Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Trail Races

A few interesting, "I don't get trail races" comments on my last post.

Well, that being only my second trail race, I can't pretend to be some kind of transcended being who has found enlightenment and will now deign to preach the good gospel of The Trail to you poor philistines still wandering in the dark.

No. I am probably closer to that infant state of consciousness of Scott and Jon. And even Bob, who at least admits to enjoying a non-event trail run. But I guess I have some insights and I can feel strange stirrings within.

All I can do is try to offer a couple of thoughts that have occurred to me in the past couple of days. The thing that distinguishes a "race" from a casual training run is that it is an event. On top of that, it is physically very, very demanding, and therefore not likely to be something you will attempt without the surrounding hoop-la of the event. So the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing something very, very demanding, and in often beautiful surroundings, is really unlikely without the event to push/pull you through it.

Like parenthood, these things are also something that you will never, ever be truly able to explain to anybody. You can only understand it by participating. Even to fellow runners who only ever do hard-top races. So there is a real sense of camaraderie and shared experience with your fellow trail hounds (I don't really call myself that, by the way). And this is why events like Six Foot Track and Hasetsune 72 km (this was the first time the 30 km version was has been run) take on such legendary status among those who keep coming back to take on the challenge they offer. I mean look at the profile of Six Foot:

That's pretty awesome. Yet, to me, after running this considerably shorter Hasetsune, I look at that profile and think, Ha! look at those long easy sections: the bottom of Nellies Glen to Cox's River is all clear running, then from the top of Pluviometer it all looks eminently runnable, though the descent to Cave's House would be truly agonizing, as many a race report attests. In Hasetsune you were always either really going up, or really going down. I think in general that the grades were probably steeper than what they would be at Six Foot, yet it is really impossible to compare. Those elevation gains and falls at Six Foot are undeniably big: 250 m at Cox's to 1200 m at caves Road ... this is alluring. Why wouldn't you want to take something like that on? And why would you take it on without the pull of the event?

Hasetsune 72 km literally scares me. And maybe that reason alone is enough to give it a try.

So those are me thoughts on this matter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hasetsune 30k

Crikey, that was hard!

30 km in 4:38 ... that's hours and minutes. Just go back and refresh your memory with that nasty little course profile.

The 4:38 is gross time. There was a 1 km traffic jam from the registration area to the start line and we lost 7 minutes for that. Then 13 minutes into the race we came to a dead stop for another traffic jam, which turned out to be because of a tight scramble around a few rocks in a creek bed. That held us up for an incredible 20 minutes or so. Something for the organizers to think about for next year.

Once we got away from the traffic jam, we were moving pretty freely. But before long, any kind of forward motion was acceptable as we scaled that bloody mountain side in the profile. Talk about steep. And narrow. Just one foot after the other, single file, no great hurry, and eventually it was over. The first 5 km took 1 whole hour!

The next stage though was almost 5 km of fairly steep descent on a narrow asphalt road. We could go fast, but it was hard on the quads. From this point on right until the end of the race we were constantly passing people with only the very occasional pair of guys (it was always two for some reason!) passing us.

We were turned off the asphalt at abut the 12.5 km mark and it was then trail all the way to the end of the race. The climb was tough to about 19 km, with some real nasty little uphill stretches of long steep fire trail, but soon enough the trend turned towards lots of smaller ups and downs, and we could push on a bit and past more people. But always going up, or down.

The final 3 km involved some very steep down hill sections that were pure agony. The cramp bears were nipping at the calves before finally changing strategy and getting me fair smack in the right hamstring less than 500 m from the finish line. I had to stop and a few people went past before I shook the bastards off and got going again to finish.

Had a nice wash-up in the river after the race and enjoyed some beers and a nice big plate of soba afterwards in downtown Musashi-itsukaichi :-) then snored my head off on the train on the way back to Shinjuku. Tired but happy as they say.

The photo shows my main sustenance for the race. A tube of condensed milk: 337 kcal from 65 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein and 8 g of fat. And absolutely delicious. Much better than a gel I reckon, which only offers about 180 kcal and no fat or protein. I highly recommend this to anybody engaging in endurance events. You know, like people who might be about to run 112km.

Tuesday night as I finally post this, and my quads are still killing me. Ewen's prediction of 3 days before I'll be able to run is starting to look a bit optimistic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ハセツネ30K Course Profile

I can see by the rush of responses to my last post that I have really grabbed your imaginations with this trail race. That's good. Let me feed the fury. Here is the course profile. OMG, just look at that sucker! I hate climbing steps...why oh why am I doing this???

Monday, April 13, 2009


A few months ago I somehow managed to let Satohi talk me into entering a trail race, The 1st Hasegawa Tsuneo 30 km. (Photos here from the traditional 72 km version). It seemed far enough away not to have to think about it too much. But all the weekends lying between the time of that fateful decision and the race have now passed. The Final Countdown to next Sunday, April 19. I wasn't all that concerned about it until I got the race literature in the mail last week. The course profile looks something like a dragon's back. I know it is not as long as SFT, but I am not a trail specialist like some. I think I'll be taking it pretty easy. Within the first 4.5 km there is a section that rises over 500 m within about 1.5 km of horizontal distance. Oh man, what have I got myself in for?

To quickly answer a couple of questions in comments:

(1) Hi Tesso, yeah, I recovered pretty quickly from Tokyo, but I have been so busy with work and stuff that it was easy to have a slow come back. In the three weeks since I've logged 28 km, 51 km, and 63 km ... how's that for a reverse taper? I started doing some hills in anticipation of the upcoming trail race, but the only thing I've done is give myself a sore left knee ;-(

(2) Scott, I reckon that marathon will probably be Ohtawara (see my entries for November 23 from ever since I started this blog). It's a great little road trip. Flat, cool, course. Usually beset by fine weather. The worst conditions we ever got was strong winds in 2007. Great venue for the race. We spend the night after the race at a ryokan in the mountains near Nikko -- party and rotanburo. Anyway, give it some thought, we'd love to host you up here for the day you set your lifetime PB.

There's no snow around anymore ... spring has sprung with a vengeance and even the cherry blossoms are all gone ... but on my run yesterday I borrowed the kid's Cowon MP3 player, and at one point I was listening to Snow by RHCP, well cranked up, and, crikey, it stopped me in my tracks. I just had to stop and listen to it before I could keep running. I thought music was supposed to help you run, not make you stop. Pop on the headphones and have a listen.