火曜日, 1月 15th, 2013...7:56 AM

Ishigaki Triathlon tournament

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Ishigaki Triathlon tournament
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Athletes from all over the world gathering at Ishigaki Triathlon tournament

The Ishigaki Triathlon tournament is held every spring. About 1500 domestic and foreign participants swim in the beautiful ocean, bike through the nature, and run through the cities.
In the division of serious athletes, it is one of the ITU Triathlon World Cup hosted by the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and has taken place for more than 17 times, which makes this event the oldest triathlon tournament. When the president came to visit Ishigaki tournament, he was overwhelmed by the atmosphere and decided to hold a world cup here.

Our visit to Ishigaki was mainly to participate in this triathlon. Entry began in December of last year, but it closed after only 2 weeks. Fortunately, I was able to enter the contest.

Ishigaki tournament consists of Olympic distance in each category: 1.5 km in swimming, 40km in biking, and 10km in running. The age (General) and elite (Athletes) division have different courses except for the swim. The age course is only a lap, but elite course is several laps around the center of the city.


I had to be there a day before the event since the general tournament meeting is held at that time. We were here from 3 days ago, but we saw more and more people biking and running as time progressed, saw multitude of flags and nobori to support the participants, and definitely felt the rising tension of the atmosphere overall.

• Panicking before the race
At the general meeting, I was warned to be fully prepared because some people in the past have been sent to a hospital due to their unpreparedness. Although little nervous, I prepared for the contest and slept earlier than usual.

When I woke up in the morning, it was cloudy and the weather was not as good as I expected. It was not raining, but the weather report said it could later at a very high chance. After eating a healthy breakfast, I headed to the stating point, Tonoshirogyokou harbor.

At a transition area, people were setting their bikes and preparing for the event. When my preparation was finished, I wore a wet suit and was given race number 995 written on my suit.

Right when I was about to start warming up, I suddenly discovered a huge mistake. I realized that I have worn my wet suit the other way around. At this point, there was only 10 minutes left on the warming up time. I quickly tried to take off my wet suit, but it took time and I began to panic. I thought about giving up the warm up swim, but there is a possibility of suffering a heart attack so I calmed myself down and successfully wore back my suit properly. I made it to the warm up time and I lightly swam for about 2 minutes and came back up.

After the opening ceremony, each wave started the events starting at 8 o’clock.
While many athletes began, I was nervous and anxiously waited for wave to start at 8 22, 9th wave.

Pwaaaan. The bell ringed.

I ran toward the ocean. As my legs started not to touch the ground, I dived into the water and started swimming. In the beginning, people are concentrated in one area so there were many contacts. I swam very hard to the goal in the midst of being kicked everywhere.

I had to do 2 laps around the 750m courses from the harbor. I was able to see the surface of the sea even when it was really deep. I was assured that the ocean of Ishigaki is indeed crystal clear. When I first participated in triathlon in Kawaski next to Tokyo, I remember the ocean was very dirty and muddy.

Unlike swimming in a pool, I swam in a zigzag motion since the current moved pretty rapidly. I was frequently told by the lifesavers that I was not on the course.

Finally, I finished my 2 laps and went ashore. My swimming time was 35 minutes and 21 seconds.

■Wave like biking course
I ran for the transition area. The transitions from swim to bike, bike to run were to be done twice and this was basically the 4th event of the triathlon and it heavily influences the overall time. If done fast, you can save up some time, but if done slowly, you will lose valuable time. The placement of the shoes is important as well.

I took off my wet suit, wore my helmet, got my bike, and dashed out of the transition area.

I put my shoes on the pedals and the 40km bike race has begun.

The bike course consists of a lap around the southern part of Ishigaki Island. I did some check on the place on the day before, but the continuous hills exhausted my energy.

After passing through the city, I biked beside the sea on the left. Up and down course continued until the first half, but it was relatively flat afterward. Biking on the bridge of Nagura Annparu that is registered on the Ramsar convention, I headed back after 12 km into the city taking a big right turn.

Up down course has begun again. Since it is a straight course, I saw the forever continuous up down course in front of me. I saw many people struggling on the hills. I felt some rain drops and the thought of biking through these infinite number of hills made me fall into a depth of despair.

I thought about getting off my bike and walk up the hill, but I finally found a solution. Despite the rainy condition and the muddy road, I was able to go about the hills by speeding up as fast as possible when going downhill and keep that speed as much as possible when going uphill. This is far better than pedaling hard with easier gear.

I saw a blinking stop light after finishing the up down road. This is the point where the downhill road begins.

I thought I would be saved from the uphill devils that haunted me previously, but a long somewhat steep uphill has persisted. I saw fields of wheat on both sides and thought how open would be if it were sunny.

What motivated me the most were the locals who cheered me on to continue this grueling race. There were not many houses around the road, but I heard people cheer me on here and there. I was very thankful.

I was going pretty fast going downhill. I had to be careful of slipping especially in areas where I saw numerous people falling onto the ground.

I made a huge turn to the left after 27km and entered the 360 highway where it marked 2/3 of the race has been completed. From onward, I just had to bike toward the center of Ishigaki. After 31km, there was a steep downhill road that was famous for slipping and I remembered the organizer informing us of this part of the race. Instead of going carefully and slowly which was my initial plan, I passed the hill as fast as I could.

Buildings became apparent and I came inside of the city. I made a left turn at an intersection and saw another transition area.

I got off the bike, changed to my running shoes, and ran. My biking time was 1 hour 30 minutes and 29 seconds.

■Support helped me to the goal
What? my legs don’t move.
My gluteal muscles have stiffen and I could not raise my thighs.

I shortened my strides and somehow moved forward, but the support by the local people gave me power and strength. Running course was one lap around the city. Since it was in a city, tons of people were watching the race and cheering everybody.

The rain stopped. The sunlight cut through the clouds. As the temperature rises, I could not wait for another aid station where runners can replenish themselves with water.

I finally passed the 730 intersection. 1 more km. I saw a goal on my right once and turned back and headed toward Tonoshirogyokou harbor where the goal is located.

At the end, I sprinted and passed the glorious goal line. My overall time was 3 hours 2 minutes and 54 seconds (Running time 57 minutes and 4 seconds). My friends were waiting for me at the goal line and congratulated me with high fives.

I could not break the 3 hours mark, but I finished the whole race.

The reason I started competing in triathlon is the advice I got from my friend from work. In the beginning, I did as half joke, but I learned so much from triathlon. I would like to keep challenging myself and participate in triathlon, never forgetting the people who cheer and support the participants.

I was moved by the people in Ishigaki and I promised I will make another visit.

■Elite Race, a different world
Ishigaki Traiathlon tounament has another division known as the elite division. After the age division ended, the elite division started from afternoon, in order from women to men. This year was once in 4 years, the Olympic year. It was the preliminary meet to decide how many athletes from each country may participate in the London Olympics. There 87 people from 32 different countries.



Elite race consists of number of laps around the center city, so people have a chance to see the same athletes over and over. You get to enjoy seeing the changing attitudes of every athlete as they become tired and in turn more aggressive.



I will not write down the details of the race, but elite race felt like a completely different race from the age race. The racers gave me excitement with so much presence that I felt like I was in the actual race.


Kathy Tremblay from Canada won in the women’s, and David Hass from France won in the men’s meets.


(Winner of the Mens meet – David Hass)


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