Pre-race: Toyama ain’t close, but rather easy to get to. Our hotel was walking distance from the Toyama station, which serves the new Shinkansen direct from Tokyo in 2 hours and small change. The race organization was amusingly primitive with handwritten drawings of the race course and key points, and no air conditioning on a very hot July day. With electric trams and copious spring waters, Toyama is known for its environmentally friendliness, so much that the city has been designated an environmental model city by the national government for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Perhaps this was the reason for lack of power point slides or air conditioners...
Swim: The swim area at Toyama Bay is somewhat similar to Murakami Triathlon on the Sea of Japan. Except that the swim course in Toyama is actually less protected and hence we did have some chop. I didn't swim too hard and felt the positive effects of the hard tri-k swim sessions at Shiba Koen and Yoyogi gym.
I was in the 3rd wave with Mark, and noticed him just ahead after the first 750 meter lap. I pulled up to Mark, hoping that we could work together on the 2nd lap, but he swung out far left, so I abandoned that idea. I tend to swim faster with more focus when I am pacing off other swimmers, particularly when I know their speed and style.
I hit the beach in 26 minutes, not nearly as fast as last month's exploits in Takeyama. I foolishly hoped my minor 20 second lead on Mark would hold up for part of the bike.
Bike: Mark was gone by the time I got out of T1. My transition wasn't terrible, just too much to do. Wetsuit removal, put on helmet, sunglasses, switch on bike garmin, put on bike shoes and run to the exit unclipped. The whole ordeal took about 1 minute. I guess I need a new garmin and helmet with built-in visor. I also need practice mounting with shoes clipped in to the pedals.
I could see Mark about 50 meters ahead as I mounted Hillary Swank (blue P2C Cervelo), tried to accelerate, but there was an awful sound coming from the back tire. This hill climb was going to be hard enough without mechanical problems. I tried to loosen the brake by twisting around while coasting.
This resulted in sharp cramps in my abdomen and only a halfway loosened brake. As I dealt with the cramps and Hillary's moans, I noticed that I was getting passed by bikers on the first hill. At the 20k point, I finally pulled over to a full stop and loosened the brake all the way. After that Hillary's complaints resided as I headed up the mountain somewhat relieved.
Hillary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
The last 10k was going to be a serious climb and test of meddle, so I didn't go 100% for the first 30k of the ride. It was a rather gradual climb of 560 total meters over 37k, and 300 meters over the last 15k. There were 3-4 steep hills where I had to shift my lowest gear and stand up. I hadn't changed my rear cassette so was a bit worried about getting up those steep climbs, but it turned out to be manageable.
The last climb of about 2k was very tough though. On that last hill I was maxed out, in my smallest gear, and standing. As I passed a race volunteer in slow motion, I pleaded with her to tell me how far it was to the top. She, of course, had no concept of distance, saying "mo chotto" (just a little further), and "nan kiro mo nai" (not more than 1k). It always amazes me how little race supporter actually know about where they are on the course. I brought Hillary home in 1:21:52, which is meaningless given the hills and short 37k distance. Average speed was 27.1 KPH with 207 watts of estimated average power.
Run: To my surprise, the bike rack in my age group was mostly empty with the exception of Mark and 2-3 others. So I wasn't having such a terrible day. I racked Hillary, slid on my racing shoes, and pulled out of T2 with no hat or shades. T2 is actually in the parking lot of Takeyama Sanroku ski area, which means you have to run up the mountain from T2. That first ascent up the ski slope nearly killed me. The earlier wave athletes, Mark, Tibo, and a few others were flying down the hill while I climbed. I thought about walking as the walkers that I passed weren't moving much slower than me. But I gritted my teeth and coerced myself into running all the way minus one pee brake. Meg and Ty were on the course cheering like crazy which was a huge help!
iki-iki gamba gamba yare yare!
Ann and Miki-san boosted my spirits also. At the top of the run course I took 2 cups of water and doused myself. Things were heating up. Where was that rain in the forecast?
As I raced down the hill I thought only 2 more laps of this? Finishing the 2nd lap felt good though. At least I wasn't going to suffer the humiliation of getting lapped by Mark. It was impossible to pace how fast I was going. Uphills were 5:30-6 minute pace, downhills 4 minute pace, much slower than a flat course, needless to say.
bad storm coming
better run to the top of the mountain
As I rounded the last run to the finish chute, I thought, whey not finish in style? So I gathered, coiled, and launched into a mini-long jump on the finish line. Thankfully Meg was there to capture the insanity!
mother, I'm flying!
Epilogue: It was one of the most gorgeous setting for a race finish. A ski resort with light shamrock green grasses and dark plush pine green forests. We feasted on local sushi and curry, savoring that post-race euphoria. Given the A to B course design, we eventually had to make our way back to Toyama, which was a 30k ride down the mountain.
Originally I wasn't too excited by the idea of cycling 30k after a race, but it turned out to be a scenic ride along the river valley. And it was easy riding down the mountain. I think I averaged a faster speed on that post-race ride than the actual race. Go figure.
We like it on top!
"Mountain in the shadow of light, rain in the valley below, Well you can say you're Peter, say you're Paul, Don't put me up on your bedroom wall, call me the king of the mountain" -Midnight Oil