Friday, August 25, 2017

Hokkaido Triathlon, the inaugural race ユニックな北海道トライアスロン、満足って感じ

I have to say that Hokkaido is one of my favorite places on earth, winter or summer. World famous powder in Niseko in winter combined with cool, crisp, gorgeous greenness in summer. It also bears a touch of ancient Ainu heritage, although this has been reduced to place names and other superficial mementos. 

When my friend Jeff, a long-time Hokkaido resident, mentioned the 1st inaugural race at Toyako, I jumped all over it. And than threw the finish line...


I got 14th overall, which is very pleasing, as this was my longest distance in 3 years. Gory details below. 


The mass start was interesting. I swam hard to get away from masses, which paid dividends as there was no congestion after 200 meter first turn. The fresh water and lake are delicious to swim in. There's a steep cliff-like drop in water depth, scary and beautiful at the same time. A rather nice course design, after the first lap circa 700 meters, we landed amidst the roar of the crowd, waved to the admirers, dived in again, swam another 700 meter lap, landed again, got more glory, re-dived, than swam straight the final 600 meters to the adjacent beach/bike area. I did 38 minutes, so-so, but was saving lots of fuel for the bike....



It is a unique 138k bike course, which I originally thought was going to be a 4 hour plus affair, so kinda like a bike race with a little swim before and modest run after. 65% of race in the bike!

There were a few things that made this race unique. 

Long hilly bike. 
Little traffic control. 
Cool conditions in August. 
A large Hokkaido contingent. 

If your bike is your best discipline, particularly bike climbing, than this is the race for u. 

For your humble narrator, the first 50k felt fine. I was glad that most of the climbs were in the first half. 1280 meters of climbing with about 700 in first 60k. There was a major climb at the 100k point but it was fairly flat after that. 

At around 80k, a race official called out, "the leader is only 27 minutes ahead of you, gambatte kudasai!".
The 5 riders around me groaned. Needless information!

This was the first race I have done with open roads. They decided not to close the roads to cars and I now understand why. Most of the area is barren, and on a Sunday morning there is very little traffic. However, we were forced to slow down or stop over 10 times. A few times I had to wait for cars to pass but it wasn't too bad. The real challenge was getting over those hills with little fuel or aid along the way. My 4 hour target turned out to be too ambitious, I barely averaged 30 kph. I had little power for those last 40k.

4:42 bike, 138k, 22nd rank


I was really worried that my legs would be dog-meat by the run, but amazingly I was able to run at 5 minute pace straight off the bike. Admittedly I was super glad to be off Hillary's saddle. You can see my wide smile on the run.

I wondered where anyone was as I had not seen anyone I know since the swim finish. Than they all appeared out of the woodwork, literally. The run takes you on a beautiful journey along lake Toyako.

                                   Thanks to Paul's wife for the run shots!

 I passed Jess as he was finishing, than Ernesto came up from the rear and we ran together with his son in tow for 1k or so, which was nice and helped me keep a fast pace. Ernesto is a true hombre on the run and really pushed me. I tried to pull away, but he kept on reeling me in. Than we saw Paul at the turnaround coming strong. It was all happening on the run.

The first 10k was surprisingly smooth. Than I hit a dark period from 10-15k where I had to dig deeper to maintain that 5-minute pace. Once I hit the final turnaround at 16k I felt rejuvenated, and gathered my last reserves for the final 6k.


I came in at just over 5 minute pace which I was happy with, and did my now patented leap through the finish line. 

Check out the expressions on the finish girl's faces. Epic!


finish line euphoria with Ernesto and Paul


7:09, 14th place overall, 7th in AG (would have been 3rd in 50's age group, but to them I am still a young 40's whippersnapper...)

                                    Big thanks to Meg for the superb action shots!
                                    pure fun at Niseko Hilton
                          happy relaxing down-time after the race

Kudos to Paul, Ernesto, Jeff, Lesa, Jess!

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