It's been a while since I last wrote here. To my brilliant and amazing readers, I'm SO sorry!!! I did not abandon you! I will not be lazy like that ever again! :) February was full of adventure. The 2 big highlights: my half-marathon and SAPPORO!
Seb, Rach, Daryl, Isaac, me, Erin, Cyndi, and Whit celebrating my survival after the race.
On Sun, Feb 7, 2010, I participated in my first ever half-marathon, the 26th Annual Sazan Seto Oshima Road Race. The goal was to run the entire 21.097km (13.1 miles) in 2 hours and 10 min. Once time is up, they close the gates and you don't get a certificate of completion. I had never attempted a run of this magnitude before. My practice runs consisted of only about 15km at most. Luckily, it was on my island, so I knew the course quite well. Also to my advantage was the group of friends who stayed over the night before to cheer me on during the race. The shirt I was wearing bore the signatures and artwork of my friends, teachers, students, and BOE coworkers, thereby giving it super powers.
The run began like any other. I turned my stopwatch on and tried to find my pace right at the start. Burning all your energy at the beginning is a rookies mistake, of course. I saw many interesting things while running: a man throwing up on the side of the road, grandmas and grandpas standing outside of their houses cheering on the runners with drums and noisemakers, and MANY men stopping to pee RIGHT IN FRONT of me. Water stations were like car jumpstarters, surging much-needed energy into me via a misty white fluid called Aquarius (the Japanese version of Gatorade). It felt as though it took forever to finally find the halfway point. My ankle was throbbing as I had previous rolled it days before the run. Upon my return route I calculated that I had 1 hour to run the remaining 10km. After another surge from a water station, my spirits were uplifted once again and I was on my way. I found myself passing many runners who had started off faster than they should have. Things were looking up :)
The final 2km to go. 10 min on the clock. I had resorted to a limp-like hop because of my ankle. I could see the finish line at the end of the final long stretch of road. I passed by crowds of people lining the street, screaming "GAMBATTE!" (do your best) at the top of their lungs. The final push! I ran through the throbbing sensation in my ankle and managed to the end. A man greeted me...not to give me a hug for completing...but to tell me to step aside because the next event was about to begin. At first I couldn't believe it. 2 hours and 12 min. 12 min. My gosh. My friends found me aimlessly walking around the parking lot like a zombie in disbelief that I didn't make it in time, but they embraced it as a win and honored my prowess. People would congratulate me on completing the race but I would humbly decline saying that I didn't do it under the given time limit. After taking a few moments to contemplate the race, I determined that my friends were right, that I had ran all 21.097km and that I technically did finish. It was an amazing day that yielded many great memories. I will never forget that moment as I was sitting on the artificial field with my friends under the blue Sunday afternoon sky, chugging cups of water down while waiting for feeling to return to my legs. The certificate of completion hanging on my refridgerator may be a makeshift one that my BOE coworkers gave to me for fun, but I know deep down that I earned it.
Me, Cyndi, Knand, and Ryan taking some time to enjoy some "tea" w/our ice table.
Eric and me chatting w/our snowman friend. (They had these little snowmen on sale behind us. They fill them with Hokkaido snow and you can take it back home with you! I should've sent some home to Hawaii...)
What better way to celebrate the miracle of snow than by going to the coldest part of Japan during the coldest month in Japan for YUKIMATSURI (Snowfest)!!! A handful of my friends and I went to Sapporo, Hokkaido during the 3-day weekend in Feb. It was my very first snowfest. Who knew you could do so much with a big block of ice!? We went to a mini-snowfest that had a big slide that you could go down with innertubes. Very fun. At the most famous snowfest in Odori Park, entire street blocks were dedicated to ice architecture. There were literally BUILDINGS made of ice with stages set in front for singers and performers to use and entertain the crowd. There was an ice skate rink that kids (including some JETs) could skate on, street vendors selling hot foods and drinks, and many sculptures of cherished childhood characters such as Totoro, Mario, and my mom's favorite, Capybara! Since my ankle was on vacation (having been abused during my half-marathon the weekend before), my friends were awesome enough to rent me a wheelchair to roll around in during the festival. It was interesting to see the world through the eyes of a handicap person. A Japanese guy even waved to me as I passed him by ;)
Christina braces herself for the 10 sec sled ride.
Me and Mario readying for our Rainbow Road race.
My friend described the city of Sapporo the best with the word "charming". It is quite a charming place. White snow lined the streets and roofs ever so elegantly (something I am not used to seeing) and people walk with an ease and sophistication unlike that of other big cities such as Fukuoka or Hiroshima. There are many big, well-known stores as well as a shopping arcade, but the atmosphere is just different for some reason. It was like I was transported into a winter wonderland snow globe :) We did manage to see a whole lot of the city in the 4.5 days that we were there. Highlights included eating dinner at an all-you-can-eat mutton yakiniku restaurant, breaking into a snowball fight right after dinner (it just so happened that it was between members of the USA and members of Canada...luckily, the results did not follow that of the 2010 Olympic men's hockey finals...hehe), experiencing the famous Hokkaido king crab (in nabe form), singing karaoke to 80s themed music, going to the Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Factory (famous chocolate only made in Hokkaido), and trying the popular Hokkaido vanilla ice cream (and going to the bathroom 3x thereafter).
Seb and Me. Pre-snowball fight...1-0 America ;)
I had an amazing time in Sapporo and plan on going back next year as I was unable to go snowboarding because of my ankle. February, although the coldest month, flew by with all the craziness and fun that was packed into it. I am now into the 8th month of my JET experience and cannot believe how fast it has gone by. I can only embrace the time I have left and continue to enjoy every day that comes.
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