Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Murakami triathlon: Fall Gaijin Showdown

Murakami triathlon: The race s'alright. I didn't get the coveted PB, but my ranking improved and a great time was had by all the international triathlon clubbies. My time was 2:20, 3 minutes slower than last year's PB. I had lowered the PB by 30 seconds to 2:17:02 in August and had sights on a sub-2:15 if the weather cooperated. It didn't.

We arrived Saturday to stiff winds and choppy seas on the Sea of Japan. There was talk of a swim cancellation. By the next morning the seas had calmed enough to do the whole race, but still the chop was noticeable.

Swim: A mass start with 300 of my friends it felt like. My first mistake was to forgo the warmup. The 2nd was getting in the inside lane. In the first 100 meters of chaos, I felt a popping sound/feeling inside my left shoulder. This is not supposed to happen to me, I thought. I swam a few more strokes gingerly and assessed the damage. The shoulder was work-able, but not in great shape. I pushed on with some easy breast strokes and gradually got back into the race. The shoulder felt OK. Later I realized that the endorphins and adrenaline must have masked the pain. At the turnaround point I was at 13 minutes, so a 26 minute ETA, a little worse than plan but the chop and bum shoulder must have taken some toll. However, I noticed Keren swimming alongside me for the last 300 meters, a good sign. He is usually a minute ahead so I was not having a bad swim after all?

Not looking so aero despite the helmet...

Bike: I transitioned quickly, benefitting from the T1 practice the day before, and attacked the strong bikers. I pulled up to Mark who is a great biker and traded places with him for several clicks. Keren was right with me as usual. Bike ultra-specialist Stefano passed me soon after. I chased him down, overtook briefly, but he immediately passed me. All this playful rivalry was fun and helping my bike time. We had a pretty stiff headwind, stronger than last year, so needed extra effort to maintain pace. At the 20k turnaround we were all scattered. Stefano and Mark had dropped me, and I was trying to hold off Keren, Paul, and Danai. The tailwing helped me get up to 50 kph on the return. At 35k Paul came flying by me on the last hill screaming "get that PB Dave"! I dismounted the bike in 1:09 including 2 transitions, again 1 minute slower than last year.

Don't forget to hit that watch...

Run: I was out quickly from T2, passing Paul in the transistion area. He chased me and was literally breathing down my back for 2k of the run. Keren was just behind Paul. At 2k I felt well warmed up and accelerated slightly. I had a pretty decent run, similar to Aizu, at around 44 minutes. Maybe I could have ran a little faster if I had had company?

Our gang at the race finish..

A shinkansen with a view...

Many thanks to Danai for the hotel management and Asako for the cool pics!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Aizu, Fukushima triathlon: tiny little baby steps

I squeaked out a 30-second PB in Aizu. This was my 4th time doing the race so I knew the bike would be fast and run hot....or so I thought...
It rained throughout the morning, raising concerns about the speed achievable on the point A to B bike course. Dave Sims and I took a taxi from the hotel to the swim start in the drizzle, barely made it to the start in time before the 1 hour waiting phase before the start.
The wet pavement and rains didn't seem to slow me down though. And the cool weather helped my run somewhat. My swim was slow. Apparently it was long (1.7k according to Dave Sims' garmin) and Simzee also had a rather slow swim.
Swim: The swim was disappointingly slow for me at 28 minutes. I was hoping for 24 minutes or so. Simses was slow at 26 minutes so I didn't feel that bad.
Bike: The bike was super fast despite the wet course. I broke the 1 hour barrier for the first time with a 58 minute ride. Of course the bike course has a downhill bit on the A to B course, but still I was faster than previous years. Including the 2 transitions my bike time was 1:04:29.
Run: The run felt pretty good. I ran a 44 minutes.

Full results here:

I ranked 48th overall and 13th in my age group. Once again my bike was most competitve followed by swim and run.

As you can see, I have plenty of bike companions.

第17回うつくしまトライアスロンinあいづ【公式記録】 2015年8月23日開催

48 322 Rubenstein David 48 男東京都 2:17:02

 0:28:33 60 1:04:29 42 1:33:02 44 0:44:00 86 47 男子40代13


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Kamaishi triathlon, a long trip to a little race

We made the pilgrimage to Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture for the first revival of the olympic distance triathlon since the tsunami in 2011. A five hour voyage by Shinkansen and car, but it was worth the journey. The Kamaishi people are warm and welcoming and dazzled us with their energy. The heat was an issue though, despite the fact that Kamashi is some 500k north of Tokyo.

A little background on Kamaishi: It's a medium-sized coastal town known for its fish and steel factories. The town is directly exposed to the Pacific Ocean, so on March 11, 2011, it was devastated by the Tsunami. The town has a long history of dealing with tsunamis, and fortunately most lives were spared. But the physical and economic damage was immense. Rieko and Mike Trees set up a charity in 2011 and have been going back every year to help out. I thought it would be good to participate in this charity race of sorts. Mike couldn't make it this time, but Rieko, big Mika, and little Meeks all showed up and collected trophies.

I also have a soft spot for Kamaishi as it was my first triathlon ever back in 2004. Rieko and Mike also coerced me to go up 11 years ago. Some things don't change.

It was good fun to compare my performance with 11 years ago. I didn't have a blog or Facebook back than, but I remember it distinctly. I thought that I swam well, but was hugely disappointed to see almost no bikes on the racks at the T1 area. I spent most of the bike passing the slow swimmers and bikers, felt really fast on the run, but was far behind anyone competitive.

Swim: This time around my swim was about 5 minutes faster. The swim is in a protected harbor with no wake at all. I lined up in the front near Rieko, hoping to draft off of her, which was a mistake. I got swamped by aggressive guys in the 2nd and 3rd row. At about 100 meters in, someone punched the back of my head. That was the hardest I've ever been hit in a swim. I felt woozy and slowed, swam conservatively the rest of the way, using breast stroke every 20 strokes. Still my swim was 25 minutes, about 1 minute off a PB. In T1, all the bikes were still in the rack by my area, jogging my memory of 2004.

Bike: Still there was work to be done. This year the bike course was 26k despite the "olympic distance" billing. A big curvy hill inland for 13k and back. Compared to 2004, there was hardly anyone on the road but 16 fast swimmers including Rieko, a few relay guys, and the pros. I passed 5-6 bikers, saw Rieko a minute in front with her cheshire cat smile. After a few more passes, a young guy wobbled by me. I traded places with him with 1k to go, finished the bike in 45:46 not including transition, about 34.8 kph. Considering the hills in the first section, I was happy with that time.

Bike course here:

Run: It was getting super hot by the 10 am run start. I wasn't feeling super duper anymore but tried to accelerate to 4 minute pace. That did not happen so settled in at 4:30 pace. The run is a simple 4 x 2.5k course along the coast. There isn't much to see but plenty of Kamaishi folk to pump you up with water, sport drink, hoses, and cheer. It is fun to see everyone you know the course. Rieko and Mika traded pleasantries the entire run. There is also a longish 200 meter tunnel that is rather cool, so I used the tunnel to accelerate. I pulled in at 41 minutes and change.

I was 13th overall out of 170 age groupers and 4th in the 40's age group. Only 1 older guy finished in front of me, a great improvement from 11 years ago.

Many thanks to Rieko for organizing. We stayed at a deluxe Horaikan ryokan right on the beach near the swim start. Great to see Akiko and her husband Itaru, who drove up from Sendai.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Obuse half marathon: Must be a circus in town...

It had been 6 years since my last trek to scenic Obuse, Nagano, and far too long. Nanbanners have been racing the half marathon there for 13 years since its inception. It is a wonderful mountain getaway to visit during the sultry Japan summer. And why not tack on a half marathon in the middle of a 4-day weekend?

Megumi and Ty came along. We all enjoyed the cooler weather, green mountain backdrop, and ice cream!

The race itself was fun once we got there. I had to wake up at 4 AM. I think Chika, Meeks, and the others woke up at 3:30 AM, but I am a veteran to early race times. I was able to produce a decent result, much faster than my Shinjuku half (1:41) in January this year. I guess the triathlon training has helped my running the past few months. I did 1:34:04, a course PB for me. Two previous times were 1:36 and 1:38. (see 2009 blog):

The race started at 6 AM versus 7 AM six years ago, which helped a bit. The temperature was 23 degrees C, which was manageable although it felt hotter. I settled in corral A with Padraig, Alan, Teruyuki (Terry), and a ton of circus extras. I was going to try to stay with Terry as he had targeted 1:32 or so.

There were a few exciting speeches from race executives and runners and one very bizarre comment. A race official actually told us to run slow because it is not too hot...huh? he said "あまり暑くないけれど、頑張らないで下さい。” Go figure...

Anyway, we lined up and suddenly a gun went off. I watched Podge drift off into the distance at 4:15 per k pace. I settled in a 4:30 pace. Terry was with me for the first 5k,  looked strong, shouted "you're going too fast" at Podge, and dropped me around the 6k point. Later I learned that he reeled in Podge with a sparkling 1:31 time. Way to go Terry!

I continued along at 4:30 pace. The course is pleasant with a few mild climbs in a mountain valley, but nothing too hairy. There are some nice mountains on the left side of the course for the first 10k, than you run thru a small town and back to Obuse. The biggest hill is around the 5k point so you have some momentum for the 2H of the race. I felt pretty good after 12k and started to work harder for the last 5-6k. I noticed Alan bearing down on me at 18k so worked a little harder to keep him at bay. I finished with 4:20 pace for the last 3k which was a good feeling.

The finish area is quite nice with plenty of fresh fruit, green grass, live music, and the necessary high school dancers. Big shout out to Chika for organizing the hotel, restaurants, and logistics.

The next two days were glorious ones spent in Iizuna kogen ski area, a 30 minute drive from Nagano city, and Yatsugatake. Meg and I took turns running around a gorgeous lake at 飯綱高原, and than I couldn't resist diving in from our paddle boat.

We stopped at Yatsugatake on the way back to Tokyo on day 4 and did the nostalgic Fujimi panorama gondola ride.

Obuse is a highly recommended trip for runners and just plain old citizens. Take an extra day to explore the area if you can. We used to have 20 runners back in the old days, but this time there were only 7 of us running. There are plenty of runners in costume so this is a bit of a circus race where you can place 134th out of 7,000 runners with a 1:34 time....

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shimoda triathlon #3, homegrown and crispy

The 3rd edition of the homegrown Shimoda triathlon is done and dusted. We had surprisingly fortuitous weather. Many thanks to Greg Stevens for the precision timing. Youri was the top dog by a large gap, holding on to a big bike lead. Jay, Motozo, and Keren had an epic battle in the heated run. Charlie was a superstar in the water and on the saddle. Mika T. was the top female. Everyone started, finished, didn't get lost, and had a great time. Times and action shots are below.

Youri 2:19
Jay 2:25
Motozo 2:25
Keren 2:26
Charles/Makiko 2:38
Mika T 2:40
Emil 2:41
Stan 2:42
Dante 2:43
Niall 2:58
Ale/Greg 3:01
Naoko 3:01. Partial
Meeks 3:09

the forecast said rain, this is what we got

swim start, 6 AM, Sunday morning

You don't get a better swim view than this

ready to roll


high touch!

the podium

all out BBQ

Our favorite spot

White beach breakfast with all the fixings

Monday, June 29, 2015

Niijima triathlon: rough start in paradise

Niijima, a beautiful island near Shimoda and home of my 1st triathlon of the 2015 season. Niijima is one of the triathlons in the Izu island series. Since Shimoda is part of the Izu peninsula, it's only appropriate that I should represent the Shimoda people in the race. It had been 5 years since my last trip to Niijima.

To sum it up, a great island weekend but disappointing race performance. Good swim, fair bike, horrible run. I hope to avenge this race in Aizu and Murakami later this summer.

24:33 swim (a PB)
1:09:25 bike
52:06 run

2:29:12 total

I thought I might have a chance at my PB 2:17 from last year after a good swim start, but did not feel great on the bike, and really suffered on the run. Still scratching my head on the slow run part. I ran about 10 minutes in Murakami last year, but was more spent in Niijima. The hills hurt me also.

Travelled to the island on the jet boat with Keren and Phil.

Keren had a great race, a PB, and 1st in age-adjusted grouping. Phil did well, his first race in several years. This is us pre-race with Mihaela.

 wait for it... kampai!

 Chris Parry's twin brother...

A view to a kill from the puddle jumper...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Murakami triathlon: season climax and the sea of Japan

Despite the hand injury last month, I had been feeling rather solid as we boarded the shinkansen bound for Niigata, and the final test race of the season, Murakami olympic distance triathlon. I had improved my bike and run times in Shimoda over the summer, crediting several rides down the coast and indoors, a running vacation in Hokkaido in August, as well as better running sessions on the track with the Nanbanners.

Pre-race: Thanks to Danai, we were shacked up 5 minutes from the swim start at the opulent Haginoya Grand Hotel. It had been several years since my last Murakami race, but these conditions looked enticing. The last race I did in 2009 was too hot and slow, and the 2008 race was foiled by a canceled swim. Toru had arranged dinner at the local Izakaya located conveniently down the street from the Haginoya, we were well fed the night before. Little did we know there was a snowboarder shrine next to the restaurant. More on that later...

                             carbo-roading  居酒屋に炭水化物が多い

Jay, Alex, Ricky, and me were sharing a large room, so everyone pretty much woke up together at 6 AM, ate breakfast, put on body number decals, and rode bikes to the start area. I had my traditional natto, egg, rice, miso soup meal before the race as I knew the late 10 AM swim start would provide plenty of digestion time. It was super sunny at the swim area so I sat in the shelter during as the pros hit the water at 9 AM.

                                           the sea of Japan   日本海
We gathered at the beach 10 minutes before 10 AM. I did not really have a detailed swim strategy this time, just hoped to make it to the first turn without too much bumping. The course is an L-shape. You swim out straight to the first buoy/boat, hang a left turn, swim 600 meters parallel to the coast, make a U-turn, swim back to the original boat, hang a right, and you're home. The gun went off suddenly and many of us were not ready. Luckily I had my goggles on, so just hit my watch and tried to find a passageway through the coveted left side of the mass start. I made it to the first turn without much trouble, and as things started to open up I spotted Matt's big frame just ahead, accelerated to his massive draft, and coasted behind him for most of the swim. At the turnaround, my watch said 12 minutes, a good sign. A quick calculation, 2 x 12 plus alpha = 24 minutes and change, meant that I could be on my way to a fast swim and a banner day. I made it to the beach alongside Matt in 25 minutes flat, basically my ETA.

The transition was a bit hairy as it always is without much practice, and by the time I had mounted Hillary Cervelo Swank it was 28 minutes or so. Slightly dejected, I stepped on the gas and started passing the fast swimmers. The course felt swift and fine. So fine that I wondered if we had a slight tailwind going out. Anyway it felt good and I was doing 38-39 KPH for the first 10k. After the ride out of town there is a sharp turn, than a large incline and decline which is a bit scary, with Hillary rocketing up to 60 KPH at some points. Than it settles down for the next 15k or so to the turnaround point. It was smooth sailing pretty much all the way. I like this turnaround point as you can see your fast mates ahead and gauge how fast you are. I am usually 6-7 minutes behind Simzee, and on this day I was 4 minutes or so behind, so all systems were a GO. It might have been my imagination, but the pros lead pack and chasing pack didn't seem as far ahead as usual, so this was an encouraging sign, however real it was. By the 25k point, I got "stuck" in a large pack of 10+ riders. I could not pass these guys even if I wanted to, so rode with the group for the remaining 15k. It turned out that I was riding with Danai but did not recognise him. He didn't notice me either. We were both ultra-focused!

I pulled into T2 with a solid 1:04 bike, close to my fastest split ever, a PB looking like a strong possibility if I could just nail the run. I came off the bike with a total swim/bike time of 1:31, so needed a 48 minute run to crack my 2:20 PB. This seemed likely as I was feeling fairly fine. That being said, on the first 1-3k there is that inevitable feeling of death on the run. Your body is telling you to slow down or stop. Your mind says go. On this day, the mind conquered the body. The body shook off the pain and fatigue, and by 5k I knew this was my day. I pulled up to Danai at 2k, chatted briefly, and pulled away. This pass was also encouraging as Danai is usually ahead of me on the track. At the 5k point, I had done 23 minutes or so, and I fantasised about a 2:18 total time, a big PB. I liked how the course is marked every 1k which gives you some extra motivation every 4 minutes. My splits were getting better at 6k, 7k, 9k, my watch said 2:13:35, and I increased my pace in one final spurt. I crossed the line at 2:17:31.

swim: 25:35
bike:  1:09:09 (includes T1 and T2)
run:    42:47

total: 2:17:31

57th overall
3rd in age-group

                                A big, fat PB! I am very exciting...

I hung out at the finish line and happened to check the official times on the board. To my amazement, I had scored a 3rd place in my age group, which meant a podium appearance in a major race. This was definitely not in the plan. It should be said that 5 of my esteemed colleagues (Mark, Brett pictured below) in the 50-54 age group were faster than me, but I'll take it! I suppose that guys in their 40's have less time to train than 50 year-olds? Or maybe they are just plain faster. Mika T. also grabbed 2nd place in her AG, and Alex got 2nd as well.

                                          Well done TITs! 親父パワー

It was great to stay over an extra night and slow easy 50k ride through the mountains and coast on Monday morning. We tried to persuade Jay to join us, but he had to get back to his busy social schedule in Tokyo.

                                          a real athlete 平野歩 銀メダル

We met Ayumu Hirano, snowboard silver medalist at the Sochi Olympics, that night at the Bagu restaurant. Needless to say, he wasn't very pumped up to chat with us.

                                                   half-pint and mama-chan

                                            the morning after ride 美しい村上