Runner Spotlight – Yoshi Nozaki

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TrailsRoc is happy this month to spotlight international ultra runner, Summer and Winter Beast of Burden 100 miler finisher, and proud Rochester area athlete, Yoshihiro Nozaki, or as we know him. Yoshi!

Yoshi moved here 6 years ago after working as a  volunteer in Papua New Guinea for 2.5 years while he was dispatched by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). It’s a similar organization to the Peace Corp in the United States.

Yoshi has found running, and specifically the Rochester running community as a place he feels comfortable, and a place that is supportive of his goals! Many of us know him, we see him on the trails, on the roads, all of the while flashing that popular grin, 3 miles in to a race or 30… that’s the Yoshi we know!

Yoshi initially began running to fight a bit of weight gain like so many of us do and he found a home, like so many of us do. As a self taught runner with no coach, Yoshi reads blogs and talks to other runners at races to learn. He ran the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon in 2010 in 6:15:38 and came back to run it in 4:15:33 just one year later. To top off that amazing accomplishment, Yoshi took off from Sehgahunda, and ran the Buffalo Marathon, in hot and humid conditions the very next day in 3:44:38 making it one of the most impressive doubles any of us has ever heard of.

Check below for a quick conversation with the one and only Yoshi! You will gain some insight, get some humor, and maybe learn a thing or two about why Yoshi loves running as much as many of us.

 

 What got you interested in running ultra distances? Was it something that you saw as a challenge, something you were good at or something else?

My first ultra was The Canlake 50 and it was big challenge for me since my longest race/run had been the marathon distance and I had only one year of running experience at the time. I was “new” to the sport. I had qualified for the Boston Marathon in my  marathon and I was looking for the next challenge up in the running world. I found out about the CanLake 50!!

 

Did you have past running experience? In your first year you qualified for Boston, that is impressive!! What is your past with the sport? Did you run in grade school? college?

I wasn’t a runner, but I played soccer in primary school, high school, and college in Japan. So, I didn’t have barrier to start running. I was an athlete so I just transitioned from soccer to running rather easily.

So you are pretty much new to the sport. What is your future? Do you see yourself doing this for a
 long time?


Yes, I want to keep running for fun and for health.I gain weight weight very easily, so I need a running to keep in good shape 🙂 Of course, I also want to play soccer in my future sports.

 

On the biggest challengesof running this kind of mileage.


The biggest challenge for me is avoiding chafed inner thigh Every time when I ran ultra distance, I got it very badly.. It is an un-ignore-able pain.. Being from Japan, the word Vaseline is difficult for me to pronounce but one of my friends recommended it. It was hard to explain to a clerk, I went to Walmart, the pharmacy, Dick’s, and Fleet Feet.. but they don’t have it!!

After 3 months of searching, finally, I found it at wegmans surprisingly:) I was so happy and used it for a 100mile race. It worked fine the first 50 miles, but after 75 miles, pains came and I put more Vaseline in my shorts. maybe I put on a bit too much, as a result, a runner behind me thought I was wetting my pants..but it was vaseline!!! After that, I tried several things. I tried extra shorts, I used silk shorts, and used a tight, but none of them worked great. So, I’m still trying to figure out the problem.

We know what we love, but which do you prefer, trails or roads? why?
I love to run trails because I can feel nature and  the seasons. Usually, I bring digital camera during my runs and love to take photos of nature. And more, It is fun to run trails. Because trails are not flat, I foresee next two steps while running
and gap from the imagination and the actual steps make it more interesting because I can recognize my reflex ability, and I feel it is interesting. In other words, the roads seem to always be the same.

Maybe Yoshi can share some of those awesome trail photos he takes on the TrailsRoc website!

This happened to me a few weeks back…Have you ever found yourself lost out on the trails? What did you do?

Sure, I think every one who runs trails alone experiences it 🙂 When I run local trails such as Mendon Ponds Trail, I don’t fear getting lost, I just keep running until reach the edge of the park or paved road. Then I find my way out!

I was really scared when I got lost at night during my run of the Mohican 100 Trail Run. It was my first night run and I was already exhausted at the time. I was looking for a place to get off the trail to relieve myself…I went off
from the course and into forest just 20-30 feet. I tuned off my headlamp to hide from other runners, and it became completely dark. After I finished up and turned on my lamp, I could not find which direction I came from.. I moved around to find the single track to back on the course, I spent more than 10min, but couldn’t find it.

I was in panic because I was in huge forest, was so tired, and was in the dark..  I stopped moving around and tried to find any lights from other runners. Fortunately, I could find some group of headlights far to my left side. I just moved straight to where I saw the right.. and got the single track.. but didn’t know which way to go, so I needed to wait for one more runner to come. What I learned is do not go far from the trail during night runs!!!

Speaking of 100 mile runs that take you through the nightWhat kind of gear is typical for you on a long run/race? What gear do you  suggest for others interested in the sport? How about nutrition? What do you eat/drink on long runs?

I use a waist bottle holder for long and trail runs because it keeps my hands free and it is light weight. For ultra running, I want to make my gear as light weight as possible. I also change gear during my races based on time. for example, single bottle waist for the first 25miles, From miles 25-75 I a use double bottle waist, and during the last 25 mile and during night runs I use a vest.

As for nutrition, I make rice balls for distances over 50 miles  and eat them pretty early on in the race. Other than that, I bring GU gels, 5 hour energy, and Red Bull Energy drink. I think caffeine can help a lot after 50 miles.. but it kills me when I take too much so I have to be careful to find balance.

For training (less than 20miles), I run in hunger and take water only to improve energy consumption of my body. (no breakfast and do the long run)

Have you ever had a time when you were out running, or just preparing for a run, or even just done with one when you asked yourself “what is the point  of all of this” what did you do to overcome that feeling?

Yes, I have! Sometimes running with group or friends is good idea, but I normally run alone. So, I use many websites for running, for logging, and for motivating. I log my run using Nike+ and TrainingPeaks (I use TimexGPS watch, not garmin)
and using running SNS; jognote.com(Japanese) and dailymile.com. (and FB sometimes) I set a monthly distance goal and running log post from friends keep me motivating.

So besides motivation, besides nutrition and gear, besides all of that, What does it REALLY take to run 100 miles? in other words, what is the key?
Great achievement and a sense of solidarity. While I can feel great achievements when I complete such a long distance run, I can share the feeling with other runners because they were experienced the same pain and emotion during the run!! The shared joy is infectious. That is what gets me through my ultras.

 

  Yoshi has some awesome advice for someone who is interested in trail running, and for a runner who is interested in becoming an ultra runner!!!

Just register for a race! then you will find the fun of running ultra/trail races. There are many great and impressive runners in those races. I was really impressed by runners who were participated ultra marathon here.

We at TrailsRoc agree! Just get out there, find a race (check our calendar)

 On moving to America, obstacles, and why he is here.

I haven’t had any major issues or obstacles to overcome as a runner except I gained weight since I came to the US. (editors notes Who doesnt gain weight when they move here?) I’m an international student at RIT and when I came to US, I had to learn English and take graduate courses at the same time, then started a very busy PhD program.

It was very busy and I spent all day in front of PC as my major is computer science. I didn’t do any exercises for a several years. Just stayed in a Lab or library. So, I gained almost 20kg of extra weight. So I wanted to lose the extra weight and started running around the campus. I have been in Rochester for 6 years and running for 2.5. In 2009 I ran the Rochester Marathon without much training and then was selected for the NYC Marathon out of the lottery in 2010 and I got serious about training.

Anything else you would like us to know?

Since I am a foreigner and I stayed on campus almost everyday, I didn’t have many opportunities to interact with local people in the Rochester area before starting running and participating local races. Participating in local races made my life in Rochester change a lot. I can recognize many people now when I go to  races and I can feel that I’m living in Rochester more than before. All runners are so friendly and gentle.We have many good races, race organizers, good runners and nice trails. It is perfect place to run and I think I’m lucky that I started running here 🙂

 

Well ,we think we are lucky to have Yoshi running  in our neck of the woods. For a list of his running accomplishments, please check out the list below. Then when you see Yoshi on the roads, the trails, or campus at RIT shoot him a wave and say hello.

This is the list of Yoshis ultras (Included Sehgahunda which is 26.3)

Sehgahunda Trail Marathon 2010, 6:15:38, 47th overall (Trail)

Canlake 50 2010, 9:28:36, 37th overall (Road)

The North Face Endurance Challenge 2011-DC, 9:25:57, 64th overall (Trail)

The North Face Mohican 100 Trail Run 2011, DNF at 75mile(Trail)

Mendon Trail 50K 2011, 4:42:53, 4th overall (Trail)

Beast of Burden Winter 100 2012, 27:51:13, 25th overall (Road)

Sehgahunda Trail Marathon 2012, 4:15:33, 15th overall (Trail), I ran Buffalo marathon next day with 3:44:38 :))

The North Face Mohican 100 Trail Run 2012, 25:40:23, 25th overall (Trail)

Burning River 100 2012, 26:10:15, 105th overall (Trail)

Beast of Burden Summer 100 2012, 24:47:19, 35th overall (Road)