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Ironman Japan 2008


Speeding Up
Feb 15, 2007
In 1978, a group of US Navy Seals based in Hawaii started an argument about who was the fittest athlete. They agreed the best way to decide would be to combine the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the Around Oahu Bike Race and the Honolulu Marathon into a single endurance event . . . whoever finished (first) would be the iron man.

Thirty years later, there are 22 Ironman races held around the world throughout the year. At 21 of these races, the leading athletes from each age group will qualify for the Ironman World Championships held in Hawaii. Each race attracts between 1,000-2,000 participants. See here for details.

On June 22nd I participated in Ironman Japan held in Goto-Fukue, a city on the Goto Archipelago of islands just west of Fukuoka and Nagasaki. It's an attractive location . . .


In order to qualify for the world championships in Hawaii I would need to finish in the top 5 of my age group (40-45 years old). That would require me to finish in under 9 hours 30 minutes which was not going to happen because I don't have the talent. My goal was to finish in a respectable 10 hours.

A kind person would describe my goal as aggressive or optimistic given my previous race result. I completed my first Ironman in Japan last year in 11 hours 54 minutes. I came into triathlon from running and my ability to run is above average for my age. However, both my swim and bike are relatively weak but improving. Will they have improved enough to go under 10 hours?

The race begins at Tomie Bay at 7:00am with 1,000 wet-suit clad racers completing a 3.8km open water swim. I felt good during the swim and came out the water in 252nd position having completed the swim in 1 hour 10 minutes - 12 minutes faster than last year. You leave the beach for transition, grab your change bag, peel-off your wetsuit (you wear your race suit underneath), put on your bike gear (helmet, sunglasses, shoes, gloves), put your swim gear in the change bag, ditch the bag and head for the bike racks.


The bike course circumnavigates the island twice covering 180km. The scenery is amazing; not that you get much time to enjoy it. By Ironman standards the bike course is difficult. It has 2,000 meters of climbing and there are some great switch back climbs and technical descents. I failed to eat properly (lesson learned) and struggled at the 120km point until the Powergel kicked in after 150km. The bike took me 5 hours 43 minutes (includes swim & bike transitions) - 38 minutes faster than last year and the 146th fastest bike time of the day. The bike ends in a steep climb and then a series of officials telling you to slow down, and finally a stop point before which you must dismount. Someone grabs your bike, another thrusts your running kit bag into your hand and another pushes you in the direction of the transition tent. Your legs turn to jelly.

With your running shoes on you start out on the run course which is two laps around one of the many volcanoes on the island for 42km. Like the bike course, there is a lot of up and a lot of down and not much in between. After 10km the jelly legs are replaced by just very tired legs. I picked a shirt on the horizon and set about catching it. Then another, and another, and another . . . I started the run in 150th overall position and ended it in 94th overall position. My marathon time of 3 hours 26 minutes was 44 minutes faster than last year and I ran the 49th fastest marathon of the day.


I crossed the finish line in 10 hours 19 minutes. I missed my goal but was very happy with the result. I also learnt some valuable lessons and now feel confident I can return here next year and qualify for the Ironman Championships in Hawaii :D
10 hours 19 minutes is about 10 days 19 hours faster than it would take me...
Hats off to you.
I can ride and swim but run like a 3 legged elephant with my bad knee...
I'd like to do an easy triathlon one day soon... never in this life time will I be able to do what you just did.

Good luck next year.
Im J

Great report Philip. Made me sorry that I decided not to race there this year. I only hope that I can get close to your time one day. Lucky for me that I am in the next AG up. :p


Great result, Philip. You knocked off a huge chunk of time compared to your first Ironman--in just one year. Especially considering all the hills in this course, that is a fantastic achievement. I stand in awe of anyone who manages to complete one of these things, let alone compete at such a fast time. (Like Pete, running is not in my makeup, although I'm more like a knock-kneed giraffe with an arthritic hip...)

One thing I was wondering: does the swim ever make a significant difference to competitors' times, or is it something that everyone endures but finishes within a few minutes of each other? I always hear about "strong on the bike" or "strong on the run" triathletes, but not many swimmer specialists.

Many thanks for posting the report and sharing the pics. "Only" 19 minutes and change away from your goal... do-able for next time, perhaps?
Pick an adjective!

Aaahhh... "daft", "foolish", "masochistic" of even just plain "stupid" might work.
However, I think we'll go with "awesome"!
That is a seriously great effort, Philip!
I still remember the first TCC ride you came on (down to Yokohama for that Miura-Hanto ride). You told everyone at the time that you were doing triathlons, but that cycling was your "weakest" of the three disciplines - your reason for joining TCC. That doesn't seem to be the case now!
If you talk to Thomas a bit more, he may be able to start up a "TSC" - "Tokyo Swimming Club" site, and then a "TRC" - "Tokyo Running Club" site (for those of us who are always late for the bus:eek:uch:) and then combine them into a ...."TTC"!

I think there are only you, Jeff and Paul who do these triathlons, but it may be a very viable option in the future to get more of us cyclists into sneakers & Speedos.

Finally though, "well done"! Pretty sure there's a lot of us with huge amounts of respect for what you've accomplished.
Congrats! T
That rocks, philip!

Way beyond what I would ever consider!


Thank you . . .

Thank you everyone for your kind words of encouragement. Just to put things into perspective the winner (an Australian) finished in 8 hours 27 minutes - nearly two hours ahead of me :eek:

Phil - The swim accounts for a smaller proportion of time during the race meaning differences in speed are not amplified as much as during the bike and run. Also (I believe) the performance bell curve between swimmers is narrower than the bike, which is in turn narrower than the run. However, the swim can set the tone of the race. For example, the pro's want to exit the water in the first group so they compete with the leading groups on the bike. Even though it is non-drafting it is beneficial to pace against others. Another reason the swim is important is a good swimmer can exit the water in reasonably fresh condition. Last year I could hardly stand-up after the swim having over-worked and under-performed. This year I came out feeling like I had just done a couple of warm-up laps in the pool so I could concentrate on getting into pace on the bike.


Huge congratulations

in order !!:cool:

I used to swim a bit many years ago....but this is different league. As for the running, well I used to do that too.....but as for all three, one after the other, ....nah..absolutely bonkers mate :D

Seriously good performance Philip and huge improvements in all disciplines. If you continue at this rate you are going to be a winner of something soon. You have done us all proud !

Very, very impressive, Philip. Congratulations on your great success!
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