Posts tagged izu
Alessandro Sherpa is the new ATM Champion!
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Singapore-based Italian Alessandro Sherpa has crowned himself as the new Asia Trail Master champion after beating his main challenger Salva Rambla in a straight dual during the Izu Trail Journey in Japan. Sherpa succeeds Malaysian Steven Ong as ATM champion. In the final 2018 ranking, Rambla is second and Japan’s Tomohiro Mizukoshi third. The iconic 72km long Izu Trail Journey itself was won surprisingly by Fuji-homeboy Ko Ito and the returning Yumiko Oichi in the women’s category.

After the Compressport Trail Blazer in Singapore, Salva Rambla had a psychological advantage over a still-injured Sherpa going into the big Japan final. In addition, Tomohiro Mizukoshi was running in the area he grew up in, and not for the first time. As Rambla more or less had to win the race of the ATM championship contenders (only runners who did two ATM races in 2018 are eligible for points in the season’s final), Mizukoshi was announced as the King Maker, who could make life even harder for Sherpa to retain his 130-points-lead in the championship. As last year, Izu Trail Journey was a brilliant ending to our championship, and six runners ranked in the top ten were present at the start line: Sherpa, Rambla and Mizukoshi, but also Diago Gonzales, Kitamura and Sungsik Joh.

The top 3 of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship: LtR: Sherpa, Rambla and Mizukoshi

The top 3 of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship: LtR: Sherpa, Rambla and Mizukoshi

It was cold again on race day, yet nowhere near the arctic conditions of last year when runners even found snow and ice on the way. Alessandro Sherpa had had a good night of sleep apparently, as rather than sitting back and following Salva Rambla he crossed the first checkpoint after km 10 as leader in the race together with former Izu winner Tomohiro Tsuji. Rambla was two minutes back in the main group of favourites. As the terrain became hillier, the local lightweight Japanese runners moved up the leaderboard. Four runners went ahead, with Sherpa and Rambla just behind and Hong Kong-based Frenchman Pierre-Andrew Ferriere gradually edging closer as well. Ferriere is on the Gone Running Team and had been announced as being in top shape for Izu Trail Journey, leading the Hong Kong Strava board in November in terms of elevation gain conquered. His first appearance in an ATM points race will be remembered, as he passed the two championship contenders half-way and continued to push through to eventually find himself as third on the race podium!

Meanwhile, Ko Ito had taken command of the race going up to Nishina Pass at the km 42 mark. Also Ito had made a relaxed start, and overtook everyone ahead of him uphill. However, even the Japanese race directors did not really know who Ko Ito was. Later in the interviews he would explain he hails from the Mount Fuji area and usually finishes races around the top ten rank. However, he had prepared himself meticulously for Izu Trail Journey, an A-goal, with many weeks of speed training, proving again how important that aspect of training is for trail as well. Ko Ito would not run away from the better known runners such as Katsuhiro Matsubara, Nobuya Tani and Tsuji (who clearly was too ambitious trying to follow Sherpa in the beginning), but four minutes was enough to take a unprecedented win.

Ko Ito was the surprise race winner of Izu Trail Journey 2018

Ko Ito was the surprise race winner of Izu Trail Journey 2018

Meanwhile, Rambla had managed to overtake Sherpa at some point downhill, raising the pressure on the Italian, who did not know where any of the other ATM runners were. If Rambla came first, and someone else placed himself between him and Sherpa, the ATM championship would go to the Spaniard. However, Rambla’s ‘attack’ did not last very long. Tired of all the traveling over the past weeks, he had to admit not having the best of legs for the final race of the season. Sherpa caught him back uphill and saw the moment. He pressed ahead by himself and opened a gap that later would never be more than a handful of minutes. But it proved enough. As he crossed the finish line as 13th, but first of the ATM championship contenders, he had the title in the bag. Salva Rambla eventually let go at the end and arrived just ahead of Tomohiro Mizukoshi, whose second part of the race was significantly better than his first. While Sherpa enjoyed his title victory after months of hardship (he kept on postponing necessary surgery), Rambla could not hide his disappointment, although in fair sportsmanship.

Behind them, Pablo Diago Gonzales and Hisashi Kitamura had their own fantastic battle going on for fourth place in this year’s championship. Both started the race on equal points, so Izu would decide their final ranking, too. The two runners exchanged positions continuously throughout the race. And just when Diago Gonzales appeared to have got it in the bag, Kitamura sprinted past him again in the last main downhill towards the finish! Caught off-guard, similar to Mantra Summits where he lost the race lead in the final kilometre to Elias Tabac, Diago Gonzales had no response left to the final burst of energy of the amazing Kitamura. Based in Kuala Kumpur, the Japanese runner has only begun to run trails exactly a year ago and has seen his performances grow steadily ever since.

The women’s race was won for the third time by Yumiko Oichi. The local athlete had just returned from a very long injury pause, and was delighted to have come out on top of a great battle with two other runners. Hakuba Trails winner Maki Tanaka was dominating proceedings until two-thirds into the race, when suddenly Oichi and Kaori Asahara returned to the front. Yumiko Oichi had the best final dash. A great run was also delivered by the now-Japan-based Carole Fuchs. After a modest early phase, diesel Fuchs managed to race herself in the top five of the race. She was also first of the runners eligible for ATM points, which puts her in the top ten of the final ranking. Aggy Sabanal from Mindanao, Philippines, was the second woman of her country to finish Izu Trail Journey. A mountain climber and specialist of technical trails, Sabanal can be very happy with her result on the hilly but runable Izu Trail. Her performance also resulted in second place in the ATM Championship ranking, splitting the Indonesians Ruth Theresia and Sri Wahyuni. Not bad for a 22-year-old university student!

Did they have a little tussle: Hisashi Kitamura and Pablo Diago Gonzales for 4th place!

Did they have a little tussle: Hisashi Kitamura and Pablo Diago Gonzales for 4th place!

Nagano-based New Zealander Richard Coghlan had a fantastic run to 9th place!

Nagano-based New Zealander Richard Coghlan had a fantastic run to 9th place!

All podium placers together on the podium

All podium placers together on the podium

Yumiko Oichi won Izu Trail for a third time, but after long injury troubles, this was special

Yumiko Oichi won Izu Trail for a third time, but after long injury troubles, this was special

Filipino Aggy Sabanal finished the race as one of the youngest in the field at age 22

Filipino Aggy Sabanal finished the race as one of the youngest in the field at age 22

Korea’s Sungsik Joh found Izu to his liking, but gastritis gave him a tough day on the trails

Korea’s Sungsik Joh found Izu to his liking, but gastritis gave him a tough day on the trails

The top five of the ATM championship in one pic

The top five of the ATM championship in one pic

At the press and race briefing on saturday afternoon

At the press and race briefing on saturday afternoon

No Mt Fuji this year: it was too cloudy to adore the mountain on the horizon

No Mt Fuji this year: it was too cloudy to adore the mountain on the horizon

Sherpa and Rambla run for the title during Izu Trail Journey
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For the second consecutive season Izu Trail Journey across Japan’s Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo will decide the outcome of the Asia Trail Master men’s championship. After 35 points races in 15 Asian countries, Alessandro Sherpa and Salva Rambla will battle for the title in a straight dual on the fantastic but challenging 72km course from Matzuzaki to Shuzenji.

Izu Trail Journey is rapidly gaining prestige and fame in the Asian trail circuit since it joined our championship series in 2017. Last year’s edition was of course also historical for its frosty and even snowy conditions. It won’t get that cold tomorrow but for sure wind jackets will be worn by most runners as they line up for the start at 6 a.m. by the ocean. Five of the top six male runners in the Asia Trail Master Championship will be competing against some local Japanese elite and international elites. An important novelty for the season’s final, though, is that ATM points will only be awarded to runners who have done minimum two ATM races this year. This means there will be a race within the race for the ATM protagonists. In the fight for the ATM title, it comes down to this: Sherpa leads Rambla by 130 points, but Rambla can still up his total score by 180 points. It means that no matter what anyone else does tomorrow, Salva Rambla needs to be first (+180 points) or second (+130 points) of the ATM protagonists to have a chance of winning the ATM championship. And then it of course still depends on Sherpa’s own performance. If Salva wins Izu and Sherpa is second, Sherpa wins the championship (2550 points vs 2525 points). If Salva wins and Sherpa finishes third in the race, they both end up with a total of 2525 points: a tie and then we look at the last direct confrontation of the two runners in question, which means Salva would be the new champion. That is of course the beauty of tomorrow’s race: Salva Rambla beat Alessandro Sherpa in Singapore’s Trail Blazer only two weeks go, and if fast-legged Salva were to go ahead solo on the Izu Trail, Sherpa must make sure nobody else of the ATM protagonists runs passed him tomorrow. Enter runners Pablo Diago Gonzales, home runner Tomohiro Mizukoshi, Hisashi Kitamura and Daisuke Kobayashi, to name the most likely ‘spoilers’ for Sherpa in this scenario. Tomohiro Mizukoshi has already been labelled the King Maker, because not only is he at home in Izu and did he run this race last year already, but most importantly, he beat both Rambla and Sherpa on a runable 70k course in Bali in October! Moreover, Mizukoshi needs to watch his rear mirror, too. Hisashi Kitamura is not too far down on ATM points and seems keen to finish the championship season as number one Japanese! Pablo Diago Gonzales ran Izu also last year and is back in Japan to do better. Diago Gonzales hails from Spain just like Salva Rambla: will there be a Spanish alliance? Finally, there is Daisuke Kobayashi: little known outside Japan, but a strong runner with Echigo and Hakuba Trails on his ATM record in 2018: he is in the mix for points tomorrow. Kobayashi finished just eight minutes behind Mizukoshi in Hakuba Trails proving his advanced level. In ultra trail running, it is a cliche that anything can happen and there’s too many scenarios to write down here. Let’s conclude with one that sees Salva Rambla finish as second tomorrow: then Sherpa can allow himself to be fourth only.

We could not have hoped for a better finish of the 2018 season, although it is of course a pity that the injured Milton Amat from Malaysia could not join the final in Japan. Amat would have been another candidate for the ATM title thanks to his great performances this season in four big races, three of which were SuperTrails.

In the battle for the race victory tomorrow, Japan’s elites Kei Kikushima (winner Hakuba Trails, but did not compete in another ATM race this season), Tomohiro Tsuji (winner Izu Trail Journey 2016) and Yuichi Miura rank among the top favourites.

The women’s Asia Trail Master Championship already reached a conclusion two weeks ago with Indonesia’s Ruth Theresia crowned as the new champion. However, Izu Trail Journey still has significance for the places of honour. Philippines’ newcomer Aggy Sabanal will be trying to snatch second place in the ATM championship ranking away from Sri Wahyuni. Sabanal, still just 22 years young and university student, is running her first race outside of her home country. She will try to follow into the footsteps of her compatriot Patricia Ann Morota, who completed the freezing edition of last year as first Filipino in great fashion. A strong runner who will try to finish a remarkable year inside the ATM top 10 is Carole Fuchs. Previously based in Bangkok, the French former IronMan professional and winner of Cordillera Mountain Ultra has recently moved to Japan and has been back in training after her successful but physically draining Mount Everest expedition in May. On a good day, Fuchs might as well aim for the top three in tomorrow’s race and a good race result would in any case propel her into the ATM championship top ten. Yukako Takashima, the winner of Echigo Country Trail this year, will be one of the Japanese elite to beat.

As usual we will be reporting live from the race via our social media channels. The race starts at 6 am local time.

Dinner in Tokyo for the two ATM championship finalists: nobody spiked any soup

Dinner in Tokyo for the two ATM championship finalists: nobody spiked any soup

The top 3 of the ATM Championship ranking in Tokyo, flanked by Aggy Sabanal and ATM General Manager Kris Van de Velde

The top 3 of the ATM Championship ranking in Tokyo, flanked by Aggy Sabanal and ATM General Manager Kris Van de Velde

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Kei Kikushima could win the race

Kei Kikushima could win the race

Maki Tanaka is among the women’s favourites

Maki Tanaka is among the women’s favourites

Carole Fuchs at Echigo just after her climbing Mt Everest: she finished second

Carole Fuchs at Echigo just after her climbing Mt Everest: she finished second

New points regulations for ATM Championship final weekend
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The final weekend of the 2018 Asia Trail Master Championship will again consist of two events where the final points for this season can be gathered: Ultra Trail Panoramic in Pai, Thailand on 7/8 December, followed by Izu Trail Journey on the Izu Peninsula in Japan on Sunday, 9 December. Upon conclusion of these two events, we know who succeed Steven Ong and Kim Matthews as the male and female champion in the Asia Trail Master Championship. 

Different from last year, we are introducing an added rule to the points distribution at these two events to allow for a fair conclusion to the championship and to offer runners a fair choice between the two events. The new rule is:

“Only runners who have scored points in minimum two ATM races during the 2018 season will receive ATM Championship points for their respective result in UT Panoramic 100 miles or 100k,  or Izu Trail Journey 72k.” 

In other words, the total race results of both Thai and Japanese events will be filtered, and only runners for whom UT Panoramic or Izu Trail Journey is the third ATM points race of the season will be retained and given championship points. 

Practical example: runner A finishes 9th in Izu Trail Journey. However, the runners in 2nd and 4th place have not done any other race in ATM this year, and the runner in 5th place has only done one before Izu Trail Journey. They are taken out of the list, and runner A gets points equivalent to 5th place. 

By introducing this added rule, runners in contention for the  ATM championship title can freely choose their final race without worrying about the competitive level of the potential local participants. 

Please note that Izu Trail Journey is of course the Japan SuperTrail, meaning 50 bonus points for the relevant finishers. Relevant finishers on the 100 miles of UT Panoramic likewise score the 100-miles bonus, i.e. also 50 points. 

To be clear, this concerns the ATM Championship only and not the Grandmaster Quest. All finishers of the UT Panoramic 100 miles and 100k races, as well as Izu Trail Journey 72k will score a point for their individual Grandmaster challenge. 

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Izu Trail Journey - Cold but beautiful... and FAST!
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The Japan SuperTrail on the Izu Peninsula proved to be a genuine SuperTrail. Not only because of the fantastic course, but also because of the harsh temperatures and the incredible average speed of the Japanese trail runners. It has to be admitted: the South-East Asians who came to Japan had a hard time competing with the elite of the country for the top positions. Japan is of course the distance running country par excellence, but it turned out that many of its top runners were also waiting for a race like Izu Trail Journey to motivate themselves to stay in shape during the cold winter. As such, Izu Trail Journey was an eye-opening experience for many participants. The race was controlled by four runners up front: last year's winner Tomohiro Tsuji, Kota Araki, Yuya Kawasaki and Yoshihito Kondo. These four took off after the first climb of the 72 km race roughly 9 km into the race. At that point, Brunei's Sefli Ahar, who was challenging for the Asia Trail Master Championship as the last man to still overtake Steven Ong on points, was running in 9th place and just 3 minutes behind the front quartet. Sadly, Ahar did start to suffer from the cold. Temperatures were only marginally above zero and the gale winds in the mountain zone made it feel a lot colder still. Winner of CM50 and BTS Ultra in the last six weeks, Sefli Ahar could not close the gap with the Japanese top runners and lost terrain as the race progressed. Suffering from frozen eyes and breathing problems, the 43-year-old Bruneian nevertheless finished the race - 61st - and with his chin up. Sefli Ahar certainly made the ATM Championship exciting until the last moment and we are looking forward to seeing him back in 2018. 

Meanwhile, Kota Araki turned out to be the strongest of the leaders and pulled away. Only Yuya Kawasaki was able to stay close and kept the pressure on. Kawasaki almost paid a price for that, though, as he faded towards the end and saw Yoshihito Kondo finish less than a minute behind him in third place. First non-Japanese was New Zealand's Richard Coughlan. Time of the winner, Kato Araki, was 6:43:48. Izu Trail Journey is 72 km with 4300 Hm and run in a deepfreezer. Araki and Kawasaki will allegedly now represent Japan in the Trail World Championships in Spain next year. Spain's Pablo Diago Gonzales was just outside the top 100 and Hong Kong's Isaac Yuen Wan Ho, who became a two-star Grandmaster,  just outside the top 300, which proves the very high level of Japanese trail running. 

The women's race was a tight battle between Ayano Saito and Kaori Asahari. Both runners were never far apart from each other, and finished also just three minutes separate. Okinawa-based Corinne Williams was an excellent third place. Philippines' Patricia Ann Morota and Indonesia's Shindy Patricia are two ATM protagonists who also finished the race. 

Jun Kaise being greeted by pandas at the km 42 mark

Jun Kaise being greeted by pandas at the km 42 mark

Kota Araki was the strongest runner and won the Japan SuperTrail 

Kota Araki was the strongest runner and won the Japan SuperTrail 

Yuya Kawasaki was a great second with a lot of fighting spirit 

Yuya Kawasaki was a great second with a lot of fighting spirit 

The top 3 of the Izu Trail Journey

The top 3 of the Izu Trail Journey

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The two top women at Izu: what a battle decided in favour of Ayano Saito 

The two top women at Izu: what a battle decided in favour of Ayano Saito 

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ATM Finale in Japan and Thailand bound to be a thriller!
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It’s the last weekend of the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship and it is going to be a thriller. Two races, Ultra Trail Panoramic in Northwestern Thailand and Izu Trail Journey in Japan, determine the outcome of an exciting points championship that still has five runners in contention for the men’s title. While Vietnam-based Australian Kim Matthews is already assured of the women’s Asia Trail Master title, Arief Wismoyono (Indonesia), Manolito Divina (Philippines), Steven Soonseng Ong (Malaysia), Sefli Ahar (Brunei) or Pablo Diago Gonzales (Spain/Singapore) will be crowned the men’s champ on Sunday afternoon. 

All five will be in action in either Thailand or Japan, except Arief Wismoyono, who leads the ranking at present with 2475 points. The Bandung Explorer Ace has suffered from shin splinters following BTS Ultra last month is not recovered enough to compete in ultra this weekend. A pity for the 34-year-old, who this year returned to his best level and will just have to wait and see what the others do. Last year’s ATM champion Manolito Divina is only 25 points down on Wismoyono. He already has five results in the bag this year, which means he needs to do better in UT Panoramic than his “worst” result, i.e. 450 points at Vietnam Mountain Marathon or UT Mapawa. Divina needs to be first (525 points) or second (475 points) in the 100 miles race of UT Panoramic to achieve that and hop ahead of Wismoyono (Divina beat Wismoyono in a straight dual at Sungai Menyala Forest Trail in April, so in case of equal points he gets the advantage). 

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However, it is Steven Ong and Sefli Ahar who hold the key to the championship. The Malaysian and the Bruneian so far only scored four results (both also had a DNF this season), which means they can still get a full whack of either 525 points (Steven at UT Panoramic) or 550 (Sefli at Izu Trail, the Japan SuperTrail), as for the championship it is the best five that count! The beauty is that now they both have 2100. They are 375 points behind Wismoyono, and need 425 in case Manolito wins in Thailand…  That means minimum 3rd place for Steven (on equal points Manolito wins as he beat Steven in a straight dual), minimum fifth place for Sefli. So, there’s a lot of scenarios possible. One thing is for sure: If Steven wins UT Panoramic, Sefli needs to win Izu. And if somehow we get a really crazy weekend in which Sefli, Steven and Manolito all DNF and Pablo Diago Gonzales delivers an outstanding run to win Izu, it will be the Spaniard who takes home the 2017 Asia Trail Master title. Unlikely but as we always say: ‘in ultra everything is possible’. 

Of course, there are more top runners at the start in both races this weekend who could spoil the party for either one of them by taking away important points. In Thailand, local hero Sanya Khancai has recently looked the part in UT Nan 100 and certainly cannot be discounted for the 100 miles’ win. Another dangerman for the day’s victory is Alessandro Sherpa. The Italian led the race at BTS Ultra last month until a drop bag issue forced him to retire. Also Japan's Wataru Iino is back in Thailand. He was a joint winner of UTKC 100 early this year before he went to India for work reasons. In Japan, Sefli and Pablo will be up against strong Japanese runners, quite simply because there’s so many of them. 

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While the men’s championship will keep everyone in suspense, the women’s title has already changed hands. Defending champion Tahira Najmunisaa Muhammad Zaid is still unfit to race ultras and has ultimately decided she will not be starting in either race. Tahira prefers to think long-term and needs time to fully recover. The big showdown with Australia’s Kim Matthews is therefore postponed to 2018 and the recent winner of CM50 in Philippines is mathematically assured of the championship win! Ruth Theresia, also injured following CM50, ends the season in third place. Kim Matthews started the season with a win at UTKC 70 in Thailand where she was living at the time. Her pace raised the eyebrows of many, and Matthews showed her speed again in Malaysia during Penang Eco 100k. She led the race until the final 10k. Dehydrated, she fell asleep at the last checkpoint and saw China’s Dong Minfei come back to beat her at the very end. With hindsight, it was the last time Matthews did not win a race. While suffering from the heat at Tam Dao Mountain Trail as well, the Melbourne-born runner just kept on winning races and when she did so at the Vietnam Mountain Marathon and MesaStila Peaks Challenge 65 in Indonesia, she became a serious title challenger for Tahira and Ruth. Two weeks ago in Clark, she had the better of Ruth Theresia and collected the SuperTrail bonus points for winning CM50 and in so doing overtook Tahira in the points ranking. 

Kim Matthews will be running the 100 miles in Thailand this weekend without pressure. It is, in fact, her first attempt at the distance. While it may not always feel like it during the race, it certainly will also be a race of honour for her. Kim Matthews is the new Asia Trail Master champion! 

Kim Matthews: the new Asia Trail Master champion!

Kim Matthews: the new Asia Trail Master champion!

Izu Trail Journey - official PR and background
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The Izu Trail Journey is the Japan SuperTrail and on 10 December the last race of the 2017 Asia Trail Master Championship. The event is quite historic, and the local organiser has released the below press release with significant background information on the origins of Izu Trail. This is a 72 km race that is set to be one of the season's highlights, and if you didn't get in this year or were not ranked high in the ATM championship by the end of October, focus on 2018, because Izu Trail will stay in ATM also next year! 

Izu Trail Journey - COMPRESSPORT offers!
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Our sponsor COMPRESSPORT is helping you everywhere you run. So, of course also for the big Asia Trail Master finale in Japan on 10 December: the IZU TRAIL Journey.  Via Qoolmart.com all runners can benefit from serious discounts on a range of COMPRESSPORT items as shown below. 

That is not all, Qoolmart is chipping in itself and provides discounts on all kinds of trail running accessories useful for IZU TRAIL, including energy nutrition and drinks.

Please note that Qoolmart offers Free International Delivery and No Minimum Purchase Required. 

Go to http://qoolmart.com/izu-trail.html