Race Fuji KOH 2015 (27/09/2015): Race report

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Nov 21, 2014
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Having entered my first race in Japan back in June (a 3 hour flat course enduro at a closed off shipping port), I decided to switch up my training and move towards a totally different proposition...

A 26.5km, 1,800m elevation gain hill climb; racing from Fujinomiya (600m up) to the 5th station of Mount Fuji (2,400m up the 3,776m of the mountain)(allegedly an average gradient of 6.9%, max gradient 10.9%). As with all roads these days (it seems), there is a Strava segment for this (and a VeloViewer 3d view to better understand the race) : http://veloviewer.com/segments/8241365

Training was tough but west of Tokyo seems really well set up for training for these kinds of events (full of long and usually steep mountain passes) so I felt fairly well prepared.

We got to Fuji the night before (the race meet was 6am the next day and around 40 minutes from our hotel by car) and did a brief 'reccy' of the first 5km of the course and, at that point, I was pretty apprehensive; the first 4 to 5km was pretty steep and, being a rookie, I was pretty afraid of blowing up early.

My preparation hadn't been helped by a pretty bad bout of stomach problems, leading to fairly bad dehydration and feeling less than powerful, but I wasn't going to pull out of the race now.
We got to the meeting point at 6am, around 3.7km from the start, and dropped off our cold weather clothes as the descent would be super cold (especially with rain forecast) before warming up and then moving to the start line at a fairly brisk pace.

The start didn't go at all as planned due to a failure to clip in with my left foot and so I lost the first 10 in my class (the under 35 group) but, after surviving the first 5km, I felt that I was getting a good rhythm; I could get back to my pre-ordained 16.5km/h average (this would be enough for top ten if last year was anything to go by). I was passing plenty of people from different groups before I came to the turn onto the only road up to Fuji; I was sat on a chap's wheel whose pace was great for me - faster than I was but close enough so I could sit on his wheel and catch the main group.

After around 1km the guy slowed fairly suddenly on the slippery, moss-smattered road and I didn't notice it (I had zoned out by this point - rookie mistake). This resulted in small and slow contact of my front wheel with his back which made the bike slide on the wet surface and I took all of the weight on my right hip.

I tried to sort myself out quickly post-crash and got going again, only to slip on the moss again on the same point of my hip. I had lost around 5 minutes by this point and was in quite a lot of pain. Getting back on and moving again wasn't easy and my rhythm from before the crash, no matter how I tried, wouldn't come back so...I popped a caffienated gel and hoped for the best.

Ten minutes later the gel kicked and I put the pain aside (both from my hip and the huge amount of pain now in my legs from the relentless climbing), this resulting in the rhythm coming back and passing a number of people in my category (as well as other categories).

Then came the worst of it, the last 5 to 6km. The gradient ramped up and a load of switchbacks ensued. I could see people giving up at water stops and a couple more falls had resulted in an ambulance in the road for one particularly unfortunate lad. Despite this, I maintained my rhythm and could start to pass some of the riders that had clearly 'emptied the tank' way before the worst of the race had arrived.

I could see a couple from my class in the last kilometre and so pressed on to use the last of the reserves of energy I had and, exhausted, I finished 15th from 68 in my class. The crash had cost me on average speed and I finished with a 14.83km/h average (1 hour 47 minutes 12 seconds), 18 minutes 20 seconds behind the winner (16km/h would have seen me into the top ten, as predicted before the race).

All-in-all, a great experience and a race I will probably enter again in the future.

 
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