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Nov 19, 2013

Kobe Marathon finisher

After being on the roadside to cheer and photograph runners at several marathons (as you can see here and here for Dublin, or there for Osaka), and as I was looking for a new challenge after our charity bike ride for Project Biwa, I decided some time ago that it would be nice to run one as well.

Initially, my plan was to run last year's Dublin Marathon. It is said to be very nice, and after so many years living in the city, it was quite fitting. However, with the arrival of our son scheduled for a few months before the race, it became clear that it was not such a good idea, and I did not register.

Six months ago, I decided that this year would better. I applied to the Kobe Marathon (it is over-subscribed so there is a lottery to award spots in the race), and prepared a training schedule, based on information I could find online. When we were training for Project Biwa, I had prepared our schedule by scaling a marathon training programme to the longer distances we would cover on the bike, so I knew that if I could follow through on the schedule, I would be fine.

The big problem, of course, was to fit that training programme on top of a busy work and the exciting (but time-consuming) family life with a one-year old.

My 24-week programme had a total distance of just over 800km, the longest week at 66km, and six runs over 20km, with the longest being 32km.
In the end, I only managed 347km. My best week was 38.6km, and I only had three runs over 20km (maxing out at 25km). Quite a big gap, isn't it? As you can see in the graph below, my training was in trouble early on, but a mid-October injury to my foot did not help.

Finally, race day came this Sunday, November 17th. I was quite anxious, but also excited to get going at last.

Before the race, my only objective was to finish. To do so, my rough strategy was to have a good start, if possible going faster than the five-hour pacesetters, then to hang on with them as long as possible when they would overtake me (which was very much expected, given my lack of training), and to finish relying on my willpower.

The first step went even better than planned. I was cautious of not going too fast, but finished the first 10km in 1:07:51, (a 6:47/km pace corresponding to a 4:46:17 finish).

Even though there is no real hill on the course (except from the climb to the highway section and the bridge to Port Island, both in the last 8km), there were still a few bumps and bridges to get over on the way to Akashi. While running down one of these (shortly after the 12km mark, if I remember correctly), I must have landed awkwardly on my right foot, because my knee started to hurt, and my pace to decrease.

Another few kilometres on, I decided it was wiser to try to walk this off. It did not quite work, and I started to run again. I could not run properly though, and rapidly developed a major blister under my foot, (it is still longer and wider than my thumb, two days after the race).
With all that, my second 10K split was 1:30:23, and I was starting to worry about not being able to finish, as I was barely able to walk, let alone run.

My third 10K split was the slowest and most depressing, limping my way through the course at 10:53/km to reach the 30K mark after 4:27:13. After a while though, I suppose you get used to the pain. I was able to slightly increase my "limping pace", even managing to run a few hundred metres here and there. My fourth 10K split was covered at 10:35/km, and I finally crossed the finish line in 6:35:24.

Very slow, but enough to get my prize.

It was probably unwise to attempt a marathon with that sort of training and so little running experience beforehand (my total running distance since 2010 is 512km, 424km of which coming since April this year!), but I am thrilled to have finished it.

A big thank you to family and friends for their comments on Twitter and Facebook during the race, and to the amazing crowd along the course. They really helped me get through this despite my body doing everything to stop me.

A special mention to the unknown cyclist I spotted many times along the course, who was offering some "magic spray" to the runners. You saved my knee, and my race, good sir.

Finally, another big thank you to Kevin and Scott who helped me several times in the last few months when I had silly newbie questions. The race was Kevin's tenth marathon. Impressive! And Scott finished in about 2:47, which is not even his PB!! Congratulations to both of them.
You can follow Scott's progress towards a sub 2:30 marathon on his blog.

In 2014, I will probably focus on 5K and 10K races, as it will be easier to fit a training plan for such distances into my schedule. Then maybe a half-marathon in 2015, and my second marathon in late 2015 or early 2016.

I have already noticed two convenient races right on my doorstep: a 10K on February 9th, and 5K on March 2nd. Time to start thinking about how to properly train for these. Advices and recommendations welcome!

Nov 4, 2013

Hanshin vs Chunichi at Koshien

The Japanese baseball season officially ended yesterday, with the Rakuten Eagles defeating the Giants in game 7 to win the Nippon Series. Congratulations to them!
For the Tigers, we had the usual ups (such as finishing 2nd in the Central League) and downs (for instance being swept in the play-offs). Maybe one day they will be consistent enough to get some silverware. The potential is definitely there.

Anyway, to wait until the new season next March, here are a few photos I took back in July, when the Tigers hosted the Dragons at Koshien (and won 8-1).

The photos feature Matt Murton, Ryota Arai, Takashi Toritani, Katsuhiko Saka, Yamato, and of course two of the team mascots, Lucky and To-Lucky.

As always, questions are welcome in the comments, and you can click on the photos to see larger versions.




Matsuri video highlights

Some video highlights of a local matsuri on Port Island in Kobe, Japan. I have quite a few photos as well, and these will appear in a later post.

Mar 22, 2013

Kobe beef

As you may have noticed, I hardly have any time to post anything here, so I will try the new approach I mentioned in my last post: photos (as always), but very little text. For details, please ask any question you may have in the comments section below.

Today's focus is on Kobe beef. Yes, it is as good as said to be, and even better than it looks on the photos. I highly recommend it.


(for those wondering, we were in a very small restaurant on a Kobe backstreet, near too far from Sannomiya station.)

Jan 18, 2013

Dublin marathon 2012 (part 2)

Finally some more photos from the 2012 Dublin Marathon, following my previous post some months ago.

These pictures are pretty much self-explanatory so I will simply let you enjoy the atmosphere. As always, clicking on any image will get you to a larger version. If you have any question, the comment section is just below.


(I have very little time to write anything, and I have plenty of photos waiting to be shared here, so I will probably switch to this style of letting the photos do the talking. Any objections?)

Oct 31, 2012

Dublin Marathon 2012 (part 1)

I did not run the Dublin Marathon yesterday (more on that in a later post I suppose), but I was there to cheer on everyone and take some photos. Here is a first one. More to come in the future.

(You will note that I did not commit to any date for the other photos. I know I have been bad at sticking to a schedule lately. I will do my best to bring you more photos soon, though.)

Apr 20, 2012

En prévision de dimanche à 20h

Depuis quelques jours, c'est l'affolement général : les premières estimations des résultats du premier tour de l'élection présidentielle seront disponibles en ligne vers 18h30 (puisqu'il n'y aura apparemment pas de sondages sortie des urnes, qui aurait été disponibles encore plus tôt), c'est-à-dire avant la fermeture des derniers bureaux (à 20h).

On peut s'étonner que la situation ne soit abordée que maintenant, car elle n'a rien de surprenant. L'émission "Des cliques et des claques", sur Europe1, s'était par exemple penchée sur la question il y a plusieurs mois. L'un des membres de l'équipe de l'émission, Guy Birenbaum, avait même abordé le sujet encore plus tôt, il y a un an.

Il sera forcément difficile d'évaluer l'impact de la diffusion prématurée des résultats. Pour l'instant, on peut déjà regarder l'écart habituel entre estimations et résultats finaux lors des précédents scrutins. Une différence inhabituelle en 2012 pourrait être le signe d'un fort impact.

En 2002, France2 nous annonce 28.5% d'abstention, puis donne, à 20h, J. Chirac à 20%, J.M. Le Pen à 17%, L. Jospin à 16% et F. Bayrou à 6.6%. On peut par exemple revoir cette soirée électorale sur le site de l'INA, et des extraits sur YouTube. Les résultats officiels, tels que validés par le Conseil Constitutionnel, sont les suivants : 28.4% d'abstention, 19.9% des suffrages exprimés pour J. Chirac, 16.9% pour J.M. Le Pen, 16.2% pour L. Jopsin, et 6.8% pour F. Bayrou. La participation est donc donnée à 40,000 voix près, et les estimations de score varient de moins de 55,000 voix des résultats finaux.

Cela laisse penser que l'impact des fuites serait facile à détecter, mais les élections suivantes, cinq ans plus tard, vont dans le sens contraire.

En 2007, France2 donne 29.6% pour N. Sarkozy, 25.1% pour S. Royal, 18.7% pour F. Bayrou, et 11.5% pour J.M. Le Pen. Là encore, l'annonce est disponibles en ligne. Je ne retrouve pas de vidéo de l'annonce de l'abstention mais, selon le site d'IPSOS, ils l'avaient estimée à 15.5%. Les résultats officiels donnent 31.2% à N. Sarkozy, 25.9% à S. Royal, 18.6% à F. Bayrou, et 10.4% à J.M. Le Pen. L'abstention était quant à elle de 16.2% (une erreur de 325,000 voix). Pour trois de ces candidats, l'écart est supérieur à 0.6 point de pourcentage, ce qui représente environ 220,000 voix compte tenu de la participation. Pour J.M. Le Pen, l'écart monte même à 400,000 voix.

Si on remonte jusqu'en 1995, France 2 annonce l'abstention à 19.6%. J'ai quelques problèmes pour lire la vidéo, mais vers 35 minutes, ces résultats sont disponibles : 23.4% pour L. Jospin, 20% pour J. Chirac, 18.5% pour E. Balladur et 15.7% J.M. Le Pen. Les résultats officiels placent l'abstention à 21.6%, et donnent 23.3% à L. Jospin, 20.8% à J. Chirac, 18.6% à E. Balladur et 15% à J.M. Le Pen. Pour deux des candidats, l'écart est supérieur à 0.7 point de pourcentage (soit environ 210,000 voix vus les suffrages exprimés à l'époque).

On pourrait aller plus loin, et par exemple regarder combien de personnes ont voté entre 18h et 20h aux précédentes élections aux précédentes élections, et regarder si cette proportion augmente cette année. Je n'ai pas les chiffres, mais si quelqu'un veut se pencher là-dessus, l'information sera la bienvenue dans les commentaires.

Il est évident que les estimations vont largement circuler, notamment sur Twitter, et il est raisonnable de penser qu'elles puissent avoir un impact. Par contre, à moins que les variations entre ces estimations et les résultats finaux soient supérieures à un point de pourcentage pour plusieurs candidats, il sera très difficile d'être certain du rôle qu'elles auront joué.