Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Murakami Olympic Distance 2012

Murakami Olympic Distance

The Murakami race just seems to get bigger every year. This was our 4th time to do it, as it’s one of our favourite races of the year and certainly one of the best races in Japan. This year there were around 800 Age Groupers plus relays and also a pro ITU Asian Champs (Wannabe junior Olympians) racing a draft legal event complete with the blue carpet and ITU bike racks etc. It is also the final race of the JTU (Japan Triathlon Union) series points race, which a lot of AG athletes aim to win. The top ranked athletes in the officially sanctioned JTU races around Japan can represent Japan at the AG world champs – last year Beijing, this year Auckland, next year London. Over the last few years it has also been seen as foreign triathlon show down amongst gaijin (foreigners) in Japan. Previously it was me, Eric and Pete Jenkins all very similar level athletes doing battle at the pointy end as well as many people having their own battles with athletes around their level. Eric and Pete had recently left Japan, but there was still some 50+ foreigners and good fun and plenty of banter flowing around on pre-race emails to spice things up.

I'm a grower, not a shower.

My bugbear with the race here has always been the wave starts.  If you don’t know the sport it sounds like sour grapes, but for those in the sport you know: different gun = different race. Some races (Ishikigaki) seed the starts on predicted swim times but in Murakami it’s on age groups with a seemingly random grouping. Under 35s first, then 5 minutes later 30-35, and 45-49 males, then 40-44 and 50-60 males, then all women and 60+ males. The first wave has the big advantage of not swimming through slower swimmers in the waves ahead and having the faster guys to ride together. The ladies and older men being last had the problem of trying to beat the pretty tough cut-off times for this race. This year the start was 10am in the heat of the day and heaps of people missed the cut off and were pulled off the course - which really sucks considering the expense and effort they all went to get on the start line.

Has happened to the best in the world. Especially when they go "Panyagia"- (Bread and water - no PEDS.)

The start list before the race was posted a few days before the race an it had a few of the faster guys from older age groups shuffled into the first wave with the young guys. There were two guys from my AG and also a fast guy from the 35-39, Takahashi. I think these guys were going for the ‘overall’ JTU point’s title so were all-together. We had a whinge to the organisers before the start asking to be put in the front group too, but they brushed us and later rescinded by removing those guys from their AG race. This was good as I once got beat by 1 second into 2nd by a guy who started 8 minutes after me - not really a race. 

Takahashi ended up winning the race overall, and the two guys in my AG were close behind. I’ve never met Takahashi but know of him and his results. He’s a 60kg Tokyo resident and one of the top AG triathletes in Japan, he qualified for Hawaii in 2011 but missed out this year.  I know from his times he is very similar swim-biker to me but a superior runner and the heat does not affect him at all. He was 6th overall in IM Korea a couple of years ago when it was silly hot, when he nicked his Kona slot. I also understand recently departed Tokyo Tri man Eric H met through the ‘Active Singles’ section on www.adultfriendfinder.com and I hear from reliable sources Eric has a mini-shrine - “Takahashi Corner” in his new apartment in France, with various pictures, race results, signed race numbers of the great man, carefully displayed, and Eric offers gifts of Power bar Gels and locally sourced Pocari Sweat, refreshing them diligently every Monday.

My humble offering.

SWIM 1,500m 23.40

I started out way left and went pretty hard for the first 100m. Breathing only every 8 strokes, then 6, then 4 then into my familiar every 2nd stroke. My plan was to stay wide, away from the rope and hopefully avoid the slow swimmers from waves ahead. I ended up going to the front of my wave and not seeing any other gold caps for the whole swim, but the waves ahead were spread out well away from the ropes too. It was only a few hundred metres in when I caught the first pink cap and from then on it was a mental challenge to plot your way through the pink and blue caps. I just had to sight every second breath and plot my course, remembering the swimmers around – 'catch a glimpse': breast stroker on the left, slight gap on the right to go through, then big group ahead, so duck through gap close to guy on right, then head really wide etc…It was mentally taxing and a few times I go stopped completely in my tracks through a collision. The water temp was 27, air temp 35 and it was wet suit compulsory so I got really hot in the last few hundred metres. When I got out I looked back and could not see a gold cap at all so knew I had at least a minute lead.

I called upon all kinds of experience for this swim leg. All the hard work in preparation was worth it.

Bike 40kms 1.09.45

My transition was one of the worst I’ve ever done. I went down the wrong row of bikes, then had to loop all the way around to come back to mine, then my Kask aero helmet's ratchet was still tightened but as the Kask has the “drop down” ratchet that goes down to the lower part of your skull it is really difficult to get on if tight, I tried anyway but the chin-strap would not buckle with it sitting so high on my head. Didn’t stop me from trying though. After a while I took it off and loosened it and put it on again, and eventually got the buckle done up, more wet suit and sunglass issues and general clumsiness and I eventually made it out on the bike. There is a 100m flat section, then steep hill of about 80m before getting on the bike. Previously you mounted at the bottom and ride up the 80m steep hill. This year, maybe due to the increased numbers, you had to walk/run up the hill. I walked it. I hate long runs after a hard swim. Finally got on the bike and I had nothing.

My Bike Leg in an image.
It was a strong headwind right from the start of the 20km out and back bike course and I just could not go at all. I thought it was due to the over-heating in the swim and the long transition, but I never really came good. I won the race two weeks before in Tomokomai averaging about 41kph and around 300W, but this day I could hardly hold 250W. After the turn around it was nice to have the tail wind, but my watts were still way down. I never really got passed but the whole ride I was pushing shit uphill.  Coach Woody knowingly told me it was because of the 2.30 run I did with Ness the week before the race and those long run take it out of me. He’s always going on about heavier guys like me not being able to take the big run volume and especially long runs and he’s probably right. I limped into T2 frustrated but still in the lead. It was 9th fastest bike of the day, so not a total disaster but I wanted the fastest after last year having lost a chain and early dismount and was 2nd.

RUN 10km 41.05

The run is always my nemesis and in Murakami I’ve always had a shocker. Last year was my famous blow-up when I got all dizzy and disoriented and ended up sitting in a gutter for an hour. It’s now part of the Murakami gaijin-folklore, I always aim to entertain! This year I wanted to start out easy as the first km is mostly downhill and it’s easy to go out too hard. I was going 4 min k pace, but I wasn’t really holding back. It was too bloody hot. I kept running slower and slower but was only passed by a few people all with low numbers – meaning they were from lower age groups and had started 5 or 10 minutes ahead of me. I was considering the futility of pushing hard, it was hot as hell and was thanking Queen Kaioulouhamahamahahamama (or whatever her name is) that I was not racing Hawaii. "I wouldn’t have to go through this hot-depressed frame of mind in four weeks", i thought. Then 6kms in I was running/ shuffling my slowest yet at 4.45 min k pace and a guy with No. 585 passed. I was 615 so I thought he was 40-44 in my swim wave for sure. 

Damn that’s the AG win there I thought – you fucker. So I latched onto his back. I ran the whole of the last 3.7kms right behind him. I must have been as annoying as Mark Allen was to Dave Scott in the ‘Iron War’ of ’89 when Allen was stronger but just raced in Scott’s lap all day. We did the last few kms at 4-4.15min k pace and I was thinking about the long run I’d done and the reverse periodization and Nicola Spirig benefitting from the unusual Sutto-esque prep in the Olympics of doing a Half ironman two weeks before she won gold, when her competitors were racing sprint distance. I thought I have the endurance to do it if I want to and I did want the AG win - so time to dip into the pain bucket you pussy! 500 from home I almost got blown over by cyclone Vanessa as she sprinted past us! She gave me a little wave, which was very kind of her. She was two laps down but started 5 minutes down.

Sayonara Bevan-san. I will honourably be running 38 low now.
My mate was well and truly sick of me and was pretty glad when I put the burners on and sprinted soon after Ness passed. I was thinking of Sutto telling Spirig not to go until 300m out - but she went 1km out and I went 500m out. My mate was cactus and folded pretty quickly and I got the pleasure of pretending I was running better than Ness and re-passing her before the finish line. I had a chat with the guy after the race and he was cool as - it turned out the guy was in the 45-49 and hard started 5 minutes ahead of me but he ran a 38 high so I was glad to have him to push me. Ness ran 38.20 – her first time under 41 in an OD, let alone 40 or 39! And she did not taper at all – running 19kms the day before the race in the middle of the heat and riding 6 hours on Thursday. She is going great now and this race and last race in Tomokomai I finished ahead of her in the gender ranks, but in reality - her performances have been better than mine - she just had some really exceptional opponents and I was lucky to meet some weakfish fields. I can’t wait to cheer her in Kona and see how she goes. Her Dad and brother are coming over –should be fantastic!

Shouldn't complain too much. Got gold and 5kgs of rice for  the Yukester.
More Podium time.

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