Kailua-Kona’s Rani Tanimoto Wins 6th Annual WoodMAN Power Triathlon Championship this past weekend in Hiroshima, Japan. Husband Penn Henderson sets bike course record en route to 3rd place overall finish.
Weather conditions were near perfect for the official race start at 8:30 AM – good news for all the athletes considering heavy rain the day prior and a Typhoon approaching from the South that was expected to hit the day after. “We were pleasantly surprised, we had prepared to be racing in wet conditions again this year – but lucked out with the most beautiful day of triathlon either of us had ever experienced” said Henderson.
Both completed the 1.6-mile swim in good position leading into the mountainous bike portion. “I had a great swim today which really motivated me for the rest of the race” said Tanimoto. “I saw other females in the swim-bike transition who are normally already on the bike and long gone. This year was a lot different – I felt in contention from the beginning”. Meanwhile, Henderson started the bike portion nearly 6-minutes behind race leader and past champion Fukumoto, but managed to catch-up before entering T2 with a new bike course record of 1:59:11. “I had no idea were my competition was out there, I just rode hard from the beginning and eventually passed the top guys before reaching the final summit climb”, said Henderson. “It was a good feeling to ride myself into first place and be escorted by the lead motorcycle – that’s never happened for me before”. During the hilly 12.5-mile run, Henderson explains; “For a while I actually thought I could win. It was me and two others running up the mountains for the first hour, then we hit a steep 3-mile downhill stretch and they simply disappeared. I was running pretty fast, but they were running ridiculously fast!” Henderson managed to finish in 3rd overall with a time of 4:11:02 behind race winner Fukumoto (4:04:24) and Maeda (4:08:29). “That was probably the best start to finish triathlon I have had. Normally there are always things you feel could have been improved upon, but today everything went even better than expected”, said Henderson.
After a strong bike performance, Tanimoto entered T2 in 3rd position and five-minutes behind the leaders who are known locally for their cycling strength. Once on the run course, Tanimoto quickly overtook the leaders after 4-miles, then further distanced herself from her competition on the remaining hill sections – giving her a 3-minute lead before finishing with a total time of 4:50:56. “I can’t believe I just won – this is a day I will always remember!” said Tanimoto moments after finishing. “There were so many people along the course yelling ‘Go Hawaii’, ‘Go Hawaii’, – it was great encouragement and a good reminder to do my best for everyone back home in Kona”.
About the Miyajima “WoodMAN” Triathlon:
The grueling race consists of a 1.6 mile swim, 35 mile bike, and 12.5 mile run. Athletes start the swim beneath the famous floating tori (shrine) then navigate their way through numerous oyster beds while crossing the channel between Miyajima Island and Haitsukaichi City – a stretch known for its cold water and strong currents. Upon completion of the swim, the bike portion winds its way through Haitsukaichi City before entering the outlying mountains where athletes gain nearly 5,000 feet in elevation while hammering up narrow, windy roads with inclines approaching 20% grades. The bike to run transition sits in the middle of the forest where the run will continue up and down relentless hills for 12.5 miles before finishing at a spectacular Hot Springs / Ski Resort – nearly 40 miles away from where the swim started. The race is considered one of Japan’s most prestigious triathlons with a field limited to just 500 competitors by invitation or qualification only.
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