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!