Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Amakusa, Japan Continental Cup #2

Another day at the office done and one more to go before heading home. Much like the World Cup in Ishigaki, Amakusa is a smaller town in the South of Japan that is quiet and very clean and not a bad place to train.

Travel over from Vancouver was delayed by 4hrs as a result of a plane and crew change because for led lights weren't working on the cabin lighting. That meant we missed our connection in Seoul and had to overnight there instead of in Fukuoka, Japan. It all worked out as we arrived the same time as originally planned.

We had a couple of days to recover after the long flights and having raced three days prior it was nice to have a couple of flush days. I felt good after these flush days and my tune up workouts felt sharp and strong.

The field was similar to Ixtapa with a few stronger foreigners and the majority of the field from the local country. The Japanese tend to be a little weaker on the bike so the plan of getting a smaller group away on the bike was more likely to happen here then in Ixtapa. Though it was a flat course there was one hill at the very beginning out of transition to help separate those that wanted to be in a front group.

Race morning it was poring rain but still 23C however the water temp was just 20C so borderline for wetsuit.  During the race briefing and all morning we tried to get a definitive “yes” it is a wetsuit, or “no” the temperature is too warm.  We got both answers from different people and as the race got closer we found out that some of the Japanese had not brought there wetsuits so the temperature ended up being 20.2C and the Japanese "opted" for non wetsuit, so a chilly start.  As I usually do when the water is borderline, I warm up in my wetsuit and keep it on to stay warm while we wait in line for almost 10min in the poring rain for the race start.


Kyle and I opted to start on the inside in the hopes we would be at the inside of he first turn and not have to swim wide around the 180 degree turn.  As it turned out, everyone wanted to be there too, so after the initial run in we were smashed against the rope and being piled on.  Kyle managed to squeak out in front while I had my leg and shoulder simultaneous pulled and I went under.  After coming to the surface I started to weave my way through the mess but just kept slamming into slower guys.  I then decided it would be faster to literally crawl over guys to the outside and swim my way back to the front.  So off I went moving sideways while everyone else went towards the turn.  I eventually got out of the hoard and 50m from the turn I was right back where I started beside Kyle, I had an underwater smile and chuckle at this point.  I cruised in behind the front five to finish the first lap and then headed onto lap two.  Half way out waves started coming in and the lead Japanese swimmers obviously aren’t use to them as they drastically slowed so I felt strong and easily moved around and took the lead for the last 500m of the swim.  Unfortunately no primes.


Transition was easy and quick as I had a 5sec gap and had time to let Kyle and Gavin cross in front of me before I headed out onto the bike.  Up the first hill I looked back and there was only seven of us and then a large gap.  The pack consisted of to two Canadians, two Irish, two Japanese and a Korean.  We quickly got rolling and swapping of pulls and worked efficiently and strongly.  We stayed together the whole 40km with the pace slacking slightly over the final 10km.  Still poring rain I was wet but perfectly warm and the impeccably clean Japanese roads meant our facing and suits weren’t full of road grit which is a nice change.


The transition was again quick and painless with a small group on I was third out behind the two Irishmen.  I knew the younger would be well back through the run and I thought I could pull the other one in throughout the middle k’s if not earlier.  Kyle quickly bridged up after a shoe stuck in a plastic back slowed his transition and we ran through the first couple of km’s together.  The course was very challenging with several long and steep hills and also a very steep pounding downhill.  Despite feeling solid going out, around the 2-3km mark Kyle pressed forward and got a small gap and the Irishmen Gavin stayed ahead.  I tried several times to close these gaps on the downhill’s, flats and corners but to no avail.  I ran solidly through to the final 2km at which point the gaps had grown a bit more and it was clear I wasn’t going to catch.  I don’t normally take it easy in a race as I always try and push my fitness, however, with a third race in a row only six days out (Saturday race) I opted to run strong controlled to the finish and give out some high fives along the finish.  I came down the shoot in third again but having still got the job done as needed, more points, no signs of injury flaring and feeling strong and ready for the next weekend.


All in all, it was another solid race after such a long break and a well executed one.  After an 18month break it is important to not lose the attention to detail and the small moments that require specific focus.  I feel I haven’t missed anything yet after this break and I am getting fitter as I go.  It will be a long season so I am very satisfied with these solid races as I will be able to build off of them and keep my best performance for the World Championship Series events and Olympic qualifying races.

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