IRONMAN JAPAN – ONE TOUGH COOKIE

Race day. The tension could be felt in our hotel as people were up and about at 3am. Gina and I got up about 3:30 and made final preps for the long day. We met the bus where athletes were being bused to the start and off we were. Gina had the family bus at 6, which was taking her for her own mini-triathlon.

The darkness of the morning continued as clouds hovered and rain began to fall. Yes, it was going to be a wet one. At the start, you went through the normal motions: get bodymarked, check bags, check bike, load fuel, snack on breakfast and hydrate. It was in the 50s and water temp was the high 60s. But what was a pristine, calm ocean the day before turned into a rough, choppy washing machine. At 6:30, I saw Gina who had arrived (she was onto the Japanese schedule and made sure she wouldn’t miss a beat) and I gave her a final hug. I made my way to the water and saw the rain fall a bit heavier. At the pre-race meeting, they told us to start at a bouy 100 yards out, while the pros had a start 50 yards ahead of that. Sure enough, I waddled at the yellow bouy anId a few hundred decided to waddle at the blue one. Yo!

Looking bhind me were the remaining competitors and those still on the beach. Perfect – I am in the middle! Calm down. A slight fog rolled in so it was going to be intetersting.

No cannon or gun went off. Just the GO! announcement and once you saw the thrashing start, you said Fukue-this and went. Navigation was hell. We hit big swells going out and the colder waters didn’t help. I didn’t get hit much, by now I was doing the hitting, but thought I broke my finger on one dude’s leg.

I managed to keep sight on the bouys and coming back to the beach was a bit easier. But that was just lap one. Going out again was hard with the big waves but by now the amount of swimmers near me were low. Still, it was rough. Then WHAP! no, not a swimmer but some seaweed chunks. That was a bit humorous and I just kept saying “Oh yeah, Fuk-ue!”

Land! I saw 1:10 on the clock and was pleased. But the rain was still coming down and the bikes were soaked. No time to think, just get changed and go. The wind and rain pelted me through the majority of the course. Out of 180k, it rained about 120 of it. Talk about hills- much more than I expected and what graphs described. The best part of the course wwas going through these tunnels which cut through the mountain passes. Beautiful sights, but I just started to battle more as I got wetter and colder. The roads were slick and had many sharp downhill turns. No car traffic was allowed so it was one less thing to worry about, but a few still had some major crashes (Gina said 2 smacked up in transition before going out!).

It chopped it down in 10k intervals, and the best fan support were a group of kids with big fans waving them as if helping blow us uphill. Felt like the Tour de France. By 130k I didn’t think I had enough to run. I was sick, weary, and tired from the swim. Fortunately it stopped raining and I had a chance to convince myself to just get to the transition.

In the changing tent, a volunteer acted like my personal butler. He took the contents of my bag, laid them out as I changed, and handed them to me. He then took my change of clothes to put in the bag. Awesome. I exited the tent and saw Gina. I told her I was having a rough time, but then the PA guy announced my name and said “Go get them on the run Mark!” One deep breath and I went.

Play it safe, good pace. I just focused on the person in front of me and each KM marker. They had 42 laid out and it was much better than the mile ones in the US. At the half point I decided to walk a bit, but one of our Aussie friends said I cae this far keep going! He was right. We came this far, Fuk-ue it! Steady as she goes. I was trotting, but it was getting me there. Stomach once again was shot, but I was ok in my head. Fried a bit, but ok.

Sure enough I got to the end and managed to clock a 7 minute final mile. Best part was Gina was there 100 yards from the finish and we crossed the line together. Yes indeed WE CROSSED TOGETHER! That in itself was worth the trip. We both made the challenge and got this far it was only fitting for us to finish together. Going back is cake from here. Gina had a good experience with the family bus and was a savy American by not trusting anything! She was just as beat. She did mention alot of people dropped out after the swim.

The nausea and the pain of my now pan-fried mind settled in. I could only eat a soft serve, broth, and a rice ball. I shivered a bit after showering and was in bed by 9. Man I was sick.

We were up by 5:30 and pre-packed. We are getting everything settled today (last minute shopping, walking in the now sunny weather again, trying to eat food) and managed to get an earlier ferry tomorrow. We exchanged stories with our friends from New Zealand, Aussies, Scotland, and 2 USA women. The dinner is tonight and that’s about it. The results are below but no Hawaii slot. On a comparison scale, this had to be the toughest one I did, yet a very pleased with the time ad results. As the post-race deprssion sets in, Gina takes it stride by just reminding me of what I need to change and now videotaping my promises (I said I don’t want to do an Ironman for 2 years, instead focusing on half-ironmans and anything under 4 hrs). Ai shi-te imas. I kappuru da to omoymas

She’ll get the finishers’ medal, certificate, polo top tshirt, and she’s done a good job pocketing the ‘complimentary’ kimonos from the hotels. I’ll paste the Xterra with the stickers we got.

Out of 812 starters, 99 did not finish the race.

Finish time 11:11:59

Swim: 1:10 (92nd overall)

Bike 6:30 (283rd)

Run: 3:30 (72nd)

I placed 133rd Overall, and 28th in my age group.

Out of 17 Americans, I was the 1st Male and 2nd Overall – the first woman was a few minutes ahead.

Based on my Garmin watch worn during the bike and run, I burned 4000 calories on the bike and 2300 on the run. Factor in the swim and pre-race and it totals to about 8000 calories. Of that I only replaced 3000 at best. Anyone know a sports nutritionist to recommend? (it didn’t help that what was offered was mostly Japanese items that you didn’t want to try now).

Thanks to all who helped us plan this trip. Now it’s some R/R a little BBall action and a break from this. At least until Gina says so. Kuda-sai???

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