My Private Training Camp

The continuing problems with my Achilles and the resulting inability to properly train, created serious doubts regarding my level of fitness. Therefore I had reluctantly decided that, rather than risk further injury, I had better drop out of the local Half Ironman race scheduled for 1st September. Of course every cloud has a silver lining,  and in this case the extra recovery time plus some more magic from my physio Donny, meant that I was able to set my sights on my seasons A race, Ironman Gurye 2019 in Korea on September 22nd, understanding it would be about getting around the course in one piece and nothing more.

The dilemma was I had missed a large chunk of training, and in an effort to catch up, I decided to take myself to Hokkaido, the island off northern Japan. Being so far north it doesn’t suffer the oppressive heat and humidity that Tokyo summer bring, which combined with its far flung location and long snowy winter season mean it is sparsely populated compared to the mainland, the roads are much clearer, the vegetation much thicker and the air much cleaner. With its mountains and beautiful scenery it makes a perfect place for a summer training camp, which is why I have made it an annual pilgrimage for many of the past 10 years.

Kutchan station
The local station of Kutchan in all its rural glory

After scoping out the prices I discovered that 8 nights would be cheaper than 5 due to discounts, so I booked my usual “summer-use ski lodge studio”, and headed off early on Saturday morning for the 90 minute flight and 4 hour train journey to the beautiful village of Hirafu.

My big concern was the weather, it can be very British-like and rain was forecast for every day bar one. But I was determined to make the most of my time and I had packed rain wear when I had sent my bike ahead of me, via the wonderful “takkyubin” delivery service available in Japan.

Summer weather in Niseko
Rain forecast all week

My train arrived around 2:30pm and I was whisked to the apartment complex about 20 minutes away. I quickly checked in and after a brief rest, got ready to start my week long training camp

Day One. Saturday 

Weather. Damp and grey, very light rain

I was aware it got dark around 6pm so decided on a long run rather than risk the bike. My longest run for the past 6 weeks had been 17km, but with my race only 4 weeks away, I had to push it. I needed to hit 21k at least, hoping for more but really had no idea how my Achilles would hold up.

In the end I managed 23k, with the rolling landscape meaning 325m of climbing included. The pace was awful and by the last 5k my ankle was painful and my legs stumbling, but I did it!

Training score – 9/10 did more than I had expected, but slight concern over injury.

Day Two – Sunday

Weather – Sunny but got chilly when cloud arrived with cold wind.

I didn’t sleep much during the night and then dozed once it got light, so my start was somewhat delayed. Had no idea how I’d feel as hadn’t managed an outdoor ride for 4 weeks, and that had only been just over 100k. Also felt tired from the efforts the day before.

At Lake Toya

I needn’t have worried as all came together, had a fantastic ride of 148km with 2000m climbing (to be totally honest I think this number was inflated by my wahoo ELEMNT getting wet, and was closer to 1700m, but still not bad). Was a bit chilly towards the end but I was super happy when I rolled back home in the fading light of a late summer day. With a bonus that the motion of pushing the peddle meant my ankle had completely loosened up and was free of pain,

Training score – 10/10. Everything I could have wanted from a bike ride.

Day Three – Monday.

Weather – grey and light rain

I was due a visit from my adult son and I expected him late afternoon. A morning of work meant not much time left, so I went to the nearest pool in the basement of a big hotel. Super friendly staff without the surfeit of rules the pools have in Tokyo (e.g. not allowed to wear any form of jewellery including sport watches, have to cover any tattoos etc etc). I actually had a wide lane all to myself and got a fantastic hour of swimming in.

Training score – 7/10

Day Four – Tuesday

Sunny and warm

Early morning visit to the local gym where I worked chest and legs.

Then out for a shorter bike ride in the afternoon. Pushed 75k including 900m of climbing. Tried to stay aero but uncomfortable after few km. Saw signs warning me of bears, but luckily didn’t run into any ( I have to admit I was ringing my bell in the most remote areas, just in case to warn them I’m coming).

Beware of the bears
Beware of the bears – a reminder that I am definitely not in Tokyo.

Training score – 8/10

Day Five – Wednesday 

Grey and wet

Did back, shoulders and arms at gym before a nice pasta lunch. My son left earlier than planned due to inclement weather.

I picked a dry patch mid afternoon and got out for 12.5k run. Achilles hurts more than I hoped, but slight improvement on pace.

Training score 7/10

Day Six – Thursday

Wet and miserable

Spent some time on my day job in morning as constant rain meant iy was not worth leaving the apartment. Went to pool in afternoon and again had a lane all to myself, pleased to get in over 3.5k of swimming.

Training score – 7/10

Day Seven – Friday

Warm and sunny

With the forecast for Saturday predicting rain I decided to get out on the bike for the big weekend ride a day early.

Beautiful Toyako
Beautiful Toyako

Had hoped to go a different route but couldn’t get the RidewithGPS maps to talk nicely with my wahoo, so did same route as the previous Sunday with a bit extra added in.

Again a fantastic ride, 160k with 1800m of climbing (more realistic than the 2000m earlier), perfect bike riding weather throughout. Had an unknown insect get down my shirt and sting me a couple times, hurt like hell but the bug had gone when I stopped to check. Guess was a horse fly.  Was very happy to get back, exhausted but extremely pleased to get a second big ride in 6 days.

Training score – 10/10

Day Eight – Saturday 

Wet, sunny, grey, wet

And I did bugger all. Took the day off and recovered

Training score 5/10. I needed a rest!

Day Nine – Sunday

Warm with clouds alternating with sun

I was leaving late afternoon so went for a morning long run. I desperately wanted to get 40k for the week, but as had only run 12.5 so far, that meant 27.5k and I really doubted my Achilles or run fitness would cope.

They did! I managed 27:58km, was strong until final 5km, but just kept plugging away. Decent amount of climbing too. Absolutely knackered when I finished, was s struggle to walk up the hill to my apartment. However the need to eat and pack meant very little time to rest, and I was hobbling for the rest of the day

Training score 10/10 Hurt like hell but got my longest run in a year done!

And that was that, an absolutely fantastic week of training meant I could head back to Tokyo happy and content with my efforts. The only question being – were my efforts enough and  would my Achilles recover enough? Would I be able  to continue the training to a point I could be confident to complete Ironman Gurye in 21 days? Only time would tell…


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