Saturday, August 08, 2015

Kamaishi triathlon, a long trip to a little race

We made the pilgrimage to Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture for the first revival of the olympic distance triathlon since the tsunami in 2011. A five hour voyage by Shinkansen and car, but it was worth the journey. The Kamaishi people are warm and welcoming and dazzled us with their energy. The heat was an issue though, despite the fact that Kamashi is some 500k north of Tokyo.

A little background on Kamaishi: It's a medium-sized coastal town known for its fish and steel factories. The town is directly exposed to the Pacific Ocean, so on March 11, 2011, it was devastated by the Tsunami. The town has a long history of dealing with tsunamis, and fortunately most lives were spared. But the physical and economic damage was immense. Rieko and Mike Trees set up a charity in 2011 and have been going back every year to help out. I thought it would be good to participate in this charity race of sorts. Mike couldn't make it this time, but Rieko, big Mika, and little Meeks all showed up and collected trophies.

I also have a soft spot for Kamaishi as it was my first triathlon ever back in 2004. Rieko and Mike also coerced me to go up 11 years ago. Some things don't change.

It was good fun to compare my performance with 11 years ago. I didn't have a blog or Facebook back than, but I remember it distinctly. I thought that I swam well, but was hugely disappointed to see almost no bikes on the racks at the T1 area. I spent most of the bike passing the slow swimmers and bikers, felt really fast on the run, but was far behind anyone competitive.

Swim: This time around my swim was about 5 minutes faster. The swim is in a protected harbor with no wake at all. I lined up in the front near Rieko, hoping to draft off of her, which was a mistake. I got swamped by aggressive guys in the 2nd and 3rd row. At about 100 meters in, someone punched the back of my head. That was the hardest I've ever been hit in a swim. I felt woozy and slowed, swam conservatively the rest of the way, using breast stroke every 20 strokes. Still my swim was 25 minutes, about 1 minute off a PB. In T1, all the bikes were still in the rack by my area, jogging my memory of 2004.

Bike: Still there was work to be done. This year the bike course was 26k despite the "olympic distance" billing. A big curvy hill inland for 13k and back. Compared to 2004, there was hardly anyone on the road but 16 fast swimmers including Rieko, a few relay guys, and the pros. I passed 5-6 bikers, saw Rieko a minute in front with her cheshire cat smile. After a few more passes, a young guy wobbled by me. I traded places with him with 1k to go, finished the bike in 45:46 not including transition, about 34.8 kph. Considering the hills in the first section, I was happy with that time.

Bike course here:

Run: It was getting super hot by the 10 am run start. I wasn't feeling super duper anymore but tried to accelerate to 4 minute pace. That did not happen so settled in at 4:30 pace. The run is a simple 4 x 2.5k course along the coast. There isn't much to see but plenty of Kamaishi folk to pump you up with water, sport drink, hoses, and cheer. It is fun to see everyone you know the course. Rieko and Mika traded pleasantries the entire run. There is also a longish 200 meter tunnel that is rather cool, so I used the tunnel to accelerate. I pulled in at 41 minutes and change.

I was 13th overall out of 170 age groupers and 4th in the 40's age group. Only 1 older guy finished in front of me, a great improvement from 11 years ago.

Many thanks to Rieko for organizing. We stayed at a deluxe Horaikan ryokan right on the beach near the swim start. Great to see Akiko and her husband Itaru, who drove up from Sendai.

1 comment:

Deeks said...