Former Saipan pro triathlete Mieko Carey earned two feats in last Saturday’s XTERRA Japan Championship.
Carey ruled the annual tournament held in Marunuma, Gunma Prefecture for the fourth time, matching the record of inaugural winner Jamie Whitmore (2004-2007). On top of her record-tying win, Carey also broke the three-hour barrier after completing the 1.2-kilometer swim, 25-km mountain bike race, and 10-km run off-road event in 2:56:11.
“I am very happy I made it to the finish line under three hours. It has been my goal since I first joined the tournament. It took me six years to get at this point,” said Carey, who moved to Guam late last year after representing Saipan in XTERRA Japan for the past six years.
She won XTERRA Japan for three consecutive years (2009, 2010, and 2011) and clocked in over three hours in those occasions (3:00:16, 3:03:00, and 3:00:05) before losing the women’s title in 2012 to U.S. pro Shonny Vanlandingham. Mieko also submitted over three hours (3:07:37) in last year’s race, more than 15 minutes behind the 2:52:22 of Vanlandingham.
Carey managed to pull off these achievements despite facing an earlier threat of cancellation of the event and a more treacherous course.
“A day (Friday) before the race, everyone was worried we may not have a race, as it was raining heavily from 9am to 9pm. We had warning about mudslide. The temperature was around 60 (Fahrenheit). Only race organizer and volunteers were outside, working hard even there was lightning,” Carey said.
The race eventually pushed through, but it was still raining at the start of the swim leg and Carey said although the event began at 12:10pm, the water was still cold and this caused her breathing problems.
“The temperature was up to 70 at this point but still it was cold for me. I have been living under 90-95 for 10 years. Fortunately, we saw the sun a few meters into the swim leg and got a perfect day for the rest of race,” said Carey, who finished the swim leg in 19:18 and was third out of the water overall and first in the women’s division.
Next up was the bike leg, which Carey said was more of a 25K bike ride and 10K run with the bike.
“The wet mud, roots, rock made me lose control several times. However, I kept telling myself to focus and not rush things otherwise I will get hurt and fall down to the lake with my bike. In some parts of the course, I knew I could go faster if I carry my bike and run than try to ride it,” said the pro triahlete, who submitted 1:43:53 in the second leg of the race.
After her adventure in the bike leg, Carey earned a nearly 11-minute lead over Japan’s Yasuko Miyazaki and over 20 minutes against Australia’s Emma Francis. She kept the safe distance in the run leg and secured the win despite having breathing problems in the last phase of the race due to the high altitude.
“We had a climb at the start of the course and used a rope. It was a trail run with so many rocks and roots. I could feel high altitude and it was just hard to breath. My chest and lungs were tight and it felt like I was about to have a heart attack. But as I got through the course, I started to relax,” said Carey, who finished the run leg in 53:00 and was the lone female triathlete to complete the race under three hours, as Miyazaki and Francis submitted 3:11:05 and 3:43:52, respectively.