This was my 2nd year in a row to Nijima, and the beautiful island did not disappoint. Last year we had a cozier group of 6-7 peeps, but this year the gaijin horde dominated the course, with 18 of us in the race, and 3 supporters.
As for the race, I had hoped to beat my time of last year, 2:25, but my lack of training over the winter was going to make that a tall order. On race day, some small waves on the swim and a breeze on the bike course shattered any hopes of getting close to my time of last year.
Compared to last year I lost 30 seconds on the swim, 2 minutes on the bike, and 30 seconds on the run. It was a fun race though.
Swim: We (Keren, Jay, Mika, Mary, Ma, Phil, Pia, Vanessa, Motozo) lined up 4 minutes after the young bucks, and sprinted into the shallow water. It is quite an easy start, with about 100 "free" meters of running and porpoising allowable, I felt
pretty relaxed and settled into my usual drafting position behind a big splashing guy about my speed. At the halfway I came in at 12:10, so hoped to get in under 25 minutes, but I must have slowed slightly. I came out at about 25:00, but took almost a full minute to get out of the wetsuit despite not wearing socks.
Bike: The bike was tougher this year. We had a stiff headwind at the first 1-2k until you ride thru the little town. And the course is very curby and hilly, so it is hard to get into a good groove on the bike. 3 loops X 13.3k. At the end of the first loop, I had done about 25 minutes and knew that it was going to be a slow one on the bike as I had hoped for 23 minutes X 3 = 1:09 bike...
but alas one cannot control the elements...it was great to see many nanbanners on the course...I targeted Reza who was about 4-5 minutes in front of me, and had wild dreams of catching up to Keren, who was behind Reza, but had started with me, so about 1 minute ahead. It looked like Kimm was having a great debut, as he and Adam dueled it out several minutes ahead of the "pack". And of course Jay and I had our friendly rivalry on the whole course. I knew I needed a big cushion on the bike, as Jay has run well under 40 minutes at the olympic distance. So my 2nd and 3rd loops were about the same, and I dismounted Hillary Swank at 1:15 or so...as I bent down to put on my running shoes, I got severe stomach cramps where the actual ab muscles popped out...very painful...so I had to do some extra stretching before I could start running...some Japanese girls were saying, "yabai" as they saw me stretched out at T2, and I hoped they would call the marshal's on me...
Run: The first part is a severe climb, but I was ready for it, and was thrilled to see my wife Megumi at the top of the hill. I thought she would start running with me as she has done before in races....we got near the turnaround and I saw all the same guys running well: Adam, Kimm, Stefan, Keren, Reza, Andrew, which was nice motivation to keep pumping hard...
At the turn, I caught a glimpse of Vanessa behind me (she is a fast runner)..more incentive to run hard! Near the 5k, Bevan lapped me with a "gambatte"...eeyyyy! 2nd 5k was almost exactly the same split 23:22, although I accelerated at the end, I was fully spent and did not have much to finish strong.
Swim: 25:59 (52)
Bike: 1:16:10 (37)(T1 and T2 included)
Run: 46:47 (34)
Total: 2:28:59 (34th place out of 242)
To put it in perspective, last year's times were:
Swim: 25:22 (75th place)
Bike: 1:14:08 including T1 and T2 (35th place)
Run: 45:49 (32nd place)
Total: 2:25:21 32nd place out of 170 finishers
So my swim actually improved from last year despite the slower time. That is encouraging since I have only done 4-5 swims this year.
The bike needs a little work, although I was more competitive this year as well.
The run was a smidgen slower in gross time and competitiveness, but not too shabby.
Many thanks to Phil and Mika for setting up the trip again. Congrats to Kimm, Ma, Phil, Andrew, for popping their proverbial cherries. Thank you Meggu, for your lovely support and photos. Thanks to Gerard for coming all the way from Aussie! Che che to Leng Leng and Arnaud for coming and supporting also. We will miss you!
For those that care, here is my write-up of last year's event.
Next up is Oshima, June 12, with vague hopes of cracking the 2:22 PB area...would need a fantastic swim on that rocky coast to give myself a chance...final note: if you ever go to Nijima, take the plane from Chofu. It is a fast, scenic ride for only a few pennies more than the ferry or jet foil. Nothing like flying back to Tokyo from a distant island in 30 minutes!