Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kyoto in the fall

We took advantage of the Veterans Day long weekend and I was able to spend some time in Kyoto and Osaka.  This trip is something I've wanted to take for as long as I can remember and it was nice to finally put some of those history classes to good use.

Sadly, it was those same classes that meant the boys had to stay home.  Our goal is to have our student loans finally paid off next year and travel at $800 per person just wasn't doable for the whole family.  (Plus, I'm sure the boys would have loved all the trains, but quietly experiencing Buddhist temples isn't within a very energetic 2 year old's limits.)

西本願寺 (Nishi Hongan-ji, Western Temple of the Original Vow)

伏見稲荷大社 (Fushimi-Inari tori gates)

天龍寺 (Tenryu-ji gardens)

竹林の道 (Arashiyama bamboo forest)

秋 紅葉 (Autumn foliage)

八坂神社  (Yasaka Shrine)


清水寺 (Kiyomizu Temple)

猫カフェ ねこ会議 (Cat Cafe Nekokaigi)

新幹線 (Bullet train)

道頓堀 (Neon in Osaka's Dotonbori)

Not pictured: the maiko dinner (I forgot my camera) and Universal Studios (by that point I was tired of lugging around the camera)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shouhashi Half 2013

Going from the cozy, well ran Kumejima Half last week to this weekend's overcrowded, chaotic mess at Shouhashi was shocking.

Unless the number of entries are drastically reduced, I would not recommend this race.  The majority of the course is open to traffic (runners in one lane and oncoming cars in the other) with a long section on a narrow bike path.  Trying to squeeze 9000 runners through those tight spaces made for an uncomfortably crowded course.

Here's some lessons learned:

- give yourself plenty of time to get lost and stuck in traffic going to packet pick up.  If at all possible, scout out the parking lot locations before race morning.

- get to the parking lot as early as possible. We arrived at 6:30 and it took an hour to get to the race area and the start had to be delayed by 30 minutes because of runners still stuck in traffic.

- do not bring a stroller.  Maneuvering as a single runner was hard enough, the stroller was nearly impossible to get through the crowds.

- bring your own water and food.  The aid stations were feeding frenzies and some of the later stops ran out of cups.  I didn't see any type of food or sports drinks.

- the finish area was a frustrating mess.  Finding where to return our timing chips and get a medal was like being in a mosh pit.  We didn't even try to get something to eat.

- plan on wasting the entire day at the race.  Getting from the finish line and back onto a bus took over an hour!

The beginning of the killer hill

Runners trying to pass walkers and dodge oncoming cars

Beautiful view


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kumejima Marathon, part 2: Race day


The boys and our stroller got a lot of attention!

Heading into town

So many spectators!

Ocean and sugarcane

Half way!

Across the bridge


Medals and certificates

We even had a bottle of awamori in our race packets!

A great run!  The course was fairly flat with some gently rolling hills.  There was no end to the cheering spectators handing out all sorts of goodies.  Very similar to the Ayahashi Half with the added bonus of a beautiful vacation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kumejima Marathon, part 1: Getting there

With this being our last year in Oki, it's time to make my wish list into a bucket list.  One thing I've wanted to do since arriving here was an off island race.  I thought about doing Iheya's Moonlight Marathon but the lodging situation didn't sound fun with toddlers (I read that most runners end up camping out in the school's gym because there's not enough hotel rooms).  Instead we settled on Kumejima (beautiful pics like this one floating around Pinterest certainly helped the decision!)

The logistics of the Kume trip stressed me out (fly or ferry? how to get tickets? hotel or camping? where to eat?).  I didn't hesitate when I heard IACE travel has a package specifically for the marathon.  With Isaac still considered an infant at 2 years old (no airplane seat, no meals, no bed), we paid about $250 per person.

Landing at Kumejima

We flew from Naha to Kumejima Saturday morning.  Our hotel, the Cypress Resort, was a quick shuttle bus trip from the airport.  I originally wanted to stay at the Eef Beach hotel because it's within walking distance of the start but using the island's bus line was very easy.

View from our hotel room

The bus schedule was mailed with the number card.  Unfortunately, it was all in Japanese but not too difficult to figure out.  (Here's a copy of the schedule to Google translate.) The left column was the pick up location, the departure times were listed in the middle columns (the bus ran about once an hour), and the final column was the fare.  For us, a trip from the Cypress hotel to the packet pick up was 370 yen each and the kids were free.  Although I wasn't entirely sure which stop was packet pick up, I just followed the people in running shoes off the bus  lol

Bus ride along the marathon route

Race morning, there was a free shuttle bus at our hotel.  After we finished the half, the regular bus wasn't schedule to arrive for another 40 minutes so we decided to splurge on taking a taxi back to the hotel (about $25)

Taking our duallie BOB was interesting but not too hard.  We checked it with our bags at the airport and the staff wrapped the stroller in plastic bags before loading it on the plane.  Although the shuttle bus was a little small, Chris was able to bring the BOB on board.  Race day we were able to fit the stroller in the bus's bottom cargo area and it fit into the back of the taxi.  (And we didn't actually ask if strollers were allowed in the race but no one stopped us from running either.)

Sugar cane fields at sunset

Typhoon Francisco cancelled the rest of our island plans, like snorkeling at Hate-no-Hama.  And to make it easy on the kids, we only ate at the hotel's restaurants (both Japanese and American breakfast foods, amazing shabu-shabu!).  I'd love to go back again next spring or summer for a proper sightseeing trip!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monster Mash Half

Last weekend was the Shogun Warrior's 2nd Annual Monster Mash half marathon.  The course mostly followed the Perimeter Road route with the addition of Fairchild Ave up to the USO and going past Bob Hope, finishing in the back of Risner.

My plan was to run this one at an easy training pace, finishing in the 2:45 range.  I started off in the back of the pack (I think at one point I was DFL), walking the uphills, and generally using the first couple of miles to just warm up.  I focused on keeping my RPE safely in the green zone and not on my watch.  Around mile 6, I realized that I was cruising along very comfortably at a 10 min/mile pace.  My PR pace 9:52 - holy guacamole, was I really in PR range??

I knew we were in the flattest part of the course with some good sized hills over the last miles.  The morning was quickly heating up too.  And with Kumejima and Shouhashi back to back, do I want to go all out now and risk a worse performance later?  But my half marathon record has mocked me since September 2005.  I decided to go for it.

I surged through the last of the flight line and pushed my way up the hills on Fairchild.  Picking off and passing road kill was a nice ego boost while ticking off the last miles.  Then a nasty surprise - another loop.  I could finally see Risner - the end was near! the final push! - when a volunteer directed us to keep running.  Crushed.  We needed to pass through the finish area once (such a tease!) and circle near Outdoor Rec and Jennings housing then back to the actual finish line.


Amazing!  Never thought I'd see a new half PR.  I dropped almost 40 minutes from my springtime halves (and definitely an improvement over my first race on Kadena's Perimeter Road).  Crazy what can happen with some actually training  lol

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hisashiburi desu nee!

Sorry my little spring blog break turned into quite the sabbatical (has it really been since April??).  Nothing exciting behind the break, just enjoying life.

The next few weeks are going to get a little crazy (going for Saturn with the Half Fanatics and my first trip to mainland Japan), but I'll try to get caught up on old posts soon!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Iha Park

The terrible twos have taken over Isaac and I'm ready to call an exorcist.  I'm not sure if I'm taking the tantrums, acting out, and major attitude harder because Isaac is usually such a sweet, mellow little dude, or maybe I've just blocked the memories of when Owen went through this phase.  Either way, I haven't had the energy or the patience to do much exploring with the boys lately.

But the weather was amazing last Saturday and I needed to get out of the house.  When we headed up to Bios on the Hill a few months ago, we spotted construction on a new park just off the 329.  I recently heard that the park was finally open, so we used Saturday's great weather to check it out.

Looking over Iha Park

Iha Park (伊波公園) is so nice!

There's several playgrounds and lots of places for the kids to play.  The main structure (pictured above) has some big slides, an obstacle course, and towers to climb for older children but there's plenty of smaller slides and tunnels for younger toddlers too.  The toddlers even have their own playground.  And of course the boys loved Iha's tall slide!

Owen navigating an obstacle

Toddler play area

Iha's big slide

Swing sets

Besides the great playgrounds, the upper area of the park has several fields, a small baseball diamond, a bull ring, and exercise equipment.  Although I'm not sure on the distance (I'd guess a half mile) and there are some stairs, the path winding through the park is cushioned and wide enough for a double jogging stroller.  Going for a run then turning the boys loose on the playground would be fun.

Pull up bars and cardio equipment
The boys enjoying the reflexology track

To get to Iha Park, travel north on the 329 by-pass.  Just before the intersection for the 6 (and right after an overpass), Iha Park is on the right hand side.  The park is very easy to spot from the 329, so shouldn't be difficult to find.  (Iha Park isn't on Google Maps yet, but here's a map of the general area.)  The park was very busy on Saturday and we didn't get a chance to find the parking lot, but there was plenty of places to park on the small road on the park's perimeter.

There's also the Iha-jo Castle Ruins in the neighborhood.  Next time we might pack a little lunch and do some more exploring after hitting the playground.