Fujisan Tozando Kyoso 2001
(Mt. Fuji Climbing Race)

(This is the illustrated version.  For the text-only version, click here.  Note also that you can click on each photo to see a larger version.)
For pictures of our homestay and hostess, click here.

Above timberline


bulletRace: Mt. Fuji Climbing Race (Fujisan Tozando Kyoso), Fujiyoshida, Japan, July 25, 2001
bulletLength: 21 km, 3006 m (9770 ft.) altitude gain to top at 12,383
bulletCourse: Well, the level parts where we ran across the patios of the mountain huts were really, really welcome. The steep 8 km hike down from the summit to the bus kind of sucked.
bulletCheck-in: Not to be missed is having 15 smiling teenage girls simultaneously shout "ohio gozaimas" (good morning) as you approach the registration tables. I could have run for free, except I was too far into trying to force my 5,000 yen (about US $40) upon the 15 puzzled teenage girls before I figured this out (the Japanese runners had to prepay).
bulletWater stops: Every 5 km until the last road, then you're on your own. Some runners bought something at one of the huts.
bulletOrganization: Geared for elite runners, with a cutoff time that only allows 1/3 of the runners to finish officially. No age group awards. Champion chip for results and splits. Nicer buses for the ride down than Pikes Peak Ascent's vans.
bulletShirt: Your choice of many designs, but you pay for it separately. They gave us a nice "Lucky Bell", plus a key-chain and certificate for finishers.
bulletExpo: Parking lot in the rain.
bulletPost race feed: Outstanding! They gave us a bento (box) lunch after we hiked down to the bus. Then udon (noodles in miso soup, sort of like ramen only much more robust) back at headquarters. Plus fruit and this really awful vitamin B drink.

Useful Links

A few sites relevant to the race:

bullet Fujiyoshida City official website (English version), and the famous Fujicam.  This site currently includes race contact info.
bulletMark Werner's (2004 winner) account of the 2004 race.
bulletBrief newsletter account of the aborted 2000 race (due to weather).
bullet Basic info on the Yoshidaguchi trail by Sean DeBlieck.
bullet Hiking account by Earl Redbeard.
bullet Account of mountain biking Fuji by Randy Biddle, what the heck, it's well written (English).

Direct contact to the race...try these (English, current as of 2003):

bulletFujiyoshida City Hall International Affairs Desk
1842 Shimoyoshida
Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi
403-8601 Japan
bulletPhone: +81 555 24 1236 (from outside Japan)
0555 24 1236 (inside Japan)
bulletFAX your application to:
+81 555 22 6299 (from outside Japan)
0555 22 6299 (inside Japan)
bulletEmail: teian@city.fujiyoshida.yamanashi.jp

The Story

My summary in a word: "relentless". This mountain never lets up. A friend who did it 20 years ago described it as "21 km of the 16 Golden Stairs" (an infamously steep section near the top of Pikes Peak). It wasn't really that bad. I think only the last half was that steep.

(Note:  I make references to the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, the most comparable race in my experience.  As I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, Pikes Peak is the local "big race".  The best Pikes Peak racing page is here.  I also want to thank the members of the Incline Club and Matt Carpenter for their inspiration, enthusiasm, and friendly competition on all those long workouts.  And my deep gratitude to Sean DeBlieck.) Very formal, Japanese-style opening ceremony
Crowded start I was interested in the very formal Opening Ceremony.  I couldn't even get into the street at the start until some time after the gun sounded.  That's me waving from in front of City Hall on the right (click on the picture for a larger view if you care).

At the start I was about in mid pack, but everyone ran like it was a 5K. I could barely keep up! We ran about 1/3 mile level to the center of town, then commenced the uphill.

It never let up from there, steadily increasing the gradient until it maxed at about 25% for the last quarter of the distance (the average for the whole race is 14.3%). I know I went too fast in this stretch, but I just couldn't believe I should be letting mid-packers go. I settled on a heart rate of 168 as an aggressive compromise for the first 7 km, yet people were steadily passing me.  Entering Pines Park, 4km, 141m gain
Running up the small road I didn't reach equilibrium with the pack until the gradient steepened to the point where most began walking.
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