Racing Japanese Style

The Gong was ringing loud and clear as I landed in Japan and found my Carbon Kona King Kahuna cracked in half due to some negligence by a certain Chinese airline on the trip over from Mongolia.   Thanks to some great friends (TK, Takuya, & Yuki) and an amazing sponsor in Kona (Aki World Japan) I was set up with a Aluminum Kona King Deluxe . This all with just hours to spare before I took part with 1500 other riders in Japans premier Marathon race, the Otaki 120.

TK and I drove 4 hours east from Tokyo into the mountains.  The last 1.5 hrs was on a windy highway with a bunch of long tunnels taking us into a hidden valley in the middle of Japan.  Here sat the village of Otaki on the green slopes of a steep valley heading into a crystal blue lake.  Yuki and his fiancee Saya had us booked into classic style Japanese guesthouse.    The room’s were layered with Tatani grass and contained nothing but a small coffee table and some cushions and duvets to sleep on. It was hilarious watching 20 Japanese racers all squeezed into the same room for an attempt at a restful nights sleep.  It reminded me of sleeping in a classroom with 30 other kids at the Jasper High school during a 24 hr Famine.  For dinner we were served an 8 course meal with every different type of meat under the sun, rice, miso soup and unidentifiable goodies.

The race was stellar as we cruised close to 6 hours up and down relentless climbs and rocky descents through the jungle not seeing any civilization for the length of the course.  It was an eery day, with off and on monsoons and a thick cloud layer covering the surrounding jungle.  TK, Yuki and myself would split from the rest of the field early on and were having a great ride together, enjoying the jungle scenery and watching monkeys run around the trail in front of us.  Eventually Yuki would drop off and TK and I would continue on ahead, he would gain a gap of 10-15 seconds on every descent as I played it cautious not to flat and then I would cruise back up to him on the climbs.  This tactic was also used in the MBC because when the legs are on fire it’s better to use them to win a race on the climbs and then play it cautious on the descents as that is where you can run into flat tires and crashes and put yourself out of the race, then it doesn’t matter how fit you are.  

 

Yuki had told me about a solid 8 km climb towards the end of the race and this was the place I was waiting for to rev up the engine and get a gap on TK before the long descent to the finish line.  He was riding really well and I was enjoying his company.  He was also being a good bodyguard as I was nervous with all the monkeys and wild boars running around.  With about 50 km to go TK went Kamikaze down another rocky decent, gaining about 10 seconds, and then flatted.  I offered him help but he said he was alright so I continued on.  I was sketched out being in the foreign jungle by myself.  About 4 minutes after TK had flatted, I heard a bunch of grunting in the foliage beside the trail and could see the leaves shake really close as something was coming at me.  Looking into the ditch all I saw was the pink face of some for sort of wild Baboon poking out.  I was scared shitless, it was like a scene out of Jurassic park.  I wanted to turn around and head back to TK, but was already past the creature so hammered on and got the hell out of there.  From that point on it was a nerve racking bike ride as I had no idea what else was roaming around inside the forest.

The rest of the race went pretty straightforward as I made sure not to crash or wreck my borrowed bike before the finish line.  The course was amazing, all double track but very cool as it explored the depths of Japan.  One of the more memorable single days races I’ve ever done for sure.  I had no idea where I was going and was trying to conserve my cliff shot gels with potentially 2 months of racing still ahead on this trip.  This was a poor plan as I started to get dizzy as the glucose levels dropped.  Finally succumbing to cracking a gel, I downed it, then 20 seconds later came around a corner to a bunch of Japanese yelling at the finish line.  Doh, a waisted gel but yahoo another win to add to this hot streak!  This one by beating the 10 yr old course record by 19 minutes.

The post race chill time was sweet as we downed a bath tub full of Miso soup, some crazy rice balls and were given a whole swack load of prizes at the awards ceremony.  My bags were already overloaded on this trip so I may have to donate the new trophies and bags of prizes to a Japanese orphanage.

The experience in Japan up to this point has been unreal.  The combination of great friends, cultural experiences, amazing landscapes, great food and some cool bike rides has me thinking this place is something special.  The Japanese have something good going on over here on this side of the Pacific!

One Comment on “Racing Japanese Style”

  • Chops September 20th, 2013 12:32 pm

    Another great story and race.. Wild monkies would have me riding damn fast.

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