MontBell Sea to Summit. Daisetsuzan, Hokkaido.
June 21st 2015
“Not long to go now. How’s the training going?” is a question we have been asked a lot recently. Our friends and colleagues know that we’re setting off on this trip in a couple of month’s time and so naturally will ask us questions. In terms of preparing specifically for the next 18 months of cycling, we haven’t really been doing any extra training. But we do try and keep fit through our hobbies, cycling being one, as well as hiking, running and in the winter, skiing. We also usually enter a few running races every summer to keep us working towards things.
One such event we took part in recently was the MontBell Sea to Summit. There are 5 (I think) different Sea to Summits in Japan, which involve a kayak, cycle and then hike from a body of water up to the peak of a mountain. They’re run and sponsored by MontBell, an awesome Japanese outdoor clothing and equipment company, whose stores are virtually impossible to come out of with wallet intact. We entered the Hokkaido version, which was held in the Daisetsuzan national park. There was a kayak course on the Chubetsu Lake, then a cycle up to the base of Asahidake – Hokkaido’s highest peak, and then a hike to the summit.
Although the distances weren’t huge, it was a testing event across different sports with a significant altitude gain. The kayaking part was especially challenging as we rarely get too involved in water sports – mainly because Hokkaido only has a very short season when the sea or lakes aren’t bloody cold, or actual ice.
Once we got the boats out the way, we were on more familiar territory with the bike ride up the hill. Our steel touring bikes weren’t as well suited to the climb as the super light road bikes that our competition were riding, but we managed to make up a bit of time on the ride.
The hike was where we really made some good progress. We set off at a run over the first slightly more mellow section, before settling into a steady hiking pace when the gradient steepened on the main ridgeline to the summit.
At the summit once we crossed the line we didn’t know our times or positions as it was a staggered start and the transition times between events weren’t included in the overall time. As we stood around recovering and enjoying a mini summit beer, one of the race officials came over and told Clare that she’d won the women’s category!
The walk back down to the base was a lot of fun as we were on a real buzz from the race and we were cheering and high 5’ing the other competitors as they were making their way up. The camaraderie and team spirit that you get in Japanese sports events really is something special. The biggest cheer was definitely for the team who entered wearing giant panda heads and kept them on for the whole day, despite the sunshine and heat.
At the closing and results ceremony, Clare won the women’s category comfortably. Her time would’ve put her in 4th place in the men’s category too, so a really solid performance. I managed to get 2nd place in the men’s which I wasn’t expecting, especially after such an awful time splashing about on the lake in a kayak I never want to see again!
We both got a nice plaque for the metaphorical mantelpiece plus a big bag full of ham, pork and sausages each. You can’t beat delicious edible prizes!
So at this point, with about 6 weeks to go we’re in decent physical shape. But, those 6 weeks will involve a week’s trip to Honshu and a music festival, a number of farewell parties and no doubt lots of enjoying Japanese food favourites ‘one last time before we go’. Hopefully by August 1st we’ll still fit into our cycling shorts!