Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Matsuda (Mazda) Ekiden

Sunday March 2nd 2014

Mazda, the car company is based out of Hiroshima, Japan and is the 6th most popular car company here. Would have guessed it was have ranked higher as it is even a very popular car in the U.S.

This Ekiden was a week after the Souja Kibiji Marathon and the legs were not so fresh. Despite not pushing too hard at the marathon, the legs were sore from the distance, consistent pace, and the flat roads.

Saturday did Hiyama twice and some of 88kasho at an easy pace while trying to stay at a very conservative pace.

As usual, woke up early to make the trip into Kure city. Took the hour bus ride to Kure and arrived at 7:45am to meet Kenshu but found out he would be and hour late. Ended up missing him and our other Ekiden team members as they went into the station so made my way out to Mukainada by myself. Running far behind schedule, Kenshu met me at the station and we ran half a mile or so to the near the start of the race at the Mazda company area. Quickly changed in the bathroom into race clothes and checked in for the final call at the number 1 relay section. Like the Saijo Ekiden, I would also be running the number 1 position which I was happy to be starting with all the other runners.

This time the section 4.6km (2.8miles) and made a loop around some of the Mazda facilities before the last straight away section. Bumped into Saijo Ekiden teammate Oouchi-san (who was also running the number 1 section) that day while warming up, he informed me that the last 500m was an uphill. The weather was pretty warm and also very humid.

Jogged some laps around the Mazda buildings for a warm-up before heading to the start line. Ran into another Saijo Ekiden acquitance who was also running the number 1 section of the relay. The legs felt pretty fatigued to a point which I was a bit resistant to doing accelerations or even running quicker than an 8:30min/mile pace. Chatted with Kenshu a bit at the start line. The Mazda employees who were running the first section were lined up on the right side of the road wearing baby blue shoulder straps and the non-Mazda employees were on the left side of the road wearing a white shoulder strap.

It’s funny how each Ekiden I’ve done has progressively been bigger.


There was probably over 100 people starting this race and I squeezed into the side on the left. The race started off and the first few times I glanced at the GPS it was under 5min/miles. Tried not to think of any implications or consequences that would occur from started too fast and was enjoying the fresh feeling of running on adrenaline with so many other runners. About half way into the first mile, was feeling a little bit better than expected and was not entirely fatigued. The first mile read 5:06 and was not far behind the leaders. If only the race could was 1 mile!

After the first mile, had I not been a part of a 7-person member of an Ekiden, would have seriously considered walking. Hah. Knew from here on, it was going to be a battle of how much I could minimize slowing down. Kept trying to run at the pace another guy next to me was. Could tell we were slowing down a little as the legs felt they were moving slowly, and the leaders were making ground on us. Was in 8th or so and the 2nd mile was a bit slower than the first, but thankfully the time was not as reflective of how I was feeling. We finished the last bit of the loop and headed for the straight section that was uphill. It was definitely mixed feelings seeing the finish from so far away. It was nice to know the exact location of the finish, however we still had a ways to run, uphill. Had the legs been fresh, this would have been a fun section to run, as most of the other runners were slowing down. Was making ground of some of the runners who were also slowing down. Felt like I was crawling and was becoming mentally weak.  (Gahhh run faster! …nahh it’s OK to slow down, you’re tired) (mentally weak thinking, hah)

Approached the relay exchange area and saw many spectators. Finally made out Ai, whom I’d be passing off the shoulder strap too. Within the last 10meters I noticed 100 (I guess people call him 100), another Saijo Ekiden teammate and he seemed surprised to see me. Sped up on adrenaline and passed a person right before the finish. Phew. How nice to stop.
Saw Yuki right after the finish and said Hello to her and guessed she snapped a candid pic of me not feeling so hot after the race. hah
Was pretty beat and relieved to be done. Gosh, want to race a short race like this on fresh, trained legs. Greeted the other two Saijo Ekiden teammates who were Mazda runners after they finished and jogged over to meet Kenshu at the number 6 transition area where he would begin running the 7th and final section of the relay.
It was nice hanging out in the sun and watching so many runners go by. Kenshu began his warm-up and got ready to start. Walked down the road a bit to get away from all the people and be able to take pictures of Kenshu as he ran past.
After Kenshu ran by, jogged to the finish line and tried some of the for purchase food they had.

 Walked around a bit and saw another Saijo Ekiden teammate Masaki and also fellow Hiroshima JET, Trevor. Funny how now I had seem almost 7 people who I knew, however didn’t know they would be at the race that day.

We watched a little bit of the finishers ceremony which was held outside and less formal than the ones in the past.
no awards for us haha

The 7 of us teammates walked back to the station and took the train to Kure city. Once arriving in Kure station, Kenshu and I gave out luggage to Fujii-san, ate a riceball real quick and jogged over to YasumiYama. Made it to the top in 35min and headed back down. Just the day prior, Kenshu attended a workshop with professional ultra-runner Dai Matsumoto and had obviously learned some downhill running techniques as he was flying down. Slowly followed behind Kenshu and tried to not beat the knees up too much. Jogged to Fujii-san’s apartment which was on the 14th floor of a super nice apartment right next to the station. The apartment had an amazing balcony with a spectacular view of YasumiYama and the self-defense open area property down below.

We met other teammates who had prepared an awesome lunch for us and Kenshu and I showered quickly before eating. Together our team enjoyed sashimi, make-your-own riceballs with many different filling choices, and some craft beer which was super tasty. Just a couple weeks ago was the Fujii-san’s wedding so we also enjoyed some of their champagne they received as a gift.
After eating, Ai and her friend who are both physical therapists treated us to some body work and massage which was super nice. Really interested in massage and body work and am considering taking some classes after heading back to the states.

The team was headed to play badminton but Kenshu and I decided to hit up a hotspring which was relaxing as always. Enjoyed several hours there before heading back to the station to catch the bus back to Kurahashi. The next bus arrived in 35minutes so Kenshu and I made our rounds at YouMe Town to see our “friends” at Docomo, Tully’s, and some other shops at YouMe Town. Said goodbye to Kenshu and headed back to Kurahashi.

This Ekiden was the 4th I’ve participated and perhaps last for me in Japan as Ekidens seem to be a winter event. Have really enjoyed the communal feel to running as part of a team and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many friendly people who share the interest of running. J

Through these running events, I have been able to connect with members of the area I live in, including students and parents of students, other runners on the island, trail runners

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