The Chase is On at the Adventure Race Japan
At the time of writing, Australian team Dynamite Peak Adventure has an unexpected lead at the ARJ after 12 hours of racing.
The race started at 0800 with the spectacular peaks of the Northern Japanese Alps as a back drop. The first leg was a 25 km circular hike through some very hilly terrain. In fact teams would cover 2600m of cumulative elevation gain through out the leg. Teams started with a run but quickly slowed to a power walk as the incline increased. The sound of bear bells, which are mandatory gear for the race, jingling made the whole scene very festive.
The bears in this area are fondly known as “Olympic” bears. It seems that once every four years many bears all visit Hakuba at once only to disappear for the following three. Excitingly, this year is officially an “Olympic” bear year. There have been many sightings around the town.
The race was interesting right from the start as teams chose multiple different routes to each point. Back at HQ this was followed by most of the race officials. A large screen had been set up with rows of chairs so it resembled a theatre. Race and course directors Masato and Goshi spend much of the day in the front row offering commentary to the audience. All that was missing was a bag of popcorn. The hall was full of audible groans of disbelief by everyone when any team, particularly, race favourites, Columbia Vidaraid, took wrong routes around the hills and spur lines.
The first team to arrive back to HQ (which was also Transition Area (TA) 1), was the Australian team Dynamite Peak Adventure. There wasn’t a lot of talking as there were 2 Japanese teams, Fujin Raijin and Super Morning Expedition Team only four minutes behind them. In the scurry to get through the transition and build their bikes, Elizabeth did divulge that “we enjoyed the leg, we found several tracks that were not marked and that made it easier for us”. Angus added “we saw a snake and quite a few eagles but no bears”
Columbia Vidaraid, race favourites, who kept all the dot watchers busy for the day watching their route, arrived well back in the field in 6th place, a full 1hr and 10min behind the leaders. They were obviously disappointed and very focused on getting through the TA as fast as possible. The only comment they had was “We made a few mistakes, there is still a lot of racing, it is disappointing”.
From here teams mounted their bikes for a short 17km ride to the stand up paddle board (SUP). There they paddled a triangular 3km SUP (Leg 3) before returning to their mountain bikes (leg 4) for a 52km ride to the rafting. They are not allowed to start the rafting until 0400 Saturday morning.
At the end of Leg 2, Dynamite Peak Adventure were first to arrive. They said the navigation was quite difficult on the bike and that they were proud of they way they got through. They quickly headed out on the 2 SUPs allocated per team with one person lying down and the other standing over them paddling.
Team Fujin Raijin was only 6 minutes behind the leaders. They looked deceptively relaxed as they made their way through the transition. Perhaps that look of calm comes from the 19 years of adventure racing experience they have. This team is one of the best in Japan and has competed at the ARWS Ireland Itera event. Fuji Raijin believe that their greatest strength is their navigation closely followed by their ability to keep each others spirits high when things get tough out on the course.
Team Dynamite Peak Adventure returned at the end of the SUP still in the lead. They said the paddle had been beautiful as it was very calm. They also said it wasn’t as cold as they thought it would be. Their heart beats visibly quickened when they saw that Columbia Vidaraid was in the TA getting ready to go out on the SUP. Smiles were replaced by game faces and happy chatter was forgotten. The race was on.
A link to the live tracking is at http://adventureracejapan.jp/