Shikaoi 12K Trail Run : 2014

Out on Saturday the 25th of October for my first ever trail run. Not sure exactly what was going to happen, just that it was very likely to be hilly! With the Obihiro half-marathon coming up in a week, I just wanted to finish without pushing too hard or injuring myself. Oh and not to come last either… Not sure how many casual runners enter this kind of race, after all!

The race started at 9:30am with 18 entrants in the men’s event. The course was flat to start with and very soft underfoot. I even managed to roll my ankle quite early on, but no damage there fortunately! It started to go up and down quite quickly after that though with one particularly steep climb. Hard work. The first water station was at 2.5K, didn’t need it, but took it anyway.

After a while the course flattened out and the trail got a lot firmer underfoot as well. Started to pick up the pace and pass people too. Some people had stopped to walk as soon as it flattened out so I knew I probably wasn’t going to come last. Of course, there were a bunch of river crossings to deal with to keep things interesting. Four on the way out (and naturally, four on the way back). The first two you could just skip over, but you had no choice but to get wet on the third and fourth. Once you got used to the idea that you were going in shin-deep, they were actually quite refreshing!

The turnaround, and the second water station, was at 6K. Was quite enjoying running on the flats, but I knew it was going to get hard again. At this point I passed a guy thinking that I wouldn’t see him for the rest of the race, but he ended up passing me on the climbs. Slightly disappointed about that! I kept him in sight, but when we got to a downhill section he fully sprinted as hard as he could go (kinda nutty considering the trails we were on…) and totally burned me off. Funny though, as I came across him barely even walking and looking completely beat a little later. He didn’t pass me again!

Pretty tough going back up again and even managed to face-plant at about 9K. Fortunately the trail was really soft so it didn’t actually hurt, but it did take the wind out of me. Hard work getting back to my feet as well, wouldn’t have minded just staying there and taking a nap!

The third and final water station was at 9.5K and after that I just tried to hang on without letting anyone pass me again – with the exception of the winner of the 23K event, he cruised past me EASILY as the different races started to merge near the end. Wasn’t too worried about that though!

Ended up finishing in 1:26:49 and came 13th (out of the 18 guys in my event). No complaints there. Definitely interested in doing more of these races, just need “a little” more hill training and a pair of trail shoes too. Definitely fun. Kinda!

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Scored a spot prize as well. Two weeks in a row!

Urakawa 10K : 2014

Rolled into the Urakawa Yushun Village Aeru on Sunday the 19th of October for registration at 8:30am and was impressed with the hot spring complex they have here. Totally wasn’t expecting it though, built during the bubble maybe? Then again, this town might have a lot of cash due to all the horse breeding/training they’ve got going here… Something to look into. Well, maybe!

The race started at 11am and it was the perfect day for it. Neither hot nor cold, but still really clear and sunny. Wasn’t sure how I was going to go in it though. Wanted to beat my time from Asahikawa, but the course sounded hilly… and I hadn’t done that much hill training…

Didn’t realise it at the time, but I started at the very back of the race, almost last, in fact. Passed a lot of people straightaway and was a little worried I was starting off way too fast. Decided to keep pace with Black Shirt Guy to stop myself from gassing out. That seemed to solve things for the time being.

The course here is an out and back (two for the half marathon) on roads that are not usually open to the public and I was running amongst a big bunch of people – until we got to 2.5kms where the turnaround for the 5k was. At that point… everyone turned around and started to head back, including Black Shirt Guy. Turned out the 5K and the 10K started at the same time, but all the 10K runners were further ahead and I had no one to pace against. I almost wondered if I had started in the wrong race, but I could definitely see the other runners further ahead. Kinda strange to be suddenly on your own though!

Just past this point was the first drink station. Felt too early to be drinking (and it was), but I took a couple of sips anyway. From here the road started to very gradually go uphill. This had me a little worried…

However it wasn’t until 4K when it really kicked in. Now this wasn’t that big or steep a hill, but when you are trying to run at pace with not a lot of hill training under your belt, it felt pretty tough. The scenery was amazing with all the mountain peaks in full view so I just had to tough it out and get up there. Managed to keep it together and got to the top (and the turnaround), although I did let out a bit of a grunt when I got there! Walked a couple of steps before letting momentum take me back down. Was hoping it would take me all the way to the finish, but no such luck there.

At about this point the front runners in the half-marathon started to pass by. Pretty impressive. I would have to log a lot more mileage to run that smoothly. Do I ever want to do that? Hmmm, not sure… Kinda like surfing and snowboarding too… They were on the second out and back, as well. Not a hot day, but not cold either so I was starting to heat up by this stage. Pretty glad to hit the second drink station at 7.5K.

From 8K I was starting to feel it running at the pace I had set, but I definitely felt like I could beat my time from three weeks ago. As long as I could hang on, that is. Forced myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and even had enough gas for a strong finish. Got over the line in 54:07. Was hoping for under 54 minutes, but close enough! Really liked the race (more in retrospect to be honest!) and would definitely be keen to run it again. Need to log some more hills though first…

Free pork soup and entrance to the hot spring was good, but it turned out I had won a spot prize for the first time ever. Ended up with a big box of…frozen fish! Not a big fish eater though. May have to share the wealth a bit here…

Two more weeks left in the season. Really wish I could run a bunch more races though. Starting to enjoy it again…

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The only foreigner in the race and he doesn’t even bother to watch me finish. Doesn’t he know who I am? Come on!

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Fish. Yeah. So stoked!

Asahikawa 10K : 2014

Up to Asahikawa on Sunday the 28th of September for the race here. Again just the 10K – not quite up for a half yet, but I am starting to enjoy running the 10s. Registration was between 7-9am, so we rolled in at about 6:30 to get a spot in the main carpark. Didn’t want to have to park across the busy road in the Self-defense Forces carpark again. Major hassle if you forget something and is rough walking back to after the run as well. Got registered, but no names I recognized in the guidebook. So many people living in and around Asahikawa, but only like three foreigners ever take part. Oh well.

McDs was sponsoring this and Ronald was even in attendance. Speaks very good Japanese as well. No accent either… Yet I failed to get a photo with him before or after the race. Every time I tried, he would suddenly walk off in the other direction. Must be telling me something. Never going to Maccas again…

Anyway, the race started at 10am. Thought it was going to be sunny, but it ended up being cloudy, cool and windy. This is an out and back course and it was easy running down by the river to start with. My first goal was to make it to the first water station at 5K without stopping. Took me a while to warm into it, but no problems today. The weather definitely helped!

Walked through the station, hit some Seicomart jelly, before running up the hill and turning around to head back… into the wind! Wasn’t sure how I was going to go on the way back so I picked a guy and tried to just hang on. Green Shirt Guy seemed a good choice and tried to stay with him back to the stadium. At about 8K I started to slip off the pace though. Kept him in view, but he started to pull away a bit…

Love how they kept telling people to run to the left to give the front runners in the half-marathon space on the right. There’s always a few who just run wherever they want to. No big deal, but kinda stupid…

Anyway, after 8K was a bit tough, but still managed to keep running without stopping. Flagged the guys handing out mini tomatoes, but there was another water station just near the end so I took a drink and kept at it. Wasn’t planning a big finish, but I had to break out of this group of five or so people in order to give MHM a chance to take my photo. Little surprised that I had any gas left and passed a whole bunch of people in the process, including the guy in the Uniqlo 3/4 pants and this other guy with a face mask. Allergies? Gotta be tough during a race. Or maybe he’s trying to stop himself from catching swine flu. Who knows?!

Of course, I was DONE at the finish line, but being a 10K, I was kinda good five minutes later – after hammering the Seicomart-brand chips MHM had bought, that is. Finished in 55:28. After a frustrating year, I was just glad to finish in a somewhat respectable-ish time. Decent improvement from Shinhidaka, too. Five weeks until Obihiro though. Can I get this done?!

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Sapporo Ramen…AGAIN…

Went to the Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku in the Esta Building by Sapporo Station back at the end of September and this time checked out Misono (みその). This place had thicker noodles than the other restaurants so had to check it out – do like thicker noodles, after all. However it also had an original miso ramen recipe, which I wasn’t that pumped about. Maybe it was just me though… You also had to really dig through the toppings to get to the noodles.

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Shinhidaka 10K : 2014

Back here for another crack at this race on Sunday the 7th of September. However this time I was only doing the 10K. Still not ready for a half-marathon yet!

Got set to go and was walking to the start when I bump into the guy from last year who kept talking to me in broken English five minutes from go time while I was nervously stretching and not that interested in talking much past name and nationality. After being peppered with a billion different personal questions when I would much rather be making final race preparations, I started to edge away…so he then started talking to my wife. My Japanese wife. In broken English! There’s always one… Turns out he had shifted to the 10K as well. Just my luck! Not such a big deal today, but he did make some kind of comment to me whenever he had the chance though…

The course was different to the half course and we started off in the opposite direction. Not crazy hot, but still pretty hot out. Just tried to cruise and kept to the back of the group. This riverside area totally feels like the course for the Asahikawa half-marathon. Kinda cool crossing over the bridge and getting to the other side where the first, and only, drink station was. (Not four like in Shibetsu!) I pounded my Seicomart jelly drink at the first turnaround just before that though. I couldn’t quite wait till I actually hit 5K. Just got no stamina… Yet…

After that, we were back over the bridge and off in the other direction. Starting to heat up and was really hoping there would be a drink station around 8K and the second turnaround, but sadly, that was not to be. Managed to conserve enough energy that I could fly into the “stadium” (think it’s the local outdoor ice rink) and look cool for the finish though. Well, as cool as I could despite the heat!

What up with this though, they give you a bottle of water at the finish, but there were no stalls at all this time. No one was selling anything! Free mini tomatoes, but that was it. Last year they had some canned drinks on ice, but this year…nothing. This is a local small town event, but they could definitely be making money here. I would so have had two plastic cups of draught beer. Totally. Fried chicken on a stick? Absolutely. Ramen? For sure!

Instead we hit the revolving sushi restaurant and I got my 11:30am buzz on, which didn’t take much. MHM ate all sorts of weird raw fish too. All in all, a good race on a nice day. Worth getting out for.

Getting it done...

Getting it done…

Konbu. Again...

Konbu. Again…

Sapporo Ramen☆

Back to the Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku in the Esta Building at Sapporo Station in August to check out another ramen restaurant. This time we lined up for Shirakaba Sanso (白樺山荘). Didn’t actually drink much of the soup, but it had a stronger taste than the last place we went to here – do like soup with a bit of flavour. Liked the ramen too. They did serve me the wrong bowl first up though, which wasn’t picked up on that quickly. Lucky I didn’t start eating… Or the other person…
People were lining up outside this place. Had to be a good sign so we got in line, too. Turned out pretty good!