Time flies and it has been ages since I toed up the starting line of a challenging trail race. Hopefully, it was about to change with the “Kitatanzawa 12-Hour Adventure Race” that I ran last week-end!
My frustration has been growing rapidly during the last few weeks. First of all, the Japanese rainy season meant that my last race (i.e. “Nishi Tanzawa Adventure Race”) had to be shorten from 42K to 26K at the beginning of June. Then, I wasn’t picked to the lottery process of the 110K trail race of “Shinetsu Five Mountains”. Finally, races in Japan are filling up so quickly that I have a hard time registering to interesting and long distance races. Actually, I have not done any ultra-distance trail race this year.
Therefore, my objective of last week-end was to enjoy the whole race experience as much as possible. One of the interesting part was that I would need to go and sleep on-site the night before; mainly because I couldn’t find any hotel room available in the last two weeks leading to the race. I didn’t realize that there would be about 2,000 participants. In this context, I decided to rent a car and sleep in it. Usually, Japanese cars are very functional and have been designed to provide full-flat seats to their occupants. Thus, I showed up on the parking lot the night before after a two–hour drive from Yokohama. I found a spot about 200 meters from the starting line where I was able to park my Kei Car: the wonderful Nissan Dayz! Despite its small size, I have been able to sleep for about five hours during the night without being completely wrecked in the morning.
I woke up at 4:00 AM to have breakfast (about two hours and a half before race start). The sun was rising on top of the mountains, and the temperature was quite sweet already. After eating a banana and a yoghurt, as well as loading up some energy drink, I headed to the race headquarters to pick up my race bib. There were so much people already! The good part is that Japanese are usually well-organized, so I really didn’t have to queue. This wasn’t the case at the bathrooms where tons of people were already lining up. I headed back to the car and started preparing myself as well as all my gear for this 44K race with 3,000 D+. Interestingly, Japanese never disclose the cumulative elevation gain of their trail races; so you pretty much have to guess or investigate beforehand.
At 6:00 AM, I realized that about 500 runners were already ready to go. I sped up and headed to the front of the pack knowing that I would have to wait 30 minutes before running. Hopefully, there was a ceremony with a lot of speeches from various political figures and top trail runners like Hoshihito Kondo. For your information, he is one of the top local runners that won the Nivolet Revard trail race in France a few months ago; and he also finished 18th at the Mont-Blanc Marathon 80K that was part of the Skyrunning World Championships two weeks ago. He wasn’t running with us even if he was last year’s champ in about 04:20:00. On a completely different note, I enjoyed the company of one of Namban Rengo’s French trail runner, and we discussed all the way until the start.
At 6:30 AM sharp, the race started at the bottom of the mountains. We headed for a portion of steep mountain road for about 2 kilometers where most of us were sprinting like crazy. The idea was to get a good spot before the first 900 D+ and 4K climb. I managed to get a decent spot and started leaning into the climb. It was very steep, but I passed it quite easily with hands on knees and shoulders bouncing around. We were all still queuing up as we started the descent. One of the funny thing is that Japanese runners are not taking a lot of risks in descents, and so I could pass a lot of them on my way to the first aid station. Unfortunately, I also started to have indigestion discomforts.
I arrived at the aid station. Despite feeling strong in terms of my running abilities, I stopped and took care of my indigestion discomforts! After losing 10 minutes in the process, I passed through the water area to refill my flasks and grabbed a banana to get a decent amount of calories in my system. In Japan, you usually have a choice of bananas or cucumbers at aid stations. Anyways, I began moving again and headed towards the next difficulty: a 500 D+ with 3K climb. Again, I passed it easily since I didn’t have to stop my progression. I also noticed that I started to be quite alone during long periods; meaning that I was probably doing quite ok compared to people behind me. As I arrived on top, I looked at the race profile and realized that we had a long progressive descent of about 8K to the bottom of the mountain. I passed a grid and made my way down on the wide sand track. I decided to hold on even if I knew that a lot of people would pass me. I didn’t want to risk any injury before my next big objective in Indonesia.
I arrived in the valley after quite a while. There was an aid station providing slices of lemon, fruits and bread; I stopped very briefly and ate some stuff on the go. Almost immediately after the aid, we were asked to turn right to pass on a bridge and across a river. At this instant, someone slapped me in the back – i.e. it was my Namban Rengo’s fellow colleague! He had been rushing down in the descent and seemed to feel quite fresh. On my end, I was curiously feeling dizzy and I knew we were heading towards another 850 D+ climb. We followed each other for about 35 minutes before he pulled away. I was feeling quite weak; probably because my calorie intake was below normal. In fact, I’ve been reducing my intake before ultra-distance race since last year’s “80K Eco-Trail de Paris” where I had to stop for more than 1 hour because of indigestion issues. I am afraid of eating because it really takes a toll on me!
Anyways, I kept moving towards the top where it was foggy and humid. We then ran on a flat single track for about a kilometer before arriving at the last aid station where cups of Coke were being served. I quickly grabbed one, but was denied a second one. With about 7 kilometers to go I rushed down to try and keep my spot. The descent was quite demanding and technical, but very enjoyable after so much elevation gain during the earlier part of the race. I caught up a few people that pulled aside to let me pass. The last kilometer was really hard as I started to feel blisters on both feet. I entered the camping ground where the finish line was, and I passed the line in 06:06:40 ranking 133 out of 1456 runners in total.
I wasn’t proud of my result at the time, but I quickly realized that I didn’t push as much as I should have. Looking at the runners in front, I understood that the race was very competitive with some sponsored runners that are used to run bigger races abroad. Also, it is clear that I need to review my eating habits before joining such demanding races. Finally, I think that I have over trained for the past two months – i.e. actually, I logged a significant amount of miles four out of the five days before the race. At the same time, I felt lucky to arrive intact at the finish line; my muscles didn’t feel sore the next day, which encourages me to continue my quest towards next year 160K UTMF.
This is it for me! I deeply hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this race report. I am now excited to move onto my next challenge in August…
See you at UTMR in Indonesia!