Monday, 7 November 2011

Hands down the best race I've ever done anywhere

It was a long drive, google maps said it would take over 8 hours, and we wanted to make sure that we were there in time to find the ryokan in daylight and complete registration. We left Kobe at 5:00am, and quickly settled into a pattern of road trip banter, eating rubbish and drinking caffeinated drinks. Well, Bob and I did, Linda settled into a pattern of no caffeine, healthy snacks and occasional naps, interspersed with road trip banter.

We made it to Kanna with plenty of time to spare and were met at the 'packet pick up' by very helpful greeters who quickly located an English speaker to assist. All done we were in the ryokan by 3:00pm. It was perched on top of the hill overlooking the valley. After a short walk I took to the onsen and sat in the steaming water, gazing out over the valley as the sun began to set. Absolutely beautiful.

The ryokan onsen

The welcome dinner was all prepared by the locals and was tasty, filling and plentiful. As was the free beer and sake. Sake served in bamboo cups from a bamboo 'carafe'. We were made very, very welcome, people regularly came over to check we were ok, had everything we needed, and see if we would like anymore to drink.

Morning of the race leaving the ryokan

"Around 7 hours...I'll be happy with anything around 7 hours" was my answer to the how long do you think it will take question.

The race started on time and ran away from the village on the other side of the river before crossing the river and running back through the town. I was not quite ready for what waited for me in the centre of the town as it seemed that the entire town had turned out to cheer us on. It was as close as I will ever get to a Tour de France climb with the crowds closing in around you, (a small exaggeration perhaps) very, very moving. As was the the local hospital, all the people able to be out of bed, but not dressed and on the street, were on a balcony waving as we turned off the main road and up the hill.

The first climb was tough but I was feeling ok and soon found my rhythm, I was making good time and surprisingly soon found myself at the tori gate at the top of Mount Kirinojo. From there it was back onto the tarmac for a bit and on to the next aid station which I simply ran straight through without stopping. Shortly afterwards we started another steep climb this time above the trees. I had my head down and refused to look up - relentless forward progress is easier to maintain without the distractions of the gradient or how far away the summit might be. But the noise from the the other runners was a surprise.

Every few minutes there was an exclamation, and excited chatter. I kept my head down and trudged on, nearly walking into someone who had slowed to step off the trail. She was facing the wrong way and reaching for a camera. I glanced over my shoulder at the scene in front of her and uttered my own exclamation at the beauty of it. A few steps later I too was off the trail facing the wrong way and reaching for my phone to take a picture.

The running was hard, steep sections of often relatively new trail, mixed with maintained trail and sections of tarmac. Unusually I did not mind the tarmac as it gave me a chance to lift my head and look at the view. Also unusually I found myself doing better on the climbs than the decents.  Some were a joy to run but many were too steep for  me to let the brakes off fully and with some of the longer ones after the 20km mark going on for over 3km my quads were soon burning. One of the steeper decents zig zagged down the side of a the mountain and was a pleasure for the relatively gentle first 2 km of trail, then it was a bit painful for the next couple of km, and then it went nearly vertical straight down a muddy slope with out even a tree to use as a break and anchor. By this time it had been raining for a while and while that wasn't a problem in itself it made the nylon rope almost impossible to hold, the surface became muddy, and staying upright became a real challenge.

The run back down the hill and into the village was stunning, not only were the volunteers out but again most of the town were still there cheering you back into the finish and the last 200 meters was run slapping high 5's all the way back to line where I finished with a time of 7:00 hours.

What made it the best racing experience I've ever had? The people! The welcome dinner was home cooked by the local women,  the streets were lined with people cheering you out, the streets were lined with people cheering you back in, the helpfulness, the joy at seeing us there, the old couple in the middle of nowhere sat on their front porch with their own little aid station for the runners, the number of people who thanked me for coming after I'd finished and was walking back to the car. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, the trail was good and the people were without comparison. I cannot recommend this race enough.

TNF 100 (well 40 actually but whose counting?)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

It didn't get any cooler

I gave up waiting to feel better, for the weather to break and for the cool of autumn to make running in the hills bearable so I went out anyway.
It was very hot.

It took over an hour to reach the trailhead, where I had to sit in the shade and eat and drink and drink
and drink.

It took over 2 hours to reach the vending machine between the golf course and Rokko Garden Terrace, where I had to sit in the shade and eat and drink and drink and drink.

I opted not to take the tarmac variation and ran down the side of the main road for a short distance before hitting the trail to Mt Maya. It was a good idea, it felt shorter, faster and was certainly more off road than on it, the views weren't bad either.

I found the trail down the mountain easy enough but ended up taking a small detour to a very big tree, and then having to retrace my steps.

Ah yes steps, there were plenty of those on the way down from Maya, in fact there was precious little else. It was pretty, wooded, ran by a stream and had lots and lots of steps.

I found myself back in town by Oji zoo and should have looked at my phone to get a better idea of where the nearest station was but instead I wandered for a while until I found a train to take me home.

That would be about the slowest times I've posted, anywhere, ever.

In the 5 hours I was out I drank 5.5 litres of fluid, and when I weighed myself I'd lost another 3kg so 8.5kg of fluid loss for the day, no wonder it was hard.
Rokko Island to Oji

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Home again

And back into the heat and humidity of a Japanese summer. It was another shock to the system, along with the realisation that I was no longer fit for anything. It might have been heat or jet lag or humidity or exhaustion or...but I could not really run for any more than 3 miles. One flat lap of the island we call home and I was done. I also began to suffer stomach problems similar to the problems I faced in Winter Park prior to Leadville.

I cannot explain how unusual this is. I normally have the ability to eat or drink what I like, when I like, as long as it is not just prior to a run.

Then I got sick - flu like sick, achy hot cold sweats, tickley cough.

So it is that 7 weeks after Leadville and 9 weeks before I race in the mountains again I still struggle to force my way round a 5 mile flat circuit.

I did battle round an 11 mile jog/hike, most of which was on tarmac but some was lost on the mountain in the aftermath of Typhoon Talas. In retrospect not one of my cleverer moves, but it did take 3 hours and had me walking sections of the flat path home.

Lost in the Mountains after typhoon Talas

San Francisco

San Francisco was a shock to the system, it was cold and windy, a bit dirty and very urban. After 5 weeks of living within touching distance of the mountains the city was a bit difficult to come to terms with. We ate, saw sites, and shopped. It was an expensive waistline extending few days


The Grand Tetons

 So soon after Leadville I was prepared to sit around, drink beer and take in the views, but then as soon as I saw those mountains I knew I had to get out into them, bears and snow or not.

It was beautiful. We jog/hiked around Jenny Lake and Phelps Lake and then went on a 12 mile hike with lots of climbing, lots of snow, and lots of big scenery just before we left.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Leadville the run

So it was cold that early in the morning, and sleep had been a bit hard to come by, and my legs were sore from the ride, and three of my toes had gone numb, like completely numb (they still haven't really defrosted), and 50 miles is a long way, and I knew what was coming, and I knew it was going to be a very very long day. 

The sign said "Thinking of giving up-suck it up!"
 So I did. The next sign was a little more encouraging.
So I did what it said as well.

The turn around point, half way in under 6 hours.

12 hours later I was back where I started.

I'd done it...with a little (lot of) help from my friends

Now where's the beer?
The outbound splits can be found here Silver Rush 50 Mile Run but the inbound ones got a bit lost in technology malfunctions. Suffice to say that on the way back the climbing was hard, the slog out of Printerboy soul destroying, and the run down to and through the last aid station about as much fun as I'd had all day, until I hit the wall with about 2-3 miles to go then it was just hard.


And so it was to Leadville.

The mountainbike race came and went. It was hard, much harder than it should have been, but then a glance at my training log kind of explained why. I had ridden more in the States in the lead up to and including the race than I had in the six months before. I knew deep down I could tough out any 50 mile mountain bike race and so it proved but it wasn't big and it wasn't clever. Still I finished and that's what counts in the end, for large parts it was an enjoyable grind and for one short (3-4 mile) section coming out of Printerboy aid station on the way back it really really wasn't.
Bring it on!
Bang! Now get out of the way.

I had the best crew!

Printerboy on the way out.

Right that's that bit done then.
Splits are here Silver Rush 50 Mile Mountain bike Race . I should have been faster, I should have hurt less, but then maybe just maybe I should have trained, even just a little might have helped.

Winter Park

Sarah Bob and Linda got out for some good runs and hikes. I stayed home nursing a very bad stomach, which is generally unlike me and again left me worrying about race preparation.
Wasn't all doom and gloom though as we tried to make the race car do a loop the loop.


Yellowstone is a stunning place, it has a bit of everything, there's a bit of the wild west as you pass through Jackson, there are the stunning volcanic pools, geysers and steaming rivers, and then there is the wilderness. Only when we were there lots of the wilderness was closed. The snows were late coming and very late melting, which closed a lot of the trails. Then there was a bear attack which unfortunately killed a man just before we got there. Nevertheless it was a stunning place again with great people. 

It wasn't always sunny. The only problem for me was that there was not a lot of training going on and it began to stress me some as the date of the Leadville races drew closer and I was largely inactive.

Fort Collins

Provided a lot of entertainment, the company was excellent the beer tasty and we got to ride about on borrowed cruisers.
We did get out on some lovely hikes and runs. I stopped and waited for the others to join me when on an early morning run up by Horsetooth I charged on ahead only to find this very large footprint fresh on the path.