Inage OWS: Medals and mullets

Without any swim training, I went along to yesterday’s OWS race at Inage, Chiba. A beach it is not. The Inage seaside park OWS race is in fact in Tokyo Bay. At least the race venue was close to get to. Can’t say much about the scenery though.

I had signed up for this race at least a month ago, and with the burn injury in early June, I haven’t been able to do any swim training. It was painful to wash in the shower, let along jump in the pool. In spite of lack of training I went in the race – my first swim since the burn. I wore a wetsuit, mostly because I was dubious about the water quality of Tokyo Bay. Water temps were pretty warm though. Actually, this race was probably had the highest number of people competing without wetsuits that I’ve seen so far in the last 3 years.

The Inage swim venue is surrounded by industrial factories and airplanes overhead from both Narita and Haneda airports.

From Inage seaside OWS

The water was super flat on arrival, but got pretty choppy by the time it came to race:

From Inage seaside OWS

The conditions got too choppy and the wind really picked up, so they had to shorten the race distances – the 1.5km would only be a 1km race, and the 3km race would only be a 2km race. I was a little relieved. I had signed up for the 3km! Was grateful that I would only be doing 2km especially without any swim training.

From Inage seaside OWS

The “beach” had more pebbles than sand. One of those rocky beaches.

From Inage seaside OWS
From Inage seaside OWS

I ended up swimming not too badly, all things considered. I swam the 2km course in a time of 35minutes and 7 seconds, which was decent for me. I got second place in my age group, which was enough to score me a medal.

From Inage seaside OWS

I got 6th place female overall. Granted, there were only 10 of us. The girl who was first female, I later found out is currently training for the Olympic Games — pretty impressive. But I actually did pretty well, out of all the competitors – of which there were about 60.
A couple of friends even came along to the race to watch and we had a bit of chill out day at the beach.

I think the highlight of the day, was not the medals, but rather the mullets. Yes, plural!
The only thing better than a mullet on a Japanese kid (or any person for that matter), are twins with matching mullets!!! Pure gold. Twice the mullet, twice the fun. You know what they say about mullets – business at the front, party at the back!

From Inage seaside OWS
From Inage seaside OWS

Just too goddamn adorable. Twins and mullets. Just kill me with cuteness now.

Seriously, what did these kids do to deserve such a hairstyle? Do their parents take joy in child cruelty?

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Matsuzaki-Iwachi beach OWS

Another week, another swim.
After last’s week double race in one day, less than a week later I was off doing another swim. Unfortunately, it was my worst. swim. ever.
The day, however, was still awesome nevertheless.
Awesome location, stunning weather and fun company.

I’ve finally found a group of ocean swimming friends in Tokyo. Happy days! It was quite the gaijin brigade. There was about 15 of us who swam on the day.
We even rented a van for the day to make the 4-hr trip down to Iwachi beach (Matsuzaki in Izu). We had to meet at a ridiculously early time, but yay for road trips and meeting new people. Beats taking the train down on your own. You might recall I did the same race last year.

Last year, I did the 3km race in 45minutes. I think the course was quite short. This time around, I did the 3km in nearly double the time. I was over an hour out there. I think I barely scraped through the time limit of 90 minutes. Results aren’t out yet but I was at least 75 minutes, I reckon. I felt every minute of it. I was slow-going out there. Two laps of a 1.5km course – I was beat after the first lap. And still had another lap to do. My elbows were getting sore and tired and I definitely felt the slow swim. So much for a goal time of 60 minutes. I have not actually worked up the distance this swimming season. I don’t swim much more than 1.5km per swim session. I haven’t done a 3km swim since last year, so I struggled doing the 3km this time. Definitely need to train more! Me thinks I’m getting old.
Still had fun though. The water was beautiful.

Ready to swim:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

Off we go:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

Approx. 75 minutes later, I emerge from the water. You can call off the search party!

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

59th place out of the water (about 116 registered), so about middle of the pack:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

Looking pretty freaking happy after that 3km ordeal. Slowest time ever. Pretty embarassing.

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

Location was stunning:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

After the 3km swim was the 1.5km race. Got to take some action shots:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

LIfesaver pow wow:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013
From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

Later in the day, I also swam in the relay. We had 4 teams entered from the gaijin brigade. It was a 3km relay with the first person swimming 500m, the second person swimming 1km, and the third person swimming 1.5km. I did the 500m leg. Another slow swim from me. My poor teammates had to work hard to make up for lost time. The boys did well and were superfast. We ended up getting 5th place (no thanks, to me!).

Relay team:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

The day was topped off with the obligatory group photo:

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

And there’s nothing like bonding than getting in the tub together (onsen boat by the water):

From Matsuzaki Iwachi OWS 2013

Medals, prizes and a PB: Iwai Aquathlon

Summer is here! And you know what that means — the open water swimming season is open.

First race for the year was a sprint aquathlon – the Minami Boso Iwai beach aquathlon. I participated in this race last year and was back again this year.

I left home with a towel and goggles, and came back wit medals, prizes and a PB.

Getting up early on a Sunday morning is no fun. It was a 2.5 hour journey but at least I got to enjoy the scenery.

Crossing the Sumida River, with the Sky Tree in the background:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Crossing the Edogawa river:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Chiba countryside:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Finally, the coastline in view:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

The beach was deserted apart from us swimmers.

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Race course is set-up; yeah, this is not what I call a surf beach.

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Water temp was a fresh 20 degrees. Swam without a wetsuit as per usual. But I did wear my tri-suit. The locals like to wear wetsuits though. Granted, I probably have more natural insulation than most people!

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

The cloudy morning gave way to a nice sunny day complete with blue skies:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Where’s David Hasselhoff when you need him?

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Warming up:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

So first up, I did the sprint aquathlon. A 500m swim followed by a 5km run.
I am quite proud of myself. I came second out of all the females! I was actually leading the WHOLE race (out of the females), and was pipped at the post in the last 30 seconds. My swim gave me a really good lead in the run leg. Damn my shoddy running. I was so far ahead of all the other ladies. Got out of the water quickly and had a super fast transition. Whilst EVERYONE was struggling to get wetsuits off, I just took off on the run.

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

I held the lead in the run, and was overtaken right near the end.
Don’t have the swim and run splits yet, but my overall time earnt me second place female, and also second place in my age group. (Will update split times later when they become available).
My time was also a PB for the run which I did in about sub-30 which although is not fast by any standard, was good for me.
Total race time was: 40min, 41 seconds.
My time for the same race last year was: 47min, 45 seconds. I definitely was a lot faster and stronger in the run this time around.

2nd overall female:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

In addition to the aquathlon, I also decided to sign up on the day for the 1.5km open water swim as well. I needed the practice, because I’ve got 2 more 3km swims this month. My need to go fast in the run was partly motivated by the fact that I had signed up for the additional swim. The aquathlon started at 12:00pm and the swim started at 1pm. The faster I ran, the more break time I would have between the next race starting. I would only have about 15 minutes to spare.

After guzzling as much water as I could after the first race, I then braced for myself for a 1.5km swim. Man, I was so hot and thirsty.

The moved the buoys out further for the 1.5km swim and we had to do two laps of the course. Was definitely a lot slower on this swim having gone all out on the aquathlon.

I got second place female for the 1.5km swim.

Come the award ceremony, I got 2 medals and 2 prizes.

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

I still haven’t actually opened up my prize bag yet. I think it’s something like a year’s supply of acai power drink. Seriously, lots of acai products. They were the sponsor.

I am a STARfish:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Also took home a ridiculously bright orange race shirt (included in entry fee):

From Iwai aquathlon 2013

All paths lead to water:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Iwai beach is a really nice beach…probably one of my favourites. I love swimming out there. I’ve done about three races there now.

The day turned out to be really warm, I even spent the day there chilling out and went for another dip in the water. Practically had the place to myself.

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

I need to explore more of the Minami Boso region – they’ve got the ocean to the right, and the mountains to the left:

From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013
From Iwai aquathlon 2013

Stay tuned for more swimming reports this summer. Although don’t expect any more medals or prizes. That’ll be the last placing this season me thinks.

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

September 5km run race

I started off today with a pathetic 5km run race – one that I’d rather forget. —- Last weekend, I bought new running shoes at a shopping outlet. Super bargain! A pair of Adidas (SuperNova Glide 3W – a wide lightweight running shoe). They are super light. And were really cheap. They were reduced! My current, old pair were also Adidas. I’ve had them for over 5 years, so I guess, I was in need of a new pair – way overdue. If I get accepted into the Tokyo Marathon, I’ll splurge on another pair and get a proper fitting consultation.

From 5km run
From 5km run

Super white and clean. They practically glow in the dark!

From 5km run

I have small feet. I also wear orthotics so I needed a pair of shoes that fit them. My feet are also quite wide. Yesterday, I had to go to and pre-register for the race – pick up my race number and goodie bag. Entry into the 5km race was 2500yen. Running races are so much cheaper than open water swimming races in Japan which will set you back around 7000-8000yen. Here is the goodie bag:

From 5km run
From 5km run

It included some Vaam gel sportsdrink, and a bag. I was pretty happy with the bag. It’s super lightweight and folds and packs up, but it’s also a drawstring backpack. This will come in super handy for my swimtrek. I need a swim bag/day pack that will fit in my luggage, so the bag is pretty awesome. I had a sleepless night last night. Couldn’t sleep at all. I woke up this morning overtired, and I nearly slept in. I also woke up ridiculously dehydrated. It was kinda hot during the night. I guzzled over half a litre of fluids prior to the race. The 5km race was one lap around the Imperial Palace – my favourite running race route in Tokyo because it’s so familiar, and convenient to get to. I rode the train in, with my very conspicuous joggers.

From 5km run

I got to the race this morning with about 15-20 minutes to spare. I was still half asleep and very thirsty. Here are some pics pre-race around the Palace.

From 5km run
From 5km run

It was a very small turnout.

From 5km run

The race was only 5km. And there were two categories: Serious and Beginners. Needless to say I had registered myself for the Beginners and we raced at 9:35am. Here is the line-up for the “serious” runners:

From 5km run

The weather was a tad warm for my liking. If there’s one thing I hate more than jogging – it’s jogging in the heat. The race start was 9:35am, and the temp was already in the high 20s. Like I said, too warm for my liking. I had only one goal for this race. And that was to run sub-30minutes. Not a big deal to most people, but a challenging goal for me. My pace on average is 6min/km. I’m having trouble breaking that pace. So off I went on the 5km run. Torture. The worst 5km run I had ever run.

I started out strong, but then I don’t know what happened. I was still so freaking dehydrated. Super thirsty. Every breath was drying out my mouth, and being only 5km, there were of course no water stations. Crap. So super thirsty and I was also really hot. Reached the 2km mark, and thought crap, I’m already beat. How unfit am I. Another 3km to go! Geez. 3km to 5km was struggle, struggle, struggle. Needed water. Stat. A most bizarre feeling overcame me. I felt so incredibly dehydrated and hot. My whole body was heating up. Scarily so. I needed water like one needs air. I thought about dropping out of the race because I needed a drink so bad. The temperature was one thing, but my God, the humidity was abominable.

Here is a weather analysis of the day (source: Yahoo weather, Japan): Between 9-10am (the race time), the temperature was about 28 degrees (orange dotted line), and the humidity was a whopping 90%! (the green dotted line). You can see that the humidity level really dropped off to about 75% in the hours after. It’s still summer here and Japanese summers are incredibly humid. Dangerously so. Today the humidity really affected me. I felt like I was going to pass out. I’ve suffered heat exhaustion before, to the point of fainting, so I knew something was wrong because I got that same feeling. I didn’t feel ok. So badly wanted to quit, but I’m not a quitter, and I hate to say, that I had to walk a bit of the race. Walk, slow jog, walk, slow jog for the last couple of k’s. I was annoyed that I had to walk but my safety was paramount. My whole body was extremely overheated. I managed to cross the finish line in one piece. I felt so hot and red. I must have looked like an incredibly unfit freak…but the truth was, I wasn’t feeling good. The sooner I got to the finish line, the sooner I could guzzle some water. Got to the finish and sat down. Could barely stand up. Drank lots of water, wet my body, and drank some sportsdrink as well. Needed sugar. Body was incredibly overheated. Such a crazy, unusual thing to happen over such a short distance race. I sat for about 30-45min, not being able to move. Felt weak and headachey. I took my time to relax and for the body to cool. I looked at the time on my iPhone/music player, and had worked out that by my time I had run about 32minutes. Didn’t break my 30 minute goal. But I didn’t much care. I was glad that I had even finished the race, and not walked out on it. 32minutes wasn’t too bad considering I walked a portion of the race. I had run the first couple of k’s strong.

They had the little prize ceremony for placegetters in the serious category. Fastest male did 17minutes, and fastest female did 20minutes. They also had lucky dip/door prizes. I wanted to check out my official race time. I saw on the record sheet that it said: 37min, 23 seconds! What!!!!! I started to mentally flagellate myself…thinking how shit I had run and was thinking about ways to punish myself for such an atrocious time. I wondered how my stopwatch could have been so off. It wasn’t possible that my time could be 37minutes, considering we started at 9:35am and I was back by 10:07am. I then realized that the time hadn’t accounted for the 5min lag between the serious and the beginners start. We started five minutes after, so I needed to subtract 5minutes. So my official race time was 32minute and 23 seconds. That was better. Still not good. But better, especially given how rotten I felt during the run. I got home and crawled into bed with the air conditioner on and slept for a few hours. I was super tired, and had a giant headache, and was feeling not 100%. A little bit lightheaded.

Am feeling much better now though…although I don’t think I have eaten enough today. Here’s what I think went wrong that accounted towards how I felt today: – high humidity. (Major cause). Not healthy to run in such high humidity. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I need to HTFU. But as consolation, here is one tidbit I found on the Internet: “Humidity is considered high when the levels go above 45 to 50%. When combined with high temperatures, high humidity can be very dangerous to the body as it interferes with the bodies ability to cool itself down, which may cause heat stroke. High humidity can also trigger an asthma attack.” – total lack of acclimatisation. Today’s race was the first time I had jogged outdoors. All summer, I have jogged indoors, inside at a gym on a treadmill. I had no exposure to running outdoors in the heat and humidity. My body didn’t adjust so well. I think it was a bit of a shock to the system, especially given how much I swim – I’m too used to being in the water where it’s wet and cool. – lack of proper hydration.

I don’t know why I woke up so thirsty. I had drunk plenty of water the day before but I guess the heat during the night took it out of me a bit. Even now as I write this at 5pm, it’s 29 degrees. It’s just hot. And my body does not enjoy running in summer. This is why I swim. – no breakfast, no fuel prior to the race. I’ll often race on an empty stomach, so this isn’t usually a huge problem especially for such a short race. Even though I only jogged 5km, I also somehow managed to get blisters on both feet. Maybe a marathon wasn’t such a great idea after all. Still hoping I get accepted anyway. At least it’s in the winter. I’d rather run in snow than in 90% humidity in near 30-degree temps! Will probably regret saying this, especially if it does actually snow on marathon day next year. I didn’t achieve my sub-30minute goal, but I ran 5km, so I s’pose that’s better than nothing. Gotta start somewhere. Around the Palace moat on my way back to the station, there were some turtles. I felt as slow as a turtle today. But on the upside, turtles live a really, really long time!

From 5km run
From 5km run

Saw a t-shirt today that said: “Run yourself better”. Simple. But nice.

Lake Toya swim

With swim number 2 behind me, I’ve got another ocean swim race ahead of me this weekend. Here’s a recap of last Sunday’s swim. I arrived in Hokkaido on Saturday morning only to be greeted by clouds and rain at Chitose airport. Upon arrival in Hirafu I had a hearty brunch.

Given the weather conditions for the day, Fi and I had a chocolate bake-off for the rest of the day, but that, my friends, spawns another blog post. In short, there was a lot of drinking and eating had on the Saturday, topped off with a night at the pub for trivia where several glasses sparkling wine and meat pies were consumed. On a very full stomach and a few alcohol units, I somehow managed to get up early on the Sunday morning.

Departing Hirafu at about 7.30am we made good time to Lake Toya. The weather was gorgeous. What a fine day indeed it turned out to be. It was about 29 degrees that day and the sun was out. Courtesy of the sun’s appearance I am now sporting a decent tan despite applying generous amounts of suncream. I’ve got a pretty severe cossie tan. It was a great day to re-visit Lake Toya. I swam in both the 800m and 1.5km swims last year, and was entered again for both this year. Unfortunately, my times were a bit disappointing. It was definitely a slow swim day for me, but not bad considering how little training I did and the amount of food and drink I consumed the day before. Probably not the best training diet. Don’t try that at home kiddies. A sensible diet and an early night’s rest is ideal the night before a race. Oh well, good times were had anyway. It was really quite a miracle that I did not sink in that lake. Lake Toya is a freshwater lake, so the swim was a bit of a struggle. We swam across the shoreline. And man, I really felt the distance in this race. First up was the 800m swim. The distance felt a lot longer. My time was 15minutes and 11 seconds for that one, and placed 8th in my age category of about 17 people. A considerable difference between that and the 800m swim at Atami beach which I did in 10 minutes. The age category was all females under the age of 39. That was a pretty broad group of competitors. I felt really slow in the water and the distance felt like forever. I think the salt water in ocean swims really make a difference. Either that, or I was carrying a lot more weight through the water this time around, coz I felt heavy in that water. That swim was then followed by the 1.5km. That was a struggle. Especially after doing so poorly in the 800m, I didn’t know how I was going to double that. It was two laps of the same course (which would make it 1.6km ja nai?). I was slow and felt like I had been swimming forever. The finish line didn’t seem any closer. Usually I guesstimate my time by the length of a TV show. This swim felt like the Director’s Cut of Titanic along with preview and credits. The whole time I was swimming that 1.5km all I could think about was “how the hell I am going to swim 4km?”. During the week I had sent off an entry for a 4km beach swim. That was more than double what I was doing now! That’s going to be a solid 1.5 hour of swimming in the ocean. 4km! What was I thinking! “I’m struggling to swim 1.5km so how the hell will I finish 4km!” What was also frustrating about this swim apart from being slow and sluggish in the water was the two ends of the course were marked by blue raft boats that we had to swim around, yet they had lifeguards in other blue raft boats that were paddling along the course, so every time I would look up to see how much further I had, I kept seeing these moving raft boats which were the wrong ones and kept thinking I less to go than what I actually had to swim. I spent over half an hour in the water moving my arms and legs. My time ended up being 32minutes and 38 seconds. Another disappointing time.

Because I had entered both races, I could only choose one which would eligible for placings. I chose the 800m as my main event. For the 1.5km swim I wasn’t placed in my age category, but rather was lumped into the Open category. I didn’t improve on either time from last year’s results. Oh well. I’ll just have to do better in the next one. At least I didn’t sink. I will admit that after the swim at Lake Toya, my arms were a bit sore and my shoulder and back muscles were a bit tight. Doing non-arm strokes for over 45 minutes is kinda tiring. Also it’s kinda funny but I also got a sore neck after this race.I think it might have been from straining when looking up to find the buoys and water markers. During the race, a couple of swans even crossed the course. I was careful to get out of their way.

With the two swims behind me, it was time for lunch which was a delicious spread put on by Jojos. The lunch is worth the swim. Of course, most sane people would skip swimming 1.5km and just go to Jojos instead to eat their food. This year’s NAC t-shirt was also a really nice colour compared to last year’s grey t-shirt. Swim number 2 done and dusted. This Sunday I’ll be off to Chiba for a beach swim. That’ll be swim numero 3. I much prefer beach/ocean swims. It’s a standard 1km swim which is the minimum distance I swim whenever I go to the pool. I would like to do it in under 20 minutes as a personal goal but will prepare myself for a time anywhere between 15-25 minutes. Will let you know how it goes. I believe rain is forecast for this weekend though.

race gear

getting my race number texta-ed on my arm

Lake Toya on summer Sunday morning

in the water

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 (1.1.km 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)