translated and edited by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner
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World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) writes an entertaining blog together with her husband and coach Shuhei mostly talking about the food she eats as part of her training and about her daughter Yuna. In recent weeks she has written about some of her final training for next week's marathon where she is a potential medal winner. Below are highlights of some of her recent entries. Click photos for full-sized versions.
July 14 - Running in Thick Fog!!
There are only a few days left at the Sugadaira high altitude training camp. Since it's the rainy season we've had lots of rain but I went through all the training as planned. Almost as bad as the rain is Sugadaira's one of a kind fog. When I had a key workout the other day the fog was really thick.
This is a picture at the track at Sania Park. Visibility was about 40 m. The fog was so thick that unless you went really, really close you couldn't tell anyone was running. I couldn't see very well but I could still focus on my running, just listening to the sound of my feet striking the track. I think I'm getting closer to the kind of shape I should be in.
I was lucky because no other teams were using the track that day. If there are only distance runners it's no problem, but if there had been sprinters or middle-distance people it would have been dangerous. So, winding down through the thick fog, this training camp is almost finished. I want to stay focused and train well until the end.
July 29 - Everything We've Been Building Up
I'm in Fukagawa, Hokkaido and the weather is cloudy and dull. It's been raining all month here and I'm worried how it's going to affect the local farmers. It sounds like it's hot around Tokyo and Osaka, but here in Hokkaido it's been cool and running-wise it's been pretty comfortable. Before coming to Fukagawa a lot of coaches told me, "It's going to be really hot in Fukagawa," but I haven't had any days like that yet.
In Fukagawa there are a lot of road courses with kilometer marks where you can do long runs. I checked out every single one and ran two of them by myself, then picked one for my training, a 33 km single loop course. There are two places with significant hills, but 80% of it is flat without much traffic. I change the starting point when I run something other than just 33 km. I'd like to show my gratitude to the Fukagawa civic sports promotion bureau for adding some kilometer marks and course map signs for me. Thank you for your support!
This picture was taken during a long pace run yesterday. Right before I began it started raining. Since the rain got harder I wore a cap and vest.
The workout called for me to start fast. It was no problem, evidence that I'm getting close to the last stage of training.
This rear view shows the whole three years since Yuna was born, everything we've been building up. There's no easy way to become strong. It's the result of hard work every day.
After taking off my cap and vest, in the last 5 km I went all-out, running as hard as I could. Here's the speed that conquered the National Championships 10000 m! Although my face looks like I'm in agony, my movement was smooth right until the end.
I look really relieved at having done the workout as planned. I went full effort, so it's no wonder I look so tired. Shuhei said, "Hey, you look older, you must have been working hard!" I got pretty angry.
The thing we're evaluating compared to this time last year is whether I feel easy and calm. This is only my second marathon and I've never done one in the summer, so I don't think it's really necessary to look back much, just to believe in what we're doing and look forward.
It's only been a week since we got to Fukagawa, but many people recognize me and greet me when I'm out jogging. People are really warm and encouraging and tell me, "Good luck!" When I'm concentrating on a hard workout I can't react to people calling out to me, but I definitely hear them and they reach my heart. The training camp is still going to go on for a while, so please keep cheering me on.
Aug. 6 - I Found a Nice Jogging Course
The weather's been getting better and better and now we're having great conditions here in Fukagawa. During the day it's warm enough to go around in a t-shirt, but it's cool in the morning and at night and you can sleep really well.
My main jogging courses right now are:
1. A cross-country course in the woods called Sakurayama Power-Up Road. One loop is 2 km.
2. A woodchip course near Sogo Sport Park's track surrounded by lush grass.
3. Green Park 21, a nice park we found this time.
Green Park 21 is completely covered with beautiful grass, and if you run the outer loop it's about 1 km. It's walking distance from the city center, and toilets and parking are all right there. There are a lot of benches with shade and stuff for kids to play with. There's a pond with a fountain in the center of the park. You have to be careful near water with children, but there aren't any cars so other than that it's a safe place.
Our little princess is desperately running after mama in this picture. Today Yuna did a hard workout, one lap of the park! She was soaked in sweat.
Other than woodchip or grass courses there are a lot of road courses here and we don't have to struggle to find places to run. It's a great running environment.
It's been more than two weeks since we started this training camp for Berlin. So far so good. There's less than a week left here at the camp. The work of art we started envisioning in our minds six months ago is almost completed as we've planned it. From here on out it's the polishing stage. The quality of the polishing determines that of the artwork. Losing faith in what we've done, getting greedy and trying to squeeze in more is the biggest enemy.
Powerful, aggressive, energetic form.....That's where I want to go, one step at a time.
Aug. 11 - Surprise Test!!
Only four days til the opening ceremonies in Berlin! The first group of Japanese athletes are already there on the battlefield. Our Fukagawa training camp is going to be over tomorrow and we're going back to hot, hot Kanto tomorrow night. In the afternoon of our last day of training here we had some uexpected guests.....
The Japanese Anti-Doping Association testers. They came here to give me a surprise doping control test before the World Championships. Thanks for coming in this hot weather! This picture shows me listening to the explanation from the testers. Athletes who reach a certain level of the sport become subjected to tests by the JADA or the World Anti-Doping Association. This was my second time. It seems like there are usually tests before big meets.
The test itself takes time and moreover when it's a surprise test we have to make a big change to the training schedule, so it's really a headache. But, that's the way to prove you're clean so I'm all for the testing system. I hope, though, that there'll be a day when we don't have to do this kind of thing anymore. I wanted to do the scheduled training, so we asked the testers to come with us to the cross-country course. They said OK. Thank you very much for suffering through the hot weather!
There are only a few days left before we leave for Berlin. I'm sure we're going to be very busy in the last preparation period. After getting back home we will prioritize the World Championships over everything, so it'll be hard to communicate with people. Please forgive me if I'm slow to respond to comments. I want to do one more update on the blog before we leave, but I'm not sure if I'll have time. I'll try to update the blog from Berlin, so until then.