Strong Arms for Kids


For those of you who don’t know, I am currently living on the small beautiful island of Ishigaki.  Ishigaki is part of the Okinawa prefecture in Japan.  Even though, it may as well be a different country, I am so far from mainland Japan.  I always joke, that one day I will go to Japan (even though I live in Japan).  I arrived on Ishigaki in August 2007 as a member of the JET Programme and have been teaching mostly genki (happy, lively), sometimes sleepy, Japanese high school students, English since my arrival.  

One of the most popular things to do in Okinawa (I can’t speak about Japan, since I still haven’t been) is participate in a marathon (full, half, 10k, 3k) or a triathlon (Sprint, Olympic, Strongman).  This is definitely one of the best places to do these types of activities.  I couldn’t ask for better scenery while training, and honestly, I have an abundant amount of time.  Not too much to do on such a small island.  Awamori (Okinawan form of Sake) and karaoke gets quite expensive and tiresome after a while.   Since I began my journey to becoming “Super Sporty Suzy Spice” (aka healthy), it was a goal of mine to complete a marathon, or die trying.  And last January I did just that (no not die, because I am here writing this).  I completed the Ishigaki Marathon in a very respectable time of 4 hours and 18 minutes.  

Now with a marathon checked off my life list (don’t get me wrong, I am not done running marathons…this year the goal is 4 hours), I have moved on to bigger and better things…a triathlon.  Originally I planned on just doing the Ishigaki Triathlon, but that wasn’t until next April.  I needed a closer goal to work towards, and honestly, a bit more challenging one, as well.  

So about a month ago, I sent in my application and my 20,000-yen (about $200, with the dollar the way it is) registration fee and joined the Izena 88 Triathlon.  Izena Island is a small island off the northern tip of Okinawa Mainland.  I’d like to say it's a half Strongman but I think it falls a little short on the bike distance (like I said Izena is a really small island, we already have to circle the island like four times to complete the bike distance).  But anyway, it's a 2km swim, 66 km bike, and a 20 km run.  I wanted a challenge, and well, I got one.  

I actually started my training in May, thinking I would get a head start on training for the Ishigaki Triathlon, and of course, just to stay in shape (and as stated earlier, not much else to do on this island).  So now with a bigger, closer goal ahead of me, I pumped up my training regimen and actually put it in overdrive .  I am not making the same mistake I made when I did the AIDSRide some years back, of not training properly and suffering through the whole experience.  I want to do it and I want to do it well.  I am now up to training about 2 hours a day, 6 days a week.  Training for this triathlon is making my training for the marathon seem like a short Suzy-style walk (you all know how slow I walk) to the gelato shop and eating a double pistachio and chocolate cone…yummmm.  

                                WARNING: Here comes the cheesy but meaningful part…

Two hours a day, six days a week, and then I am so tired that I can’t really do much else.  This is consuming all of my energy and most of my time.  I started to ask myself, for what??? I came to the realization that this is one of the most selfish things I have ever done.  I know, selfish in the best way possible, but still extremely selfish.  After doing Peace Corps, which has changed my life more than I ever, thought possible, one thing I realized is how much I like doing things to help other people.  I loved how my whole purpose, goal, job in Peace Corps was to do things to help other people, no matter how small, I was always giving myself to the people in my community.  

So, expending all this energy and time, just to cross a finish line did not seem worthy enough.  I wanted to do more.  So I have decided to use my sweat and possible tears (probably not tears, but you never know) as a way to help raise money for an amazing, almost magical (yes, magical) place, the Baan Unrak Orphanage in Thailand.  

Last Christmas, along with 30 other volunteers, I had the privilege of spending a week volunteering my time at the Baan Unrak Orphanage in Thailand.  It was such an incredible experience and since I will, unfortunately, be unable to make it back there this year, I still wanted to do what I could for the children of the orphanage.  You can read all about my experience at the Orphanage on the “My Experience at Baan Unrak”.

To see more photos of my trip to Thailand and Baan Unrak, click on the photo

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