Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fuji Oshino Kogen Trail Race 21K

Fuji Oshino Kogen Trail Race
What was I thinking when I signed up to run 14 miles in the mountains???  I have no idea!  But... after all is said and done, I'm very glad I did and it was a rare experience!
The mountain side we ran through

Kim Gerber and I headed up to Oshino, Japan, a little village surrounding Mt Fuji and it's several lakes.  We took a bus up there and was dropped off at the race site which was in the middle of nowhere.  Just mountains and little Japanese shacks surrounding us.  After checking in and checking out the race expo (it's exactly the same as race expos in the States), we walked to our hotel, which was supposed to be a 5 minute walk.  Not quite!  We quickly learned we were in rural Japan, where most signs are in kanji, including hotel signs.  Oh yea, and did I mention, it was hard enough to tell the difference between the guest houses (hotels) and the regular houses.  Needless to say, we finally walked into a house we figured might be our hotel and these two sweet little ladies greeted us, sat us into the tatami room, and brought us coffee and snacks; still not confirming we were at the right place or not.  I guess there was a little something called "a major language barrier" there!
Rice-patties in Japan countryside

Once we finally figured out we were in the right place, we went out back to walk around for a bit before it was time for dinner.  We stumbled upon the quaint little town of Oshino Hakkai, Japan, that was just out the back door of our guest house.  It is known for it's eight ponds surrounding Mt Fuji (yes, this different from the 5 lakes).  The town was extremely cute and had little food stands that we had to try sweet potato and egg fries at.  They weren't what we were expecting, but good none the less!  After walking around for a while, we headed back to the guest house to have dinner.  It turned out that everyone staying there were running the race the next morning.  We all enjoyed the homemade dinner by the two Japanese owners, sitting at communal tables on tatami mats.  What a unique pre-race experience!  Oh, and did I mention, the dinner was a huge spread of Japanese food of shrimp tempura, soba noodles, salad, a pork stir-fry kind of thing that cooked over our own flame, tofu, rice and Japanese soup.  Delicious!

Kim and I at the start line
RACE DAY!  Perfect running weather on a crisp Sunday morning!  The course was awesome but a lot more elevation changes than I was expecting.  It included some parts where we had to use ropes to either go up or down and some where we had to stop and wait to go single-file because it was so steep.  After the 14 miles of running/hiking, my whole body was sore, but it was completely worth it for the views!  We had some amazing views of Mt. Fuji and the town of Oshino on one side and Lake Yamanakako on the other side.  The pictures don't do it justice!

Usually after races, the runners are given healthy energy packed food and water or beer.  But, here, we were given a bag of soba noodles (fresh buck-wheat noodles) and soup.  Kinda weird, but an interesting experience.  So who's up for the run next year with me???
Behind our guesthouse

Kim and I exploring the little mountain town

I love this picture... a farmer with tractor out in his field!

The owners of the guesthouse making homemade
shrimp tempura and the stone stir-fry dish
awesome spread of homemade food!

How cool to enjoy a pre-race dinner with a bunch of
Japanese runners sitting on tatami mats!
race-expo... looks the same as in the States
I'll give you one guess...
pre or post race???
Kim and I having to stop and wait to go single file up
the steep incline ahead
Are you kidding me!!  We have to go up that!?!?
Not sure if you can see the people at the top,
but we had to climb up and over a ton of steep rocks!
And we weren't even at the top yet!!!  ahhh!
Kim making her way down part of the course
Amazing view of Lake Yamanakako from the top.
Too bad the visibility wasn't the best.
The last few miles of the race was through the countryside
I didn't sign up for stairs!
WE FINISHED!!!  14 miles of running and hiking later!

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