Utsukushigahara Hill Climb Bike Race 2014

Utsukushigahara homepageWe drove up to Matsumoto from Gunma’s Numata city around 12:30 pm on Saturday.  We took the low roads instead of the highway because it is really only about 30 minutes difference and it’s a much nicer drive. 

Looks easy via this view doesn't it?

Looks easy via this view doesn’t it?

It rained all day Saturday and it poured buckets during the night.  But by 5 a.m. it had stopped and the clouds started to break.  The 4 of us woke up in our small room, had some coffee, energy bars and what not, got changed, prepared our bikes and headed to the race.  I did this race 2 years ago and my time was 1:22:23 .   I beat it by ove 7 minutes this year.  Stats are at the end of this blog.

Utsukushigahara Hills of ustsukushiWhen I entered for this race on-line my friend talked me into going in the “expert” class which I totally regretted this morning when I woke up and started getting really nervous.  Then to make it look like I’m really cocky, I placed my bike right at the front of the line where I stood next to Japanese legend Imanaka Daisuke san (He has raced in the Tour de France) and shared a lengthy conversation.  I’m sure it will appear on the NEWS and make it look like I’m some “foreign” ex pro or something. 

Me and Imanaka Daisuke

But that image quickly changed when they counted down and we all raced off to start the climb and I got swallowed up!  The first 5 KM are very steep with an average grade of 18% and everyone was out of their saddles. 

IMG_4012 IMG_4010

That quickly separated the men from the boys but to my surprise I was still somewhere near the front 30%.  I found a young guy and stuck my wheel right behind his and kept my head down.  By the 8 KM mark I thought I had over exerted myself too early and I was thinking of falling off his wheel until we got a nice 4% grade for 400 meters which got my lungs back.  After that I actually ended up pulling him for a little while (you never know how the others are holding up do you?).  Then out of the blue Mr. Imanaka smoothly rides by me and says in Japanese, “Hey, you’re strong”! And I replied, “Yeah, up until this moment”.  I’d love to say “It’s all down here from here” but that really has a different meaning in cycling does it?

IMG_4015 IMG_4011
My heart-rate was quite high and I worried about how long I could hold on but I somehow managed until the 16 KM mark where it leveled out and even descended in some parts!  At my 72 kg weight I’m not designed for hill climbing.  I carry a lot of upper body muscle.  Especially with these 58-62 kg riders next to me.  But at the top when it leveled for 3 KM I was strong as could be and I actually left a few of the guys I was riding with behind.  Don’t ask me how!  However, one of them stayed with me and we raced the last 200 meter hill and I lost by a foot!  I think he sling shot from my draft but I don’t mind though since he was half my age and that’s a smart tactic.  In fact, as I mentioned, someone carried me for about 6 KM. I had a great time.  My time was 1:15:25 which is about 7 minutes faster than before.  In the champion class I finished 39th.  Most champion riders were in their 20’s though.  Plus out of 498 forty year old’s, I placed 13th.  But here’s the weird facts.
If I was in the 20 year old group I’d have placed 9th out of 134 riders.

Finally over the topCrossing the finish line.

In the 30 year old group my time would have made me 31st our of 354 riders.  And in the 40 year old group I’d have been 14th out of 491 riders.  So, all in all I’m happy with that.  More important “Da Boyz” and I shared some great moments and a heap of laughs.

IMG_4022 IMG_4014 Da BoyzBeer time.

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I Lost the Fight with TREK – Part 3

The 3rd and final episode of the ongoing saga regarding my TREK replacement frame ended with the protagonist getting a pump shoved in his front wheel by TREK and sliding on pavement with road cherries.

My baby.  We've been through a lot of miles together.

The non Hollywood story is much more anticlimactic with a simple email from TREK Japan that reads:

Hello Kelly,

We are sorry to keep you waiting.

This past week the US customer service manager, APAC customer service manager, sales rep and I discussed and concluded that we cannot replace this frame.

The reason is that the store sold the custom painted frame, and then it was taken home.

However, we are working with the shop on options to help you on their behalf.

The store mentioned that they would like to contact you but have had difficulty contacted your cell phone.

Could we tell them your email address?

We appreciate your patience in working through this!

 

Regards,

XXXX

So, I’m left with the new frame.   I don’t mind it. I would have preferred a different color.  But my friends tell me they like it.  What do you think?

The new Frame colors.  Not ugly at all.  But not what I wanted.

The new Frame colors. Not ugly at all. But not what I wanted.

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Haruna Hill Climb – May 19th 2013

Feel the pain in the thighs.

Great day. Got up at 3 am and met friends at Numata Inta at 4 am. From there we drove to the race in separate cars. Over 4500 people participated so you can imagine the ordeal with organization. But I must say everything was done flawlessly. There were almost as many volunteers as racers! I found my parking area and got myself together (including the unfortunate pre-race poop.

Haruna course

Where is everyone?
No chance of getting in a warm up with that many riders. My group (the 4000 numbers) were the 3rd set to go but we waited an hour sharing nervous small talk before the count down.
Once underway, the course started up relatively easy. Just a small grade for the 1st 3 km until it started to present its toughness. I was worried of going too hard at the beginning and having nothing left near the end so I paced myself accordingly. My legs were heavy right off the bat because of lack of warm up. People were passing me and I thought “dang”, this isn’t what I wanted. But I stuck with my gut and as the race progressed I started to see that there were no more “4000” numbers and I slowly passed the 3000 group, the 2000 group and ended up finishing surrounded by the very first group to leave! Now I do realize that those in front that were faster were long gone but to toot my own horn no one from behind passed me.

High Ho, A climbng we will go.
The last 4 km was very steep and I passed a lot of people there. I took the inside lanes which were steeper but faster if you have the legs. The race was only 15 km and before I knew it, I was sprinting for the last 100 meters.
I started my Garmin 500 from the parking lot so it was off mark. I was hoping for a sub 50 minutes but was doubtful after seeing others results. When I got mine it was 47.12.12 minutes. 3 minutes faster than I expected.

47 mintues!

The overall results are pleasantly surprising.  I was 21st out of 989 40-50 year olds. If my math is right, I believe out of 4500 plus participants I was 61st overall. I suppose living in the mountains has really helped my training.  And I’m sure being 10 kilo’s (22 lbs) lighter is a major bonus, too.

Me and my friend Yukiya desending after race.

Doing well has motivated me to train even harder for the rest of the season.

Haruna placement