Friday, October 09, 2015

Korea half ironman in the rice fields

Greetings. Gurye, a small town in the southern part of Korea, was the scene for my last triathlon test of the season. I had an off day. I've been scrathing my head for 5 days wondering what went wrong and how I can improve next year. I think it was mainly the cold swim and lack of long bikes that did me in. Hard to blame the weather or jet lag. We had near perfect conditions and I dreamed of a PB or at least sub-5 hour race. It was not to be. I finished in 5 hours 41 minutes, about 44 minutes slower than my last half ironman!

List of excuses:

1. Cold swim: About 18 degrees C. I now have 6% bodyfat, probably the lowest in my life. I was cold throughout the swim and shivered on the bike for the first 20k. Teeth were chattering. Serious.
Next time wear another layer on the bike.

2. Lack of long bikes: I did 3 long bikes over the summer: an 80k, 90k, and 100k. That's it. I guess I was too focused on the olympic races. Live and learn. Next time do more long bikes.

3. Fatigue from last race in Murakami: I went hard in Murakami 2 weeks prior to Korea. It was only an olympic distance so I figured all systems would be go for Korea. Not. Next time give more space between races.

Anyway, here are the gory details of the race:

Swim: 38 minutes. A bit slow.

Bike: 1:48. Not so swift.

Run: 2:09. Ouch.

For those keen on going, Gurye is a small, picturesque farming town situated between Jirisan and the Seomjin River. Gurye is the sole designated special tourism and leisure zone in all of Jeollanam-do.
 The modest population is approximately 30,000.
Gurye County is a popular hiking destination during the spring and autumn seasons. The county's beautiful landscapes are showcased during its yearly festivals such as Sansuyu Flower Festival, the Royal Azalea Festival and the Piagol Valley Maple Festival. Gurye is also home to Korea's first national state park, which houses some of Korea’s most important temples.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Murakami triathlon: Fall Gaijin Showdown

Murakami triathlon: The race was 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 400 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 worked hard to chase 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 more 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.
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.
Apparently it was long (1.7k according to Sims' garmin).

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...