After my DNS @ IM Nice in June, this was a race I wanted to do well at, an A race so to speak. Obviously the training hadn’t been regular these last 4 months with barely any swimming and running due to broken bones and other injuries, but I did manage to get on the start line with only a couple of cracked ribs to worry about, as well as a customary dodgy -but improving- Achilles. First victory.
I arrived in Japan 10 days before the race in order to acclimatise nicely. Couple days in Tokyo first, enough to catch up with my friends Nao and Mika, and also for a DJ gig at Grassroots, one of my favorite venues in Koenji. Nice to see some familiar faces there as well as a bunch of new followers. I had a ball and didn’t get to bed before 8am. Lots of rum and ginger and cigarettes too. Perfect IM prep!
A few hours later and I was on a plane to Sapporo, Hokkaido to meet my folks for a couple of nights there. Now I have to admit that one of the appeals of this ironman race was the fact that it gave me a good excuse to go to Sapporo, home town of the legendary Precious Hall club. One of the only clubs where David Mancuso would come back to play time and time again, with a state of the art sound system (Klipschorns and Mark Levinsons galore) and attention to details only to be found in Japan. We went there for long time resident Keiji’s Melting Pot Sunday party. Satoru the owner (whom i met through Nao at the Loft in NYC some 10 years previously) gave me a private tour, and I danced all night with my folks to the sounds of classics that sounded like heaven. Absolutely priceless moments, enough to make the trip to Japan worthwhile. Got nicely drunk on sake too, IM prep continuing!
Next stop was Niseko, a popular ski resort a couple of hours’ drive from Sapporo, and an hour from Toya lake where the IM takes place. Local triathlete (and top age grouper) Jesse Ripper lives there which was really helpful. After a couple swims and runs in Tokyo and Sapporo I was finally able to mount my bike and pedal a bit, some 10 days after my last ride. I drove/rode most of the course – she’s a tough one, a lot more than what I expected. A fast split it won’t be…Also Jess took me for a fantastic swim in a secret lake out in the woods, straight out of a Kurosawa movie – samurais and dinosaurs could have turned up at any time without surprising anyone 😉
D-2 and I moved to the race HQ, where we (the ‘pros’) were treated to a luxury 3 night stay on the 8th floor of this hotel overlooking Toya lake with Mt Yotei in the background. Majestic!
Race day came and we were lucky to see no rain, whereas the last couple days had seen some downpours of biblical proportions. Swimming in lake Toya was one of the best swims I’ve ever done, with water so clear you can see the bottom (70m deep), so pure you can drink it, and surrounded by stunning scenery. With only 15 or so pros at the start the swim was uneventful. Wiltshire came out ahead with a Japanese athlete, and I touched ground 5min later with Jose Jeuland and Michael Ruenz after dragging them along most of the way (thanks to my Speedo Elite wetsuit once again).
Out on the bike and I quickly found myself in a group of 5, including the above mentioned as well as Brian Fuller. My ‘plan’ was to not overcook it on the bike like I did in every other IM, and I stuck to it…until about the 2nd hill at K50. Ironmen don’t like going uphill, they like keeping steady, and as I found myself pulling away in every climb without pushing I thought I might as well try to put the others out of their comfort zone. I got away a few times, usually followed by Ruenz, but Fuller and Jeuland managed to get back. Ruenz and I did most of the work during the course, with Jeuland blowing up at k140. 2 men on a mission flew by us, Shinozaki Yu of Japan, and especially Timothy Beardall of Australia who came out of the water 10min later than us but would arrive in T2 ahead of everyone. I did try to catch his wheel but he was too fast, and instead I cruised to T2 with Ruenz and Fuller, already thinking of the marathon.
A (customary) slow transition saw me start the run in 6th. Ruenz didn’t wait for anyone and looked strong so again I tried to run smart. I quickly passed Fuller, then Zu then Beardall and found myself in 3rd by k15. I could see that I was gaining time on Wiltshire and thought I might catch him, but cramps started to appear around k30, I was out of salt tablets and had to seriously shorten my stride. That last hour wasn’t exactly pleasant but overall this was by far the easiest IM race I’ve done. Obviously while this is far from an easy course (the organisers claim it’s the 3rd hardest on the circuit after Hawaii and Lanzarote), this never felt as hard as Nice, Lanzarote or Embrun, and I kept reminding myself as soon as I felt a bad patch coming how much worse I was in Lanza (where I didn’t even run) and Embrun. This helped quite a bit actually!
So I was elated to finish 3rd in a relatively fresh state, almost 15min behind Ruenz but only a minute behind Wiltshire. Harry told me afterwards that he needed to be 2nd to qualify to Kona, so I am kind of glad I didn’t catch him.
Worth mentioning also is that I pretty much nailed the nutrition; I never felt out of juice nor had any stomach issue. I only stopped once at the beginning of the run for a pee but that was it. Water, cola and 1/4 banana at every aid station did the trick nicely!
I went straight into the fabulous hotel onsen afterwards, I can’t think of any better way to relax and recover. Some people go for the ice bath, go figure…
The next day I decided to ride back to Sapporo (100k or so) for a recovery spin. I hadn’t planned the 30min climb to the Nakayama pass, but overall I didn’t feel too bad. Tuesday and Wednesday though would be really tough as I could barely walk. Nothing abnormal, usual ironman shuffle!
On Tuesday eve we went to Jazz Jamaica, a jazz kissaten with the most incredible sound system and thousands of records. A music library concept which inspired the opening of our very own Brilliant Corners. Magnificient!
Wednesday my folks went back home as I flew to Tokyo, traded my bike for my records, and flew again to Fukuoka the next day, where I was invited by my friend Masuo of Lighthouse records to play at his night @ Keith Flack. Totally incredible city, people, vibes, food, and a memorable party…I had a ball, spent my wages on records, and I will be back for sure!
Back to Tokyo for one last gig, the 4th chapter of Beauty & the Beat Tokyo. Was quite pleased to meet a few peeps who went to the party in London! Needless to say this was another epic night, lots of love from everyone and always some moments of magic!
PPS: for those who like data, I did pretty much the entire race without any, no power meter and a watch I only looked at occasionally during the run. Old school!
PPPS: big up to my parents for the awesome support, those 10 days in Hokkaido would have been oh so lonely without you!