Editor's note: Following report by 2013 Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji winner Yoshikazu Hara, exclusive for DogsorCaravan.com, is translated from our original article in Japanese.
Another note from editor: Yoshikazu Hara contributed his report on ULTRA-TRAIL Mt.FUJI , in which he beat Julien Chorier (Salomon, FRA, champion of last year) and Sebastien Chaigneau (The North Face, FRA, 2nd of 2009 UTMB), to us. He is a leading ultra marathoner with his record 6:33 for road 100km in 2012 (3rd fastest in the world in that year), and selected as member of Japan team for IAU World Championship. In this report, he shows why he started challenge for trail 100 miler, as well as how he ran and won the race against top talents from the world. Please find our articles and interviews on him and utmf below.
Inspiration: Why road ultra marathoner hit the 100 mile trail race?
It was Yatsugatake Nobeyama 100km Ultramarathon in May 2012.
I ran IAU 100km World Championships in Seregno, Italy as member of Team Japan In April. I failed to finish this race, and fell in the depths of despair after the event. Struggled but tried to keep the best fit for coming another 100k, Nobeyama. This 100k is known for countless rolling hills on road, and I challenged myself to perform over comfort zone in this tough 100k ultra.
The result was successful. I won the race with new CR by 25 minutes against previous record. My success in Nobeyama gave me confidence as ultra runner, especially in races with uphills (and down hills). My confidence vaguely but quickly developed to another idea; What if I ran UTMB? Possibly run for podium?
Started to learn qualification for registration to UTMB, and found it was not very easy for me to qualify in six months. I was required 7 points to qualify by December, but nothing yet in May.
My first attempt was OSJ Ontake Ultra Trail 100km, for three points. I favored its 100 mile race for elite runners, but not qualified because I have not run this race before. The race was in heavy rain in July at Ohtaki village of Nagano. After long competition with Kenichi Hirasawa, I bagged this race and got points for UTMB. Next run for points was Shinetsu Five Mountains Trail 110k in September. Not only I won my runner's spot through the fierce "click" competition when registration website opened, but also won the race by coming from behind in the final part. Got another three points after very hot day.
In October, I tried Hasetsune Cup 71k to complete another one point for UTMB. However, hasetsune was unbelievably brutal for me with continuous repeat of direct ups and downs on technical trail. I was so scared to drop from the race at the first check point at 20km. With this DNF, UTMB seemed to go away from me. Disappointed.
In the day after Hasetsune, I heard about inaugural OSJ Yatsugatake Super Trail in November. I rushed to its race organizer to enroll 60km race, the shortest one but good enough for two points for UTMB. Again, I won that 60km and earned 8 points in total for UTMB registration. I was lucky enough in lottery and got completed registration for 2013 UTMB in August, at chamonix.
After registration, I hit another concern toward UTMB. I have not experienced to run 24 hours or more in the running race yet. In December 2012, Soochow International Ultra-Marathon in Taiwan was my longest run for 13 hours but I ran too fast to complete the 24 hour run event. Of course long distance running on trail and in mountains is obviously different from on track and road. I wanted to test myself in 100 mile run on trail, and UTMF sits in perfect timing for my schedule.
The words I repeated on the course of UTMF: "Make it exciting with local Japanese runners for the top spots!"
It might sounds overstating, but I came up to Mt. Fuji to represent Kansai (Western Japan including Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto), as runner born, grown up, and based in that region.
I assume that tsuyoshi Kaburaki, RD of the UTMF, and organizers have done tremendus effort to call in dozens of talented international runners from the world. I thought local Japanese runners should run competitively with those international runners to come up with expectation from the world. When it comes to my personal interest, UTMF seemed to be the best chance to test my limits in such a deep competitive field without traveling overseas.
From last mid December to mid February, I had persistent inflammation in left curf of leg, and injury in left knee, and barely finished Betsudai Marathon (2:41) in February, and Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon (2:37) in March. My training specific for UTMF, trail 100 miler, started on March 9, after Spring marathon season.
My training field for trail and up/downhills is Mt. Rokko. Every weekend after March, I got in Rokko trails and run for hours. To keep speed and efficiency of my running, I sometimes run on road. Loca Osaka-jo Loop 4 Hours Run was one of such effort and finished at 62km. My PB was the same 61km in previous four events. By breaking my PB, I was convinced on my progress in speed on road running.
In addition, on April 14 (two weeks before UTMF), I ran "Dai-Tre" 36km in the 39th Osaka Mountain Challenge on Diamond Trail and finished in 2nd. Gave in the winner, Tetsuya Ohishi (3:21), but again I broke my PB by four minutes in this event. Great progress for the big day. All preparation left for UTMF were to have enough rest to remove fatigue and to organize equipment for the race day.
The race day and my equpments
On April 25, the day before the race, I left office early to move to Mt. Fuji. Got in the hotel near the start gate, Kogakuso, around 9pm. Happy to meet Koji Yamaya (8th this year and 6th last year) and his friends there. It was nice place, and go back there after finish to have rest until award ceremony on Sunday.
- Backpack: Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest
- Baselayer: both top and bottom with finetrack products: Floodrush Power Mesh Tank Shirt (for women: Floodrush Power Mesh TanksShirt), Floodrush Power Mesh Brief Shorts (for women: Floodrush Power Mesh Shorts)
- Midlayer: finetrack MerinoSpin Thermo Zip Neck L/S Shirt (for women)
- Running tights: 4DM UltraLight Semi Long Tights (for women)
- Calf compression: Zamst LC–1
- Shoes: HOKA One One/Bondi S
- Running gaiters: Mountain Hardwear Seta Strapless Running Gaiters
- groves, cut off finger tips
- Headlamp: Petzl NAO and GENTOS SG329
On the race day, I had big breakfast around 10am, taking time to digest and not in hurry. Five rice balls (bought at convenience store near hotel), two bowls of instant udon noodles, and two pieces of pudding. At 12:30, left hotel and walked to check-in around start gate in Yagisaki park.
Weather forecast said sunny for the race day, but it was a bit cloudy and some shower, because cold air came in. At Yagisaki park, some friends and runners talked to me, and enjoyed conversation with them until start. I did not feel nervous at all, even when strangers watched me.
Keep warm with jacket and long pants while waiting start. Opening ceremony starts, and all eliet runners toed at start line, finally. I did not learned very well about international runners, so I figure out only Julien Chorier and Sebastien Chaigneau as internationals.
No trial on course before, tried to understand leading runners calmly
The race started at 3pm sharp. I was very confident on my fitness, but not much confident when I found I might the only one runner with no experience to run 100 miler among top runners today. Julien and handful of international runners are flying ahead of leading pack of Japanese runners, where I stayed in for a while. I have not many friends there, but enjoyed chat with Tetsuaki Nomoto and Koji Yamaya. After cruising first 20km in pack, I realized no Japanese local dear to keep up with top international runners.
I have not run the course for scouting ever. Course maps and some blog posts by runners who ran parts for recce were all pre race info for me. What I noticed in advance was that A3(55km) to A4(79km) looked runnable with no big uphill. As ultra runner who excels in road, I thought I should earn time against others there.
At A2(24km), I heard I was 10 minites behind from leaders. Left A2 with minimum refuel, I left pack of locals and started to catch up preceding runners.
In the steep uphill right after A2, I passed one international runner. I was intimidated by this infinite uphill with some technical part. During the way to W1 and A3 (Tenshi Mountains), I kept passing runners. Before going into the straight downhill, my water bottles have gone empty around Mt. Tenshigatake. So shocked to to hear 8km to next aid, A3. I turned to be conservative by slowing down a bit on downhill. I know I tend to fall on the ground in such case and such fall makes me negative for racing.
When I successfully reached A3(55km), I was thirsty and felt dehydrated, but felt relieved to see my wife, to crew me there. Asked her for 800ml bottle of chilled tea, I was immediately hydrated again!
Started a game between A3(55km) and A4(79km), and passed Julien to lead the race
Shortly after leaving A3, the "flat and straight" part began, and I set my pace up to feel steady. Then I understand why this part looked so straight on course map: It was patrol trail connecting huge pylons under the electrical power line. Short uphill and downhill repeated cyclically, and I found such cycle made me easy to run through with vive.
In the first half between A3 and A4, I found one foreign guy [editor's note: Cyril Cointre (HOKA, FRA)] and tracked him for a while. I ran faster to leave him behind, but he kept up me for about 2km. Worried to be over paced, but I dare to speed up to leave him.
I was successfully passed that guy and left W2(64km) in 2nd. Course turns to be mix of gravel road and tarmac road with low grade incline, but I was feeling better to run such easy uphill. In the middle of W2-A4, I saw the runner with bib #1, Julien.
I was wondering whether I could run with Julien, the champion of the race last year. Catched up him and observed him carefully to measure how much he left fot the later half of the race. He breathed constantly, and seemed to have enough energy to play the game later. As the night went on and altitude got higher, the temperature was going down significantly. Julien put lightweight jacket on, but I did not put any jacket on! Since start, all I did for temperature control was ventilation with zip and sleeves of my long sleeve shirt.
While running with him side by side, I easily go in front of him. I assumed he was not as fast on road as on trail. I was so confident on running fast on road, that I played a game with him. Found that he did not follow me by running faster, I sped up to leave him back! From there to finish, I have never seen Julien, even my lead to him get longer and shorter though.
With running gaiters on, I ran confortable on the sandy trail from A6 to A7(105km). Gaiters work very well to prevent volcanic sands to sneak in shoes. Comfort in running comes out as my fastest run among all runners in the leg A6-A7!
Well, there is no ultra running race with no trouble in later half. In my case, it comes when I passed final hill climb after A10(143km). When I tried to take Honey Stinger from its packet, stimulant to throat made me puke several times. I was disappointed but sipped energy drink every few minutes to avoid dehydration. The course turns to long decline on mix of gravel and tarmac road. My legs hurt a lot, but never stopped running. I know I will be caught up in such final section even with substantial lead if I walk to rest for seconds.
After going though long downhill, video crew on the road told me I have 5 minutes lead to Julien! I was convinced my victory at this point. Keep running strong, and finished my race with great joy.
During the race, I lost the course twice. The first was right after leaving A4(79km). I found video shooting guy on bike and ask him route. I think I lost 30 seconds there. Another lost was after leaving A8(122km) in the morning. I was running in small village to trailhead, but lost direction on intersection. Cried for help loudly, then volunteer came up to show which direction to go. Maybe lost one minute. Reflection of course markers in village gets less visible in the early morning. In either case, I stopped and did not go further until I found the route clear.
Difference between trail and road, and volume of training
In my opinion, trail running and road running are not different sport. The only difference between two is some additional equipments for trail running. Runners can enjoy twice by running on both trail and road as they run only on trail (or road).
I should agree that each runner is good or bad at trail or road. Even though, all runners have potential to improve their performance by running on surface, which he or she is not good at. I am a marathoner slightly faster than 2:30. Monthly mileage ranges in 600-700km. In weekdays, all my training is commuting run to my office, which amounts to 20-25km per day with both in and out. In weekend, I typically run 30km tempo run on road or long trail run in my neighbor Mt. Rokko. I do not very like intervals.
In Japan, 100-200 unsupported runners run faster than I in marathon. Even though, when it comes to ultra marathon (especially 100km or more), runners who excel in endurance and mental strength outreach speedsters in marathon distance.
In UTMF this year, all conditions like fitness, timing, and climate were favorable for me to win. It would be my pleasure if my result encourages more ultra marathoners and trail runners to push their limits.
Contributer: Yoshikazu Hara, M.D.
Started running at college running team at Kyoto University, Japan. After graduated its medical school, Yoshikazu kept running competitively while practicing medicine. His record includes: 6:33:32 in 2012 Lake Saroma 100km Ultra Marathon (Japan) (3rd in the world in 2012), 161.074km for the first 12 hour lap in 2012 Soochow International Ultra-Marathon 24 hour (Taiwan) (Record in Asia). His record in trailrunnig started with 28th in 2010 Hasetune 30k (Japan). He was born on August 13, 1972.