Caren Ware's Blog

February 29, 2012

Something is falling in Tokyo…snow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 6:56 am

A girlfriend and I took to the outskirts of Tokyo for a few days recovery from running.  We were welcomed by a single Japanese women living in Yokohama.  She had raised her daughter in Hawaii, but returned to care for her mom as she passed away from cancer. Misako was our English translation to every day Japanese life.  She shared of the hardships to be different in a society that valued conformity. She took her daughter to a school in the states because she was so painfully picked on in Japanese schools. I am not sure what the social casts are here, but I sensed there must be some,yet not blatantly visible to me like the Indians in Mexico or the Aborigines in Australia.  Thank you, Misako, for being so candid with us.  Thank you for taking us up escalators, across train stations, on packed subways ,and to the top of the Landmark Tower.  Its view there was a never ending horizon of never ending buildings. Mt Fuji was somewhere out there shrouded in brown smog that only matched Los Angeles.

Still, I cannot get over how clean the subways are.  The people are clean.  The streets are clean. The buildings are clean.  We visited their Chinatown and it was cute, orderly, and lined with orderly restaurants.  We stopped to examine bulletin boards advertising restaurants that you pay to eat with a cat in your lap or pet rabbits.  Both types of pets are not allowed. This is no place for bunnies to hop and cats to wander.  So, if you want a cat experience, you go to a restaurant and rent one for your lap. And, get this.  People PAY to get to walk someone else’s dog.  I giggled at the thought of someone paying me to walk the personality of my unleash-able, hyperactive Labrador, Sandy.

The train stations have built in pathways for blind people to follow their way through all the transits and trains.  It was quite the maze with seeing eyes!

It is snowing.  Good thing this rarity did not happen on marathon day.  People are whispering of a potential earthquake because it is February 29…leap year. I think I would like to skip the earthquake experience in this ocean of buildings. Our host thrills in any souvenir movie knickknack and is buying bottles of Pepsi because they have Star Wars figurines attached.  Sponge Bob, Snoopy, and Puss n Boots seem to be highly important to her.

For me, it’s about the food.  Our host delights in taking us to her favorite restaurant…an American menu of hamburgers and apple pie!  Later, we ask for a lesson in Sushi. Tomorrow, I head through this maze on a solo journey to find the airport and head back to the USA.  I plan to enjoy sitting in a seat in my own car, never again complaining about the traffic in Los Angeles, and value the times I have and get to spend roaming the ranges in Wyoming.  I rode in a mini bus here in Yokohoma made for 10, but carried at least 50 people squished into a means to get home from the subway where they had been squished for an hour getting this far from their work and shopping places. I don’t think I would ever get used to be in a building or in subway most my life.  Thank you for letting me just run down your streets.  Wait.  Yes.  The house is shaking.  We are experiencing a trimmer. Was that a larger shaker somehwere else on this very efficient and functioning island?  Just a mild 5.8er.

February 27, 2012

Tokyo Marathon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 12:08 am

A marathon is definitely one branding way to see a city.  When would you otherwise be afforded the privilege to run down the middle of the street past shops, temples, towers, and the 10,000,000 people that live there…traffic free?  You  take in more of a city than any double decker bus tour for sure.  And you leave feeling like you got to high five it.  High five was a specialty of Tokyo.  The city and the people made it a celebration.  The Japanese love costumes.  The runners came in all creative themes…men in business suits with briefcases and their bibs pinned on front.  I saw Santa with a helium balloon sack of gifts and even Elvis. The spectators clowned even more. The entire 26.2 miles was lined with people who were equally as adored and creative and sincere in their cheering us on.

The day prior to the marathon, a ‘Friendship Fun Run” was staged to welcome the foreigners.  It gave school age children a chance to greet us.  The day was wet and cold.  Rain and bitter wind shrouded Tokyo.  I went to the hotel lobby and …heard an exuberant group.  Those spiting the weather had formed in the lobby. Most the “noise” was coming from an exuberant person named Mohan from Singapore who tooted on a whistle and snatched everyone’s names, some instant information about them, and introduced everyone to everyone…creating an instant family. There were some from the Hawaiian Islands.  A group from Russia.  And Singaporeans. Mohan was a character on purpose. His Facebook is Mohan marathoner and he must have as many friends around the world as there are people.

He shared with me on the train that he was an ultra-runner.  One serious race he was unable to finish and had to be shamefully driven back in the sag car.  He felt hardened.  Since he was unable to finish, he decided to change the mood and went to the finish line and cheering every last runner in.  He said the ‘cheer’ that cheering gave him flooded him with more energy that he could ever muster personally through hard core training.  Since then, he has been all about meeting people and energizing them to have fun and fulfill their goal to just finish a marathon.  When asked how fast he runs a marathon?  As long as it takes to help someone along the way get to the finish.  I saw him the first few miles of the marathon running up and down, back and forth among the runners and spectators, tooting his whistle, and everyone was laughing.  His touch was contagious.  I was enthralled by his effect and the non-competitiveness of his actions.

Mohan

As the miles worn on so did I. I survived by the beat of my iPod.  Music is too rare in my life so I liked the concert and  contemplative words in my ears.  I kept the sound down so I could hear the cheerleaders and bands, but was thankful for the company of the iPod.  You could actually get very lonely in a land of so many people.  The Japanese are a quiet people that stay to them unless prompted.  The marathon was an exception that gave some Japanese spectators an excuse for fun, noisily motioning us on.  But the runners seemed deeply into their quests and themselves.  Especially at the start.  We stood in formation for nearly a half hour and no one, except the foreigners, were talking.  The Japanese stood in respect; each giving the next just the right amount of room to fit properly into each start choral.  I sat down cross-legged on the pavement right in the middle of the thousands.  This became a meditational position of examining running shoes as varied as the number of people.  And not one shoe was moving.  No stretching. No stomping feet.  No jumping up and down.  They just stood in place, quietly waiting their turn. When the cannons finally went off and our turn came 14 minutes later to move forward, everyone did so politely.  No pushing and shoving.  Not one properly positioned person bumped into the next.  The system was so efficient it lacked personality, but shone in character.  I wasn’t sure what to conclude of it.

What I did conclude, was 26.2 miles is a long way no matter the opportunity to tour a city and its people.  I fell into survival mode about the 32K mark and dug deeply into my survival shuffle and the iPod.  And then I remembered Mohan.  I had disciplined myself to watch the people and sights along the way, but had done so from the center divider lane.  I moved to the curb and stuck my hand out.  The spectators roared. And a line of hands stuck out.  They giggled as I slapped each one of them, especially the little kids who had politely stood on the sidelines all morning.  The spectators down the row anticipated my arrival and created individualistic cheers and handshakes.  Miles went by and I hardly noticed the cramping in my shins, screaming in my cement pounded arches, and the knot in my glut. I ran Mohan style.

I dove out at the 26.05 mile.  195m from the finish, as I was given permission to run, but not receive a coveted medal. They had been provisionally allotted. For someone that has an office wall of coveted medals,I didn’t need it. The medal will be the memories for me.  The people met.  The lessons learned.  I was just thankful to  run. To be healthy enough to run.Well, thanbful until… Until I had to walk a mile and a half around the buildings with the spectators while trying not to cramp up on the staircases.

So precision was the conduct of this marathon, that they closed down segments of the course at set times.  On the nose of that allotted time, a rope was thrown across the road and the misfortunate ‘too slowers’ were directed off the course.  The media showed runners balling at not making the cut off. There was four of this type of cut off points on the route.  So clean conscious was the conduct of the marathoners that we never fought through slippery cups thrown on the street at the water stations.  Everyone politely took their cup, drank it, and placed it in a trash container including the food wrappers. An army of trucks and street sweepers followed the marathon leaving the city in their original state of no visible trash. 

February 26, 2012

Tokyo….a mazing steel and concrete.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 11:48 pm

This is my first day ever in Tokyo. It’s an overwhelming sea of structure; well designed, retrofitted concrete and steel. Miles and miles of it. And 10,000,000 million people working and living in them. You become puny in this forest of engineering. I was very thankful for the accompaniment of two businessmen assigned to give us a whirl around parts of Tokyo. They skinny their van into slim parking places that latch up and imprison the belly of the vehicle until you pay the electronic meter to leave. Slick. Slick, too, are the vending machines that pop out hot coffee and soup. There are orderly lined bicycles with their baskets. The traffic is not unobtrusive because everyone and everything is somehow…orderly. There is no trash, no sense of crime, and a hoard of people squishing past each other on their way to something very important.
Our Japanese hosts laugh a lot and do an excellent job translating in English, even Kenji who doesn’t speak English. Shinya works for a company that caters to the Golfing industry and is interested in what new products are emerging from the running craze that has struck Japan. They take us to a traditional part of Tokyo with a temple and we sit on pillows, cross legged, enjoying rice and deep fried tempura, but mainly their hostful company. I tell them my son likes Japanese Anime art and video games and they take us on a train to a section pulsing with electronics and a feel of Time Square in New York, Akihabara. Now there is a place for video nerds.
I am thankful, Shinya, that you offered up a day to show us bits of this startling landscape of high rises . They turned spell bounding when we returned over Rainbow Bridge at night. The view of lights and shaped geometry over the water was eerily moving. Like a sunset casting colors on a mountain lake…but not.

Thank you, Shiyna and Kenji for showing us Tokyo

February 25, 2012

Don’t gobble. Chew your food.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 6:28 am

I didn’t have the time to follow up on the marathon entry.  I didn’t have the time to line up a proper meeting with the Japanese timing company.  And here I am in Tokyo where order has to be honored and rules of conduct adhered to make the 10,000,000 people homogeneous.  I am having to  ask the officials if there is any way to make an exception to a rule.  My entry for the marathon arrived to their office on a Japanese holiday and was postmarked the next day….one day too late. This marathon is also the Japanese Olympic trails.  Therefore, it is governed strictly by the government which governs strictly. The answer is NO ACCEPTIONS.  335, 0000 Japanese applied to run and only 30,000 were able to be accepted.  The Marathon committee allowed 3,000 of these to be for internationals. I am having the international experience of explaining my missing entry to every official who leads me to yet the next. This is in the land of instant respond. No. Your name is not on the list.  Understandable.  This is how this many people can abide in such a small space Next in line.

Marathoning.  It takes skill almost everybody could muster with some training. It’s about preparing your system to handle the same repetitive motion for hours upon hours.  It is a feat and, therefore, rewarding to be tried by the thousands.  It creates a goal become journey and the feat-ness of it is the reward.

Since I am untrained to have a competitive time, for once my running needs to have no time purpose .  As my crossfit trainers are also pointing out, they would like I be less concerned about the timed workout and more about the precision of a motion. Not who finishes first, but how fluid was the action. Always racing can get wearisome.  And intensity gets old.  Racing through life leaves you missing many things along the way if you replace smooth speed for consumption.  Gobbling food is not attractive, so why would operating in life like that be either. I am sitting in my cubical of tiny allotted space in my hotel room in Tokyo. I finally have time to read a newsletter from the family in the Galapagos Islands whom are staging their marathon in May

Rick from the Galapagos reminds me that enjoyment comes in chewing my food no matter where I am. And what gobblers miss.  It’s lengthy to read, but I share it with you so we don’t miss something.  Something more important than maybe what we are rushing around to make so important.

Dear Friends and Family,                 Feb. 2012

When people write us for the first time they often say that they “…want to see as many animals as possible, as many things, as many islands, as many…” They don’t want to miss anything. Completely understandable. Rarely do people travel all the way here twice in their lives, unlike, for example Hawaii.

Not often, but occasionally we receive visitors who take this to an extreme. Just as an example, we take them to the scheduled visit to the giant tortoise reserve, show them giant tortoises battling. If you haven’t seen it (it takes some luck and good timing by us), try to imagine how giant tortoises battle, the sounds of the shells colliding, etc. Our/these guests take a picture, turn away from the tortoises and ask, “What’s next?” Instantly the guide or if it is me are sad, disappointed. The tour is going to be tough for us and unsatisfactory for these visitors. You can work as hard as we do to take a horse to water (get them to the right water at the right time), but…  These guys tend to blow through stuff pretty fast because they don’t want to “miss anything”. Of course they’re missing what’s in front of their faces because they’re so anxious to move on and in the end they tend to feel as if they have been in some way taken advantage of, either by us or the hype over the Galapagos.

Mostly we receive the opposite. You can take them to water, but can’t stop their curiosity or passion for photos or stop them from drinking. You can’t possibly see everything, do everything there is to do in the Galapagos in one week or five. I’ve been here eight years, am constantly in the water and it was only last week I saw three things I hadn’t even known I’d “missed” or conceived I wanted to see. One was small enough, the Sally Lightfoot crabs shed their shells when they grow out them, simply back out the ass end leaving an entire shell, legs, claws, clear eye globes included. I’d spoken about this hundreds of times because their bright red discarded shells are everywhere near the water line, people take them for dead crabs, but I had never seen one actually doing it until last week. Our son helped this crab out of the last little bit.

Another was swimming with manta rays. I’d seen them plenty from boats leaping far into the air and from surfboards, the tips of their wings cutting through the water like shark fins and the only way you know they are not shark fins is that they are in pairs, but I had never snorkeled among them. These are big animals/fish. I’ve seen ‘em with wing spans of better than two meters. The ones we snorkeled with were smaller, but big enough. The family that was with me just assumed this was a normal every day experience. I can’t however, put that on an itinerary, “Tues. PM, swimming with manta rays”.

And the third was watching blue footed boobies fish. This you can see almost any hour of any day in near coastal waters. They dive into the water like pelicans do except that they can hit the water at up to 70 miles an hour and spear down through thirty feet of water. Years ago I’d witnessed this deep diving of boobies one day from a cliff overlooking a deep water cove. Generally they are fishing in less than ten feet of water. There were maybe a hundred birds working that day, that hour, that cove, plummeting through the air and then after the splash/penetration thirty-forty feet through the water, their bubble trails looked like swerving torpedoes. After diving for food Boobies surface like a submerged volley ball, practically taking air as they hit the surface. I watched this group of birds working, some plummeting through the air, others torpedoing in the water, others popping up and still others taking wing to plummet again and I remember thinking they were piercing dimensions, water and air.

I’d been in shallow water, in a school of bait fish so thick you could feel them passing your ankles and chest, couldn’t see through them underwater with your mask while a group of boobies worked the bait fish all around us, but never had I been snorkeling in deeper water and been able to watch through my mask  the boobies break the surface of the water, sometimes within feet of me, torpedo down, swerving to catch a fish thirty feet below me and then almost as fun as watching them come torpedoing down through the water near and farther away, the way they much more calmly, in a vertical line return to the surface, also sometimes within feet of my horizontal body on the surface, the water shedding off their wings as they took flight afterwards peppering my back, the feel of a breeze from their flapping wings.

Blue footed boobies are called “lancers” (piqueros) here for the way they spear into the water. A National Park guide had explained this to me once, but I had never witnessed it. You would think these birds would torpedo down and snatch their fish on the way down. They don’t. They spear down through the water and scoop the small fish on the return journey. They dive below the fish, open their mouths, close on the fish. When they surface they raise their chin high, swallow the fish and then take to the air again. “Fri. AM, study of blue footed boobies deep water fishing technique.”The older couple who were with me that day didn’t ask, “What’s next?

”February weather report: Ocean temp. 87 degrees, Air temp. 87 degrees, Humidity 87%. Partial clouds, mostly sun on the coast. The sun feels like it’s arriving through a magnifying glass. The ocean doesn’t cool you off, particularly if you are doing any aerobic activities, swimming, surfing, etc. You either want to be in the water floating, in front of a fan or in some air conditioned room. The bank is actually one of the nicest, 68 degrees, very low humidity.

Siempre Amor,

Rick, Bere and Roley

The Japanese businessmen asked us to take off our shoes, sit on pillows behind a low table, relax, and enjoy a meal with them.  I  decide to chew slowly and taste Japan.

February 23, 2012

CHIPPING away…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 5:28 pm

So, I am here in Japan with virtual realty. I am a day ahead of you. And minutes behind in life. My entrant to the marathon arrived 5 hours after the deadline and I have found out I have no confirmation into the marathon. Talk about queues. I am about to be one of those runners that has to beg themselves back into the system.
I came here to be introduced to the timing company, but not in this way. Guess it is a good experience to be on the runners that have a registration problem side of the fence. The timing company that is covering this marathon uses the same IPICO recoverable chip and timing system we are currently timing with at PRIME TIME。I have an admiration for the Japanese and how orderly and organized they are. Get this. Your marathon package tells you when to get up, what to eat, how to stretch, what to pre think about…good vibe ,positive thoughts. Not, oh my gosh. What in the world am I doing here. I am a track runner. But now that there is no packet for me, I really DO want to run the full marathon. The line is moving. I let you know what happens.

February 22, 2012

Where in the World Am I

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 10:12 am

That’s a good question? Japan. Random. Well, at least I am heading there. I am at the boarding gate waiting to squish in the queue. To run a marathon? Who knows. Was there time for the right training. Definitely not. Can I run this long of a distance? Heck if I know. But the random opportunity and here I am. Now, where did Japan fit in the quest to run a marathon on every continent as remote as I could get? Didn’t. But neither has most of what I have done and had to do this past year. So, adventure on. Here I wing. Keep you posted.

February 19, 2012

Running Around Town…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 3:42 pm

SRLA’s mass of juveniles just ran their 18 miler…The Hansen Dam Friendship run. While we waited for the silhouettes of runners crossing the dam on a pleasantly warm winter day, we finally had a moment to relish our runner friends and comrades. Grace Padilla signed NIKE posters by the thousands. She is a mom, model, school teacher/World Champion Runner who makes marks on the lives of these kids by being a living example that fitness opens adventure and energy to any life.
To show that runners have other hidden talents besides running fast, the PRIME TIME crew was treated to the best carna asada bar-b-que… right in our timing tent. There is something to be said about slowing down the pace a tad.
Though a long and grueling day of timing, the victories of these kids were heart felt. I ran backwards into their crowd for about 6 miles. Now there is an experience. Run through those that are point blank determined to trod their way to their mileage goal. It experienced my heart to see weary, spent faces, yet so determined.

The finish mattered to every one of those silhouettes that had forged to this long awaited finish line. We could not hold back our own tears when one of the last finishers crossed and broke down in unabashed happy sobbing. He was so overcome with doing something he never dreamed he could. He dropped to his knees in the chutes with not one more step left in him. And he cried in relief, more from erasing poor esteem and messages that had held him back for far too long, those voices that told him he would never amount. His tears were pure victory and we all felt it. Emotions twist in me just trying to convey the moment in writing. We all know the kind of messages I am talking about. How powerfully and tightly these voices imprison us, yet they are not visible. Winning internal races may be the better part of a marathon. BEST to you, SRLAers as you tackle the LA MARATHON. May you win many of life’s races.

A little more fast pasted, but on the theme of masses is the CHINATOWN FIRECRACKER RUN. This was the YEAR of the DRAGON and it was a hugely, inviting race with its one hundred thousand plus firecrackers and culturally themed dragon dances. Great job done by a race committee that meets year round to throw this kind of running party for the public.

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