It's good to be home after an incredible two weeks in Japan. After several saturating days at the base of Mt. Fuji, I'm now drying out in the glorious sunshine of Northern California and returning to the comforts of routine. Though the trip was highlighted by the unfortunate shortening of this year's edition of UTMF, there were plenty of silver linings to make my experience enormously positive. Really, it was one of the most enjoyable trips of my life.
On my flight to Tokyo, I got into a conversation with a businessman who regularly travels to Japan for work. Upon telling him it was my first trip, he felt an obligation to brief me on certain aspects of Japanese culture. The first thing he said was "the Japanese just care." Now with the benefit of personal experience, I can't think of a better way to describe it. The Japanese simply care and they apply that care in everything they do. From their famously simple yet intricate cuisine, to their unrivaled hospitality of guests, to the way they organize trail races, the Japanese have amazing attention to detail. In my brief experience, this characteristic was no more evident than in race management's handling of the unfortunate weather circumstances. Two of the senior directors of the race - both men in or near their 50s - were openly weeping at the start line as they announced their decision to shorten the course. They felt that they'd disappointed and inconvenienced the athletes who'd made an effort to be there. Of course, everyone I spoke to was sympathetic to their difficult situation and felt they'd made the right decision. Management was in a very tough position and their response is worth commending. The intention to return to UTMF was virtually unanimous among the athletes at the award ceremony, myself included.
The race itself, though only ~50k in distance, was perfectly enjoyable. I felt very good from the beginning and was really happy with the result. The 8-10 weeks preceding the race contained some of my most productive training of my life and I'd certainly never felt more prepared and confident before a 100 miler. It was nice to have some validation of this feeling during the race but I can't help but feel I could have had a really special day had it been a 100 mile course. But bad weather is part of the game and I'm sure I'll have another opportunity to try. The good news is I still feel fresh and motivated to compete this fall. I'll consider my options over the next week or two and then get back to work, starting with some XC racing in the Bay Area with the SFRC family (#showupandblowup).
Finally, thanks to Kaburaki, Yasuo, Muira, Niimi, and everyone from Goldwin and TNF Japan. I've never been better looked after and I really appreciated your hospitality. Thanks also to my sponsors for making these experiences possible. It's really a dream come true.