Monday, November 24, 2008

Ohh Ohtwara, 21.1k unofficial marathon

We were worried about the cold windy weather, but ironically the sun blazed and the mercury rose to unseasonably warm Ohtawara weather. I was slightly overdressed in long sleeves and running tights, and began to sweat right away, but knew we would cool down later. The goal was to run a 1:35 or so, which I felt was conservative yet ambitious enough given my lack of training since September. I ran almost the same 5k with Colin and Phil as last year, feeling pangs of nostalgia and dejavu. It all felt pretty comfortable with an easy 22:34 first 5K, just over our goal pace of 22:30. Phil and I continued and picked up the pace to about 22 for the 2nd 5K. I was saving my energy for the 10-15k, which I figured would be the hardest psychologically to get through, given my hamstring and lower back injuries. There was a dull pain in my lower back and tightness in the hamstring, but it was just the normal noises and I pressed on. At the halfway point of the half (10.5k), I started to get into the “Motozo zone”, and felt more comfortable with a below target pace. We were now passing a lot of runners, many who had whizzed by us at the first 5K, which felt satisfying. It also got shadier and cooled down a bit, which was fine for me in my tights. At 15K or so, we made the turn back to the start point and I noticed that Phil was not on my tail anymore, but I still had some gas in the tank. At about 18k I started to tighten up as the lack of training was now taking its toll. Colin and Terry, running full marathons, caught up to me at 19k. Slightly ashamed, I sped up and finished the final 1K at just over 4 minute pace. At the halfway point, I pulled over to the amazement of many runners. One guy yelled “gambatte yo”, and seemed to think “what a baka gaijin” for pulling out halfway through. When Colin and Terry came by, I started running again with them and contemplated going around 1 more loop for about 10 seconds, but my legs were toast and I bowed out after 500 meters, wishing them luck, and not envying their task at hand at all.

5k Splits were:
4:35 (1.1K)
Total: 1:34:27 (21.1k),

exactly the pace of my 3:08:50 marathon PB.

Omedeto to all the nanbanners!

Some of the highlights below:

Joachim 2:52? after an ultra-marathon last month!
Paddy 2:55 PB, Runner Gaga!
Yuri 2nd place in 10K (37 minutes),
Colin, gutsy 3:11 run,
Jun, 3:16, nice job on limited training
Ed Clease, 36:44, and PB on the Karaoke stage!

Christian, 34:10 pb
Hitomi, 51 pb
Tomoko (智子) 49 pb
LengLeng. 44.29
Arnoud, 1.27.15
Megumi 1:44:22, warukunai for the lack of long runs...

Yuka, 1:47:00 half 由香 dekimashita!

And the best performances off the road of course go to Chiba san and Gareth for organizing the event. For me, the atmosphere and good cheer after the race were the best parts this time around, my 5st Ohtawara trip in the past 7 years. (2 marathons, 2 halves, and one 10k).

Go here for photos of some Nanbanners running in Ohtawara last year:

And Morten, my nephew, celebrated his 0st birthday, tipping the scales at over 8 pounds (3.8 kilos). Happy happy birthday Morty!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Edogawa 10k

I'm feeling gakkari, or disappointment, although a somewhat expected miss of my coveted 40 minute mark that I had broken 2 years ago on the same course. Despite a nagging lower back injury and wet weather, I thought I had a chance to crack 40 minutes as I had run a swift 41:50 at the Murakami “duathlon” last month.

So when I lined up at the start line in the under 40 minute group with Stuart and Chad, I decided to go out at just under 4 minute pace. The first 2k turned out to be too ambitious. I did a 3:50 first k, and a 3:58 2nd k, but knew I was in trouble as I was already feeling very winded and uneasy. I hoped the pain would end soon, but it was still 8k away! The next 3k was disastrous as I faded badly to 4:05, than 2k at 4:09 pace, and came through the 5k at 20:10.

There was still a glimmer of hope that I could somehow maintain a 4 minute pace, but that was soon shattered at 6-8k, when I did a 2 times 4:20 splits or so. Those hills took their toll on me and it felt like I was spinning my tires on the wet asphalt. After the 8k point I tried to pick it up as I could see those speed demons Paddy and Jay heading for the stadium. I pumped faster but just didn’t have the legs. I think I did a 4:05 9k and just under 4 minutes for the final k, which is usually much faster. Final time was 41:32, so my second split was a shocking 21:21 after a 20:11 first split. Almost a full 2 minutes slower than 2 years ago at Edogawa.

Omedeto to Brett, Jay, Fabrizio, and Rie for podium finishes, and thanks to Jay for organizing the wild and crazy party at El Torito (excellent service thanks to our gun ho ordering style). Still feeling woozy from that one...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Choshi yokatta

Choshi is a windy, rocky marina town on the eastern tip of the Kanto plain. It boasts the the first sunrise to be seen every year on the main Honshu island, called hatsuhinode. Enough with the geography lesson...After a pleasant 2 hour train ride with Hiroyuki Suzuki, a rising star triathlete, we landed in the sleepy and pleasant Choshi village.

So windy and hilly is the terrain in Choshi, that giant windmills dominate the scenary. After a brief respite at our hotel, fabulous Fabien, our hero Hiro, and your humble narrator, mounted are much feared cycling machines, headed towards the sea and windmills for the race registration. It was a 4k ride to the course from our hotel (on the map). 25k later, we arrived tired, sweaty, and sunburned warriers, having gotten a slightly more scenic tour of the eastern Chiba seaboard. At Choshi Marina, we rendezvoused with the rest of the French contingency and watched the first sunset on Honshu. We had the usual pasta loading party at the hotel, and I was getting serious deja vu, having done the same routine 1 week prior in Murakami. Did I mention that most of the group was French? Or at least they claimed to be French. I was surprised at the level of competitive spirit of the guys in NFCC (Nippon-French Cycling Club). Everyone bragged about how fast they could go in the race, particulary Jacques and Hiro. Perhaps it was the excitement of the moment, or the success they had had in Ishigakijima last year, or perhaps it was the beers that gave them extra confidence. Needless to say, it was a quite different atmosphere to my cosy Nanban Rengo dinner crowd.

Race day turned out to be quite sunny, a pleasant surprise as we had expected clouds and possibly precipitation. We had great swimming conditions. I felt like everything jelled on the swim, a nice culmination to a year or so of serious swim training with coach Greg. I also got some good last minute advice from Olympian Dave Holderbach, and was able to latch on to a swimmer of similar calibar for most the race. I finished the first lap of 750 meters in under 13 minutes, and brought it home in around 26 minutes, a personal best of 27:26 after a 1 minute run to the bike transition area. Transition 1 was too slow as I foolishly forgot to take off the top part of wetsuit after landing on the beach, and also got my right leg caught on the time chip around my ankle. But at least I did not have to sit down to transition. T1 took about 3 minutes.

The bike ride was also painfully slow, with constant hills on the 10k loop. It felt like you were either climbing or coasting for 1 hour. The course design was basically an letter i-shape, meaning 2 hairpin turns every 10k, which meant you had to brake hard and come to a near standstill every 5K. It was nice to pass by everyone on the course and at least there weren't any cars to deal with as in Singapore IM. I noticed speedsters Eric and Dave well ahead and caught a glimse of Jacques just a minute in front of me, so set my sights on him as my next target. I had a fairly competitive bike and didn't let anyone pass, but still my bike time was a shocking 1:15:03 (including T1).

The T2 must have been less than 20 seconds, and I guess the heavy race load this year was finally paying off some modest dividends. The run felt good. I didn't feel any fatigue from last weekend's Murakami record 10k run. I was passing scores of runners again and nobody passed moi. The time was fairly much in line with my target at 43:26. So a total of 2:25:55 (3 minutes after 1st wave time shown of 2:28:54), 14th place in my age group, 59th overall. This was a PB by 2 minutes. I had the same run time as Dave Holderbach, an Olympic swimmer, but he expectedly crushed the swim in under 20 minutes, so he got first in our age group with a 2:16:10. The top time was 2:10:47 with a 1:12:23 bike, my consolation was that I was pretty close to the leader on the bike portion at least. Our local hero was Eric, who won his 30-34 age group with a sparkling 2:13:36 time. Hiro did a great job with a 2:16:27 as well, good enough to lead his 25-29 age group, although his bike was just slightly slower than his overzealous 55 minute goal. I think I could have broken 2:20 easily in a normal bike course and T1 transition, but that is the way the cookie crumbles, an old French buddy used to say to me. C'est la vie for this year as this Choshi race raps up a monster tri season of 6 races including 3 ironman events. It's been swell, but your humble narrator is looking forwarded to some R&R this winter with a little more running and a lot less biking and swimming. Many thanks to Hiro and Dave for organizing the hotel and race logistics, and thank you Megumi for the awesome support and action snaps. I recommend this race to riders who excel in hills, perhaps Keren? Anyway, a great time was had by all and I made some new bon amies, so I have to say Choshi yokatta!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Murakami "triathlon": the little fish that got away

Prerace: We had a pleasant ride up to Murakami, splendid sushi lunch in Niigata, than a shock as we arrived into Murakami city. The waves in the Sea of Japan were monstrous, the biggest I have ever seen. It was cool, rainy, and windy, but other than that a perfect day! We ditched the idea of a practice swim and went for a short bike ride before escaping to the shelter of our ryokan, which was near the beach starting point.

Morning prep was chaotic as the bike “doctor” wrongly assessed my rear wheel as an untrue wheel instead of making a simple adjustment to the 2 little screws that could. I finally got the wheel straightened with 40 minutes to start time, missing the body marking window. How naked I felt!

Swim: There was none! It was exciting to watch the pros swim into the perfect storm. But us mortal men and women wanted no part of that surf. They resembled a bunch of seals rocking up and down in the swells. I have to say they were moving very well for all that white water. As the swim is usually my Achilles heal, I wasn’t too disappointed to skip to the bike and run.

Run 1K: Instead of a 1.5k swim, the race started with a 1k beach run, followed by the normal bike and run. We started running 5 minutes after the first group. I was surprised to see the first group come in at 4:30 to over 5 minutes, as I had expected them to be faster. But as soon as we started running I could see why they had come in slow, as the sand was deep and well, sandy. It must have been the equivalent of running up Akasaka gosho hill for 1k. I started the run with Keren, Jay, and Anthony. The 3 of us tried to stay with Jay, but he soon sped ahead, and we came in pretty much together at about 4:44, 10 seconds behind Jay. But our well-versed transition tactics allowed Keren and myself to drop Jay in T1….

Bike 40k: The bike was a bit hairy going up a steep hill immediately after mounting Hillary Swank, than a few sharp turns thru the curves of the outskirts of Murakami city. At the last left sharp turn a rider passed me, than slowed down directly in front of me. I had some choice words for him, than accelerated and dropped him to teach him a lesson. Once I was out of the town, there were little problems with space or navigation, and I looked forward to a fast and clean bike ride. At 10k, I was averaging 38k per hour and liking the idea of a 1:04 bike. Keren road up to me and said, “we’ll be flying on the way back with this tailwind”….hmmmm I wondered…..
I tried to drop him a few times, but couldn’t. Than Keren tried to drop me, but to no avail. This “drop the Cervelo P2C game” continued to about the 39k point...I liked the 20k turnaround as we could see all our friends, shout out encouragement, and estimate how everyone was doing. Most of the pros and fast guys in front of us were in big pelotons alla Tour de France. The headwind was fierce going back to base though, and we slowed to 37 kph, gradually passing the last of our age group leaders. I was liquid carbo-loading relatively well, but wasn’t sure how much gas I would have left in the tank for the run. Still, with the headwind, I finished at 36.5 kph, slightly slower than my speed at Oshima tri in June.

Run 10K: I peeled off my Nanban rengo bike jersey at the transition, and after a 30 second transition, gave chase to Keren, who had slipped by me once again at the transition. Again the steep little hill at the start of the run was tougher than expected, and I felt I was at my max throughput for that first 1k. At the 1k point, the sign said “1k” and my watch read 3:40. No wonder I’m feeling drained! But the marker must have been wrong, because at the next 1k my watch said 8:30, and I hadn’t slowed that much. I was losing sight of Keren again, and wondered if I would be run down by other fast Nanbanners (Jay). In hindsight, I should have given chase, as the course became windy and it was too easy to lose sight of runners ahead. Once I lost sight of Keren on the first turn, I had little company from ahead or behind, and must have slowed. 3k and 4k were tough, but at the half way point I caught sight of Bevan lumbering along. I was gaining on him, but then realized he was 1 lap or 5 minutes ahead of me! But that gave me some encouragement, and I accelerated thru the 2nd 5k. My first 5k split was 21:40. I could picture Jay blistering along at 3:40 pace, but did not see him anywhere on the course. Still, I felt better and picked up the pace. I was passing runners again and only got passed 2 or 3 times on the run. I liked the downtown area of Murakami and there were tons of locals doing the “gamba gamba” cheer. At the 8k point I hadn’t seen anyone from my age group in ages, and began to fantasize about winning my age group. That hope and fear of being run down by Jay pushed me to my fastest 5k split ever in a “triathlon”, 20:12.

My final official times were:

Run 1k: 4:44 (52nd place out of 372 finshers)
Bike: 40k: 1:08:41 (41st place)
Run: 10k: 41:52 (71st place)
Total: 1:55:17 (50th place, 7th in age group out of 56)

So my bike was more competitive than my run, though I was happy with the run time. This seems to be a recurring theme. Anyway, I was happy with my 7th place in my age group, my highest place in a triathlon, disappointed that I couldn’t catch Keren, but I finally beat Jay!

Congrats to Keren for placing 2nd in his age group, and Jay placed 3rd with such a sparkling run that we all, in our drunken shinkansen revelry, memorized his time (36:48) on the ride home. Many thanks to Yumiko and Chris for setting up our ryokan, which had a fantastic onsen view of the Sea of Japan. I would do this race again in future, and thoroughly enjoyed being with the group of friends we had up there. Now on to the last event of my final triple feature this month, Choshi triathlon in Chiba this Sunday. Choshi ga ii ka naa…I am even more glad I signed up for this race now that Murakami swim was cancelled, as I can now go for a true PB. Looking forward to some R and R after 6 triathlons including 3 ironman events this summer! See you on the track.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sing for the Moment

The hot equatorial climate lived up to its billing, which meant a challenging bike and harsh run for this northern Asian habitant. However, I was happy to complete the race with a fairly competitive time despite low training hours since July Zurich ironman, finishing 14th in my age group of 200 men.

Singapore half ironman (70.3 miles)

Prerace: Morning prep went relatively smooth: a 5 am wake-up call, banana and cereal with toast in the hotel room, 6 am stroll to the start point, body markings, last minute bike air/adjustment. I felt unusually mellow before the race as I had gotten the big one done in July. Keren and I had the same start times at 7:35 am, so after the bikes were prepped, we made our way down to the beach to watch the pros and other age groups start before us.

Swim: I didn’t know what to expect from the swim, as this was my first tri without a wetsuit, but I knew my stroke was better than in previous races. The course looked fairly simple: 2 X 900 meter rectangular loops counter-clockwise. Although there was a staggered start, the 2 age groups in our start were huge with over 300 people, so there was much bumping and kicking at the high speed water entry. I thought the crowdedness would subside after 200 meters, but it never really did. I hugged the left side, foolishly hoping to reduce the distance. It seemed overcrowded with slow swimmers, but I thought it would clear out. I got kicked by a breast stroker and karate chopped by a free stylist, taking the kick squarely in the cheek and goggles. Despite the high traffic levels and lower buoyancy, I settled into a nice rhythm. By about 500 meters, I checked my watch and saw 11 minutes, slightly slower than normal wetsuit pace. The first loop was 20 minutes or so, and I ran by a roaring crowd on the beach, waved to Megumi, and dived in for 1 more lap of love. The 2nd loop went relatively smooth and I was able to use more freestyle than usual. I got held up by drowns of breastrokers from earlier age groups. Despite the increase in freestyle usage, I ended up with 41 minutes for 1.9k, slower than my 1:17 for 3.8k in the ironman Zurich. I blamed the lack of wetsuit buoyancy. Anyway, I was happy to get out of the water in 1 piece after all the kicking, punching, biting, scratching, and other horseplay...

T1: The transition took over 3 minutes as I went for socks, bike shorts, gloves.

Bike: The bike ride was also more crowded than I had reckoned it would be for 2 reasons: 1. The highway was relatively narrow with extended no-pass danger zones. 2. I was in one of the last swim starts, and thus was trying to pass most of the 1,400 riders in the field. I was cruising at 34-35 kph, and felt satisfied by the pace, but was a little frustrated with the lack of space and giant pelotons forming. “Is this the Tour de France or what?” a fellow rider commented. The course was 3 X 30k loops from the east coast to downtown Singapore. There wasn’t much to look at except the huge ferris wheel, construction projects, and skyscrapers. It was really hot on the unshaded highway. I was chasing Keren, and finally caught him at 75k turn. We rode together as there was still little space on the last lap. It didn’t help things when a motorcycle race staff perched himself on the divider line. Several of us nearly hit him and I yelled, “Get the f___ out of the way!” The bike course really exposed the lack of experience of the course organizers. There was hardly any solid food aid, a lack of drinks, narrow course, and obstacles such as that motorcycle that could have been avoided. We noticed a lot of crashes and a huge amount of DNF’s. Perhaps I was spoiled by the copious amounts of power bars, bananas, gels at the Zurich ironman. Anyway, at the 90k point, I wasn’t feeling so genki due to the lack of nutruition, high tempeture, and lack of bike training (I had only done 5 rides in the past 8 weeks). I tried to convince myself the run was a different race with different muscles, but didn’t feel confident as I dismounted Hillary. My bike time was 2:38:50, a PB.

T2: 2nd transition took too long, almost 3 minutes, as I forgot to take off my bike shorts and ran the wrong way initially.

Run: At 11 am in equatorial Singapore after 3 and 1/2 hours of swimming and biking, I dreaded the ominous half marathon in front of me. I started along the run course fully exposed to the direct sunlight and thought, “where is the shaded run course hyped by the course directors?” Nightmares of China’s IM haunted me as I hit the first of 3 7k loops. At 1k the sign said: 1k: 1st loop, 8k: 2nd loop, 15k: 3rd loop. I thought sardonically, “only 96% of the run left, Motozo!” At 2.5k turnaround, the course volunteers yelled “keep going!”, although I was supposed to turn around. Singlish for gambatte? I could see Keren moving at a blistering pace, already 2-3 minutes ahead of me, trying to run down our posse (Mika, Vanessa, Bevan) and anyone else in his path. At least the Mika (smiling torpedo) versus Keren contest was going to be interesting to watched as I plugged along at 5:30/k pace. At the next turn (6k), Keren had closed the gap with Mika, and they were both pulling away from me. Kawaii so, Motozo! With little fuel left in the tank, I dismissed the idea of catching them and focused on running the best time possible, which was a 5:25:00 at my current pace (1:57:00 21k run). I felt the heat and lack of nutrition taking its toll, and again was disappointed with lack of solid food on the course. The only solid food was bananas, and they weren’t even chopped up. Amazingly, they had delicious watermelons, oranges at the finish line, but not during the run when we needed the nutrition the most. After the 2nd loop (14k), I was more confident I could finish without walking alla China IM. I was really tempted to pull over and walk, but Megumi’s encouragement really kept me going. I did like how the back of the run course went thru a grassy bit and thru some palm tree cover. Hey this is Singapore! At 16k, I started the 5k countdown and began counting the kilometers, 100 meter intervals, paces, all of it to keep my mind off the fatigue. 5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1k to go…a tiny spurt at 500 meters to go got me under 5:25:00.

Official times:

Swim: 1.9k: 41:53 (14th place out of 161 age group finishers)
T1: 3:41
Bike: 90k: 2:38:50 (28th place)
T2: 2:46
Run: 21k: 1:57:44 (14th place)

Total: 5:24:56 (14th out of 161 age group, 133 overall)

Congrats to Keren, Mika, and Vanessa for podium finishes.
Keren was the star with a well thought-out and executed race. Most impressive was his run in the hostile heat. Omedeto to Mika, the celebrity queen of Singapore, for a gutsy run despite a heel injury. Thanks to Megumi for constant support and candid photos. It was a wonderful event and experience, but I will have to have a hard think before signing up for another hot weather ironman event.

Monday, August 18, 2008

naruhodo nariki bike mountain race

An interesting race. The wet roads and crowded street made it difficult to maneuver on a triathlon bike, but an interesting experience, as I had never raced a pure bike road race before. But this was a mountain climb bike race, so I was in even more uncharted territory. I had no idea what to expect on race day.

When my group started we accelerated quickly up the gentle slope, and I had Hillary up over 20kph for the first 200 meters... I thought, this is easy...than we hit the first incline and my legs heated up. I was soon huffing and puffing, not used to the intensity on a bike (most of bike ironman training was long 3-6 hour rides at medium speed and low heartrate. I think my heartrate was faster than the Wednesday track workouts though. The roads were slippery and there were treacherous steel crates just for some extra slippage. At the halfway point (2.2k), I was passing a rider on his right, spun my back wheel, lost balance, hit the biker next to me as I had nowhere to go. He crashed as I regained balance. Felt very sorry but there was nothing I could do. The hill climb reminded me of the 4k climb called the beast in Zurich, except Nariki was a continuous climb. Tuff tuff tuff climb, but I managed to pass about 20 guys, and only got passed 2-3 times. Thanks to Keren for organizing and remembering to bring all his stuff!

Time for 4.4k was 21:43, about 12.1 kph.
Place was 152 out of 403 finishers.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Like Swiss Chocolate

The race was sweeter than Swiss chocolate. Ah, such a wonderful memory, such a fun-filled 7 days, climaxing with a half-day romp thru Lake Zurich and the surrounding Alps. I have so many thoughts and insights on this journey, that this long-winded blog will probably not do justice for, but here goes...

Pre-race prep/antics: Pasta, rain gear, and a crash
I arrived on Wednesday night, pasta loaded at the restaurant next door to my luxurious hotel, and went to bed early. I quickly assembled the bike Thursday morning, met Mika from Singapore for more pasta loading, and we set off to ride the main part of the bike course with about 20 hardcore early-bird ironmen. I met Lindsey and Jon along the ride, both going for their 1st ironman, and Debbie a veteran of 8 ironmen and 2 Kona appearances. I was impressed by both Debbie, a 10 1/2 hour finisher, and Lindsey, who was going for 10 1/2 hours on her first try. As soon as we set out on the 80k ride, we began to worry about the heat and fatigue of a ride so close to the race. But we figured it was almost essential to ride the course before Sunday, so we pressed on. At 30k, called Natasha Badmann (6 time ironman world champion and Suisse national) rest point, Mika had a minor crash in which she collided head on with another biker. The "biker" was actually a crazy guy on a shopping bike (mama chalet) who refused to move over when we road past him. Mika, unfortunately, was in his way, and it seemed as if he deliberately collided with her. He shouted at Mika in German until we all came back and returned fire. Mika was in shock, but body and bike were unscathed thank goodness!

We than climbed "the beast", a massive 4k hill with a 230 meter climb. This was the hill that I had been sweated over for months, and it was not easy. Although we took it slow, we were tired and hot at the top. The next 10k was a decline down the “egg” and a nasty little incline to the highest part of the course at 700 meters, or 2,200 feet above sea level. We groaned and commiserated, than coasted down a steep decline back to downtown Zurich, admiring the beach-like culture in the late afternoon along Lake Zurich. It was a gorgeous day reaching 28 degrees C (83 F) and the sun continued to shine until 9 PM. I ended up quite sunburned and tight in the legs, worrying if I had overdone it, but promised myself an easy swim on Friday and rest on Saturday before the big dance on Sunday.

On Friday morning, after a massive breakfast, most of my comrades from Tokyo had arrived at the hotel, but they were in bike exploration mode, while I was ready for a swim in the lake with wetsuit. The lake was comfortable at 20 degrees and quite refreshing on that hot day. This was followed by more bike adjustments from the kind yet eccentric Swiss bike doctors in the iron village. Next was the race briefing, which was quite basic and bare. They had assured us that all questions would be answered by the briefing, but they failed to go over each of the three courses in detail, which proved to be unwise. Mika made a wrong turn on the swim, and I had a couple myself on the bike and run. Friday night was the welcome party, which took too long and didn’t have enough carbs. It also started raining hard. I wasn’t feeling so warm and fuzzy…

Saturday brought more rain and cold temperatures, the average temperature falling from 22 to 16 degrees C in one day. My brother accompanied me to the iron village for last minute wet weather shopping which included a rain jacket, legwarmers, toe covers, all for the bike ride. Instead of 1 short-sleeved jersey, I was going to go with 3 layers including a waterproof jacket if this wet weather continued. After 2 pasta dinners, I was in bed by 10 PM, hoping to get 6 solid hours of sleep before my 4 AM wake-up call.

Race Day: It’s raining mad!
It was raining in the morning with big puddles forming. I wondered how slow I would have to take it on the bike declines, or if I could stay warm. I ate a bagel and scoffed cornflakes and fruit before joining the Sumie, Fabien, Brodie, and Martin at the lobby. We rode the train 6 minutes to the start. We got there at 5:30 AM, 90 minutes before the 7 AM starting bell. 90 minutes seemed like a long time, but it went quickly. I arranged my bike and run clothing underneath a large white bike cover, praying that they would not get wet. I put on my wetsuit in the large reception tent, stretched, and tried to focus on the race: nice and easy swim, conservative bike with plenty of nutrition and even splits, and let the run take care of itself. It was 6:30 AM and I headed down to the swim area, fully lubricated with glide and Vaseline.

Swim: A little bit of love
It was 13 degrees, but I was toasty in my wetsuit. I was worried about taking off the wetsuit and riding Hillary Swank, my bike, up into the mountains later that morning. It was still raining and cold as they sent off the pros at 6:55 AM. We were than immediately instructed to get in the water for a deep water start, which meant we had to tread water for 5 minutes. That wasn’t so bad in a wetsuit though. I tried to conserve energy while treading water gently and advancing as much as I could to the front of mass of swimmers. I needed every inch I could get given my swimming stroke! The gun went off and my heart came alive. Finally after months of training, I was swimming in Lake Zurich. I did my customary routine, 8 strokes free style, 2 breast strokes to locate the buoys. I was determined to swim straight this race, as I had lost valuable time in the past 2 swims in Oshima and China. At the first turn at 500 meters, there was mass confusion, as hundreds of swimmers were bunched up in a standstill, not knowing which way to go. “Which way?”, we shouted. After a while, someone pointed to another buoy which seemed to be a 90 degree right turn, and we were off again. I have to say that the swim course was just about the coolest thing I have ever done. We got done with the first 1.8k loop, which brought us to a “strait”, or a narrow strip of water that separated a tiny island from the mainland. At the back end of the tiny island, we were amphibians, jogging past and high-fiving spectators (including my parents and brother) on that tiny island. I was happy to come in at just over 30 minutes, ahead of schedule, and thought “1 more lap and a little bit of love”. My unorthodox stroke seemed to be working...

The first lap I had felt boxed in from all sides, but the second lap felt a little better as the field opened up. I got into a more normal groove. As I rounded the last buoy and headed home, I saw 1:04 on my watch, which I figured would allow me to cruise in at 1:15-1:20, better than my 1:20-1:30 target. So I took it real slow and easy as advised by veteran ironman Keren, and re-landed at 1:17.

T1: The soggy bagel
I jogged slowly to the bike transition area. T1 turned out to be the beginning of the most challenging part of the race. The rain was still coming down, and the wetness, extra clothing, crowd noise, etc. distracted me somewhat. I had neatly placed under the bike cover my bike clothing, shoes, and food. To my horror, the bagel had gotten wet and literally disintegrated as I tried to stuff it into my bike shirt pocket. Further, the wetsuit took a couple of minutes to get off. I had so much clothing: short-sleeve shirt, long shirt, rain jacket, leg tights, bike shorts, head band, gloves, etc. It took forever to get it all on. I gave up on the soggy bagel and bit the last piece out of desperation. My brother was at the entrance nearby and could see the comedy of errors: “c’mon Dave, get on the bike already!”. At long last, I wheeled Hillary to the gate nearly 9 minutes later.

Bike: Heartbreak and the beast
The first bit of the bike leg always feels good to me as my legs tend to be underutilized on the swim. But again I was cautious and slow for two reasons; 1. The roads were wet and visibility limited, and 2. I wanted to save my legs for the second half of the bike and marathon. I was also worried about nutrition due to the soggy bagel incident. That bagel was the only food I had packed and I wasn’t sure how reliable or substantial the power bars, gels, fruits, drinks at the help stations would be. I cruised down the first 30k flat course at 33-35 kph. At 20k, I grabbed power gels and bars and feasted. I wasn’t working very hard and felt cold in the legs and extremities. My torso felt nice and toasty as the rain jacket completely blocked out any moisture. At 50k, I tackled the beast, a 230 meter climb over 4k. I was able to stay in second gear and remain mostly seated, and felt a cold sweat for the first time of the day. After the beast, I was surprised to pull up to Mika, who is usually behind me after the swim (in China, she passed me on the run). “Ohayo gozaimasu”, I greeted. “Genki?”, I asked. “Samui, samui!”, Mika shivered. I imagined it must have been really cold for Mika, a hot weather specialist, as I was feeling uncomfortable in the cold rain. It was 13 degrees in downtown Zurich, but felt colder in the hills on a bike. After another tough incline up the egg, I took the decline to Zurich easy, using my brakes liberally. I hit 50 kph on the big hill, versus +60 kph a few days earlier on the test run. The road was just too wet to take any chances. I was stocking up on power bars and gels at each rest station, but had some trouble getting the bars open as my fingers were numb, so I used my teeth to rip the wrappers open. As I descended into Zurich I prepared myself for heartbreak hill at 80k, and hoped that my family would be there to warm my spirits. At this point, I remember thinking it was about 4 hours into the race, a daunting 1/3 of the total target time. These thoughts disciplined me to keep the pace nice and easy. I told myself I would speed up later if I still had gas in the tank…At 80k, I downshifted into the second smallest gear and climbed heartbreak hill at 8-12 kph. It reminded me of the mountain stages of the tour de France on TV, except the crowds were yelling Hopp Hopp Hopp (I guessed Go or fighto or gambatte in German). The hill wasn’t so bad, much easier than the beast. Near the top my parents and brother yelled out my name. I was moving so slowly that we could have a conversation and Dan filled me in on logistics and took pictures. The IM Suisse people also called out the at bikers name, which was a nice touch. HB hill was only 1k or so, so it really didn’t break me. I coasted down the hill to the 90k halfway point, which was at the original starting point. With one bike lap to go and a 42k run, I could see a tiny glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. My 90k split was 3:10-3:15, so I figured a 6:30-6:40 bike was in the cards for 180k. Slightly disappointing, but it could not be helped.
The second half of the bike was rather uneventful. I felt soreness all over. At the 120k point Natasha Badmann stop, I again prepared myself mentally and physically for the beast. I tried to take it easy and eat as much as possible, but was getting sick of bananas, bars, and gels. At the beast, I shifted into the smallest gear this time. The rain had subsided and I felt warmth for the first time of the day. The hairy beast had some wicked hairpin turns, which made it interesting to observe the riders above and below. I tried to keep my mind off the physical pain. Everything ached. It wasn’t that I was winded, only that my body wanted to get out of that crouched position. My neck, back, buttocks, hamstrings, calves all had that +140k achy feeling. It was a long second lap, and I hadn’t seen anyone I knew since the Mika samui sighting. I wondered how Fabien, Sumie, and the others were getting on. I thought about striking up a conversation with other riders just to make the time go by, but everyone seemed to be focused on the road ahead. Anyway, I made it to the top of the beast and descended down towards the egg. There were a lot of windy turns on the downhills, and I made a wrong turn on one of them. I had to stop, do an about face, and yelled angrily at the street marker guy who had raised his arrow sign as I was turning the wrong way. After the big egg climb at 160k, I started to feel warmer and fuzzier, and hit 60 kph on the big hill as the road had dried up. Back at the lake, there was some 2-way car traffic, which was annoying. I had little patience for other cars as I could see the fast bikers had already started the run. Another heartbreak hill climb and I was done. How good did it feel to get off that saddle after 6 1/2 hours!

T2: Full moon
I was pleasantly surprised to see my family unit perched near my bike transition zone, snapping pictures at my bare butt, and yelling encouragement. I felt like the homecoming queen. I put Hillary back in the rack, stripped off the multiple bike layers, got on my comfortable running shorts, singlet, fresh socks, shoes, and felt like a new man. I jogged past my family, high fives all around. My legs felt sore but ready to run, a credit to those weekly brick trainings runs in April-June.

Run: Yappari run ga juncho
I was fairly unfamiliar with the run course. All I knew was it was flat and 4 loops. Turns out each loop passed the main finish area no less than 4 times. This meant lots of chances to absorb the crowd’s energy. In the first 5k, I ate, drank, answered nature’s call, and felt generally good. I was cruising at just over 5 minute per k pace, and passing runners rapidly. After the first feeding frenzy of apples, bananas, hot bouillon soup, sports drink, I felt a surge of energy. At about 15k I realized that the bouillon soup had magical qualities, probably from the high salt content. At 20k, I had 1:50 on my watch for the run, and fantasized about a sub-12 hour time if I could just crack 4 hours for the marathon. But I hit a lull and slowed at 20-30k. I started taking in cokes and thought of Jay’s caffeine obsession and ironman experience. I toyed with the idea of drinking red bull, but didn’t want to risk an upset stomach. Memories of the China 1/2 ironman haunted me. I had to walk every 1K in China in the blistering 35 degree heat. But this was my day, and there would be no taifu to spoil the party.

The crowd’s energy was intoxicating, and I soaked up every ounce of it. There was also plenty of eye candy around. I saw all my Tokyo comrades except Sumie. I pulled up to Fabien, exchanged hopp hopps, and moved on at about 32k. We were wearing colored bracelets. For each 10k lap, you received a different colored bracelet. I now had all 4 bracelets, and I got my second wind (or 3rd or 4th wind?). Only 10k plus a little bit of love to go…I had about 1 hour to run the last 10.2k if I wanted a sub-4 marathon and sub-12 hour total. My swim and bike and transitions were exactly 8 hours. I felt confident I could do it, although I was in completely uncharted territory. I had never trained nor raced for more than 7 hours in one sitting, and I was on the 11th hour. Still, all I needed was to cruise under 6 minute k pace, and I had been averaging 5 1/2 minute pace for 32k. These mental calculations and watch checks kept me focused on the goal. I thought, 1 or 2 more carbo feedings, and I would be home free. Each mileage sign showed 4 distances for each lap. I was now on the final lap, and it felt good to be passing each sign for the last time. At 37k, I had about 30 minutes, which suited me fine. Barring a last minute injury or accident, I thought I could do it. I slowly pushed down the accelerator and began passing runners again. At the final turn around 40k, I was feeling more and more euphoria. Just one more hill and turn into the final stretch. At 41k, I pulled up to a runner with 4 bracelets. Another guy encouraged both of us to get in under 12 hours. We chatted for a couple of minutes and than could hear the finish line bustle. Again more endorphins hit my leg muscles. I sped up to 4 1/2 minute pace as I could see the yellow decorations and other paraphernalia at the finish. They announced, David Rubenstein, from Nanban Rengo in Tokyo, Japan, and the crowd went wild. I crossed the finish line in 11:57:50.

Final splits and places:
3.8k Swim: 1:17:37 (265 place out of 452 in age group)
180k Bike: 6:29:55 (313 place) 1st 90k: 3:11:07 (28.2 kph), 2nd 90k: 3:18:48 (27.2 kph)
42K Run: 3:57:02 (223 place) 1st 10k: 52:53 (5:17/k), 2nd 11k: 59:09 (5:22/k), 3rd 10k: 1:03:23 (6:20/k), 11k: 1:01:37 (5:36/k)

Total: 11:57:50 (223 place out of 452 in age group, 1001 place out of 2,200)

Overall, I shattered my goal of 12:30 to 13 hours, and was very happy with the run and swim. The bike was slower than I had thought. I had targeted 6 to 6 1/2 hours, but the rain and fatigue on the 2nd loop took its toll. Those hills drained me. I should have done more hill climbing in Tokyo, but the raining season wasn’t kind, and I spend many weekends riding the bike trainer indoors. The transitions were pitiful. The jet lag, a 7 hour time difference, turned out to be a limited factor. I did feel some extra fatigue in the 2nd half of the run, which would have been past my bedtime in Tokyo, but could not pin it down to jet lag or generally tiredness.

I am most satisfied with my last 11k on the run. I was clearly hurting at 21-30k, but somehow dug down deep to accelerate from a 6:20 pace to a 5:36 pace. I credit those long lonely runs in Yoyogi Park on Sundays, and extra miles in before track sessions on Wednesday nights. Here is a typical hard training week before ironman:

Monday: Swim 2.5k: 1:10, 20 X 50 meters fast
Tuesday: Bike trainer spin: 1:06, Brick run: 31:12
Wednesday: Track: speed workout ladder, max at 1200 @ 4:44; 5k warmup, 11k total
Thursday: Swim 3.3k: 1:30, 10 x 200 meters on 4:20; Bike spin: 45 minutes
Friday: OFF!
Saturday: Arakawa bike ride 165k: 5:40:35, Brick run: 30 minutes, 5k
Sunday: Yoyogi long run: 35k: 3:29:17

Total 1 week: 15.9 hours, swim 6.3k, bike 218k, run 56k

Orei: I wanna thank my mother...
So many people to thank for this journey. I wanna thank my mother and father. Not only were they kind enough to conceive me on a wintry night in 1967, but they flew all the way from NY to witness my entire ironman debut (minus a 2 hour nap during the bike). Same goes for my brother Daniel. Thanks Dan for the encouragement and sound advice in the days before and during the race. Thanks to Megumi for comfort and support all the way through to the big day. Thanks to Fabien for rallying up the troops in Tokyo for the Zurich trip. Congrats to Brodie, Sumie, Martin, and Fabien in Zurich. Zannen to Mika in Singapore, but we all know this is a humbling sport with ups (China) and downs (Zurich). Thanks to my Jefferies colleagues including Nigel for relentless encouragement. Thanks to the nanban guys for companionship and support in training. Special thanks to triathlon specialists Keren, Mary, Jay, Stu, Chad, Chris, Gerard, Dave, Mika T, Mike, Bevan, Anthony, my bike mentor Ben, my swim coach Greg. You all made those long rides, runs, and swims more meaningful!

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