This morning was my first Japanese race! Uruma City's Ayahashi 10k ( あやはし海中ロードレース大会).
Today was so much fun and there's so much to re-cap, so I'll just start at the beginning and ramble from there.
I picked up my packet yesterday. Thankfully, the diving directions were super simple coming from McT/Courtney - I just took the 8 and followed the road signs for Kenza Island (a left onto the 37). At the bridge, I turned right and took a left at the following light (there was a big sign for packet pick up in English and Japanese). I was able to park right in front of the building (there was another parking lot across the street too) and get my t-shirt and bib without any problems (but there was a table set up specifically for English speakers).
I was extremely nervous this morning! I had heard that parking might be a problem on race day (there were over 10,000 people registered), so I left around 7am and stopped at the first parking lot I saw. I kept warm in my car, read some magazines, ate a little breakfast, used the bathroom*, and eventually made my way to the shuttle bus stop (シャトルバス). I still arrived at the stadium with plenty of time to spare before the half marathon start. (Post-race I saw that parking and driving near the stadium was very chaotic! Glad I decided to park further out.)
Very important: remember the name of your shuttle bus (there was a piece of paper on the front windshield with kanji written on it. At the time, I didn't know that the kanji was the name of my parking lot). After the race, I made my way over to the shuttle bus stop. Then I realized that there were shuttle buses for each of the different parking lots. I had to make an educated guess at which shuttle bus would take me back to the right parking lot.
There was no bag check common at large American races. Instead, I saw a lot of Okinawans simply leave their bags in the stadium. I was sitting by a wall waiting for the opening ceremony to end. A man walked up next to me, set down his backpack, did a few stretches then just walked off to join the half marathon start. By the time the 10k started, bags were all over the place.
The race atmosphere was like one big party! People were dressed up in costumes. Lots of families were there to cheer on runners. They had little picnics set up with tarps on the ground and tents overhead. There were also plenty of booths selling food - everything from cotton candy to drinks and bananas. The park next to the stadium had a roller slide too, so next year I'll definitely have Chris bring the boys down. (The shuttle bus was packed, there's no way something bigger than an umbrella stroller would have fit. Glad I opted to leave the boys - and my jogging stroller - at home this time.)
After watching some Eisa dancers (they even did a routine to "Beat It"!!), it was time for the 10k. We lined up at the far side of the stadium and away we went! (All the announcements were in Japanese, but it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on.)
The race was crowded! It was hard getting into a steady groove with so many people around. I've been in big races before (like Rock'n'Roll Virginia Beach and the Disney Marathon), but those usually thinned out after the first few miles and you eventually get enough road to run your own pace comfortably. This race was crowded start to finish. Nice because you're always passing people (ego boost!) but it can get a little claustrophobic at times.
The course for the 10k was a simple out and back. There were two "hills" at the bridges (nothing major) and four water stations (cool sponges, cups with water, and various spectators handing out goodies). The 10k was a "trim marathon" - at sign up you guess your finish time and the closest person to that time is the winner. I've heard of a couple races like this in Eugene, but definitely not a popular race format in the US. (I did see plenty of people with headphones in and even some with watches on, so not sure how strictly the rules of the trim marathon are enforced. I even saw a few of American women with jogging strollers, but that seemed to be frowned upon in the 10k. I heard the 3.8k is a more of a kids and families run.)
I ran my heart out. My pace was slow in the beginning, but I crossed the finish line knowing I gave it everything I had. Then we got our finisher's sheet printed out and my time was 1:05:52. What the fucking fuckity fuck fuck. I walked so often and was so tired during the Tengan 10k and finished in 1:06:45. I was hard-charging today and took off less than a minute?? And I ran a 4 miler with the jogging stroller - even walking up some of the hills and waiting at crosswalks - in 43 minutes last week, so I know I should be able to do better. Even if they're using gun time instead of chip time, I know I was no where near my goal of 1:00 (and I would have been happy to see 1:02 given my recent 5k times). Extremely disappointing.
But what's done is done. I still had a good time and got some sun. I'm definitely looking forward to running this half marathon next year.
* (トレイ (toire) or お手洗い (otearai) are the common words for bathroom. 女 (female) and 男 (male) are also helpful to remember. And seriously, I'm going to be so spoiled by the nice public restrooms here (I'm talking heated seats, y'all!) that I may never want to poop in America again!)