Tokyo Marathon 2013… Ready or Not, Here I Come!!

The day has finally came, I’m going to Tokyo tomorrow to ‘run’ in the Tokyo Marathon 2013 on Sunday. To run is a misnomer since I have not been running for 2 months now due to my stress fracture which is taking a very long time to heal.

All I have been doing are HIIT on the elliptical and bike.  I couldn’t continue with my deep water running as the public pool here would not allow  ‘foreign object’ in the main pool (eg my flotation belt).  Physically, I am very drained and exhausted from my gung-ho attitude to go to the gym as soon as I roll out of bed – I need more sleep!  Mentally, I’m staying positive – my friend commented on my ‘Ah Q attitude’ – Ah Q is the proverbial Chinese village idiot who is known for deluding himself into believing he is the victor every time he loses a fight!  (Hang on, is he making fun of me?)

In the last week of mara-prepping. I saw my physio to scalp my feet to increase blood-circulation – hell, it hurt so good! I also started on my Arnica course (this is a natural anti-inflamatory med), used the capsicum plaster to warm up my feet to increase the blood circulation and bandaged my feet with sportstape to stabilise the base of my metatarsals so I won’t aggravate the fracture further. Today, I am starting my Voltaren 75mg (twice daily) so it will kick in by race day.

My goal is simply to finish the race and get the finisher’s medal. The motivator or bait is to be back in the hotel in time for my 4pm massage, then slink to the talk-of-the-town molecular dinner at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.

With my Leukoplast sports tape, fisiocream, sunblock and Volatren packed.  I’m ready – and looking forward to my 3 weeks of eating and travelling around Japan!

Incidentally February 24 coincides with Hong Kong’s Standard Chartered Marathon.  Check out this dude’s running style!  (Note anything perculiar?)

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Tokyo Marathon 2013 ‘Not-So-Good’ Training Update

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‘Winter Fantasy Land’ in Harbour City, HongKong. Taken in November 2012

I definitely feel like the rabbit in time warp!

With less than 3 weeks to the Tokyo Marathon 2013 and still nursing my fractured metatarsal, I am taking a break in my aqua running to go to Kuala Lumpur for a week of meetings. Since it’s my grandma’s 97th birthday the week after next and Lunar New Year on Feb 10, a transit in Hong Kong is in order before I head off to Tokyo for my ’42km Tokyo Fun Run’.

Suffice to say, my training is NOT enough and my metatarsal fracture is taking its own sweet time to heal. I met with my Pod a couple of days ago. He was totally against me running, but since I’m deadset, he told me to stop if there is any pain because he doesn’t want to put screws in my foot! (Nice one, doc! You really scared me now…)

No matter what, I will toe off at the Start Line and make it to the Finish. Whatever happens in between… well, I will look out for race marshals in grey jackets if I feel discomfort and want to surrender in the middle of the race. They will put me in the race bus to transfer me to the Finish at Tokyo Big Sight! Yay! Problem solved!

My late lunch at the Malaysia Airlines Golden Club Lounge, Sydney Airport: Vegetable herbal broth soup. Waaaayy…too sweet, but the ingredients were healthy (bak choy, carrots, celery, coriander and dates with rice vermicelli)

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Still in Training for Tokyo Marathon 2013 Despite a Metatarsal Fracture

This is an IQ question for Primary 2 students in Hong Kong which my mom-mah picked up from the papers:

You are given 3 photos of 3 men looking exactly like the normal man plucked off the street. Each one of them has a nose, a mouth, eyes, eyebrows, ears and hair. Can you tell me which one of them is an Alien?”

I brought this IQ riddle up because this is exactly the fly on the wall situation I was facing. I had a X-ray taken of my foot 4 weeks ago because I kept getting discomfort after my training. Ever since I broke the neck of my femur in a trail-running accident in a remote countryside in China 2 years ago, I have learnt to never EVER wing any discomfort or pain!  (Smart!)

For any athlete, professional or otherwise, one can never be the same after any injuries. I now have a titanium plate inserted in my hip and I still get occasional discomfort and aches (very weather dependent). My range of motion is no longer the same – say, crossing my leg to clip my toenails for instance!

…SO, the radiographer couldn’t determine any fracture and said in his report that “…There is a possibly a small  stress fracture.  Correlation with bone scan advised…”.  My GP prescribed Vit D and plenty of rest since stress fractures will heal by itself in 3-4 weeks.  Dilly-dally, dilly-dally, 4 weeks on, my foot is still feeling tired – no pain, just achy soreness after training. So I decided it’s high time to pay my Podiatrist a visit.

BAM! As soon as he saw my X-ray, he said “You see this? There is a huge crack between the 4th and 5th metatarsal!”

Shite! How can I not see it? It’s been staring me right in the face while I was scrutinising for a hairline fracture!!  Geez, no wonder you have to cough up to see a professional!

Anyway, my Pod said that this is a tricky fracture.  Basically, this type of fracture is asymptomatic, so the pain will not be on the site.  He squeezed my foot laterally and my foot screamed in pain!  But when he pushed on the injured site, I did not experience a single thing!  He told me that there is only 1 study done on stress fracture between the 4th and 5th metatarsals.  It was done a couple of years ago by a sports doctor in Sydney Uni on a footballer.  While I do not need to wear the boot because the fracuture is in a stable location – at the base of the toes, he advised me to baby-nurse it and not to put any weight on my foot.  And with me insisting that I am still going for the TM2013 (cue the Michelin eateries), he advised me to do massive amounts of cross-trainings and not to hold high expectations for the race, just run according to how I feel. The healing will not be fast, because of the lack of blood supply around the area, but after 6 weeks, with another X-ray I will know. So, fingers crossed, let’s hope for Good News in the coming week-and-a-half!So, there – the answer to the riddle is:

“The person who asked me to pick is the Alien!”

Moving forward with only 4-5 weeks left to train for TM2013, how am I going to wing it?

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AQX Aqua Shoes, AquaJogger Floatation Belt, 2XU Visor and Gymboss

Deep water running (DWR), of course! I’ve been doing it for 4 weeks now and I believe I’m gaining good traction – in power, core engagement and endurance too. (How did I know? Well, …duh! Because I resumed my training the 3rd week after I got my X-ray back?!!) This was stoopid…Me a VERY Silly Nelly!) From the literatures I’ve read, DWR is highly specific to running. However, you must do with INTENSITY to spike the heartrate, otherwise it is of no use and fitness cannot be maintained. Just like running on land, you need to keep your back straight (no slouching!) and maintain a quick turnover of at least 180 strides per minute. Pump your arms the same way as well, maintaining about a 90 degree angle at your elbow.  There is a good sample of DWR  workout intervals by Pete Pfizinger.  And also, go to You Tube, there are lots of examples if you are not sure.  I like this one here.

What about Food?

One of the first thing I experienced when I started DWR was the increase in my hunger.  According to Tim Ferriss’s ‘4-hour Body’, this is usual, how else is Michael Phelps able to eat 7,000 calories in a day?

Because I know that once weight is gained, it’s hard to lose, so I decided to give Konjac noodles a go.  Shirataki or konjac noodles are supposed to be very low in calories. These are the products I have tried so far:

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Kelp Noodles and Miracle Noodles

Slim Pasta from Woolworths

Slim Pasta

Product Review: Kelp Noodles. This is my favourite. Very crunchy. I give it a hot water bath, then mixes Dashi and Wasabi with it. I buy from iHerb.

Product Review: Miracle Noodle – I buy this online. It smells very fishy, so I rinse it with hot water and mix with Dashi and Wasabi.

Product Review: Slim Pasta. I buy this in Woolworths. It smells fishy and very slippery to chew. I rinse in hot water and mix with Dashi and Wasabi.

There are many recipes online on how to cook/ season these noodles, but I find Dashi and Wasabi are the best way. I eat them as salads with rocket and baby spinach.

To Tokyo Marathon 2013 and Bust

There is only 6 weeks to go before I stand at the start line at the Tokyo Marathon 2013 on February 24! Saying that I am nervous is only an understatement since I am seriously undertrained. My stress fracture is stil healing, and I’ve not spent much time on my foot. Bursting my lungs out in the pool deep water running while GR8T, doesn’t cut it especially since that one runs on dry land for a marathon.

Although I have been to Tokyo a few times already and they were all business trips, where I got chauffeured around from hotels, offices and restaurants -so I only have an inkling of an impression of Tokyo. And the last time I was in Tokyo was back in 2010 for a whirlwind museums studies trip. This time, I want to pig-out at Michelin restaurants, be a little more adventurous and take best of all, take a trip out of Tokyo!

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Newton, my guide books and I preparing for our assault on TM2013

To make my trip to Japan an exciting destination race, I have been browsing through blogs, websites and guides for über chic place to shop, see and eat. So, I am lucky to learn months beforehand that in order to score a table at the Michelin restaurants in Tokyo, one needs an advanced reservation of 2-3 months. One also have to do a bit of research, for example read lots of blogs and peruse all the pictures posted until the dishes become second-nature, in the process, losing some mystique. Still, I hope I can manage to squeeze out some element of surprise when I finally get to sample those exquisite dishes!

Also, most restaurants only accept bookings from the hotel concierge for overseas visitors and require a credit card to secure the booking, neverteless, one still need to reconfirm 1 week ahead. So, that’s why I chose to stay 5-stars – not only for the rooms, but for the services of efficient Concierge services.

The resources that I looked up to besides Google, included:
Chowhound – seems to be a busy forum with lots on ongoing discussion
Bento.com
• TripAdvisor
Andy Hayler – a Brit with serious eating cred
• For some inspiration off the beaten travel path, a good dose of daily pictures of Japan by a lady photographer, Muza-Chan

MY MICHELIN PIG-OUT ITINERARY
Feb 22 (Friday): TOKYO
7pm Dinner @Takazawa
JPY 30,000 (Chef’s Special Tasting Menu of the Day)
Self-booking – emailing the wife of the owner/chef Akiko
Much read and very highly regarded restaurant. Came out TOPS in all reviews. The chef refused the Michelin rating one time a many!

Feb 23 (Saturday): TOKYO
12pm Lunch @Ginza Okuda
JPY16,800 +13% (same menu as the premium dinner course)
This is the 2nd restaurant by the award-wining Chef Okuda. His main restaurant is ‘Ginza Kojyu’. There is much debate online about the qualities and differences of the 2 restaurants, but I read from reviews that he personally come to cook Saturday lunch in this ‘Ginza Okuda’, so thus, a booking made!

Dinner: Not sure what to have on the eve of the Marathon, but perhaps carb-loading via a French- styled soba place at Fumotoya Keio Plaza Hotel?

Feb 24 (Sunday): TOKYO MARATHON DAY
4pm 60min Deep Tissue Massage at hotel (Run fast slow-coach!!)

6pm Dinner @Tapas Molecular Bar, Mandarin Oriental
JPY14000 per person + 13% service charge
Self-booking thru online reservation form, but need a copy of credit card to secure reservation
There are only 8 seats per seating. 2 seatings per night : 6pm or 8:30pm – let’s see if it floats my boat!

Feb 25 (Monday): TOKYO
12pm Lunch @Le Creations de Narisawa
JPY 12,600 + 10%
Self-booking thru online reservation form
Ranked 27th in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Feb 26 (Tuesday) : TOKYO – Outing to KAMAKURA
6:30pm Dinner @RyuGin
JPY 23,100 for the rudimentary Tasting Menu
Wow! Another hard table to get! The table is only available for booking exactly 2 months in advance! Ranked 28th in the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants

Feb 27 (Wednesday): TOBA
Overnight @Oyado the Earth, Toba (Breakfast and dinner included)
I couldn’t find any reviews on TripAdvisor, however the write-ups in glossy mags were really good.

Feb 28 (Thursday) : TAKAYAMA
Overnight @a traditional Japanese Ryoken, with shared bathrooms – YIKES!!

Eat @Ebihachi (A cheap tempura joint highly recommended by TripAdvisor.)

March 1 (Friday): TAKAYAMA – Daytrip to SHIRAKAWA-GO
I am going to join this tour provided by Nouhi Bus (includes an English speaking guide and a lunch), reservation only starts 1 month prior

Overnight @same Ryoken, but am thinking of going direct to Kanazawa after the day trip.
Taking a bus (around 1 hour) is faster than the JR (nearly 3 hours!)

March 2 (Saturday): KANAZAWA
12:30pm Lunch @Miyoshian, Kenrokuen Park (telephone number:076-221-0127)
No website.
Requested a table by the window so I can watch the carps as suggested by Guide Book
(Update: My review here)

6:30pm Dinner@Zeniya (Japanese)
I’ve never heard of this chap Chef Shin Takagi, but he is all over the epicurean blogging world! He’s even been to Sydney for an ‘ international’ cooking event, so naturally, I must check him out! (…his cooking)
Other choice cheap eats for future reference:
Either: Ippudo (Ramen), Tel:076-263-3331
Or: Curiente Kanazawa Higashiyama (Creative French),Tel:078-251-0403

March 3 (Sunday): NARA
7pm@ Wa Yamamura (Japanese) , 2-11-15 Shibatsuhi-Cho, Nara, Tel: 81 742 33 0102
3 Michelin stars
No website found

March 4 (Monday): NARA
6:30pm @Le Benkei (French)
JPY23,100 for Tasting Course

March 5 (Tuesday): HIROSHIMA
Seriously, can it be that HARD to find a luxe eats in Hiroshima, the only place that kept popping up is Kanawa. I read mixed reviews on it, but personally, why would I want to pay top $$$ to dine on an old shabby house boat?

Here is a webpage for travelers by the locals
http://www.nileguide.com/destination/hiroshima/best/five-star-restaurants

Some dinner options:
Kazumaru – oysters, conger eels

Suishin Shinkansenten– tag line ‘Serving Hiroshima for last 60 years’

HITOARIKI KURA – got some serious list of producers , seems very organic

Kakiden – oysters (looks good, but all in Japanese)

March 6 (Wednesday): HIROSHIMA – Day Trip to IWAKUNI AND MIYAJIMA
12pm Lunch: Hope to sample ‘Iwakuni sushi’

Might try a 7pm Dinner @Okonomi – Mura (‘Okonomiyaki Village’)
(tel 082/241-2210) 5-13 Shintenchi, Hiroshima. Open: 11am-9pm, but some stalls stay open later.  NY Times suggested stall is Chii-Chan.

March 7 (THURSDAY ): OKAYAMA
No meals reserved yet. Possible choices for Dinner:
Option A) Perhaps try a Fugu banquet @Suigyokuen, ING building 3F, 6-29, Saiwaicho, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama, 700-0903

Option B) Try a soba dinner @ToriSoba

March 8 (FRIDAY ): NAOSHIMA
Stay @Hotel Benesse House,Check in hotel at 3pm
This is an Art Island, akin to Cockatoo Island here in Sydney.
Exciting Arty Day includes:
Kinza Art House @ 11:15am – 12pm (Viewing times must be pre-booked)
Night program ‘James Turrell’s “Open Sky” Night Programio’ 17:50 – 18:55 (Only for the guests staying at Hotel Benesse House) @ChiChu Museum designed by Tadao Ando!

8pm Dinner @Museum House (Shabu-shabu)

March 9 (Saturday): OSAKA
7:30am -9am Breakfast @Museum House,Check out hotel at 11am
Catch 4pm JR from Uno to Osaka – Arrive Osaka 18:16 (the latest)

@7:30pm Dinner @Hajime, OSAKA (French contemporary)
JPY 25,000 Tasting Menu
3 Michelin stars
This only is another toughie! Booked online through their website, but got a confirmation that they have received my request, but the confirmation will only come through 72 hours prior to my requested date! So, I have to seek my hotel’s concierge for assistance. I managed to secure it after paying up-front via PayPal.

March 10 (Sunday): OSAKA – Daytrip to MIHO MUSEUM, NARA
Miho Museum will only be re-opened on March 9 2013, and this building is designed by I.M.Pei. I’ve visited his works I Paris, Beijing and Hongkong. He was the subject of my undergraduate thesis, BTW

Evening: Visit Umeda area perhaps and find time to squeeze in a meal @La Baie (French), 3 Michelins within the next 2 days

March 11 (Monday): Osaka
12 pm Lunch @Fujiya 1935 (Fusion)
6,500 JPY Tasting Course (tax and service charge not included).
3 Michelin stars

March 12 (Tuesday): HOMEWARD BOUND!
Still deciding on the 9am flight or 6:20pm flight…. Lose some serious weight and Start training for Paris Marathon 2013 pronto!