Three hillclimb races, plus a solo climb

So recently I have been obsessed with hillclimbs (riding your bike up a mountain road) and I participated in three hillclimb races: Ibukiyama in April, and Koma ga take and Utsukushi ga hara in June. In May, I didn't have any events but I did take the train to KisoFukushima station to do the Ontake hillclimb.

Ibukiyama Driveway Hillclimb 伊吹山ドライブウェイヒルクライム: April 10 2016

This was actually my first hillclimb race. Ibukiyama driveway is normally only accessible by motorized vehicle but every year they open the gates for this race. It goes along the border of Gifu and Shiga Prefectures. The driveway doesn't go all the way to the summit, but it is 15 km long and has a grade of 6.8% (although there are sections that are more than 20%). Up until this point, the longest climb I had ever done was 10 km.
My result was satisfactory for me. I got 79/139 in the women's category with a time of 1:25:33. I wasn't last, in fact I was in the top two thirds. Since it was my longest climb to date, I was just aiming for a finish.
My feelings about the race... At times it was really difficult and I got discouraged when people passed me, but in general it motivated me to do more climbs and especially seek out longer climbs.

Cherry blossoms were in bloom.
At the top after the race.

Solo ride: Ontake Hillclimb 御岳ヒルクライム: May 5 2016

So on Golden Week I decided not to do a tour this year. But I still really wanted a good challenge so I decided to ride my bike up Ontake, which is indeed the volcano that erupted a couple of years ago. Don't worry it's safe because I have been skiing on it twice since. Anyhow, I think this is my hardest climb to date, and also my longest and highest (over 20 km and 1200 m elevation gain... that comes to an average grade of 6%).
So I hopped on the train with my bike in a bag and rode over there, rode up and then rode back down.  It was very difficult. Have you ever tried to drink from a water bottle at 80% maximum heart rate riding up a 6% hill? I wouldn't recommend it. The Ontake climb doesn't have any long downhill sections. Just REALLY steep sections followed by not so steep sections.
My total time was 2:11:54 for a distance of 20.8 km.
Halfway there, looking at the summit.
At the top of the road, looking at the summit.
The road goes right through a ski area.
On the way down I had to take a picture of my bike next to a ski lift!
About 5 km down from the top.
 After I finished, I was immensely satisfied (I finally broke my highest and longest climb record, and I rode my bike up a volcano!) If you haven't tried this, I highly recommend it.
The only bad thing about riding up Ontake is, you know there aren't many steeper, longer, or more challenging rides left in Japan... If I want to break my record I pretty much have to ride Mt. Fuji.
Another bad thing about riding up Ontake is that after an hour you feel like you're just about to give in and then you realize that you're only halfway up.

Central Alps Hillclimb 中央アルプスヒルクライム: June 12 2016

After Ibukiyama I signed up for two more races, Central Alps (Kiso-komagatake) and Tour De Utsukushigahara, both in Nagano. Komagatake is in Komagane city and has some ski hills. Like Ibukiyama, the driveway is normally closed to regular traffic and only buses can run up and down, but they closed down the driveway until 9 am for the race. It was only about 9.7 km but a lot steeper on average than Ibukiyama with an average of 8.4%. In addition, there were NO downhill sections (around km 12, Ibukiyama has a couple short downhill section where I was able to put out 30 km/h) so I felt it was almost more challenging.
I was able to get 12th of 18 in the women's category with a time of 1:08:44. Overall my place was 169th out of 194 participants. Not my best time on a 10 km climb but I really don't have the hills around here in Aichi/Gifu to practice steep sections long distance. Anyhow I will be looking for some steep hills soon to practice my form. One thing I am happy with on this race is the fact that I was able to sprint to the finish and also pass quite a few people and keep up with or pass people of a similar pace.
After the race up the 9.6 km climb, we took the tram (no extra charge) nearly up to the summit where the award ceremony was held and they gave us free food and drink. The view from there was amazing.

Tour De Utsukushigahara ツール・ド・美ヶ原: June 26 2016

Utsukushigahara is a highland just outside of Matsumoto city, in Nagano prefecture. "Utsukushi" means beautiful in Japanese. I have to say this hillclimb was very beautiful and it was calming when I was standing on the pedals yet barely inching forward in some sections (average of 17% over half a km at the start). By the way... there was a recumbent bike class, and it had maybe 8-10 riders. I was impressed. I don't even want to think about doing some of those >10% sections on a recumbent bike.
The "Champion" class started first, then the women's class was second.

The course is almost 22 km and the average grade is 6%. Mostly it is 1-2 km sections of 8%, 13% and so on interspersed by very short downhill or flat sections. However, 17km in there are several downhill sections where I was able to put out 55 km/h. For that reason I definitely want to go next year as well.
I have to say I'm quite happy with my result. I actually got 30th out of 61, so in the top half of the women's category. My time was 1:53:25.
My favourite TV show, Charider (チャリダー) was there doing a segment 
The view from the top (parking lot/finish line)

After the race we got locally grown tomatoes with salt!! Delicious

Women's category Top 6.
The first place winner had a time of about 1:20.
The overall race winner had a time of about 1:06.
After the race, I got to go in an onsen (the best way to end a day of hard working out, or in this case, just before lunch). Matsumoto city is famous for Asama Onsen. Since most of the participants in the race were men, there were almost no women in the onsen so it was very peaceful.

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