2019 Okinawa International Triathlon:
Race in Japan’s Tropical Paradise
· 2x 750m laps adjacent to Naminoue Beach around an island of tetrapods
· Swimming usually not permitted in this area
· Most clocked between 1.7 to 1.8KM
· 5x 7.6KM laps from Naminoue Driving School, up and over Tomariohashi Bridge, and back
· Roads were closed
· Beginning/end of each loop involved technical turns through the driving school
· Most clocked between 36 to 38KM
· 2 small loops + an out-and-back
· Most clocked around 9.4-9.7KM.
7 loops to 5 loops
Compared to last year’s bike course, the route was extended a little each way to make each lap longer (7.6KM), allowing athletes to do two fewer loops (and agonizing bridge climbs) this year.
Duathlon to Triathlon
Inclement weather during the days leading up to the race last year meant the swim was cancelled. The run-bike-run format took place in stifling post-typhoon heat and humidity.
This year, with the race date moved from mid-June to late May, the race organizers all but guaranteed better weather before the start of typhoon season.
Last year, transition was in the parking lot of Wakasa Park – right at the base of the climb up the bridge.
This year, transition was relocated a couple hundred yards to the Naminoue Driving School. We didn’t have a swim last year but for both years, the swim start was at Naminoue Beach and we finished at Umisora Park.
The good thing about race courses with multiple loops! The swim start, transition area, and finish chute are all within 1KM! Plus, plenty of opportunities to watch parts of the bike and run course. For athletes, it’s great to have so much support along the route – there was even a nice man with a garden hose spraying runners past the Loisir Hotel!
One of the Okinawa International Triathlon’s biggest draws is its convenient location in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. Hotels are a plenty nearby the race site and provide accommodation for all budgets. This is about as easy as it gets for a triathlon in Japan!
To race venue…
• From Naha Airport: 10-15 minutes
• Camp Kinser: 10 minutes
• Camp Foster: 30 minutes
• Kadena: 40 minutes
• Camp Schwab: 1 hour
Age Grouped Bibs
If you’re competitive, this makes it easier to pick out who you need to chase down! The first digi on each bib indicated age group (in increments of 10).
There’s no denying the beauty of racing in Okinawa – the crisp open waters, the blue skies, and island vibes unlike mainland Japan. Hard to beat!
Going in and out of the waters was a little tricky – there were a lot of rocks making it difficult to get a good start, nonetheless dolphin dive into the swim.
To make matters worse, we had to repeat the same dance again upon exiting the waters once after lap one, re-entering the waters for lap two, and exiting the waters again after lap two.
2 laps on the swim, 5 laps on the bike, 2 (short) laps on the run.
If you weren’t counting your laps, taking a look at your Garmin every so often, and watching the volunteers with signs carefully, you could miss a crucial turn! Honestly, 5 laps is really about the maximum number of laps any race should consider implementing.
The Naha Beachside Hotel is a simple, no frills hotel by Naminoue Beach. Lives up to its namesake, boasting very close access to the beach and boardwalk.
Walking distance to and from the race site – downtown Naha is a short cab ride or a leisurely walk away. From the airport, I rode a jumbo taxi with my bike in a Scicon and paid ¥1,300.
• Rent a mama chari bicycle for free (up to an hour) – useful to explore the area or grab groceries (or a cheap meal) at the nearby store.
• Rooms vary greatly in size but generally run small.
• Simple but filling buffet style breakfast available.
where we stayed
triathlons in okinawa
Toyosaki: Olympic Distance – early April
Miyakojima: modified 70.3 – mid April
Ishigaki: Olympic Distance – late April
Okinawa: Olympic Distance – late May
Ayahashi: Olympic Distance – early July
Izena 88: modified 70.3 – late October
Iriomotejima: modified 70.3 – mid November (not timed)
about the author
Born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia, Faith holds a Japanese passport, a BA from Southern Methodist University, and M.Ed from Vanderbilt University. Currently, she works as the Communications Manager at Samurai Sports where she spends weekdays at a desk and weekends at various races.
In her free time, she trains regularly for her triathlon pursuits and one day hopes to qualify for Kona – although she has yet to race a full Ironman. Faith loves dogs, hates celery, and is always hungry.