I haven’t raced back to back weekends in over 10 months so I was slightly nervous when I was still feeling lethargic four days after Gamagori. Fortunately I started feeling like myself again two days out which was a big relief.
Race morning was 100% chance of rain and 94% humidity to make things interesting on the 5x4km technical bike course.
The 28 degree water temperature meant a non wetsuit swim and almost a relief with that kind of humidity. I ensured I was right on time at the designated swim warm up time frame so I could go through my thoroughly rehearsed swim warm up with no rush knowing it takes 17 minutes and the designated swim warm up was 20 minutes.
During the first half of my warm up, I wasn’t feeling amazing yet I wasn’t feeling terrible so I had a feeling this swim leg could go either way.
I finished off my warm up with a few sprints and starts and it wasn’t until then when I realised I had really good feel of the water.
The whistle sounded and everyone made their way to the swim exit to line up for athlete calling. Before I knew it I was being called and I chose to start towards the right side of the field, away from the stronger swimmers. All 65 athletes tightly squeezed together we sculled water until we heard “on your marks” followed the sound of the horn.
Head down and it was an all out sprint for the first couple hundred meters. When I took my first breath to the right, to my surprise, I could only see a fellow countryman who I already had a body length on. I took a breath to the left and saw a line of swimmers forming on the far left side of the field. We all collided and formed on big group as we approached the first turning buoy.
Fortunately I got around it safely without anyone grabbing a hold of me as we carried onto the close by second and third turning buoys before making our way back to the swim exit.
Exiting the water I noticed a small gap had formed in front of me after an athlete had dropped the feet of the swimmer in front of him. The renowned blue carpet lived up to its reputation of becoming a slippery slide in the pouring rain after seeing multiple athletes slip over in front of me while running around corners into transition.
I ran into transition and noticed a couple of athletes making their way towards to the mount line as I looked up while buckling up my Kask Protone which had become a bucket of water from the rain. I mounted the bike and immediately saw two fellow countrymen just ahead and knew I had to close that gap as quickly as possible and hope they can hold on through the first technical section of the bike. Unfortunately for them they did not. However when I glanced behind me I saw another countrymen, Kye Wylde, who is also a strong cyclist making his way through the field.
Two Japanese athletes, a Kiwi, a fellow Australian and myself made up the second bike pack as we picked up dropped riders and slowly closed the gap on the lead pack. One of the Japanese athletes and the Kiwi attacked which saw a gap open instantly which also caused panic between the other Australian and myself. Kye and I put the hammer down through the 2km technical section testing the grip on our tyres as we made our way through boom gates, avoiding the white lines in car parks and brushing past the barriers to cut the corners as tightly as possible to cover the least amount of distance as the heavens continued to come down. After some very big turns we had regained contact with the second pack breakaway athletes and also halved the time gap to the front group.
In all honesty at this point I was completely spent and if another attack occurred I would have been out the back of the group. We approached the first U turn on the third lap with a lot of speed and as I braked, there was not a chance in hell I was going to slow down enough in time for the U turn. No matter how hard I pulled, my brake pads would not grip onto the braking surface. Nearly taking out a Japanese athlete and a few spectators, I slammed into the barrier. I jumped back on my bike and tried to make my way back onto the group however with 9.5/10 matches already burnt, there was no chance in me regaining contact.
I put my head and Perry dogged over the front of my bars and time trialled the next 6km before being swallowed up by the very large third group as we hit the last kilometre before transition. I used this next 75 seconds to recover as much as I could and maintain good position in the pack going into transition. I was the third athlete to dismount in the group and I knew I was in for a very painful 5km run.
I felt mortified during the first kilometre and hoped I could shake it off and feel myself again by the mid way point. Unfortunately, this was not the case as the hard ride took its toll and the legs were fried. At this point I had been past by a lot of athletes from the third group and no matter how hard I tried I could not jump on the back of them as they ran past.
A handful of athletes came past me in the closing kilometre and did my best to stay with them as they started to surge toward the finish line. One athlete dropped a huge bomb and ran away from everyone in that group. About 300m to go another athlete surged and I managed to hold on as everyone else was dropped and settled for their positions. I didn’t fly 13 hours to ‘settle’ for a position so I did everything I could to take the Japanese athlete on to the line.
In the process we passed the athlete who dropped a bomb 500m out who had given it a little too much, a little too early.
I crossed the line just ahead of the Japanese athlete and finished in 34th.
Quite clearly not the placing I was aiming for, however I did get a lot of the processes right and things are looking bright for my next few races around Europe.
Thank you to everyone who has supported and helped me get to and through these two races when I was not in the most ideal physical shape due to a couple of set backs. This concludes my shortened Japan tour as I head over to Girona, Spain to join the rest of the Elotik Pro Triathlon squad athletes and enjoy summer once again.