Thursday, September 24, 2015

UTMF Trip 2015 Day 2

Window view from my room. The mountain tops were enveloped with fog.

The race would bring us up across those mountains after entering the trails.I thought visibility would be an issue up there. The race conditions looks more challenging as we approach race day.

Nagahama Ryokan.

The early bird catches the worms. For these fishermen, the fishes.

Photo from Archer Wee.

The morning run to the small hill a short distance from the ryokan has became a ritual every time we visited. It was to keep our engines warmed up, also to home in our GPS watch onto Kawaguchiko. Honestly, the most important thing was just to take photo on the hill. :p

Photo from David Chung

Photo from Archer Wee.
A nice warm up for the race coming up.

The map on the top of the hill.

Photo from Archer Wee.

After breakfast, everybody boarded the bus to Togawaso Hotel. It is located just behind the start and finish line at Yagisaki Kouen. It was another accommodation housing runners under Avid Adventures. There would be a race briefing done in English just for us. We also carried our race gear along for the mandatory gear check. Bring your money too for the race expo. hehe .. :p

It was trail shoes galore at the entrance. How many can you name?

We gathered in the common area of the hotel. There were many runners from other hotels and guesthouses too. Huge maps like the one we had at Nagahama Ryokan were spread across the ground for us to refer to.

Harry welcoming everybody. He is one of the person behind Avid Adventures. He is the guy you liaise with when you sign up for the support packages.

The crew members of Avid Adventures introducing themselves. They had volunteered their time these few days to help and support us for the UTMF / STY.

Most of them are runners themselves. Yuta, with his hand raised, had just paced another Singaporean runner at the Shintesu Five Mountains Trail 110km (SFMT) for the last 44km. It was held at Nagano and Avid Adventures was also providing support for the overseas runners.

Pauline briefing us on the race and the important things to take note of. She is the other person behind Avid Adventures. 

Lunch was at a ramen restaurant half an hour walk away from Yagisaki Kouen. We proceeded to the racer check-in right after that.

This was the mandatory gear check tent.

Unlike the previous years I was here where they did a 100% gear check, this time they only selected 5 items from the list of mandatory gear. You have to show to the volunteer physically when they asked for it. The items were waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, headlights, emergency blanket and handphone. Essentially, the gears which you surely need up in the mountains.

Right beside the gear check tent, there are these ladies dressed in the Japanese kimonos serving refreshments to the runners.

A bowl of green tea.

Some candies which looked beautiful. They are really sweet I think they were pure sugar. :s

I saw the new TerraClaw at the Inov8 booth. Looking forward to this new shoe becoming available.

The booth of the main sponsor The North Face.

It had been drizzling non-stop since lunch time.

Photo from Hitomi Mikami
On the way back to the ryokan. There was a lot of packing to do. It was time to do work.

The BIBs given to us during racer check-in. Blue was for UTMF. STY was red. We had to have one BIB at our front and back.

There was a new ruling this year. Each runner was only allowed to have one crew to support him inside the aid stations. It was necessary for the crew to be having the "Supporter" BIB in order to be allowed into the runners area. This was mentioned by the email from Avid Adventures sent to us a couple of weeks before the race. During the race briefing this morning, Avid Adventures explained it to us again. I felt that this new ruling made it difficult for the Avid volunteers to support us in the aid stations. We were advised to always keep the "Supporter" BIB with us and pass it to the Avid volunteers (or our own crew members) at the aid stations. This was to ensure that the crew or Avid volunteers were able to assist us by having the "Supporter" BIB. That means we have to constantly remind ourselves to collect back the BIB before leaving.

The timing chips to be tied to our shoes.

The blue card was given to us after we completed our mandatory gear check. It was printed on it "Mandatory equipment has been checked". The QR code sticker was inside the package containing out BIBs. We were supposed to stick the QR code onto the blue card and tie it on our hydration bags so that it can be seen from the front.

This was for our finish line bag at Yagisaki Kouen.

A red flashing light given to us during the racer check-in.

A small slip of the elevation profile I made. This has always proven very useful during races.

And of course, the drop bag for UTMF with the sticker containing our BIB number to be pasted onto the box printed. This was to be deposited at the start ling and the organisers will transport it to A4 Kodomodo-Kuni at 90.4km.

There was also the part on the food. During UTMF 2013, I had prepared for my nutrition based on the time I was expecting to cover each section. I ended up bring too much food which I finished lesser then half of them. Having no other miler experiences, I relied on what I learned during UTMF 2013 and prepared my mojo stuff based more on distance. I brought lesser food this time. I used food that I had tested before during trainings and many previous races.

The food was split into packs for difference locations. Each pack has their location clearly marked on them.

A pack for each of the drop bags under Avid Adventure. The race provided an official drop bag at A4. Runners who had taken up the support packages with Avid Adventures will have additional 4 drop bags (W1, A3, A7 and A8) for the UTMF and 2 drop bags (A7 and A8) for the STY. There was no official drop bag for STY.

The different packs for different aid stations.

W1 Fumoto at 46.5km.
A3 Fujinomiya at 69.6km.
A7 Subashiri at 120.5km.
A8 Yamanakako at 135.5km.

Each pack goes into their respective plastic bags.

I had with me mooncakes too. Not the ordinary ones but organic vegetarian. The flavour is 五仁 so there were five different kinds of nuts inside. The nuts would provide me with the extra energy. These were split among the different drops bags. With the mid autumn festival fallen on this Sunday, eating these mooncakes would give a more special meaning.

This were the items inside my official drop bag at A4 Kodomodo-Kuni at 90.4km.

I had a light weight fleece with me. One of the mandatory gear was a "Warm fleece or warm long sleeve shirt". I would be wearing my 2XU long sleeve thermal compression which can meet that requirement. So I need not carry the light weight fleece with me all the way. The thermal long sleeve compression had served to keep me warm in previous races during cold weather.

I planned to place the light weight fleece jacket in the official drop bag. Looking at the continuous rain, I started to wonder if I should have it in one of the earlier Avid drop bags. I am confident my thermal compression could keep me warm, together with the waterproof jacket. But I also know never to grow complacent with myself and mother nature. Respect the mountains. Respect it's temper. The rain might meant that it would be colder than it normally was higher up in the mountains. Do not take any chances. In the end, I switched the light weight fleece to the drop bag at W1.

The gear for the race.

Later, I switched to placing the 750ml soft flask into the W1 drop bag. I would not need it until W1. That would be the aid station before venturing into the notorious Tenshiyama. It would be for carrying extra water when clearing that section.

~~~~~ Mandatory Gear ~~~~~

This was taken from the race website.

1) Course map (You must download and carry with you the "Detailed Course Map" from the official website) (*1)
2) Mobile phone (you must be able to make/receive calls in Japan with this mobile phone). The emergency phone number for race headquarters will be written on your runner number card/bib. Make sure your phone is fully charged before the race. You may receive emergency information on your phone before/during the race.
3) Personal cup for hot/cold drinks at aid stations (minimum 150cc size). Paper cups will not be provided at the aid stations.
4) Water (you must carry a minimum of 1L of water at the start line and upon leaving each aid station)
5) Food
6) 2 lights with replacement batteries for both lights. Remember that battery life will decline in cold temperatures.
7) Survival blanket (minimum size of 130cm x 200cm)
8) Whistle
9) Adhesive elastic tape/band (minimum length of 80cm x 3cm) (*2)
10) Portable/disposable toilet (*3)
11) Warm fleece or warm long sleeve shirt. Cotton shirts are not allowed. (*4)
12) Warm running pants or leggings or a combination of tights/leggings and long socks which cover the legs completely. Cotton pants/leggings are not allowed. (*5)
13) Warm gloves/mittens and hat that covers your ears. (*6)
14) Waterproof rain jacket with hood & rain pants (both made of waterproof and breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex or something similar; seams must be seam-sealed) (Item 11. and 12. cannot be used to replace item 14.)
15) First aid kit (such as band aids, disinfectant, etc)
16) Overseas travel/accident insurance policy (*7)
17) Race number card/bib and Race IC Chips (to put on both shoes). These will be given to you at the race.
18) Flashing reflector light (put this light on your backpack during the race so that cars will be able to see you at night). This light will be given to you at the race.
19) Backpack or rucksack to store all mandatory equipments and other strongly recommended equipments (see following).

*1 You may download the Detailed Course Maps onto your SmartPhone. However, if your SmartPhone batteries run out during the race and you cannot show the maps, this will be considered the same as not having the maps with you, and disqualified as a result.
*2 Bring strong tape that can be used during emergencies such as injuries (e.g. broken bones) as well as emergency repairs (e.g broken equipment)
*3 If you use yours during the race, replacements are available at the aid stations.
*4 "Warm clothing for the upper body" = mid-layer clothing such as fleece jackets, wool sweaters and light-weight down jackets that create a layer of warm air between you and the fabric. Light weight underwear and base layers are not accepted.
*5 "Warm clothing for the lower body" = A. Full-length pants that go down to your ankles. B. Full-length tights that go down to your ankles. C. Short-length tights combined with long-length socks so that your leg is essentially completely covered.
*6 Wool and polyester knit hat that provides warmth. Caps, headbands and jacket hoods are not accepted.
*7 For runners coming from overseas and do not live in Japan, it is strongly recommended that you obtain adequate travel insurance coverage for the duration of your stay as medical/emergency rescue fees can be extremely expensive in Japan.
* The mandatory equipment list provided here is only the minimum. You will be running in severe conditions for two days and one night (one day and one night for the STY) so please ensure that you are well-prepared to manage your own safety and well-being and bring additional gear that you may need to do so. (You may start the race wearing short sleeves and shorts (i.e. you do not have to wear the mandatory clothing), however you must carry with you the mandatory clothing with you at all times.

----- -----


*Knock on door*

Me: Yah?

*Knock on door*

Me: Yah?

*Knock on door*


It was Vins from Hong Kong. He asked me to quickly go down to the common area. Apparently due to the continuous rain (it was still raining now), the organisers had decided to change the course at two different locations to protect the trails and for the runner's safety.

Everybody was standing close to the map trying to catch a glimpse of what Yuta was marking out on it.

The course was changed between A2 Motosuko (31.5km) and W1 Fumoto (46.5km). We would not be going up to Ryugatake but would be taking a detour around the mountains.

Between A7 Subashiri (120.5km) and A8 Yamanakako (135.5km), the route would bring us up the first mountain and descend immediately. Runners would then follow the pavement beside the lake to the aid station.

Questions were thrown out. What is the new distance between the aid stations due to these changes? Was the elevation change higher or lower after these changes? Some runners from the Hong Kong contingent even took out their own maps and tried to measure the length of the new route and the elevation changes.

What made things a little uncertain was they were only highlighted on At this moment, the Japanese race website briefly mentioned there was a route change while the English website had no news.



The route changes were announced on the race website later that night.

Dinner time.

We could sense the mood was a little tense. There is a big monstrous race coming up tomorrow. The weather is not good. Some of us were still talking about the route changes. Would there be more changes? Nobody knows.

Pasted on the partition at the common area, these are the important timings for tomorrow.

I finished up my packing after dinner. Everything was set. Did I leave out something? We always run through the things we need in our mind many times before the race. Even after having written them down on a piece of paper and ticked or cancelled every item on it.

The route change came suddenly. We may wake up to more changes tomorrow morning. But I did not truly relate to them. Maybe to the elites, it would meant a chance to gain back time for the race. To us amatuers, I could only tell myself that I woul still need to run through it whatever the changes.

It was still raining. Looking out from my window, the top of the surrounding mountains were blocked by fog in the darkness.

You could not control the weather. The mountains has its own temperament. Just follow the flow tomorrow. It would be a new adventure tomorrow.

Now, try to sleep.

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