Boromake (ボロ負け), which means basically, "I totally lost" pretty much sums up my experiences in Yamaguchi at the 45th Districts and Metropolis National race. But it wasn't all bad.
Beautiful Hofu Keirin-jo, a 333m meter velodrome. This was the first 333 I'd ridden in Japan. It has a 35˚ bank, which is noticeably steeper than the 30ish degrees of the more common 400 meter tracks I'm used to. REALLY fun! Riding it made me wish I was doing sprints instead of just time trials there.
My wife and my team sprint squad-mates, Uematsu-san and Suzuki-san taking a well-earned nap. It was over 35˚ C when we arrived at the track for practice on the first day. Unending sweat.
This was the heart of my secret plan. This is a kachi-mamori (勝守り), a Shinto charm for victory that one of my best students gave me prior to the race. I knew if I put this in my special super-fast time trial helmet (that I'd never used before and had bought JUST for this race) that I had no chance of losing! Victory would be mine! I would be All-Japan Champion!!!
So far so good, but then everything fell apart when the officials rejected my helmet. It was lacking a certain approval sticker. I'd been reassured by my local bike shop guy that it was ok for time trial use without the sticker. Nope.
Sullenly waiting for the start, sans magic helmet. Things would get worse...
I guess I was pretty rattled by the whole helmet thing, cuz when I put my bike in the gate, I lined up the pedals BACKWARDS of how I usually set them (you can see that my left foot is back here), and that caused me to make a mistake strapping my feet in...
...which caused me to pull my left foot out on my first pedal stroke. Normally, I would have stopped right there and gotten a re-start, but at the same time, I heard a loud SQUEEK! SQUEEK! SQUEEK! with every pedal stroke-- somehow my wheel was rubbing the frame! I was doomed. My tiny brain was simply overwhelmed with the avalanche of bad news that was coming down, so-- I just kept going, which was a HUGE mistake.
I nailed it as much as possible (check pain-face) but there was no way I was gonna make up the time I'd lost at the start, not to mention the wheel problem. My time was 1:12.824, which was my worst time of the whole season, but given the circumstances it's actually not that bad.
My goal time for the race had been 1:09.XXX, which would have been a new PR, but I think might have been within reason. The wining time of the day was 1:09. 084. Dammit...
Ah, but then it was time for the Team Sprint, a race for which I still harbored high hopes. I was riding with bad-ass juniors from the Yokohama high school cycling team, and I knew they could be fast.
Dad and the kids chilling out before the race.
Anxiously awaiting our turn to slay...
It looks good here, but this effort too was doomed to failure. It was a repeat of our one and only practice run of a few weeks earlier: Uematsu-san was simply too damned strong out of the gate, with Suzuki-san losing his wheel before we were out of the first turn. Poor Suzuki-san had to do two laps with no draft while Uematsu-san heedlessly blasted off into the sunset...
I knew we were fucked, but I just did the best lap I could and really buried it. It felt good after my disappointing kilo. But at the end, we were 18th of 18 teams. Bummer. We're gonna try it again at the next local federation race but with Suzuki-san as first man. That should do the trick.
Dad and the kids putting a brave face on things.
So I let down my beloved prefecture of Kanagawa, and I didn't come home with any medals. But really, it was an amazing experience just to be a part of my first ever national-level race. If I could have seen into the future just two years ago when I first gingerly set wheel upon track I never would have believed it. So I could still be happy. Next time.
And then it turned out I was still 7th in the kilo, that I'd get some money and I'd be on the podium. Unexpected bonus!
My haul. ¥10,000, easily my biggest winnings ever from a bike race!
UCI bike dimension rigs. For real.
Our illustrious coach, Yajima-san. A super nice guy.
Me and the Dolan at Tenmangu shrine, which was just down the road from Hofu Keirin-jo.
A shot of the junior points race. Heavy traffic. One kid crashed really hard and had to be lifted back onto his bike but he insisted on finishing. Balls. I was impressed.
And then things got better. Tomo and I were on VACATION, after all. Here she is with some kind of old train. It turns out she's a total train nerd and I had no idea.
Genbaku-dome in Hiroshima. 600 meters above this building the first atomic bomb used against humans was detonated. All Americans should be required to come and see this and its nearby museum. On the way to the museum we saw a group of American tourists, one of whom was totally wearing an American flag t-shirt that read, "USA #1". Asshole. This is why other countries don't like us.
The deer of Miyajima were shamelessly cute.
The iconic torii of Itsukushima shrine. And my wife.
FOOD! I had anago(broiled eel), Tomo had udon. And of course, beer. Yum!