Wednesday, May 16, 2012

STY 2012 Day 2

I took a short walk around the hotel. Today the sun was out. The streets had dried up and you could not tell it had been raining the whole day the day before.

White collars making their way to work.

A very cute bird family near the entrance of Ikebukuro metro station.

Checking the metro map for the route to take (there may be more than one route to a same destination) and the fee.

Morning train nap.

I wanted to go visit the Tsukiji Fish Market .. and have sashimi!!! I bought the ticket to travel to Tsukiji metro station on the Hibiya Line. It would be a short walk to the fish market. It was just 5 - 10 mins straight down the road.

Tsukiji Fish Market.

I saw this after I crossed the road. There was a metro station right at the door step of the fish market. It was Tsukijishiho on the Toei Oedo Line.

Tokyo really has a rather comprehensive metro system but yet at the same time complicated.

A lot of the restaurants were crowded. I managed to find one with lesser people.

The boss was a funky guy who could speak English! I was so lucky! I thought I would need to let my fingers do the talking instead. He was born and raised in Hawaii. He spoke with a thick Japanese accent and was more than willing to teach a few Japanese words to the tourists who came into his restaurant.

The photos of him and his guests on the wall.

I finally had sashimi in sashimiland!

It was so so so delicious .. :)

Finishing the sashimi, it was already midday. I need to rush back to Ikebukuro to grab my luggage. I had a bus to catch in the afternoon. The main purpose of my trip was about to start.

Excited. :)

I had one last bowl of the delicious beef gyudon at Ikebukuro. I had a weakness for good food. :p

Waiting for the train at Ikebukuro. I needed to travel to the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT) at Suitengumae station on the Hanzomon Line. It would take me around 20 - 30 mins by metro. It was one of the main pick up / drop off points from buses from Narita Airport.

The staff from Avid Adventure would be waiting for us at the drop off point of the limousine bus from Narita Airport at Level 1 of TCAT. The bus to Kawaguchiko would depart at 4pm sharp.

This was the waiting area.

In the UTMF and STY, the total overseas participants amounted to about 80, out of the total of 2000. One of the members, Pauline Kitamura, of the organising committee knew that the logistics of travelling in Japan would pose difficulties for some overseas participants (like me). So she set up Avid Adventures to provide transport and accommodation services for them. There were the accommodation packages for the UTMF and the STY participants. If you did not wish to travel to Kawaguchiko by yourself, you could sign up for their shuttle bus to bring you from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko and back the day after the race.

The runners from Hong Kong.

It was very easy to start a conversation with others. We all had a common topic. The race. :)

The UTMF had a "sister race" status with UTMB. Naturally there would be people from the later race to grace the event. The lady with blond hair was Catherine Poletti, the Race Director of UTMB. The gentleman in grey was her husband.

Pauline was present to receive everybody. It was also our first time meeting her in person, after communicating through email over nearly half a year. Finally we can put a face to the name. :)

She handed to each participant a small ziploc containing the information on the programme for the next few days and the support which would be rendered to us by Avid Adventures.

The first page told us where we were staying and our roommates. I would share room at Nagahama Ryokan with Tony from USA and a Ted MacD.

Hmmm .. I knew Scott Jurek and Barefoot Ted of the "Born to Run" book fame would be coming for UTMF. I also knew Barefoot Ted was Ted MacDonald. Now, was this Ted the same as the other one?

I was beginning to feel excited. I may be sharing a room with Barefoot Ted!

The schedule for the next four days. Its going to be busy. Happily busy. :)

Black suitcase: everything race.
Green backpack: everything else.

I thought I had overpacked due to my inexperience but I realised everybody else was similar as me. All were lugging big luggage with them.

Good to go.

Our gigantic luggage behind. The storage space beneath the bus was already filled to the brim.

We made new friends from Andrea from Switzerland, Keith from Australia, Zigor (not sure of his country), Feyfrom Spain and Shine Teh from Malaysia.

This was Pauline.

We were now approaching Kawaguchiko. Pauline went on to brief us in the bus on what would take place tomorrow. We would be going for a short recce of the route in the morning to let us experience how the trail was going to be like. In the afternoon, we would go to Ohike Park, the UTMF start line and UTMF / STY finish line for our racer check-in. We would need to carry with us our gear for the check-in. The officials would be checking for the mandatory items. We need not put water into our hydration bag though. The race briefing would be at tomorrow night too.

So we would need to pack our gear tonight and bring it along with us when going for the recce as we would not be returning to the ryokan. We would be able to take back our hydration bag after the check-in so there would still be time to readjust the packing of the stuff again before the race.

Along the way, we kept seeing mountains and mountains. But when the Mt Fuji itself showed up in the windscreen of the bus, all of us went "WOW!". I had never seen the mountain personally. Snow capped mountain expanding out smoothly in all directions. It was simply magnificent.

The journey was around 1.5 - 2 hours. This was the amusement park at Kawaguchiko. We were joking on the bus that we would come here after the race.

We reached the ryokan at around 7pm. We would stay here for the rest of the trip at Kawagichiko.

My first time staying in a ryokan. :)

Welcoming us at the ryokan was Harry Ohara, Pauline's husband whom we also had been emailing with over the last few months.

We need to remove our shoes when entering the ryokan. This shoe rack seems to look like a trail runners paradise. Hahaha .. :)

My room on level 2.

This was the hall of the ryokan. There were others who had made their own way to the ryokan and had reached before us.

A big route map of the race was laid out in the hall for us to view.

Red sticker: UTMF start line, UTMF/STY finish line.
Blue sticker: STY start line.
Green sticker: Aid stations.
Yellow sticker: Water stations.

This was a 3D map of Mount Fuji at the hall, sitting on a table full of hot or cold water, coffee, tea, biscuits, chips, snacks and what have you. The food were meant for us 24/7. :)

Around the map are the photos of the crew members of Avid Adventures. They would look out for us at the different aid stations. Not everybody had arrived at this moment. Some would arrive the next day.

Dinner was served at the common room. It was a buffet style of western and Japanese food. Every breakfast and dinner for the next few days would look something like this, if not better. :)

Chatting with new friends. We were speaking about the race (what else?). We spoke about the different sections of the race. Those "No overtaking" sections, "No bearbell" sections, "No trekking poles" section. In particular, there was one section which we kept close to out topic. There was a stretch of 27km without any aid stations.

Coincidentally, or rather unfortunately, the most difficult section of the route falls within this 27km as it was across a mountain range. We kept hearing Pauline and Harry said that the region was very difficult and we need to be very careful. They stressed the slopes were very steep and the path along some regions were very narrow. There would also be volunteers stationed at different locations to guide the runners. I remembered Pauline said something like maybe the volunteers would remind the runners to be careful and if we were to fall we die. We laughed when we heard that. In my heart, I gulped.

Returning to our rooms, we quickly packed our gear for tomorrow. Taking out the mandatory items list which I had went over countless times when packing for the trip, I laid out the items on the floor just like a pasar malam. One by one I ticked off the items on the list and inserted them into my hydration bag. The items which I needed most often went into the outer pockets that was within reach of my hands. Others went into the big compartment.

Tony taught me how to lay out the tatami mats. They were so so so comfortable. Hahaha .. :)

Somebody was playing the piano at the hall. I went out of the room and saw it was Shine from Malaysia. I was already starting to feel a little excited about this whole thing. The tune from the piano managed to calm me down a little.

A few of us agreed to go for a short run the next morning at 7am. Luckily I brought extra running gear.

The schedule for tomorrow:

- Race route recce
- racer check-in
- race briefing

It would be an interesting day.

Goodnight. :)

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