Saturday, March 5, 2016

Kyoto Marathon 2016: Days 2 & 3

Day 2 - Race Kit Collection

Day 2 in Kyoto started out as a very wet and cold morning. Both of us woke up to the sound of raindrops outside the balcony and knew it was going to be a very cold day. We got dressed and met Choon Yuen downstairs. The menu for the day was to collect our race kit and check out the race expo. Our initial plan was to run a shakedown run from the apartment to Miyako Messe exhibition hall where the race kit collection was.

Nishiki Market

I had already plotted a scenic 5-6k route months in advance but with my meniscus tear, the shakedown had to be abandoned. I felt bad as I really wanted to run the shakedown but Choon Yuen said not to worry too much about it and gamely decided not to do the shakedown either.

Before heading to Miyako Messe, we decided to head to Nishiki Market to check the place out and also have breakfast there. So off we went in the rain, bundled in our shakedown run gear. We arrived at the market a little too early cos most shops were not open or either in the midst of setting up. Nevertheless, we continued and stopped at a few of the already opened shops to sample some of the local delicacies on offer.

For a wet market, the place was so clean!

We opted for more of the freshly cooked stuff cos it was just ideal breakfast food to warm the stomach for the cold wet morning. Memory is fading and I can't really recall what we ate but I know it was some form of fancy scrambled eggs and some freshly grilled squid. All I can remember is that it was thoroughly yummy!

As usual, I wanted to take pictures but I remember Jamie telling me during one of our runs together that I needed to ask permission to take pictures first and good thing I did ask cos some of them didn't allow for picture taking. The market was pretty interesting and I'm sure it would have been all the more interesting if all shops were open. After about an hour or so there, we decided it was time to head for the race kit collection.


The initial plan was to walk there but since it was raining pretty heavily by that time, we opted to take the subway which had a stop near the centre. So, off we went in the pouring cold rain, freezing my butt off towards the nearest subway.

The ride in itself was pretty fast as the centre was only two stops away. It was easy finding the Miyako Messe exhibition hall as all we had to do was follow the string of runners heading in that direction. A short 5 minute walk and we were at the location but not before gawking like an idiot at the gargantuan Torii Gate sprawled across the road. I finally get to see it with my own eyes and it was just as spectacular as it was in pictures!

The gargantuan Torii Gate!

The warmth of the exhibition centre was a much welcomed relief. Shrugged out of our wet rain jackets and followed the directions of the volunteers towards the collection centre. I was worried that with the language barrier it was going to be a bit difficult with the kit collection but there were English speaking volunteers on hand and after verifying my details, I was led to the proper line and was done within 5 minutes in all! Wow, I was impressed. Very professional. Even the girls manning the bib distribution were friendly and were all English speaking.

The friendly and efficient volunteers!
After putting aside the kit in my backpack, I met up with Choon Yuen who was at a different row and we made our way to find my wife and start our trek through the expo. First up was the CWX booth, queued and got our pictures taken by the official photographer and checked out the gear on offer from CWX. Nothing caught my eye and we moved on.

Some performances were going on which I took in for a while and continued along towards the Toyota booth. Grabbed a shot with the Mirai on display just to show some support for Richi, our very own Toyota big timer in Malaysia and filled up a small note with a message that would be displayed along the route at specific distances.


We were surprised to see them dishing out free Asahi by the cans at the Asahi booth and not one to pass up a good beer, we each grabbed a can, took some pictures and happily made our way to the next booth with our can of Asahi in hand. We would offer a toast to the guys back home later :D

We finally reached the section where running gear, shoes and apparels were on display. Most were going at extremely attractive discounts. Of course, being a shoe geek, I headed straight to the shoes as I had a shoe or two that I wanted and was hoping they were on sale. Sadly, they weren't so after a couple more minutes there, I headed out of the booth to collect my pre-ordered Kyoto event tee.

Obviously this Toyota girl knew Richi-San ...

I had pre-ordered the event tee as a memento about a month earlier. While I loved the design on the tee, I was a little disappointed with the quality of the material. It was not at all what I was expecting. It wasn't cheap either, at around RM110.00, they could have done a little better. Anyways, at least I had a little remembrance of the race.

The huge amount of items on sale at discounted prices

By this time we were hungry again. Breakfast at Nishiki Market earlier wasn't nearly enough. Now here is where we were in luck cos the expo had loads and loads and loads of local delicacies on offer! I was overwhelmed at the variety of it all. I've never been to a race expo this big and especially one that had so much food on offer.

We found a space to dump our stuff which was really just benches along the centre of the hall. Lots of runners were already resting and savouring the dishes on offer. We each made our way to grab what caught our eye and greedily chomped away. Man, I have to admit, the food was simply delicious and I was sure we'd leave the centre a lot heavier than when we came in!

Some of the yummy food for sale at the expo

While munching on my late breakfast/lunch, I was observing the people around me. While everyone was eating away, kids included, none of them had even dropped or thrown a single piece of rubbish of food on the floor. They cleaned up after themselves, cleaned the place they sat at and threw the rubbish at the respective bins allocated all around. Even the bins were speedily cleared by the volunteers the moment it got full. The floor around the place was spotless! I was impressed, extremely impressed. If this was back home, you'd see over-flowing bins and rubbish all over the place.

After a couple of hours at the expo, we finally made our way out of the expo. The rain hadn't let up and was still pouring. I was reluctant to step out into the cold, wet weather again cos it felt like I was walking into one huge freezer! We got ourselves some hot drinks from the vending machines along the way and made our way back on foot towards the apartment which really wasn't too far away.

The commemorative Kyoto Marathon cookies 

It would have been a nice walk if it wasn't for the rain. We decided we needed some hot coffee before we got to the apartment so we stopped along the way looking for a nice coffee joint. We had to bypass two of them cos they were smoking joints and we weren't interested in inhaling smoke so in the end we decided to head to Starbucks.

After the much needed warmth from the coffee and some cakes, we finally made our way home, to get out of the wet clothes and get some rest before meeting up for an early dinner and calling it a night since Choon Yuen needed the rest for his race the next day. Dinner was supposed to be something Teriyaki like but unfortunately we couldn't find one nearby and settled for some hot Ramen meal. After dinner, it was a short pit-stop at Lawson's to get some stuff for breakfast tomorrow and we finally called it a day. I was out like a light bulb the moment my head hit the pillows.

Day 3 - Race Day

The main agenda of the trip, the marathon finally arrived. Even though I knew I wasn't going to run this marathon to the finish, I still suited up as if I was ready to take it on. In a private way, I was. My gear consisted of an Under Armour compression tights with a Nike shorts over it. My top was an Under Armour thermal compression top and my Team Malaysia tee over it. Finally a Columbia rain jacket to stop the cold and wind with a Under Armour beanie for my head. My shoe of choice was the awesome Saucony Kinvara 7.

Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium

Choon Yuen and me met up in the lobby of the apartment around 7.30am since race start was only at 9.00am. The weather was a little better this morning but still cold. Hopefully the sun would show itself a little later in the day. We took an easy walk toward the subway station nearest to us to head for the Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium which was the race start location. As usual we followed the trail of runners going the same way.

My wife was on her own today. She opted out of following us for race start cos she wanted to use the time to explore the place. She would later meet up with us at the finish. I wasn't too worried about her cos I knew she knew her way around and the place was really very, very safe. And besides, my wife knows how to take care of herself. She had a list planned and was adamant to meet every item on her list.

Runners getting ready

The train stop was just a 5-10 minute walk from the stadium. The skies were bright but the weather was still very chilly. I was already freezing and was doing everything I could to keep warm. When we reached the stadium, I was very nervous. Though I knew I wasn't going to be running the race, I was intimidated by all the runners all round me. They all looked fast (and they were) and I felt like a little pretender among the sea of runners.

After depositing our bags at the respective lorry which would ferry our bags to the finish line at the Heian Shrine and a toilet break, we made our way into the Nishikyogoku Stadium to our respective corrals. I was in the C corral but really felt out of place knowing that I would not be able to justify the corral placement. I had already decided to give the marathon a shot but by trying to walk it as far as I could before being swept up the sweeper bus which I reckon would be at the 5km mark by my calculations.

This was a sight to behold

The entire track on the stadium was packed with runners waiting for race start. I was in awe just observing the entire thing. Soon enough, the clock hit 9.00am and it was gun off. Everyone started moving and in the excitement and euphoria of things, I got into an easy jog. I knew it wouldn't last long but I was determined to run along with everyone, at least until I was outside the stadium. Adrenaline must have come into play cos I was actually able to run along without much pain. At precisely this time I was regretting my decision not to take the cortisone shot!

Ultraman was also present :D

As I ran out the stadium, I was just emotional at the support of the crowd cheering as the runners made their way out along the course. I did the best I could to run, albeit extremely slow. I managed to keep to a decent 7:00 pace till the first kilometer and then had to stop to walk. The pain was getting to be too painful. Even though I knew it was going to happen, I was still disappointed. I moved myself to the edge of the road as possible so as to not hinder any of the fast running Japanese behind me.

Cheer leaders along the way!

I whipped out my camera and started snapping away. A run/walk strategy. Soon enough, nearly everyone overtook me and I was left all alone. There I was, alone in a sea of supporters both on the left and right sides of the street cheering me on. Even though I was walking, they were still cheering me on wildly. I felt so emotional again and held back tears at the support thrown my way. I can't really remember but I think I bowed a million times that day!

The very cheery volunteers along the way

Eventually though, my leg was in so much pain that it was purely walking. I stopped to take pictures with as many volunteers as I could. They were all very obliging. Finally I reach the 5km mark and right on the dot, the official car came by and instructed the runners off the road. I had three runners for company who were also down with an injury. I moved to the side of the road and carried on walking for another 2km until an official approached me and told me that the sweeper bus is across the road and to board it.

This is a feeling I cannot describe. I was crushed, really I was. Even though I knew this was inevitable, it was still hard to take. All those months of waking up at the crack of dawn, putting in mile after mile, day after day and to lead to this can be pretty heartbreaking. I hung my head down and was led by another official to the sweeper bus which already had a load of runners on it. I'm sure they all DNF'ed cos of some injury too cos they all looked so darned fit otherwise.

Volunteers as far as the eye can see!

The bus ride back to the finish area had me doing lots of soul searching. This was the second time I got brought down by an injury just before the race. What am I doing wrong? Am I chasing a dream that's totally unreachable and just setting myself up for injuries and disappointment at the end of the day? Am I trying too hard to be someone I cannot be? Lots of questions but no answers were forthcoming at present. I'd have to re-look at my objectives when I get back. After all I love running and getting injured all the time takes the love out of running and I don't want that to happen.

A nearly 40 minute bus ride and we were back at the finish location. Hobbled over to get my bag and headed to the changing room to get changed and freshen up. Lots of dejected runners were there too, all looking as sullen as I was. I can relate to how they're feeling.

Achieved my 'goal'

While I was changing, this Japanese guy came hobbling over to the side of me, all the while scolding (I'm assuming) himself in Japanese. It was harsh words, even I could tell. He kept on talking to himself that I was afraid he was going to commit hara-kiri right there and then! I quickly gathered my things and headed out of there as fast as I could.

The weather by then was just unpredictable. Hot one moment and cloudy with freezing winds the next. I was in contact with Jamie back home and he was feeding me Choon Yuen's status. He was on fire. An even consistent pace throughout. As long as his pace discipline held, he was on course for a superb PR. Every time the weather turned, I was worried for him but I knew he'd do it. He was totally on his game even before arriving in Kyoto.

That is a sleeping dog he's playing too ...

Finally got word from Jamie that he aced to a new PR. I was very happy for him. After he gathered his things, we met up at the 7-11 down the road, a pre-planned meet point. My wife was already back from her exploring and had happiness written all over her face. She managed to get almost everything on her list of places to see. She managed to get to Kiyomizu-Dera temple and passed lots of other places of interest on her list (Yasaka pagoda - Houkanji, Ninen-zaka stairs and Sannen-zaka stairs, Ryozen Kannon). I'm quite amazed that she managed to get to all these places on her own since she only used Google street view prior to coming to Japan.

The cherry blossoms already in bloom near Sannenzaka stairs.

A quick mention here about the organizing of the Kyoto marathon and its volunteers. It was simply superbly organized and the sheer number of volunteers on hand was simply out of this world. There was practically one volunteer every 200 metres along the race route and each and everyone one of them was full of life! And once I reached the finish area, they was so many volunteers that it would be impossible to get lost or take a wrong turn! Kudos to each and every one of them on a job well done!

Sannenzaka stairs.

Since the apartment was not too far and Choon Yuen said he was feeling fine, we walked back but this time we took the scenic route. It was actually the reverse of our planned shakedown route. It led us through amazing and breath-taking architecture such as the Chion-in shrine that had my jaw hit the floor again. We couldn't resist, tired or not, we had to go explore it and take our customary silly pictures.

The short walk back took us way longer than expected cos we stopped every few metres to admire something or other. It was too hard to resist, especially when you had beauty surround you every which way you looked! If this is how the place looks in winter, I can't wait to see how much more beautiful it would look in fall or spring. I must come back.

One of the smaller temples enroute to Kiyomizu-dera temple.

Once done, we headed back to the apartment to rest,freshen up and head out for dinner. I wanted to head to Kyoto station to see the lights on the stairs and also get my bearings right for when we returned in two days time. Choon Yuen said he'd join us and treat us to some Japanese beef a his PR treat. Who am I to argue with a free meal? LOL!

We walked along the back lanes of Gion before we got to the station, admiring the architecture along the way. Since our aim was to get at least a picture with some Geishas and seeing as how it was virtually impossible to find the real thing, we settled for two tourist dressed in Kimonos who were obliging enough to accommodate us.

Not the real thing but we were happy to get our Kimono clad women shot ... LOL!

It was a long, slow walk to the station though. The evening air was downright freezing again! After a short 5 minute train ride we were at Kyoto Station. The wind by then was practically freezing! I've never experienced cold that extreme. I managed to see the lights on the stairs which was simply amazing, cold or not, I had to take pictures of it. After a quick stop at the top of the station to take in the surroundings of Kyoto, we headed for dinner.

I was so glad to be inside a nice, hot building and just didn't want to come out! Choon Yuen found a place for us to treat us to a beef dinner. According to him, it wasn't the best but I was hungry and wolfed it down in no time! I even walloped half of my wife's meal. After dinner, we walked around a little before heading back to our apartment.

The majestic Kiyomizu-dera temple.

After taking the train back, it was still a little too early to call it a night and besides Choon Yuen wanted to check something out for Jamie at the Teramachi Street, an enclosed shopping street with lots of little stores selling all kinds of stuff. I was game cos it would take us out of the cold bitter air for a while. Besides there were lots of stuff to see here. We spent quite a bit of time here browsing stuff, ok to be honest browsing running shoes.

After nearly an hour plus or thereabouts, we headed back but since we had a long way to walk, we decided to stop for a hot coffee break along the way. Can't help it, we're coffee addicts and hot coffee is a lifesaver in cold, frozen weather. After some chit chat and gossiping, we were on our way.

The light show on the stairs of Kyoto Station

We walked closed to 20 minute in the bitter cold before realizing we were going the opposite way! I wanted to breakdown, throw a tantrum and cry like a baby! We now had to double back in the freezing cold and still had a ways to go. Why it didn't occur to us to take the bus was beyond me. So off we went again, shuffling along in the cold. We were all dead tired by then but gamely kept moving.

Choon Yuen's PR treat. Warmed the cold tummy!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity we were back to our apartment area. Bought some tidbits from Lawson before finally calling an end to day 3! Day 4 and 5 coming up soon ...

Day 1 recap can be found here.


8 comments:

  1. Nice recap and I'm sure your recovery is well underway and you're just a couple of weeks before a nice comeback!

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    1. Thanks man. I really can't wait to get back to some proper running.

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  2. Pls post your day 4 and 5 tomorrow. On the upside on your race, at least you managed to get a few good shots with the pretty volunteers, i could only have a glimpse of them and not even a remote chance to say hi

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    1. I'd trade your glimpses anytime if I could have just run the race, man!

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  3. Can I tag along during your come back race? I will be good!! Please~~~~

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    1. Sure Foo, you can also pay for me ... LOL!

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  4. Good day, Thanks for nice blog. Do you have any recommendation for a Gion apartment in Kyoto, within easy to station.

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    1. This was my first time in Japan so I'm not really that well versed about accomodations but there are quote a few small cozy apartments around the Gion area and most are within walking distances of bus stops.

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