Friday, May 15, 2009

A Consistently Faster Wonder Boy: Update Interview with Chikara Omine

At this past Saturday's Quicksilver 50 mile trail run in southwest San Jose, Chikara Omine hacked more than 20 minutes off Graham Cooper's course record with a time of around 6:15. (Chikara didn't stop his watch at the finish line, and the results as of Friday at 1 a.m. still haven't been posted, so neither he nor I know his exact time.) And to top that off, as far as I know, he didn't puke repeatedly afterwards, like he did a previous year. Since it has been three years since Scott Dunlap interviewed Chikara on his blog ("Ultrarunnings New Boy Wonder, February 2006"), I thought I'd get an update from this speedy young runner, whom many had thought had almost disappeared from the ultrarunning scene.

left to right: Chikara Omine, me trying to look fast by sitting next to him and sharing the same Japanese ethnicity, and my younger son, enjoying the post-race picnic at Quicksilver last Saturday


First, congratulations again. Great runs earlier this year at Jed Smith 50k (3:08:44, winner) and American River 50 mile (6:12:46, 3rd overall). AR50 had an especially deep field this year and you finished only 33 seconds after the reknowned Dave Mackey-- did he pass you at the end or were you closing on him?


It was one of those painfully fun races. I started out quick and both (Maxwell) King (who won) and Mackey caught me around miles 28-29ish. I fell to 4th around mile 42-43ish but got a second wind and eventually saw Mackey again around mile 46. The last 4 miles was a brutal battle but I just couldn't close that gap. Mackey is tough!

Chikara heading up the final hill at the end of AR50 this April. photo by Jean Pommier.


Strong performances, but a 6:15 on this much tougher, hillier Quicksilver course-- definitely more than 2 minutes harder than AR -- is, dude, phenomenal! Did you have any idea you would run this fast? Like, what were your goals or expectations for this race?


Training up to and after AR50 had been going well so I was fairly confident that I had a sub-6:30 in me as long as things went right. However; I was not expecting a sub-6:20 at all. My main focus was to start out conservative and hydrate well. Turned out that paid off. In the prior year when I ran 6:59, I hit the 50K mark just under 4 hours and felt like a train wreck. I knew I was doing well this year when I hit the 50K mark 7-8 minutes faster and the legs still felt light. There was a point where I thought I was in trouble when I found out that my salt tablets melted away in my pocket (from water I splashed on myself). Thankfully the aid stations were well stocked with potatoes with salt, Mountain Dew (gave a good caffeine boost), and great volunteers.


I noticed after, to use Scott's words, exploding onto the ultrarunning scene the second half of 2005 into 2006, you didn't race a lot of ultras the next two years-- in fact, only two per year. Were you injured? Concentrating on shorter distances? Busy with school? What motivated you to race more this spring?


I was actually constantly injured the past 2 years. It started with an IT band injury that flared up during Miwok in 2006 and from there I dealt with a series of injuries from trying to get into shape too quickly or racing distance relays too hard (e.g. Calistoga to Santa Cruz or Hood to Coast). I only had short periods where I was injury-free. During the time I was dealing with injuries, I did more of the shorter distance races since it is much easier to run a 5K out of shape rather than something 10 to 20 times that distance. I was still eager to run the ultra distances and on trails, so I made sure to at least run a couple each year. After dealing with the constant injuries, I eventually decided to let myself fully recover. This decision came after my DNF at Rio Del Lago. When I resumed training, I decided to be more careful, train by feel, and back off whenever I feel a nagging pain. Now I feel much stronger and ready to return to ultrarunning. Also, it is interesting to note I got three of my bigger injuries after running distance relays. They are very fun events but I had been unlucky. I finally broke my relay curse this year. I ran the Santa Cruz to Davenport (Providian) Relay the week before Quicksilver and I seemed to be fine.


I remember seeing you after the last road marathon I ran-- San Francisco 2006 and your white racing flats were soaked with blood. Are you still running road races in those or similar flats?


Almost all the time. I don't feel comfortable in heavy shoes (7 ounces or over) so I go with road flats. Plus I don't like to wear socks since they to insulate my feet too much. My feet can get cut up, but I feel much faster going sockless in flats. The only times I consider heavier shoes are when I expect the trails to be technical and I need better traction or when lighter shoes that I like are not available.


I briefly heard but mostly missed the conversation while I was chasing my kids at the post-Quicksilver picnic-- my wife mentioned that your pre-race meal is the the 20-20 at In and Out, which I'd never heard of. Something about protein loading since you have a fast metabolism? Uh, should I start doing this?

the speedster in gastronomical action; this plate took him a little under 18 minutes. He admitted having entered eating contests, and dreams of some day winning one.


Actually the In-N-Out 20 x 20 (20 patty burger with 20 cheeses) is not a normal pre-race meal for me. That is something I ate a few days before AR 50 and I like to joke that it is my ideal meal since I ended up having a good race. But the part about how I like to load up on protein and fats (burgers/pizza/spam/other meat) the night before races is true. I used to carb-load since it seemed to be the normal thing to do prior to endurance events. But I realized that it had not been that effective for me. I've had my fair share of good races after carb-loading but there were many times where I felt sluggish and even hungry early into a race. I figure this happens since I metabolize fast and whatever carbs I eat the night before gets stored as body fat by race time. Fats and protein seem to satiate better and provide more energy race day. I save the carbs for race day. I wouldn't recommend my pre-race meal for everyone since every body is different (and some people already have a set meal that works), but it's something I've been experimenting with this year. Seems to be working well for me this year.


To each his own. Thanks for your time and candor, and good luck at States and beyond!


Donald said...

Very cool, Mark and Chikara. Thanks for sharing with us!

Peter Lubbers said...

Nice interview.
A pre-race 20by20--wow! I better not let my kids read this interview ;-)

Baldwyn said...

It's good to see more of Chikara this year! I don't know which I envy more; his running ability, or his metabolism.

(That's a lie, I envy his running ability more)

Will said...

Great interview to read and informative. I'm not going to feel so guilty anymore with my own diet!

Gretchen said...

It's great to see Chikara tearing up the trails again this year! And you do look faster sitting next to him, Mark, but he still looks faster than you. ;)
Thanks for taking the time for the update guys!

miki said...

What is up with the Japanese and eating contests. Am I missing my true calling?

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

It was great meeting both of you at Quicksilver. I expected you to start this post with a story about your traffic problems and getting to the race on time! (what you were stressed about while walking in, when I said hello).

I don't think he looks faster - just cuter in that youthful way (but not as cute as your son of course!). I was impressed with his friendliness as well as his speed!


Paul Charteris said...

Truly an outstanding athlete

That is a truly sick 50-mile time on a hilly course. I hope that maybe Chikara will be at Western States Traiing camp so i can go to In N Out burger with him - I'll being my camera for sure!!

Baldwyn, I had the same dilemma, "I don't know which I envy more; his running ability, or his metabolism."

Cheers, Paul

Chikara said...

Mark, just to be clear I only have puked at Dick Collins(2 years in a row). I guess I have to see if I can break that curse too.

Good luck and have fun for all those that are running WS training camp. Wish I could've made it.


John said...

I like the interview and the rest of the blog. The 20 x 20 didn't surprise me. We runners can eat!