Mid-February is a bit late to be announcing my race schedule for the year, but I think I’ve got it planned out now. I’ve said before that although my goal is to complete an Ironman triathlon, it’s more important to me to enjoy the journey. So I’ve chosen at least one major activity to complete in each month of the year, and here they are.
JANUARY: Minokamo Showamura Half-Marathon
In 2012, this was my first half-marathon and I really went for it. In 2013, I had just recovered from IT band syndrome and wasn’t ready to race. Instead, I took along my GoPro camera and filmed the run. Watch it here on YouTube.
FEBRUARY: Kani 10K and Inuyama Half-Marathon
The Kani City Hana Festa 10K was last week and I raced to a 40:40 PB, but setting a new PB in the Inuyama Half-Marathon this weekend will be a far greater challenge. My 1:31:54 from the Seki Half last year will be very tough to beat, and I haven’t really done much training lately over the longer distances. I’ll start off at PB pace and just see how I feel.
MARCH: Seki 10K and Kakamigahara Half-Marathon
In 2012 I ran the Seki Half and the Kakamigahara 10K. This time around, both cities have changed their courses, with the latter adding a new half-marathon, including a run across the brand new, not-yet-opened Kakamigahara Bridge. Since Seki city is hosting first this year, I’ll do a tune-up 10K there and then the Kakamigahara Half-Marathon the following weekend.
APRIL: Kakegawa Marathon
In April I’ll drive down to Shizuoka prefecture for my second official full marathon. The Kakegawa Marathon is known for the tea fields that we’ll run between. I’m also looking forward to the “fruit stations” along the course, serving such delights as melon, kiwi fruit and strawberries! It won’t all be fun and fruit, though, as I’ll be aiming to break the 3:30 marathon barrier. That’s quite a jump over my Nara Marathon time (3:57), but I won’t have my leg wrapped in a heavy knee brace, nor will I have such brutal hills to contend with.
MAY: Kakamigahara Alps Trail Run
The Kakamigahara Alps is a range of mountains with about 12 peaks between 250m and 380m high. It’s not a race, just a personal challenge, and one that makes a full marathon feel easy by comparison! The full course is about 35km and takes a full day of running and hiking. The first time I did it I abandoned the effort with two mountains remaining. The second time I tried was last June and although I made it to the end, I was really suffering. I had run out of water and literally staggered out of the woods, barely able to stand up. Since then I’ve bought a running backpack with hydration reservoir, and I’ve finally figured out the complete route so there’s no chance of getting lost and having to run even further to get back on course like last time!
JUNE: Norikura Tenkuu Marathon
This will be an amazing weekend in Nagano prefecture. On the Saturday, I’ll be one of only 300 people who registered fast enough to run a 12km trail run course through the forests around the base of Mount Norikura. Then on the Sunday, I’ll take part in the Norikura “Heavenly” Marathon, a 30km run up the 3,000m mountain on roads lined by walls of snow… in June! It looks incredible. The only problem is the course includes 18km of straight uphill! Yikes!
JULY: Ebie Triathlon
In 2012, I drove up to Toyama prefecture to take part in my first triathlon. I was really nervous since I had only been swimming for six weeks and had never swam in the sea before. However, I had an absolutely brilliant time and can’t wait to go back again in July. This time I’ll be signing up for the Olympic-distance race, which is a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride and a 10km run. That’s double the “challenger” distance I did last year.
AUGUST: Utsukushigahara 70km Trail Run
Only 700 people get to do this 70K ultra-marathon over the beautiful Utsukushigahara Highlands so I’ll be clicking away on my mouse as soon as registration opens. If I get in, I’ll be in for a very challenging run. In fact, only 35% of participants last year completed the course in the 12-hour time limit. I will have my work cut out!
SEPTEMBER: KC Shimoda Triathlon
In the autumn, I’ll be returning to the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka to join my friend, Shun, as we once again tackle a grueling, homemade, half-Ironman triathlon. We’ll be swimming 1.9km in the sea, riding our mountain bikes over 90km of back-breaking hills, and finishing with a 21.1km run along the Shimoda coastline. We will name and dedicate it to our friend, Keith Crotty, who organized the event last year, but lost his battle with cancer a few weeks after. Watch the footage that Keith filmed here on YouTube.
OCTOBER: Kisogawa Triathlon
I’d really like to squeeze in a third triathlon this year, and October is as good a month as any. This one will be a solo effort, probably another half-Ironman-distance triathlon on both the Gifu and Aichi sides of the Kiso River. Since I’d be doing it alone, I’ll do the swim portion of the event in Kakamigahara Pool, then cycle and run along the banks of the Kiso River with Inuyama Castle as the backdrop. The course itself is flat, with dedicated cycling and running lanes. My goal would be to complete the 113 kilometers in under 8 hours. This will give me an idea of whether or not I am capable of doing a full Ironman in 2014.
NOVEMBER: Fukube Hill Climb and Ibigawa Marathon
I’m very keen to put my cycling ability to the test, and I found a local bike race up Mount Fukube in Mino City. If I’m quick to register, I’ll be lining up against Gifu’s best cycling teams in a race up 600m. I’ve ridden up that road by myself on my mountain bike before and it has some very steep sections!
Just one week later will be the breathtakingly beautiful Ibigawa Marathon. To be honest, I’m in two minds about doing it because last year was such an amazing experience – I just don’t think it can be bettered, even though last time I ran the course by myself! If I do decide to take part, I’ll have to register quick because all 10,000 spots filled up in just 8 hours last time! You can watch the footage I filmed of my Ibigawa run here on YouTube.
DECEMBER: Kakamigahara Alps Trail Run
I’ll wrap up the year with another attempt at running across the Kakamigahara Alps. It doesn’t cost anything, and having these mountains right outside my front door is incredibly convenient! But that doesn’t make it any less epic. The sheer scale of a 35km trail run over very steep terrain makes it no less satisfying than completing a marathon or triathlon. Standing at the top of Mt. Atago, the last peak on the course, reflecting on all I will have accomplished in 2013, will be a moment I look forward to.