Nicole van der Kaay is a member of the Tri NZ High Performance Squads, she competed in an international event outside of Oceania for the first time at the recent Osaka Continental Cup in Japan, here is a review of that experience.
"Kon'nichiwa, watashinonamaeha nikōrudesu!"
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been living, training, racing and repeating the above phrase in the beautiful country of Japan. Our young New Zealand team of 12 were first based in Chiba, Resol Seimei-no-Mori Japan Medical Training Center "JMTC", to acclimatise and settle into life. This resort had world-class training facilities including a 100m & 25m pool, running tracks, open fields, golf courses but most importantly buffets allowing us to eat all the fish and rice desired!
If I were to associate a few words with Chiba, it would be "green" and "humid". Wherever you looked, the city was covered with greenery whether it were trees or the never-ending rice fields, the scenery was truly beautiful.
The heat was unlike anything I have experienced before. I was warned how hot and muggy it was, but you cannot really appreciate it until you experience it!
Next, we flew to Osaka, which blew my mind of how much of a contrast this city was. It was a concrete jungle, everywhere you looked were buildings & bridges, trucks & trains. We could only stay here a short time before the Osaka Asian Cup, as the training was very limited in the city, with everything taking twice as long as needed. We were very lucky we have formed a relationship with the Japanese Triathlon coach Kogi, who was our personal chaperon around the Asian supermarkets and swimming pools!
I did find Japan to be a very efficient but 'ruled' based country, finding myself breaking minor rules frequently. One trip down to the local pool, I was told off for having my drink bottle pool side (bear in mind it was 32 degrees inside!), diving in three times, swimming the wrong way around in the lanes (mandatory anticlockwise swimming) and swimming when they had their '10minute stretching and dance break'. Although, it did made me smile watching them go crazy, running after me poolside! I also had to stop a boy who was not wearing a cap; luckily, I only broke four of the five rules!
Next came the race scheduled mid-day in 32-degree heat and what felt 100% humidity! The swim consisted of rather brown water amongst debris, dead birds and 50 females all desperate to reach the first buoy in clear water. Next came the 20km cycle, which consisted of sharp un-turns, rise and descents over one of the many bridges in Osaka 8 times! Finishing off the triathlon on a three lap run course, most of which was exposed to the wrath of the sun, luckily we were aided with two well-needed water stops each lap, and a cold shower that we ran though.
My race personally was a mixed bag but many positives came from it, as well as prepping me well for my next races in Canada in August.
I immensely enjoyed my experience in Japan, and cannot thank everyone enough for the continual support. A special thank you to Triathlon New Zealand, High Performance, WIL Sport, my family, Physio Rone, coach Jon Brown, Masseuse Dale, Rebel Foods, Adastra Foundation and Smith's Sport Shoes for helping me get to the race start in one piece!