Tagesarchiv: 6. Oktober 2009

The Ducks of Endurance

Dear Mob of 2010,

This is the Mob of 2009 writing a letter to you on the evening of the Yokohama endurance race. I just would like to remind you that before you coax yourself and your friends into riding in the 2010 Yokohama endurance race you read this one. I am sorry for the shortness of the letter, this is due that every single of my bones seems brittle, my major muscle groups are still shivering in cramps and my tendons are squeaking and aching every time I try to get them moving. Yes, mob of 2009, I would like to remind you that this was not an easy race. Perhaps you forgot your experience from 2008 when you applied in 2009, but make sure to think about it when you consider of riding it again in 2010.

Yours sincerely

mob of 2009

If I would have known (or remembered) how hard this race is, I wouldn’t have registered in the first place. James has kindly written about all the racing aspects and our share of suffering and there is little to add but some personal observations:

When we registered, we met Fujikawa-San and his friend from Catteni Positivo; this being the other team supported by Nagai San’s Positivo shop. I met Fujikawa-San also last year at the race and we talked about the experience. These are nice guys and they also have their own blog where it seems that they are focusing more on brevet style rides.

Without wanting to appear to arrogantly I shall nevertheless remark that during the race we made it abundantly clear which is the Positivo A- and which the Positivo B-Team.

The next thing I remember was that James and me were standing in the starting field when the cheerleader performance began. I am not sure why, but endurance races in Japan do always field cheerleaders (Tsukuba, Yokohama) or at least Weider girls (Motegi) although the connection is not so clear for me.

„How was your last endurance race?“

Great – we had a fantastic cheerleader performance“

Would probably be a perfectly normal conversation in Japan. Actually the ones which were performing in Yokohama were so bad, that even the rain stopped for a while. They also held posters with the words „Care“, „Fun“, „Joy“ and some others up (Not sure, I think the other ones were „lung cancer“ and „non-linear depreciation“) to inspire us.

The the race started. I tried to get into the first or second fast group, but had to give up after the third lap and from then onwards James and me stayed with the third fastest group. The first hour is always the hardest for me and when it started to rain really, really hard I was considering to throw the towel. I couldn’t see very much through my sun glasses as in the cavity between the sunglasses and the optical glasses inserts humidity was gathering, slowly obscuring any vision left. Luckily James rode in front of me and I could see his bright orange Positivo jersey, but some of the black clad („anti-globalization dress“, as David said) riders where hardly contrasting with the road surface at this point. I was very lucky that the rain stopped and I could regain some vision.

Next thing was, that I was leading the group and riding down the tight flyover from the stadium to the park. The rims were still wet and I braked too late and too hard: so suddenly my rear wheel blocked and I was fast going in direction of the barriers. But luckily I got the bike under control and could avoid a crash, but at the cost of stopping and getting out of the cleats.

„Daijobu ?“ I heard from someone of the Japanese riders in our group…. „Matte!“ I shouted in despair, clipped in and went in pursuit of our group. Luckily I could manage to hang on.

There were quite a few crashes, but not as manya and as hard as in Shuzenji in August. The amount of human suffering one sees at the ramp leading steeply (I guess 15%) up from the park to the stadium level is just amazing. Many riders were so exhausted that they pushed up their bikes; others took the initial swing to capitulate them up about a third and then they just stopped there and couldn’t go further on their own power.

My strategy was to stay in the outer front and shift down to my 27 teeth cog on the rear. That worked pretty well and I wasn’t so bad in sprinting up the ramp. But once I was up it was hard to accelerate from 20 km/hr again and than there is this ugly right curve leading into the stadium which takes the momentum out of the ride again.

This is not an easy course, unlike Hitachi Naka where you stay in the peloton all the time and go virtually straight for about 160 km. Yokohama requires constant acceleration and braking – add some attacks from the group – that takes it’s toll on the body.

One of my of legs after my semi-crash was cramping and I had a hard time to ignore that. Later on I was not able to let my leg rest in the highest pedal position when manouvering a corner. Cramps only stopped when I was pedaling.

So in the end I had no reserves and although we managed to decimate our group to only four or five riders over time, I couldn’t follow James when he sprinted away at the very end.

Nevertheless I was very pleased with our performance and I was sure that we had a good finish even before the results were released.

At the start to the two hour race in the afternoon I was so tired, I could have slept on my bike. I was also incredibly dirty but luckily I brought some equipment for exchange. And at least the weather was getting better and the rain stopped.

The two hour race was not as good as the morning one. In fact I was even a little bit slower than last year. All the fresh new riders were overtaking me to the left and to the right and I couldn’t found a good group to draft with after I have lost contact with James.

I was so tired and so slow. I was cursing that I shouldn’t do this kind of stupid races any longer. Really, I was so exhausted. Nevertheless I made it to the finish and in the end we had a splendid result.

As the Prince Figure Skate Center – the location in town where my daughter and my wife spend more time than at home – was just around a corner and I knew that there was also a 7-Eleven, we went there and had some food and drinks. Looking at the girls coming from the figure skate center and comparing them to what we have seen in the Yokohama stadium, we were wondering if we shouldn’t‘ put a different focus in our sport activities. OK, at this poin tim time we weren’t looking exactly attractive. I would say the only thing that looked more dirty that us were our bikes.

James asked if we should lock them. I thought that he made a joke, nobody at the figure skate center knows want I bike is and what it is good for.

By the way, we were noticed. My wife told me some days later that at least one ugly-duck-becomes-olympic-hero-educating-mother has noticed us and described as later as „dirty, foreign perverts handing around at the entrance to the centre“. My wife wisely decided not to disclose her relationship.

„Dirty, foreign pervert“

So after getting back to the stadium and checking the final results (Complete surprise that TCCs Naomi and Alan and their teammate were also riding in the event, I haven’t seen them at all)
we rode home.
I asked one a the reception if James would be eligible for a price with his 6th place finish, but I was told that only the 1st place will get something in the King of endurance category. Naturally, there can be only one king. So we have to be conten with the title of dukes, or, as Laurent remarked, ducks of endurance.

Riding home after the event was a 5 km monster brevet-like trip along long roads and high mountains. So it seemed. Which completely exhausted me. And after having a business meeting and entertaining my family with heroic stories at the local Yakitori restaurant I felt asleep, dreaming and cramping until the early morning light.

The next day I went hiking with a group of German friends. We started at Mitake station on the Ome-Ouktama line an walked up the road to the cable station. This road is well known as „The mother of all pointless rides“ by James, Graham and Michael. From Mitake we took a hiking trail to Hinode mountain and then further on to Tsuru tsuru Onsen (on the road from Itsukaichi to Umenoki pass leading to Ikusabata at the Tamagawa West of Ome). Quite nice and very painful. Perhaps a new trail to be explored by Tom and his new bike?

Anyway, after a good soak in the water and some good food and beers later at the Ishikawa brewery (= Tama Jiman, Positivo approved) I was ready for my bed and didn’t woke up until late on Monday morning.

My muscles are still hurting and I am not completely unthankful that the rain is stopping all biking activities for the time being. I wanted to tell our heroic deeds to the students at university but decided later that history of the Japanese zaibatsu would be equally interesting for them.

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Duke of Endurance

Well Saturday was a day of many mixed emotions and started off at 4:30am when I woke up and unable to get some much needed rest.

Having gone through the morning ritual of coffee on, toast on and clothes on, I started to get the bike and my kit ready for the BikeNavi King of Endurance race that myself and Michael were participating in.

The ride down route 45 was very pleasant and warm at 6am and I had to remove the windbreaker I was wearing and started to feel very Positivo about the weather forecast for the day…. How very wrong I was!

Registration was at 7am and although they were set up and ready to roll the event organizers were strict to the rule and did not start handing out race numbers, RFID tags for the bikes and the free goodies for those serious or crazy enough for the race a head until 7am on the dot. I would also like to point out that “Roadies, Fixies, Messengers, MTB’ers and mamchari” riders were all treated fairly and the same.

After stashing our kit we headed out on to the course to give it a few warm up laps and to familiarize ourselves with the course and it’s potential hazards and by this time we started to get a few little showers and some cross winds on the course.

At 8am we all set up on the starting line and I took the chance to see just how much grip my slicks would have on the running track as I was worried that the bike would slide at speed. Amazingly the bike stuck to it like glue and it was very hard to lockup the back wheel.

With the unsynchronized cheerleaders done with their routines and the local talent getting a temped “genki” in return to her cries the heavens opened and unleashed a new psychological weapon on us just as we were about to start.

Both Michael and I were lucky enough to be positioned relatively close to the front of the pack so when the starting gun sounded we took the outside line to put ourselves in the best position for when the green flag was dropped and we could get a good sprint line away with the serious contenders and form a breakaway group from the onset.

The pace was blisteringly fast and the adverse weather conditions didn’t make it any better for those in the front 3 groups. Having learnt from my last race I was wise enough to put some training rides in the week before, including in the terrible rain on Friday and thankfully my muscles and mindset were in the right place.

Having completed the first few laps at around 36-38kmph averages we started to drop people from the group as well as start lapping the less serious of the riders out on the track. 1.5 hours in Positivo was doing very well with both me and Michael in the top 20 and still keeping pace with the group we were in and everyone doing their part in the front. Although later on that afternoon that same team spirit and dedication for the group was not reflected by other riders and I started to get annoyed with the wheel leaches.

After 2 hours it started to become more of a battle of the mind than the body as the legs continued to pump like pistons and my heart rate was very happy to sit around 145-150 bpm. Now it was down to telling myself to keep going in the appalling conditions with spray hitting me from every direction and riders crashing out on the more technical sections of the course.

The access ramp in to the arena was taking its toll on even the hardiest and dedicated of riders, with slipped gears, snapped chains and exhaustion taking its toll on those trying to climb the short steep ramp. I decided from the very beginning to drop in to 34 at the front every time I hit the access ramp and it really paid off, especially at the end of the race.

The running track was also another nasty place as I tended to zone out while looking at the white lines and almost resulted in me going in to the back of a slower rider and also missing my line when leaving the stadium.

By the end of the 3 hours I was exhausted, both physically and mentally and not sure if I could get back in the saddle for the 2 hour race that concluded the King of Endurance title.

My legs were starting to stiffen and I seriously need food and liquids in me. Fortunately I had packed power bars, Protein drink and also my trusty HIGH5 4:1 drink for endurance and I highly recommend it! But my body was crying out for rest and fuel and it was only until I found out that I had placed 13th in the 3 hour race and 7th so far in the “King of Endurance” that I was able to drag my battered and weary body back to the bike.

Michael also finished in the same group and was in 14th place for the 3 hour Endurance and 8th so far in the “King of Endurance” so Positivo was now a force to be reckoned with, yet more motivation to get back out there.

Fueled, fed and an attempt to wash the grim of my face and glasses I was back on the start line for the final two hours, very worried about getting cramps in the legs and being able to keep pace with the remaining contenders for the “King of Endurance” knowing that I was 7th so far was winning the psychological war raging across my body and with the starting gun going off we were back at it.

Fortunately the rain had stopped but the surface water was terrible claiming many riders who were already fatigued and weary from the previous race and Michael did very well to control his bike when his wheel locked up on one of the hairpins on the course while also fighting off the cramps.

The pace yet again was blisteringly fast and it was hard not to feel frustrated when riders who had only entered the 2 hour race zipped past in a fashion that made soft pedaling look hard. Michael also got away from me when he got on the tail of a very fast group, fortunately I was able to muster several other riders that wanted in and we caught up with them and remained on the tail for some time.

Although as I mentioned before it got to the point where only 3-4 riders were doing their bit at the front while the remaining wheel leaches were content with letting us do the work and it resulted in me pulling out of the pace line and waving other riders to the front.

I’m not sure where I lost Michael but towards the last hour the race became a very personal battle between myself and two of the Team Ari riders, not wanting to name names but one of them spent the whole ride speaking to himself and I decided to try and breakaway from him and his constant ramblings to get some peace and quiet, especially in my safe and hurt free place in the white lines on the running track where the mind drifted to hot baths and cold beers.

The last 20 minutes of the race was a very fast with me and 3 to 4 other riders riding together to make the most of the remaining time and also to keep an eye on each other in case one of us made a break for it to increase our standings in the final rankings. I had no idea where they were currently placed but I was not having another Zero prefixed rider beat me over the line and potentially go ahead of me in the “King of Endurance” title.

On the last two laps I was able to summon my reserves and went at it hammer and tongues. Setting my pace at what it had been on the first few laps of the morning race and only 2 of the other riders were able to keep pace leaving them to battle the head winds on their own.

With the final lap and 1km out I put my head down and went for it, broke away from the small group with myself and 1 other rider making it to the access ramp in to the stadium, this is really were my tactic of dropping in to my 34 at the front came in to play as I was able to accelerate myself up the slope and through the tight turns on to the final straight without spinning out due to the short distance, while the other rider already exhausted by the pace and unable to use the momentum to get up the slope stalled and was dropped as he no longer had the momentum and the cry of despair was a melody to my ruined spirit.

Head down and legs pumping like mad I crossed the line 6th overall in the “King of Endurance” having completed 52 laps in 5 hours 6 minutes and 53 seconds, 1 lap off the winner and an average speed of 32.53km/h with Michael making the top 10 also finishing overall in 10th place completed 52 laps in 5 hours 8 minutes and 35 seconds, 1 lap off the winner and an average speed of 32.35km/h.

Full results can be found here:

“King of Endurance”

“3 hour Race”

“2 hour Race”

Garmin Data will follow soon.

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