vendredi 24 juillet 2015

68th Fuji Mountain Race

Date: Friday, July 24th 2014.
Summit Course: 21km // Elevation gain of approx. 3000m
5th Station Course: 15km // Elevation gain of approx. 1480m

After qualifying last year by reaching 5th station in 1h53, I could participate this year to the race to the summit.

Being quite busy at work recently, I couldn’t train much during week days, but I was doing long distance during week ends. So I was confident with my stamina, but not with my speed. But for a ~4h mountain race, I guess stamina is more important than speed.

However, there is another parameter with this race: altitude. Until last week I had climb only once Mt Fuji, about 10 years ago. It was not a very good experience. Yuki and I were in a group, and the pace was very slow. So we had muuuch time to enjoy the coldness of Mt Fuji summer nights. I had a big headache and needed to pee every 30min so I spent a fortune in Mt Fuji toilets. At least, the sunset from the top was beautiful.

Thus, with the aim to create a more positive vision of this volcano, and to get a little adaptation to altitude before the race, I did a practice session the last Monday before the race. As I’m stingy and not patient, I decided to start from Gotenba Station, which is the cheapest and fastest way from my apartment in Yanaka to get close to Mt Fuji. It took me 8h to reach the top, at 3776m and to go down to the 5th station where I took the bus back to Gotemba (the way up was OK, but I didn’t want to kill my legs with 16km of road downhill). A total of 36km and 3310m of ascent. I was not sure if this would have a good or bad effect on the Friday race, that is if I would have time to recover, but at least, I could get a much better experience of Mt Fuji climbing than the first time.

Then came the day of the race. My legs seemed OK. Yuki and I arrived at about 6:20 at the start place. Yuki tried to get in the race to the 5th station, but it was full after few minutes and she couldn’t register. So she was supporting me again this year. I hope she will be more lucky next year.

When I took position in the block B about 25min before the start, many people where already there. I guess you need to come at least 45min before the start to be in the front. Or do as many people did, coming from the side…After 66th edition, I wish they had thought about putting some barriers, so people coming late have to go to the back. This is always frustrating to wait half an hour and see people going in front of the pack at the last moment.

While I was waiting for the start, Yuichi, who would start an hour and a half later for the 5th station race, came. We could discuss and it helped to pass time and release stress.

Then the start was given, at 7am. My plan was to start slowly, letting my heartbeat increase steadily from ~130 to ~140 during the first few km, then produce more effort from the beginning of the trail. But when I saw the huge crowd ahead of me, I thought that if I was not trying to pass some people from now, the trails would be very crowded. So I accelerated, and when my heartbeat reached 146bpm I just forgot about my plan and moved on. Come what may!

So I was going at a good pace on the road, at least I had the feeling that I was. When I reached the trail, there were more people than last year, and it was a little less easy to overtake, but not to bad, and I was thinking, up to now everything is OK. But time was passing and 5th station was not in sight. Before the race, I checked in what time people finishing a little under 4h (my goal) would pass at 5th station. For most of them, it was 1h50~1h55. I passed in 2h02. I was surprised because I thought I was going a good pace, maybe same as last year, but in reality I was 9min slower. I guess this is the lack of speed training. But I was much less exhausted then last year, so I thought it was not time to give up yet. And my preferred terrain, mountain path, was to come.

So I took a banana (in total I ate 2 gels, a snicker and 2 halves of banana), moved on and passed many people and finally I could see more and more block A numbers, which was boosting me and making me think that I might do it after all. At a moment I caught up with Chris. I was surprised because he is so fast on the track, but it seemed not to be a good day for him. As I was not sure of the position of the goal, I had to keep maximum effort until the end, and finally I reached the line in 3:53:14, very happy. My position among men is 259, and 268 overall among 2500 starter. So I hope I can start in block A next year. This may gives an advantage of 1 or 2 minutes, which is not negligible because I have the feeling that it will be difficult for me to do a better time as everything went so well this year. Anyway, I will try :)

Click on the photos to go to the album

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