Tag Archive | race report

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

Onjuku OWS – not a race report

I thought that by the end of today, I was gonna be able to post up another ows race report. But you, like me, are SOL today. Instead of a race report you get a whinge session. Try to contain your excitement, please.

I am totally bummed out right now and have no one to whinge to, so this blog bears the brunt of it today. I don’t like to vent too much on this blog, but today I’m gonna make an exception. It’s a long weekend here in Japan, because Monday is a public holiday. I made plans not to do anything this weekend, because I was going to compete in an open water swim race today. I was almost going to enter in two races – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. But the one on Sunday was going to cost me 100buks just in entry fee alone, so I opted just for the Saturday one. Today I was supposed to do a race at Onjuku beach. 3.84km. I had been really looking forward to it. I haven’t done a race since back in July, so was keen to race, and was also keen to do another open water session before Turkey.

Last night (Friday), at around 7:30pm I got an email from today’s race organizers saying that they had cancelled the event! The reason – “bad water conditions”. Yeah, it was raining a little last night…but not so heavy as to cancel the event. They should have made that decision in the morning! It’s been 30 degrees all week, and I pretty much knew that the weekend would be fine. It’s been nothing but hot all summer. It’s an open water swim race – let’s face it, we’re going to get wet anyway…so even in light rain, the event should go ahead. A few raindrops aren’t going to harm any swimmers. We’re used to getting wet and cold and being in rough water. So they made the decision last night to cancel the event. I was so bummed. It was way too early to make such a call. It had better pour torrential rain all day on the Saturday, I thought to myself. “Bad water conditions” – what did that mean exactly….that’s not the same as bad weather conditions. Are they talking about polluted, contaminated water, or just high waves. How could they have known the water conditions for today, last night to make such a call.

And it comes as no surprise to me that, of course, today is not wet or raining at all. No impending typhoon or tsunami, so the race could totally have been on. It’s actually ideal weather conditions for a swim race. In fact, the temp range for today over in Chiba prefecture is 26-31 degrees. Right now, at just after 11am it’s 31 degrees, with a very, small chance of rain, although today will be both sunny and cloudy. I’m sitting at home with the ac on, very much wishing that I was out swimming in a race today. So, yeah, to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement! Especially, it being a long weekend, and I forwent other plans so I could stick around to compete in this race, on this now glorious, sunny hot day! Am also disappointed because I had done a lot of preparation for this race. I had my swim bag already packed on the Friday. Look, I had even frozen 5 drink bottles (water and sports drink) so they could withstand the heat and stay cooler, longer. I would probably drink a litre of it before the race, and than another couple of litres afterwards. Just shy of 4km, I was gonna need all this!

From Random Saturday

In amongst those drinks, I even purchased a sports drink during the week called ‘Thorpedo’ – presumably named after Ian Thorpe? It’s made by Yakult though…the company that makes that bacterial cultured yoghurt…so I’m not sure how it would taste. It’s low GI though and says that it’s diet sports water. I thought it was hilarious and had secretly hoped it would make me swim like Thorpedo. Now it will have to be consumed in vain.

From Random Saturday

The course map of the race I did not swim (I would have been swimming the long 3.84km red course – a full return length of the whole beach bay area): Not to mention the training. I didn’t actually train a lot this week per se as I was easing back a little, but the prior week, I had been training for this swim. Oh, and the fact that I had paid over 7000yen to enter the race, which they have now just pocketed! No refund, and no offer of a free entry for next year’s race. So bye-bye 7000yen – that would have been enough for two high teas! So, yeah, I’m bummed. The ocean is free…so I’m not sure where or whom that money is going to…. They are however giving us a free t-shirt which they will post out to us for those that want one. Yay, a t-shirt proclaiming a race, that we didn’t even swim in! I use all these race t-shirts as pillow covers anyway. Considering that the weather today is awesome, and dare I say, even a little too hot for comfort, I would much rather be swimming and competing in the actual race that I paid for! On the otherhand, it does mean I have the whole day free to do absolutely nothing! Hence the time to write this whinge session. Looking on the bright side, I now have the whole long weekend to do whatever I want. Mostly bumming around home me thinks. Have a lot of preparation I need to do for Turkey, a bit of housecleaning, I’ll swim at the pool instead…and no doubt, I will find something else exciting and impromptu to do over the next few days off. I’m also looking to buy an underwater (waterproof) digital camera so might do window shopping. I am having trouble deciding which camera to buy. Any recommendations, let me know. A picture of a bag I saw in a store once. I loved the slogan on it!

From Random Saturday

Minami Boso, Iwai beach, OWS numero 3

Another swimming Sunday to start off the month of August. I set off early for the 2 hour train trip to Iwai beach which is in the Minami Boso region of Chiba prefecture. I was up at 6am and took a limited express train (a semi shinkansen) to Iwai. I was lucky to make the Sazanami limited express train from Tokyo. What I didn’t realise was that the platform at Tokyo station (the Keiyo line) is a good 1km walk from the regular JR train platforms. If you’ve ever taken the train from Tokyo to Disneyland, you’ll know it’s that underground platform far far away from all the other trains. Just making the train in time, I at least traveled in comfort to Iwai. It was pretty empty at 7.30am.

The weather was hot and muggy but really overcast and smoggy. I got to Iwai station a bit after 9am and followed some other guys that looked like they were also there for the swim (they were). I got to the race venue just a tad before 9.30am. The mercury had already hit 33 degrees and Iwai beach was packed. It was the most crowded beach I have ever seen in Japan. The amount of people that were there well before 9.30am was unbelievable. I’m guessing it’s a pretty popular beach.

Iwai beach was the setting for my third OWS and the third prefecture (having already done Shizuoka and Hokkaido). I was registered for the 1km swim. A nice standard distance at a beach (an ocean swim). This is kind of my comfort zone at the moment. Like the Atami swim this event was an JIOWSA swim event. I had initially wanted to spend the weekend in Chiba near the beach to save me the trouble of an early start on the Sunday. But alas, there was no available accommodation whatsoever. This is becoming a bit of a problem. Next week’s swim in Shizuoka again, I was not able to book anywhere. Iwai is a small coastal beach town so accommodation is limited and what is available was already snapped up, despite my efforts to try and book accommodation 2 weeks in advance. I tried like every single accommodation near Iwai to no avail. I can now see why there were no available lodgings. That whole coastline was packed. I guess it didn’t help that it was a hot summer’s day, a weekend, and school holidays to boot. The conditions were hot andI was sweating like nobody’s business. Even the sand was too hot to walk on barefooted. There was no shade whatsoever. The heat was relentless. Vitamin D intake exceeded.The sun cream I was applying was basically turning to sweat. My race didn’t start until a bit after 11am. By this time as well, I hadn’t had anything to eat. No time in the morning for breakfast, I had just made the trains in the morning and hadn’t eaten anything on the 2 hour journey.

When I got to the beach, there was of course no food nor vending machines. I was hot and wanted to keep hydrated as well, but also need to preserve what little water I had for after the race as well. I had wanted to squeeze in a conbini run but didn’t come across any. There was quite a decent turnout for this race. I even recognised a couple of people that were there from the Atami swim. 1km isn’t that far, but when you look out into the ocean, 1km looks really far. Those buoys look impossibly distant. The first race was the 400m event. They then moved the buoys even further out for the 1km course. It was a triangular course, swimming out to the right, then across the beach parallel to the shore, and then back into the shore.

There were enough competitors to have two starts for this event. All up, according to the program schedule, there were 33 females and 87 males for a total of 120 competitors in the 1km swim. We were given bright orange swim caps for the 1km. The water temp was beautiful, I reckon about 24 degrees, The first 300m or so were hard. I always find the first few hundred metres of a race the most difficult as the body is trying to warm up and adjust until you find a rhythm. The start is also where it’s the most violent and you wait for the pack to thin out. I was enjoying the beautiful water. This was probably the most enjoyable ocean swim to date. I didn’t think too much about the race and was really enjoying just being in beautiful water and being able to cool off.

As far as beaches in Japan goes, this one was pretty good. Not too many waves, although bouncy enough out there, perfect water temp and clean clear salt water. There were patches out there in the ocean though where the water was really cold and then you’d hit a warm patch again. It was a most refreshing swim and I felt comfortable with my pace. Vision was my biggest problem in this race. After passing the 400m mark my goggles started to fog to the point where I couldn’t really see the buoys so I had to spend a couple of seconds treading water and clear them but when I put them back on again a little salt water had gotten in and I didn’t want to waste time letting the water in, so one eye got a bit of salty water in it for the rest of the race.

One thing I find with ocean swimming is that I often swim semi-blind. Because I wear glasses and obviously don’t wear glasses or contact lenses in the water, and I’m only wearing goggles, it means that I can’t see long distances out in the ocean. I actually have trouble seeing the buoys and I actually just rely on other swimmers. I follow other swimmers and let them guide me. They really need more buoys between the main buoys to guide your way to the next one. When there is no buoy for 400m or so until the next one, it makes it hard to know if you’re on course or not. I remember feeling quite thirsty out there too – all that salt water in my mouth. After passing the 2nd last buoy before heading back into the shore, I came upon a little problem. I was not alone either. We had just swum across the ocean and were heading back into the shore but after coming around that buoy we couldn’t see where to go next. Myself and some other swimmers had to stop for a second to get our bearings. After coming round that buoy and looking back into the shore, all we could see was a totally packed shoreline and we had no idea where our set-up finish line was because all we could see was people along the whole coast that we had no idea in which direction to head back in to. One of the other swimmers yelled out to a nearby patrol guard for the direction and we were pointed the right way. I then tried to follow other swimmers as best I could using them as my eyes. When I could see the sand at the bottom of the ocean again, I knew that I was getting closer to the shore. When swimming in to the finish line, I never know at what point to keep on swimming or stand up and run to the finish. Is it faster to run through the water, or swim through??

I got position 44 out of 120 of all competitors in the 1km swim, which I thought was pretty decent. In the top 3rd. I felt my time would be average around the 20 minute mark. My time in fact was 21 minutes and 16 seconds for a 1km ocean swim. I placed 8th out of 10 in my age category. I’m always placing 7th or 8th. And placed 19th out of 34 women across all age groups. An average swim result. But it was a swim that I really enjoyed. I felt good in the water. By now I was pretty hungry, thirsty and damn hot. The day just kept getting hotter and the sweat just kept coming. The next event was the 3km. There were more people in the 3km race event than there were in the 1km – I thought that was pretty impressive. I think the longer distance events are quite popular. 3km – that’s pretty hardcore. The buoys had been moved out even further and they had to do do two laps. Just before 1pm I headed back to the station to head home. Not a single conbini and no food in sight. By this time I still hadn’t eaten a morsel of food since the night before. Iwai is a real inaka place – it’s a place that’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and a coastline. Not much by way of facilities. No conbinis, nor eateries. I came across an omiyage store near the station and settled for a pineapple ice block. Hot, sweat and hungry I downed a water from the vending machine, and two ice creams (the aforementioned pineapple calippo-like ice block and a vanilla Coolish which I ate on the train back. Coolish is a soft serve ice-cream in mini bladder bag which you suck out. Tastes better than the way I have just described it. Still two ice creams was not very substantial.

Made it back to Tokyo with time to catch a movie with a friend in the afternoon – Toy Story 3 in 3D, dubbed in Japanese (yep, my friend booked tickets to the wrong one – the dubbed Japanese version rather than the original English). It was still such a great movie though. Highly recommend. It was funny and touching. The Ken montage scene to Le Freak is GOLD! I really want to see it again in English! By the by, the first day of every month is cheap movie day in Japan. It’s called “First Day” all tickets on a tsuitachi (first day of the month) are 1000yen. 1300yen because we saw it in 3D. This weekend was also the opening weekend in Japan for Inception which was actually our first movie preference but tix were sold out. A satisfying Sunday.

So I’ve accomplished my goal to do at least three open water swims this summer in Japan. But I’m not stopping there. I’m already registered for another two swims. The distances to date have been quite tame. I am ramping up the distances from hereon. Next weekend another swim – a 2km ocean swim in Shizuoka prefecture again. Not sure how I will go with these longer distances. It’s been a while since I’ve done some real long-distance swimming. Even more concerning is the 4km ocean swim in another few weeks! Here are some open water swimming advice/tips that appear in the swim program. The whole program is written in Japanese except for the following three bits which appear in English, which I think is really random: “‘Distraction’ means keeping your mind busy and away from negative thoughts, thinking thoughts unrelated to your swimming – eg. going through lists of things in your mind, such as your favourite movies, books etc.” “Open water swimmers require a completely different type of mental toughness to pool swimmers, as there are completely different aspects and challenges they face when out there in the open water.” “some issues you encounter under the stress of open water swimming can be extremely difficult unless your mind is programmed for mental toughness.”