Saturday, 19 December 2009

Oh for goodness sakes pt.2

So I went out for a 10km at lunchtime and now I can't walk. Oops...

Think I might have seriously buggered up my left thigh, in quite a lot of pain, severely restricted movement, can't put a lot of weight on my left leg at all. Not sure how the left ankle/achillies is as pain receptors seem to have given up working below my knee (because of all the work they are having to do above it, probably). Did a 52m 25s, which isn't that bad, except...

Shit. Not good.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Oh for goodness sakes...

My body is officially falling apart! Well, the lower half is anyway. You'll no doubt be as glad as I was to know that the plantar thing has cleared up, mainly as I haven't been out as much recently as I would have wanted. However the injury-du-jour is now a thigh/groin strain.

I think, as a result of my continuing left achillies issues, that the last few runs I have not run naturally and this has affected the rest of my left peg unfavourably. I noticed a few odd kind of feelings when running a while ago but it seems to have manifested itself now at the front-top of my thigh, leading me to think it might be a IlioPsoas Syndrome injury, mainly as it doesn't really sound like a 'normal' groin strain that footballers get (been there, had that in September when I started playing football again on a Friday afternoon).

I know, I know, I'm beginning to sound like an utter hypochondriac about all this, but when you start to exercise more your body does seem to rebel - well, mine does anyway. I went out for a 7km on Tuesday night and recorded something in the mid-37m range, so about average which was good, but then Wednesday morning walking with the left leg was quite hard work (especially going down steps, but that was more the ankle than the thigh). I was meant to go out again on Thursday night but it just seemed a stupid thing to do, same tonight, if it hurts when I sturry across the road between schools. So hopefully tomorrow sometime, but who knows? At this rate the marathon is looking remote.

In other news apparently stuff has been happening in Japan, but I haven't really been following it. Lots of words have been spoken about Futenma, the US Marine/Air Force base (one of?) on Okinawa, which may be moved, or may not be, etc. I think the Japanese want it moved but the Americans don't, or something, but Hatoyama was going to talk to Obama about it in Copenhagen, but then Barack got the Nobel gong so the meeting was cancelled, or maybe he just couldn't be bothered with it all, considering the other stuff he has on his mind, like his Arakawa Riverview nickname, but anyway Hatoyama didn't have the meeting with the big US cheese.

Talking of Copenhagen something was going on there - an attempt to reduce all the hot-air in the world by producing more hot air than a farm full of Fresians. Did it work? Has anybody been following it?

Anyway this has all been overshadowed by far more important matters, namely Godzilla defecting to the Angels, whilst the Samurai Blue may as well not turn up in South Africa next summer as they ain't gonna win a thing...

Monday, 14 December 2009

Just a quickie

As the footie will start soonish. Had all last week off the running because of this plantar thing with my right foot. By Saturday it was feeling pretty good so I thought I'd try it out with a short 5km and glad to say everything seemed OK, I even managed a time, 25.48, that was the fastest for the distance since about July, uncoordinated though I felt. As this felt OK I went for a slightly longer 7km run on Sunday (the first time I had run on consecutive days since the beginning of November), and put in a respectable 37.something, again happy enough with that.

Immediately after the Sunday run, without even passing go or having a shower, I put ice on the left Achilles for 5 minutes, then shower, then ice again for about 20 minutes, and today it hasn't felt too bad at all, so ice treatment is the way forward (will see how it works with the right foot as well). Anyway out again on Tuesday and Thursday nights this week, hopefully, then into double figures at the weekend with maybe a 12 or 14k.

Also tonight I realised another reason why my calf muscles, Achillies and feet might be feeling it a bit. I keep a record of distances and times so tonight totted up what I've been doing recently and discovered:
June -> total distance run 45km
July -> 25km
August ->27km
September -> 54km
October -> 61km
November -> 100km

As you can see a bit of a jump since September and November was 100km! If I keep to my current plan December will 115km!! Pity my poor ankles...

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Plantar Fasciitis

Hmm, maybe the 19km run on Sunday wasn’t such a great move. OK it was good mentally as I did it so I know I can keep going, but the right foot/ankle pain I got during the run looks like a case of plantar fasciitis. Not good as it means right now, on Thursday, 4 days after the run, walking is still on the painful side, let alone running, so my plan of a couple of 8k runs this week has gone and the half-marathon before Christmas might have to be dropped as well.

The reason for the injury? Too far too soon (a 5km jump in distance was not a good idea) and my running shoes, which are getting too old and worn out (probably still ok for shorter distances but not the longer runs).

So now it’s rest, recover and then start building up again. How frustrating but only myself to blame.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


I did it, I went long this afternoon, actually slightly longer than I thought. The plan was 18km but due to some building work on the riverbank up towards Nerima-ku I missed the 28km marker and after going on and checking the time it was taking I decided to turn round anyway and then found the marker on the way back. The extra bit took almost exactly 4 minutes, which at normal pace is about 800m (I'm running almost clockwork 5 minute kilometres up to about 12k, then the pace starts to drop a little).

So anyway, I think I did about 18.8km in the not too shabby time of 1hr 41m 00s, although this was less about the time and more about being able to do it without stopping, which I did bar two water breaks, where I didn't have much choice as the water fountains don't move. This keeps me in line for a sub-4 hour marathon time, which as I've said before I'm not aiming for (sub-5 will be ok with me), but would make me extremely happy (or more likely extremely dead).

Pain wise I can really feel today's run in my calf, which is resting on an ice pack as I type. Actually I felt the calf almost all the way on the run, which is not great news, I was hoping my enforced lay-off due to flu would have repaired stresses and strains, but perhaps not. Then again it wasn't bad enough to make me stop so that's good. Also good is the knee, which seems, touch wood, to have found a groove that it likes and so is feeling pretty good at the moment.

On this run, as it was long, I took one of those energy jelly packs to see if it would help as I ran. I think I took it too late, at the 11km mark, as the period from then until the 14km mark I felt a bit crap and the old mental state started to disintegrate a little (the right calf also started hurting), but then, suddenly, there was a sort of epiphany and a 'bugger this slowing down for a lark' moment and suddenly the pace lifted, the right calf was fine, the left felt better and we were back up to a proper running rhythm. I think it took those 3km for the energy to start being delivered to the bits of my body that needed it, and I think the bit that needed it most was my brain.

I know 'they' say that sport is mostly mental and this week I have begun to realise why. Firstly I've needed to psych myself up for running as far as I did today (lots of 'can I do it?' and 'yes you can' but it was 4km longer than my longest to date, which made me worry), and then secondly with the whole 'pull yourself together' moment going under Kawaguchi ohashi (that'll be 'bridge' for those who don't know). Sure, the energy jelly helped, but I think the biggest help was to my state of mind rather than my legs or lungs.

So that done means next weekend will be a shorter one and we're still on course for the half-marathon before Christmas.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Just a quick one

As I'm writing this in my lunchtime at work. Am fully over the flu, I'm glad to say, so have been out running again. Last friday was a 5k in 26m something, Sunday was 12km in 1h 00m 54s, which is pretty good going if you ask me (2 minutes faster than the 12k I did before) and then last night, Wednesday, it was 7km in 37m something.

So reasonable running but I dropped off a bit when I had flu so need to step it up again. I'm thinking about a long one this weekend (oo-er), maybe 18k, but the weather looks like it will be a bit shitty all weekend long. If it is I might have to rein in my ambitions, but I don't want to as if I do 18 this weekend that means I could get a 1/2 marathon distance (21k) in before christmas, which would be excellent work (e.g. 18 this weekend, a shorter run the following weekend, maybe 12 or 14, then the 21k monster on the weekend of 19/20th December)

Oh, and just to let you know that the old man and I have started playing backgammon regularly online as the old timer needs something to do with his retirement and being thrashed at backgammon seems to satisfy some need. Anyway Monday night I won 6-3 with some admittedly extremely lucky dice; whilst last night I ran out 9-6 winner but this time it was far more about superior skill than lucky dice (well... some lucky dice, but everyone gets some lucky dice, eh?). This all means, of course, that I will be royally thwacked tonight, but it will give the oldster something to be happy about...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Have had flu for the last couple of days, passed on to me by my wonderful, giving son - thank you Marcus (but better to get it now than at the end of February when I'm meant to be running the marathon).

Anyway I did go out for a run on Saturday afternoon, this was a long 14km stroll (that's a third of a marathon!), completed in 1h 12m 23s. It got a bit hairy, mentally speaking, about the halfway point as I realised that I had to run the whole way back again, but once I got knuckled down to it it wasn't so bad. I am also indebted to a bloke who was also out running who I fell into step with around the 9km mark as he was running at about the same pace in the same direction and when you have someone to run with, even if you don't know them, it makes life easier.

Anyway I should have been out on Monday and tonight but type-A put a stop to that. The good thing is that it should have given my ankle and knee a bit of a rest, which will only help, so maybe a gentle run on Friday night, see how we feel, then perhaps a 10 or 12k on Sunday.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

On to important matters

Got a bit bogged down last post with politics, history and consecutive posts about the Keystone Cops (and that's three mentions in a row - something must be done about this! Ed.).

So, tonight I feel it is more important to get to the bottom of a much more relevant issue - why are there so few ugly women in Japan?

Now I know what you are thinking, 'there are no ugly women in Japan!', but this is not true. It is true that there aren't very many of them and there are a minuscule number of ugly women over the age of 18, but they do exist. Anyway, I wondered about this for an awfully long time, about as long as I've lived in Japan actually.

When I first came here in the heady days of 1996 with Andy, my mate who I drove mad, we both remarked, after walking around tripping over our tongues for a few days, that the (and please bear in mind that we were young, hormonal and extremely sexually frustrated at the time so the language used was not particularly flattering) 'fit bird:munter ratio' was extremely high in favour of the 'fit birds'. We puzzled long and hard but not could work out why, and since Andy was invalided back to Blighty I have continued to ponder.

Until now, that is (well, April this year actually but I've just got around to writing about it). It is because all the ugly girls are taken away and recycled!

I know this for a fact because not only have I seen the facility where it happens, in the spirit of investigative photojournalism, at no small peril to myself, I have pictures.

Munters ugly bird recycling plant, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo

And it seems to work!

For example Norika Fujiwara is a well known model who advertises, amongst other things, automatic bog seats. Anyway it is a little known fact that she is a Munters alumni. On her 18th birthday in 1989 she was taken away for recycling, because, well, looking like this I think you'll understand why:

Our Norika at her 18th birthday party

However after a lengthy, intensive and probably extremely painful process we have bog seat promoter extraordinaire:

Standing next to the Arakawa soon after her 19th birthday

A vast improvement, I think you'll agree. And it is all done for the benefit of Japan as a whole because, let's face it, no one is going to be interested in an ugly country... Well, Japan is quite an ugly country in places, the bits covered in concrete especially, but no one will be interested in a country full of ugly people at any rate.

Anyway I've done a bit of running and things feel good. Monday night and tonight were both 7.3km-ers along the bank, a 36m 08s on Monday and a 35m 58s tonight. Good going I reckon.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

This week

Two things have been big in the news this week (not counting the Keystone's capture of suspect #1 as reported on Tuesday).

The first big thing was that on Thursday Japan had a big celebration to mark the fact that it was the 20 year anniversary of the Emperor's enthronement. Actually it was 20 years and a bit because the previous chap, the (never prosecuted but let's face it he was a) war criminal Hirohito died on January 7th 1989, I'm not really sure why Akihito's official accession date is 12th November, 10 months and a week after he actually got the job, but there you go, I'm not Japanese so I could never understand (and I forgot to ask the guru).

Anyway the way they celebrated this great event was to have a big party in the Emperor's front garden, with celebs and idols and carefully vetted flag waving proles. Here's a picture of the chap that is in no way related to what happened

Akihito with his panawave headdress slightly slipped backwards

As you can see he is a happy chap and, let's be honest, getting on a bit - not surprising as he was born in 1933 so that makes him 76 years old. The bit that gets me is that they had this big party for him in the evening, so everyone could watch on the telly. Why did people want to watch on the telly? Because it was bloody cold and may well have been pissing it down all evening (we've had a lot of rain this week). Poor bloke (and the missus as well) probably wanted to be at home, feet up with a cup of cocoa, but no, he has to watch people 'doing stuff' for him so he will be amused, sort of like watching the royal variety performance from his balcony in the middle of winter. And the entertainment was probably one thin bloke with a silly haircut hitting a fat bloke with an inflatable hammer (which, don't get me wrong, has it's place, but probably not here).

But I must admit I didn't really watch enough of it to be able to write with any great authority (not that that has ever stopped me), mainly because royal families are an unnecessary anachronism and I never like the British one so I'm sure as eggs not going to give a toss about the Japanese one. (Also he's the Emperor, right, the Emperor of which empire in particular? Maybe he's the Emperor Without Portfolio...)

The other thing about this week is that nice Mr Obama (nMO) has dropped in for a visit - not to our flat, I hasten to add, though he would be welcome to stop by for a cup of tea, but to Japan. I haven't really followed what he's done,but I think he made speeches about being nice to Japan, about Krazy Kim (remember him?) and probably some other stuff as well. I heard he might be going to Hiroshima or Nagasaki as nuclear weapon cuts seem to be high on his agenda. If he does, good on him, he ought to as should Brown, Sarkozy, Putin (or Medvedev), Ahmadinejad and any other world leader/idiot who thinks nuclear weapons are a good idea.

All this important national eventing has meant that the Keystone's fresh from their success in catching a felon (and thereby hitting their target for the 2000-2009 reporting period) have had to double shift and hang around the streets of Tokyo giving people hard stares in case they start plotting. I personally was given a particularly vicious look by a member of his majesty's finest whilst walking through Shibuya station on my way home on Wednesday night. I don't really know what the bobby was doing there as I was heading away from anyway remotely connected with either the EWP or the nMO, but then again I was (and still am for that matter) a foreigner and therefore probably a nutter so deserve a hard stare.

(BTW sorry for all the pauses in the typing tonight but my left contact lens is giving me gyp)

Last but not least I have been hitting the riverbank as usual.Thursday night was a typical 7.3km run in an untypical 35m 45s, which if memory serves is a new personal best. Then this afternoon it was a 12km run down towards the bay, completed in 1h 02m 50s - I was very happy with this as it is the longest for a long time, a good time and i can still walk now, though the knees are stiff and the achillies hurts (I will see a sports physiotherapist next week - we play football together so I will ask for a bit of professional advice).

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


For that is what it is. Not much to report from the land of the rising sun this evening - though the keystone cops have finally caught Tatsuya Ichihashi, the bloke who probably topped... sorry the main suspect in the Linsay Hawker case. The last time they nearly caught him was when 8 of the boys in blue went to his gaff to apprehend him and he did the classic 'look! is that the Goodyear blimp?' and then jumped over the wall. Cue lots of head scratching, confused looks and "he was here a minute ago, Chief Super, look you can see him on the TV news camera" type comments.

So this time they sent every single member of the police force, all 290,000 of them, including the 900 strong Imperial Guard (what a great thing to have on your business card!), to arrest the chap, and luckily they succeeded. Now, with an arrest-to-conviction rate of about 115% I wouldn't think the chap's chances are very good, but as he is a Japanese bloke in a Japanese court on a charge of murdering a foreigner you never know.

Anyway, I've been running - I went on Sunday after my 10k on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised about how good it all felt. I thought I would be shagged out but I actually put in a 35m 58s for the 7.3km route - putting that in perspective it's a personal best the day after a long run. I was quite happy. Also this evening I did another 7.3k, this time in 37m 01s, so a bit slower but still OK (it was quite humid tonight for some reason). Also good news on the pain front as I have discovered that [the J-equivalent of] Deep Heat is extremely good for my dodgy knees. Not for the knees themselves but in softening the tendon that is pulling my kneecaps out of position (which causes the pain). So tonight was as close to a knee-pain-free run as I've had in years. :)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Quite a quiet week

After all the excitement of the kid's health checks and the rugby last weekend, this week has been on the quiet side. This is good as I needed a week off (whilst still being at work). It's actually a quiet time in Japan at the moment; the politicos don't seem to be doing anything wrong (or really anything for that matter), so it feels like a bit of a return to Silent Shinzo's premiership, and big business doesn't seem to want to get into scandalville - they're probably still trying to work out how much money they've lost over the last18 months (and how much they're going to have to declare to the taxman).

One bit of news from Toyota was that they are quitting F1, this is big news as they have been front runners, podium sitters and world champions several times since they joined in 2002. Oh hang on, that must have been someone else as Toyota, biggest car maker on the planet, were utterly rubbish. But the important thing was that the J-boss of Toyota F1, Tadashi Yamanashi, did the decent thing and blubbed when he announced the news:

This is important as it shows he really meant it when he said he was happy to save the company about a gazillion yen a year. Crying is an important part of corporate Japan and is certainly an expected part of any news conference where bad news is on the menu. Indeed some foreign correspondents on the Japan big business beat have taken to ranking the sincerity of the apology given by the unfortunate suit:

Obviously not a good one that - perhaps it was Shinzo's resignation speech? (Actually probably not as a '4' would be far too high for that).

Anyway I've also been running a bit, Wednesday night was a 7.3km trot down the riverbank towards Akabane - that was a 36m 21s effort so pleased with that. Then this afternoon I did a 10km quickstep up the river towards... not sure what's up there actually, Nerima? Anyway I did find out that the kilometer markers stop as 28 (25 is next to the flat) but some useful person has painted a discreet but noticeable maker on the road for 30km so I knew when to turn. Anyway that was done in 51m 45s so maybe the 52m 10k I did a while back was pretty accurate. But again the left achillies is painful, might have to do something about it.

Monday, 2 November 2009

cold and wet

Today was on the chilly side, but not too bad, and as I wasn't able to go out over the weekend I strapped on the old running shoes and plodded up to the riverbank. As I left the house I noticed it was raining a little but as I got to said riverbank I realised it was also a tad blowy. After about 2km along the top of the bank I realised that it wasn't actually 'a tad blowy', it was a fecking winter storm with wind blowing in from the Urals and throwing rain drops at me at just under the speed of light. It's been a while since the whole side of my face went numb due to the cold. But I finished the run, though I only did a 5.3km instead of the usual 7.3 as I was getting too damn wet. 26m 11s if you're recording these things. Right knee is quite painful now, though, in fact it has been all day - not a good sign

On Saturday, after organising health checks for 230 kids, I went to watch the Bledisloe cup game in Tokyo. Had I been in a position where I had to pay for the ticket I would not have gone (indeed I had not brought a ticket even though people at work had). However when the NZ embassy gives your school a bunch of freebies then what sort of person would I be to decline? (A silly one).

So I went along but, to be honest, it was a bit underwhelming. It wasn't England or Japan, for a start, so I didn't care who won. It was played at the old national stadium near Gaienmae which is big, 45,000 were there, but you feel a bit far away as it's an athletics stadium so you have the tracks around the pitch so everything is distant. Also as I had been working I couldn't meet up with people I knew so I ended up watching by myself (with 45,000 people of course), and whilst I chatted with the Japanese people next to me a bit, it wasn't quite the same.

Anyway NZ won although Aus made a decent fist of the first half. Now both teams are off to Europe. As Japan is hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and they want to expand the game and its popularity beforehand I expect I'll be able to watch all these games on TV, or at least on Sky... but no, no coverage and the nz/aus game on Saturday was on an even smaller pay satellite channel - these people have no idea...

Friday, 30 October 2009

A quickie

Forgot to write last night that I was out pounding the riverbank in pursuit of running perfection. Unfortunately it again proved elusive but I put in a 7.3km stint, clocking a reasonable 36m 40s - a bit slower than Tuesday night but still respectable. Pain factor was a little on the high side for the left achillies, so much so that I felt the need to ice it a bit after gtting home. Think I'll give it a rest over the weekend.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon...

Not really, but I am listening to a Radiohead gig from the internet as I type - isn't the internet fab, just a quick browse and you can find gigs from everyone from everytime and they're all free. It's great (quite possibly slightly south of legal, but i figure if you aren't able to buy it then it can't be wrong to get it for free).

Anyway it's late so a brief note to note that I was out tonight, the usual 7.3km route in 36m 20s, which is just under the PB time for the distance. Felt good.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sunday evening

Evening all, so what a fun packed weekend that was - well, packed is an accurate descriptive expression, however it's something of a stretch to include 'fun' in there as well.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early - actually make that still dark and early as I had agreed to go with a bunch of school kids down to a mass footy kickabout at the American school (ASIJ) campus down in Chofu. The get together started at 8.30 so it was meet in Setagaya at 7.30 so yours truly had to be there at 7.00 to make sure everything was set up ok, so up at 5.15 am in the morning to be on time. Lawks that's early for a Saturday! But I made it, thankfully. The reason I was doing this rather than, say, the Primary PE teachers whose job it is, was that last week was half term and we couldn't possibly ask teachers to work during their holidays now could we? So helpful HR managers step into the breach so the kids can attend a tournament.

So we took three school teams down there; ASIJ have a great campus, they had a choice a few years ago - stay as a city centre school and have limited space and facilities or move out of Tokyo and have fields - they took the latter option and have a great place, lots of space, sports fields, big classrooms, first rate facilities etc. They also have a large fleet of buses to ferry the kids from central Tokyo to Chofu and back everyday. One day our school will have to make the same decision - I wonder which way we will go...?

Anyway I just thought I was going as a bus monitor (got to have enough adults on the bus or it won't be allowed to go), but when we got there we realised that all the teams would be well spaced out and playing almost continuously so in the end it was 'Justin, here's the girls team, look after them, they have only ever had 3 lessons, good luck...'. Ah.

But actually it was great. They didn't have particularly high expectations and the tournament was really a tournament as no one was keeping scores (luckily for us) or progressing to the next round (as there wasn't one). The first game they were completely overrun and didn't really know what to do so were hit for a cricket score (it was 6-a-side and two 8-minute halves), same in the second game with an even worse score, but at least they started playing a bit thanks to some on-the-spot coaching from their new gaffer.

Then in the third game they really started to play (and listen to my shouting from the side line). The first half ended 2-0 to the opposition but the second half, after what must have been a half-time talk from yours truly of Shakespearean (or Fergusonian) grandeur that they went out and played really well, scoring their first goal (a lovely strike by right-midfielder Lauren) and only a late defensive error allowed the oppo to score, making it 1-1 for the half. OK, they lost, but they scored their first goal and the smiles at the end were really special.

The girls lost all their games in the end, but they scored a few more times and really got into it. The fact that all but one of the teams they played were all boys showed that they scrapped really hard, giving one boys team a torrid second half after one of the little blighters said to his coach 'this is really easy, we can score whenever we want' after they went 4-0 up (the second half was 2-2, I think). If they had played another all-girl team I reckon they could have won a game, but it was not to be. Next time, however...

Sunday morning was the next health check day. This follows on from a colon cancer and hepatitis check (results available from tomorrow) and the annual medical on Friday; today was barium time. For those not in the know this is good for knowing if you have stomach cancer - you drink liquid barium and then they take lots of photos on a weird rig thing that turns you over and around and upside down. Personally I think filling your stomach with radioactive barium is a jolly good way to give yourself stomach cancer, but apparently I am wrong in this (or maybe some bit of it).

Anyway as I'm going to run the marathon the guru said I had to get as much of my health checked as possible as she does not want me to keel over whilst running (sensible girl), and as the barium check this is free, organised by the local ward office, then one would be silly not to take it. So off we trooped to Itabashi ward office this morning, after not eating or drinking (no water even) from 10pm on Saturday night to get the job done. There isn't much to write about really, as it was all done with typical ruthless Japanese efficiency, even down to providing the laxative necessary to expel the barium gloop from the other end sometime this evening (took the thing at 2pm and still no sign of Niagara Falls...).

What was not operating with ruthless Japanese efficiency, however, was the Denny's just over the road from the ward office. As you can imagine the first thing a big bunch of people who haven't eaten or drunk anything for over 12 hours is going to do is make a bee-line for the nearest restaurant --> Itabashi Denny's. Waiting 20 minutes just to get a cup of coffee - the first of the day - is not going to make one happy, and the food was cold as well. It was the same for everyone in there and so it was not a happy atmosphere. The staff kept apologising but they were fighting a losing battle - better coordination with the ward office needed, I think.

On top of all that I got a couple of runs in as well. I didn't do the 10km again, but a 5.3km on Saturday in 25m 58s; and a 7.3km this evening in 36m 35s, both of which I was happy with. Felt a bit ropey after the Saturday run (it had been a long day) but much better tonight (even though I kept worrying the the ex-lax would suddenly kick in and I'd have to dive into the bushes for an emergency evacuation a la Monty Python's Marathon for Incontinents). Luckily I made it home safely.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I know, I know...

I *should* have gone out running last night, but as it was the end of my working week (Thursday and Friday off as it's half term) I had a few beers and watched Valkyrie instead (which was quite good even though you knew what was going to happen in the end).

So anyway I went out tonight and to make up for it I did my first 10k run. I clocked a respectable 52m 05s, which I think is respectable anyway. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it was slightly longer than 10k as there is a big dogleg over a tributary and I think the distance is measured on the river not the riverbank. We'll see on Saturday as I'll do a 10k going up the other way (with hopefully no doglegs) and see what the time is (I was hoping for a 50m or slightly under tonight).

Not good pain wise though as I have a sore left calf/Achilles (again) and the right knee feels iffy, soI'd have to put that at a 4/10, the highest for a while.

Other than that today we went to *another* park, this time one in Shinanomachi (near Shinjuku). Again this was an adventure playground stylee thing, but certainly less bucolic than Abiko Shrine on Sunday. But it was fun and the little fella had a good time. It was also, oddly, chock-full of French kids with their (French) mums. This is not a bad thing, I hasten to add, just odd as it felt like a lot of families - maybe they had arranged a big playdate (there's a weird expression, playdate, it's probably American; when I was a kid it was called 'going to your mate's house after school': I agree playdate is easier, but it sounds so...American) because the Lycee is on half term as well. I don't know, but it was nice anyway.

Then we had lunch and wandered back past other, less inspiring, parks and the, more inspiring, national stadium, (but which I'm not sure they use much anymore - it seemed a bit on the rundown side).

Tomorrow, however, is health check up day... (oh joy)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Monday night

Out again tonight, 7.3K in 36m 27s, which for that distance is pretty good so happy with the time. Felt good and right knee felt pretty stable so hopefully getting stronger there.

Didn't get the chance to go out yesterday as we went to this shrine place. It is in a place called Abiko and the reason we went there was to save the world. As I'm now writing this I think we can safely say 'mission accomplished' but in a very real way not in a rubbish way like certain former US presidents.

Well sort of. It was all about Feng Shui, which the guru is most into. You write down your wishes, work out which direction from your house is best to travel and then go to a shrine in that direction, the further the better I think, take your letter with wishes on and pray. In the end it all becomes true so fingers crossed. Naturally one of my wishes for politico types to put an end to war in the word so watch this space as it could be happening to local armed conflict near you anytime soon. Our premium direction was northeast, hence Abiko and luckily enough it was northeast for both of us - if your feng shui isn't aligned properly you have to go in different directions apparently - dashed clever the ancient Chinese monk fellows, or whoever invented it.

Anyway we went, we prayed and then I took lots of photos with my new birthday camera. Some of the shots are quite good, but I did make the mistake of leaving it on a really high ISO setting from last time so a lot of the really sharp detail has blurred a bit. Oh well, you live and learn.

Next to the shrine, which really was in the middle of nowhere (part of north Chiba) was a jolly little sort of country park thing (I mean it was little and jolly, not that it was jolly little), with open grassy spaces, ponds, a bbq area (with food supplied) and a little but super adventure playground. So after the shrine we lunched on bbq'd food and then Marcus attempted the play ground. It was great as it had about 20 big wooden obstacle things you had to crawl, jump, balance or climb in, out, through, up, down, under, over and any other prepositions you can think of. Marcus did most of them and was most chuffed by the end, as were his admiring parents. In fact we were all so chuffed we had ice creams to celebrate.

To be honest, however, dad was most chuffed by the fact it was free to get in.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

This afternoon's run...

Was an 8K wander along the riverbank, this was good as it was the longest I have run for a while, certainly since the marathon came along, and overall it was fine.

Whilst I was running I was thinking about politics. I know, I know, but it happens sometimes and once it starts there isn't much you can do to stop it (well, apart from think about sex, but that's not good when one is running - the bulges can get in the way...)

Anyway what I was thinking about was the fact that a lot of politics has gone on since I last wrote about politics on this blog, and that's not good (not good that I haven't written about it, I mean, it's ok that lots of politics has gone on). That isn't good mainly because we've had a few politicians that I haven't given nicknames to, which is most remiss on my part. So we had the Kool Kid (Koizumi) and Silent (Shinzo Abe) and I think that was the last of them that I named.

So, in a better-late-than-never offering can I propose, after Silent we got the Fuckwit (Fukuda) and Short Step (Aso - as in It's only a Short Step from Aso to Asshole) until we come to the present incumbent of the job (I wanted to say where he lived, e.g. the present incumbent of 10 Downing St or the Elysee Palace, but I don't know what the official residence of the JPM is).

Anyway the new guy is Yukio Hatoyama, he is the first non-Liberal Democratic Party (who, lest we forget, were neither liberal nor democratic) PM in years (well, from 1993 to 1996 we had Hosokawa (Japan New), (mad) Hata (Renewal - whoever the fuck that was) and Murayama (Socialist) but apart from that...). So since 1945 we had 64 years minus 3 of LDP and this year the electorate threw them out. Why? Because they were shite and at last people realised it. By the way I knew they were shite ages ago but I'm not allowed to vote so no one else gives a toss what I think.

So Hatoyama is a bit like Obama in the US - he's new, new's not from the old guard and he's making a load or really good sounding promises that he just isn't going to be able to deliver on. You know the sort of thing, an end to pork-barrel building projects, less corruption, no more amakudari, incentives to have children, that sort of thing. He's also a Democrat (but not a Liberal Democrat) which means he and Obama should get on well. However he isn't black, or the Japanese equivalent which would be Ainu, so the parallels stop there.

Anyway he needs a nickname and this, returning to my opening theme, was what I was thinking about whilst running this afternoon. But as I couldn't think of a decent nickname it can't have been that successful a run. OK, I admit Fuckwit isn't particularly original or that difficult to think of, but Fukuda really was one. I'd like to think of something a bit better for Yukio so I think I'll wait a bit, see which of his big election promises nosedives first.

So to the run - 8K in 38m 59s (which is pretty darned good going even if I say it myself - puts me in a 3h 46m marathon time (allowing for slowing) according to Runners World's calculator thingy, to which I say 'no, no, sub 5 hours is fine with me!). Pain factor again only 3/10, some left achillies and right knee issues, but nothing too bad and both seem OK now at 11pm. The most important thing, however, was that at the end of 8K I didn't feel I had to stop - it was nice to, but I could have carried on. Important that.

Tomorrow we're off to some shrine but might get a cheeky run in later in the afternoon.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Lots of running...

...but no running training tonight; no, Friday night is footy night.

Now I know this throws up a few interesting questions, the first of which is 'I didn't think you could play football...?'. This is both true and, indeed, not true. I cannot do skillful things like dribble (with the ball) or 'beat' players with my silky smooth footwork. However there is a lot to be said for commitment and getting in the way of the opposing players, or, to put it another way, defense. Running around, huffing and, indeed, puffing and stopping other players doing their 'thing' can, in itself, be a thing of beauty. Well, that's what I keep telling myself anyway.

The other question, of course, is what does this have to do with running? Well lots of running around playing football is useful as it is a different kind of running. Usually,when I go out to the riverbank, it's short gentle jog, stop and stretch, long medium/hard run, stop, water, short gentle jog finish. Very little change of pace or direction.

But playing football is good because it is lots of short intense sprints, short recovery time and then short hard sprint again (which is, of course, essentially what Fartlek is all about). Included in this is a lot of changes of direction which good for my iffy knee joints as they need some lateral stress on the tendons. Of course there is the only to real possibility of going over on an ankle or some other such muscular misfortune, but there you go - I'll stop it after Christmas as I would be mightily pissed off if I missed the run with a ruptured achillies after playing football.

Until then I will keep snapping and harrying the opposition. Tonight's pain factor 3/10, got a whack on the left calf and stamp on the right big toe (again) and a smack on the nose (but that shouldn't stop me going out this weekend).

So, 7k tomorrow and I reckon a 9 or 10k might be in the offing for Sunday...

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Don't ask why...

But not only have I signed up, but I have actually succeeded in the lottery, for a place in next year's Tokyo Marathon.

Yup, on 28th February 2010 Iwill strap on a pair of running shoes and slog round 26miles, or about 42 kilometers, of Tokyo's finest urban sprawl. I will be aiming to do this in less than 5 hours and then aim to recover in less than 5 weeks. My aims may be lofty, but I think I can reach them...

I have been asking myselfwhy I should sign up for this kind of nonsense and think it is the responsibility of my mate Dave who... (aside, everyone in the world has, according to an immutable universal law, a mate called Dave. These Dave characters do stuff so their mates can begin stories with 'well, my mate Dave who...'. But it does beg the question, do people called Dave have mates called Dave...?). Anyway my mate Dave who lives in Bangkok and who has done the Bangkok marathon twice was over in Japan a while back and during a drunken conversation a plan was hatched that we would do the Tokyo marathon with Steve as well. Now Steve totally denies he ever agreed to it and I'm not sure Dave ever applied, but I did and I'm in.

I have been running at weekends (and the odd evening) for a good few years now, indeed my MBA was written on the back on 5K runs on Sunday afternoons - very good for clearing the mind of clutter, I usually started the run with a question or a 'how am I going to do this tricky bit of [plagiarism/editorial vandalism/statistics]?' and by the end I would have had an epiphany and the next section would be written.

But big jump from a 5K on a Sunday afternoon to 42K on Sunday morning, but we'll give it a crack. I've already started regular evening runs and will start upping my weekend distances soon. I may even drastically cut my alcohol intake from January onwards! Yes, it's that serious...

Anyway, that means that this blog will now become my online journal of running and pain. I shall log runs, times and all that stuff, along with breathtaking insights on how really dull it is (apparently) to run by yourself for 20 or 30 kilometers.

So tonight, 5.3Km, 26m 59s, slight precipitation in the air with some thunder and lightning, along the riverbank. Pain factor 2/10, felt pretty good but disappointed with the time (best is 25m 05s) as thought it was faster, some right knee issues whilst running but nothing severe.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Back with a vengeance

OK, apologies, been busy etc, but we’re back now.

As I haven’t put finger to keyboard pretty much this year a lot has gone on, however as it is now August I can’t remember most of it. What I can remember is that 1) we moved and 2) the folks came to visit, so that is what I shall write about (so if you don’t want to know about either of these things, stop reading now).

The moving

Yes, as I type this at the office (it’s summer so it’s quiet…) I know that when I finish I will return home not to the bustling metropolis of Kawaguchi but to the sleepy-except-for-the-trains Ukimafunado. ‘Where on earth is that?’ I’m sure you’re all wondering, well, if you google it you can find it, but it is in Itabashi ward of Tokyo, so I can finally say that I really do live in Tokyo rather than in a bit of Japan right next to Tokyo (not that it ever stopped me). Anyway the new gaff is actually pretty close to the old gaff, over the river and along a bit, so we are still nice and close to the riverbank (good for jogging) and also very close to a jolly nice big park with a pond (but also close to a train line and a fairly big road) and also we’re on a direct line into Shibuya, making the morning commute slightly less stressful for me and the little ‘un (who has now attained the ripe old age of four – about the right age and size for chimney sweeping, which is where I would send him over the summer holiday if only a) the guru would let me and b) anyone in Japan had a chimney… I digress)

So anyway, the first part of the year was mainly taken up with getting this gargantuan move sorted out. As I’m sure you can imagine there were plenty of hassles along the way, mainly involving money and pieces of paper that had to be signed. Luckily the bank and the mortgage neatly involved both of these bothersome requirements and the Guru and I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time travelling to Mizonokuchi (where we nearly bought before and where the man with the money was) and sitting in the bank’s loan plaza (which was unlike a plaza in almost every way) listening to a man with bad breath talk to us about mortgages. Of course we went through the whole fixed or free floating conundrum and ended with a deal that, to be honest, I don’t really understand, but some of the loan is floating and some of it fixed for 10 years, but the rate on the floating bit has limits so it can’t suddenly go up by 5% overnight. Or something. I don’t know, I just filled in and signed lots of bits of paper. Interesting that whilst the bank savings interest rate is something like 0.000000001% at the moment, the rate on loans and mortgages is, of course, much higher at something like 3.5%. Hmm…

Note on filling in forms – over the last few months and, well I suppose a year now, I have had to fill in a shitload of bits of paper, usually with exactly the same bits of information like names, address, work, family details etc. Now as a non-native writer of Japanese I have had to practice a bit to get to a point where what I write is legible. The Guru, on the other hand, is Japanese so has had a lot of practice. The result of this is that, as a Japanese person, her handwriting is allowed to be nearly illegible and another Japanese person reading it will have no issues; however as a foreigner my writing has to be of almost typeface quality otherwise a Japanese person will refuse to believe it is Japanese. A case in point. There is a katakana character 'イ' which is the phonic equivalent of a short ‘i’, on one of the bank forms an officious banker decided that with my written イ the slanting top bar was too short and therefore illegible, so I had to go back to Mizonokuchi one evening by myself after work and redo all the forms because one or two of these characters didn’t look right. It didn’t matter that there isn’t really another katakana character it could be confused with (see here if you want or that, in context, it couldn’t really have been anything else, to him it didn’t look right so had to be changed. Can you imagine having to fill in the same forms all over again because the bloke at Barclays doesn’t like the way you write the letter ‘e’? What a tosser.

Anyway the important point here was that we got the cash, which made the construction company happy as it meant that we could actually buy the place.

Moving house is a big business in Japan, although I can guess that this may well also be the case in other parts of the world. Moving in April is even bigger business here in Japan as a lot of people do it, so moving companies can, and do, make it more expensive. Interestingly the reason April is so busy is that it is the start of the financial year; ‘so what?’ you may muse. Well, Japanese companies are extremely likely to, at the drop of a hat in March, decide that the company would be better served if Tanaka san from accounts in the Tokyo office would become, on 1st April, Tanaka san from marketing in the Nagoya office. And off Tanaka san will duly toddle, possibly but not necessarily taking family in tow with about 2 week’s notice. This may seem harsh, and it is. The reason, so I am reliably informed by my memory, is a hangover from the feudal samurai period where the samurai were distributed around the country and, importantly away from the wives and families who stayed in Edo (Tokyo), so as a) not to ferment rebellion/assassinate the emperor or shogun in Edo with their mates and b) so wives and family could be held hostage. Nowadays it is corporate salaryman that gets shunted about and usually families are encouraged to go (but if hubby is moved to, say, Utsunomiya would you go…?), but the moves are still there. It seems like a serious waste of time and money to me, but then I’m not Japanese so I couldn’t possibly understand.

Moving into a newly built apartment block can be tricky. If it is a really big block then you can imagine the problem if each and every of the 758 new apartment owners all tried to move in at 9am on Monday morning – so these things have to be organised.

As you can imagine this is a jobsworth’s wet dream.

Our new block is quite small, only 50 or so units, however we also had a partner removal firm appointed by the construction company. It was their job, let’s call them Kitazawa for that indeed was their name, to organise the moving of new owners and, as they are a removal company themselves, basically get as much business for themselves as possible (what, I wonder, was the kickback to the construction company to get the business…?). The equation was quite simple, if you used Kitazawa you could move at any time you wanted, spend as long as you want loading and unloading your gear, block everyone’s access to the building if you wanted and have the them kiss your butt everyday for a month; if you didn’t use Kitazawa then you could move only when Kitazawa said you could, everything had to be unloaded from your removal van in 30 seconds or less, your removal van could not, however, actually stop moving outside the building for more than 4 seconds and parking facilities were available but only in Osaka.

With this in mid we contacted Kitazawa and asked them to give us a quote. For moving all our stuff about 1½ miles and recycling about 13 pieces of old, crap furniture they wanted the princely sum of 500,000 yen that’s over 3 grand in real money. Next! The recycling bit was the bit that got me – in Japan the local council will do this for you, you just call them up, they give you a date and then you buy a recycling sticker from your local convenience store, total cost about 500 yen per piece and the hassle of buying the sticker and putting it outside your apartment on the designated day. So for Kitazawa to quote us 150,000 yen for the recycling was the clincher – well, that and the fact we couldn’t afford half a million yen on the removals.

Luckily the school I work for uses a local mover every summer to cart teachers stuff around, so I gave him a call and asked him to give us a quote and he came back with a removals only price of 100,000, much more like it, though he did blanch a bit when we gave him the ‘rules’ for delivery and unloading.

After that it was mostly plain sailing. We packed up all the stuff, sometimes with the little un’s help but more often with us packing and he unpacking at the same time, sometimes from the same box. The appointed day came quickly, as they always do, but just before it did my folks arrived from the UK for a month’s stay – more of that later.

The moving itself was fine, we stood back and let sweaty men do all of the hard work whilst worrying about the new place and the old place. Although Kitazawa had all these draconian rules and penalties about the unloading of stuff the truth was that the new block was quite small and the arrival of new owners was actually spread out over a number of weeks, if not months, so there was very little in the way of moving in clashes and certainly no removal rage which, apparently, is not uncommon. Also we moved in on a Monday morning so it was never going to be that busy, not like a weekend.

The bigger concern for us was how much, if any, of the deposit on the old place we would get back. The deposit was 100,000yen and we figured if we got 20,000 back we’d be happy. There are horror stories of bastard landlords not only not giving any deposit back but of making demands for huge extra payments for spurious cleaning or repair work. I didn’t think it would come to that, but you never know.

So on the Monday afternoon we went back to the old 7th floor, fine view Kawaguchi flat for the final time to witness the last rites (of our stay anyway). Surprisingly neither the letting agent nor the landlord turned up, just a bloke from a redecorating company who would give his professional opinion. OK, fair enough. So as we sat on the floor of the empty flat he nosed around. The reason we were a tad worried was that over 6 years of wear and tear, including 4 years of small boy, there were bits of the flat in a state of disrepair. The tatami mats in the living room were threadbare in places, the paper on some of the sliding doors was a tad holey (not wholly holey, but enough), there were plenty of nicks in the wallpaper and the kitchen floor had scratches and, worst of all in our opinion, the odd gouge. So we weren’t too hopeful.

So chap did his rounds, then showed me what he’d found, all of which I agreed with. So, how much to put right? He started to fill in his clipboard and take measurements with his tape measure. When he started on the walls and wall paper his comment was – [with sucking of teeth] “and this is where it can get really expensive…” Gulp. And the final tally…45,000yen to you squire.

“Gosh, well, hmm, that seems an interesting number, does that include the tatami?” “Yup, everything in there chief”. OK, hold on…

Of course we were pleasantly surprised and could have said yes right then, but I had an even more cunning plan. One of my team at work is a qualified estate agent (they have to take exams in this country!) and she had said it was ok to call her to discuss what landlords can actually charge for, so I did. I went onto the balcony and left redecorator and the Guru inside. This made redecorator nervous as the Guru told him I was taking legal advice (which was in a sense true), so even whilst I was talking outside the quote came down to about 39,000yen as redecorator had made a ‘mistake’. The advice was that as tenants of 6.5 years and more we were legally only obliged to contribute a maximum of 10% of the cost of a number of items, specifically the wallpaper. Nice work! We told chap this and he said he would pass on to the letting agents – he did and a couple of days later the final bill was agreed at about 25,000yen! Yaay, result! And he never even checked the kitchen floor.

After that it was just trying to work how all the new electronic gizmos in the new place worked (we still don’t know…)

Next, the folks visit…

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Lots been going on...

Which I haven't got time to write about now (though it's coming soon). As a taster, we've finally moved house (into our newly purchased "condo" (as I believe they're called)), the folks have been and gone, we've been to Mt Fuji and taken a lot of pictures and the Easter holidays have happened.

But the most important thing is that whilst the folks were here there was an extended Backgammon championship, best of 5 sets, each set to 21 points. The short story, which I will tell here, is that the home team won 3-2 (and I'm still not quite sure how I did it (though a double 4 in the final game of the final set, with the scores at 17-19 to the away team, that filled up my home board whilst the away team had a man on the bar probably helped...))

Heh, heh heh

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Jammy Git

You know who you are. The only throw I really didn't need was a 6-3, and what did I get...?

18-20 the final score.

Bastard (but thank you for a jolly well fought 3 hour game, most enjoyable except for the final score).

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! etc

Good job I'm not competitive otherwise this would have made me *really* unhappy...

Oh, Happy New Year everyone.