The last few months have been filled with some of the most frustrating days in my sporting life.Read More
For me, racing in Murakami, Japan perfectly symbolised what it is like trying to break through in ITU racing. It is not uncommon to scout the list of continental cup races only to pull out a map to check which races are viable options. This weekend there were two- Murakami, Japan and Papeete, Tahiti. Tahiti, one of the most beautiful places in the world or a small town in Northern Japan... why pick Murakami I hear you ask..? As our train rolled into town on a rainy Wednesday evening, I turned to Grace and asked her the same question.
With the goal of getting a start in World Cup races, a good result in a field of 79 against a few of the other top Australian guys is a far better outcome than racing Tahiti in a field of 10. When considering these things, the quality of the beaches takes a back seat.
The challenges of racing in a town where almost no one speaks English became evident on our first night in Murakami. Heading out to dinner without Internet and no way of translating the menu in front of us, we blindly picked our meals, making a game of guessing what was going to end up on our plate. Thankfully, unlike my last trip to Asia, I was able to avoid food poisoning in the lead up to the race and all 5 of the Aussies were ready to rock come race morning.
The Japanese fun continued as they announced us down to the start. With my ranking giving me number 5 on the pontoon, I was announced to the crowd before running down to the beach high-fiving all the age groupers, supporters and officials that lined the fences cheering. Such a small thing, but definitely a highlight of my race.
As I entered the jellyfish infested water, I reeled in my focus and got ready. Or so I thought. I don't think I ever could have prepared myself for the dog fight I was about to encounter in the 2 lap 1500m swim. Thankfully I am a far more confident open water swimmer than I once was and despite being pulled under, having my legs pulled multiple times, swallowing water, and exiting the first lap way back from where I wanted to be, I remained calm and fought back to group ahead of me and was able to position myself well enough into T1.
In typical James fashion, I missed the front pack of 7 and went to work chasing in my group of 8. Despite averaging 318W with a normalised power of 368W over 40km in a group that was working well, we some how managed to lose time to the group up the road. Entering T2 way back from that group meant we were running for the minor positions.
The opening couple of kilometres of the run were met with a certain level of caution. Our group blew apart immediately out of T2 and I was wary of how hard our bike was in the 30C heat. I was cautious but confident. By kilometre 3 I was running in 8/9th with a Japanese guy and had settled in nicely. We passed a straggler from the front group and took turns running on each other's shoulder until 8km. When I signalled for him to go through and he apologised I dropped the hammer and snapped the elastic. The next 1km was solid and I managed to put a big gap into him before I felt a pull on my calf. To say I was concerned was an understatement. I began to worry I wouldn't make the finish and went into severe damage control. I figured I had 1km to go and being in 7th at the time, I'd get there and assess the damage at the end.
In what was a severe shock to me, turning into the finish area I picked up another spot. Making a poor tactical decision I started the sprint as I made the pass and gave him too much time to get back and just pip me at the line.
Finishing 7th is not entirely the result I was searching for in Murakami but as always, I know I have high expectations of myself.
Full results HERE
With 3 top 7 finishes in my last 5 races, my results and ranking are headed in the right direction. This result should hopefully ensure a top 150 finish for the year. For someone who started the year with next to no points, I can be really proud of the year I have put together.
For now, it's time to shift my focus a little and dust off the TT bike for a birthday race at Nepean before building some kms for next year with a crack at my first pro 70.3 in Western Sydney at the end of November.
Lots of love from Japan.
I am usually not one to review products. In fact, as far as I can remember, this might be the first product review I have ever done. I am mindful of filling my social media with obvious plugs for products and companies I work with just for the sake of it… but the time has come. There is one product that has done such a fantastic job for me and stood out so far ahead of the pack that I can no longer keep it to myself. If you’ve seen me at any time in the last 2 years no doubt you’ve seen me toting it around. Ladies and gentleman- the BLUESEVENTY TRANSITION BAG.
How can a backpack be so good you ask? Let me start by saying this. I first acquired a blueseventy transition bag at the start of 2015. I had been through numerous swimming backpacks and transition bags prior and quite frankly I had been disappointed. There were bags that had tears in them, bags with holes in them and bags that simply could not fit nearly enough. The blueseventy transition bag answered all these problems with flying colours.
If you’ve ever traveled with me to a race, you would be well aware that I like to be self-sufficient with my gear. This means carrying everything that there is a slight chance of needing. An Asian race with a reputation of being the hottest swim on the calendar? I’d better take my helix wetsuit just in case. The transition area is 400m from my hotel room? I’d better take a spare tube and pump just in case I get a flat and don’t have the 2 minutes it would take to run back. This attitude leads me to carry more gear than most to races and to race sites. Thankfully, the transition bag has all the answers.
The bag itself contains the following compartments and features;
- Soft outer pocket on the top for valuables with headphone hole
- Large main section with inner zippers on the top and side and a rear mesh netting
- Separate zippered wet section on the bottom
- Mesh bottle holders on either side
- Adjustable waist strap
- Shoulder strap
Here’s what my bag usually contains while traveling to races;
While traveling to races;
- Passport, wallet, phone, keys.
- Sweatshirt, pants, beats headphones, phone charger, ipad, 17inch laptop and charger, running flats
- Oakley sunglasses in case
- Wetsuit, tri suit, bike shoes
- 2x water bottle
On race day;
- Sweatshirt, pants, t-shirt, running flats, spare running shoes, scissors, duct tape, baby powder, body glide, 3x gel, banana, spare tube, travel pump, rubber bands.
- Oakley sunglasses in case
- 3x water bottle
As you can see, I don’t pack light. Even so, I have never had an issue having to ram the zipper closed like I have with other bags. My main concern then becomes putting too much strain on my back, not on my bag.
To date my blueseventy transition bag has travelled with me to over 50 different cities in 10 different countries. Not only do I use my blueseventy transition bag every day for swim training and packing my run and work gear, it is also my bag of choice as a carry on for racing and holidays, taking my gear to transition for races and even as my only bag while travelling on crutches through France, Poland and Spain. You name it, my transition bag has done it.
But James, you baby your gear, of course it is still in-tact! Oh how wrong you are. Boarding a plane and finding room for my bag is possibly the only part of traveling that causes my anxiety levels to rise. For that reason I cram my bags wherever they can fit. This often means yanking it out of overhead baggage compartments. My point is, this bag has not been babied and the only damage to it is a hole in the side bottle holder netting and while this is the case, it does not impact the bag’s ability to hold a drink bottle at all.
I you are looking for a new transition bag, swim bag or just in the market for a new backpack, get one of these. Or maybe even two.
Click HERE to change your life.
Racing back to back weeks is never easy. Add a flight across Asia, food poisoning and a crash causing a bent derailleur hanger the evening before the race and it's safe to say my lead up to Singapore was far from perfect.
As we lined up on the start line on Saturday morning none of that mattered. Everyone has their struggles and by standing on that start line I was making a statement that I was ready to race. That's what I was going to do.
Running into the 31C ocean I felt good. My start wasn't bad and as we got to the first turn at 350m I was in a good spot. From there things turned pear shaped. By the time we turned to start the second lap there was an obvious split in the group and I had missed it. Heading back out we hadn't lost too much time but as we made the turn for the shore I had lost sight of the group ahead of us and I lead our group in a terrible line. That's what happens when you do a bad job checking the course. Much to my frustration, we exited the water 1:05 back of an 11 man group containing all the big names.
Looking around as we came into T1 I felt a slight sense of relief. I was in a group of 6 including 4 other Aussies and a Japanese guy and after assessing who was there I was sure we could work together to chip some time away. Our chances were slightly dashed when a flat caused our group to be cut to 4 at the end of the first lap but we had still taken 15 seconds and we were motivated. Big ups to Dan Coleman and Charlie Quin for their work on the bike. For the first time ever being in a chase group in a conti cup our group worked well enough and by the 5th lap of 7 we were back in the pack and had given ourselves a chance of doing something in the race.
Dismounting together in T2, it was a time for a brutal 10km in the heat. Leaving transition I felt good and moved through a few guys establishing a solid position in 6th by the end of the first 2.5km lap. I was cautiously optimistic and moved into 5th on lap two before the real feel 44C weather started to take its toll on my body. I spent the last 5km desperately wishing there was more shade, more water, more aid stations and less distance to the finish line. The last lap was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done in sport. I wanted to stop and walk so badly but I knew I had been training hours on end for this moment and I trudged on. Usually crossing the finish line in 6th would have brought with it a big thumbs up, a wave to the camera or at very least a half smile but none of that was anywhere to be seen. Instead I stumbled across the line and leaned on 5th place finisher Taylor Cecil for support (sorry about that mate, I appreciate you keeping me on my two feet.) I'd always longed for a race where I crossed the line feeling like I had nothing left- this was that race. The next 30 minutes were spent on the ground contemplating throwing up or fainting. Thankfully I managed to avoid both and was finally able to get my body temperature down and my body headed in the right direction.
I couldn't be prouder of the resilience I showed and my ability to laugh at myself in times of adversity this week. Having said that, I'm also a strong believer that you create your own luck and I had done a poor job of that by eating local food and riding over a painted line in the rain. I've made a note to never do those things again.
I must give a massive shout out to my roommate for the last two weeks, Chris Huang for the photos and to my friend Tony who took some time out from a business trip to Singapore to come and give his support. Tony and I started running and going to the gym together 5 years ago and running our first 5km together in 2011 is what eventually led me into triathlon. I'm thankful to be able to share a race with him. To everyone else who gave me words of encouragement and support, it is always appreciated.
For now it's time for a few days off before getting back into a big block of training in the lead up to Murakami on September 25th. Onward and upwards.
What can I say? A race report from Osaka is almost unnecessary. For those of you who missed the live videos coming out of Osaka on Sunday, you are in for a treat. Sit back, relax and click HERE for a whole heap of fun. The response to our live ‘stream’ of the race has been through the roof. A massive thank you to everyone who sent through messages of support. The biggest thank you of all goes to the two guys who brought us all the laughs- two of my best mates, Robbie and Myles. It’s unheard of to have two guys travel half way around the world to watch you run around in spandex but these guys jumped on board and believe me, they were the loudest out on course by a country mile! Over the last couple of months they have witnessed the highs and lows of my training and despite often questioning my sanity, they have been a massive support. To say I appreciate it all would be a massive understatement. Sharing race day with them was one of the highlights of my triathlon career so far. Much love to everyone who is in my corner.
I’ll keep the report itself short and sweet. Having almost the entire field staying at the host hotel meant I had the opportunity to hear almost every excuse in the book post-race. I won’t give you any. The truth is I just didn’t swim well enough. I know my swim is improving but having to make the decision to sit up and wait for the chase group after getting agonisingly close to latching on to the lead pack crushed me. It is the greatest motivation I have ever had to go back to Canberra and train my arse off to ensure it never happens again.
Leading up to the race I had plans. None of them involved not being in the lead pack. Ever the optimist, it was time for plan B. As I sat up and had a drink waiting for the pack to catch me up one of 8 climbs over the bridge I held high hopes that by working together we would be able to shut them down. The gap was only 30 seconds and we had a big group. How wrong I was. By the time we arrived in T2 we were down almost a minute and any chance of running for a podium spot was gone. With the disappointment of getting off the bike out of the race as motivation, I was determined to run well. Thankfully I did that by running myself into 13th. I can take that confidence moving forward.
I was able to reflect on my race while grabbing copious amounts of sushi from a sushi train in Osaka and waiting for the race that was giving me the most anxiety of the day- my girlfriend Grace’s final from Tiszie, Hungary. She has been there for me every step of the way leading up to these races. To watch her race live and share a race day was special, albeit from the other side of the world. I’m beyond proud, even if she did one up me literally by finishing 12th.
Finishing 13th in Osaka is not exactly what I had hoped for but I also understand I have high expectations of myself. I will always set the bar high and I believe that’s how you get better as an athlete. I didn’t execute as well as the guys up the road and that’s all there is to it. As always I’ll focus on the positives, learn from the negatives and move forward.
For now it’s time for a week of training and exploring in Singapore before another Conti Cup in the heat on Saturday. If you’re reading this and have any advice on things to do while we’re there, let me know!