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:
Lugging the bike on trains all day:
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…
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:
Setting up my gear:
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….
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…
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)!