already set, there was a local temple that you could walk through. They had lights set up so that you had a different perspective of how temples/shrines look like in the dark. The Shoren-in Monzeki Temple was just a short 5 minute walk from our place. By far this one of our favorite temples to visit. Maybe it had to do with the lighting in the dark but also because you really walked through the grounds and absorbed the feeling.
Also behind the temple were some of the giant bamboos. These are truly stunning – I’m glad that I was able to see it because I wasn’t able to make it to the bamboo forest in the later part of the trip due to my sickness.
We stopped at Lawson’s, one of the largest convenience store chains in Japan, on our way back to the AirBnb to pick up some water as well as some snacks and beer. They have an ice bar that is “soda” flavored, which they also have in Taiwan and I got one just for kicks.
The long day of travel was finally over and we hit the sack.
I did it! Successfully (mostly) completed my fourth full marathon. I am currently recovering from a hard effort. I’ll have a separate post about our time in Carmel that is unrelated to the actual marathon itself.
Let’s start with the race expo. We drove down from Sac on Friday late morning and went straight to the Portola Hotel, where the race expo was being held. We had the dog with us so I didn’t get to explore the expo too much on Friday but went back Saturday morning to get a better idea. I had read on other blogs that the expo is typically fairly small for a major marathon and they were correct. Packet pickup was very smooth. The organizers were great in sending out emails prior to the weekend letting me know my bib number since that was what you needed to get your bib. Because there is only one way to get to the race start, I also had to pick up a bus ticket (free) from my pickup location (which was in the heart of Carmel). There were about 4-5 different areas of pickup for the full marathon. After grabbing my bib and bus ticket, I got my shirt and gear check bag and the helpful volunteer put everything into the bag for me. The following morning I walked through the expo. There were a few of the usual booths for various races as well as a few gear booths selling everything from gels to water bottles to clothes. The largest merchandise area belonged to Asics, who is one of the big sponsors. Overall it was a nice little expo area but nothing to write home about. I did find my name on the Big Sur poster that is comprised of every runner.
I had all intentions of a breakout run on Saturday morning but that fell threw just because I was doing enough walking around with the wife. The day before the race, we did drive down Highway 1 to Big Sur because my wife had never been. Essentially we drove the course backwards on our way down and then in the proper direction on our return trip back to Carmel. The drive really showed me just how non-flat the course actually is. When you look at the elevation chart of the race, you go “okay, there are a few major hills and few minor ones,” but when you’re actually driving the course you realize the entire thing is essentially either “up” or “down.” There aren’t actually many flat spots to the course.
The drive is when I really did start to worry about my race and my training. I knew that my trip to Japan as well as my illness didn’t hep matters but I wasn’t that worried about it. After driving the course, I started to wonder a bit. I had an “A” and “B” goal for this race. The “A” goal was to PR the race, which I know is a challenge given the above regarding elevation changes. My “B” goal was to finish under the 6 hour course time limit, which given that I was overall physically okay I figured I should be able to do. Honestly I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt but knew that I had signed up, gotten in the lottery, and trained for it so I might as well give it a shot. Outwardly of course I didn’t reveal my concerns to my wife.
We had our pre-race meal of pizza and I tried to hit the sack early (7:30 pm). Because you have to take a school bus to the race start, they start bussing people down at an ungodly hour. My bus ticket said to arrive by 3:45 am (yes, 3:45 AM!!) and the latest was 4:15 am.
Of course trying to go to bed at 7:30 pm when you’re used to going to bed around 11 pm is tough. I tossed and turned and managed to get a few minutes here and there and then maybe 1-2 straight hours of sleep. I had set my alarm for 1:30 am because I like to get up a few hours before I head out the door. This is due to a chronic GI issue that I have that I try to just deal with. Luckily the Inn that we were staying in had a refrigerator. I had an unconventional breakfast of 2 slices of Margherita pizza and a banana. I made a plain bagel with peanut butter and saved it for when I was actually waiting at the start line. I left the Inn around 3:42 am and walked about 5 minutes to where the buses were waiting. Luckily I managed to get on the first bus and the 2nd seat and off into the night we went. Since I was so close to the front, I actually watched as the bus wound its way in the darkness along the course. It was a little eery going over the bridges when all that was lit was the road in front but I knew there was a large drop on both sides. About 50 minutes later we were dropped off. In years past, the buses dropped you off at the start (Big Sur Station). Due to the large amounts of rain that has hit California this year, the bridge just south of the starting line failed and was demolished. This required the buses to turn around earlier and so we were dropped off at Big Sur Lodge, about a 1/2 mile from the start. Once off the bus, we made the trek uphill to the starting area.
I arrived and there were already people just sitting around waiting and drinking coffee. The temperatures weren’t too bad and with me bringing a long sleeve shirt and some pants, I was quite comfortable. I hit up the port-a-potty and then got in line to get some coffee. It was around 5 am and the start of the race wasn’t until 6:45 am so I had some time. I also ate the majority of my peanut butter bagel and had a small cup of coffee and some water. And then it was a waiting game. The Big Sur Ranger Station area isn’t exactly cut out to fit a few thousand people so anywhere you could sit, someone was probably sitting. I ended up walking around for the majority of the waiting time, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the best idea.
On the majority of the port-a-potties they had funny signs. I only captured one of them.
There are 3 waves for the start and I situated myself in the 2nd wave, which was for people estimating a finish time of 3:46 to 4:45. My plan was to stick with the 4:45 people for as long as possible and possibly finish before 5 hours (which would be my PR). They had people starting to line up around 6:10 am and took the entire next 35 minutes getting people behind the starting line (remember there’s a bridge out behind the last wave of people and a sharp drop off – I didn’t actually walk back there to see what it looked like though). At 6:45 am, the first wave of runners were off and about 5 minutes later so was I. Since I had essentially done the course twice backwards and once forward in a car, I actually had a decent idea of what I was getting into.
The first few miles were quite crowded but I still felt like I had decent room. I actually am glad it was crowded because it kept me from blasting downhill. The first 4 miles or so are mostly downhill. However, there still are a few small uphill climbs in that first few miles that no one mentions. You also start out in the Big Sur area, which means you’ve got these giant redwoods on both sides of you. It was quite peaceful (I didn’t get any pictures of this part of the race). Those first few miles I was just getting back into the rhythm of running and focusing on keeping it at a decent pace. It had been a LONG time since I’d run any real meaningful distance. Overall I felt pretty good in those first few miles. We passed through the Big Sur Village, where my wife and I had lunch the previous day. There were also some nice folks out cheering us on in that section. I didn’t have a concrete race plan but I had been toying with the idea of doing a “run-walk” method. I realized in the first few miles that walking with so many people and a narrow road probably would only create more problems for me. So I elected to start my “run-walk” a little later into the race. I also wasn’t sure what my intervals were going to be (probably something I should have worked out ahead of time). I had done two half-marathons with run-walk and one I did with 4 minutes run-1 minute walk and another 5 minutes run-1 minute walk. During my long training runs I did a 1 minute walk after each mile. I elected to go with the 1 minute walk after each mile since I could easily figure this out with their fun mile markers on course. Each of the mile markers had fun life-sized pictures of people. Lots of people were stopping to either take selfies or just take pics with it.
Around the 5 mile mark is when the course opens up some, the trees fade away and you start to get a glimpse of the ocean. The day also was turning out to be a gorgeous one. Blue skies and very little wind (until later portions of the course). The beginning part of the course we were allowed to run on both sides of the road but starting at mile 2 they wanted us only on the ocean-side of the road. This was because they needed half the road for cars, emergency personnel, etc. This caused a bit of congestion and people were running on the wrong side for a good chunk of the first 6-8 miles.
The above mile marker was fitting since there were some actual cows right near this mile marker.
Miles 5-9 were comprised of big flat land to the left with the ocean beyond it and on the right were treeless hills with lush green grass and small flowers on it. It was quite beautiful and I did take a moment to just “take it all in.” I was running the Big Sur Marathon on Hwy 1!! I had come to the realization the day before that I have run on Highway 1 in a race in San Diego, Huntington Beach, and Santa Barbara. 4 very different and distinct locations. I have to say that this stretch of Hwy 1 (the entire course) is the most beautiful. In this same section there were some good-sized hills already and I chose to run when I felt I could and walk when I felt I couldn’t. I really tried to just listen to my body.
As we came upon mile 9 cresting one of the smaller hills, I could see the dreaded climb to Hurricane Point.
I could also hear the Taiko drummers. I hit the port-a-potties to pee at the water station just before getting to the Taiko drummers and the climb. Luckily I only had to wait about 20-30 seconds before I got into a port-a-potty. With my business finished, I managed to get video (and a few pictures) of the drummers and told myself that I could “do this!”
So from mile 10-12, you basically just keep on going up. You’re running up the side of a mountain and so you make some turns and each time you turn, you just see that you have to keep going up. I knew that I had to make a few turns before reaching the high point of Hurricane Point so at least I didn’t get myself too disappointed when I would make the turn around a bend in the cliff and see that I still had to go up. The wind also started to blow in this 10-12 mile stretch. It wasn’t super super hard but it was enough to tell you that it was there. I employed a walk-run method up the hill and started to use my Garmin 225 to help. I had it set on my heart rate and so I would walk until my heartrate dropped to 168-169. Then I’d start running again and immediately it would go over 180. At one point I could feel my heart beating really hard and so I started walking and waited until that feeling subsided – luckily it never came back again for the rest of the race.
After what felt like a long time, I made it to Hurricane Point! As said earlier, there was a little bit of wind but nothing too dramatic and definitely nothing that would cause me to be blown over (as I read nearly happened in last year’s race). Coming around the bend of Hurricane Point, you get a great view of the Bixby Bridge. I think this bridge is the most well-known for Big Sur/Carmel and is iconic. I managed to get a few good pictures of it. I actually jumped onto a raised area to the side of the road (yes it was tough to make that high step, probably about 2 feet).
As you make the descent toward the Bixby Bridge, you can start to hear the piano sounds coming from the other side of the bridge. Michael Martinez has been playing a piano during the race for a long time now. I stopped on the bridge to get a shot because how often will you be able to walk onto the bridge to snap a view downward.
And then snapped a quick pic of the piano man (I didn’t spend the time to hang out like a lot of people were doing).
At this stage I kept telling myself to keep chugging along. Surprisingly I was actually making decent time according to my Garmin 225. I realized that I was actually on track to PR if I kept up with what I was doing. I felt pretty good at the halfway mark and actually had some ideas of pushing for a PR.
The second half of the race is comprised of uphills and downhills (just not as long as the climb up to Hurricane Point). I settled into a routine where I’d start my run up a hill and when I got tired, I’d start walking. Then I’d wait until my heart rate came down to around 168 and then back to running. Since I was potentially on track for a PR, I definitely took a lot less pictures in the second half. I laughed when I saw the mile 18 marker because I definitely could have gone for a beer.
I was on track to finish around 4:50-4:55 until I ran into mile 20. Literally as I was coming up on the mile 20 mile maker (the dreaded “wall”), I felt my right quadriceps muscle cramp up and seize. I had to start walking and started to try to massage out my right quad. I realized at that stage that I hadn’t done enough hill training. Actually I had done pretty much no hill training. I also knew that I didn’t get enough of my long runs in towards the end so felt like maybe my legs were ready for the distance.
So once I realized I wasn’t going to PR, I just wanted to finish. I knew that I’d be in well under the 6 hour mark. I think that partially deflated me and I just didn’t push myself from then on. I felt a little defeated and did a LOT of walking in the last 10K. I definitely enjoyed the wonderful views though.
And then finally I made it to the end!
I loved the ceramic medal. It felt great to receive. The weather was in the low 70s at the end of the race so I didn’t need the space blanket. I did like that they made a “box” that had a banana, pretzels, gummi bears so that you didn’t have to try to pick things up individually. I also picked up some chocolate milk – my goto for after a hard workout. I did some stretching and then checked out the merchandise booth since I had finished! I picked up a license plate holder. I thought about getting my free beer at the Sierra Nevada beer garden but it seemed crowded and I just wanted to get back to the Inn and get clean. So I hopped on the shuttle (short bus) back to Carmel and made my way to the Inn.
My overall impression of the race was that it was very well-organized. I thought the weather was good for a marathon (though I do prefer it to be a little colder – my ideal temperatures probably would have been in the high 40s and low 50s). I felt like I ran a good race and I just need to work on that last 10K. I had quad issues with my 2nd marathon (that one also had a lot of rolling hills) so I wonder if that is my issue. I’d definitely recommend this race to any marathoner. I probably won’t ever do it again because there are just so many marathons out there that I think I want to experience and my race schedule (self-imposed) is to do a full marathon every other year. I think this will provide me with the right challenges but also not tear up my body too much. The day after the race I actually was getting around okay and walking. I drove us back to Sac. Two days post-race I was at work and somewhere in the middle of the day my left ankle/Achilles area started to give me some pain. I definitely limped the rest of the day. Not sure if it is a delayed injury or just because my work I am getting up and down a lot.
This was my 4th full marathon. I don’t know exactly how to explain it but I feel like I’m starting to feel more comfortable with the distance. Even though I struggled at the end, I knew I was going to finish. And then at the end of the race, I felt pretty good and not just plain exhausted/dead. I’m never going to be fast and I’m okay with it.