What a start to 2016!
*Warning this is quite a long post, but I can barely Skype my parents on a weekly basis, let alone blog more frequently…
Nagano Marathon & Training
On New Year’s Day, probably still under the influence of the night before’s alcohol consumption, I signed up to the Nagano Marathon. Currently sat with an ice pack on my leg, I am doubting my abilities to be ready to race on the 17th April, but I am going to give it my best shot.
My training plan is a combination of: skiing (obviously!), a long run every week/10days outside (on/in the snow!) and to gradually increase the distance each time, at least one swim (either long and slow, or a few intervals), and at least one gym session comprising of strength work and an interval/tempo run on the treadmill. I will also continue to do core training/stretching at home. If anyone has any tips/advice, please get in touch!
Running in the snow is HARD and my left leg has become very tight. Niseko Physio helped diagnose the problem and I am now on a mission to stretch as much as possible (I’ve had to buy a foam roller – I can’t live without one!) and get my left leg as strong as my right, mainly the glute – if all else fails, train the butt! Hopefully this agonising tightness will disperse quickly and I can stop my hip feeling, worryingly, a bit like my shoulder used to…
The gym looks like it has not been updated for a LONG time. The dumb bells only go up to 10kg, the plates to about 50kg, there is no squat rack, one treadmill, a few bikes, a few resistance machines, a massive ‘spider’ with hundreds of resistance bands (reminds me of a TRX piece of equipment) and looks very complicated, and last but not least, a fat wobbler. Okay, the latter might not be it’s actual name, but it is a band that goes around your waist and vibrates making you wibble. I imagine it does a similar job as a power plate, making muscles vibrate to ‘tone up’. Despite the criticisms, entry to the gym is dirt cheap (about £2) and with a little creativity, it is perfect for my needs.
The long run is proving challenging in the snow but I have some grips to put over my trainers, and if the roads and pavements have been cleared, it’s actually quite pleasant. Yes, people do look at me like I am totally bananas, but I don’t care; I will do this.
I have never alone raised money for a good cause and feel this is as good as time as any to do so. I want to complete a marathon and always said I’d rather do one somewhere interesting and new so I had things to look at whilst I ran. Nagano, south from here and on the main island, is another stunning mountainous region and where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held. I feel this is a good choice with the run finishing in the stadium. Training is going to be a challenge, finding a right balance between skiing nearly everyday and fitting in training sessions. I am currently deciding on a cause for which I want to raise money – I will provide further details in another post.
Since Christmas day it has snowed nearly every day, be it 5cm-30cm, and the last few days it has CHUCKED it down. Depth is building, bamboo is disappearing and we have been able to explore a little further afield. The snow has been light, fluffy, deep and just incredible! We’ve also been blessed with a few bluebird days and stunning views. Frost nip has had a good go at my feet and nose, thankfully no long-term damage, yet. There have been many comments along the lines of ‘when it fills in we can go here’, ‘it’ll be much better when it snows down here’ etc etc… which have been frustrating, but some have also said that it is better than previous years because you can actually ski as opposed to the terrain being flat. We are still 3-4m behind a ‘normal’ winter in Japan, but in my opinion it’s been awesome and I am still amazed at how hard it can snow and that there is always more falling!
Training started again and I granted the instructor’s requests as much as possible, taking them through the trees, getting them to turn their legs and feet rather than carve their way down. On less powdery days we hit the bumps, as well as do some chopped up piste training. We’ve done some teaching practice which I hope has given the team more confidence going in to the rest of the season. There have definitely been a few “I’m being paid to do this!” moments, when I haven’t quite believed my luck.
Our bosses, Dan & Anne, kindly took us to Rusutsu, another ski resort about 45 minutes away, for a staff trip. The sun came out and the terrain was great. I had no idea where we were going most of the time, but we found fresh tracks and always ended up at a chairlift.
Yeaaah…I’ve probably done too much of this, but it’s so good! The photographs speak for themselves.
Being a tourist
Three of us had a day off and decided to head to Otaru, a town with snow by the sea.
It started out as a beautiful day and we walked along the canals and saw the ocean, explored the shops selling Kitaichi glass, famous in Otaru. We also found ourselves in a LeTao chocolate shop. Snow started to fall and it became hard to navigate around so we ended up eating sushi and going for hot chocolate and some Hokkaido soft ice cream. This was after the local services sent every working mobile phone a text message, at the same time that resulted in a loud beeping noise everywhere, to warn us of an earthquake – a little unnerving! It hit around 5/6 in parts on the richter scale.
Onsen is a Japanese natural hot spring which they use for communal baths. On the slopes you can smell the sulfur/rotten egg smell of the onsen, but this disappears in the baths. The minerals in the water are supposedly good for your skin and body – a great place to stretch and soothe muscles. Separate for men and women, you get naked and shower, wash, soak and relax for as long as you like. It’s dark and steamy so you can’t see a lot. We went to one just outside Kutchan, Niseko Weiss, and I particularly liked the bath outside looking at the snowy trees. You can even buy beers to take in with you. Win!
January so far (only 18th!) has been a very balanced month between work and play, sport and rest, and eating and drinking – I feel like I have done quite a bit in such a short amount of time. For the rest of the month, I still have a list of places I want to eat in (not sure this list will ever end) and you can see what I consume on Instagram or Facebook. There is still much more to explore on the mountain, too, more onsens to visit and places to go. I have taken so many photographs that I will post larger albums on Facebook, eventually.
If anyone has been to Niseko and this area before, who has some advice and or suggestions of what to see and do, please get in touch!