Monday, May 25, 2009

Oxfam trailwalker 100k hike: Legs like dogmeat

2 days after completing my first 100k trailwalker thru an extremely difficult course in Hakone, my legs are still feeling like dogmeat. Perhaps it was the 4 weeks in a row of racing triathlons, half-marathons, and 10ks. Or that 5 hour 40 minute, 18k climb in the dark rain on Friday night. Whatever the case, I think the numbers better explain the journey.

Here they are:

9k: 1:56:10
CP1 break: 11:00
9k: 2:15:30
CP2 break: 31:34
5.5k: 1:03:13
CP3 break 33:48
12.5k: 1:59:51
CP4 break: 54:17
18k: 5:41:03
CP5 sleep: 3:53:41
9.5k: 2:03:14
CP6 break: 1:26:18
16k: 3:57:56
CP7 break: 1:39:13
13.5k: 3:48:01
CP8 break: 19:14
7k: 1:53:59

Total time: 34:14:02

Total break time: 9:31:43

Total hiking time: 24:44:47

Average hiking speed: 4.1 kph

Average speed including breaks: 2.9 kph

41st out of 119 teams**

**only 3 members

The course was fairly tough. And frustrating. I felt I had plenty of stamina in my lungs and was comfortable climbing past non-runners on the difficult ascents. The problem for me was my calves. I had severe tightness in my left calf just behind my knee from CP4 on to the finish. (the course consists of 8 checkpoints (CP), so about every 12k there is a check point where you can load up on calories, pop a squat, stretch the legs, etc.).

I was roped into the Mitsui Fudosan team at the last minute. My comrades were Kaga san, Iwamoto san, and Su san.

CP1-CP3 we buzzed along at a rapid pace...too fast actually. Mr. Su from China got cramps almost immediately after CP1. I thought we should slowdown the pace but we pressed on at a 5 kph clip, which is quite fast carrying heavy 6-7 kilo packs. We had no car support so we had to carry most of our supplies including jackets, flashlights, extra clothing, etc. Sure enough Su san pulled the plug at the 36k point at CP4 after a blistering 6.1 kph pace from CP3 to CP4. So now we were three.....

We tackled what proved to be the hardest part of the course next. CP4 to CP5. 18k, most of which was in the dark after a brief ramen pit stop. It started raining harder on top of things, and was up and down the entire way to CP5. Iwamoto san lead the whole way. He is a good hiker and we were glad to have him in front. I felt like I was cheating, drafting off him and borrowing his light. He was quite alert, calling out various dangers: branches, roots, sharp ascents and descents, etc...

All we could think about were CP5's sleep quarters. And infrequent human companions along the way were great. What a joy it was to bump into another group in the middle of the night rain! A lone ranger came up from behind us to our amazement with a couple of kilometers to go to CP5. Where's your group?, we asked. Oh, I left them behind for some reason...mind if I hang with you guys?...Sure!

We rolled into CP5 after 5 hours and 41 minutes of toil through the dark, wet mountain at about midnight. The check point at Daiyuzan Saijo-ji looked like a war zone. Bodies layed out left and right on the floor on yoga mats or without, clothing caked with mud, wet clothes hanging on the heaters, and first aid women taping up hiker after hiker. We quickly stripped out of our wet clothing and bedded down for a hearty 3 hour nap. The plan was to sleep until 3:30 am and be in full gear by the time the sun rose.

I only slept 1-2 hours as the room got noisy when other hikers piled in during the wee hours. A quick coffee at 3:45 am and we were ready to roll and meet the rising sun. My left calf had been bothering me since CP4, and I had hoped the sleep would magically cure the soreness, but alas, the pain was still there. It got worse and worse throughout the day. Thank god for advil...

But the hike to CP6 was a cakewalk, and I now looked forward to meeting Megumi between CP6 and CP7. Meg kept me alive on the tough climb. I knew we had more big climbs coming up after CP7, but the thought of Meg with us made it seem easier. I got my second wind.

We met Meg at exactly the halfway point and I immediately scoffed down the lasagna, tofu, and nuts that she had kindly brought from Tokyo. We had been living on onigiri, bananas and instant soup for 25 hours, so it felt great to eat real food, albeit cold.

Meg was the spark plug for us. She bounced up the trail with us, took some weight off my bag, spurred the conversation, and pretty soon we were at CP7.

After a shower and onsen break, we were joined by Kaga san and Iwamoto san's colleague from Mitsui Fudosan, and tackled another hard climb of 13.5k. Everyone was getting tired and tightening up, but we were brightened by our new supporters and the fact that were were 80% done. I took personal pleasure in counting every 500 meters, 200 signs in all. The counting process kept me going.

At the last checkpoint 8, we rushed through and hit the trail, knowing we only had 1 1/2 hours to cover 7k of tough terrain before nightfall. The initial climb was very steep, but I took solace in the fact that it would be over very soon.

My leg was now in dogmeat territory, and I had to lean half my weight on my walking stick to relieve the pressure. It felt like we were flying, high on advil, sport drinks, fruits, and nuts. We were passing almost all groups now. Nobody passed our posse of 5 since Meg had joined.

After that very steep initial climb it was all gravy. We were about 4k out and descending now before the last climb. Another 10 minute climb to the last peak and we were greeted with a georgeous view of the lake Yamanakako (the 3 of us are pictured above, near that peak). Down the hill and we were so close we could smell the finish. We passed 1 more group on the final 1k and barely needed the flashlights for the final bit. A big round of applause (atatatatakai hakushuuu) for Team Oakwood!

Later I heard that fellow nanbanners James, Phil, Ed, and others (I saw 2-3 other nanbanners on the course) finished in blistering times. Maybe something to shoot for next time...

Many thanks to Megumi for coming out on the second day at the crack of dawn. And also a big domo to Kaga san and Iwamoto san's colleague. And don't forget our sponsor Oakwood. Thanks Keren. See you in Tokyo soon!


Megumi said...

I wonder why Iwamoto-san looks so shocked in the 2nd to last photo.
He was so relieved it was over I guess.

Jon in Tokyo said...

Well done. Seems very very hard. Great effort! Hope you recover well.

David 元三 Rubenstein said...

yep his legs were dog meat also...thanks Jon, enjoying the recovery!

StompinRhino said...

I suspect the look of shock had something to do with those last few mountains we had to climb to get to the finish. A rough calculation from the website maps puts the cumulative altitude gain (climbing!) at around 4000m. So in total: 100km horizontally plus 4km vertically! A monster hike.

David 元三 Rubenstein said...

sugei! so 104k hike instead of 100k..

Joachim said...

well done, Motozo and congrats to the whole team. Now, you're an Ultra too and I can't imagine how difficult it is to continue such a 100km race for more than a day! Rest well, you deserved it...!

mika t. said...

Well done! Sounded like brutal experience. Have a good recovery!

Iwamoto said...

The look of shock was no doubt due to out of Advil I guess. Iwamoto

Unknown said...

Congrats Motozo, well done to you and your team and thanks for the nice report. I hope the damage on your legs is not too bad and that you will recover quickly.

Trailwalker is very close to my heart and I could not join this year but I know how hard this is and completion not granted even for very fit people. Looks like that rain made this even spicier!! I am looking forward to joining next year.

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