This past May I accompanied the wife to Yokohama, Japan, as she participated in her first ITU event. Overall, it was a well-run event featuring a chilly wet-suit swim in the pacific waters of the harbor, a technical bike course through the city, and finally a vibrant run through Yamashita Park along the water.
Yokohama is just a short train ride from Tokyo. For ourselves, we came by way of Osaka on the shinkansen (high-speed rail). It’s definitely possible to bring a bike box on the shinkansen, but it wasn’t the easiest of trips and the Japanese aren’t very accommodating to a foreigner schlepping a bike box on their train system. If you are traveling with more than 1 bike box and you are coming from Tokyo you might just want to hire a car (40 minutes travel time).
Our hotel was right in front of Yamashita Park, which is where the expo, transition area, and finishing area of the race was located. Our room overlooked the park and out onto the harbor offering a fantastic view of the water and entire race venue.
Staying around Yamashita Park was very convenient as it was right next to the race venue and just a short walk from the subway, supermarket, and Yokohama’s famous China Town.
The race itself was a 2-day long affair. Elite and para-triathlete races were held on Saturday. While it was truly impressive to see the Elite athlete’s racing firsthand, the real inspiration came from watching the para-athletes fight their way around the bike and run sections of the course. If you’ve ever doubted your ability to take on a particular distance of race watch how these athletes overcome their respective handicaps to become whole on the course and have your mindset changed on what is and isn’t possible.
The age groupers had opportunity to earn their glory on Sunday. The weather was just right for a triathlon; warm in the sun and cool in the shade without a cloud in the sky. The race started with the usual Japanese punctuality in several waves based on age. Unlike the Elites the age groupers had to start the swim in the water and were not allowed to dive into the water from the pontoons.
The bike course was challenging due to heavy winds coming in from the ocean.
The run benefitted from the shade of the overhead trees and provided plenty of visual distraction along the water and through the eclectic flower garden.
Overall, ITU Yokohama is a well-organized event that allows us age groupers the opportunity to experience Yokohama in a completely different manner than that of the average tourist. At the same time, you have an opportunity to be a spectator and experience firsthand the energy and vibe of a full-on ITU elite race and be inspired by the feats of the para-triathletes.
If you are planning a holiday to Tokyo next May you might consider taking a weekend detour to Yokohama to have your own ITU race experience.
High spirits before the swim.
Run along the water with great view of the harbour.
Just a few meters to the finish line!
Time to celebrate!