Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Obuse half marathon: Must be a circus in town...

It had been 6 years since my last trek to scenic Obuse, Nagano, and far too long. Nanbanners have been racing the half marathon there for 13 years since its inception. It is a wonderful mountain getaway to visit during the sultry Japan summer. And why not tack on a half marathon in the middle of a 4-day weekend?

Megumi and Ty came along. We all enjoyed the cooler weather, green mountain backdrop, and ice cream!

The race itself was fun once we got there. I had to wake up at 4 AM. I think Chika, Meeks, and the others woke up at 3:30 AM, but I am a veteran to early race times. I was able to produce a decent result, much faster than my Shinjuku half (1:41) in January this year. I guess the triathlon training has helped my running the past few months. I did 1:34:04, a course PB for me. Two previous times were 1:36 and 1:38. (see 2009 blog):


The race started at 6 AM versus 7 AM six years ago, which helped a bit. The temperature was 23 degrees C, which was manageable although it felt hotter. I settled in corral A with Padraig, Alan, Teruyuki (Terry), and a ton of circus extras. I was going to try to stay with Terry as he had targeted 1:32 or so.

There were a few exciting speeches from race executives and runners and one very bizarre comment. A race official actually told us to run slow because it is not too hot...huh? he said "あまり暑くないけれど、頑張らないで下さい。” Go figure...

Anyway, we lined up and suddenly a gun went off. I watched Podge drift off into the distance at 4:15 per k pace. I settled in a 4:30 pace. Terry was with me for the first 5k,  looked strong, shouted "you're going too fast" at Podge, and dropped me around the 6k point. Later I learned that he reeled in Podge with a sparkling 1:31 time. Way to go Terry!

I continued along at 4:30 pace. The course is pleasant with a few mild climbs in a mountain valley, but nothing too hairy. There are some nice mountains on the left side of the course for the first 10k, than you run thru a small town and back to Obuse. The biggest hill is around the 5k point so you have some momentum for the 2H of the race. I felt pretty good after 12k and started to work harder for the last 5-6k. I noticed Alan bearing down on me at 18k so worked a little harder to keep him at bay. I finished with 4:20 pace for the last 3k which was a good feeling.

The finish area is quite nice with plenty of fresh fruit, green grass, live music, and the necessary high school dancers. Big shout out to Chika for organizing the hotel, restaurants, and logistics.

The next two days were glorious ones spent in Iizuna kogen ski area, a 30 minute drive from Nagano city, and Yatsugatake. Meg and I took turns running around a gorgeous lake at 飯綱高原, and than I couldn't resist diving in from our paddle boat.

We stopped at Yatsugatake on the way back to Tokyo on day 4 and did the nostalgic Fujimi panorama gondola ride.

Obuse is a highly recommended trip for runners and just plain old citizens. Take an extra day to explore the area if you can. We used to have 20 runners back in the old days, but this time there were only 7 of us running. There are plenty of runners in costume so this is a bit of a circus race where you can place 134th out of 7,000 runners with a 1:34 time....

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