Archive | September 2012

Murakami tri

What would 14,000yen get you? (That’s about 175AUD.) – my grocery bill for a month (maybe even longer than a month)! – My water, electricity and gas bill combined for a month – 4 high teas – a Michelin star meal or two (well, lunch anyway) – Over 130 items from the 100yen store – half an iPad OR It can buy you a few hours of pure torture. Mmmmm sounds tempting. There’s nothing like paying 14,000yen and hauling arse to Niigata for some public humiliation on a long weekend at that! I made the rookie mistake of making my FIRST EVER triathlon race an Olympic Distance one! Most people start off with a short, sprint distance. Me thinks, I’m not like most people. What’s with that?! Instead, I plunged headfirst into an OD tri (which I did 2 weeks ago). A 1.5km swim. Check. Can do. A 40km cycle. Can do. Albeit only once! A 10km run. Can do. Barely. But try doing them all in one go. 51.5km. An Olympic Distance (OD) triathlon. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner over a day. We know we can get through each meal. But try eating breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one sitting, consecutively, without a break. That’s what a triathlon is like. Except only one of the legs involves sitting on your arse. So whilst I knew I could get through each leg individually… ..collectively was going to be a struggle. I only gave myself 7 and a half weeks to train for an OD triathlon! Not the best idea…but it was all I had to work with. Argh sheer panic! On the upside, I lost 3kg whilst training for this. Ok, to tell you the truth, the hardest part of a tri (or at least IN Japan) is signing up for it. Now, I’m not trying to be deep and all Confucious on you with all that stuff about mentally taking that first step, the committment, the being brave, the opening up the purse strings to enter in your credit card details and actually register for a triathlon. I mean that it was ridiculously hard to sign up for this particular triathlon because the online registration process was all in Japanese and was so convoluted! They did not make it easy at all navigating through the registration process. I reckon getting into NASA would have been easier! So after 5 attempts I finally registered and still had yet to pay for it. Again another process that required more Japanese and walking into a conbini and using a different payment machine. With very little training (but a lot by my standards), I rocked up to the Murakami triathlon in Niigata. I chose this particular triathlon for a couple of reasons. One, it’s called MURAKAMI! How could I not enter this one?! You should know by now I’m a massive Haruki Murakami fan. Also, Haruki Murakami himself has actually entered and completed this particular triathlon. Murakami at Murakami. He competed in this back in 2010. I totally stalked the Internet and found out his time. He finished in a time of 3hr and 21 minutes at the then age of 61! And he totally put me to shame! I have actually driven through Murakami before on a road trip a few years back, so was a little familiar with the area. Also, this particular triathlon draws a big gaijin triathlete crowd (mind you, they are all hardcore and seasoned triathletes and ironmen/women). I actually felt like an imposter at the starting line. I’m hardly a triathlete by any definition of the word. More like a try-hard. Furthermore, I had heard the bike and cycle course were relatively easy as far as triathlon courses go (easy my foot!). It’s a predominantly flat course (no hills. Yay! So I’d heard…). Let me make it clear — I swim. I don’t cycle. I don’t run. Run and cycle are two verbs that don’t appear in my repertoire. Getting to the race venue was a feat in itself, that I’d be lucky if I even made it to the start line. The race was on a Sunday of a long weekend, and required staying overnight in the area the night before. I spent the whole Saturday getting myself to Murakami. The bullet train from Tokyo to Niigata, another express train from Niigata to Murakami, arriving at Murakami and registering, and then because a lot of accommodation was booked out, I had to take another 20min train up north to a further up town where I would stay the night. It felt like quite the epic journey. I did meet some fellow gaijin triathletes on the train journey up. Everyone was so hardcore. Carrying my road bike and all my gear on three trains was a huge pain in the arse! Lugging that thing was no fun. Poor, sore shoulders. If I never have to lug my bike halfway across Japan on a handful of trains, I will be one happy girl! Niigata scenery:

From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012

Lugging the bike on trains all day:

From Murakami tri 2012

I spent the night in Kuwagawa at a small minshuku. Was pretty buggered after a super long day of travel and hauling gear. Right on the west coast of Japan, got to see a pretty sunset…

From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012

Sunday morning: Race day A train back down to Murakami and then a taxi to Senami Onsen beach where the swim start was. The start and finish line for this race were are two different points. This race was pretty big. Over 800 participants in just the age-groupers. There was an elite category with some international triathletes too (even from Australia). This race is part of the JTU series as well as the Asia Cup triathlon. A pretty big deal. I set up my transition area and prepared for the race. What the hell had I gotten myself in for? Transition area:

From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012

Setting up my gear:

From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012

The day was really hot. A sunny 33 degree day, with 80% humidity, and water temps of 26 degrees. It was going to be a race in tough hot humid conditions. Swim course: And because I’m too tight to pay to for the photos…here are the screenshots….

From Murakami tri 2012

Swim – 1.5km The swim was a floating start out in the water. Wetsuits were compulsory, despite the super warm temperature. There were 5 start waves, with the women’s wave being the last…which was to be to my detriment. The course was 750m horizontal swim across the beach and then back again. The water quality was poor. Very murky and quite dirty. I felt pretty decent in the swim. Despite what felt like a strong swim, I was disappointed with my time of 33minutes. I was however, in the top group of females out of the water though which would be a nice lead in the bike leg. T1 Transition was decent enough. Peeled off the wetsuit and already had my tri suit on, so no need to faff about with clothes, except for socks and shoes. Helmet on, and away with the bike. Bike leg This is where it all went downhill. Thanks to the swim lead, I got a decent getaway on the bike. It was a bit hardgoing on the bike, trying to make the legs pedal as fast as I could. I was expecting a pancake flat course…but there were a few smallish hills, which I still struggled on. It was a 20km course out along the coast of Japan by the Japan sea. The headwind going out was intense! And ultimately my downfall. I was pedaling as fast as my legs could, but really could not get any speed up. Literally, hundreds of people passed me. I could not overtake a single person on the bike. I felt as though I was riding a mamachari, whilst everyone else sped past me. It was very disheartening seeing people that were 20min behind me on the swim, pass me on the bikes. I was out on that bike course for a ridiculously long time. Embarrassingly so. It took me well over an hour to reach the halfway point (20km). Headwind was too strong for me. Coming back was a lot easier, and did the last 20km in under an hour. It killed me that I couldn’t even maintain an average speed of 20km/hr. Oh the shame! The training I did would not have suggested that I would be that slow. Just goes to show the importance of aerodynamics in triathlon and cycling in general. It took me over 2 hours to cycle those slow 40km. I had totally gone into the race thinking that I would do it comfortably in under 2 hours. Clearly, I’m not in the most aerodynamic position…

From Murakami tri 2012
From Murakami tri 2012

My cycling makes my running look good! My cycling skills are pretty lame. Non-existent aerodynamic positioning. Also, I had only just learnt the couple of weeks prior to drink (water) and cycle at the same time! Retrieving the drink bottle from the holder is one thing…but getting it back in is another! Also I was limited to hydrating from my own drink bottle because I cycle lefthanded and drink with the right hand, but the drinks on the course were passed out and had to be retrieved with the left hand…and I can’t cycle one-handed with my right hand. Yes, I am that unco!!! I was also mega sore on the bike… sore arse, cramping leg. A whole world of pain. Spent way too much time on that bike on that course! Finally got back to T2, and was about to start the run leg. When I approached the run start, I was stopped by a race marshall and a barricade. I was not allowed to start the run leg. I had been too slow on the bike and would be stopped from completing the race! Oh, the disappointment! This triathlon had a time limit of 4 hours. At this point, I still had 1 hr and 15minutes to get to the finish line and complete within 4 hours. However, in addition to there being a total 4 hour time limit, there were cut off times foe each leg! So because I had been too slow on the bike, I couldn’t make up for that on the run leg! All competitors had to have started the run course by 1:05pm (regardless of whether you were the first swim wave or the 5th swim wave – there being a 20min difference between the first and last swim wave). I had missed it by about 5min!!!! I was not allowed to finish the race much to my disappointment. Had the women’s wave not been the last wave (20min after the first wave), I would have made it to the run start by 1:05pm! At the end of the day though, I was just too slow on the bike…but it’s a shame that in this triathlon race, you couldn’t make up for a weaker leg in a stronger leg. Every leg had cut off restrictions. It shouldn’t really matter how long a particular leg takes, so long as you can complete the whole race within the time limit! So, anyway, found myself stuck at T2, and considering the finish line was in the centre of the town, I ended having to ride my bike to the finish line (where they had transported all our gear). The official result will forever show a DNF (Did Not Finish). More like WNATF (Was Not Allowed To Finish). Oh the shame! And I had actually put effort into training for this! I mean just two weeks earlier I had done a 1.5km swim and 10km aquathlon race in 1hr 39min. I had not anticipated taking over 2 hours on the bike course. The headwind bit me in the arse big time! What was more disappointing, was that when the results were released, I didn’t even get a time recorded for the bike leg…despite completing it. I only got a swim time recorded. Man, it was a friggin achievement I even completed the 40km cycle, so I had hoped I would get a time for it. Most disappointing. I guess, I will just have to make Murakami my bitch next year!…if I can ever get over the devastation of this race. Will know to improve my cycling. And yeah, they should totally not make the women start 20minutes behind the first swim wave! Had the women’s swim wave been the third or fourth wave, I would have made it to the finish line. Lesson learned: Need to get more tits (time in the saddle)!

Advertisements

Kozushima aquathlon race report

So it’s been a while since I did a race report…or simply a race for that matter. This summer, I didn’t have much of a chance to enter in an as many events due to lengthy travel plans. At the beginning of the year, I did a slow and painful half marathon. I have also only done one other open water swim race and a sprint aquathlon race this year. Over the weekend, I finally got around to completing my first proper (longer) distance aquathlon race. I started out in 2010 doing only ows races. I needed more of a challenge than just swimming, so have slowly built in jogging into my fitness routine, despite being a really lousy runner. I have bad, uncooperative feet. So on Saturday, I did a 1.5km open water swim and a 10km run race (ie an aquathlon). I didn’t treat it too much like a race, more like a hard training session, in preparation for a triathlon I have prematurely and foolishly entered. The race was on Kozushima island. Logistics for this race was a bit of a nightmare. Because it’s on an island, access is only by boat. And the boats to get there were all fully-booked! I ended up having to take the Friday off work and get there the day earlier. At least there were seats available on the Friday. This meant staying on the island for two nights. Next nightmare was accommodation! I rang up 10 places and they were all booked out! No room at the inn! I very nearly thought I would have to camp on the island! I ended up finally finding a place to stay at a little minshuku. Thankfully, this place had a room to spare. Actually, they weren’t booked out at all. They even had rooms to spare. And it was in a great location. A 5-minute walk to the beach and my room had partial sea views.

From Kozushima aquathlon

On Friday, I snorkeled and explored the island. The island is fabulous for marine activities – snorkeling, scuba diving and swimming. The waters were teeming with marine life. That’ll be a separate post. Took some awesome pics. Saturday was race day. Breakfast at the minshuku was served at 7:30am:

From Kozushima aquathlon

However, the race didn’t start until 1:50pm. The weather was concerning. It rained in the morning, then cleared up to be a ridiculously hot day. This summer has been crazy hot. Temps were in the 30s and I was worried about running in the heat and the humidity of the middle of the day. I had the morning free, so I decided to walk a part of the run course to familiarise myself with it. Kozushima island is beautiful. Wonderful coastline and beautiful beaches and water. My favourite beach on the island was Sawajiri beach.

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

Lovely water vista:

From Kozushima aquathlon

The swim part of the race took place on Maehama beach (the beach next to the port). This beach was ok. On the Friday, I had tested out the waters, and there were a lot of jellyfish. In the race briefing, we had been warned there would be a lot of jellyfish but during my swim, I didn’t see or notice any. Thank God! Maehama beach:

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

A pretty nice race venue, I might add on a nice little island. This was the first race where I would test out my new wetsuit. I vowed I would never own a wetsuit, being the swimming purist that I am. But unfortunately, wetsuits are compulsory for triathlon races in Japan, so I had to buy one. I ended up forking over about 200 buks and buying one on the Internet (I don’t really fit into Japanese sizes) which is always risky because you can’t try before you buy. I had only worn it once before in the water at a test open water swim training session at Kamakura beach. This would be the first time under race conditions.

From Kozushima aquathlon

The very cool lifeguard team. They would have given the Baywatch cast a run for their money!

From Kozushima aquathlon

Wetsuits have a negative effect for me. I actually swim faster without one. I already have a high percentage of body fat so I don’t need the extra bouyancy. If anything, I felt that it weighed me down and made me feel heavier and slower. It also gave me a hell of a neck rash. I barely have any skin left on my neck. For me, I like the feeling of being light and free in the water, and a wetsuit detracts that from me. I would much rather prefer to be as close to naked as possible when in the water. The wetsuit felt cumbersome in the water. During the swim, I was really bothered by the stinging and chafing on my neck. 1.5km swim time was 30min and 32 seconds, which I wasn’t happy with. I had expected to swim well under 30minutes.That being said, I was the 5th female out of the water, and overall 33rd place (out of total 99 people). The swim course was 2 laps of 750m, with a land exit between the 2 laps. The water temperature was a whopping 29 degrees! I seriously debated not wearing the wetsuit thinking it would be kind of dangerous in this heat. But I really needed a trial run wearing it. I wasn’t really relaxed swimming in the wetsuit. How lovely does the water look!

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

Transition was awkward. I got out of the wetsuit pretty quickly though. Helps that it was sleeveless. The thing with the transition was that it was on the sand! Here are our transition baskets laid on the actual beach!

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

There was no possible way to clean and dry your wet feet! How were we supposed to put on socks and joggers when your whole body is wet and there was nothing to stand on but sand, and we all had to dump our wetsuits on the sand. At the transition, I took off goggles, cap, wetsuit, threw on my glasses, a cap, and wrist sweatbands (yeah, I know, I went bought sweatbands. How very 80s of me. But seriously, you try jogging in 35-degree heat). I had also bought a race belt and buckled that on as well. I didn’t know what to do with my wet sandy feet. So I held my joggers and socks and ran up the beach barefooted until I got up to the beach promenade where I sat down and tried to brush sand off my feet with my hands, threw on my socks onto my damp sandy feet, threw on the shoes and just started running.

From Kozushima aquathlon

By the time I started the run leg, I was the 5th female out there. And this is where I lose it. I really wish my running was a lot better to be able to maintain my lead. This 10km course was intense. It was extremely hilly. We were on a crazy hilly island. It was a tough, hard course. A lot of people’s times were slower than normal for a 10km run. They actually used to hold a triathlon here, but it was deemed too hilly, curvy and dangerous, they used to have bike accidents, so this was the first year they changed it to an aquathlon event instead. Still, the hills were a killer. And it was 2 laps of a 5km course. The flat parts of the run course were nice though along the coastline. Run course:

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

Now during the run leg, I was in a lot of pain! It also happened to be the first time that I was wearing a tri suit, which I wore under the wetsuit for the swim leg. This meant that I was already wearing shorts and a singlet so I didn’t need to faff about with clothes at the transition. The shorts though come with padding for the bike leg in a triathlon. I was in for a rude surprise, when I felt major discomfort. How shall I put this delicately… it was something akin to adult nappy rash. Under the shorts, you don’t wear swimmers or undies, so I was suffering major chafing in a majorly sensitive area. Holy crap. I had heard of saddle sores, but I had not been warned about this kind of friction. You try running in wet, salty, sandy, sweaty shorts for 10km in 30 degree heat. Basically, I had two mantras going in my head during the run course. “Nappy rash. Blisters. Nappy rash. Blisters.” I didn’t know which was worse! — the chafing or the blisters on my feet. I couldn’t run as fast as I would have liked given that my feet were giving me grief. You might already be aware that I have a lot of feet problems…namely blisters and that I am very prone to them. I think the fact that I have flat feet (absolutely no arch) doesn’t help. More surface area for friction. And given the crappy transition, there was no way to properly dry my feet and get rid of the sand. So my feet were moist and sandy. I’m not exaggerating when I say the blisters were slowing me down. It hurts to run when meanwhile this is going on…WARNING: ugly feet photos coming up NOW! This is how my feet looked after 10km. Believe me, I wanted to quit during the run. Yeah, I know I gotta HTFU (Harden The FEET UP).

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

Seriously, flat feet much?

From Kozushima aquathlon

Friction is my Enemy Number 1. Given the hilly course, my nappy-like rash and blisters on my feet, I finally hauled my arse to the finish line. The 10km run took me a whopping and painfully slow 1hr and 9min and 27 seconds. I’ve mapped out the run, and yes, there was definitely one hilly section. And we had to do it twice. A lot of people struggled on this section. I much prefer an absolute flat courses! To hell with hills.

5km course x 2 laps

Total race time for 1.5km and 10km hill run was 1hr 39min and 59 seconds. Transition time is included in there as well (although I’m not sure if that gets lumped in with the swim time or run time). Hooray. Made it to the finish line in one piece! (Check out the sweat wristbands!)

From Kozushima aquathlon

I ended up being 12th overall female (out of 21 females), and 70th place out of 99 competitors (male and female). I surprised myself by not coming last! Despite slow times, I did ok relative to the field. I was actually 2nd place in my female age group (of which there were 5 of us). Unfortunately, no AG prizes. Only the top overall 6 places got prizes. Bummer. I was disappointed. Far out, I have no idea how I am supposed to squeeze in a 40km cycle in between all that, in the upcoming triathlon. I’m going to be looking at about 3.5 hours for the OD tri. Ugh. My feet were in a lot of pain after the race. Could barely walk on the soles of my feet. Had to bandaid and tape them up. Had a shower back at the minshuku. And boy was I stinging in places where one should never be stinging. It hurt to shower (and pee for that matter. TMI?). Finally, got myself refreshed, although I was rather exhausted and sore. Definitely feeling a little worse for wear. Definitely was not looking as fresh as this during the race.

Saw the sun set.

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

In the evening, there was a party and awards ceremony. It was all a free all you can eat and drink spread, prize giving and taiko performance (all included in race entry).

From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon
From Kozushima aquathlon

Goal to complete a full aquathlon distance, now complete, although painfully slow as it was.

From Kozushima aquathlon

5193322 2012-09-04 10:18:21 2012-09-04 01:18:21 open closed kozushima-aquathlon-race-report publish 0 0 post 0 aquathlon Fitness here and there in japan Japan Swimming Swimming Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo life Travel _edit_last 253158 _encloseme 1 _encloseme 1 _encloseme 1