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.


Sara Cox Landolt said...

How fun that I can read blogs like yours from all over the world. Thanks for the race reports!
Best to you and your training.

David 元三 Rubenstein said...

yes, sara, it's called the internet..