Another week, another race! Running season is passing by so quickly, and I have already completed 16 races since January 1st. Last week-end was back to trail running for me with a competitive and fast race in the city of Sagamiko: it was called the “14th Jinbayama Trail Running Race”. Each race stands out from the rest, and this one was no different: new friend, illness, big fall, onsen, etc.
- Date: November 9th
- Start Time: 9:00 AM
- Distance: 23.5 km
- Elevation Gain: 1,180 D+
- Bib Number: 495
- Time: 02:23:40
- Average Speed: 9.9 km/h
- Overall Ranking: 69/1240
- Category Ranking: 42/490
There was a change of pre-race routine this time around! I did not have to go and sleep on a parking lot the night before the race. This was quite enjoyable! Perhaps you remember my encounter with a Japanese runner (i.e. who is fluent in French) when I ran in Ichikawamisato about a month ago. His name is Nobu-san, and he is a very sharp runner that had a career in pro cycling back in my home country. He is a very nice guy, and we had agreed to share ride for this race close to Yokohama.
In this context, he came to pick me up at about 5:30 AM. It was still dark and a bit cold, but it was not raining as weather forecasters initially predicted. We headed towards the city of Sagamiko, which is about 1.5 hours from Yokohama. The trip passed by very quickly as we exchanged views and experiences of trail running. This was really good to meet someone that shares the same passion. As we arrived at destination, a lot of runners were already there. We parked on the soccer field of a public school and prepared briefly before heading to the departure area.
We collected our race package that included our race bib and a long sleeve tee shirt. We then changed in the tents and went out to warm up. We followed the first kilometer of the course, which was a steep incline on a wide road. We both had concerns on our health status: I was ill for the last two days, and Nobu-san had back pains since he woke up. Anyways, it was not time to complain as race start was approaching.
We both toed the line 15 minutes before race start. The departure area was packed with almost 1,300 runners. At that point in time, I realized I didn’t pack any gel with me; unfortunately, it was too late! I was more interested in checking out all the front runners next to me. There was a big group of elite runners from the Team Sportiva (i.e. a famous Italian brand in Japan): one of them was Toru Miyahara who won Pikes Peak Marathon earlier in 2014. In other words, we were running with world elite runners that participate to the Skyrunner World Series.
At 9:00 AM the starter sent us off on the trail, and front runners immediately sprinted. I decided to go conservatively, well aware of my abilities compared to the front pack. Also, I have been lacking of running speed due to heavy mileage since the beginning of the year. In this perspective, I tried to find a comfortable pace to start the ascent. The beginning was on a very steep road, but we quickly joined the trail. The ascent lasted for about 8 kilometers. It started to rain as I was halfway up; hopefully, we were deep in the forest so I managed to stay dry. We reached the top of Mount Jinba after 1 hour of continuous ascent where I had been switching between running and power climbing.
I had been passed by quite a few runners on the road, but had caught them up back on the trail. The descent was a relief for me and a very good spot to pass the second gear. Therefore, I started the descent on a very fast pace trying to overpass runners on the single track. Unfortunately, after about 2 kilometers, bang! Drama! I felt miserably on the ground after tripping on a root at a speed of about 18 km/h. I scratched my whole left leg, I was bleeding, and I had some bark under my finger nails. With my shin being a bit painful, I stood up and decided to continue. There was no time to complain as I was catching up a lot of runners at the time. Interestingly enough, this gave a boost of adrenaline that helped me continue and finish the descent at a fast pace.
Arrived in the valley, I took a banana at the aid station. We had to climb an adjacent mountain on a 10-kilometer path; so I decided to start conservatively by refueling properly. Some of the runners that I had passed caught me up on the first hectometers of the ascent; but I eventually found a proper pace by drafting behind other runners. The climb seemed to last forever, but I knew it was the very last difficulty of the day. As we arrived on top, I realized that I had passed as many runners as runners had passed me.
With 4 kilometers to go, I hammered down to the finish line. We were back on a very technical descent where I tried my best to push myself even further. I caught a bunch of runners but started to feel dizzy. As we hit the final 2 kilometers, I felt my fingers tangling: it was a clear sign of hypoglycemia. I have been taking very light pre-race meals lately to prevent stomach issues; but it was a clear sign that I was low in calories this time around. Hopefully, we went back on the road – i.e. meaning that I didn’t need to pay so much attention to where I was putting my feet. I tried to speed up to keep my spot in the ranking.
Quite happy to finally see the end, I crossed the line in exactly 02:23:40 on this difficult 23.5 km trail running race with 1,200 D+. The most difficult part was the first portion of the race that saw us dealing with a 700 D+ ascent towards the summit of Mount Jinba. I eventually managed to rank 69th out of 1,240 participants – i.e. I was not thrilled but was rather ok with my performance.
Low in calories, I grabbed a Pocari Sweat and a soup immediately. I was cold, and I was starving! I sat a few minutes and headed back to the tent where I met with Nobu-san. He had finished the race ahead of me ranking 30th in the process. We shared race stories as I tried to clean up my bleeding leg. With commitments back home, we changed quickly and headed back to the car.
Hitting the road, we decided to stop at an onsen on our way back. It was the first time for me to enjoy such an amenity after a race. We enjoyed hot baths for about 45 minutes trying to recover from our running effort. Then, we decided to quickly grab something to lunch in the on-site restaurant. I enjoyed a nice salad with some rice on the side. We continued to discuss about sports and running. It felt really good to be sharing those moments with someone like Nobu-san; but it was also time for us to get back to Yokohama where responsibilities and real life was awaiting for us.
The whole race experience was fantastic for me. I did not perform well because I am very tired with too many races in my calendar. However, the race with its course and organization was awesome! Also, it was very good to share this with someone rather to be completely alone! Anyways, next race will be in two weeks in central Tokyo (i.e. more precisely in Odaiba) for a casual half-marathon. See y’all!