Moe Adventures: Izena Triathalon

It all started when I got a phone call in June from my younger brother Len, who lives in Okinawa. He said he was signing up for a big triathlon in Okinawa, and if I didn’t sign up too he’d call me a loser for the rest of my life. So I agreed. My older brother, on the other hand, declined, saying he didn’t have a good bike. What a loser!

The triathlon was held on one of Japan’s most beautiful islands, Izenajima. So I figured it was maybe the best place to swim 2km, bike 66km and run 20km all in one go, and for the first time.

Izena Island is located an hour ferry ride north of mainland Okinawa. Len got seasick on the way over as the ferry ploughed through strong wind and rain, with three meter swells pounding it and drenching the deck in water. It was funny seeing Len getting sick, as he surfs almost every day.

550 competitiors eventually arrived on the 15-square-kilometer island which has a population of just over 1,500 people. By the time everyone arrived, the island was in party mode. People lined the streets to support us during race day, and all of the people on the island were super friendly. The island was rich with unique and stunning scenery. Izena is the poorest of the Okinawina Islands, I was told, and it was one of the only islands not ravaged by American and Japanese military forces during World War II. The houses looked old and basic, but the small side streets separating them were beautifully lined with coral walls. I saw an old woman in her eighties out on her hands and knees farming. Where else would you see that? It really got me thinking about people’s lifestlyes and what society expects of you at that age back home. It didn’t make a difference on Izena Island, though.

The triathlon started at 7:30am on Sunday the 24th of October under beautiful blue skies in a comfy 25 degrees. 5 hours and 17 minutes later, I crossed the finish line, sunburnt and in 35 degree heat. The swim and bike section were very pleasant and enjoyable, but the run was very hot, hilly, and difficult. The overall experience was amazing, and it’s something I want to do again. The feelings of achievment certainly outweigh the physical feelings of pain after doing an event like this. As one of my friends said to me, pain is weakness leaving the body! I took little comfort in those words as I walked like John Wayne in the week that followed the event.

The next challenge will be the Miyakojima triathlon on April 24th, which looks even more beautiful than Izenajima. It’s a great excuse to go all the way down there. My brother Len said his heart rate was 190 just signing the entry forms yesterday!

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