Brendan Davies looks ahead to TNF100 and reflects on Ultra Trail Mt Fuji
This weekend it’s the race that means the most to me – the TNF100.
The 100km showdown is staged in my backyard, on the trails I regularly run here in Australia.
It is the chance to race some of the world’s best and improve on my previous battles against those athletes.
Although not as big as the likes of Ultra Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF), in my heart and mind the TNF100 is the one that matters the most to me.
Looking back on the UTMF, I feel privileged to have been part of such an event. It was a race and experience I will never forget.
UTMF – The beauty
The 100-mile race was spectacular – running anti-clockwise around Japan’s spiritual volcanic monster. It included 9,000m of elevation.
Running in the twilight just after race start (3pm) afforded me brilliant views of Mt Fuji, showing off colours and shades often not seen by people. It was similar in the crisp, clear morning air.
The course travelled through a variety of environments, from pine forests to mountain ranges and even quite a bit of urban scape. There was much to see and experience.
UTMF – The people
The Japanese culture is built around respect for each other and the environment. Nowhere was this on show more than through the actions of each competitor, volunteer, marshal, media representative and store holder. So polite, kind, charming and helpful.
UTMF – The race
I ran, walked, suffered and enjoyed every second of my 20 hours and 38 minutes on the course. I finished fifth. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done.
The climbs sapped the life out of me and the descents finished me off.
Thankfully in between the seven or so climbs in the race there was a fair bit of flat, undulating terrain and even road running. The race suited an all-rounder as it required the full range of skills: fast flat speed, skilful technical running and hardcore tenacious climbing ability. It was seriously hard!
UTMF – The lessons
The term ‘trail running’ has, for me, now been redefined forever. No longer will I think of the sport as just a running event on trails as the name implies!
The European men massacred me on the steep, technical climbs. They walked at pace past me and pulled out big gaps in terms of distance.
If there was one area of my training I wish I had done more on pre-UTMF it was my fast uphill walking. The good news is that I now know what I need to improve, and I will take a different approach with me into big European races later this year.
The other lesson I learned from the race is that when the going gets tough – as it did on some of the crazy, long climbs and descents – the thing that gets you through it is mental toughness. So many times I was cursing and hurting so badly, but the stubborn, dogged determination to keep going was greater. I used a variety of mantras, counting strategies and mindfulness techniques to distract myself from the pain in my legs and my mind.
UTMF – The highlights
The best thing was spreading my wings and meeting a slice of the international trail running community. It was brilliant to put faces to names and run amongst some of the best in the sport.
The other highlight was the efficient and seamless organisation of the event. I can’t begin to comprehend how difficult a job it would be to put on such an event. Tsuyoshi Kaburaki and his team delivered a first-class event. No stone unturned, nothing unthought of.
I’d like to thank everyone for their support, including my wife, inov-8 team-mate Shona Stephenson, who was rewarded for all her hard work with a superb second-place finish (25 hours and 53 minutes), and the people from Descente (distributors for inov-8).
* Shona, who won race number three in the Sydney Trail Series last weekend, will also be on the TNF100 start line.
“Me and Brendan are fit and ready for TNF100 on Saturday. BRING IT ON!” said Shona.