Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Toyama iki-iki triathlon: To the Top of the Mountain...いきいき富山トライアスロン:山登りは辛いよ

Mark-sensei, rising star Tibo, and Motozo endured a tough mountainous OD triathlon in Toyama last weekend. Since I've never been confused as a polka dot jersey guy, my expectations were rather low. I do fine in flat or downhill courses such as Oshima, Murakami, Aizu, etc. So this race was an experiment of sorts, one for a feather in the hat, and a good excuse to get over to the Sea of Japan. いきいき富山トライアスロン大会を完走しました。なかなか辛い山登りでしたが、なんとか年齢グループ10位でフイニッシュ。

Pre-race: Toyama ain’t close, but rather easy to get to. Our hotel was walking distance from the Toyama station, which serves the new Shinkansen direct from Tokyo in 2 hours and small change. The race organization was amusingly primitive with handwritten drawings of the race course and key points, and no air conditioning on a very hot July day. With electric trams and copious spring waters, Toyama is known for its environmentally friendliness, so much that the city has been designated an environmental model city by the national government for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Perhaps this was the reason for lack of power point slides or air conditioners...

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Swim: The swim area at Toyama Bay is somewhat similar to Murakami Triathlon on the Sea of Japan. Except that the swim course in Toyama is actually less protected and hence we did have some chop. I didn't swim too hard and felt the positive effects of the hard tri-k swim sessions at Shiba Koen and Yoyogi gym. 

I was in the 3rd wave with Mark, and noticed him just ahead after the first 750 meter lap. I pulled up to Mark, hoping that we could work together on the 2nd lap, but he swung out far left, so I abandoned that idea. I tend to swim faster with more focus when I am pacing off other swimmers, particularly when I know their speed and style. 

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I hit the beach in 26 minutes, not nearly as fast as last month's exploits in Takeyama. I foolishly hoped my minor 20 second lead on Mark would hold up for part of the bike. 

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Bike: Mark was gone by the time I got out of T1. My transition wasn't terrible, just too much to do. Wetsuit removal, put on helmet, sunglasses, switch on bike garmin, put on bike shoes and run to the exit unclipped. The whole ordeal took about 1 minute. I guess I need a new garmin and helmet with built-in visor. I also need practice mounting with shoes clipped in to the pedals.

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I could see Mark about 50 meters ahead as I mounted Hillary Swank (blue P2C Cervelo), tried to accelerate, but there was an awful sound coming from the back tire. This hill climb was going to be hard enough without mechanical problems. I tried to loosen the brake by twisting around while coasting. 
This resulted in sharp cramps in my abdomen and only a halfway loosened brake. As I dealt with the cramps and Hillary's moans, I noticed that I was getting passed by bikers on the first hill. At the 20k point, I finally pulled over to a full stop and loosened the brake all the way. After that Hillary's complaints resided as I headed up the mountain somewhat relieved. 

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         Hillary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

The last 10k was going to be a serious climb and test of meddle, so I didn't go 100% for the first 30k of the ride. It was a rather gradual climb of 560 total meters over 37k, and 300 meters over the last 15k. There were 3-4 steep hills where I had to shift my lowest gear and stand up. I hadn't changed my rear cassette so was a bit worried about getting up those steep climbs, but it turned out to be manageable. 

The last climb of about 2k was very tough though. On that last hill I was maxed out, in my smallest gear, and standing. As I passed a race volunteer in slow motion, I pleaded with her to tell me how far it was to the top. She, of course, had no concept of distance, saying "mo chotto" (just a little further), and "nan kiro mo nai" (not more than 1k). It always amazes me how little race supporter actually know about where they are on the course. I brought Hillary home in 1:21:52, which is meaningless given the hills and short 37k distance. Average speed was 27.1 KPH with 207 watts of estimated average power. 

Run: To my surprise, the bike rack in my age group was mostly empty with the exception of Mark and 2-3 others. So I wasn't having such a terrible day. I racked Hillary, slid on my racing shoes, and pulled out of T2 with no hat or shades. T2 is actually in the parking lot of Takeyama Sanroku ski area, which means you have to run up the mountain from T2. That first ascent up the ski slope nearly killed me. The earlier wave athletes, Mark, Tibo, and a few others were flying down the hill while I climbed. I thought about walking as the walkers that I passed weren't moving much slower than me. But I gritted my teeth and coerced myself into running all the way minus one pee brake. Meg and Ty were on the course cheering like crazy which was a huge help!

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor   iki-iki gamba gamba yare yare!

Ann and Miki-san boosted my spirits also. At the top of the run course I took 2 cups of water and doused myself. Things were heating up. Where was that rain in the forecast?
As I raced down the hill I thought only 2 more laps of this? Finishing the 2nd lap felt good though. At least I wasn't going to suffer the humiliation of getting lapped by Mark. It was impossible to pace how fast I was going. Uphills were 5:30-6 minute pace, downhills 4 minute pace, much slower than a flat course, needless to say. 

  bad storm coming
Image may contain: 1 person, standing, shoes, shorts, sky, outdoor and nature  better run to the top of the mountain

As I rounded the last run to the finish chute, I thought, whey not finish in style? So I gathered, coiled, and launched into a mini-long jump on the finish line. Thankfully Meg was there to capture the insanity!

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            mother, I'm flying!

Epilogue: It was one of the most gorgeous setting for a race finish. A ski resort with light shamrock green grasses and dark plush pine green forests. We feasted on local sushi and curry, savoring that post-race euphoria. Given the A to B course design, we eventually had to make our way back to Toyama, which was a 30k ride down the mountain.

Originally I wasn't too excited by the idea of cycling 30k after a race, but it turned out to be a scenic ride along the river valley. And it was easy riding down the mountain. I think I averaged a faster speed on that post-race ride than the actual race. Go figure. 
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                                                    We like it on top!

38th overall
10th in age group

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"Mountain in the shadow of light, rain in the valley below, Well you can say you're Peter, say you're Paul, Don't put me up on your bedroom wall, call me the king of the mountain"  -Midnight Oil


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tateyama Triathlon: have to believe we are magic...711...いい気分

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711 is my new magic number as the coach says. 711...いい気分... The rainyweather in Tateyama tri turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had no expectation of a stellar outcome, and a personal best was an impossible fantasy. We did not even think it would be a GO with the heavy rains all Saturday night, big puddles on the course, and gusts of wind.

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But somehow it all came together and I was able to run hard in cool drizzling rain. The bike was messy and technical, but managed to get through without much damage. Swim was fast thanks to low tide, although we were hit with unexpected waves.

Official results here...my time was a PB at 2:14:57, and I was 4th in my age group. My swim was a PB of 22:43, but again my bike was more competitive than my swim, placing 31st overall. Swim was 37th overall. Run was so-so at 62nd overall.

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Pre-race: We drove out on Friday night, got situated with the land, enjoyed a great leisurely Saturday on Tateyama beach. The weather was partly sunny on Saturday, too hot for a triathlon. We knew Sunday would be a different ball game. Saturday night we had a number marking party which really lifted our spirits.
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Yona Yona's Kobe wagyu and some fine salads from Jan and Meg were featured. I even had a half a glass of wine as I did not expect it to be much of a triathlon the next morning.    

Sunday morning it was raining as expected and we tried to stay warm and dry as long as possible. Derek really was a life saver by driving us to the start area and hanging out until we were clear. To our surprise, the race was a GO! Delayed by 1 hour only. Just enough to let the heavy rains subside. Geniuses! We guessed that the race officials really wanted to save face this year as it was cancelled last year. Maybe we should target races next year that have been cancelled this year...
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Swim: 23:50. Talk about killing time. Even extra procrastination before the swim start wasn't enough to kill all the waiting pain. Finally at 11:30 am my wave was tee'd up and ready to roll. It was a rolling start with 10 swimmers per 10 seconds. I lined up in the first row thinking that I would try to stay with the fast guys. The horn blew and we ran into the shallow ocean. I was able to jog and porpoise for significant yardage. To my surprise I was in 3rd place after the first lap at 750 meters. I think the porpoising and extra waves were hurting the less experienced swimmers or something. I think I landed in 23 minutes which was close to my PB in olympic distance. I charged ahead laser-focused on the the 2 guys in front of me...

T1: It was wet and muddy in T1. Puddles everywhere. I sacrificed valuable seconds by stuffing my bike shoes and running shoes in plastic bags, and hanging them from the bike to keep reasonably dry. But than I opened the wrong bag (running shoes) in T1, so lost more time.
Finally after about a 3 minute T1 I mounted Hillary Swank and hit the military base course.

Bike: 1:01:41, 36.5 kph. I had never done the course since it was a restricted military area (self-defense forces, 自衛隊), so took the first 4.4k lap rather slowly. Did I mention there were lots of puddles? And things that go bump in the road. Already there were a few bikers pulled over with flat tires. I pondered the viability of this event on that first lap. Than we hit the back part of the course and things opened up. I was yelling "on your right!" (右に取ります!!。。右右右右!!!)throughout the bike course..I wonder if I expend extra energy yelling at bikers...I didn't let anyone pass me, but there was no way to tell if I was making progress on the 2 leaders though...anyway, it felt good given the slippery conditions and technical aspects of the course. I even got to eat 2 caffeine gels during the bike.

According to Strava, I was 2nd overall on Tatetra Bike Leg Clockwise 6th overall on Tatetra 51.5 Bike Leg 2013 2nd fastest time on Tatetra Bike Leg Clockwise 

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T2: Having escaped the wet bike treachery unscathed, I bid farewell to Hillary and could now see light at the end of the tunnel. And that light would be a PB and possible podium spot. But hold the phone...more puddles and no running bag! Oh, wait, there it is in the next guy's area. More wasted time finding the shoes... I went hat-less as the rain had almost stopped.

Run: 43:49, 4:25 avg. pace. Now the rainy weather turned out to be a plus alpha for the run. It was cooler than usual for a late June day at 1 PM. I immediately picked up the cadence and was churning out 4:17 pace. The run course is tight 2.5k x 4 loops, which was actually a bit tough to maneuver around people, but good fun at the same time. Lots of people to watch and chase or be chased. I felt a slight cramp in my right abdomen at 4k, but hamstrings were good to go. I didn't go all out the first 5k but it felt reasonably fast. On the last turn I went close to 90% for the final 1500 meters. I probably should have gone faster...2 hours and 15 minutes has a special ring to it. My watch said 2:14:30 on the final finish chute. So I sprinted and got 2:14:57, just under 2 and a quarter hours...

Great camera work, Derek!
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Garmin splits were:
22:15 first 5K
21:52 second 5K

I met Paul, Yona Yona, and Derek at the finish. Paul and I were euphoric. He had a great race and PB'd also. 711 = magic
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I think clear plastic is my new look...
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About Tateyama: It is a wonderful place for a quick weekend getaway, just across the Aqualine on the southern tip of Boso peninsula.

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For the short distance to Tokyo, the area is rather bucolic. There are scenic mountains, uncrowded beaches, and plenty of empty roads to bike and run.

Many thanks to Jan and Josh for putting us up as always.
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And Ty had a blast with his lifelong soulmate Brian.
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It was great to do the race with Yuuka YonaYona-san, who was on her way to a podium finish when her bike tire decided to have a hissy fit. That puncture was really a shame but great to do the whole weekend together. And Derek was a superstar, always quick with a joke or a light of your smoke...

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Most of all, thanks to Meg and Ty for coming out and supporting me. They weren't able to make it to the race area, driven away by the elements and barbed wire fences, but I could feel their presence in the Tateyama area!

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Have to believe we are magic....


Monday, June 12, 2017

Oh what a feeling, Oshima! 大風大応援大島

Ohhhhhh Oshima! I probably used that one last year, but there is no better feeling than flying up the coast on the big island. Its been 2 days since the race and my hamstrings are still tight as a Taiko drum, but what a sweet race and weekend in paradise. 

And I am very proud to be a part of the Triathletes in Tokyo (TITs) domination of the event once again this year. We had 3 of the top 4 spots. I took 8th overall and 5th in the age-adjusted rankings out of 235 men. Very pleased with my 1:04 bike in fierce winds.

The swim cancellation was unfortunate but the open sea course design is always susceptible to big waves. Big thanks to Meg for the fantastic photo footage and strong support the entire race weekend!


My data on Garmin for the bike...
37.9km total Distance (I forgot to turn on my garmin at the start)
1:01:55 Moving Time 
359m Elevation change
279W Estimated Avg Power 
1,036kJ Energy Output
Avg Speed 36.8km/h 
PR on サンセットパームライン北上 (6:25)
max speed 58.3km/h
3rd fastest time on oshima triathlon loop (15:26)

Swim: Nothing much to say. It was cancelled owing to fierce winds and strong seas. This happens every other year. Last year we got lucky. The swim course needs some redesign needless to say. And the Island Series organizers could do with some creative planning...ie Move the race to Sunday morning if the ocean is too rough on Saturday.

1st run: As a feeble substitute for the swim, we did a 5k run before the bike. It has its pros and cons, obviously favoring the strong runners and weak swimmers. A decade ago it would have helped me, but now it is a slight disadvantage. I went out conservatively at 4:35 pace, running about 80% effort. Finished in 23 minutes.

Bike: Than the fun began. Strong gusts of wind provided a massive tailwind at the start, and I zoomed past 40 of the 55 guys in front of me. I was doing 45-50 kph up the coast, than 25-35 kph back inland, yelling at bikers to get out the way most of the ride. It felt like I was riding a rocket. Hillary Swank still has some pep in her. It felt so good that I shouted "Ohhhh Oshima" to the fans. They were somewhat amused. I finished in 1:04, 2 minutes faster than last year, although I am not sure if the transition time was included differently last year...Anyway, it is a nice feeling to go faster when you get older, and I had limited bike training this spring versus last year as well.

Run: The 2nd run was the standard 10k. I was feeling fired up after that scorcher of a bike ride. Legs were close to fried but on this day I had the mental game. So I charged out of T2 and gave it all I had. Uh Oh, a cramp in my left hamstring after the first k at 4:25 pace. That is my good hamstring...not supposed to happen... 

I prayed to the triathlon gods that my hammy would hold up for 9 more clicks...At 3K I saw the 3 top guys including one of our own (Rich) heading in which was a good sign. Than Youri in 4th place, he looked shattered....maybe the hammy pain is not so bad, me thought to myself...By the 5k turnaround point, I had seen about 15 guys in front of me. Most of them had started 4 to 8 minutes before me, so I felt I had a decent chance in both the general and age-adjusted categories. I was maxed out coming back from 6-10k against the strong wind and up a big hill. It was tempting to stop on the hill at 7k, but this wasn't going to happen on this day. I passed 4-5 runners in the final 3k, sprinting past a fella right at the finish line. 

Man, it was good to finish and celebrate victory with Meg, Ty, and all the TITs! There so many great teammates in the mix, Youri, Paul, Rich, Jef, Scott, Marc, Jeff, Sumie, Peter, and other familiar faces. I am truly grateful.

Aftermath: The next day we rented a car and drove the perimeter of the island, which is a nice scenic drive. The weather cooperated. The sea was calm. Oh, the irony...

Monday, May 29, 2017

Nanki Shirahama triathlon: Golden deception

The 2017 Tri season started with a dud. I wasn't totally unprepared, but a challenging course did me in. A PW (personal worst). 2:44:58. 12th in age group out of 67 finishers. 166 out of 460 men.

Am I getting too old for this? Probably not, I PB'd twice in 2014 and 2015, and finished on the podium in 2016 Oshima. A humbling course? Probably.

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Swim: B minus. It is a fantastic clear water swim on the famous "shirahama" imported white sand beach. Unfortunately, there is little room to navigate through the first "strait". I was in the last 3rd wave, which meant I was sitting in a major traffic jam at around 300 meters from the start. After passing the slow swimmers from wave 2, there was some daylight for a few minutes, than more bodies to pass from wave 1, than more daylight. Than it starts again on the 2nd lap as I began to lap people. It doesn't help things that there is a narrow passageway or strait between the buoys and breakwater. I landed in 27 minutes feeling quite winded. Water temperature was near perfect at 19 C degrees.

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Bike: C minus. From that mediocre yet picturesque swim, it was all downhill from there. And not in a good way. The course needs some redesign for sure. Up and down 3 hills in tight 5 x 6k loops with a massive hill to the airport bike finish area, about 75 meters of climbing in 1k at the end of the bike. This means you have 2 180 degree turns every 5 minutes or so. There was also a crash on the loop early in the race, which created traffic as an ambulance had to negotiate in between the bikers. Giant slow packs formed. The hilly course is really no advantage for a triathlon bike. I couldn't get going in aero, and never really felt comfortable or fast. After that final hill climb, my legs were toast. My bike was 1:17, close to a PW also.

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Run: D for dismal, not dandy. I ran out of T2 hoping by some miracle that I would be able to salvage the day with a strong run. That hope soon faded as we tackled yet another hill and I cramped up. I stopped running at one point around 2k, and a flood of 20 runners passed me. I eventually got into a 5 minute pace from 3k to 8k, but couldn't accelerate to my normal 4:30 pace. It was just too hot and I had nothing in the tank. At 9k I tried to pick it up, but than almost passed out from exhaustion, and stopped running again briefly.

2:44:38 total time
0:27:58 swim 96th place
1:17:57 bike 156th place
0:54:50 run 370th place

166th place overall
50-54 AG 12th place

Don't get me wrong, Nanki Shirahama is a beautiful place to visit and really easy to fly to from Haneda, Tokyo. A great weekend was had by all 10 of us TITs that visited from Tokyo. The race itself just leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Hoping that this will provide motivation for Oshima in 2 weeks...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Kawazu "triathlon", Izu hanto, 河津トライアスロン、伊豆半島

Kawazu inaugural "triathlon" and the 2016 triathlon season is in the books. I was happy with a 1:02 bike (without transitions) where I averaged 37.1 kph, and a 42 minute run, but we were dismayed by the JTUs complete lack of sack. The JTU cancelled the swim due to "roughwaters" 30 minutes before the swim start. We stood in shock in our wetsuits on the pristine beach thinking, "are they out of their minds??"

I got 25th overall, 11th in the ultra-competitive 40-49 AG in this spontaneous duathlon. I would have been first if I could only have fired up the handy time machine to next year.  :)


the most unusual bike transition...

Great to get the Tycoon support!

Tim and the Ryano gearing up for the race...

Those are the waves on the beach the morning of the race...big enough to cancel a swim?

You are the weiner!

A free towel for your efforts...

Catch you in 2017!