tokyo marathon 2014


In February (yes, I know it’s April) I ran my second marathon. My friend Caroline came over from New York and we ran it together. If she hadn’t have been coming, I don’t think there’s any way on this earth I would have run. Prior to January, the only training I’d done was the half marathon I ran in Burma/Myanmar…for which I was also incredibly undertrained.

With five weeks to go before the race, I did the best I could to prepare…starting with a 16-miler. Go big or go home, right? My friends, Anne (with whom I’ll be running a marathon this summer in South Africa) and CoyLou joined me for some of my long runs, making them much more enjoyable. And somehow, even with the little training I’d done, I got to the marathon feeling like I was going to survive. And knowing that I’d finish before the cutoff (7 hours from the start time).

It’s an amazing thing to know that your body will be able to complete 26.2 miles, even when you’ve only trained for five weeks. I know I talked about this in my post about running in Burma, but every time I do a long race, I am in awe of what my body can do.


While Caroline had come over to run the marathon with me, we weren’t exactly going to be running together. She’s much faster than I am (she’s a triathlon-ing nut) so we weren’t even starting in the same gates. I’ve never run in such a large race that there were gates, but with approximately 36,000 people running, gates there were. Seriously. 36,000!!!


Caroline and I said goodbye to each other and headed off to our respective gates. The beauty of the Tokyo Marathon is that you have two out and back legs, so there was a chance I’d get to at least say hi to Caroline along the way.

This was the first race I was going to be running with my new toy: a Garmin Forerunner XT. I’d just started to do heart rate training and was excited to try this marathon with a focus not on pace, but on heart rate. Unfortunately, I never got my heart rate monitor working (I was so annoyed…the monitor left me both literally and figuratively chaffed!). Fortunately, I’d done enough HR training that I knew roughly the pace I should be running at the beginning.

I did a pretty good job (I thought) keeping my pacing down so I would burn out. As it turns out, though, while my heart was pretty content, my body was not so much by the end. But the happy news is I had my fastest half split I’ve had in over seven years. And my second fastest ever. I was pretty happy about that, even if the second half was pretty pathetic in terms of pacing.

It was an amazing experience. And what really helped me in those last miles was thinking about how lucky I was, as I saw many, many runners along the way at medical aid stations or stopped along the course nursing calves/shines/ankles/feet, just to be able to finish without having to stop and get medical attention.

The other major help was my darling friend Anne (pictured in the collage below)! When I ran the St. George Marathon almost seven years ago, I was doing it with another darling Anne. She was actually running with me, which was a huge boon! But on top of that, her awesome family had traveled down to St. George to cheer her and, by extension, me on.

If you’ve never run a distance race before, it’s hard to explain the support that comes from those cheering you on…the spectators in Tokyo were awesome, but having Anne there along the way made a HUGE difference! She trekked all over the course and I got to see her four times along the way. Every time was like receiving a little shot of energy! (Unfortunately, I busted my phone in Singapore a few weeks ago and in the transition to a new phone, I lost all of my pictures with Anne. Sad face. )

The last three miles were complete torture. While the marathon course in Tokyo is relatively flat for the most part, the last three miles consist of a series of bridges…bridges that are engineered for strength, and therefore are bowed…which means “hills” for a runner. To add insult to injury (or injury to insult, as it were), somewhere along the way I’d developed what I could tell was a ginormous blister on my right big toe in addition to a shooting pain at the base of my second toe due to the chip being too tightly attached. If I walked, I was okay. If I ran, every step hurt. So, there was a lot of walking.

IMG_1517The last miles of a marathon are also mentally challenging for me because I want so badly to be done that I do my best to force myself to go as fast as I can…but I just can’t go that fast. And it’s so difficult to not just give up. But, somehow I pushed through and the it was over. My goal was to finish under six hours (chip time), which is not fast at all…but was going to be a good finish for me given my lack of training and that I weighed about 20 lbs more than when I ran my last marathon. I came in at 5:58:20.

IMG_1513Of course, with a half split that would have put me in at around 5:30 had I maintained it, I was slightly disappointed, but then I remembered that I had set my goal based on reality and managed to feel pretty awesome about it when I thought, yet again, at how amazing it was that my body could do what it did.

Post marathon, I went through the finishers area and met up with Caroline for the most amazing foot soak ever (I wish every marathon had this!) and then met up with Anne, who was patiently waiting to congratulate me. Because of where the finish is, she wasn’t able to be at the finish line, but it was awesome that she had come all the way out to the end!


Soaking my feet…this might be how my blister got infected and why I had to see a doctor for antibiotics, but at the time, it was worth it.

And that was that. Marathon #2 on continent #2 completed. And now I’ve begun training for marathon #3 on continent #3 which will happen on June 21st. Not sure what I was thinking signing up for two marathon’s in one year, but now the bug has bitten and the goal is to run a marathon on every continent, culminating in Antarctica in 2017! I’m both terrified and super excited!


Elevator selfie with our medals after dinner and a movie.


As mentioned earlier, Cambodia was hard for me. It was totally amazing I would do it again in a heartbeat (you know, make the same choice…not sure I’d go back for round two). I’ve never seen poverty like I saw there first hand. And I know, as I stated earlier, that it’s much worse in other places. But it was new for me.

We actually got hooked up with this amazing driver who’s a member of my church. My friends, Monica and Mathew, had been there some months earlier and highly recommended Loy and he did not disappoint. The tour he gave us was amazing, mostly because he shared so much of himself with us. Normally, there’s a driver and a tour guide, but as our first day we weren’t planning to see the temples, we didn’t hire a guide and it was great because we got a chance to chat with Loy.


Talk about an amazing man. He lost five of his six siblings during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. I can’t even imagine losing one sibling. And this was after being out to the floating villages. I’m not going to try and describe how I felt, but here are a few photos from the day. I feel a little exploitive even posting these, but I want this memory because I never want to forget just how grateful I need to be that I didn’t have to go through such trials and to remember that because of that, I need to do what I can to help those less fortunate than I am in whatever way I can.

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So, at the end of day one in Cambodia, I felt (as I do now) incredibly grateful for my childhood and all of the comfort and security it held…even in its worst moments. I never worried about where my next meal was coming from, or whether I’d be able to see a doctor or get medication if I was sick. Or whether I’d have clean drinking water.

One of my favorite things about traveling around and living in foreign countries is the perspective it gives me and the constant reflection it forces. And because it always makes me grateful for my home and my family and all of the amazing blessings I have.


And the ikebana classes continue. I LOVE them! Since my first introductory lesson, though, I’ve been so excited to get to the lesson on the nageire upright style. My sensei demonstrated it in that first lesson and it was just so delicate. And whimsical. And elegant.

In the moribana style, one uses a kenzan (or “frog” as my grandmother called them) to position the flowers. In nageire, the stems are fixed without a kenzan using one of three methods. The first lesson, the vertical type fixture (called tate-no-soegi-dome in Japanese) was demonstrated. For my lesson yesterday, I learned the cross-bar fixture (jumonji-dome in Japanese). And the third type of fixture is just called direct fixing (jika-dome) which is typically use with and kind of transparent container or vase.

**Please excuse the quality of the photos…I was using my old iPhone (my other battery died) and apparently, the camera on it has some issues.

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So, the cross-bar fixture is pretty amazing. Using just two thick stems or thin branches, you can create a fixture strong enough to lift the vase itself. In fact, that’s the way to test whether your cross-bar fixture is secure. You actually grab onto it and lift the vase. And once it’s secure, you get on with the arranging, which requires quite a bit more precision in cuts and attention to the weights of the flowers when compared with the moribana style.

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One of my other favorite things about my classes is finding out what materials my sensei has for me. I never know what’s going to be there. Well, this week I was absolutely delighted both because I learned nageire and because I loved the materials (well, two out of three, anyway): dragon willow and roses. The feverfew I could have lived without and, as it turned out, I ended up hardly using when I recreated the arrangement at home. They don’t travel very well.

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o hanami

So, I took a lot of photos of the cherry blossoms. A lot. This isn’t even a quarter of them. I would love to write some brilliant post to go along with these about just how beautiful the whole celebration of cherry blossoms (hanami) is, both literally and figuratively. I have the post inside of my brain somewhere. But honestly, I have a lot of other things on my mind right now, none of which have anything to do with sakura or hanami, or which I’m prepared to blog about. (It’s been a bit of a rough week.) So, until I figure out how to get the thoughts in my head out, I hope you’ll just enjoy these photos. Already it’s taken me over a week to post these, so I hope you’ll also forgive my lack of editing (other than a crop or straighten here and there). Maybe someday I’ll get around to it…

DSC_0001 The canal by my apartment was an amazing place to take a bike and view the blossoms. And because I’m an early riser, I was out and about before most people had awoken from their drunken escapades of Friday night.

DSC_0005 DSC_0009 So amazing.


Everyone takes photos of the blossoms.

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Seriously, how did I get so lucky?

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There are other flowers out as it is spring. And they are also stunning.

DSC_0084 DSC_0088 DSC_0092 DSC_0109 DSC_0126 DSC_0143 DSC_0145 DSC_0149 DSC_0154 DSC_0165 DSC_0180 My new favorite scent. Daphne (above) is this lovely little flowering shrub that smells like heaven. I wish I could bottle it.

DSC_0191 DSC_0209 A beautiful path I came across as I was riding through Shinjuku. This is part of Waseda University. My alma-mater didn’t have anything like this.


This is the big park in Shinjuku (not the one right by my apartment…although I took a lot of photos in that park, as well). It was pretty dang crowded, and absolutely stunning.

DSC_0219 DSC_0259 DSC_0264 DSC_0265 DSC_0274 DSC_0277 DSC_0284 DSC_0310 DSC_0325 DSC_0340 DSC_0344 I loved this little girl taking a photo the couple. She’s pretty much adorable.

DSC_0357 DSC_0359 DSC_0366 DSC_0371 I wish even one of these photos accurately captured just how magnificent the cherry blossoms really are. And the feeling you get walking under them.

DSC_0375 DSC_0381 DSC_0393 DSC_0398 DSC_0402 DSC_0419 My little part of Tokyo. I might have pinched myself multiple times this day, wondering if my life was a dream.

DSC_0436 Shinjuku Gyoen (Park) is pretty big. No Central Park, but still impressive. This was my first time inside and I am smitten. It has different areas classified by the type of gardens. The one above is the French section. I can’t wait to go see this in the summer.

DSC_0438 So. Many. People.

DSC_0444 Posing.

DSC_0453 O hanami.


I took this on Sunday after church. I love that I get to go to church right next to the temple.

a perfectly ordinary weekend

Without getting too deep into the details (I’ve drafted a super detailed post, but I’m not sure anyone really wants to read that much), to say this past week was hard would be an understatement. There were some really good moments, but honestly, this week was by far the hardest one I’ve had since moving to Japan (and then some). It was long and exhausting and things kept going wrong. Like really basic things; missing my stop on the train, getting on the wrong train, my computer crashing, my email not working, not being able to find things on shared drives, forgetting to respond to an email I really needed to respond to, etc, etc. And that on top of a schedule that would have kicked my butt all on its own.


By the time Friday rolled around, I was so happy, I might have cried tears of joy. You know, as opposed the tears of frustration and failure that I’d cried on various other occasions during the week. In fact, I’m pretty sure God knew that I had hit my limit because, while I had made a commitment to myself to attend the temple, I was having a serious existential crisis trying to figure out how to keep that commitment and get everything done at work that I needed to get done, and just like that, five minutes before I needed be walking out the door, my computer kicked me off. I just stared at my screen as program after program shut down and I was logged off. I was done. That put enough of a pause in my work momentum to remind me that, contrary to what my actions of indicate, no one was going to die if I didn’t get this or that email sent or form filled out. So I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my coworkers (all of whom were still there) and walked out the door.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed my weekend whether I had made it to the temple or not, but I’m also sure that it was that much better because I did go. I just needed to be reminded of what is most important. Combine that with some warmer temperatures, and a perfect weekend was in the making.

After the temple and dinner out at this amazing kushiage place, Tatsukichi, that one of my business heads recommended, I was walking home and suddenly I was in this perfect Tokyo moment. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, except to say that I felt completely content and happy. One of those moments you wish you could capture in a photograph to put on your wall or bottle up to be imbibed later. I couldn’t stop smiling. Which was kind of incredible considering the week I’d just had. But that’s life, right?

Besides going to the temple, I made one other very important decision during the week which greatly affected the awesomeness of my weekend. I got a cleaning lady recommendation from one of my friends and scheduled her to come on Saturday morning. What an amazing blessing to be able to afford that right now. I know it won’t be a forever thing, but right now I can afford it and it’s totally worth it to buy myself some time.

Saturday morning, Norie showed up and, at first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. It was kind of like when the movers came to pack me up in New York. I’m not used to sitting by while other people do the things I would normally do and that I’m perfectly capable of doing. Seeing as how I’d just purchased myself three hours of time not cleaning, I didn’t let too much time pass before getting on with what I wanted to do. So, as Norie cleaned for three hours, I sat on my couch preparing my lesson for church today. In addition to teaching the girls on Wednesday about makeup and such, it was my turn to teach them at church as well.

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So nice and clean! Now if the rest of my stuff could just arrive…

Can I just say that I am now convinced that there is no better way to start a Saturday than having someone else clean your house while you focus for three hours on the things that matter most? I read scriptures and watched videos (my favorite being one about this one) and listened to talks about the Savior. It was pretty much the best money I’ve spent in a long time. And it was exactly what I needed; a clean apartment and a clear, focused mind.


It was then time to get outside and enjoy an incredibly beautiful (almost) spring day. And what better way to do it than to go for a bike ride…which I needed to do because I had to go pick up my bicycle from my old apartment. (I’d left it there when I’d moved because it wouldn’t fit into my friend’s car with all of my things and it was too cold to ride.) And Saturday was a perfect day for a bike ride. It was warm and sunny and the air just smelled like spring. I was clearly not made for winter.

I had plans to get out to IKEA to pick up a few things I didn’t buy in the states, but as I started out on my way home, those plans just didn’t seem that important anymore. I had been rushing so much during the week (and the weeks before) that taking as much time as I wanted to stop and smell the flowers (literally) on my way was a luxury I did not want to pass up. And that bike ride confirmed to me that I had made the right decision to not miss Tokyo in the spring.


plum blossoms just outside my apartment building


cherry blossoms (or ‘sakura’ in Japanese) down a little alley on my route from Roppongi to Nishishinjuku


And then Saturday night my dear friend Jennifer (one of my favorite people here!) hosted a little dinner party (or in my case, dessert party) at her home in celebration of her new waffle iron recently arrived from the states. Any reason to throw a party is a good one…but fun things from the U.S. might be the best one when living overseas! Such a fun evening. No rush. No stress. Just good food and fantastic friends.

And finally today. I love Sundays, but today was a particularly good one. And while I have no idea how well my lesson went (it’s hard to tell when you’re teaching teenagers), I made it through it and was able to get the girls to share a little. And I was able to share a little bit of myself with them. And after church, I got to do a little singing as I prepped to sing in church next Sunday. Something I’ve been promising myself I would do for a very long time.

Definitely still needs a little work, but I’ve got a week…and I’m making someone else sing with me (she just wasn’t able to stay after today to practice). I’m not quite ready to solo but oh how I do love to sing. This makes me miss my college (and high school, for that matter) singing days a lot. Maybe I’ll have to add voice lessons onto the list of “things to do while in Japan”. You know, squeeze it in between work, church, travel, socializing, ikebana classes (which I’m starting again next Saturday), learning to play the guitar, and just normal life stuff. Why not, right? I mean, clearly last week is an indication that I can take more on…