my burogu

How it's going, like.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mount Fuji Hill Climb Race

Last Sunday I "competed" in the first bike race of my life. I'd been reading a book by Dean Karnazes and on a whim of inspiration found myself entering the Mount Fuji hill climb bicycle race. It's only 12km, but the course snakes up the side of Mount Fuji as far as a tarmac road can take you. The height gain is 1200m.

Here's the profile:

I guess the toughest famous mountain for cycling is Alpe D'Huez in France.

Here's how the stats compare:
  Fuji Hill Climb Alpe D'huez
Start Altitude 800m 744m
Finish Altitude 2000m 1850m
Height Gain 1200m 1071m
Number of bends 35 21
Average gradient 10% 8.1%
Distance 11.4km 13.2km
Maximum gradient 22% 10.6%

Fortunately, I investigated how it compared to Alpe D'Huez after I'd done it. I think I might run off in fear if I'd have checked before starting.

We made a weekend of the trip and stayed with one of Kayo's old college friends near Kawaguchi-ko lake. Thanks to Naoki & Natchan and their 2 children Sora & Mira for their Hospitality. Here's the adorable Sora and Mira pulling strange faces.

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (8)

We arrived at the race venue about 7am with the race starting at 8:30. Everyone was looking very proffessional and I felt quite intimidated with my very modest bike. I spent a lot of my time trying to find another competitor (other than me) who didn't have clip in shoes, but failed. Even after the race, as far as I could tell, I was the only person without cleats.

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (15)

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (20)

I've done fair few running races in my time, but I can't recall ever feeling as nervous as I did on the start line on Sunday. I know I'm reasonably fit and felt confident in my abilty to get up the mountain, but adrenalin was flowing through my vains and butterflies in my stoamch like never before.

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (24)

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (23)

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (29)

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (34)

The start gun went and I settled into a steady pace near to the back of my group. After a kilomoter or so, I was steadily passing other riders, but by 3kms I was feeling absolutely exhausted. I suppose that's to be expected when you've been going up a very steep hill for 15 minutes. Only another 9km to go though. Despite the suffering, I still found myself steadily passing other riders. I had found my rhythm and was making reasonable progress. The pain levelled off (or at least didn't get any worse). I had a bit of trouble with my gears so had to briefly stop to sort that out around the 5km mark. From there on the road got steeper and my legs continued to burn. other cyclists were weaving all over the road, but I continued along the shortest route. I don't think either has any advantage as we all seemd to be trundling along at a similar steady pace. My bike is set up for touring as opposed to racing, so I"ve got a great range of gears for going uphill. I was certainly greatful for that as we went through some 15%+ gradients around the 8km mark. I kept on driving my legs, and even passed a few more racers before I crossed the line. I was relatively happy with my finish time of 1:11:31 and 11th/31 riders in the beginners catergory.

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (43)

I met some nice people from the Tokyo Cycling Club at the race, and I'd like to join them for a ride again. Hopefully they'll be coming over to Shizuoka at some point in the near future.

Kayo had been waiting patiently for me at the bootom of the mountain and had got wind of a Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors) competition that was to take place after the prize presentation. The prize for the winner was a brand new Jamis Coda hybrid bicycle. By the time the presentaion started, rain had set in and by the end of the presentation it was lashing it down. This was looking great from our point of view since the fewer people that were present, the bigger the chance of winning the prize. There were only about 40 people present by the time the competition started. Here's what happened:
Round 1: I lose - That's me out. Kayo wins - She's through to round 2. It's down to about 10 people.
Round 2: Kayo wins again - It's down to 4 people.
Round 3: Kayo wins again - It's down to the 2 people. The 2 finalists are called on to the stage for "The Final"
The Final: It's a draw - Go Again!
It's another draw - Go Again!

Kayo Wins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mount Fuji Hill Climb 2009 (46)

Unbelievable! We somehow have to fit another bike in our tiny car for the return journey. But it was a very worthwhile day out indeed. I really enjoyed the race and quite fancy giving another one a go.


  • At 4:05 PM, Blogger guygriff said…

    Dude, that's awesome!
    Well done on the race, and big up to Kayo too - does this mean you can both cycle overland to the UK next year now?
    Have you read Haruki Murakami's What I talk about when I talk about running? I thought of you when reading it, and there's a fair bit of cycling in there too... v inspirational, even if you're not a runner or cyclist.

  • At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Baulchy said…

    Excellent blog, excellent achievements! Congratulations to you both!
    I'm laughing at the fact that you cycled 11.4km uphill and Kayo achieved more with a single fist! :-)

  • At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Simon Wurr said…

    Blimey! Hats off to the big man. Never again will I call you a downhill specialist...

  • At 11:59 PM, Blogger Mix(ed) Tape Mess said…

    Not sure if you get to Tokyo much but if you do there's an incredible sports shopping area (if you don't already know about it). It's near Jimbocho station, you should check it out.

  • At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Joshua Zimmerman said…

    I'd love to do a Fuji bike race! Too bad I'm not sticking around Yamanashi long enough to be in it next year. Kudos to you for doing it.

  • At 5:07 AM, Blogger Alastair said…

    That's great!
    I have many happy memories of Japan - I actually would like to return to live there for a couple of years one day...

  • At 4:17 PM, Blogger japan said…

    Great blog !
    I also enjoyed the post on your Shikoku pilgrimage. Inspiring...
    Maybe see you next year on Mt Fuji Race.
    PS: Mont Ventoux is a tougher climb than Alpe d'Huez. From 300m to 1900m in 21km.


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