Upcoming Races

January 30, 2011

As I’m scheduled to run Tokyo Marathon in the middle of the cross-country ski season deciding what races to do this year has been rather tricky. In the end I’ve decided to do Ebetsu (10km),  Sapporo (50km), then have a week off, run Tokyo and then do Tokachi (60km). Who knows if I’ll be able to finish 60km at Tokachi a week after Tokyo, but I’m going to give it a whirl.

Training for both a marathon and cross-country in the middle of a Niseko winter has been challenging to say the least. I haven’t really been able to do sufficient training for either. Hopefully there is some cross training effect from one sport to the other. Up until today I have managed to get my weekly long run in, which I think is the most important part of marathon training, peaking at 30 hilly kms in the snow. My times have been ridiculously slow, even making allowances for the snow, so I’m not expecting great things in Tokyo. As for Sapporo I think it will kick my arse this year. I haven’t skied more than 16km at a stretch in training so 50km is going to be pretty nasty. I’ll probably just try to cruise it this year at a moderate speed. The first year I did it I’d only been skiing for three weeks and I manage to finish it, so it can’t be worse than that time.

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Cross-country Race News

December 17, 2010

Otaki International Ski Marathon

It was announced yesterday that this years race has been cancelled. Apparently the early December rains that devastated Niseko’s snow, also claimed another victim, partially destroying the race course. According to the newspaper report the course won’t be repaired in time for the early February race.  The report mentioned a bridge that was wiped out by the rain water. I’ve done the race for the last three years and have no memory of the course crossing a bridge, but apparently it did. Loosing this race is a bit of a shocker as it is the traditional season opener, has a nice challenging course and is the only race that is actually located close to Niseko. I’ll be switching now to the race in Ebetsu (north of Sapporo) held on the same day. I’ve done a couple of summer cross-country running races on the same course so it should be interesting to see what it looks like in winter. It’s definitely less hilly than Otaki, which has a killer climb.

Yubetsu

In an effort to win back its place as the longest ski race in Japan Yubetsu has been lengthened from 50km to 70km this year. It used to be a 100km race, but like Otaki part of the course was washed out 4 or 5 years ago and it became a 50km race. Tokachi then became a  65km race making it the longest in Japan. Yubetsu participants dropped in numbers, possibly because people wanting to test themselves against the longest race in Japan stopped coming. There were rumors in Summer that the old course would be reinstated, but as it turns out it seems like they just tacked on an extra 20km loop at the start to make it longer than Tokachi. I really like this race as it has a very flat, very fast course and was looking forward to doing the new, improved longer version, but I got a mail in early December telling me that although I missed out on a place in the Tokyo marathon, there was a second draw and I got a ticket. It’s on the same day as Yubetsu and it’s really hard training for a marathon in winter in snowy Niseko, but who knows when I’ll get a second chance, so have decided to do Tokyo rather than Niseko.


2011 Hokkaido Ski Races

October 17, 2010

10/01/11    Takino Park Cross-country Ski Competition

30/01/11   Yomiuri New Year Cross-country Ski Competion

06/02/11   Otaki International Ski Marathon

06/02/11   Genshirin Cross-country Ski Competition

11/02/11   Chitose Holmenkollen

13/02/11   Sapporo International Ski Marathon

20/02/11   Miyasama International Ski Maraton

20/02/11   Eniwa Cross-country Ski Competition

27/02/11 Yubetsu Cross-country Ski Competition

06/03/11   Tokachi Cross-country Ski Competion

12/03/11   Asahikawa Vasa Lopet

10/04/11    Rankoshi Niseko Cross-country Ski Competition


Roller Ski Race

August 23, 2010

I’m doing something I swore I would never do this weekend, a roller ski race. I struggle enough staying upright and all limbs intact when roller skiing on my own at a relaxed pace. The potential for broken bones and massive road rash for me if I try to race on rollers is enough that I promised myself long ago that I would never attempt a race.

So why have a committed myself to racing this weekend. Possibly it was just a moment of insanity when a friend asked me if I’d do it with them. Said friend later discovered they have some army maneuvers they can’t get out of this weekend (puny, puny excuse) and have now abandoned me to my fate. The old bait and switch routine.

On the positive side it is the one chance to roller ski on the only purpose built roller ski course in Hokkaido. It is located in one of the self-defense force bases in Sapporo and can usually only be used by the SDF pro cross-country ski team members. The event itself is the national championships, so it should be a chance to see some really good skiers in action. The race I’ll be doing is a 1.6km sprint citizens race. The shortest X-country race I have done up to this point is 30km, so 1.6km will be a very different type of race. As far as I can tell it will be a time trial, rather than a mass start, so at least the chances of getting tangled up with another skier and causing a Tour De France mass pileup would seem to be very low.

On a not so positive note the two descriptions I have of the course from people who have actually skied it, both from ex-international level skiers, have contained the phrase “very scary” in relation to the downhill sections. Not a good sign. I think I’m going to wear my knee pads, despite the dorkiness of look.


Cross Country Ski Season Wrap-up

March 26, 2010

It’s still snowing occasionally in Niseko despite it being late March, and there is a blizzard forecast for tomorrow. Despite that my crosscountry ski season is drawing to an end. I’m off to Mt Asahidake for an end of season ski camp this week, which will possible be my last time on crosscountry skis this season. There is one race in nearby Rankoshi in a week, which I’m think of doing for fun, but the serious racing ended for me nearly three weeks ago. It was an interesting season, not totally satisfying, but one in which I improved enough that I can call myself a crosscountry skier and not just a runner who dabbles in X-country in the off season.

Highlights:

  • Age Group 20th at Otaki International Ski Marathon 30 km
  • Under 4 hours and 36 minute PR at Sapporo International Ski Marathon 50km (3:55)
  • Under 3 hours, 40 minute PR and top 100 overall at Yubetsu 50km (2:41/95th place out of 525)

In previous years I’ve been coming off a long running season, with either a marathon or ultramarathon just before the start of ski season, but this year unable to run in summer, I wasn’t sure what my fitness would be like. Balancing it out, not being able to run, I roller skied quite a bit in summer and manage to improve my ski technique quite a bit. I also did quite a few more miles on snow this year, although nowhere near as much as I had planned. The big question was would better technique and on snow time compensate for less overall fitness and endurance? The answer turned out to be yes. Certainly good snow conditions and weather helped my times at Sapporo and Yubetsu, but I’d like to put at least some of the improvement down to my skiing. Technique is so important in crosscountry skiing. There are skiers who can make up for technique problems with fitness (like me in my first couple of years) and others who can hardly train at all, but who are pretty fast because their technique is so good. To be the whole package, with great technique and fitness, requires so much time and training to attain. Not like running where fitness is everything, and talented people can very quickly arrive at an elite level.

I’ll do less technique training this summer and more strength and endurance. In particular more hills. Last summer was most spent roller skiing on relatively flat courses, which didn’t help much in the hilly marathons like Otaki, Sapporo and Miyasama.


Race Entry in Japan

March 23, 2010

Unless you can read Japanese signing up for races, either running or cross-country ski, can be quite tricky in Japan. Even some of the races that call themselves ‘International’, such as the Otaki International Ski Marathon, have no English information on the Internet or English entry forms. Probably the easiest way is to get a Japanese friend, spouse, aquaintance to sign up for you. For both sports most races can be entered through Runnet (runnet.jp).  The second big website for online entry is Sports Entry (www.sportsentry.ne.jp). If the race isn’t on either then chances are you will need to contact the people organising it, get them to send you an entry form and then trot off to a Japanese post-office to pay the fee (too bad if you don’t live in Japan).

The important things to remember are:

1. There is no on-the-day sign up. Almost ever.

1. You need to sign up very early. Really, really early. Most races will close entry two or three months before race date. Some like the Tokyo Marathon will close six months or more before. And the popular races fill up fast. I tried to sign up for the Shonan marathon (Nov) in early June last year only to find it was already full, over a month before it was due to close. You need to plan your race schedule well in advance.


More Hokkaido Races

March 23, 2010

Three races, the Toyohirakawa Marathon (5 May), Lake Toya marathon (23 May) and the JAL Chitose Marathon are closing for entry soon. Other races coming up:

Lap Around Rishiri Island   55km  6 June

Biei Healthy Marathon   Half Marathon and other distances   13 June

Otaru Unga Road Race   Half Marathon and other distances   20 June

Sapporo Half Marathon (Elite)   4 July

Jozankei Trail Race    16/5km 25 July

NAC Trail Run in Niseko  30/10 km 12 September