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!