Japan 70.3 would have to be one of the most interesting races in the world at the moment.
It was always going to be hard for anyone outside Japan with the course only being available 2 weeks before the race. Especially with an information booklet that said if you swim or ride on the course leading up we will pop you and cancel the race!
For anyone who knows a little about Japan, you’ll know that they are efficient. You can count on quality but they speak little or next to no English. The only thing they love better then lining up is a rule. But you have to travel and race overseas with an open mind, so it was always going to be fun.
Situated in the south of Japan just outside of Nagoya the race was tricky logistically. We went via Tokyo with a group of 8, 4 bikes, luggage and 13 million frantic workaholics on deadlines to navigate around.
The race started in ideal flat water conditions, the 1.9km swim looping up under a large bridge in the corner of a quiet bay now packed with spectators. Like most Ironman swims we then had a decent run to T1 where we headed out on the bike for what I could say was the strangest course I’ve seen in 20 years.
The ride began with a 4 lap loop through an industrial area with 4 u-turns, 6 x 90 degree turns each lap and sections that made passing almost if not impossible. With a light shower during the swim cornering was testing, and as always created a few casualties with the ride completely stopped at one point to drag someone off the road.
Once off the loop the bike course was a mix of footpaths, back alley lanes, corner after corner mixed in with a few hills looping between rice fields. As annoying as it was not being able to get into a rhythm the great thing was that because of the concentration needed to stay alive and upright it felt like it actually went reasonably quick.
With T2 being at a high school 20kms from the finish we encountered a run that the best orienteer would have found challenging. Trails, hills, U turns, bridges, seawalls and stairs were a constant surprise around every corner.
In total there were over 7,500 witches hats and I’d say almost half that number in volunteers on every driveway, street and corner. From what I saw every single one clapped for each athlete that came past – making it not only more interesting but helped knowing how far the person behind was or if someone was coming.
There were good results by the end of the day with Leigh Fry finishing 3rd in the 30-34 just over a minute off the win, Darren Adams placing 1st in his wave 4th in the 45-49 with one of the biggest age groups with 280 starters. Jason Culton placed 10th in the same age group in his 1st half Ironman as well which was an amazing effort. I placed 1st in 35-39 and 8th overall.
With the World Champs 10 weeks away there was no rest for the wicked, with Leigh, Darren and Jason all gaining a slot for the championships to be held this year on the Sunshine Coast. I made a call not to take the spot as I will be too busy with a team of 9 Swift Multisport athletes now qualified for the World 70.3 Champs needing me to crack the whip, and a few more athletes also qualified for the full Ironman championships at Kona a month later needing much of my time.
It was great to have a few Swift support crew with us. They also did a good job navigating the course. A few things we all learned from this trip is that you have to be adjustable and ready to think on your feet and when the answer is no no no just make it yes yes yes!