Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kurahashi Aquathon

Kurahashi Aquathon
2.4km Swim 21km Run
Sunday July 20th 2014

Cripes, trying to write this on the plane ride back from Korea and have a million thoughts going on in my head. Trying to process leaving Kurahashi and saying goodbye to many people who I’ve become so close to in the last year, trying to control my excitement of seeing family and friends back home, and trying to digest the last 3 days I’ve spent in Korea after some plane ticket confusion. Regardless, found some free-time on the plane ride back to the states and thought it was a good time to start catching up on the blogs.

After spraining my ankle and not letting it recover properly, found myself not able to run much after June 1st leading up to the Aquathon. I really regret not giving my ankle time to recover because now my ankle is still swollen and unstable.

Tried to swim a couple times and Kazuki’s friend Hiroki from Kashima borrowed his large size wetsuit that he let me borrow for the race (wetsuits required).

Was able to get out and swim in the sea a few times with the wetsuit and wasn’t looking forward to the 2.4km swim. It was always a bit scary in swimming in the sea because of the jellyfish and whatever other monsters are in the sea.

Kazuki and I also ran a section of the run course about a week out from the race.

The Saturday before the Sunday race, there was the Kurahashi Fireworks Festival in which many people come out to the rural island of Kurahashi to watch a popular fireworks display. This year the fireworks were being let of on Matsumura’s Miyahide ship and the graciously invited me to spend the day with them during the firework preparation time and we hung out and BBQ’d on a hot day along the ocean. 
 It was starting to sink in that I was leaving Japan within the next 2 weeks. I was sad and trying to savor each moment. Tacchan was playing a song in the truck and we quickly began to enjoy listening to it together. 
The name was “Kampai” by Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi and whenever I listen to that song, I will be reminded of these last moments in Japan.

Kazuki and I were excited for the race and I was excited for this to be Kazuki’s longest endurance event to date. Prior, he had done the B-Type course which is half the distance of the A-Type. 

After the firework preparation was done, we shipped over to Katsuragama
and took a small boat to Katsuragama.
We watched the fireworks down at Katsuragahama beach and mid-fireworks it starting pouring rain. Haha kind of fun.
The night of the fireworks, Danny, Daichi, Naoki and Mel stayed at my apartment and we hung out until pretty late enjoying Naoki playing the guitar and it was fun to have so many people over at the apartment.
Daichi and I woke up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. We ran into Kazuki after not long and sat down and lounged around for a bit. Also met Rudyard for the first time which was cool after following him on Strava for a bit.
 Got out race bins ready for the swim/run transition and with the race quickly approaching, we put on our wetsuits and heading down to the start area. 

I remember it felt like without much notice the race quickly started and we slowly jogged into the water. It was a pretty relaxed start and I tried to find an open area along the boeys on the right hand side of me. The swim consisted of a two loop course and it took a while to get out to the first turnaround. Have never felt strong and swimming and was trying to conserve energy for the run. Even though I wasn’t pushing that hard in the swim, I could feel my calves started to cramp a little bit on the way back towards shore after the first turnaround. I remember Rudyard passing me at this point and tried to keep up with him but he was cruising. After losing sight of him, just tried to keep relaxed with the buoys and rope on the ride side of me. Was wearing and ankle brace to keep the ankle from wiggling around too much but wasn’t kicking that much. Kept looking up to see how close I was to the shore and then slowly the water started transitioning from the dark deep water color to a lighter green meaning that we were getting closer to shore. Got out and jogged around the turn around point and headed back into the water. Cripes swimming is hard.

Slowly made my way back out to the turnaround for the second time and this time my arms and chest were starting to get tired. I remember wishing I would have had a sleeveless wetsuit because the wetsuit I was using limited the shoulder flexibility and made it tough to swim comfortably.

After making it to the turnaround for the second time, was happy that all I had to do was make it back to shore. More people were passing me at this point and didn’t even try to keep up with them because was started to get tired even trying to keep my slowing pace slowing from anymore. Definitely did not do enough swim training and was looking forward to getting out and running. Calves and hammys were now occasionally twitch cramping and wanted to get out of the water! Kept trying to remind myself to enjoy every second because this race would be over before I knew it. This thought helped me relax several times throughout the swim. 
Finally made it to the beach again and stripped off wetsuit and went over to the transition area. Chest was feeling typically big after swimming and was very excited for the running portion. Even though I hadn’t ran much in the last couple months, I was fairly positive I could keep a 6:50 pace or so on the difficult hilly course.

Didn’t rush too much trying to transition into running clothes and saw Yasuyo and Mayumi I believe right in front of me. Not long after arriving at the transition area I saw Kazuki coming in too and was excited to see him. Dried off a bit, ate a gel, threw on socks and shoes, GPS watch and headed out of the transition area wearing just a pair of spandex.


It felt so good to be out of the water, have the wetsuit off, and be on my feet. Started out pretty quick and I believe I saw 6:20s on my watch after a few minutes of running. Knew this probably wasn’t possible to maintain so slowed down a little. Was passing people and they were moving pretty slowly. Not trying to sound like a jacka$$ but I wonder how people run so slow and was grateful to be able to cruise on by.

Even only wearing spandex it was getting very warm with the sun beating down on the open roads and us. Drenched myself with water at the first aid-station and kept going along. Was continuing passing quite a bit of runners and slowly made way up the tough hills. Saw Rudyard after not too long and he was going at a decent pace. It was funny because him and me were the only foreigners in the race and we were both the only two guys running shirtless.

It was kind of crazy running through the small fishing town/villages and hearing so many people scream my name. I felt bad I didn’t know who half the people were. Started to see the leaders coming by on the righthand side of the road as they were making their way back from the first turnaround point. The course was a bit goofy as we ran out to the A-Type turnaround, ran back to the C-Type, turned back and ran out to the A-Type turnaround and then back to Katsuragama beach where we started out.

Made the way up and down the hills of the course out to the A-Type turnaround and now was seeing runners behind me making their was out to the first turnaround. Once arriving at the C-Type turnaround spot, someone gave me a blueshirt and told me I needed to wear it, as someone else handed me a bracelet. Thought that this was a penalty bracelet and was a bit surprised that I needed to wear a shirt in the burning weather but continued to run happy and tried to keep a decent pace. Saw Rudyard making his way to the C-Type turnaround and told him he would probably be needing to put a shirt on soon. Soon enough, saw him running in the same blue shirt I was given.

My pace was starting to fade and legs were starting to cramp. Was taking GUs about every 30 minutes but felt low on energy after the swim and running on untrained legs.  Because of the back and forth layout of the course, we were able to see other runners several times. It was cool to see Rudyard, Kazuki, and Daichi running.

After making it to the A-Type turnaround for the second time, it was nice to be on the final way back to the finish. Was still passing people every now and then and caught up to some people that were wayyyy ahead of me from the start.

With 3 or so miles left the hammys were starting to cramp along with the calves. Haven’t felt this in a while and credit it to the swim and not being trained to run a fast half marathon. Had to stop several times to stretch out the cramps. Pushed as hard as I could to the finish within limit of my muscles about to cramp. Wanted to go faster faster but if I took longer faster strides, the legs would have cramped up.

Crossed the finish line
 and saw Tacchan, Yuko and others. Was greeted by Morimoto Sensei and snapped a pic together.
Was a little disappointed I wasn’t able to have a better performance for him but what can you do.
did I start too fast...?
The Strava data says there was 2,461ft of elevation gain however I don't really believe that. Apart from the first couple miles, the course was by no means flat though. 

It was so fun to run a race on the island that I have lived on the past year, and it was special to see many people who’ve I’ve met in the last year.

After ate some udon and Tacchan and I watched Daichi and Kazuki finish.
 It was nice and sunny out and was enjoying the moment.

Went to the Kurahashi Onsen with Danny, Naoki and Yuko’s family member Masahiro who is an elementary student at Washo ES. Kind of fun to look after him.

Hung around Matahari for a bit after and had some beers before getting ready to go into Hiro with Kazuki, Tacchan and their volleyball teammates. Went to an Izakaya type of place and drank too much as always. After when Tacchan was singing at karaoke, ended up tearing up thinking about how limited the time was. Should write a separate blog on leaving Japan to try and capture all the moments, but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on it.

Now I’m back at the local Caribou in Crystal, Minnesota and it’s hard to process what has happened in the last couple days, the last week, and even the whole the last year.

Haven't been running much because of the ankle but the swelling is starting to come down.

Hopefully I can do this race again in good ol' Kurahashi. Morimoto Sensei was talking about perhaps making a long course Aquathon next year with a 4.8km swim and full marathon. That would be pretty dope.

Need to get to work on the Fuji Ascent race blog.

Am maybe running around Mt Rainer in a week.

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