Monday, April 7, 2014

Sakura 6-Hour Challenge

Saturday April 5th, 2014
Hiroshima City

Will try to post more pics later.

Reid Landes, whom I believe we met through the Strava GPS website, organized the Inaugural Sakura Challenge in Hiroshima City. This event consisted of the 6-Hour Challenge and the 3-Hour Challenge. Was able to convince my buddy John (Saijo ALT) to do the event together.

After school on Friday at Washo Junior High school, took the JR to Saijo. This worked well because instead of making a 2-hour+ commute in the morning from Kurahashi to Hiroshima, from Saijo to Hiroshima is only about 40 minutes.

Met John at Saijo station around 5:30pm and he took me to his favorite ramen shop in town. There were two college kids working there and it was cool to see the relationship John built with them. We both got oomori kimchi ramens,  With the plan of running/walking for 6 hours the following day, enjoyed overeating. 
had some gyoza after and throughout the meal consumed 3.5 generous sized cups of sake. We hung out at the ramen shop for a bit while the buzz from the Saijo sake named “Kirei” set in. After heading out, we stopped at a nearby convenience store and I got Oden daikon and tofu.

We walked to the nearby YouMe town for some shenanigans.  We stopped at an icecream store where the worker’s name was “Hiyama”, tried on some shoes, grocery shopped, and had a second dinner with a mother and her daughter, we headed back to his apartment and got to bed around midnight.

Woke up at 6am and thanks to the 2 dinners and foods throughout the night, barely felt the sake from the night before and was excited for the event ahead of us today. John kept saying how nervous he was, which seemed appropriate for how new of an event this was for him. He does not consider himself much of a runner and it’s pretty funny he agreed to do a 6-hour challenge.

We headed out of the apartment and it was raining and pretty chilly out. We walked through several of Saijo’s large sake factories on our way to the station and could smell the sake walking through the narrow wet roads. Both of us were trying to cram under a small broken umbrella, freezing our butts off, is now a funny memory.

We arrived in Hiroshima station and needed to take the tram to Central park. Not knowing exactly where the start was and with the time becoming tight, we got on our running clothes inside the tram and scrambled to get off at the right stop. Hopped off the tram running to find the start (wherever it was) and kept our eyes peeled for a tent they had borrowed for the event. After running around for a bit and John guiding us with his phone GPS, we found the tent and ran over to it.  Kept trying to explain to John that this was not a typical method of doing an event like this (not training for it, drinking sake the night before, arriving just in time for the start) but thankfully he seemed to enjoy flying by the seat of his pants, just as much as I was.

Arriving with a whole 5-minutes to spare before the 8am start, met Reid in person for the first time and was introduced to other runners/volunteers. Reid passed out race bibs for everyone in which the numbers corresponded to our event length (6-hours or 3-hours) and each of the race bibs had little messages on it. The cute little things in life!

Reid gave us the pre-race briefing explaining the course.

The course consisted of a 2.6km loop around the Otagawa River in Hiroshima city. This time of year, the Sakura (Cherry blossoms) are blooming along the river and it’s a very beautiful sight to see. Often back in the U.S., I saw pictures of Sakura and never thought much about it but they sure a special sight to see in person.
Throughout the 2.6km loop there were 3 bridge crossings, an aid-station and volunteers to help us out, and 2 bathrooms.

John was not sure if he was up for the 6-hour challenge but kept pestering him assuring that we were doing the 6-hour challenge, half jokingly. With his longest run before being less than 10-miles, he would most likely be setting a new PR for himself.

With the 8 or so of us starting the 6-hour challenge, Reid gave us the GO and we were off.  John and I began jogging slowly with another runner named Boon. He was from Singapore and had recently moved to Japan with his employer Micron. He later told us about how he’s lived all over the place and also has participated in marathons and trail races all over Asia. Pretty cool!

Our pace was around an 11min/mile and we were both talking comfortably. Despite the gloomy weather, our spirits were high and we were enjoying the beautiful view of the Sakura and the thought of the ensuing challenge of running/walking around this loop for the next 6 hours.

Was very curious how John would hold up throughout the loops and miles of this event. We completed the first loop and was greeted by the volunteers at the aid-station with a cowbell and cheers. They graciously had various food selections set out for us. After the third loop was the first time we grabbed anything from the aid-station and it was nice to get some water, oranges/bananas and also some bread.

It was a treat to see the friendly volunteers after each loop and be rewarded with foods/drink. There were many food choices throughout the day.

Reid would occasionally hop in for a loop with us which kept things exciting. John and I kept on jogging away and chatting which made the time go by very fast. We shared stories and it helps that we have similar interests J.

Occasionally I would tell John how far we ran and each time he seemed surprised how many miles we had already done. 

We would occasionally sync up with other runner’s pace and chat with them for a bit as we kept running around the Sakura lined river.

Despite it being a bit chilly and having rained earlier in the AM, by about 10AM (2 hours into the event), people started laying down tarp sheets along the river and in open fields for Ohanami (flower viewing) parties. It was funny to keep seeing the same partygoers every 20 minutes or so and more people continued to arrive.

By about 3 hours into the event, we plugged away at 16 miles or so and were well over John’s longest run of his life. Pretty crazy of him to still be running at this point and be in such good spirits. I remember my first long runs with the Marathon Training Class at the U and towards the end of long runs, kind of just went into the pain cave and wasn’t very chatty. Sure takes some mental endurance/flexibility to be doing what he was and just keep running.

Also at the 3 hour mark, several others started the 3-hour challenge. It was nice to have the addition of new runners on the course. At about 18-miles or so, John took a little walk break while I made a quick loop and caught up to him again. Tried to open up the legs a little bit but they were stiff from the previous hours of repetitive road running. Have not been running much roads out here and with UTMF having a fair bit of roads in addition to the trail, was grateful to be getting in this kind of training.

Caught up with John again and we began jogging the remainder of the loop together. This put him at 20-miles which was pretty stinkin’ impressive. He took a seat for a bit at the aid-station while I ran a couple laps on my own. 
By this point, I was eating mostly oranges and bananas for fuel and stopped eating the breads.

 By chance, other Hiroshima ALTs were having a Hanami party along the river and along the 2.6km course we were looping around.  Saw Erin F. getting ready to meet other JETs and later saw Danny and other ALTs. Was funny to see them and cool that every time I would pass by they would either cheer or hop in and run together for a bit.
Danny hoppin' in for a bit with me
The knees were feeling pretty stiff and was a little worried that the distance was going to be too much with less than a week after the Setouchi Trail race which crippled me for a few days.  Was also worried that this was too long of a distance too close to UTMF (20 days out) but with the lack of training/long runs thought should try to squeeze in one last long run before tapering out.

After doing two laps on my own, to my surprise, John was up and out of his chair and wanted to run another lap. Thought this was hilarious because of how tired he must have been, and after sitting for the last 30minutes, yet he still wanted to get up and keep going. Laughed pretty hard at this because of how inspiring it was. Often times I laugh at strange times and usually it’s a way to let out emotion. Also after running for 5 hours, small things become funny.

We jogged most of the loop together and arrived at the aid-station tent with about 30-minutes remaining in the 6-hour challenge. We decided to walk out the last loop but realized if we didn’t jog we would be cutting it short so ended up jogging the last half of the loop. Saw Boon at the last bridge crossing and we ran it in together to the finish with about 4 minutes to spare. Reid suggested we finish out the 6-hours and it was pretty funny because as it was raining more now, the aid-station now had BBQ ready to eat, and Reid’s wife says, “You can either eat, or you can keep running”. Thought this was hilarious but with Reid’s seniority and report he had built with us throughout the day, we decided to finish it out.
John finished up the day with over 26.2 miles (hahaha) and I did a bit over a 50km. 
Pretty awesome that John does his first marathon distance on such a whim like this. 

Boon suggested we pick up some beers so we ran to the closest grocery store and picked up 2 6-packs of tallboys. It was so warm inside the grocery store. After getting slightly confused on the way back and using Boons phone to get direct us back to the the start, the rest of the others seemed to get a kick out of our detour.

Ate some delicious BBQ, had a beer and hung out by the warm grill for a while after the race. Everyone there was super cool and it was so fun being bonded to everyone from the event that we all did together, both the volunteers and the runners. Thanks to the awesome volunteers who were out there on a cold rainy day, many people ran their furthest distance of their life that day which is awesome. Was inspired by both the volunteers and the runners and was enjoying the delicious food with the others around the fire. We put onigiri on the grill, pieces of bread and just about anything that we could. One of Reid’s co-workers Eric who was “manning” the grill, even put some crackers and chocolate on the grill and Ken’s kids were lovin' it. 
Poor Boon seemed to be freezing his butt of with only wearing what he ran in but kept insisting he was fine. He’s such a down to earth guy and it was cool how much he was helping out after he ran the last 6 hours.

Spent some time relaxing and enjoying the company of the others.
Packed up the tents and said goodbye to the others.
Reid offered John and I a ride to the station which saved us from some walking. Gosh he’s such a cool guy. This event was a FREE event and thanks to Reid, many people were able to have a great time together.
John was pretty beat up and was struggling to walk. Had to escort him across a couple street crossings (actually arm-to-arm haha).

 He decided to come on back to Kurahashi with me to attend the Ohanami party the next day in Kashimi island at Kazuki’s place. Pretty funny that he decided to travel to a new place instead of going back to his home after wrecking his body.

Took the train back to Kure station and met Kenshu and Yuko outside of Daiso on our way to the Yamato onsen. Kinda funny Kenshu was with Yuko.

Kenshu, John and I headed into the hotspring and after quickly rinsing off, stood in the cold bath for prob 7 minutes to try and care for the stiff knees.  After being chilled from the cool weather all day, it was so nice to soak in the hot baths. We stayed for around 2.5 hours rotating between the many different baths at the onsen.

For dinner we went to the cheap/delicious Udon restruant in YouMe town. Got oomori udon, 2 onsen tamago, pumpkin, and ebi/onion fri and loaded up the negi and goma.
 Was super full and John and I hopped on the bus from Kure to Kurahashi.

It was fun to see John’s impression of Kurahashi as we got off the bus and the first thing you see is a small cemetery. It was dead quiet (no pun-intended) and John asked if this is where I brought to murder him.

Slept pretty early and it was nice to have a good night of sleep with a full stomach.

Woke up around 9am and went to Fuji-san to pick up breakfast with John. It felt good to stretch out the legs. We ate our breakfast at the ocean and was fun to just be hanging out by the sea.  Soon Kazuki would be picking us up for the Ohanami party so after breakfast we both quickly showered and met Kazuki at 11AM.

Met the other guests of the Hanami party at Fuji-san and together we picked up alcohol and some other things for the party. Had planned on not drinking in April for UTMF but decided to throw that idea out the window.

Together we drove to Kashima island and John was surprised how far out in the sticks we were. Heading further south from Uwagi, it becomes even more rural and is mostly small fishing towns.  Kashima island is the furthest south point in Hiroshima prefecture and there is really not much besides houses, fishing boats and the sea. 

The weather changed from rain in the AM to a nice sunny day. The guys went out to the garage to prepare the tables, seating, and start the grill while the ladies got the food prepared.

We started having some beers and started the grill. Masaya brought some fish that he had caught earlier that day and salted them and put them on the grill. They were super delicious. Kazuki cooked up some meat and we had curry-rice, potato salad, sashimi, grilled veggies and many other foods. Kept drinking the beers and it was a fun time hanging out along his seaside house, BBQing and enjoying the nice day. It was cool that John made it out to the party and nice to have a friend to speak English together with. Haha. Was playing music from the laptop and it was fun to have everyone listen to the English music. Don’t remember a ton as the night progressed but later in the night Tacchan showed up. Vaguely remember taking out the giant Snickers bar and everyone taking a bite from it. Haha.

Returned back to Uwagi with Tacchan and Haruka and ate more food before going to bed.

It was a very fun weekend and am happy to be enjoying the limited time left in Japan.

Next blog write-up will be UTMF. Crazy! Keep thinking how now I need to be careful while biking to school to not have any accidents. Would be a shame to get hurt this close to the race. From now, will be careful, eat healthy, sleep well and not drink! 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun. I want some of that food you've been eating!