katsunuma 10k race recap
Recap of my first ever 10k race. It’s going to be looooooong…..
I was already awake when the alarm went off at 7 am on Sunday morning, but I stayed in bed for a bit longer anyway, trying to eek as much sleep out of my night as I could, until nerves and paranoia drove me out of bed around 7:30.
Our plan was to catch the 8:14 train from Yamanashi-shi Station. I spent my time before leaving making my final decision on exactly what to wear for the race (late, I know! I brought two pairs of running tops and pants with me to pick from), and double checking that I had everything I needed. I’d brought a Bagel & Bagel Maple Walnuts bagel with peanut butter and banana for my pre-race fuel, and ate it on the platform while we waited for the train.
It took us just 10 minutes to get to Katsunuma Budoukyo on the train. The station wasn’t terribly crowded at that time of day, but the people who were around were mostly dressed in athletic gear. Nothing like finally being around other racers to really heighten the excitement!
We followed the crowds outside and caught a shuttle bus from the station down into town, and then walked through a few narrow streets lined with grapevines to the area where the race was being held. It turned out to be the same fair grounds I had been to 2 years earlier with Jun for the Wine Festival, and it was PACKED.
We headed across the square and lined up to pick up my bib, runner’s chip, and a goody bag consisting of a half sized bottle of wine and race booklet. The booklet was pretty awesome and included full course maps for each of the four racing distances, followed by the names of every registered runner by racing group. My name was one of only a handful of English names among the 4,800 registered racers.
After pickup Eric helped me attach my bib. I always have SUCH a problem getting the bib on just right, since my torso is just one step up from a 12-year-old in size, but after a few minutes of adjusting and readjusting we got it into a position which wouldn’t bother me while running. By that time it was past 9 am, so I drank my canned coffee and we went off to hunt for a bathroom.
I totally look like I’m advertising this canned coffee in these pictures, don’t you think?
It took us a few minutes but we finally found a whopping three port-o-potties down a slope in the neighboring school yard. Yes, three. For a race with 5,000 participants. Oh Japan, you kill. Best part? The line was only about seven people long. I really don’t see how that works out, but I sure am glad for it.
I actually kind of prefer Japanese style port-o-potties to western, because not having to sit is a bonus there. But I have to say that this set was just particularly vile. Ew.
It was getting close to race time, so we left the square and followed a stream of blue-bibbed racers towards the 10k start line, which was back near where we’d been dropped off by the shuttle bus.
This is the sight that greeted us upon arrival. Doesn’t look quite so bad, does it? Well, look a little closer.
That, right there, is the sight of 2,714 excited runners lined up and waiting for a chance to run up a mountain on an overcast Sunday morning.
My goal for this race was just to finish and I wasn’t aiming for a specific time, so I hung toward the back with Eric until race time. Just before the start I ate a date, rechecked my laces, and headed a little deeper into the crowd. Next thing I knew the gun had gone off and.. no one moved!
Or at least, that’s how it seemed. If you look really closely you can see some movement up ahead, but it took about 1-2 minutes for my wave to actually get up to the starting line.
It was too crowded to go at a decent pace for the first km or so, but I didn’t mind. I had planned to ease myself into the race, and sort of appreciated having others around me restricting my pace.
The course itself was pretty hard. We ran on a gradual incline for the first couple of kms, and I started wanting the race to be over as early as the 2nd km. By the 3rd km the incline had sharpened quite a bit. I was still running, but super slowly. I came really close to stopping to walk at one point, but I spotted a sign saying the first water station was 100m ahead, and I held it together until then.
I walked through the water station and grabbed two cups of water. My plan was to run again until the next station, but the incline got even worse immediately after that and pretty much everyone around me stopped to walk for a 2-4 minute stretch, with only a few diehards running at a pace barely faster than the rest of us. I alternated between bursts of running and walking for the next km or so until the incline leveled off a bit, and then switched back to mainly running.
Getting to the second water station was a real struggle, and around this point I started to wonder if I’d be able to finish in the 1:15 I’d estimated as my worst case finish. My foot also started tingling at around this point, so I slowed down, shook it out, and ate one of the dates I’d brought with me.
Thankfully, water station two was the peak of the course, and it was all mostly downhill shortly after that. We looped around under the tracks, and past the station we’d arrived at a couple of hours earlier. I think this was probably the high point of the race and where I hit my stride. All the station attendees were there waving and cheering us on, the view was fantastic, and all I could see of the road ahead was downhill.
(This is also when a delayed email from Alexa about pumpkin cream cheese popped up on my iPhone! <3)
I did pretty well for kms 5-9. I kept a good pace, walked through two more water stations, admired the grapevines growing along the course, and waved at the people cheering along the way. I was feeling so good that I was almost surprised when I saw the “2 km left” sign. It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing after that, though.
I got pretty tired during the final stretch of the race. It was mostly flat by then, but with a few slight inclines, and a LOT of corners; several of which I mistook for the finish line. I actually stopped to walk 3-4 times for a few seconds during the last km, when I knew I should be pushing the hardest.
The very final approach was on a slight incline before rounding the corner into the fair grounds. As I was running up I spotted Eric standing at the top of the slope along the course with his camera pointed at me. It was a huge boost to see him!
Eric took off towards the finish as I rounded the corner and I saw him racing through the crowds trying to get there before me. I instinctively slowed down for a fraction of a second, but caught myself and sped back up to cross the finish line. That makes us three for three on races where Eric has NOT managed to get me coming across the finish! It’s becoming a tradition now. We did come closer this time, though, check it out:
When I finished the clock read 1:07, which was much faster than I would have expected earlier in the race. I was pretty amazed that it was over, and didn’t at all feel as though I’d just run 10.2k up a mountain with a 180m climb in elevation. I excitedly tweeted my finish to those who had been following my progress with RunKeeper Live and found Eric, and we headed over to line up for my finisher’s certificate and free grapes. Eric stealthily took a picture of the pair of bees I’d raced behind in the first km while we waited.
I didn’t realize it until we got closer up, but they had printers set up and were printing out the certificates on the spot complete with your name, rank, and official chip time.
My official time was 1:05:17 and I placed 416th out of 926 women! I hadn’t really expected to come in so close to 1:05, considering how hard the course was during the first half, and how many walking breaks I took in both the hard sections, and the final stretch. If I managed to come in at 1:05 in conditions like that on a 10.2k race it seems totally doable for me to break the 60m mark on a straight 10k course!
I am pretty sure I was positively RADIATING excitement at this point. We took a couple more pictures, and then set off to find the line for the post-race bento, which consisted mainly of inarizushi (sushi rice stuffed into a sweetened fried tofu pouch) and plain omusubi (rice balls), with a few other typical bento items. Since Eric didn’t actually participate in the race we only got one to split, but that plus miso was good enough to hold us over for the time being. I took the egg, a little more than half of the inarizushi and omusbi, and a bite of the korokke and left the rest for Eric.
The post-race bento included two inarizushi & omusubi, korokke, karaage, mini sausage, kamaboko, half a boiled egg, pickled ginger, & miso soup w/ wakame
After eating we sampled a tiny bit of wine and wandered around soaking up the post-race atmosphere while I told Eric all about how difficult the course was and how surprised I was at my time; and he filled me in on how amusing it was to watch my speed decrease as the elevation increased on my Live feed.
We stuck around to watch the awards ceremony, which was very, very Japanese and a bit long, and involved formal reading of the certificates for the winner of each group, as well as the presentation of 4 kg boxes of grapes and prizes to each winner by the Furuutsu Musume (fruit girls). One foreign guy placed in the top 8 for one of the half marathon groups, and I thought I recognized him from the TELL 5k back in May. I also made sure to pick up one of the souvenir towels we’d seen on our way in, because I thought it was pretty awesome looking.
I’d kind of hoped to find a local onsen to soak in after the race, but didn’t feel strongly enough about it actually to look for one after the ceremony. We decided instead to go back to Yamanashi-shi for a shower and lunch with Jun, and headed back towards the shuttle at around 1 pm. We made sure to stop along the way to pick up a basket of special seedless crunchy grapes that I think are only available in Yamanashi, and to take some pictures of the vines lining the streets.
I was well into my post race high at this point, as you can probably imagine.
Thus ends my epic recap of the Katsunuma 10k race. Stay tuned for more on how we spent the rest of the weekend, more reflections on the race, and what I plan to do next.