On September 29th, I competed in Murakami International Triathlon in Niigata Prefecture and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. This race report is a loose, chronological account of my race day weekend.
On Friday evening, I packed my gear into an old 30L backpack. Paranoid that I’d forget a vital piece of equipment, I’d obsessed over a packing list for weeks.
As a result, the packing only took half an hour. I was jumping out of my skin, so I decided to put in an hour of mental training. This consists of lying in bed and watching YouTube videos of race day footage and coaching. I excel at this type of training…
After a good eight hours of sleep, it was time to go!
There’s a spot in front of my train station where cyclists put their bikes together. I’ve lived here for a few years but only noticed this particular spot after getting my own road bike. It’s just a bit of sidewalk; curved so that you can lay out the bike without getting in the way of pedestrians, and close enough to the station so you’re not wasting energy.
I met my new friend Ying on the bullet train. The two hour ride to Niigata passed by very quickly, as we swapped notes about our training. We were excited.
At Niigata, we joined a wave of people carrying big bike bags and got on a local train to Murakami Station. I chatted with an older lady with an Ironman backpack. She said this was her last race of the season and that she didn’t usually do “the shorter races”. Haha! She must have been in her 60s. Respect!
Upon arrival, we popped the tires back onto our bikes and biked a few kilos down to the local community center. The air was clean and crisp.
There were a few stalls outside selling gear and apparel, and inside were registration desks per age group. The atmosphere was a mix of local matsuri and swim meets that I’d participated in when I was in grade school. The men’s 45-49 group had the longest line!
We received a race bag with a bib, t-shirt, cap, and some pamphlets. I was lucky number 123. There was also an extra plastic drawstring bag inside, which came in handy the next day.
There was to be no race day registration. We were asked to keep the ID bracelet on, and show it the next day to receive the anklet with the electronic chip.
Next, we found the race mechanic to get a quick check-up before heading to the mandatory athlete briefing. The head judge gave a Powerpoint presentation of what to expect the next day. I kept looking around. The auditorium was packed to the brim with lean, tan people.
Accommodations in Murakami City sell out fast but I’d lucked out with a triathlon-only deal at a hotel only a few minutes from the starting line. They put up some dividers in the tatami-floor banquet hall and rolled out futons. A brilliant idea!
I had been expecting to see lots of futons side-by-side, mountain hut style, but it turned out that there were no other female guests, so we had the whole “room” to ourselves.
There were many other triathletes staying at the same hotel.
And the hotel had a meeting room for the bikes. I spied on checked out everyone’s setups while Ying bustled around – what kind of gels people had taped to their handlebars, what kind of bike bags they were using, bottle cage combinations, etc.
After unpacking our bags, we biked to the beach where the sun was starting to set. The beach was absolutely gorgeous. The water was clear and warm.
All of the time spent training on the busy streets of Tokyo, the public pool, the basement gym, along the Arakawa… it was all to race in the beautiful nature. This simple fact caught up to us in that moment, against the backdrop of the gentle waves.
Continued in Part 2, the actual race.