Miyazaki Triathlon, on the last weekend of October, is a new Olympic Distance race on the JTU calendar. I’d often thought it strange that the JTU season effectively finished at the end of September, since the sea is still warm in October, and the summer heat has passed. Miyazaki confirmed this as both the sea and air temperatures were around 24C which is just about perfect for racing. The location is also spot on. There are plenty of cheap flights to Miyazaki airport which is just a few kilometres from the city centre. The race is set in Sea Gaia, an artificial beach and harbour 6 kilometres south east of the city. With clean beaches, green lawns, and swaying palm trees, it is a pleasant place to spend the weekend.
On Saturday, the final race on the ITU World Cup circuit was held, which meant some famous faces in both the women’s and men’s races. The women’s race was won by Ai Ueda who was just ahead of the up and coming Summer Cook. The men had a rough and bouncy swim and a windy bike which seemed to suit Uxio Abuin Ares who came in just one second ahead of Joao Silva. I hoped for calmer conditions for our race on Sunday.
After the men’s race I cycled a few kilometres along an excellent bike path through a pine forest to the Sea Gaia Convention Centre for the race briefing. It was the shortest JTU briefing I had ever attended – just 20 minutes – after which I met Ernesto and his wife. Ernesto and I had consecutive race numbers so we would be side-by-side in transition.
Cycle path along the coast
The race organisers had done well with the course. The swim is well protected from the ocean by two large, curving sea walls, which was lucky as it was very rough beyond this protection. It is a short distance to the spacious transition, and then straight out on to the flat bike course. It is basically two laps of an out-and-back course along a motorway, although there is an extra loop at one end to make up the full distance. The run is then 4 laps of a course which snakes around the harbour, through a couple of car parks, and past the transition. Fast, flat and simple.
There are hotels near the course, but I had opted for the punchily named “Miyazaki Inn Miyazaki Yurakuan”, a large minshuku just away from the city centre. I had an ostentatiously large suite of rooms – a tatami room, a dining room, a large bedroom, and a bathroom complete with hinoki bath tub. It felt a bit odd staying there on my own, but I made the most of it by soaking each evening in the bath while drinking tea and reading New Scientist. If only finding restaurants were so easy. On the Saturday, I cycled in to town to Sangam, a so-called Indian restaurant, which turned out to be run by a sombre couple with only a vague grasp of Indian cuisine. So vague, that they didn’t have a single vegetable dish on the menu.
The race started at a civilised 9 o’clock which meant plenty of time to set up the bike and have a warm-up swim. Ernesto and I were in the 3rd wave which I thought would mean a fairly gentle start to the race. How wrong could I be? I’d planned to set off from the far right side to keep out of trouble, but the moment the hooter went off, I was being hit and kicked from both sides. At one point, I was being repeatedly hit by the person on the right and the person on the left, as well as the person behind. I tried to move further out to the right, but I just couldn’t escape the tangle. Wave 3 is the over fifties, which seems to suggest there are a lot of frustrated middle-aged men with violence in their souls. I can understand clipping someone once or twice – we all do this – but then we move away to avoid further contact. However, this was different. I was being hit hard over and over again. It seems odd that this is okay during a race but if I went up to someone afterwards and punched them half a dozen times, I would probably end up in court.
Apart from this violence, the sea was not helping my swim time. Waves were coming in through the gap in the sea wall causing chop and unpredictable rips. On the second lap, both Ernesto and I got pulled out and away from the second buoy which must have added a lot to our times. I actually noticed swimmers ahead of me being pulled away from the buoy, but it was hard to compensate in the chaos. I also felt the effects of a long season on my weary arms, and just hoped I would still be in contention after the swim. I exited the water in 31’10”, my slowest swim time since my first race in 2009. This was partly explained by the distance I had swum – my Garmin measured 1.79 km – but 140 people had managed to swim this distance faster than me. Clearly, my swim lessons with Shonan Belmare tri team have not had the effect I had hoped for.
Things weren’t much better on the bike. I had taken my road bike, fitted with aero bars, as I was planning to ride to Nagasaki the next day. I missed the TT bike as there was a strong headwind on the outward leg and even the smallest change in riding position felt like I was putting on the brakes. I suppose riding into a headwind is painful for everyone, but I just find it so dispiriting. Riding up a mountain, however long and steep the road, always contains the promise of an equally long downhill. Riding into a headwind just seems like a waste of effort. Others clearly felt this as I struggled to pass long lines of “triathletes” drafting one another. I passed one particularly blatant line of drafters only to discover a couple of minutes later that I was the new lead rider in their little peleton. I slowed right down and made my feeling fairly clear to the person hanging on my wheel. Two minutes later I was several hundred metres ahead.
Apart from this moment of excitement, I spent most of the ride wishing for a hill to break the monotony of spinning up and down a motorway. Between laps one and two we did return briefly to the start area where we were cheered on our way by a line of supporters. But this was not enough for me to really get into the bike leg which was reflected in my time and position: 1:06:38 / 35th. Maybe the run would go better.
It didn’t. After a decent half marathon time in the hilly Koshu Fruit Marathon race, I expected to get a fast time. It just didn’t happen. I was turning in regular 4:10 kilometre splits, but I just couldn’t increase the pace. Time and time again I was overtaken, but could not respond for more than a few metres. Part of the problem was motivation. There had been no bikes racked up in my section of T2 which meant I was ahead in my age group. The run course has one section in a car park which gives you a view of your pursuers. They all seemed very young to me, so I had time to spare in the run. Not what your tired brain needs to know when you are trying to push yourself faster. The four laps gradually passed at a leisurely pace and I arrived at the finish line. 41:11 for the run and a total time of 2:20:55. It felt like an anti-climax after a successful season, but maybe the season was just a bit too long for my weary body. Eight JTU races, one non-JTU race, a duathlon, a marathon, a half marathon, and Mt. Fuji Hill Climb. It had been hard, but after several years of coming second, I had finally ranked first in my age group.
The best part of the day was sharing the podium with Ernesto who made it a TiT one-two in our age group. Misu-san also had a very good race coming in 5 minutes ahead of me to take the 50-54 age group. This took him up to 57 points for the season, neck and neck with Hirata-san. We later discovered that he also got first place in the rankings due to finishing more races. Rotterdam here we come!