Well, I made it through the 400 km „brevet“ sponsored by Audax Kanagawa. Approximately 35 of us assembled at 8:15AM for the pre-ride briefing by the side of the Sagami river in Zama city. (Apparently the 600km ride scheduled to start on Sunday had more like 45-50 registrations, the longer distances being popular late in the season among true randonneurs; here, there was a special effort to schedule the 400 and 600 km rides sequentially, in case anyone wanted to do both).
The route started with the usual caution of a Japanese ride — what seemed like endless red lights and a group waiting patiently in line for right turns — but after a few minutes things opened up as we crossed the bridge over the river. I stayed with the two riders ahead of me … to look back and see all the rest of a group of 10-15 at least 100 meters back, patiently in line behind one slower rider and not able to pass safely in traffic on the bridge. Once we got onto Rte 65 and started to get longer distances between traffic lights, that was the last I saw of most of the riders.
By the time we got to Itsukaichi (via Rtes 65, 510, 48 (Machida Kaido) and 61 (Akigawa Kaido)), there were a few riders ahead. Two more of the later-starting but faster-paced riders pulled ahead of me on the climb toward Sakamoto. One of them started to turn left one traffic light early, and I was able to yell out „mada desu, Sakamoto wa tsugi no kosaten!“ Only later did I realize that this kindness (returned many times to me by others during the route) had been extended to Jun Aoyama, shown in the pre-start briefing photo in the long sleeved Discovery jersey 3rd from the left, who finished first, at something like 4:53AM. … If only he would have wandered up that dead-end and spent another 2 hours searching for the entrance to Umegaya-Toge/Jerome Hill, I might have been in the group contending for first place when we came in after 6:40AM.
A few minutes later after clearing Jerome Hill, Tom S. passed me headed East DOWN Yoshino-Kaido as I headed UP river and gave me my first fan support of the day. Thanks, Tom.
Learning from the Transalp experience, I very quickly refueled at the 7-11 at Kori (end of Yoshino Kaid0), first checkpoint of the day (receipts from convenience stores showing the store name, address and time/date served as checkpoint „stamps“) and was on the bike shortly after the first two — Aoyama-san and one more — and ahead of all the others who had gotten to the first checkpoint.
A couple of riders passed me on the climb to Yanagisawa … but fewer than I would have expected. I was slogging already, the extra stress of this event and the early hills preceding the climb having sapped my energy. My „togebaka“ time up Yanagisawa was over 2:35, 15 minutes slower than a few months ago, … then I was down the other side, with one rider (on a snazzy Pinarello FP3 with clean, white jersey and shorts) fearlessly passing me and various cars on the descent to Enzan. I stopped for water at a 7-11 near Enzan station and was just re-emerging to continue alone when … two TCC members (please tell me your names so I’ll remember next time we meet, assuming I’m in something like a normal mental state) rolled up. All I could say was „I’m doing the Brevet, got to ride“ and remounted, another nearly 40 km still left to the „official“ second checkpoint.
After another 10 km, I caught Mr. Pinarello/white jersey, emerging from his own convenience store stop and just rolling out ahead, and we rode together until almost at the next stop, taking only 1 wrong turn that cost us an extra 2.7 km. Maybe it was this turn, or maybe it was general unease with our route, but he started fumbling with his map as we were within a few kilometers of the next stop, and I think pulled off to check. I kept going, found the correct turn without a problem (a LEFT turn … that looped up and over the road so that one ended up going 270 degrees and toward the RIGHT) … and never saw him again. At stop #2, an anonymous Lawson in the SW corner of the valley that includes Kofu/Enzan/Minami Alps City, I arrived before either Mogi-san or Hashimoto-san left, and Sugimoto-san pulled in a few minutes later on his straight handlebar’ed hybrid, looking like „death warmed over.“
…. Okay, I could go on and on with this description of the ride for ever, since it was a REALLY LONG ride, but suffice it to say that after riding the next 40km+ alone into a stiff HEADWIND and gradually UPHILL and then in the DARK to another anonymous Lawson near Kobuchizawa/Yatsugatake, I rode the last 200 km with one of these three individuals — Mogi-san (the next 40+ km on a different route DOWN the hill with TAILWIND to the same SW corner of the valley), Hashimoto-san (the entire last 150+ km) and/or Sugimoto-san (who arrived at the last checkpoint/rest stop before Hashimoto-san and I left, and caught us again after we lost a few more km on a cue sheet-inspired wrong turn in Hadano area and directed us the last 10 km … until I pulled out and sprinted a few hundred meters at the end just to show who was boss, then waited for them so we could finish together).
We were rewarded with a spectacular sunset over the Minami Alps as we climbed toward Yatsugatake, past Anayama station. The weather was perfect (other than the headwind), and I will always remember riding on this country road in the fading light, then the quiet of the darkness. Very nice countryside.
The downhill stretches in the dark that I rode with him … were actually incredible fun, with smooth road surfaces, little traffic (on Local Rte 12–parallel to Rte 20/Koshu Kaido) and good headlights. And it is really nice to go 40kph+ toward one’s goal while essentially resting on the bicycle. To get any good at this kind of ultra-long event, one would need to learn to focus on conserving energy.
Mogi-san works in IT/systems at an AIG affiliate insurance company. (He is no relation to the „Mogi“ family that founded Kikkoman — it is a rare Japanese name, so I asked that question, and he says the employers always asked it as well he was in college looking for a first job.)
Hashimoto-san and I rode up the climb to the NW side of Mt. Fuji, panicked a bit after we realized we had climbed the wrong valley (Rte 404 instead of Rte 300) but realized that luckily there was a connecting road at the top of the climb — so we added only a little climbing and probably no extra distance by the error. After some very, very slow climbing on a dark mountain road to 980 meters elevation, we zoomed down the Fuji Panorama Line (Rte 139), competing only with some even faster trucks at 1AM on a Sunday morning. After climbing again back up to 880 meters near the famed Fuji Safari Park, we enjoyed a long, mostly gradual descent again on Rte 469, competing only with the occasional 3:30AM Sunday newspaper delivery bikes as we passed through Gotemba environs.
Hashimoto-san works at Microsoft Japan — just in case it was not apparent from his jersey.
Sugimoto-san … I did not get to speak with much, as we were not riding together until the very last few kilometers. But as you can see, by morning the color had returned to his face. He was looking much more healthy than 250 km earlier in the event.
The three of us, Hashimoto, Sugimoto and Litt, were tied for 3rd place arriving at around 6:45AM, behind only Aoyama-san and Mogi-san. I saw one other finisher arrive, slogging in about 30~40 minutes later as I headed for the train after resting and eating some cup ramen and chips. Presumably the rest of the group made it later, before the Noon cutoff.
Here I am complete with reflective gear … one of the Audax requirements. … If I do one of these again, I will get much simpler reflective strap and leave the Assos at home, as the vest constricted me, and the velcro fasteners rubbed against my Assos bib shorts/top and I fear significantly shortened the life of the material.
Here is a link to a map of the ride … tracked until my Garmin 705’s battery hit empty after around 360 km and over 18 hours of service.
Or you can TRY HERE to see someone else’s GPS map of the course (without the various side detours — 4 that I can recall — that added about 10km total for me).
The Garmin says 4800 meters of climbing, while Map My Ride suggests 4000 meters — either one based upon 360 out of 410 kilometers (not to mention the various wrong turns). In any event, it was a monster ride, and I slept most of Sunday morning, afternoon, and night.
P.S. One comment for consideration by the Positivo Espresso team — Lawson now has 2 liter private label water bottles for 105 yen, a significant discount to the new 128 yen private label water available at 7-11, or the 178 yen Suntory water still sold at Family Mart. This competitive situation bears watching as we „approve“ convenience stores going forward.