Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tour de Okinawa

This weekend Chris and I participated in the Tour de Okinawa. This is an amazing series of bike races and rides that attracts participants from all over Asia. Looking in the catalog and counting the headlines, I believe there are 20 races. These races range from a pre-school age tricycle race:
to a multi-day 313 km (195 miles) island tour. Along with the touring division there is also the more serious race division:
These guys are looking pretty intense as they line up for their 200 km (125 miles) race.
On Saturday we headed up to Nago to pick up our race packets, but not before doing a little produce shopping:
That's right, we've discovered that it's cheaper to get our apples at the Subway on base than it is to get them at the grocery store. So far we've been very happy with the quality.
The race packet pick-up was very well organized, but that didn't stop these stupid Americans from getting in the wrong line. My English students had translated some of the brochures that we got in the mail and said that all foreigners needed to go to a certain line. We did that, but found out quickly that we were in the wrong place. Since we have an Okinawan address we simply went to the line that had our race number listed. It was very easy after that. We walked around the expo area and I was happy to see a marching band:
It's probably not a big shock to any of my blog readers that I was a major band nerd in high school. Low Brass kicks a$$!
After a quick look around we headed home to prep for the next day. We had to be back in Nago by 6:30 the next morning so it was going to be an early start.
I started by putting on some awesome socks that MaryBrown sent me:
They're power socks and make me feel good.
Then we loaded the van:
This van is awesome. It's got tons of clearance and the trunk door opens really high so you don't have to stoop when putting things in and out. Chris is already trying to figure out how to get this baby back home with us.
When we got to Nago the sun was just coming up, revealing a gorgeous Okinawan sky.
Here's Chris all ready to go:
Chris had a little more to do to get ready so I started making video clips:

While we were looking for Chris' friends, I couldn't help but snap another shot:

This is a little closer to the start line:

I loved this starting arch. Here's a picture of Chris and his riding partner BJ and another picture of me:

Before every race the taiko drummers would play. I love Okinawa!

After a little searching we found the third and final bike partner, Sha:

These 3 guys were ready to ride. Chris, BJ, and Sha were signed up for the 100km (62 miles)Challenge Ride. I think the key word here is ride because it definitely wasn't a race. They were riding directly behind the riders with "STAFF" shirts and believed they weren't allowed to pass them. At mile 15 there was a fueling station where people stopped and grabbed some grub. Just after this when the riders started up again they saw someone blow by the "STAFF" riders. Uh-oh - the challenge had been issued and now the real race began.

They quickly caught the breakaway rider and decided they were going to keep their position. They would only stop at aid stations long enough to grab some fluid and maybe something they could eat as they rode. They were burning the course up! It would have been easy to quit since the turn around point was less than a half mile from our house, but they pushed on. While they admit that other participants might not have known they were racing, they were happy to come in 1,2, and 3. They beat all other riders in their group by 45 minutes!

I participated in the Onna Family 70km (44 mile) ride. Again we did not know that ride would mean we would be lolly-gagging out on the course. Before the race started I figured I was in the right place because no one in my group was wearing clip in shoes.

Everyone was wearing sneakers just like me. My bike came with clip in pedals, but I haven't bought the shoes yet. One reason is it's harder to find shoes here, but the main reason is I'm afraid of eating asphalt when I can't get my shoes unclipped fast enough when coming to a stop.

I just want to preface this race with the fact that I just got a bike since we've moved to Okinawa and I haven't ridden in months because I was focused on running for another event. With those two factors, and the fact that I've never ridden more than 30 miles, I was pretty nervous.

I found out by mile 4 though that I had nothing to worry about. It was at this point that I had caught up with the pace car! That is just plain crazy, but here is photographic proof:

And videographic proof:

It was ridiculously slow. On the straightaways I barely had to pedal and on any downward slope, no matter how slight, I was braking. It actually got a little frustrating, but it did give me time to play with my camera. I love this shot:

I really can't complain because it was a gorgeous day - maybe upper 70s and not overly humid. It was a perfect day to be biking. It also helped that we were on a flat coastal road with absolutely stunning views:

This shot doesn't even do justice to the amazing shades of blues and greens of the water.

Besides riding slow the Family Ride also included a LOT of stops. We stopped every 7 miles or so. At the first stop they had some great mikan (local, sweet, seedless tangerine-like fruit) and yummy chocolate. I wasn't sure what this candy was going to be since it was wrapped in a golden wrapper with kanji writing, but it was heaven:

You can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter!

After another 7 miles of not-so-strenuous riding we stopped for an extended (30 minute) break. Despite getting a little testy that we were going so slow, this was my favorite stop. Why, you ask? Because they were giving out free icecream! I got the ube (local, purple sweet potato) flavor:

We reached the turn around point (22 miles) in just over 3 hours! That is about 7 miles/hour. I can run that - maybe not for 22 miles, but I can definitely hold it for an hour. It was crazy slow. Our turn around was Ryukyu Mura - a tourist attraction that shows traditional Okinawan life. Apparently our group was supposed to go in and watch a show. I couldn't believe it - this ride was going to take all day. I knew Chris was going to be waiting and I knew I didn't want to be out for another 3 hours so I busted out on my own.

I loved the second half of the ride. I was trying to push myself and I really enjoyed being out on the road. It was freeing. I was pumping my legs and having fun and really trying to challenge myself. I wound up completing the second half in under 1 hour 26 minutes. It was exhilarating! This ride made me realize that I really enjoy biking.

Once I got back and we met up, Chris and I saw kids doing unicycle relays. It was awesome. Maybe that will be our next challenge.

After our long morning, we were tired but happy:

Here's one final shot taken during my ride. What a great day!


Anonymous said...

You guys are awesome. Rob is super motivated to come to Okinawa and bike with Chris, he is off shaving his legs now. You rock the Hottie socks! - Marybrown

Anonymous said...

I didn't find much time for videos, I had to put the smack down on the locals. Boooyah!

Courtney said...

I'm still not at the clip in bike shoes phase yet either..I'm just not that hard core!! But I do love biking. Looks like you had fun..what a great workout and a fun day!
Adventures in Tri-ing

Anonymous said...

awesome! i'm with you about the clip in shoes...that would make me nervous. also, the word "family" and "44 miles" should never be in the same sentence. it's like a fun run 10 miler. (for me--that would probably consitute a fun run for you) ;)

Mary Lloyd

Tyler Tuszynski said...

I think it is hilarious that you were supposed to stop in the middle of your 'race' and watch something!

Okinawan race like I do!

maria said...

Way to go. I couldn't ride that far, that's for sure! :)

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. Candy, ice cream-what more could you ask for in a bike race? I love it. I didn't think I could do a bike race but after reading this blog, I'm thinking it is a possibility IF I do it in Okinawa and IF they go 7 miles per hour and IF there is free ice cream-though it might need to be a flavor other than sweet potato.
P.S. I liked the socks too.

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