▲ Triathletes, taking part in the event's swimming section and Justin Hensen during the cycling. Photo by Jon Walker
As an avid triathlete once keenly observed, if you stop pedaling, you coast. If you stop running, you walk. But if you stop swimming, well, you drown. So, while muscles were still strong and spirits motivated, the 11th annual Jeju Triathlon began with a splash as the 230 participants dove into the water from Iho Beach.
“I feel good, both mentally and physically,” said Justin Hensen before the race. “I don’t know exactly how I’ll finish, though I know I will give it my best.”
Hensen was one of five Canada participants, whose presence partially pleased event organizers looking to spread word to the international scene, Japan in particular. The competition was another in a string of June “leisure tourism” events including in-line skating, fishing, and wind-surfing, all aimed at enticing more people to Jeju.
The Jeju Triathlon was intermediate distance, commonly referred to as an Olympic triathlon, which is longer than a sprint triathlon but nowhere near the well-known ultra-distance Ironman (which offers a full marathon as a cool down). In about the time it would take the rest of us to watch a movie, top finishers completed a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-km bike ride and 10-km run.
The main components that separate triathlons from distance running are, quite obviously, the swimming and biking. These added elements provide triathletes with the challenge of balancing a three sport workout routine into their daily lives. Fortunately for Hensen, he is able to bike and run his uphill work commute from the coast of Hagwi to Sogil every day.
“Training is different for everyone, according to their schedule, goals and where they are physically,” he said.
Hensen likes to keep in shape, but a cold Canada winter required him to “pick up the pace” once arriving on Jeju in April. He recommends slow, consistent training to build a base, and then “getting more aggressive and seeing what the body God gave you can really do.”
A spiritual man, Hensen has been working as a volunteer to help build Jeju’s first Bible school.
But being physically prepared is only half the battle. “Talking to experienced people about what to expect and what to think about is key,” he said. “You really need somebody to cheer you on.”
▲ Photo courtesy Jeju City Hall
Sponsored by Halla Cycle, Hensen found his support, both in friendship and free equipment. The shop has included him in group rides, some up to 130 km through the rural areas of Jeju. “A good bike shop can be a valuable hub for any athlete,” he said.
Not owning a wetsuit, Hensen exited the waters cold and a bit discombobulated as he transitioned to the second leg of the race. “While biking, I tend to remember all the things I forgot to do, and figure out where I am in the pack and who I can catch,” he said.
Keeping the mind focused is crucial. For Hensen, the challenge is to not let life events get in the way. “Focus on the next marker in the water, the next turn on the bike. If your mind wanders then so does your performance.”
The next major hurdle for Hensen came halfway through the run, when consistently his body tells him to stop. “What keeps me going – and this is something you should always decide before the race - is I tend to keep my mind set on my heart. If it’s hard, that’s not the time to stop, it’s the time to push more,” he said.
Hensen’s training and mind tactics paid off for him, as he crossed the finish line second in his age division, seventh overall, with a time of 02:16:53, just a little more than 15 minutes behind first place finisher Kang Myung Hwan from Gyonggi at 02:01:18.
“I feel great!” Hensen said with a wide grin on his face, just seconds after finishing. “Although I may need something to support this body I’ve been dragging around all race.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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