I’ve put all the videos of the action at the front of end of the 2013 Ultra Trail Mt Fuji 100 mile trail race posted to YouTube The North Face Japan together on one page and in order. Click on the course and elevation maps to see which parts of the course are being featured in the videos.
Salomon 12 liter Skinpack
1.5 liters water in bladder
2 bottles of premixed Hammer Perpetuem (Cafe Latte Flavor)
One bag of Perpetuem powder to mix at the 42km check point (the only aid station on the course – limited to 1.5l water per runner)
24 Hammer electrolyte tablets
12 Hammer anti-fatigue tablets
3 Hammer energy surge tablets
3 Hammer electrofizz tablets (for last stages to mix with spring water)
3 GU Roctane gels (Chocolate Rasberry)
2 Black Diamond Storm headlamps with lithium batteries
Spare contact lenses
It is raining and cool this morning so will likely add merino long sleeve and waterproof legs in case of becoming immobilized at night.
Still trying to decide wether to carry trekking poles or not.
Ben Nevis is the UK’s highest mountain and although, at only 1344m, it is relatively low compared to many of Japan’s peaks, it is still a rough mountain to run. In fact, I find the Ben Nevis mountain race just as (if not more) tough as an Ironman triathlon or the 100 mile Mt Fuji Race.
This was third attempt at the race and I ran my best time so far, 2:01:13, knocking almost 4 minutes of my best time set on my first time back in 2004. I was a bit disappointed to miss going under 2hrs (taking photos and video en route may have had something to do with this – doh!) but I was happy to crack the top 100 for the first time, coming in in 79th place.
The word of the day to describe conditions at the summit was “wild” and although the rain held off until after I’d finished, winds on the upper slopes were strong and visibility down to just 20-30m. Just before hitting the full brunt of the wind on the last drive to the summit, my hands were getting very cold and my shorts and get it on my head – pulling on a pair of gloves would have taken forever with cold hands.
A poignant reminder of how hard this race can be was that my uncle, who along with my dad has done this race many times, had to perform CPR on a friend who happened to be a few steps ahead of him. He had been moving quite well, when for some reason he collapsed. My uncle thought he “had gone” when he rolled him over. My uncle and another runner stopped to help until the race marshalls arrived and took over. Fortunately, the stricken runner was released from hospital that night after being brought down the mountain on a stretcher by mountain rescue and treated for mild hypothermia.
My attempts at this race are intermittent and I’m not sure when I will be back, but I really would like to break the 2 hour barrier sometime. I should perhaps leave my camera behind me next time.
It was a beautiful clear evening and although a little soggy underfoot in parts, very runnable. Hopefully the good weather will hold and the show and my last fell race on this UK trip will be a enjoyable, and dry, one.
All the pics from the run taken with a Sony DSC-TX10 on Flickr here.
The inaugural 100 mile Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF) takes place this weekend. Billed as the sister race of the mecca of ultra marathoners, the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, UTMF, at 156km, is a shade short of the 100 mile mark. But who’s counting? More than 8000m of accumulated elevation gain and a course that does a complete loop of the iconic 3776m Mt Fuji will more than make up for a measly 4km.
The race has been a long time coming. Back in 2010, I was excited to emerge from a frantic mouse clicking battle on the race registration site with one of the coveted 800 spots. The following February, I was able to escape the Japanese winter for a few weeks to Southwestern Queensland. There, keeping my eyes peeled for poisonous snakes and killer spiders, I gradually built up my long runs on Toowoomba trails. A few days before I was to return to Japan, I staggered in the door, jazzed at completing my first back to back 50km/30km training weekend. I collapsed in front of the TV and saw the, initially unfathomable, images of the massive tsunami that had swept away so many lives back in my adopted home nation a few hours earlier.
The planned UTMF was one of the many running events (trail and otherwise) in Japan that were cancelled in the months after the disaster. I took part in two tough Kanto area trail races of around 40km and looked around for an alternative longer distance event. I prevailed in another click battle and set my sights on Hasutsune in October; reportedly, one of Japan’s top trail races, a distance of approximately 70km, mostly run in the dark.
In the run up to Hasetsune, I was feeling a little jaded as my earlier races had felt like something of a slog and training through the long and very hot and humid Japanese summer had sapped my motivation. It was just at this time that the rescheduled date for UTMF was announced. Organizers said that anyone who had succeeded in getting a spot in the original race would receive priority for 2012. I was no longer sure that I was up for putting myself and my family through the training required to complete a 100 miler, especially if the final experience would be more pain than gain.
I decided to wait until I had finished Hasetsune, and that I would take my UTMF spot if, and only if, for some reason I found running 70km of trails in the dark fun. I was pretty sure that I was off the hook and that I could look forward to returning to more reasonable distances the following year. It was a tough race, but, to my amazement, the race went very smoothly and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was left feeling energized and, riding my longest post-competition endorphin rush, took my spot in the rescheduled UTMF.
That was then. And now event is upon me.
Am I ready?
I am having some doubts about my training, mainly focused on how well my running on the trails around Hiroshima city has prepared me for the long, steep ups and downs on the UTMF course. My regular training runs never took me anything above 500m, while UTMF starts at about 800m above sea level and we are close to 1500m for much of the first half. In the second half we will get up to a shade under 2000m, so even the fact that my training runs have started at sea level doesn’t make me feel any more confident. That said, scheduling 8-9 hour runs on weekends was tough enough on my partner, left alone to do that other endurance sport of entertaining two young children, without figuring in another couple of hours to get to and from higher peaks.
I’ll find out if these doubts are justified soon enough. Now I’m trying to push them to the back of my mind and focus on my race strategy; summed up by the mantra “slow, slow, slow!”
I have a tendency to get carried away in the early stages of races. If I do that this weekend I will really pay for it. Even a few seconds a kilometer could be the difference between feeling like I’ve earned my T-shirt and a DNF. I need to view UTMF as a experience, more as endurance hike than a run, and as a learning opportunity.
In this respect, it is fortunate that the toughest part of the course does not come until around the 105km mark. This 27km section starts with an 800m climb to a 1300m high ridge, goes over three 1500m peaks, and them up a very sharp climb to almost 2000m. I am counting on the sheer terror I feel at the prospect of trying to overcome this obstacle, to scare me into moving at a very conservative pace in the hours before I get to it. After all, if I get down in good shape, I can still stretch my legs and blast the last 20 miles (yeah, right!).
I’ve finished several Ironman triathlons, cycled to the top of Haleakala on Maui, done a 22 hour bike ride in torrential rain, struggled up and charged down Ben Nevis in Scotland, as well as running an 88km road race among the mountains of Hiroshima and, of course, Hasetsune mentioned above. They were all tough in their own way, and I said of several of them “that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. But, from all the books, interviews and online race reports I’ve read, running 100 miles over a course like this is a challenge on an entirely different scale. It’s a scale that I cannot comprehend, and this is the first time in a very long time, when I’ve had no idea whether I will be able to meet the challenge.
I’m trying to enjoy my ignorance. It may not be bliss, but may well be more pleasant than knowing what’s in store. It is certainly exciting, in a “I think I’m going to throw up” way. And, whether I cross the finish line or not, it is a precious thing. I may end up attacking the 100 mile distance many times, but I will only ever attempt my first once.
Yesterday, I completed my longest run so far in a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes; 28km run mostly over local trails in Treksports.
After the previous day’s 36km sakura run over much of the same ground in my more orthodox Montrail Streaks, my feet felt like they were in heaven. At about twice the distance I had hitherto run in minimal shoes, I was worried that I would have problems over the last few kilometers, but apart from a little chaffing of my smallest little piggies, I finished feeling great. My calves don’t seem any more sore than usual, which I guess is a sign that I was ready for the distance.
I would like to try them out in next weekend’s Haigamine-Yasumiyama race in Kure, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to go minimal over the final 5-6km steep, winding asphalt descent.
The sakura cherry blossoms were in full bloom throughout Hiroshima on a beautiful spring day today. After a late start I spent most of the day (5hrs 30min) on a long (37km) trail run. It was lovely to running in such perfect conditions, but I was quite jealous of all the groups enjoying hanami parties that I ran past. I did, however, take the time to stop and snap a few photos with my iPhone 3GS. Here are some of them (though, they do look a lot better on black like here). Details of the run are at the bottom of the post.
Hiroshima Peace Pagoda
Sakura in Ushita Sogo Koen Park
Sakura in a Mitaki drainage ditch
Sakura at Mitaki Temple
OK, the last photo isn’t of sakura blossom, but I was very happy to find my way to the string of mountains behind Mitaki-yama and to get to the top of Maru-yama. Despite there being a giant white board erected off which to bounce TV signals, there is a fantastic view over Mitaki-yama of Hiroshima and the surrounding area. The iPhone couldn’t capture the great view, so I settled for a photo of two of the many magnolia flowers in bloom up there.
Also, I have feeling that finding the link to this trail has finally taken me to the “Hiroshima Alps” trail, which could open up the possibility of local 50km+ runs on trails without having to touch much road. Looking forward to getting back over there to explore more.
I was back in the Akinada islands for the second time in as many weeks, doing more research for a new map project on which GetHiroshima is doing some consulting. I had a great mooch around the little port town of Ocho (大長) which is best known for its delicious mikan oranges.
I took nearly 400 photos throughout the day and though I haven’t looked through them all, I’m pretty sure this will by my favorite.
This lovely old couple were not only happy for me to take their photo, but the guy even went and got a fresh crate to pour into the sorting tray. I didn’t want to disappoint them by saying I’d come from Hiroshima when they asked, so I said I was from England and I’d heard about how tasty Ocho mikan are (both technically true).
More pics and words coming once I wade through the editing process…
Today’s Hiroshima Jin University trail run class was a great success. The weather was beautiful (I got a bit of a sunburn) and the autumn colors at Mitaki were stunning. Thanks to class leader Eiko Nishida for coming all the way down from Tokyo to inspire a group of 9 trail novices.
We had a real range of participants; one complete beginner, a couple who had just run their first 5km at the Peace Marathon earlier this month, a few who run a few times a week, all the way up to a guy who had posted a very good time in his first full marathon recently. Most of the runners were forsaking the road for a trail for the first time, and in spite of the wide range of abilities the group worked very well together.