It was finally going to happen, I would get to attend my first USATF pre-camp. I was totally psyched to finally attend as all the other years I was too busy in graduate school and couldn’t afford the luxury of taking additional time off before the competitions. While the World Championships were held in Beijing, China our pre-camp was in Chiba, Japan. There were several reasons for this location, it had a climate that was similar to Beijing without the terrible air pollution, it was easy to get to being very close to Nariata-Tokyo International Airport, and had several different training facilities to meet the needs of all disciplines of the track and field team and the local people were the most accommodating, friendly, hospitable people I have ever met.
USATF permitted us to attend the camp if we would be there for a minimum of 5 days. We were allowed to arrive as early as the 16th and chose to depart the US and arrive in Japan on the 18th. This would give Miranda enough time to adjust to the time zone difference before competition without being too long for me in case I was stuck eating all my own food. As it turned out the food in Japan was great for athletes. We stayed at a Hilton that was more than accommodating to our needs. I had delicious sticky rice everyday with lunch and dinner and would change up the protein as best a possible although most of the time I stuck to the sliced chicken breast. Aside from an endless supply of rice the next best thing about the food in Japan was that I could eat the salad and raw vegetables with out any concern. The water in Japan was safe to drink, straight out of the tap if you so chose, and thus the salad and vegetables and fruit were also safe. They also almost always had hard-boiled eggs which were a great addition to my side salads.
The hotel was located off a road with nothing much directly around it. About 500m away from the hotel were a series of paths both paved and unpaved. The unpaved had gravel that was too coarse and uneven to provide proper footing for race walking so we stuck with the backstreet “fire/maintenance” paved roads. This was okay for shorter days of 10-12k but not ideal for longer training sessions. For our longer walk days we would take a shuttle bus out to a track called “IWANA” where we would head off on a bike trail along rice paddies and a river. It was definitely hot and humid out which was great because this is what it would be like racing in Beijing. We were literally spoiled out here, by the staff of locals, by our USATF master of all things important, Bejan, and in the sheer fact that I had a training partner!Bejan biked along side us for two of our long walks and carried our bottles in his basket. Talk about being spoiled, not only did we not have to carry our own aid but he is a great conversationalist! The facility was great, we had towels to dry off (we were sweating A LOT because of the conditions) and stretch on as well as showers so we didn’t have to have “WB” (wet butt as Coach Tim calls it) for 45min on the bus ride back to the hotel. We also had post workout rehydration beverages and snacks, no need to have to make your own smoothie when the USATF nutritionist already has it taken care of.
The other place we trained out was a track called JUNTENDO. Once again we were greeted by extremely hospitable staff, always eager to welcome us. We used this track in the beginning when we did one of our last workouts in our taper consisting of 10x1k. There was a little bit of a misunderstanding when reading our schedules, but it turned out well for both of us. In the end I did my 10x1ks a day earlier than Tim initially intended in a torrential downpour. But as my sister knows, we love to train in the rain. Besides it was much better than the alternative of steamy, hot, and humid. JUNTENDO also had a weight room that was available to us. This met our needs well. This was the first time I have ever lifted away from home, because I had never been able to leave before a meet so early. Navigating their weights took a little bit of mental math as everything was in kg, not lbs. My light weight session went well, and I finished up with a shake out 6k run in the outside lanes of the track
The number one priority of a pre-camp is to get in those last quality workouts and pre-race tune ups while feeling rested and recovered. This was definitely how my experience played out in Japan.
I even got an added bonus, since I was there so early and it was still a good amount of time out before the race I could be a “tourist” and do a little bit of sight seeing.
I spent one day visiting Tokyo proper where, John Nunn, Bejan, and I left at 10:30am and didn’t return until 12:30am. It was an awesome day filled with visiting the Tokyo fish markets, walking through a Japanese Garden, going up to Tokyo Tower, walking around the grounds of a temple, checking out “rush hour” in Shibuya, and of course one’s Tokyo experience could not be complete without a robot show. What’s that you never heard of a robot show? You can’t really explain it other than it was a show like no other, which was bizarre, entertaining, weird and humorous. We often found ourselves saying, did that just happen? I mean it’s not everyday that you visit a city and watch a person dressed as a panda ride out on a cow robot to attack an evil robot. Oh and how could I forget we had some really fresh sushi for lunch down at the fish market and finished the night off with shaved ice flavored with fruit syrup. My Tokyo site seeing day was amazing not just because of what I saw but because I was fortunate to have two awesome travel buddies and lucky that Bejan was willing to help navigate us in and around the entire city. Throughout our adventures we covered everything from the state of track of field in America, the inner workings of USATF, doping, CRISPR technique of modifying genomic DNA, a new dating website, Toyko bathhouses, Iranian “politics” and policies and countless other discussions that were just as diverse.
After that “all-out” touristing day all other “adventures” were much more low key. Miranda and I visited a local temple. We were rather lethargic that day and it was hot out so we kind of rushed through it and probably spent just as much time walking in and out of shops buying souvenirs for those back home. John showed us where we could get chopsticks engraved with peoples’ names in Japanese or English. It’s safe to say that that shop made out very well while USATF was in town.
Other days after training we went to the local mall just so that we weren’t sitting all day. Miranda and I both had important missions; I had to get Joey a solar powered sumo wrestler and she Pokémon cards for Mike. You see last time I had been to Japan in 2010 for an HCV conference I bought my Dad a solar powered sumo wrestler. It’s virtually impossible to buy my Dad a gift as no matter how hard you try to find something you think would be useful, practical, or entertaining for him it goes unused often under the bed in its original packaging! I happened to by him the toy, last minute at the Tokyo airport thinking well he does like sumo wrestlers, this is as good as it is going to get for gift options. To my delight he absolutely LOVED it! I mean who would have thought that my father a grown man, who is a computer science wiz, the most impossible person to buy a gift for would be so infatuated with this gift. I am totally set for life by the way; I never need to buy him something because nothing else could ever top this. However, I was totally NOT set for life with Joey. He was devastated that he did not receive such a cool gift. Every time we would go to visit my parent’s Joe was reminded of the cool gift he didn’t get (did I mention my Dad has it on display in the cabinet with the TV and family photos). My Dad was also all too happy to remind Joey how cool his gift was. So this is why my side mission was to find Joe a solar powered sumo wrestler.
I honestly thought this would be a long shot as it was 5 years since I had purchased the original one for my Dad. But low and behold what to my wandering eyes should appear but eight solar powered sumo wrestlers, rocking back and forth right in front of me. I was literally giddy with excitement. I learned my lesson; I bought Joey his sumo wrestler, my brother a sumo wrestler (turns out he too was bummed he didn’t get one the first time around), Dad a Ninja (seems his sumo guy needed a friend), Joey a Ninja (can’t let my Dad get something else to hold over his head), and a Geisha girl just for good measure. I kept them all a secret until I was home and could present them in person. It’s true what they say; it’s better to give than receive. Especially when you’ve been waiting to be able to give something for five years! So without a doubt my Japan pre-camp experience was complete in everyway possible!
Additional pictures capturing life during pre-camp: