Ultra Trail Mount Fuji Q&A - May 2012
Interview with Russ Angrignon - North American Western Region Manager - PrimaLoft®, Inc.
How was your experience in training for the Mt. Fuji race?
Training for a race this length is quite specific to the person and what their race goals are for an event like this. Training to win is very different than training to finish. For Delena and I – our goals are to enjoy the experience, finish without injury, and of course, finish in a reasonable time. Long term health and wellness are our primary goals, but enjoying the moment, the personal interactions during the race and taking time to really appreciate and absorb the scenery are more important than our finishing times. With that in mind, training for a race of this length required a commitment of time – usually 3-5 days per week on a program loosely structured to increase in intensity, but allow for flexibility depending on how our bodies are responding and other daily life obligations such as work, family, community etc... It is a balancing act. For the Mt. Fuji race, we had about 10 weeks less time to train than we normally do for this type of race, so we focused on quality of training time and tried to enter the race well rested and feeling strong – which we did.
What difficulties did this type of race present for you?
Being able to eat enough calories during the race is critical to success. Having never raced in Japan and not having a support team, meant that we needed to be more strategic in our food planning. We were concerned about the weight we would be carrying and wanted to maintain our focus on calorie intake and any digestive issues. As it turns out, most of the food served on the course was fantastic, but the notable lack of hot tea and especially coffee at most aid stations made the sleep deprivation component of the race much more difficult. We are typically awake for about a 50 hour period during a race like this with no sleep at all and a fairly high rate of exertion. There’s roughly 15-18 hours of running at night and very cold and/or wet temperatures – all of which make lying down and sleeping extremely inviting. This race had very tough cut off times, which forced people to start out quite fast or be disqualified – this takes its toll on runners later on in the race.
What’s the significance of Mt Fuji to the Japanese people? How do they regard the mountain in their culture?
Mt. Fuji is a national symbol of strength, connection with the earth, and spirituality in Japan.
How did it differ from your experience running the Tor Des Geants in 2011 or The North Face Canadian Death Race, in ‘09?
Races of different lengths provide different challenges. While The North Face Canadian Death Race (CDR) is only 75 miles in length – it has over 34,000 feet of total vertical – so it is a fast race and quite tough. Ultra Trail Mont Blanc – the European sister race to UTMF is the same length and vertical – but quite different terrain and cultural experience. The TDG is 200 miles and 160,000 feet total vertical. We slept only 7 ½ hours in 6 days during the TDG – so while we were not moving quite as fast as in the UTMF – the sleep deprivation and relentless distance and vertical presented different challenges in terms of food intake, sleep management etc... Each race is tough in its own way and teaches you something different about how to move efficiently through mountain terrain while maintaining your energy and mental commitment. What made the UTMF unique was not only the scenery, but racing with mostly Japanese runners. Our experience was very positive and we found the Japanese people to be gracious, polite, friendly and respectful. We also found them to be very tough competitors. It was a very enjoyable atmosphere during the race.
What’s next for you in terms of endurance running/training?
No idea. We like to remain open and see what catches our interest. Big mountain experiences are our primary goal and running is simply a means to having these experiences and continuing to develop and advance our physical fitness and endurance. However, there are some interesting desert races in the 300 – 400 mile distance that look appealing. In the meantime, we hope to kick off some mountaineering objectives to make good use of our fitness.
Any additional endurance events you’d like to try?
Too many to list. They all require training time, travel time, race time and money – and the reality is we both have far too many other interests to begin to fit them all into our lives. We will likely do some more endurance events but want to squeeze in some other types of adventures in the meantime. In general we like nonstop expedition style events versus stage events – they have a greater sense of adventure in our opinion.
What’s your inspiration? Any rituals you must do for each race?
Our primary goal is to strengthen our bodies and improve our health and wellness. Our inspiration is to never miss an opportunity to experience a great life adventure due to a lack of physical fitness. Eating and living healthy is a lifestyle for us. Being in the mountains as often as possible brings a sense of contentment that we have not found elsewhere and allows us to share intimate experiences with old friends and meet new ones who share a common passion for life. Eating well, sleeping well, regular intense exercise and quiet relaxation are all part of how we balance our lives. We are still learning, but it feels like we are moving in the right direction and we hope to move into our 50’s in the best shape of our lives. It is our fountain of youth and fuels the passion we put into everything else in our lives.
You may also like…
Freeride World Tour - Who to Watch: Freeskier Eva Walker
Life On The Sea: A Look into Alaskan Deep Sea Fishing
A conversation with Chris Humphris, PrimaLoft®’s Iron Man