Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Journey To Run An Ultra-Marathon Along Historical Road (Rekishi Kaido) Of Kyoto

Let's see...

The plan to run on my birthday started early. I wanted to do something special for my 40th birthday and as usual, it involved me doing some running.

Actually, I wanted to do Craze Ultra last year on my birthday but Hubby said "don't even think about it". Huhuhu

I looked at a few options and came across Tango Ultramarathon which is a Silver Label race awarded by IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) through Runner's Wellness website and after a few inquiries made on race details, race area and accommodation, I finally signed myself up to the 60K category in April this year and to run in it a day before my actual birthday.

A birthday present for myself.

Billed now as an International Friendship Race because there is no border in running.

How very true.
Seeing this at Sports Entry website was a reminder not to take the race too easily.

But I figured, with all my heat training in Putrajaya, I'd be able to handle Tango Ultra. Heat wise lah.

The focus of training for me would be my speed as I am quite (not being shy about this) confident about my endurance but I do admit I am such a slow runner. Plus I like to have way too much fun during my run. Without some speed, I wouldn't get past the checkpoints at Tango Ultra. Its first CP at KM34.5 had a 5:30 hours cutoff and second CP at KM47 had a 7:40 hours cutoff.

Training for Tango Ultramarathon only started after I did my 50K at Route 68 in May and I followed a 16-week training plan that I took from Trail Running UK magazine.

I used Back 2 Endurance 12-hour in June to gauge my fitness to meet the strict cut-off at Tango Ultra, albeit doing it on a flatter route. At that time, I reached 60K mark in 9:49 which was 19 minutes over the 9:30 hours cutoff at Tango Ultramarathon. That was why I wasn't really bothered to push too much for the balance of 2:30 hours to complete my 12-hour run there. The 71.30K that I did was good enough for me although I didn't meet my target of 80K.

I later joined Seremban Half Marathon in July and aimed to do a faster run which I was happy to note, I managed to do.

A week after Seremban Half Marathon, I did Pink 50; aiming to finish 50K within 9-hours. Not anything slower and wasn't aiming to run to finish fast for it either. But it wasa bit slower than comfort and it probably would've been better if I could run a bit faster. Say 10 minutes faster.

A week after that, I joined King of Sungai Lembing 50K, a trail run, just for the fun of trying a trail run and support and helped out friends who organised the race but unfortunately, I DNFed because I was unable to meet the 5hours cutoff at KM32. (Official cutoff was 5hours at KM30 but 99% of runners ran 32K to reach the CP because we were given bonus mileage).

I was looking for another way to train to hit the timing I wanted to do and when both me and Hubby had to DNS The Maginificent Merapoh Trail (TMMT) run on Sep 6th due to work commitments, I signed up to The River Jungle Marathon (RJM) to get my mileage in. I was supposed to do a 51K that Sunday so I figured a 42K would be good enough and I'd "pay" the balance of 9K later in the evening.

Also very happy to note, I managed to stay on pace for the first half of the race and allowed myself to run as I feel for the second half of it, resulting in a much faster finish than target for my full marathon.

So at that time, with just 2 weeks to go for Tango Ultramarathon, I was hopeful that I'd be able to finish it within my target of 9-hours. The official cutoff was 9:30 hours but after much deliberation and calculation, poring over the course map; I thought I should aim for a 9 hour finish.

But the quiet confidence was dashed when I caught the flu bug a week before our trip to Japan. I was still recovering and coughing when I crossed the starting line on Sep 20th! Horror!

Back to the race itself.

Pre-Race Briefing/REPC

REPC, checking-in and race briefing was held on Saturday, Sep 19th at Amity Tango. Runners could also collect their race pack on the race morning itself but we opted to go a day earlier.

Shuttle buses was arranged for runners to get to the race venue so commuting from Amino train station where we alighted to the race venue wasn't a problem.
At the REPC, the family was lucky and honoured to meet-up with Toshifumi Kasao-san from Runner's Wellness. Despite being busy with the race preparation, he was kind enough to spare some time to show us around the race venue.
We were honoured too, to be introduced to Kiyohiro Arai-san, the manager of Sports & Sightseeing of Kyotango City.

At the pre-race/REPC day, runners had the opportunity of making the local specialty "bara-zushi", training sessions with Phiten and later pre-race briefing and even a tea ceremony.

We decided to leave the venue early and didn't linger long as we wanted to do some sightseeing at Amanohashidate.

Race day

The 60K category was flagged-off at Kumihama-Park at 9.00am while the 100K category was flagged-off earlier at 4.30am from Amity Tango. Different starting line but we'd all later finish at Amity Tango.

The weather was overcast with a slight drizzle when we were at the starting line but it didn't dampen anyone's spirit.
The race organiser had provided runners with some light breakfast and we enjoyed some red bean and custard buns, bananas, candies, coffee, isotonic and water plus salt too.

I ate my bananas and buns sprinkled with salt. Salt is important for cramp management, you know.
We were again deeply honoured to be able to meet with the race producer, Yuji Sakamoto-san and Kyotango City's mayor, Yasushi Nakayama-sama.

The flag-off was at 9.00am sharp and off we went. I decided to start somewhere at the back, as usual.
Truthfully, the first 10K of my run wasn't as planned. It was so much slower than what I wanted to do but I figured I'd make up for lost time later.

Although we're in a race, we still adhered to road rules and stayed on pavements and on the side of the road for our safety. There was a bit of congestion, even stops at certain points that had bottle neck but no one around me was really bothered about it.

After all, we still had a long way to go. And I learn later, yes... the stops for crossing with traffic lights were used as an opportunity for stretching by runners and I learn to pace myself to get to the crossing either chasing the green light man or stop for walk breaks when I see a red man showing at the traffic light.

During the early part of the run, aid stations were placed between 4-5K apart. Water, isotonic, bananas, candies and pickles (umeboshi no less) were served at ALL aid stations.

Taking a cautious approach this time, I stopped at every single aid station.
The 3rd aid station at KM16.6 was where we were served a special pear soup (or drink) apart from the standard aid station fueling I mentioned earlier, after running past a beach side pavement and a climb.
I had expected the climb when we got to KM15 or so, but actually we encountered many ascents and descents as early as KM3. They were short though. Short and steep.

While the weather was rather nice and cooling earlier, it was at this point, during this climb that it got warmer. Warmer but still bearable. Pretty much how we felt during this year's RJM.
Looking down, halfway up the hill; at the beach area that we ran past earlier.
And we were greeted with gorgeous view of the Sea of Japan as we slowly made our climb. It was shady and breezy so it felt wonderful to run along this route.
I reached this aid station pretty much on pace (was actually 10 minutes faster) and was pretty happy and still feeling good.

At this aid station, runners can opt to get massages from Phiten care station and enjoyed some udon. I kinda stopped here longer than I planned to. Hah hah
After passing through a village (everytime we passed through a village, villagers would encourage us and I was sure grateful and thankful for that), we ran past another beachside pavement.

At around KM24, I decided to stop at a beach side public toilet. Good thing it was only at KM24 because it was a squat toilet! Imagine squatting after running 50K!

A toilet stop, freshened up a bit with the cold tap water and off I went again.

And a surprise waited for me just 500m ahead.
After exiting the beach and entering another village area, I saw Hubby and Son walking around.

They had utilised the free shuttle buses provided for supporters and waited for me there. *happy dance*

Hubby asked me whether I was on pace and I happily replied affirmative. Yes, I was on target and I was still doing OK. This despite the slow start, a few walk breaks on hilly sections that I hadn't planned for and those stops at aid stations to eat and enjoy the local specialties, enthusiastically given by the volunteers of the race.

It had gotten much warmer as the day went on, and when we ran past farm areas with no shades, the heat did took a toll on me. By now, I approach the distance with a 300m run and a 100m walk.

KM26-30 was a really hot section and what made it fun and bearable was the fact that Santa was running with me. Yes, a fella garbed in Santa suit ran the 60K.

He'd waved at every car that was stuck in a jam heading to Shoku-no-miyako and that made me chuckle.

We entered a farm area, joining bus loads of local tourists visiting the farm too. Imagine running through a theme park-like farm with holiday-goers and you're stinking the place up! LOL

An aid station was situated here, at KM30.3 and I enjoyed some bread and a pink coloured drink they called DNS drink.

From here, it was blissfully a downhill so I just let gravity carry me.
Much to my relief, I finally arrived the first CP at 1.46pm after running for 4 hours and 46 minutes.

My plan was, by hook or by crook; to get out of this CP at 2.00pm.
At this aid station located at KM34.5, we were served the local specialty - bara-zushi and onigiri (rice balls). There were also grapes and pears, along with water and isotonic drinks.

I ate a lot! I didn't want to be hungry when I was running because that would make me lose energy and slow down significantly.

This was also where our drop bags were place and I decided to change into a fresh set of clothes.

The volunteers were marvelous that I didn't need to wait for more than a few seconds. A volunteer had already went to pick up my bag to pass to me as I entered the hall where it was placed.

I took some time in the toilet, washing up and change and later ate more fruits before continuing my run.

The weather was still hot and from this point onwards, I keep seeing runners darting to buy drinks from the vending machines located at the roadside or even some who went into shops to buy ice cream. I too had brought along 1,000yen just in case I needed to buy drinks along the route.
By now, we were greeted by yellowing paddy fields; pretty much until KM47.

My thighs, both still sore from the stairs climbing I did at Fushimi Inari-Taisha two days earlier (clever, eh?) had started to protest so I'd run until they started to twitch before doing a short 100m walk breaks.

We converged with the 100K runners at about KM46 mark and it got more festive from then on.
At CP2, KM47.

The cutoff at this CP was 4.45pm for 60K runners, 7hour and 45minutes after flag-off.

I got here with more than an hour to spare. *do a happy dance*

As before, I lingered at this aid station, eating, drinking, checking out the Phiten care session and contemplating whether to enjoy a quick leg massage or not. Generally wasting time, as usual.

And oh! There was even a small kiddie pool placed here though I didn't see any runner sitting in it. ^^

There were coffee and soup served here too but this time, I opted to gorge on candies since I didn't really know what was served (I forgotlah... the organiser had listed down all the specialty products being served at the aid stations in the participants' guide).

It took me 15 minutes before I finally moved my butt out of this area!

And immediately faced some inclines. Blergh. So I just walked for like 400metres. At that point I was like "I'll walk when it's 4pm and not anytime sooner". Hah hah

Up and down. Up and down.
And later, was greeted by this view. How can I not stop for a bit for this?

From here on, the aid station got nearer - about 2.4K apart.

Even for just a sip of water, with salt added (local salt, no less), I made sure I stop every time. I just didn't want to take any chances. Better slow than not finish.
A final long stop at aid station when I got to KM53.60 and I enjoyed some warm red bean paste soup. It was heavenly.

I figured there was no harm in resting as from this point it was another steep climb that we had to do.

Up, down. Up, down again. Reached the next aid stations at KM55.3 and 58.6 and wondering, "why lah still got inclines to do" but was happy doing a 6:30min/km pace going downhill later. And then, went meh when it was a flat route. Hahaha

As we were left with only 3K to go, supporters were already saying "okaeri-nasai" to us and that kinda got us in a mood to run.

Past villages, past camping sites and we were almost there. And the beat of drums greeted us.
Ran past this street lined with candles and lanterns and families playing with fireworks.

Only 720m to go.

And just ahead, Hubby and Son were waiting for me.
I walked with Son who was holding our Malaysian flag while Hubby sped ahead so that he could capture my finishing photo across the finishing line.

About 100m left, I told Son we should run (he wanted to run earlier but I did not want to obstruct other runners with me running with Son holding our flag so we had to wait a bit to do it) and we did.
We crossed the finish line together, with the Malaysian flag proudly displayed.

And yes, I finished my run better than my target time.

With the support of my family.

It was a great race. Love the scenic route. The volunteers were all awesome. The aid station were generous and wonderful.

Finishing - runners got to enjoy bananas, drinks (coffee) and even udon!

And we got our finishing certificate with our timing printed immediately.

We sure were well taken care of.

Runners who had finished could also enjoy a free onsen visit at a nearby onsen but my coupon was already used by Hubby while he waited for me tp finish. He deserved it.

And we did enjoy a full day of onsen the next day.

Next up - I will share the logistics of getting to Tango Ultra Marathon.

Stay tuned!

p.s. photos taken during pre-race briefing, flag-off, race and finish can be view here

18 comments:

  1. indeed a very nice thing to do to welcome your 40th year.. something that you like to do, some place you love to go as well as with some people that you love and who love you.. now that would probably be the best birthday so far huh?? :)

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  2. surely a nice experience to run in a different country and also to appreciate the different culture.. and oh, not forgetting the yummy food they provide at the stations, hahaha, they are so different from what you used to have here huh?? i love them!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are so generous there!!!

      Here, there was one race organiser who accused us runners as makan like going to kenduri at water stations! :(

      Delete
  3. Tahniah. Wah japanese hospitality at its best.

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  4. I loves the 9th picture, the view of the Sea of Japan...

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  5. すごい!おめでとうございます!よくやりましたね。

    ReplyDelete
  6. Look like a great ultra experience not to miss.
    But the cut off time for 100km is 14 hours, is really tough.

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    Replies
    1. If not mistaken, 13-15 hours cutoff is the standard in Japan for 100K.
      But well worth the effort put in to run in Japan.

      Delete
  7. Such a contrast from what I read when you did a local run previously. This kind of aid stations in Japan with all sorts of refreshment and support really makes you feel more inspired to keep going ya?

    I really like reading your marathon journeys, you are different from most others that I read before. You really do it to enjoy yourself rather than to punish yourself LOL! And good job for finishing ahead of your target time!

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    Replies
    1. Local run and the Japanese ones are so different, even the local support.

      That's why it's nice to go out and experience running abroad sometimes. :)

      I like to have fun when I run. Life is already hard so I don't want to make my hobby harder than it should be. Hahaha

      Delete
  8. you're so passionate about running. Happy 40th birthday

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  9. I salute you, lina, 60km and you ran 8+ hours in Japan. You did it great and this is an accomplishment at your 40s.

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