Hokkaido Training – 5 nights & 6 days.


Hirafu Visitor centre
The soaked car park on my arrival at hotel

Let me start this by warning all out there not to tempt fate. I mentioned in my previous post that the place I was heading to (Hokkaido), had summer weather like England but without the rain .. well the weather gods must’ve been listening, as they sent the rain, buckets of the stuff. Out of the 6 days I was there, we had rain on all but 2 days, and half of those wet days were full on storms with winds, floods, and temperatures down in the low teens( centigrade of course!).

However, despite all that the heavens threw at me. I did have some very good days training, and can be happy with my mini break, even if it wasn’t quite as intense as I’d hoped.

The day I arrived the weather just got worse and worse so really wasn’t anything I could do. I did borrow an umbrella to go to eat, but that soon turned inside out so I purchased one of those cheap plastic rain coats(100 yen in Japan, so just under a US dollar) and went to the only place open and stuffed myself with ribs and fries. Maybe not the best way to pare down to racing weight, but certainly an enjoyable way to spend a wet windy evening.

Ribs and fries!
Ribs and fries!

Next day was raining until mid-afternoon, so as soon as it looked like it was stopping I jumped on the bike and headed out for s quick couple of hours before it got dark. The roads very quickly took me out into the countryside, with very little traffic, and I was surprised to see a big fox pop out in front of me close enough to need a quick pull on the brakes and then follow as it ran up the road before diving back in the hedge.  A nice relaxing ride, plenty of climbing without being over taxing.

Saturday  I resolved to get a big bike in, I wasn’t sure if the weather would hold but planned a trip of around 50k to a nearby lake, then spin around the outside and then back home for a total around 140k. I set up my new  toy, a Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer, downloading a route from ridewithgps.com and went to bed early. Of course  I couldn’t sleep till late and then ended up oversleeping in the morning, but I still managed to get out before 10am. It was a beautiful day for cycling, around 20-24 degrees C, little wind and gentle sunshine. I have never felt freer on the bike, and even though I got lost once, I never really worried as my ELEMNT was there to guide me ( it’s not perfect and refuses to adjust if you take detours, hence getting lost, but it did sync well with my phone meaning I could always stop and manually readjust if I needed to).

I reached the lake with about 20km extra on the clock than expected, and briefly stopped to enjoy the view. This was where I had done my first “official” full Ironman branded swim 5 years ago, and I allowed the memories to roll over me. I then sought out the exact same ramen shop I had eaten at when I raced here, but was a little disappointed they didn’t remember me ( well to be honest, why would they, many tourists pass through). After filling up on piping hot ramen, they allowed me to fill up my bottles with cool water, and I headed back out.


Circumnavigating the lake also brought back memories of IM Japan, as the bike course started and finished here. It is around 40km around, and I worked out that with a few extra km on the way back I could make the “century mile ride”, or 160km for those of a metric persuasion. I decided to follow the same basic route back and other than a rather large snake (probably) dead on the road, was nothing out of the ordinary and I just kept pushing, completing one of my most enjoyable rides ever just as the light was starting to fade for an exact total of 160km with over 1600 of climbing, and I still felt remarkably strong too.

The next day was raining again, so I did a deal with myself to take it easy during early part of the day but to head out by 4pm for a long run. I was still very nervous about this as I wasn’t convinced my previous sudden loss of run endurance had really been cured with the iron supplement, and a bad run would totally derail my plans to race Ironman Korea in 3 weeks’ time. The rain kept up but true to my internal promise a little after 4pm I ventured out. I could feel tiredness in my legs from the previous days biking so set myself a minimum mark of 20km as fair. My training plan  called for 26km, but I couldn’t see that happening with the wet cold weather and the shaky legs.

To cut a long story short, I surprised myself and through constantly lying to myself about when I could stop, breaking the run into small mental segments and changing my goal as I managed to cover each extra km, I eventually managed 28km. The last 1km was tough, but to say I was chuffed would be an understatement, I was ecstatic as I knew this meant I could go to Korea confident that I could finish the race. I celebrated with steak and chips!

The final full day arrived, but due to tiredness and lack of motivation  I spent most of the day being lazy, but eventually persuaded myself to go to the pool where I knocked out 1km of intervals and 3km of continuous swimming  in a completely empty lap lane. Another successful marker on my training logs.

Mount Yotei
Mount Yotei on one of the sunny days

Further rain meant a very wet and cold remaining time in Hokkaido, an additional hour run was all I managed before heading back to Tokyo. I was a bit disappointed I hadn’t made myself go out for one further ride, even if it was wet, but all in all a 4km swim, a 160km bike, and a 28km run plus a couple of extra shorter sessions was a pretty good return from a 5 night stay, and I feel confident I am at a point where I can complete, if not compete in Ironman Gurye two and a half weeks from now.


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