Thursday, January 31, 2008


The flight from Orlando to Detroit, and then to Narita, was uneventful... but very long. After landing in Japan, we were met by a few URC (Urayasu running club) members plus two men who worked for the city as event planners. We loaded up our bags and drove right to meet the mayor, Mr. Matsuzaki, at city hall.

Welcome to Japan!
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

We had some tea and listened to an address from the mayor, welcoming us and giving us a brief history of Urayasu. The city was originally a fishing village, and over the past few decades, grew by landfill (reclaimed land from the sea). As a result, most of the city is quite new. The major attraction is Tokyo Disneyland, which I suspect has a large amount to do with the Sister City agreement between Orlando and Urayasu!

Meeting the Mayor
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

We were presented with the blue URC jackets, which would come in handy over the next few days. It was winter and cold in Tokyo!

Sister City Agreement
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

On display at the visitors center.

Following this, we checked into our hotel, the Emion Tokyo Bay. An hour after that, another group from the URC came to meet us in the lobby to discuss the itinerary they had planned out for us: sightseeing around the Tokyo area for Stacey, Eric, and me; Tokyo Disney for Tom and Michele. It was surprising how much work the URC had put into making sure our visit was filled with activities.

Then we were off to dinner, at an Italian restaurant, where we had a mix of Japanese appetizers and side dishes, with baked chicken and tomatoes for the main dish. And lots of beer.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Disney Marathon Volunteer

I signed up to volunteer at the Disney Marathon, with my running club. We have the mile 24 water stop, the last one on the course. That is good since we can get there relatively later (6:30 am), but bad in that we are there until the last runner/walker passes us.

Disney gives very nice perks for volunteering: a pretty nice windbreaker, a snack breakfast and lunch, and a free ticket to any theme park, good for one year. As a result, the volunteer spots disappear quickly.

I got there about 6:15 am, found the volunteer sign-in tent, and got onto the "mile 24 bus", which pulled out around 7:00 am to drop us off at our aid station. Of course, the aid station didn't really exist, we had to build it up from the tables and four giant palettes of water that were sitting in the parking lot. Thus, the first task was to carry 15+ tables and line them up next to the sidewalk. This was followed by lugging an enormous amount of water around - each box held 12 one liter bottles of water (e.g. 12 kg each) and we had to carry them over to the tables. I lost count of how many boxes I carried, probably 10 or 12 or maybe more.

I found myself on Powerade mixing duty, along with 2 or 3 others. We had four large coolers (50 gallons each I think) and started opening the bags of Powerade and pouring in water. This was tough, after opening about 100 bottles of water I wished we had a water truck with a hose instead! Anyway, after setting up and preparing for an hour or more, we had nothing to do except wait for the lead runners to show up. The eventual winner, Adriano Bastos from Brazil, passed by a few minutes after 8 am, around 2 hours after the race began. He went on to finish at 2:20:56 (!!).

Ten more minutes went by until the next runner passed us, so Bastos had clearly secured his victory. A few more runners arrived, and by 9 am, 3 hours into the race, there was a steady crowd. The steady crowd turned into a massive onslaught by 10 am - we were mixing a 50 gallon drum of Powerade about as fast as another was consumed. We juggled at our station, having one or two coolers available while we mixed a third and sometimes fourth. For a while everybody shifted to pouring duty: lining up cups to be partially filled. But eventually the demand for more sports drink required three or four of us the return to mixing duty.

Around noon, or 6 hours into the event, it slowed down and by 1 pm, just a handful were still on the course.

My friend Amy took water dispensing duty instead: holding out cups for the masses of thirsty participants. She payed attention to how various groups looked, and decided that the runners that appeared to enjoy the event the most were the 3:20 to 3:50 crowd. Faster than that and the event was very demanding. Slower than that and the people looked more beat and stretched to their personal limit. We theorized the 3:20 to 3:50 pace was reachable by experienced runners doing steady workouts, and race-day execution of that pace was less demanding relative to ability. It still sounds pretty fast to me!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Urayasu, Japan

The city bought our tickets - I'll be visiting Japan from Jan 30 to Feb 10, as part of the Orlando Runners Club (ORC) exchange program with the Urayasu Runners Club (URC). My fellow ORC runners are returning on Feb 5, but I squeezed another 3 days of vacation to extend my trip until the 10th. My only real plan for the extra time is to see Kyoto and Nara for a day or two, and then return to Urayasu and visit as much as possible in the area. :)

The URC keeps their own blog detailing their work, and while I can't really read it, I can tell they are very busy with preperations!