Hakuba International Trail 2013
After the UTMB (Ultra Trail Mount Blanc 2013) withdrawal I was physically, mentally and emotionally broken. I questioned why I was running. I was absolutely exhausted from my 2013 Trail Running season. I missed my family and kids dearly. What hurt more was that I was to have less than two weeks on the ground in Sydney with my family and beautiful girls before I was back on another plane to Tokyo.
At the start of 2013 I thought I was totally invincible. At the end of 2013 I had a suspected stress fracture in my Medial Malleolus and a tendonitis in my Tibialis Posterior. I’d made a commitment to Inov8 x Descente Japan to race Hakuba International Trails 2013 and I was not going to let my sponsors down.
On top of my ankle injuries had an extremely inflamed and painful left big toe. After the long haul flight from Geneva via London, stopping over in Singapore and landing in Sydney in 24 hours my toe felt like it was broken. It was a painful throbbing mess. When I touched down in Sydney I could not bare weight on it at all. On the Tuesday morning after the UTMB , I checked in with my family then I headed straight to RPA emergency to get both my big toe and my ankle looked at. The ankle was easy to clear from a regular fracture with a few test and manual manipulation. It still needed an MRI though to rule out a “stressy” and to see what had been giving me such grief over the past 1.5 years. My big toe was x-rayed and was also cleared of a fracture. Phew! I could let my Inov8 x Descente Japan Sponsors know I could race Hakuba International Trails 2013.
I booked an appointment with my trusty physio and had him look at my ankle…..again. It needed an MRI to rule out any stress fractures I had in it but there was no point getting an MRI done until a week after Hakuba International Trails 2013 . It was better that I did not know what was wrong. We decided that Hakuba International Trails 2013 should be my last race of the season and that I would get through the 50km without too much pain, I usually don’t start suffering with my ankle until about 30km. After Hakuba International Trails 2013 I would look after myself and enjoy a much needed “Off Season” and get my ankle fixed properly.
My big toe on the other hand was not responding to rest, ice, compression and elevation and was a bigger problem http://trailrunningaustralia.com/ben-duffas-intervie/ my ankle. The Friday after the UTMB I just happened to have a PT client who was an anesthetist at Royal North Shore Hospital. I got him to look at my big toe. He said I had a raging infection in my big toe and it had traveled up my foot, into my stingray barb damaged muscle tissue making that area numb. It needed intravenous antibiotics immediately. Far out man, back to the hospital I went. I was lucky enough to be looked after an Ultra Running mate who was a doctor at RPA who found me asleep on a chair. I’m starting to get awesome service at my local hospital, he spotted my name and I was seen in record time. He assured me that I’d get over the infection if I just rested and decided that I just needed a course of oral antibiotics and not to run at all and I might be okay to run Hakuba International Trails 2013.
You know you’ve over done it when a minor toe cut starts to turn into a full blown infection. I cursed those bloody French Cows for their foreign shit that I was not immune too. I was absolutely gutted. I had to pull out of one of favourite Coastal trail event, the Coastal Classic 2013 that was being held the next day. BUGGER! My body really wants me to just lay down and do nothing. Contracting a septicemia toe infection was almost the only way to guarantee me not to be able to run the Coastal Classic 2013. I just hoped that I’d be okay for Hakuba International Trails 2013 a week later.
I flew out to Japan feeling fat and sluggish. Yes ladies, I have a constant battle with my weight. I had not been able to run for 2 weeks more due to my toe infection. My ankle was the least of my worries when I landed in Narita Airport Tokyo. I was on my second course of antibiotics for the infection and it felt like it was not helping much at all. I just hoped that I was not going to make myself sicker by running the Hakuba International Trails 2013 50km. I thought about dropping down to the 30km event, but I decided that if I ran with a minimal technique for the 50km, by lifting and not pushing, avoiding any sharp rocks, tree roots or any protruding objects my toe would be okay. It did not have a choice really.
My Inov8 International Team Mate Brendan Davies and I were picked up from the airport by our Inov8 X Descente Japan Team Manager, Abe. After a Sky Train and a Bullet Train we were taken to Nagano. Here we enjoyed “The Special” Gold Leaf and Egg White Soba Noodles with Green Tea and then we headed off to see the most Famous Japanese Temple, Zenkoji.
After ceremonially washing ourselves and waving holy smoke over all of our injuries and infections I then bought a “Victory” Charm to help me through the 50km Hakuba International Trails 2013. I was going to need all the help I could get. As a group we kneeled down to pray for our friends, family and for good luck in our up coming event. We all then headed underground through a pitch black tunnel under the temple to represent re-birth. I used the time to visualize the race and get my head ready to run. I was in crap shape and I was feeling chunky. This 50km was going to hurt like hell it was going to be a mentally grueling event.
After the Zenkoji Temple visit, we headed to Hakuba. I am always so impressed by the Japanese hospitality, we are treated like royalty in Japan. Brendan and I were interviewed in the Green Room, we headed out to the press conference in front of the 1000 Japanese Runners. We were then invited to the “Sake” ceremony where I was lucky enough to have the honor to bless the event by ceremoniously breaking the “Sake” barrel with the other top Female Japanese Runner, and all the heads of the local industries and declare the Hakuba International Trails 2013 officially open. We all then enjoyed a pre-race dinner of Local Fresh Apples and leafy Greens before heading back to the hotel for dinner and an onson bath.
Hakuba International Trails 2013
I warmed up for the Hakuba International Trails 2013 in the hotel hallway. I was starting to freak out. My big toe and the ball of my foot was still hurting me and it was still really infected. I had taken 2 ibuprofen the day before and the night before the Hakuba International Trails 2013 and for my breakfast I ate a Hammer Choc Chip Bar and 2 panadol to help with my infection that was still making my big toe be really painful. I was limping in my warm up and I seriously contemplated a DNS Hakuba International Trails 2013 when I swallowed the panadol.
I finished my warm up and headed to the start line of Hakuba International Trails 2013. The crowd was going mental despite the grey and gloomy weather. It was drizzling, misty, overcast and a humid 20 degrees. Yay 100% humidity! Just like running in a humidifier, perfect conditions for my asthma. The track was going to be wet, slippery and muddy. The typhoon season had arrived early to Japan. Overnight there was torrential rain making it an Inov8 X-Talon course. I chose to wear the 195’s. (We were lucky that the race was on the that day if it was a day later the typhoon hit Hakuba the race would have been cancelled).
Before long the count down went off in Japanese 10, 9, 8 ,7, 6 , 5 , 4 , 3, 2, 1 and we were off and running. Hakuba International Trails 2013 was a 50.3k course with the highest peak at 1350m with a total elevation gain and loss of 2500m over the 50k distance.
We followed the road through the town for the first few kilometers, past the Hakuba Olympic ski jump and up the wide gravel path up towards the first climb. The first climb of the day was about 5km long and reached the highest peak of 1350m. The gravel trail soon turned to dirt then flattened bamboo branches, that were slippery in the wet conditions. I ran for most of the way up this climb only having the walk every kilometer or so for 20 steps before I caught my breath and kicked it on again. All that mattered today was “Strength, Drive, Power and Love”. That’s it. I was only thinking about these 4 words. I was going to breathe and run to those 4 key words. Nothing else was relevant. Hmmmm I also imagined a Japanese version of Beth Cardelli hunting me down too on all the climbs and flats. The Japanese 2nd place female of the New York Marathon was also running the 50km event. This put the fear of the trail running gods into me.
At the top of the climb I was pleased to see that there was no track and we were to pick our own path through the soft grassy ski field, dodging cow shit for about 500m down to the first aid station. I was stoked to pass about 10 blokes on this first descent. The course soon hit a road section, this was where I released the breaks some more, in doing so I slipped on the mossy road surface and fell bang on my hip, then rolled onto my shoulder before I bounced back up again, brushed myself off and tried to hide my embarrassment from my competitors and kept running. Shit, your allowed one fall. I said to myself and thinking how lucky I was to be a bit chunky on race day. The extra padding on my hips helped cushion my fall. I turned on the breaks little bit, and coasted around the steep hair pin turns and down into the valley below.
I cruised along next to the Matsu-river but soon had to apply the breaks at a junction and wait for another runner to catch me. The signs were written in Japanese and colour coded, and the red was the colour the 50km event was to follow, yet at this junction the red arrow seemed to be pointing the wrong way. With the directions confirmed I was off and running again through the 12.5km checkpoint, I was soon climbing up a slippery set of stairs, through a bamboo forrest, along a single trail before the track widen and I dug deeper up the trail of the ski slope to 1308M 18.6km Check point. I rolled over the grassy peak and down to a single trail where the race directors put out signs in English “Slow Down”, which means, “Let’s kick it on”.
This section was just pure fun. It was a wet and muddy descent down slippery wooden stairs, clay and did I mention mud. I did my best to manage the fall off the mountain, jumping, leaping, bounding through the Birch Trees. This was my type of terrain, wet muddy, slippery and soft. I just loved it.
At the bottom of the Hakuba International Trail descent I hit the flat and imagined being chased down again by Japanese version of Beth Cardelli. I just tried to turn my legs over as fast as possible and made good use to the easy kilometers over rolling hills for the next 12ks. I followed the Kusu-river and then to the Shiojima and up a set of slippery wooden stairs into an untouched virgin forrest. Here I was starting to loose it a bit. The climb was hairy, slippery, mossy I did my best to prevent myself from falling into the rocky creek below. My ankle was just starting to show signs of pain. I pushed this out of my mind. I was over 1/2 way.
The Hakuba International Trail followed though a beautifully maintained shrine. I touched the tomb stones and gave thanks to the Japanese Trail Running Gods, and blew kisses into the air. Yes crazy I know but I was starting to really enjoy myself. I was on a high and loving it. The trails were special and I respected the sacred area. I felt so privileged to have the chance to run through this special area. I was amazed to find such a holy place whilst running a race. It was a real treat.
I was then bummed to find that I’d run out of Hammer Gels. I’d given Brendan one at the start line and I was starting to curse him a bit. I still had 20km to go, I breathed deep into my lungs and imagined running with my Dog Bubble. “Come on Shona this is the last race of the year, your not running Surf Coast Century next week I promise”. I assured myself and I decided to give it all I had and not to hold back.
I hit the final climb of the Hakuba International Trail and I was reduced to a run/walk. This the soft grassy hill of the course was sapping everything from me. With my hands on my quads I pushed up the trail. I dug deep into my lungs. I’d never consumed so much fluid before during an event. It was either the humidity or my body fighting the infection, I was drinking 600ml plus per hour. I also miss calculated the amount of fuel I’d need too. I was reduced to what ever I could grab at the aid stations, banana’s and sports drink which I mixed with 50% electrolyte mix that they provided.
I made it to the top of the final climb at 1005m above sea level, crossed under some pink marker tape which I’m sure confused some runners. I checked the ground in front of me for tracks in the mud and spotted a sign up ahead, confirming that I was heading the correct way.
The rain was starting to ease a bit and the sun was almost starting to shine as I followed the locally maintained single trail though Kikori no Michi before I was popped out onto a bridge. I was then told to follow a path to my death, down a a rocky embankment to the road below. I crossed a bridge and then start my run to the finish line along the river about into town.
This was just a blur. It was all about just putting one foot in front of the other for the next 4km. I kept checking behind me and decided that I’d try an not let any guys pass me until the finish line.
I crossed over the river then through the Base Ball Field (which I thought was really cool. I was in Japan and running on a dirt base ball field! This was just awesome! ) up the streets and back into Hakuba town centre before making the final turn and crossing the finish line in 5 hours and 34 minutes. YAY! Job Done. 1st female.
Brendan was waiting for me at the finish. “You smashed it!” He said to me with surprise.
I laid down on the ground and had a bit of a think. I gave it my absolute all. I really did leave nothing in the tank. The conditions were perfect for my breathing. 100% Humidity. I could breathe and not be scared of getting asthma. NO coughing after the event!
Brendan finished the 50.3km in 4th Place, behind 2 other Inov8 X Descent Runners from Japan, meaning that Inov8 X Descente had 4 runners in the Top 5 for the 50km distance. Whoooo Hoooo time to celebrate and drink “Sake”.
Race Set Up for Hakuba International Trail 2013
Inov8 X-Talon 195
Zenzah Compression Socks
Zenzah Sports Bra
Skirt Sports Fitness Shorts
Descente X inov8 Technical Race Shirt
Inov8 Elite Race Vest
Hammer Head Sweats Visor
Nutrition Plan for Hakuba International Trail 2013
Hammer Choc Chip Bar for Breakfast
1 Tropical Hammer Gel 45 min before the start
1 Tropical Hammer Gel 15 min before the start
1 Mouthful of 50% Hammer Gel either Tropical or Expresso mixed with 50% Water in a 250ml Juice “Pop Top” Bottle
2x 500ml of Hammer Perpetuem with 1 scoop of Perpetuem in each bottle
1 Hammer Endurolyte Cap every 30 minutes.
by Shona Stephenson Hakuba International Trails 2013