Thursday, April 8, 2010

Latest Trailwalker Practice Hike

This past weekend, three of the Fuji Crew repeated the hike from Checkpoint 4 to 7. Last time we cut off the first 6 km of road walking as we were doing a night hike and needed to go to a birthday party for a friend the next day. This time we added the 6km as we were starting in the morning. Though we added 6 km and ended up spending an extra hour after getting lost (see below), we still finished 15 minutes earlier than the last time. I was impressed with our pace! Here are a few updates for each part of the hike.

Kory and John on a small road surrounded by tea fields.

CP 4 to 5 - As I said, this time we did the WHOLE section, including the 6km of road walking at the beginning. This was a breeze, barely any uphill or down, just mostly flat road. We set off on a brisk pace in the chilly morning. Kory and I were both dragging a little bit mentally after getting up so early on a Sunday morning, so we did our best to be genki and have a positive attitude. After the road part there is a fairy big uphill in this section, and I was lagging behind. Last time I didn't have problems with this part, and for awhile I wondered if I was going to make it! I didn't get as much sleep as I'd wanted to the night before and a few other factors might have played in, but I was scared I was holding back the guys! Thankfully as I said we finished in a much faster time than last time, so in the end I didn't need to worry too much. We finished this section with only some lighter rain toward the end. Also, at John's suggestion, we've taken to jogging on the downhill sections when possible. This seems to be a little less hard on our knees, doesn't really make us any more tired, and obviously makes our time much shorter. I'm really liking this strategy.
Cherry blossoms and tea fields.

CP5 to 6 - This is all road, mostly at a slow steady incline. A little more tiring than I remember it being, but we still tried to keep a brisk pace going in this section.

Bamboo along the course.

CP6 to 7 - This is where my body shut down last time. It was about 3:30 am the first time we did this and I was seriously a walking zombie. Therefore I dreaded this section, but actually in the end it wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered. I think that was a good lesson for me, that during the real event, different parts that I remember are going to be difficult, especially when the whole 100 km is paired together. I still took the lead on the steep uphill of this section as I'm the slowest uphill climber and it's hard when I get too far behind. It started raining in the same place as it did last time actually, but it was still light outside and the rain was lighter, so it didn't really hinder us in anyway. At one point we go through a fence that keeps the wild boars out of the city. See the picture of Kory looking bewildered at the fence. He's gotten the nickname John Locke as he carries his knife to protect us from the boars!
After we got over the steep beginning climb, there is a lot of up and down. Our team has started getting a rhythm and mutual understanding. I'm slower on the uphills, but in sections where there is a lot of up and down, I catch up pretty easily in the downhill sections. In this section we were in a race with the daylight which kept us going as fast as our tired legs would take us.

Not a boar, but startled us nonetheless!

After dark with only about 6 km left, we got lost. This was a bit stressful as we all wanted to make the last train. I had my car and could have given the guys a ride home, but then I wouldn't have gotten home til about 1am and had to go to school the next day. There is a section where you have to follow painted trees all the way down to a stream. We followed the painted trees, and at one point they veer off to the left, and it's not really a trail anymore, it's really steep. But the directions said follow the painted trees, so we followed them. That brought us to the stream, but not the wooden bridge that we needed to cross to stay on course for the final 4km of road walking. We wandered back and forth across the stream trying to find the bridge, wondering if it got washed out in the typhoon a few days ago. We walked in circles, backtracked, and did a lot of talking in circles in trying to decide what to do. All of us secretly wondered if we'd be spending the night in the forest until the sun came up and we could find the trail.

Thankfully, we have different cell phone carriers and John's phone was working. We called a few people, and finally my friend Neil was able to explain where we had gone wrong. The directions that we have are a bit misleading. where the painted trees veer off and are no longer a path, we had to follow the path and the trees instead had some pink ribbons tied around them. We had already done this before, but apparently in daylight it seemed much more sensible to follow the path with the ribboned trees. Thankfully we made our way down and across the stream. We had to keep a brisk pace on the last 4km of road. I remember this being terrible last time as we were all exhausted from no sleep, but this time it wasn't as bad as we were rushing for the train and had our minds on other things. We made the train by about 3 minutes!

Me and more tea -- can you tell why Japan is famous for green tea?

My knee gave me some problems this last hike, and I'm a little worried about it. It's nothing serious for sure, but after talking to my friend who's an athletic trainer, I think I have hamstring tendonitis. I just need to ice and stretch it well before doing activity, but I think no matter what it's going to hurt. We're doing one more practice hike tomorrow night (an overnight hike), and then we'll have 2 weeks to rest up our bodies before the main event. I can't believe how quickly time has passed!

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