Rikubetsu Kogarashi HALF-MARATHON : 2015

2015 HM #11
2015 Race #13
Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Price : 1500 yen
Course : Hilly!
Course time : Hard to say…

Out to Rikubetsu the night before. First time to head this way, although it turned out it was quite close to Oketo, where I had been a lot in the past. Read the live blog of the All Blacks-Springboks RWC semifinal. Started to get excited so had to go into the rest area buildings so as not to bother MHM. Didn’t get to sleep as early I would have liked!

Woke up the next day and drove out to the Nissan top-secret test track. Almost got lost. Man, it seriously is way out in the middle of nowhere.

Anyway…we arrived and it was snowing! Oh man. Went inside, registered and got an explanation of the race. Such a top-secret deal that not a lot of race details were available until then. Spectators were only allowed at the finish line…which is the only place you could take photos.

We were only allowed to warm up in this area as well. I almost started running on the course, but was told I couldn’t go there…until racetime, that is. What is with the big secret? It’s just a test-track, right?!

Anyway, it was snowy, windy and freaking cold! Some people were in shorts and t-shirts though. I wore my hooded sweatshirt. First time for that! Of course, I soon worked out that if I had a pair of running gloves, I could have just worn a more normal outfit…

The race started and man was it cold. Not to mention…hilly! The first half of the race was tough. Lots of driving snow as well. The race time limit was 2 hours 20. According to Runnet (a local running site) that is. However there was no mention of this at the race briefing. And, seeing as you could not enter the race online and had to do it directly, Runnet’s information was a little dubious. Most flat, easy races have a 2 hour 30 limit. Yet this was turning out to be hilly and had a 2 hour 20 limit…

I quickly realised I was dead last. There was only 29 people in the race…and they were probably all pretty hardcore if they had entered. Fortunately I managed to pull one guy back fairly quickly. Just had to stay in front of him, at least!

Anyway, kept grinding through the course. Totally like a secret world out here. Street names and everything, yet completely dead, apart from us. Some really gusty winds going into the first aid station and one really tough hill just before 10K, which had a turnaround so I saw all the other people in the race. Had felt very alone since the start…although there was that one guy behind me…

The first half or the course was through the hills and the second was around the speedway. A big, open and very long speedway. Kept on grinding, but it was straight for the longest time. The corner was just so far away! At this point an official car came and called out my name. I assumed to encourage me, but I couldn’t really hear what they was saying as they didn’t pull up beside me. It did lift my spirits somewhat and I managed to pull back another runner along here.

The wind was blowing as I started to ease around the corner, which was also the start of some more (gradual) uphill. This was tough, but I passed a third guy here. According to my calculations, I was looking okay to finish in 2 hours 20. This was a hard course in tough weather so I had ZERO problems finishing just within the course time. I just wanted to finish and keep my HM streak alive! However the car came back and started cruising a little behind me and I could hear the old guy in the passenger seat tell me that there were 3K to go and I had 15 minutes to do it…or they would pick me up. Say what?! According to the 2 hour 20 time limit, I should have had 25 minutes left! Total downer and I could totally see that my HM streak was about to die…

Fortunately I was just about to crest the hill (otherwise I probably would have fallen over) so once I did that I put the hammer down…as much as I could anyway… So I ran down that hill as fast I could and tried to let momentum take me the last 3K.

I was instantly deflated though as after the course flattened out I came to a sign saying that I still had 3K to go. I was sure I must have just covered 500 metres and would have to start my calculations over again. Anyway, I was sure I was done now, but kept on going anyway. I eventually got to the hill leading back to the start/finish line, which I had already been down twice due to the quirks in the course. I asked the race officials at the bottom if I had enough time and they said that there was no problem at all with time. Of course…I didn’t believe them whatsoever! Basically if that old guy wanted to cut me, he was going to cut me. I staggered to the top of that hill and asked some more race officials if I had enough time and again…they said yes. And again…I didn’t believe them.

I was definitely close to the finish line at this point, but had I already passed that vague 15 minute mark the guy had given me? I didn’t know, but I must have… However surely he wouldn’t cut me with 500 metres to go…
At about the same time that I could see the race buildings appear in the distance (not too close, mind you) the car appeared on my heels again. It was irritating to be shadowed like that. It wasn’t like I was walking the course…or even that slow. I held my breath expecting to be cut…but he actually let me finish. I ran the last section as hard as I could regardless and collapsed in a heap on the side of the road with snow falling around me. The three guys that I had passed (who had obviously gotten cut) got out of the car and came over to congratulate me. People were congratulating me despite coming last. Pretty funny!

Then again, I ran a really hard course in cold, windy and snowy weather in 2:11:19. And I almost got cut?! Seriously?!

Most easy courses have a 2 hour 30 limit, yet this course had a very vague time limit that appeared to be strictly enforced. It wasn’t 2 hours 20, that’s for sure – it was whatever the guy in the car was feeling at the time…

I really enjoyed running a tough late-season course like this in changeable weather. It was a challenge and I was stoked to finish. However everything was just so vague (regarding the time limit, that is!) that I doubt I will enter it again, which is a shame… To be honest, thinking about this race irritates me even now…

Woody Bell for lunch though!

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