Triathletes Need Trail Too

Post contributed by Anna Boom

Interested in trying something new and different from your 5/10/42.2km  races? Ever thought of perhaps trying a triathlon, which has the fun of the run but also the challenge of a swim and bike? Here on Okinawa, there are a few, easy triathlons for you to dip your toe into before diving in. (If you are the kind who dives in, keep reading too.)

The triathlon comes in many different distances:
Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run)
Olympic (1.5 km swim, 40km bike, 5km run),
Ironman (3.8km swim, 180 km bike, 42.2 km run)
Hodgepodge, which are the MCCS races

Some of the races you will find are:
MCCS triathlons-Courtney Tri (April), Hansen Tri (mid June), Kinser Tri (mid July)
These races run about $20 for early registration and $30 for those of us who don’t plan as well as others.

Amy having fun out on the Hansen Tri course

Anna pacing herself – and good thing she did as she won the Hansen Tri last month

And Okinawa races:
Ishigaki: Olympic distance, held on beautiful Ishigaki island. This is split into two events. One is the family race for folks like you and I. The other starts later in the afternoon and is an ITU World Cup event. The pros come out and race this and to watch them is awe-inspiring. You can’t imagine how smooth they are until you see them race in person.

Ayahashi: Olympic distance, except the run is 10km, over and back on the Ayahashi bridge. Held in July (Hot!)

Izena: this is 88km-2km swim, 66km bike, 20km run and is held on the beautiful island of Izena. You must take the ferry and stay over one or two nights.  It happens every late Sept or early Oct (also still hot, especially the run course).

Miyako: near-Ironman distance and is held on beautiful Miyako island in April.

All the Okinawa races have different registration fees and may be a shock as the price is much higher than on-base races.

Running trail with WOOT helps you with any type of race goal you have: finishing your first or fiftieth triathlon, winning the next 5km road race or just keeping up with your kids.  Consider using your weekly WOOT run as part of any training plan, whether trying a tri or continuing on your running journey.

Acupuncture -if you dare!

This post contributed by ANNA BOOM and previously published on in March 2011

Needles, needles and more needles.
Acupuncture, oh my!

Recently, my running friend mentioned acupuncture helped her knee pain. Then another friend tried it for her glute/hamstring pain, another for plantar fascitis. And then an article in one of my favorite magazines popped up on acupuncture.
Like many of you, I have heard of acupuncture and known it is all about needles but I wanted to find out more. Onto to the research then…
Since moving here to Okinawa wonderland, I’ve been interested in more eastern leaning therapies. I tried acupuncture once way, way back for some forgotten pain and I guess it worked. I forgot about the pain, right?
Although I don’t have any specific pain, one article I read on website ( caught my eye: an Alternative to Botox. What?!
This newer procedure spoke, no, screamed attention, to my vain inner self. Poke me with a few needles and wrinkles disappear? This is not quite the claim of facial acupuncture, but after a series of 10 – 12 sessions, it will help soften wrinkles.
I contacted my friends and found the acupuncturist for me at Tokyo Acupuncture.
What makes Urasaki-san at Tokyo Acupuncturist the acupuncturist for me? He speaks English well. This is vital for me in any type of sticking-needles-into-my-body sort of fashion. He has been doing this for 16 years too.
I called him up on Monday morning and set up my first appointment for Wednesday afternoon.
After arriving, Urasaski san asked me why I was there, if there was any pain I was experiencing. I explained that I was there for facial acupuncture and also that my lower back was a little tight.
After filling out a short informational sheet with name and such, I lay down and he began to swab alcohol on certain points on my hands. Then, he went on to insert 24 needles into various points in my body around the hands, elbows, feet and knees, all starting with the alcohol swab. He was also sure to show me he uses only new needles.
The sensation was a bit painful in some places, like near my ring toe on my left foot. Other places, it didn’t hurt at all.
Now onto my face and the main reason I was there. For wrinkles and relaxation, needles are inserted into the face. According to Chinese medicine, we have meridians that run through the body. The needle helps release blocked chi or qi and help energy flow.  
He inserted needles around my laugh lines (I really need to smile and laugh less) and a few around my forehead. I don’t yet have pronounced mommy worry lines (maybe because my kids are still toddlers-give me about 10 more years and check back) so not many in that area.  
Then, relax. Easy.
After a short amount of time, he came and took out all the needles and massaged my face. If you’ve ever had a facial, it is nothing like that at all. It was more like holding your fingers on a certain area until it relaxed and felt very nice.
Last step, he had me check in the mirror and I admit, it did soften my lines. Was it due to the irritation of getting pricked with many needles? Perhaps, but I liked it.
To get to Tokyo Acupuncture: Drive out Kadena Gate 2. Go through the Koza intersection. Pass the police station and the first traffic light. At the second light, turn left. Turn right at the 6th intersection. It will have a yellow flashing caution light hanging in the middle of the road. Almost immediately, on your left you will see a red sign that has Tokyo written in cursive. The rest of the sign is in kanji. Immediately past that sign is the acupuncture clinic. The sign will read in English, “lower back, pain massage, acupuncture.” Parking is under the clinic. Take the stairs that lead up to the office.
Hours: 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday
Phone: 098 939-8551

Want to run faster?

In a previous post I mentioned how fortunate we are to have such a diverse group of women with various gifts and talents to offer. Stephanie Shimkus is one of our gifted members who is not only an exceptionally talented athlete (having played beach volleyball on the semi-pro circuit), but she is also a qualified sports massage therapist and RRCA certified running coach. While we don’t have the good fortune of having her here in Okinawa with us, she is still able to share much of her knowledge from afar. I asked Stephanie if she would write a post for us on the benefits of speedwork and she kindly obliged:  

Speedwork.   Just saying the word often conjures up images of the women’s world marathon record holder, Paula Radcliffe, knocking out 5:15 mile repeats eight to ten times in a single session, or Roger Bannister’s late night track workouts of 20 – 400 meter repeats on his way to the world’s first sub 4-minute mile (Bannister eventually set the record of 3:59).  The good news here is that speedwork does not have to be scary, intimidating nor does it even have to be overly scientific.

The Swedes had it right when they coined the term “Fartlek” in the 1930’s.  For new runners, the word fartlek sounds a little like a swear word and often causes some giggles (go ahead and giggle…you know you want to).  The word fartlek, simply means, “speed play.”  In its most organic form, Swedes simply disappeared into the mountains on cross country ski trails and ran as hard as they could from say, a rock to a tree 100m away or perhaps from a creek to a large landmark of their choosing some distance away.  In between these hard efforts, runners would jog until they felt like running hard again.  Not very scientific or scary, right?  Speedwork really can be that simple.
Speedwork has several different benefits.  The simplest is that you become a faster runner.  Maybe you’re a 5K runner and you would like to develop faster leg turnover.  Or you’re a half marathon gal and you are looking to develop a faster constant pace, then speedwork is for you.  Without getting too scientific, speedwork also teaches your body how to run hard by causing change within the body’s energy systems which in turn develops our bodies into faster and more efficient machines. 
Training your body to run fast is also good for your brain.  Your brain has a pretty strong survival mechanism.  The brain’s first instinct will be to send signals to the rest of your body to tell you to stop, that it is uncomfortable to run hard so you should stop.  Speedwork teaches you how to override that mechanism so you can run no matter how hard the workout.  Additionally, speedwork can be very tough so in doing these hard workouts, you are developing mental toughness so you walk away saying, “heck yeah!  I’m one tough lady!”  Now who doesn’t want to walk away from a workout feeling like a super star?
So now you’ve decided that you definitely want to feel like a super star after your next run.  Where do you begin?  If you are new to speedwork, I would suggest trying fartleks which are basically simple interval training – running hard for a bit then jogging for a bit.  Then you can evolve into running hard at perhaps 80% maximum effort (your effort, not your running partner’s effort or your significant other’s effort) for 30 seconds followed by 60 seconds to two minutes of jogging, continuing that pattern for as many repetitions as you feel necessary. 

Setting out on a fartlek run; Stephanie uses her garmin as a timer
If you have tried fartleks and intervals on a few runs and would like to tackle the track, then there are many options.  Don’t panic just because I have mentioned the word, “track.”  What you do on the track (and in any speedwork), depends on the race distance for which you are training.  If training for a 5K, then 4-400 meter intervals might be appropriate.  A half marathon?  Then mile repeats (4 times around an Olympic-sized track like the ones found at many high schools or college campuses) are something to consider. 
One of my favorite track workouts is Yasso’s 800.  Named after Bart Yasso of “Runner’s World Magazine” fame and known as, “the Ambassador of running,” this simple but potent workout is fun, challenging and always leaves me starving for at least a full 24 hours after!  It works like this: warm up for one mile (this can be done on or off the track) then move right into 800 meter intervals which is two laps around an Olympic track at a steady pace then follow this by a 1-lap jog (I like to call this part, “the old lady shuffle”) and immediately back into the next 800 meter interval.  Each interval is to be done slightly faster than the one before.  Usually those who are new to this workout should start at six intervals of 800 meters.  For those experienced runners, do no more than ten.  Then I follow this with a 1 mile cooldown which can be done on or off the track.
Let me repeat this again, speedwork does not have to be something to fear!  It’s a valuable gauge of your aerobic conditioning, a great way to amp up your running, and if you’re one who likes mental challenges, then running hard for a specific period of time is right up your alley!  So let’s do as the Swedes have been doing for years, get outside and enjoy the view.  And while you’re at it, run some fartleks.  Of course you can laugh because the word is funny.  You might be even be surprised that a good laugh at the word combined with actually doing a few fartleks might leave you feeling like a super star!

Steph warms her client up with some leg strengthening drills

Strong legs help make a stronger runner

Thank you Steph for a great post! Remember, if you’re new to running and have not yet incorporated  speedwork into your regular running routine, be sure to follow Stephanie’s recommendations and ease into it slowly. And please, do not attempt to do any speedwork if you are still recovering from an injury. Now get out there and try those fartleks!

Naha Marathon

With less than five months to go until the Naha marathon takes place, we wanted to re-post some information about this popular race. Registrations will begin any time now and if you’re interested in signing up, you’d better not dwell on your decision too long; this race is extremely popular and fills up very quickly.

The following post was published in last year and was written by Anna Boom:

Did anyone notice the huge group of 25,000 people hanging out around the Asahibashi Park this past Sunday? It was the 26th annual Naha marathon. A little history: This “Festival of Sun, Ocean and Joggers” started in 1985 as a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the sister city bond between Naha and Honolulu (

Runners waiting for the starting bell to gong
This is the first year that the entrants were limited to 25,000. This race also closed very quickly. Race entry started on August 2nd and was full by August 13th. Twenty five thousand people had registered in just 12 days! Even with the 5500 yen in hand, you could not run the 26.2 mile course.
My friends and I decided to pace our good friend Andrea for the last six miles of the race. For those of you who have run marathons before, you may remember that right around 20 miles your body has finally convinced your brain that you are an idiot for being out here and running 26.2 miles. Who in his/her right mind would do this?!! Why am I out here?! I hate running! These are some of the wonderfully depressing thoughts that hit around some point in your marathon (hopefully somewhere after the midway point). That is why having support out there while you are running a marathon is very, very helpful and why running marathons on Okinawa is so wonderful (more on that for a future article).
The Naha marathon course is beautiful. It starts at 9 am at the Asahibashi park, which is on your left as you are driving to the airport, right behind that tree house restaurant. It then goes through downtown Naha on Kokusai dori, loops down through Haebaru town and Gushikomi Junction.
The half way point is at Peace Prayer Park. If you have never been before, come back with a car full of friends and family and properly dressed and showered. It is a definite must on Okinawa. Now back to the marathon; here at Peace Prayer Park, you get many port-a-potty options if you need and overhead run-under sprinklers to cool you down.
Hitting the half way point can be entirely intoxicating. You made it half way and you are hopefully feeling great. You ran up, up and up to get here, there are many, many people here cheering you on even though they don’t know you and will never see you again. Kids want to give you a high five; you are riding the endorphin high and are a superstar!
Soon the course goes through Itoman and up to Tomigusuku. At the Ahagon crossing, the 33.1 Km point, where we met our runner, Andrea, there is only 9 kms left. That is less than 10 Km, something positive to keep in mind. The rest of the run is pleasant. People are waiting to cheer you on and offer you food, water, mikan (little tangerines), salt, umeboshi (salted plums that are so yum), chu-chus (frozen sugar pops, also yum), Aquarius, sponges, ice, etc.
Notice I said pleasant, not easy. This is a full marathon after all, 26.2 miles or 42.195 Kilometers. At some point, every runner hurts during the race. You need to keep running, one foot in front of the other. Don’t count the miles, the kilometers or the pace. Just go with what you feel. All along the Naha course there are taiko drummers, school bands playing, happy people, Eisa dancers, wishing you the best with cheers of GAMBARE or GAMBATTE (do your best!). The end of the marathon ends in the Asahibashi stadium. Yes, there is a lap that must be run so sprint it out to the end.

With our runner, Andrea, as she holds up her finisher’s certificate
Andrea, our runner, did not achieve her PR or personal record this year, but Okinawa City marathon is coming up on February 20th.
If you are interested in entering any of the marathons or races on Okinawa, use the website but keep in mind that you will probably require the assistance of a Japanese friend or acquaintance.
End note: Andrea ended up running the Okinawa City marathon a couple of months later and finished with a Boston qualifying time, and also tied for third place in the foreign women’s division.