Off to Hokkaido for swim # 2

Most people get woken up by an alarm. This morning I got woken up by an earthquake at 6am. Such is life in Japan. Awake and albeit reluctantly, I hauled my ass to the pool for one last “training session” before the weekend. Open Water swim race number 2 for summer 2010 is this weekend, on Sunday. It’s been a fortnight since my last open water swim race. I’m travelling up to Hokkaido for this one heading up tomorrow morning.

This event is the only open water swim race in Hokkaido, and I use the term ‘open water’ deliberately in this case. This swim is not an OCEAN water swim. It’s in a lake. More specifically a volcanic caldera lake – Lake Toya, a beautiful lake in a nice onsen town. Here are some interesting facts about Lake Toya: – Lake Tōya is said to be the northernmost lake in Japan that never ices, – and the second most transparent lake in Japan. – The 2008 G8 Summit was held here This particular swim event is a private/non-official race in that it is not endorsed or organised by the Japan Open water swimming association. This race is run by a local adventure/outdoor company in Hirafu/Niseko.

This swim is kind of close to my heart for several reasons. Firstly, Hokkaido was my first experience of Japan ever. I first came to Japan as a uni exchange student and I was placed at Sapporo University (not my first preference at the time). Our flight from Sydney was to Chitose airport in Hokkaido so I never even landed on Honshu before arriving to Japan. I lived in Sapporo for one year. It was where I first fell in love with Japan and knew that I would return. After graduating from uni I was back to Japan on the JET program. I also visited Hokkaido again during that time.

After finishing JET, I then moved back to Hokkaido and lived in Hirafu, Niseko (a major ski resort town) for a year and a half. Sunday’s swim race is called Big Swim Toya and it is hosted by NAC (Niseko Adventure Centre). I lived within walking distance of NAC and spent some time there. They have a great restaurant/cafe called JoJo’s – it’s a beautiful casual, spacious restaurant with delicious food to boot. They have a little shop and an indoor wall climbing facility too. They also run heaps of activities and tours all-year round like rafting, snowshoeing etc. In addition to the Big Toya Swim event, they also put on the Hirafu 10km Trail Run which I also competed in last year – the most gruelling 10km run over. It’s not a road run, it’s a trail run – up and down mountains and ski slopes. I also competed in this same swim last year, so it will be nice to do it again and hopefully improve my time from last year. So there you have it – me and Hokkaido go way back. I always like going back to Hokkaido – it’s also one of the most prettiest prefectures in Japan in my opinion. In fact, Hokkaido is awesome – great climate, powder snow, awesome coast line, great onsens, majestic mountains, delicious seafood and miso ramen, gigantic national parks, festive festivals, pretty flowers (Furano and Biei), home of Sapporo Beer and Royce choco, etc etc, stop me now… So this Sunday’s swim at Lake Toya will be a little trip down memory lane.

I competed in the 800m and the 1.5km swim back to back last year, and will be doing the same again this year. Lake Toya is a freshwater lake, so again these are different water conditions to what I’m used to. For one, the water temperature is a lot colder. Wetsuits are a given at this one. I don’t wear a wetsuit. I don’t own one, and even if I did, I wouldn’t wear one. Plain old togs do me just fine. Also, there is no salt content in the water, which means less bouyancy than an ocean swim. I know my times are definitely going to be slower. On the upside, there is virtually no current. The water is very flat, still and cold. It also means that the water is also quite pleasant to drink should you accidentally gulp some of it. I recall from last year that the water was quite tasty. Cool, clean and fresh – the way water should be. So it’s been two weeks since my last race event. I’ve done a little bit of training. Not as much as I would have liked. The first 800m event I’m not too worried about. I will be fresh so my time will hopefully be ok. My goal is to improve on my 800m swim time from last year which was 14 minutes and 39 seconds. The catch-22 here is that the faster I swim the 800m the greater rest time between that race and the start of the 1.5km swim. But the faster I swim, the more tired I’m going to be for the 1.5km race. From memory last year, I had about a 20min break between the two which was not too bad. As for the 1.5km I don’t expect my time to be so great, just average. After having already gone flat out in the first 800m event, I’m already going to be a little tired by the time I have to compete in the 1.5km. All up, it’s 2.3km all on a Sunday morning. The 1.5km is basically two laps of the first 800m course. If I can improve on last year’s time I’ll be pleased. Not 100% confident that I can pull it off though. Here was my 2-week swim plan in the lead up to this event after the first Atami race: In bold was my planned training schedule (i.e what I told myself I should do). In parentheses next to it is what I actually ended up doing.

July 12 2km swim (nothing. did not go to gym -I was actually sick after the Atami swim)

July 13 1.5km swim and 45min walk(1km swim + 250m swim)

July 14 1.5km swim and 45min walk (nothing)

July 15 1.5km swim and 45min walk (45min walk (4km) and 30min cycle)

July 16 2km swim (45min walk (4km)

July 17 3km swim and walk/cycle (1.5km swim)

July 18 Walk (5.5km walk) J

uly 19 1.5km swim and 45min walk (nothing)

July 20 2km swim (45min walk (4km))

July 21 gym closed nothing

July 22 1.5km swim and 45min walk (1.5km swim and45min walk (4km) – stuck to the plan – yay)

July 23 2km swim ( swim)

July 24 no swim. Never swim the day before event (will be sticking to the plan)

July 25 Lake Toya Swim Day Race event: 800m and Race event: 1.5km

The above suggests that:

a) I am way too optimistic when I plan my training schedule

b) I am an unrealistic goal setter

c) I am an underachieving lazy human being

d) I spend way too much time blogging about swimming than actually swimming

e) I should take up walking as a sport because I spend more time walking than I do swimming

f) all of the above I blogged a breifly about the Lake Toya swim last year. You can read that old post here. If you should feel so inclined to participate in this swim next year, info can be found on the NAC website here. If you email them (English or Japanese) they can send you an application form in the post. You can then pay by furikomi. Application form, documents etc are available in Japanese and English. double entry for both swims is 8500yen. One event is 5500yen. This cost includes a t-shirt and yummy all you can eat bbq lunch feast and a participation certificate. Also the chance to win heaps of lucky dip prizes. Placings also receive prizes. NAC do a great job of putting on this event. Super organised and friendly staff. You can even camp at Lake Toya the night before. Kudos to the competitors who sleep in a tent and then swim the next morning. I prefer the comfort of a bed the night before a swim race.

Bex made a video of last year’s Toya swim race. You can watch it below: WARNING: A most unflattering video of me. All my wrong angles (why is it always the side angle???) and I’m wearing a swimsuit in pretty much nearly every scene…not a pretty sight coz I ain’t no skinny bitch. I like my food and lots of it too! You were warned. Oh, and I hate my voice too. Maybe I should go drown in Lake Toya rather than actually swim in it. Clearly I belong behind the camera rather in front of it. So apart from me starring in the video, the video is great. Very entertaining and big kudos to Bex for making it. Thank you, Bex! It was actually a fun day and I’m looking forward to doing it again this weekend. I’ll be sure to be blogging about it next week. Here’s hoping for better weather this time around. Last year was wet and rainy, grey and overcast. The lake was kinda eerie with its low mist. So at the risk of personal embarrassment I am going to upload the video. (Video duration: 5min, 24 seconds – – – 5 minutes and 24 seconds that you will never get back from your life again). (Just tried uploading directly onto my blog. Exceeds my blog media file limit. Will upload to Youtube)


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