Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF) 2014

Friday/Saturday April 25th/26th, 2014

Wow..where do I start with this one. It’s only proper to start prior to even moving to Japan to really capture how this race has impacted me.

If someone came to read a race report and doesn’t want all the fluff before, skip to the Actual Actual Race section. I write these more of a personal diary account rather than for people seeking info about the race. I recommend this if you are looking for more of a condensed version:
(Brendan Davies-6th Place Aussie)

So, back in Summer 2014, when I found out I was placed in Hiroshima prefecture rather than my requested (Yamanashi, Nagano, Hokkaido) I was hesitant of accepting the ALT JET position. I decided to accept and knew about the UTMF race prior to coming to Japan. Wanting to do this race might have helped with the decision to come to Japan still. Now I am very grateful for my placement.

Signing up for UTMF
To sign up for the UTMF race required the most extensive process I’ve encounted before to sign up for a race. Like the big sister race of UTMF, Ultra Trail Mount Blanc (UTMB), there is a point qualification system which took into account previous race distances and altitude gain.

•Points for the UTMB/UTMF are based on assessment of race effort and calculated using the following formula: (X) = Distance (in km) + Cumulative Altitude Gain (in meters) / 100
If (X) =# of qualifying points
65 – 89 1 point
90 – 129 2 points
130 – 179 3 points
>180 4 points
Luckily for me, the Kettle Morraine 100 was 4 points alone so I did in fact qualify for the race.
Also, as a foreign entrant to UTMF, I was able to register on a first-come-first-serve basis unlike the Japanese registrants who had to go through a lottery process. Kayla signed me up from Minnesota up back in October 2013 and later received an acceptance notification.

Back home in Minnesota. I didn’t do much vertical training. People from Minnesota understand how difficult it is to train for mountainous races and UTMF one would sure be a challenge. 

Arriving to Japan back in July last year, my legs were used/abused from doing my first 100 (Kettle100) and then running a quick Grandma's Marathon 3 weeks after. This left my legs (mainly knees) in rough shape for a few months and I found myself struggling to get through even 5-mile jogs.  I was worried if my legs would even come back and feel fresh. During this time, I thankfully have a 405m (1200ft) mountain pretty much in my backyard so I spend the first few months out in Japan hiking/slogging/jogging this mountain with slippers/sandals. The weather was unbelievably hot/humid but I felt like it was good to have a different type of limitation.  Got the idea of trying to climb Hiyama 100 times and now am on 90! Only 10 more to go. 

Slowly, the mountain became easier to run the whole way up (to parking lot) and I started doing intervals on the mountain road. Boy that's tough. Mixed up short sprints 30sec on 30sec off, then 30 sec on with full recoveries. These really seemed to help my body get accustomed to climbing and seemed to be low impact on the knees. Made a tire pulling system but only used it once before someone stole the rope off of it. Hah.

The first few months out in Japan, I was also doing a lot of hiking with a co-worker's husband named Kawamoto-san. It was nice to climb new mountains in Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures and see many beautiful places. Through my supervisor Yuko, I met another trail runner Kenshu who lives in Kure and we began to meet nearly every weekend to hit the trails, enjoy onsens, and large portions of ramen together.

Participated in 4 Ekiden races (Kurahashi, Ondo, Saijo, Mazda) in the Fall which helped to wake the legs up from the slow stepping Hiyama ascents. The legs kept feeling stronger and soon I was able to do Hiyama ascents on consecutive days without any lingering fatigue/pain.

Outside of typical running/hiking I was also doing yoga every Friday in Kurahashi which seemed to be helping strengthen my body. My core started to feel more solid and I noticed I was standing taller. During free-time at school I would often take walk breaks around the school and when I was feeling ambitious would secretly run stair repeats At Meitoku Junior Highschool there is a set of 6 stairs and I could gauge the freshness of my legs based upon how many stairs I could jump. For example, if I could only get up 3 or 4 I knew my legs were pretty beat up, 5 was feeling ok, and if I could jump all 6 my legs were feeling fresh and springy.  (3 days after UTMF and back at school I was walking up the stairs and laughed at the site of the stairs thinking how pathetic it would be if I tried to jump up even two stairs.

During the time in Japan, I had done all my runs without my orthotics and have successfully transitioned out of them! Before this had just done 2 marathons without wearing orthotics which left my legs pretty banged up but believe they are safe to go in the garbage now. :)

Commuting to school by bike, I was getting around 50miles of biking a week in and would occasionally bike to and from Kure on the weekends. This was a good change for the legs and a mentally purifying before and after school. The views to and from school were unreal.

I was definitely not getting in the length of runs I would have liked to be but at least I was feeling good about getting in a bunch of climbing.  Started to be able to climb Hiyama multiple times in one day and was exploring more trails around Kurahashi. Some significant runs I had during training were the Souja Kibiji Marathon with Danny and Kenshu, biking to Kure and doing a 21-miler at Kure’s YasumiYama and Haigaimine with Kenshu, putting in 50km at Reid’s Sakura Challenge, and the last long runs were a back-to-back 15-miler on Hiyama and then a 20-miler on Hiyama. Don’t have much experience doing these back-to-backs but sure will be trying to do more in the future.

A few weeks out from the race I tried to do as much climbing as possible in 1 week. Did Hiyama about 10times with some other mountain climbing and racked up 20,000ft for the week. Was pretty satisfied with myself and the legs were fried. The scary thing was that UTMF climbing is approx 32,000ft, which would need to be in nearly a day. Tried to not think in terms of this.

Race week
The week of the race, Kayla and Aunty both arrived in Japan from Hawaii and without going into too much details (for another blog) they arrived in Fukuoka and we stayed 3 nights in Kurahashi, 1 night in Hiroshima and 1 night in Kyoto before meeting Yuki in Shizuoka where we would drive to Yamanashi for the race. It was so fun showing them around and I pretty much forgot about the race entirely from the time they arrived.

Upon our arrival in Yamanashi and the day before the race (Thursday, April 23rd) Yuki brought to an interesting looking restaurant for Yamanashi's Hoto Fudo.
Here we had one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Japan. It was thick udon-style noodles with many vegetables (including eggplant, mushrooms, and pumpkin!) served in a heavy iron pot.
Finished the giant portion of food and helped Kayla, Aunty and Yuki finish theirs. 
After all the race was tomorrow! After we went to the race expo to check it out for a little bit and would be returning the following morning to do the required things.

We went to the hotel and Yuki had told me that she had changed hotels from our original plan. We initially planned on staying and a relatively cheap hotel the first night and then after the race stay at a nice place. This hotel had a super nice view of the lake and the mountains and outdoor baths facing the lake.
At the Ryokan (Japanese-style Inn) we organized our luggage and started the UTMF pre-race meeting. The meeting was briefly interrupted by a delicious Japanese meal brought up to our room.
 Can’t you tell how delicious it was!
Was very excited that the 3 girls would be experiencing a 100-miler and was so grateful to have their help and assistance for the entire race! How lucky was I. Post-dinner pre-race meeting finished up.
After finishing up the race meeting and going in the baths again, went to bed around 12 and woke up 8ish. Was feeling a little run down from the previous week but was happy to get in 8 hours of sleep. Had some goofy rash going on my legs, arms and hands which was pretty ichy. Nothing to crazy but enough to be uncomfortably aware of it. 

Race day
With UTMF beginning at 3pm (late) we had time to leisurely eat breakfast and check out of the hotel. 
With Kayla not liking Japanese food and Aunty and Yuki both have small appetites, ate a quite a bit for breakfast.
 We headed out of the Ryokan and drove down to Yagasaki Park. It was a pretty clear day and we could see glimpses of Fuji-san through the clouds that she was hiding behind. We walked around the expo and did the required gear-check.

 After putzing around with the girl checking my equiptment and finally getting my bag approved, hung out in the sun at some tables off near the start line. 
It was an new experience hanging out and having so much time before the race. Most ultras back home start early which doesn’t leave much time for leisure before the race.

I was quite content relaxing in the sun with Kayla, Aunty and Yuki. All the work of preparing for the race was behind me, had got all the required items for the race (list of 16 items!) and thanks to the help of many others, semi-succesfully navigated a trip with the family for the past 6 days.  Also I was grateful to be injury-free and to be feeling healthy.  In addition, the most difficult part of the race (the waiting) was nearly over.

Near our table there was an ice-cream truck run by a local farmer from Yamanashi. He was hanging out drinking beers and working the stand and we quickly became friends with him.
Going over the pack and items while sitting in the sun. Aunty was asking heaps of questions and you could tell she was started to get nervous for me. Near where we were sitting was a wooden replica of the course.
Ate one last meal before of Udon and let the stomach start to settle.
It was pretty warm sitting in the sun so we found a shaded spot down by the lake.
It was cool and breezy and the late blooming white cherry blossoms were falling from the trees into the lake. The mountains in the distance beyond the lake, the falling cherry blossoms, and seeing Fuji-san peaking through the clouds made for a surreal moment.
 Yuki and Fuji-san in background
 Ahh the peace and calm before the storm.
I knew the upcoming race was soon to be the most difficult physical challenged I’ve face. For some reason, at the same time, sitting in such a beautiful location, I felt the most content and relaxed in my life. Some people (or maybe most people) would say doing 105 miles in the mountains is difficult/crazy/stupid but for me, it’s the sanest most comfortable thing I know. Of course it’s not easy and a struggle to get to the finish, but it’s those feelings that make me feel alive. For me, it’s more of a struggle to put on uncomfortable work clothes, sit on a bus for an hour, and go to a job I don’t love. If only I could be a long distance courier runner 1000 years ago..

After hanging out by the lake for a half hour or so, it was getting closer to the race start. Would occasionally walk around a bit with Kayla just to see what was going on.
 It was crazy all of the people that would be running the UTMF and the STY races. 
I was so used to ultras back home being semi-small scaled that it seemed a bit chaotic with the thousands of people. Bumped into Run+ owner Torobu Tadashi several times at the expo and was surpised at how excited he seemed. Usually he is a very mellow guy but he seemed to be super amped before the race.

Actual Race

169km (105miles)  Clock-wise loop around MT Fuji.
9,500m of climbing (31,167ft) ouch
Within 20 minutes to the start, headed over to the start line and met up with Torobu.

 Kayla was giving me the run down of where she stuffed everything in my pack and it was kind of comical to see how worried the girls seemed about me.
 It was a little bit chilly out but decided to start with just spandex and a lightweight singlet. As far as gear, you could say I had the bare minimum requirements in my pack which visibly showed as my pack looked much smaller than everyone else’s. 
For example, my long-sleeve “warm-shirt or fleece” was a lightweight polyester race shirt, and my long “pants” consisted of a pair of orange arm sleeves that someone left at a race back in Minnesota.  One thing I didn’t skimp on was rain gear which I bought a decent kit from Montbell in Hiroshima from Paul’s recommendation.

With 10 or so minutes to go, gave Kayla, Aunty and Yuki a hug goodbye while squirting Yuki with my tit water. Sorry. Hah. Torobu and I then headed into the mass of people and listened to the prerace announcements in Japanese and English.
Actual Actual Race
It was all kind of a blurr as the countdown from 10 began. As we started there were so many people squezzing in through such a narrow arrow it was almost as if I was being lifted and carried. Quickly saw the three girls on the right side and screamed to Uncle Randy who was on the phone with Aunty. It took a couple minutes before I was able to even jog a normal stride properly but eventually it started to slowly open up. We were running around Kawaguchi Lake and then crossed a bridge. There were many people cheering for us, taking pictures and even many runners were stopping to take pictures (after all we are in Japan) of the beautiful landscape we were running through. Wanted to take pictures myself but earlier that AM my pack zipper seem had opened and I was afraid it would happen again. There were people from all different countries and I didn’t know which language I could speak to who. An hour or so into running and while climbing a mountain road, met up with Paul Walsh and had to snap a couple pictures.
 It’s pretty funny because prior to even coming to Japan, I had been tracking Paul’s runs on Strava, had seen him at the Hiroshima Peace 10km, the Miyajima Cross Country race, and now were were running UTMF together. 
Prior to arriving at the first aid-station, saw the three girls off on the side of the road cheering as they were not able to assist us at the first one.
 Even though it was only 11 miles into the race, they had hot udon for us at this aid station and despite not being very hungry yet, decided to eat and enjoy the food they were offering. Headed out of the first aid-station forgetting to throw garbage outta my butt pocket. Did this quite a bit during the race because would get so excited to see the girls and get some food.

As far as nutrition, this race I bought some Powerbar Gels at the expo and started using them every 45min. I ended up stopping after 7 of them and switched to mostly real foods.

Arriving at the second aid station, Kayla would tell me what the following section was like. More or less, it went something like this: 11 miles, 3 climbs, tough! This was enough to get me in the mindset for the following section and know what to expect.

Cripes its tough to remember much details of the course. Sometime after A1 we started I think our first trail climbing and it was starting to get a little dark.
 Passing from behind a girl said “those are some nice legs you got” and was a bit surprised to hear this. In the meantime I was thinking how nice everyone else’s legs were. We ended up running a bit together until she had to step off not far from the trail to pee. Hah. She was an attractive girl from HongKong but later found out she was not attracted to men :/

The descent was super steep and was matched by a more steep/technical descent.  Many times we were using our arms and legs to aid in getting down the trail. I remember pretty late at night descending down a steep technical section and out of nowhere a camera man is chilling filming us.

Running in the night was a very immediate feeling. Having not done much night trail running during training, I was enjoying the fresh feeling of running the dark trail. For most of the night, I kept just the singlet on until it became too chilly. Kept eating whatever they were offering at the aid stations and it was always a treat to see the girls.
And I owe a big thanks to them for struggling through the chilly nights!
During the night I started running with another guy Masashi Morooka and it was fun to chat with him. For a bit I remember running a section on the road through a residential neighborhood at night and we were with a group of about 6 people. It was fun to run in this pack but eventually we split up.  Prior to arriving at one of stations late in the night, I had been hearing English speakers coming up from behind for a while. I was bewildered at how much energy they seemed to have as I was struggling just to keep bangin' through the miles. They came up from behind and introduced themselves as an Aussie based in Hongkong Michael and another Aussie named Tegyn. Stuck with them for the rest of the climb to the aid-station and headed out of that aid station with Tegyn. We ended up running the next 30 or so miles together.
@Subashiri Aid
@Mizugatsuka Park
It was super helpful to have someone to talk to and run with during the late hours of the night. He’s a cool dude and was fun to hear stories of other races he has done. We were doing some run/walking on the road climb that we were doing and it was helpful to have him brighten up my night (no pun intended with his 700lumen headlamp!) (I think mine is 90lumens on high..).
@ Kodomo no Kuni with Tegyn
We were running a road section and it started to get light out again. It was a revitalizing feeling to take the headlamps off and run but the morning light. We were on pace for a sub 29 race and it was nice to be ahead of the 30hour goal pace.  Somewhere between W1 and A8 (55miles or so) we split up. He flys on the downhills and I struggle at them pretty bad.  This section on the map looked to be flat but it turned out to be a section of steep rollers that followed a powerline course. Arriving at A8 was an achievement as this was past the 100km point. Here I switched shoes from the Asic DS trainers to the Brooks Ghosts. Both of these are road shoes but I’m not too big of a fan of trail shoes yet.
 Ahead was the most difficult section of the course which consisted of 11.7 miles through the Tenshi mountains. Gosh even just typing "Tenshi mountains" makes me cringe a little. On the map it looks like there is 4 major climbs so I rationed my water and food accordingly. The first climb was a steep 900m ascent that seemed to never end. Had to take several sit breaks and let the legs catch back up. After doing 4 or 5 ascents I was hoping we were done with the climbing. There were camper/volunteers who were holding a piece of paper that showed our current progress through these mountains. I was hoping to see us cleared through the peaks but saw that we were only ¼ done with the mountain section. I half laugh/cried when I saw this and thought it was a cruel joke they were playing. Turns out it wasn’t and we kept going up/down up/down through some of the most difficult ascending/descending I’ve ever done. Boy were these mountains different than Hiyama mountain back home in Kurahashi. A few people passed me on this section until I decided to stick with a girl who was passing from behind.

Morooka and I had met up somewhere during these mountains again and it was nice to exchange greetings again. We continued to get through the rest of the course and I was wondering how he was doing physically/mentally and he never complained once. This was nice and it made me try and not complain either. Was getting super thirsty and my mouth was dry. Went down the last 800m (and during this descent he taught me Do-M and Do-S, very appropriate timing to learn) descent as was greeted by Kayla, Aunty and Yuki and the bottom of the mountain telling us that we still had a kilometer or so to the aid-station. 
Just a glimpse at the last bit of descent

The girls gave both us some drinks and we slogged it out to the aid-station.
after Tenshi-ouch
At this aid was pretty wrecked from the previous section in addition to the previous day. We had now completed nearly 77miles and still had over a marathon to go with quite a bit of climbing left. Tried to not think of the finish and just wanted to get to the next aid station. Didn’t eat/drink much at this aid station because nothing was really appetizing.  Kayla kept handing me odd things to eat and was on the verge of ralphing.

Morooka and I left this aid-station together and we were running in an exposed section of pretty flat course. We saw some wind-parachutes up in the air and we could see Fuji-san in the background. Morooka pointed out that we had made over a ¾ loop around Fuji and how great that was. It was nice to hear that and we kept slowly running along.  It started becoming difficult to keep up with him and I was getting more and more sleepy. Decided to tell him to keep running while I took a break. Took off my pack and laid down on a shaded bench. Could have slept for 12 hours like a baby but with the fear of falling asleep, got back up after a minute or so and kept moving. Was disappointed to have separated from him and now had to continue on my own.

It was a little more difficult now to keep going by myself and without the positive vibe from Morooka. Not long after getting back on the trail and nearing the 24-mark, slogged passed a guy who was off to the side of the trail laying down. I asked if he was OK and his response was a slow arm raise. Hahaha. I laughed at the fatigue we were both feeling and didn’t make it far beyond him until I decided to lay down again too. Found a shaded spot out of sight from other runners and laid down after texting Yuki that I was going to take a nap. Not two minutes after texting her, a group of 5 runners came by that included some people who I had done some running with previously. Thankfully, this motivated me to get off my arse and catch up with them.

Needed some energy and was going to use the group of people to wake me the heck up. Caught up with the two leaders hiking up the trail and we all made hiking sticks to aid in the steep ascent with our tired legs. Once reaching the first peak we dropped the hiking sticks and kept going along. I was happy to be in the rhythm of the group and happy to be moving at any pace.

I remember descending with another guy who was also struggling on the down hills.  We both made our way down the mountain before getting to a short flat road section. Caught several runners here and before arriving at the aid station saw Ai who had come from Tsukubu to watch the race. It was nice to reach this aid-station and Kayla, Aunty, Yuki, Ai, and Kellie Tegyn’s girlfriend all assisted me here. Now we were at 86 miles. Changed my socks here and was able to eat a decent bit of food. Ai also gave some goodies to put in my pack before I headed out. This would be the last time seeing the girls before finishing because we only had one more aid station to the finish and crew wasn't allowed there. The second night was now approaching and it was becoming little dark so put on a longsleeve, armsleeves, hat and headlamp. Was feeling in pretty high spirits and Kayla told me I only had 5 hours or so of running left. I remember thinking “What!?! Only 5 hours left” (turned out to be almost 9 hours later until I finished) but was in good spirits at that time.

Started doing the first climbs and was hungry already. Went through my food rations too quickly and still had a decent bit of the section to get through. I was starting to move more slowly and up on the mountain, it was getting chilly and very windy. Was freezing and becoming super cold.  Decided to put on my rain jacket and snapped a picture at the top of one of the peaks of Fuji-san in the distance. 

Thank god I had a decent rain jacket or I would have been in some serious trouble. We were up 1328m and the wind was pulling all the heat away from me. Only being able to move at such a slow pace, I wasn’t able to generate much body heat which kept me from staying warm.

At some point during the first couple climbs, I met Morooka again on the descent and it was nice to move along together with a familiar face. It was funny how many times throughout the course we had gone back and forth with each other and here we were again at about 90+ miles together. After getting down the last climb, we ran through some trail section before popping out onto a long road stretch. Unfortunately here we were both pretty tired and walked most of this section. We got passed by a bunch of runners here and might have been able to slow jog myself but it was much more comfortable to be with someone else during this fatigued state at 95+ miles.  Put on my rain pants during this road stretch and could not get warm. Was almost too cold to talk and we saw a road sign that showed the temp was 2 degrees C.  On our right side we saw signs for the Aokigahara Jukai which is the famous suicide forest. Scary.

It felt like we were walking for years and the feet hurt just to step forward. We finally reached the last aid-station and sat down together drinking warm tea and the aid-station staff assisted us.  It felt so comfortable to sit down for a bit at the 98-mile mark. Looked back at the limited food selection choices and to my surprise saw Paul Walsh again! I thought he had finished hours earlier and it was nice to see him in good spirits.

Heading out of the last aid station, we only had 7 miles to the finish and we were 3 men "strong". My legs had suddenly came back and the feet were not that sore. We were able to jog and at a decent pace. I took off the top rain coat as I was starting to generate more body heat and warm up.

From what I had guessed from the map, I had thought this section was not too difficult but it turned out to be more so than expected. Morooka and Paul both seemed to be feeling good and they both sped up in front of me. I got passed by several runners in the meantime as I lingered back and tried to run within myself. Paul ended up slowing up and offered me his extra headlamp as my cheapo wasn’t so bright (will be buying a new headlamp soon). With a stronger headlamp, Paul and I continued running/hiking/walking together and he would wait up for me on the descents. It was funny because at one point after him turning back to see why I was going so slow, he says, “don’t you get any descent practice back on Hiyama?”I laughed at this because it probably did look like it was my first time ever trying to run down a mountain trail but my legs were just so so so fried. Wanted to take off the rain pants but didn't want to slow Paul up anymore.

We would keep going up, then down a little then up and finally we were on our last descent. We could see several lakes below us coming down from Ashiwada mountain and we were hackin our way through the last bit of stairs. Once finally reaching the road, we were greeted by Ai and Kenshu who both ran it in together with us. It felt like we were cruising at a sub 7min/mile but my GPS confirmed it was actually more like a 10:30min/mile pace. Hah.

It was such a relief to be done with the last 9500m of climbing and descending. Ouch. The last 100 I did I ran as fast as I could for the last 7 miles or so but for UTMF I was more than content with leisurely running into the finish. We could see the lights at the finish in Yagasaki Park and Paul and I crossed the finish together in 33 hours 7 minutes and 55 seconds. 
We were greeted by race director Tsuyoshi Kaburaki and I gave him a big hug. He asked where I was from and we chatted w/ him for a little.
Gave hugs to the girls and Aunty gave me the stink eye for being so slow and the last sections and making them worry. Felt bad for making them wait so long without knowing what was taking me so long. Went to get a quick massage (ended up being an hour) after in the massage tent and was freezing my butt off. Was shaking until the volunteer put a bunch of blankets on me.  After settling into the table, quickly fell asleep facing down and was later woken by the volunteer. Hobbled off the table and limped to find the girls who had been waiting again. Sorry L

Yuki drove us back to the Mizuno Ryokan and I was bone chilled. Tried to take a shower inside room but only became more cold as the shower pressure was pretty low. Decided to try and go to the hot spring and Yuki escorted me there. Was in terrible condition and could barely walk. My body tightened up very quickly and was not working well. The left ankle and lower shin was abnormally tight and I was worried I might have an injury. There was one other guy using the hot spring and I comically wondered what he thought of this dysfunctional foreigner trying to clean himself. After washing off, went into one of the baths and stuck my legs out of the water to not accelerate the inflammation any more than was already occurring (made that mistake after Superior 50).

After warming up the body went back to the showers and put two shower heads using only cold water on the legs for a bit. Felt good. After struggling to dry off and put a Japanese style robe on, I started hobbling out of the hot spring realizing I had no idea where the room was. Luckily, Yuki had anticipated this and found me and brought us back to the room. The Ryokan was quiet and dark as it was almost Midnight.

Here she was preparing the dinner that the hotel had left for us as we missed our mealtime earlier on. The room was dark and lit from the fire heading the foods on the mini cookers.
 Again with Kayla not liking Japanese food and Aunty/Yuki not eating much, ate a very generous portion of sashimi and other foods. After the meal fell asleep within a couple minutes and had probably the deepest night sleep of my life until waking up at 8 or so in the AM. Was greeted by a million dollar view out the window of our room with a crisp clear day and Fuji-san in full site across the lake. 
Wow. It was a shame we couldn’t spend the next week here relaxing. We went down to the breakfast area and I was already starving. 
Ate a ton again and was so grateful to be eating such delicious and nutritious foods. We were notified by hotel staff that Kenshu was waiting for us in the lobby. After we finished we met up with him and went up to the room to pack up our stuff before checking out. Kenshu gave Kayla his NorthFace UTMF volunteer jacket and she was ecstatic about it.

We checked out of the hotel and went back to Yagasaki Park to watch the finishers. 
It was another beautiful day and so nice to hang out in the sun, have some beers, ice-cream and chill.

Feet and her jacket
Ran into Tegyn, Kellie in the AM 
don't know how he's wearing shoes already
Aunty and the Yamanashi farmer's ice-cream stand again. :)
We snapped some pics of Fuji before leaving and heading to Tokyo where Yuki was dropping Kayla and I off. We ate lunch at the Tokyo Tower and then Yuki dropped us off in Shibuya at the APA Hotel on Dougenzaka street. In the next few days here we walked around Shibuya, Harajuku, Yoyogi Park, Meijijingu met Shuji/Ichiro one night and Kody the next day. It was so special to see the exchange UMN students for the first time in such a long time. Pretty cool how our friendships can last through time and distance.

Even now almost 3 weeks past UTMF, it still seems a bit surreal that the race is over. Prior to the race, everyday, every few minutes, UTMF and Kayla/Aunty’s visit to Japan was in my mind. Everytime I ran, I imagined what it would be like to be running during UTMF.  Crazy to have finished this race and I’m grateful for how well everything worked out thanks to the help of many people.

I’m so grateful Kayla/Aunty came out to watch this race. It was overwhelmingly exciting meeting them in Fukuoka and getting to show them around Japan. They are such good sports for putting up the ringer I sent them through which was I’m sure for them, cruel and unusual at times.
Yuki was an extreme help in the planning of everything that went down in Yamanashi. She picked us up from Shizuoka and drove us to Yamanashi, drove the entire course with the girls, and picked out the hotels for us to stay at.
So many other people helped out during Kayla/Aunty’s stay I would need a whole separate blog post but instead I’ll briefly mention.

Thanks to the Morimoto family for picking us up in Hiroshima and treating us to a spectacular Japanese meal in Kure. And for the breakfast foods for the morning of the 88kasho hike. Also for driving out to Hiroshima to say goodbye to Kayla while we were karaoking and then paying for our karaoke room of 6 people.
Thank you Matsumura family for inviting us to dinner on Kashima island and preparing a wonderful dinner. It will be fun to have you guys in Minnesota in the near future!
Ishihama Sensei for having us over for dinner and showing the girls Japanese culture (kimono/tea ceremony). And for borrowing us futons.
Murata family for having us over and taking us to Hiroshima city.
Okada Koto for helping out with the Kyoto trip and taking Kayla to the onsen for the first time.
Kiyooka-san for giving us fresh vegetables to eat and doing 88kasho.

Meitoku JHS for letting us teach a class and enjoy lunch together
And many other people and friends that made this experience so special. Am inspired to give back to people as much as everyone has gave us.

Post Race
3 weeks out from the race and I am still feeling some lingering pains and tightness but nothing of any concern. Have not done any substantial running and just have been jogging /biking/hiking. Doing the 88Kasho course two days in a row for course marking and clean-up was a good test of my recovery and the verdict is: need more time to rest.  Have been eating just about anything the last few weeks.

Before the race I ate no sweets/treats/cookies/candies anything bad from January to April (aside from a drunk bite of a snickers bar hah).  On one side, it was difficult to avoid all the situations when presented with sweets and sometimes required me to stealthfully pretend to eat something and either hide it or throw it away. On the other side though, it was easy to not eat any sweets during this time because I didn't have the option to.  Will be getting back on a schedule soon here.

It’s kind of a bummer to have the UTMF experience, family trip, and now the 88Kasho event behind me but they are now special memories that I can reflect and learn from when making new memories in the future. I hope to run UTMF in the future and will need to do a lot more mountain training beforehand.

Trying to enjoy the remaining time here and am getting a little worried about how much I will miss my life here in Japan. On to figure out what is next.

As far as running goes, Morimoto sensei invited me to relay race in Etajima this weekend so will be running in that. Will be running pretty conservatively because don't want to make the same mistake last year and race too quickly after a hundo.

May 18th- Etajima Relay (Ended up going to Kurahashi`s Sports Day instead)
June 1st- Kabe Renzan Trail 22km
July 20th- Kurahashi Aquathon
July 25th-Fuji Ascent Race

In the meantime,  I will be doing some slow jogging/hiking mountains, swimming and getting ready for the Kurahashi Aquathon and enjoying the rest of the time here. This was an awfully tough blog to write because I feel I had to capture much of my Japanese experience here as I’ve neglected to post much on the JET blog but ya..

Not sure which 100 is next for me but plan on pacing Jeremy at the Superior100 back home in Minnesota.

Crazy 3 months and I’ll be back home..

How to end this blog..?



UTMF Equipment:
Shoes- Asics DS Trainers 17/ Brooks Ghost
Pack- Salomon Sense fit 1L H20
Montbell Versalite Rain Gear
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Nike Spandex
Everything else kinda cheap or freebies 


  1. Way to go Jordan!! Ugh- my legs are starting to hurt again just thinking about the race. and I did half of what you did :) Leah

    1. Leah, haha my legs are hurting thinking about how fast you ran. I only ran half as fast as you!

  2. Was awesome reading your story knowing how important it was to you and hearing about it during our runs together leading up to race day. Looking forward to our future runs together in these last couple months, man!

    1. Danny boy,

      Excited to hit the mountains together and look forward to tracking your progress in running.

  3. Hello Jordan,

    Amazing entry! I just saw the 2015 UTMF program on television and it really inspired me to register. I have been trying to understand the qualifications and the points and everything, but I am not really sure how it works. Can you give me a detailed account of how you qualified and registered?

  4. Lam,

    It can be a bit of a process to figure out the registration!

    For UTMF 2016 the registration notes have not been posted and I've heard that they are requiring 6 points for UTMF 2016.
    Refer to this in the meantime while waiting for them to post about UTMF 2016.

    GOOD LUCK and I look forward to reading your UTMF 2016 report. :)