Here we are at the start. From left, Keren, who unfortunately, was unable to retain most of the delicious fish dishes. (But doesn't he look marvelous in the photo?)
Motozo, your humble narrator.
Adam York, who loves New York.
Jay, a serious runner who enjoys porpoising in his spare time.
After a few "tattemae" speeches from the locals, the gun sounded and we were off into the Sea of Japan (actual a warm 25 degree harbor in Sawada beach) at 7 AM sharp.
Swim: The swim began with the usual chaotic kicks, splashes, and other chicanery. We managed to get in at the near beach point, which was slightly closer to the 1st buoy. This allowed us to run and porpoise for the first 100 meters and get away from the pack. This worked well for Keren and Adam, but unfortunately for Jay and myself, the fast swimmers soon converged on us, which only delayed the inevitable kicking, sideswipping, biting, and other horseplay so typical of a triathlon start. At about 200 meters some 50 or so swimmers swamped us from left, right, and center. I got my goggles knocked off by inadvertant kick and feared a lost contact lens. (No photos available due to lack of underwater camers.) But alas, I could see that my 700 meter time was 14 minutes, so right on time and full vision intact......I settled down after that and got into my groove, which is mostly breaststroke with an occasional flurry of free style strokes. I have to admit that although my swim was slightly faster than previous races, I felt uncomfortable in the wetsuit and couldn't wait to get back to the beach. At the 1200 meter point, we turned for a last time and headed back to shore. At about 26 minutes I had slowed down a bit, but was still under my goal of 45 minute pace. The last 800 meters was tough. The view of the shore was deceptively clear, and I kept thinking that I was closer than I actually was. The water was also pristine. At about 200 meters out, I could see the bottom and tried to touch, but the depth was actually well above my head, and I sank awkwardly below the surface. I tried again at about 100 meters and finally was able to porpoise and stagger on to the beach in 42 minutes. A quick peek around but no sign of the others......
Bike: The transition (depicted in this photo) went fine and I was soon cranking away on my bike, loaded with rocket fuel (gels mixed with sports drink), power bars, advil, etc. I did see Jay right at the start, but was eager to accelerate, so I didn't stop to chat. I figured I would see Jay later during the run.....It felt great to get on the bike saddle again. The weather was getting hotter, but I cruised at about 35-39 KPH for the first 20K over relatively flat terrain. I passed dozens of bikers before catching up to a faster pack on the other side of the island. As I attempted to gain on the pack, I heard a soft voice calling "David, David" from behind. What? nan desu ka? It can't be Keran or Adam, and I didn't think Jay was that close. But it was Murray, a friend from Westy Bike Club, on his brand new $7,000 bike, with a head of steam. I took some rocket fuel and tried stay with Murray. In this bike photo, we are climbing one of several hills at around 30-50K on other side of Sado, having gained and past some of the riders in the big pack. At this point, I made one of the few regrettable moves of the day by attemping to eat a power bar while riding. How not to eat a power bar during a race! I could write a book...In my bento box sat 2 power bars poised for consumption, which I had cleverly chopped up the night before (or so I thought). The dilemma was there was no way to get the bars out of the ziploc bag without crashing. I couldn't get out the bars from the bag with one hand, and my humble Giant bike was too unstable to risk riding no hands. So finally I tried to bite thru the plastic bag to no avail. Not only did I fail to get any nourishment, but I lost Murray and most of the riders around. I put the bars back in the bento box, and settled for some rocket fuel again. The rest of the ride was fun and exciting. After the power bar comedy of errors, I settled down and increased my speed. I was on a good pace, well under my 3 1/2 hour goal for 105K, which was about 32-34KPH. It was heating up to over 30 degrees C, but the wind and tunnels cooled us down somewhat. At about 50K, I bumped into Keren. He was having a bad hair day and normally would have been further ahead. We road together for a few minutes. Then I hit "Heartbreak Hill" at 80K. Most had billed it as a nasty climb, while Keren had toned it down to a small anthill. It turned out to be relatively tough. The actual slope wasn't too bad, but the distance was. About 3-4K of solid climbing, than a short downhill, than a few more Ks of uphill. It didn't help that this was the hottest part of the day. I was in the lowest gear under 10KPH for a good 2K at one point....
Back on the Sawada side of the island we climbed up a large cliff, anc coasted down into a gorgeous coastline view of Sawada and adjoining areas for the final 15K. At 1 point my bike was approaching 60KPH and I felt euphoria and terror equally as I leaned into the turns like a motorcycle racer would. Similar to the end of the swim, I was happy to get off the bike. Although it had been a joyful ride, my ass was killing me!
Run: The run was by far the most exciting and emotional part of the race, as we all converged on that 20K course thru the rice fields of Sawada. I caught a glimpse of Adam on the run as I was pulling into the bike area, than saw Keren on his bike as I got into the first 2K of the run. My legs felt stiff, particularly the inner thighs, but I was more concerned about my knee. Thankfully, there was no usual twinge of discomfort on my left knee, so I continued to rumble on at a 5 minute pace. The day had turned out to be a scorcher and we were heading into the unshaded rice fields, but I kept telling myself to simply get thru the first 5K, than to the turnaround at 10K, than another 5K, than the home stretch. It worked rather well. At 3-4K, after a toilet and stretch break, I got into a groove and the cramps went away from inner thighs. I was extremely overheated, but I guess those hot runs in the palace twice a week this summer accustomed my body to the heat (thank you Jayne!). I was also very keen to see where Adam and Jay were, and I got a shock at the 10K turnaround. First shock: Adam, who I figured was 2K ahead of me, was only 200 meters in front of me! Second shock: Jay, the running demigod, was a mere 300 meters behind me. At 11K I caught up to Adam, who appeared to be cramping up in the heat. We chatted about, you guessed it, the freaking hot weather. Adam said, “you get going” (to maintain my lead on Jay). I predicted Jay would pass me in 2-3K, although I kept a glimmer of hope that I could outlast him. At 15K, I was still in the lead and couldn’t believe that Jay was still behind me. My 10-15K split was about 24 minutes, so a little faster than the 51 minute first 10K. Still, I didn’t think it was fast enough to hold him off….
At 17K, I heard those familiar steps. Deju vu all over again (at Saipan 1 year ago, Jay had run me down during the 15K run of the Tagaman Triathalon in blistering heat as well. I groaned but had to pat him on the back, “What took you so long?” I asked sarcastically. Jay grunted and we exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. Than he was a few meters ahead, than 10, 20, 30….
At about 18K, Jay was 100 meters ahead, but didn’t appear to be gaining any more ground. It occurred to me that I should try to gather up my Astroman powers and try to chase him down, but I didn’t have even gas left in the tank. I pondered….
Had I been able to get open the bag of powerbars?
Had I not braked so hard on those last bike hills?
Had I not run the 20K at Fuji Yoshida?
Had I only practiced my porpoising technique more??!!
So it goes. The finish was bittersweet. I completely shattered my goal time of 6 hours, which I had deemed as an aggressive goal, so I was extremely satisfied with that result. Getting passed by Jay was not fun, but I’ll take as a blessing and use it as motivation to train harder next time!
My stats were:
Swim 2K: 42:15 (216th place out of 628 triathletes)
Bike 105K: 3:21:23 (75th)
Run 20K: 1:37:07 (71st)
Total 5:40:45 (70th overall out of 628 triathletes)
64th out of 522 men14th out of 83 in my age group
Many thanks to Keren for setting up the whole joy ride, and Jay, Adam, Yoshida san for just being there! I’d also like to thank the nanbanners who have encouraged me to run, bike, and swim hard over the past months. This race was a truly gratifying experience and the course was simply breathtaking. I recommend it to any triathletes out there. Now a few days later as the stiffness in my legs resides, I feel a rekindled desire to run faster than ever before this fall and swim, bike, and run to new goals next year. For now, I’ll fold up the bike and gear up for the fall run season…. One last thingie….those who had put up with my moaning and groaning over runner’s knee and general pre-race stress, I salute you. Respect!