First Solo KA50K

The only time prior to yesterday that I attempted the Kakamigahara Alps 50K trail run course by myself was in October. On that occasion I DNF’d at 44km after 11 and a half hours.

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Since then I’ve done it twice with a group, finishing both times in about 13 hours, but failing to meet the course time limit of 12 hours.

And so yesterday I set off by myself with a 12hr target to beat. Here I’ll summarize the good and bad points about the run:

The good

Instead of running faster than in previous attempts, I stuck to my “walk uphill, run downhill” rule, conserving energy and saving my climbing legs for later. This worked very well as I found I had enough in the tank to push the last 20K and finish inside 10 hours! 9:48 to be exact, smashing my best time by over three hours!

I shaved those three hours off the run time by skipping all breaks. I walked through all the observation spots without pause, and I ate lunch on the move instead of spending half an hour eating ramen at a small restaurant in the mountains. I also saved precious minutes by refilling my water bottle from fountains and springs instead of messing around with money and vending machines.

My new Altra Olympus shoes were awesome. The extra cushioning protected my feet from 50km of rocks and I didn’t suffer from any foot problems at all… quite unlike in previous attempts.

I finished with an average pace of 11:20/km, well inside the 12:00 pace I will need to maintain to finish the three big races I’m doing this summer.

The bad

Course conditions were just too good! I didn’t need my lights, rain gear or any extra layers besides a windbreaker. I carried only 500ml of water up front, with an emergency 300ml in my pack. All this meant that I could leave my 20L Ultrabag at home and go with my smaller and lighter Ultimate Direction SJ pack instead. While this lack of weight was great, it’s not ideal training for Nagano where my pack will be twice as heavy.

My new shoes didn’t have the traction on loose rocks that I’m used to with my Inov8 Roclites and Trailrocs. I slipped a lot and lost confidence on the steep descents. I feel like I should get a skateboard or something to practice free-sliding down hills!

Two months to go…

With just eight more weeks before the first (and hardest) of my three races, I’ll take my full pack to some 1~3,000m mountains to get used to long, sustained hikes. I might still do one more very long run over some gentler terrain as well.

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