After one month of “easy” training – i.e. not sure “easy” is the right word though – I was back on Japanese trails last week-end. It was a good occasion to kick-off my last batch of 2014 races, which will sum-up to about 18 races by December 31st. This number looks very scary and takes on its full meaning when I look back to this very specific race report.
- Date: October 19th
- Start Time: 8:30 AM
- Distance: 34 km
- Elevation Gain: 1,820 D+
- Bib Number: 235
- Time: 03:58:27
- Average Speed: 8.6 km/h
- Overall Ranking: 16/489
- Category Ranking: 11/162
As usual, I left Yokohama on Saturday afternoon with my favorite rental car: “my award winning” Nissan Moco. Bad omen already as my motivation was sub zero as I walked to the rental car. I’ll have to admit one thing: it crossed my mind to just turn back and stay in Yokohama for the week-end. Still I made it to the rental facility and headed to Ichikawamisato where the race would start the next morning.
After a restless and uncomfortable night, I woke up around 6:00 PM as the parking lot was filling up. Same strategy as for my two last races: I had a minimalistic breakfast with simple yoghurt and one biscuit trying to preserve my stomach for the race. After gearing-up, I headed to the bib collection area where each runner was offered a small towel and a tee-shirt. I then filled up my two 250 ml Salomon flasks and headed to the line as start time was approaching.
Placed in front, the mayor of Ichikawamisato sent us off at 8:30 AM. The first 20 runners, including myself, pulled out from the rest of the pack quite quickly on this 1-kilometer road section where one Japanese guy asked me where I was from. As I told him (in English) that I was coming from France, another one called me out in perfect French with no accent whatsoever. What a surprise?! His first name was Nobu, he had lived in France for quite a few years and worked there as a professional cyclist.
It didn’t take long before we started to climb. As usual, I wasn’t aware of the elevation gain before the race. However, I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be a picnic; in fact, we immediately bended off with hands on knees to start power climbing. As a consequence, a whole bunch of runners passed me on those first few kilometers – i.e. I really need to work on my power climbing because I am losing a lot of time on those long steep inclines. One eye on the runners and the other one looking to the top, I realized it was suicidal to start so quickly. And I was right – i.e. mainly because the climb lasted about 90 minutes, and I rarely ran. The slopes were steep, and my motivation to race was not rising up.
We had two aid stations on our way up. I tried to find motivation by eating a bit of bean donut at one of the aids. It worked for a few hundred meters, but faded away once more. I was not feeling well, I was upset to be behind other runners, and I was tired from overtraining. Yes, I realized that I had been over racing and overtraining since January 1st. How would I turn things around? I used my last one shot at getting back into the race by taking a leak on the side of the trail. And, yes! Magic happened!
I finally felt better as I continued my progression. I was alone in the forest – mainly because gaps are usually already made between the top-25 runners and the rest of the pack. Also, I had the impression of being past the 50th place at that stage of the race; but I was wrong! Because I felt better as we went up and down for about 10 kilometers on the ridge of the mountain, I started to produce my effort and quickly lost runners that had been following me for a while. We then started a very technical descent where I let the gravity take me down, which helped me overpass 2 to 3 runners.
I had been struggling at the beginning of the race, but I also knew that we would have to deal with a relatively flat 8-kilometer section; that’s also why I ran conservatively at the beginning. With a lot of interval training during the past month, I put on the second gear as soon as I finished the descent. My pace was better and I caught 4 runners on this section. They looked at me quite surprised as I looked refreshed. It was really hot and sunny, but I knew the most difficult moments where behind me. After 8 kilometers, one of the race volunteers showed me his right, and I knew we were gone for another 30-minute ascent.
The climb started very steeply but quickly became more accessible. I was able to power climb the technical and steep sections, but also run some of the less inclined portions. I felt great and I had only one though in mind: catch up one runner after the other. Actually, I passed one as I reached the top – i.e. he was struggling but tried to hang up for a few meters. The top of the mountain was cleared from the dense vegetation that is typical of Japanese mountains. I knew I still had some energy left and decided to take risks in the descent.
Unfortunately, gaps had been made during the first part of the race. I caught another runner as I reached the bottom of the mountain. With 2,000 D+/D- behind us and about 3 kilometers to go, the other guy was struggling to make it to the end. People were in the street encouraging, and the fact that I was clearly the only foreigner got me more encouragements than other runners. On the last straight line, I passed quite a few runners; too bad they were runners of the 16-kilometer race. I realized that a direct competitor was about 200 meters in front of me, but it was too late.
I crossed the line in exactly 03:58:27, with a smile on my face that expressed a sense of duty done (rather than accomplishment). Yes, I was not happy with my race! But I perfectly knew all the reasons behind such a struggle: lack of motivation due to too much running, fatigue due to overtraining and over racing, etc. I headed to the tent to pick up my race certificate and got a good surprise! I managed to place 16th overall out of 489 runners, ranking 11th in my category!
In a hurry to get back to Yokohama to return my rental car, I ran to my car. I realized that I was fresh and rejuvenated. I actually would have loved to run more. I pulled out to the locker room facility, but realized there were no showers. So, I decided to buy 4 bottles of 500 ml water to take an improvised shower on the parking lot. People laughed as they passed next to my car where I was shampooing myself in my underwear.
As I finished tiding up my car before hitting the road again, Nobu (the Japanese runner fluent in French) came to my car. It was awesome to have somebody who I could talk to. We exchanged for about 10 minutes on a wide variety of topics and agreed to share ride to our next race. We will both join the “14th Jinbayama Trail Running Race 2014” on November 9th.
I’ll have one more event before Jinbayama. In fact, I will try beating my PB on 10K in Kawasaki on November 1st at the “2nd Tamagawa Running Festa 2014”. Let’s keep in touch!