Monatsarchiv: Mai 2010

SHHHhhhh no talking we’re training!!!

My morning actually started badly with the valve extended venting air from my SRAM wheels and I didn’t release until after I had swapped out inner tubes. With 5 minutes to eat breakfast, switch my climbing cassette to my Ultegra wheels I set of with 50 minutes to cover the 25km from my house to Tamawagarabashi. 43.33 later I was at the meeting spot… with the blood up I was ready to train.

Once everyone was assembled we…… well …I headed out… as people were still making idle chat as when I looked behind they were still at the bridge… ok i thought, there is a few of them and Jules and Clay will bridge the gap! Wrong.

Finally reaching the next stop at Takao 7-11 Steve and Fumiki were waiting for us and in true Positivo tradition the plan amongst the traditionalists was changed. (As a newbie I’m still not used to this riding style and maybe in another 10 years I would have learned to uphold this tradition)

With only Fumiki and me sticking to the original plan we headed out with Clay and Jules who had decided to climb O-Toge and would be with us along Route 20. With Clay setting the pace of the Delorean from “Back To the Future” we shot off up Otarumi, Clay taking the victory easily and leaving myself and Jules to fight for the scraps and on the second to last bend I launched my attack taking 2nd and completing the TT in 11:46, not enough to beat my record but still a fast time.

Jules and Clay pass two hikers on Otarumi

Fumiki was taken by surprise of the sudden race to the summit and failed to catch a wheel, he still came in very strong and the 4 of us descend Route 20 towards Sarunobashi where we would part company with Jules and Clay.

http://www.facebook.com/v/388913179246

As it happened a few unlucky reds put a gap between us of around 200meters and we would only get a glimpse of the two now and again before finally losing them altogether in the twisting roads.

We made a very brief stop at to get water at Sarunobashi before heading up towards Matsuhime. Not wanting to get caught in the midday sun we attacked the mountain without remorse and I reached the summit at 11:06 – 116km in 4hour 11 minutes of riding time. Fumiki was going strong and with me shouting encouragement from the goal he put in a valiant and heroic sprint for the line.

Fumiki looking very composed after his final 100m sprint up Matsuhime!

A quick stop to take a photo as this was Fumiki’s first ever time to climb Matsuhime and we were off again. A very fast descent to the village where we used the farmers tap to refill our bottles and sprinted off towards Okutama.

We stopped here for Fumiki to get some Calorie Mate and some honeycomb that reminds me of seaside walks in Brighton and Southsea and to try and reach Hiroshi-san who wanted to know how we were doing as he intended to meet up with us.

Alas with no signal we decided to press on and we attacked Kazahari (Is that correct??) at 12:17….not so much fun in the heat of midday, I love this climb also and we both made good progress. We slowly started to drift apart and it became a solo battle between us and the mountain. I was feeling on form and was passing cyclists at a very good rate. I have no idea where this time trial finishes so all of my times have been at the Sasanogone Car Park (SP?) which is the first car park right after the Tomin no Mori rest area if you were to climb it from Motoshuku. I didn’t take this as a TT as I was starting to feel the burn but made it to the car park in 00:43:33.

There were a lot of bikers on the mountain and they were only riding half way up…. those that rode to the top were in for a surprise as the police were out in force with a drag net…. they must have made a pretty penny that day.

With Fumiki back in tow we headed to Tomin no Mori rest area to get some food… probably due to all the motor bike riders waiting for their tickets to be issued anything remotely nutritional was gone as was all the bottled water. Fumiki showed me the location of a tap and free water… Good Lad!

We descended the mountain and blasted through the country lanes, Fumiki is a lot more cautious than I on these narrow roads and we were separated until Hinohara Village Hall.

Once assembled again we blasted off down Route 7 towards Fussa and the Birugoya, Fumiki used the last of his energy to take a pull at the front and once on the Tamagawa we made another quick stop for liquids and to comment on just how hard we were going.

I pulled Fumiki along the Tamagawa and as we came to Y’s Road and the 7-11 we both looked at each other with that “I need food please stop” look. Finding a warm bit of concrete we both tried to replace the calories we had burnt and commented on the epic journey behind us the ridiculous pace we were setting.

We donned our helmets and mounted our steeds like war weary soldiers knowing that they had no choice but to push the attack and we headed out on the final stretch. We decided to use the road as the cycle path was busy and would not allow us to keep the 34-35kph pace we were setting and before long we had a Tama warrior sucking wheel…. I decided to have a little fun and make a sprint… even after 200km I was pumping away at 50+ kph just to have some fun with the guy.

We quickly reached the Tamagawara Bride were we posed for the second photo of the day and headed out for home.

211km behind us and Solo rides ahead, back at Tamawagara Bashi ready to Die.

I finally reached home smack bang at 5pm with a distance of 235.8km, 3,380 meters of climbing at a pace of 28.6kph, with a riding time of 8 hours 15 minutes.

Fumiki it was a pleasure riding with you, it truly was an epic ride and I hope you not in too much pain today!

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/32681814

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TTT Training Tokyo-Itoigawa 2010. Team Positivo Espresso.

We were wearing our ‚away‘ kit.

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P.E. Rules, Revisited

Today’s Sunday ride … was a bit too much for me.  Either I’m still recuperating from last weekend’s Brevet, or I’m not yet in my fighting shape, or the warm weather got to me, or most likely some combination of the three.

James M. had planned a 250 km ride out via Takao and Rte 20, over Matsuhime from the South and the back via Kazahari.  He wanted to go at his „training speed“ — I’m not sure what that is, but it is fast, and not really consistent with a social ride. 

Michael H., Jerome and I joined James, Yair, Clay and Jules from TCC at Tamagawahara-bashi, Nishibe-san at Sekidobashi, and Fumiki and Steve (from TCC) at Takao.  The weather was gorgeous, even hot*, and the pace was fast out to Takao.

*As you can see from the photo, Jerome took full advantage of his exception from the P.E. Team Rule No. 9  today to wear his „short shorts“.

Jerome and I decided to head instead for Sasago, over Sasago Pass and then on to Kamihikawa and Yanagisawa — an even more ambitious a program (likely to meet Tom going the other way), if at a slower pace and with plenty of optionality for people to bail and take the train or an alternate route back.

Nishibe-san made it to Fujino, then said he would head back — via Wada, I think.  When I caught up with Yair and Michael H. at Uenohara, Yair was about to turn around and head back for Shinjuku, having done his work already as powerful domestique for the lead group.  Jerome and Steve were waiting at the far end of Uenohara and continued on with Michael H. and me for Sasago.  We did not see James M., Clay, Jules or Fumiki again — they presumably turned off at Sarubashi.  There was remarkably little traffic on Rte 20.  Perhaps the „my car“ drivers were already tired out from sitting in GW traffic jams and decided to stay home, while the trucks were off because it was Sunday?

I was a bit worried going through Uenohara — wondering if the Uenohara curse of near-misses, crashes and mechanical trouble that haunted Michael O.B. K. in recent years will get passed on now that he is in Germany.  Fortunately, no one had any problems today.

I fell behind Jerome, Steve and Michael H. on the climb after Uenohara to Yanagawa.  They waited at the entrance to Otsuki and asked if I wanted to stop.  „Yes,“ I called as I passed, „but at a convenience store.“ 

I went ahead in search of one.  I quickly passed a Daily Yamazaki on the wrong side of the street.  Then after a few minutes another Daily Yamazaki also on the wrong side of the street, at the crossing in front of the station.  Nothing for a few kilometers until, on the West side of town, a Lawson, also on the wrong side of the street.  No P.E. approved Seven Elevens on this stretch.  I left my bicycle out front so that the other 3 would see it when they passed.  The Lawson is not just any Lawson.  It has the best, most beautiful feature that is missing from 99% of the convenience stores in this part of Japan.  No, I don’t mean a „western style“ toilet.  I  mean a bench on which to sit and eat your food and drink your drink.  It seats almost 3 tired cyclists (the 4th must take photographs or sit on the ground), and is in the shade during the late morning.  Accordingly, we were happy to declare an exception to P.E. Team Rule No. 20 for this Lawson.

I had very good memories of climbing first Sasago then Kamihikawa one day last Spring, but it was not to be today.  I quickly fell behind the others on Route 20, and again on the old road climb to Sasago Pass.  By the time I arrived at the top, it was clear that today was not my day. Michael H. took a last photo of Jerome and Steve, in case it is needed for a search and rescue operation on Kamihikawa, and he and I headed back for Otsuki and the train home (he had a board meeting at his tennis club late afternoon).

The trip back to Otsuki was downhill and fast, despite a headwind.  We parted ways at Tachikawa and I rode another 23 km home, making it about 150 km for the day.  (If Jerome and Steve actually did Kamihikawa and Yanagisawa, and Jerome rode all the way home, he should be well over 250 km, which was James M.’s original target).  Jerome?  Steve?  James?

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Itoigawa training and Devils & Angels


Up at 5:15am on Saturday, out with Humphrey to check weather conditions – lightweight jersey was decided upon, followed by breakfast (cereal, brown toast, banana & caffeine laden High 5 drink for me and a bowl of dry dog food with goat milk powder supplement for Humphrey). As this was a training ride for the approaching Tokyo-Itoigawa 300km race we wanted to get the distance in, hence the early start. For me this was to be the longest ride I have done yet. I realise that for Tom a 250km ride is an average weekend ride so perhaps when I am his age I can do the same. Off at 6am to meet James K out by David L’s house. On the way I enjoyed the site of youth around Ebisu station, namely drunks either propping each other up or strutting around in a last gasp attempt to pull a bird.

Lucky James and I are both male as we were merely amused that we both decided to wear pale blue Rapha jerseys that day. Had we been of the opposite sex we would either have had to have a fight involving scratching and hair-pulling (I would have been at a disadvantage here owing to James‘ ‚modern‘ hairstyle) or claim to be extremely embarrassed, storm home and swear never to talk to the other again. However, a Rapha aficionado will have recognised that these were jerseys from different years as one has a white stripe on one arm while the other has a white hoop on the chest.

On a gorgeous and windless morning we made fast progress along the river towards Ome. At one stage we came up behind a petite non-male rider who was clearly in great shape and moving fast. I felt no urgency to overtake as the path dipped down and made a U-turn and climbed back up to the main cycling path, but once back up on the main path the show was over as the aforementioned non-male rider was back in the saddle and I decided it was time to pass. Shockingly, the Aurore Bakery in Ome was not open when we arrived so we stocked up at 7-11. Before I had a chance to take a mournful photo of the Aurore shutters and send it to MOB to show how Japan is collapsing without him, men appeared from within to open the store.

We chose to ride long Yoshinokaido for a change and it did seem to be more shaded than the main Omekaido. While riding along to Okutamako we saw several side roads that look worth exploring, but unusually, we stuck to the plan. I recognised one as Jerome’s road which leads up to the gates at the top of Kazahari but all others may have led to Shangri La or to even more remote places such as Bremen for all I know. The climb up Yanagizawa Pass (1,550m) was harder than I had anticipated but it was very scenic and we made our way up.

We kept getting passed by 2 younger and surely anorexic Japanese riders. One had a bell on his saddle bag similar to the ones elderly hikers use to warn bears in the vicinity so you could hear him coming. Not quite the same as what pro-cyclist Bernard Eisel had to endure: „I thought, I’d better let this motorbike come by but when I turned around and looked it was Cancellara.“ They must have kept stopping ahead of us, hiding in the shadows for us to pass only to accelerate past us again just to taunt us. The pale blue Rapha clad duo with a combined age of almost 90 were not to be broken.

The 1,050m descent down to Enzan is stunningly beautiful. 16km of fast roads which are in good condition thanks no doubt to a powerful local politician. We turned onto Rte 20, known in the area as The Fruit Line, and into a headwind and some unexpected rollers. A quick refueling at a 7-11 was followed by a scary ride through a busy 3km tunnel. The tunnel was at the top off a steepish approach so I was in my small chainring. Earlier in the day my chain had come off while shifting back into the large chainring so although the tunnel flattened out and was fast I was too scared to risk shifting for fear of losing the chain again. The tunnel had no stopping lane on the left. The result was that as fast as I pedaled I was unable to fully engage the perfectly sculpted calf muscles to which Mr. Knott often refers. A fast and uneventful ride along Rte 20 and after some mind games to see who would blink first we agreed to skirt around Takao rather than go over the top.

Discoveries:
  • Van Houten Cocoa: final stop at a conbini not called 7-11. This drink was a revelation for as it did the job when I was getting tired (I don’t drink coffee).
  • No recovery beer: after a long ride it seemed a stop at the club house (Central Tokyo Chapter) was in order for a celebratory/recovery beer. However, my riding partner, Uncle Serious, declined.
  • Like Pinto in the cult movie Animal House I had a devil on one shoulder urging me to have a beer while on the other should an angel was telling me not to do it and that I would regret it in the morning. Unusually, the angel won and I can thank him for it today because I feel good. I hope nobody holds this against me. I am happy for my no alcohol theory to be proved wrong and am offering myself up for ongoing research (taking the devil’s side).
256km, 2500m climbing, 10hrs 31mins in the saddle without a sore backside (thanks again Rapha).
Signing off……

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Then finally, it was time for the very last ride.

As James rightfully commented on his blog, there were quite a number of Sayonara rides during the last week. But having now finally arrived in Bremen, looking out of the office window on the grey sky and rainy weather, I can finally confirm that the last right was on last Saturday together with Ludwig.

As I was suppose to leave home for good on Sunday at 6 AM, Ludwig and me planned only half a day or riding on Saturday. We planned to ride out to Itsukaichi first, then climb Iriyama and Wada from the North side and try to set a new and final Togebaka record on Otarumi from the Sagamiko lake side before returning home. Needless to state that everything turned out completely different – as usual.

Ludwig did a long and gruelling ride the day before and therefore we met only late at 8 AM at Tamagawahara bridge. We were proceeding at medium speed along the Tamagawa and crossed over to Charles country road before we wanted to hit Mutsumibashi road to Itsukaichi.
Just when we climbed up the short hill leading from the river to the main road I heard a loud bang from the back of my bike and suddenly the handling started to feel strange. When we checked we found out quickly, that one of the spokes of my brand-new Shimano Ultegra rear wheel has broken and that another one was loose. This resulted in an extreme untrueness of the wheel which rubbed not only on the brake pads, but also on the cable stays. Impossible to ride and unfortunately the standard tool set didn’t provide anything to turn Shimano spokes so we couldn’t repair this somehow on our own.

I have to say that I am a little bit fed up with broken spokes. My Campagnolo Zonda back wheel gave me some troubles this year (three broken spokes) und I wanted to take countermeasures by buying the relatively cheap and reliable Shimano rear wheel everybody was talking about – only to become disappointed again. Perhaps it would be a good idea to let Nagai-san built a robust wheel for me just as he did for David ….. but then unfortunately they do not look as cool as a set of Zonda wheels.

Luckily we found a tyre shop close to the main road that provided as with a pipe – and a monkey wrench so we could at least adjust the wheel in such way as to make it „almost“ true again. The tyre team there was very nice and helpful. So please, if you need tyres (for your car, of course, not for the bike) in the future, please buy them there. For some reasons the guys over there hate Bridgestone and are huge fans of Dunlop and Continental. Schwalbe of course, they have never heard of. Great guys.Despite all the trouble I felt great, almost like having my own pro team of mechanics and later Ludwig and me went to a Combini and bought some cans of beer for them.

I didn’t felt very comfortable with the rear wheel minus one spoke, so we decided to return to Y park on the Tamagawa and get the wheel fixed. When we arrived, the mechanic there told me that they didn’t have any spare spokes on stock for Shimano. No, they couldn’t true the wheel as well. No, they didn’t have any wheels to lend out. Quite desperately I took the stairs to the second level and asked for the cheapest rear wheel available to buy – Shimano R50 that is for about 7.000 to 8.000 Yen. With this I went down to the mechanic and asked them to exchange the cassette from the Ultegra wheel to the new one. So I was asked to write my name in a list and to wait until it is my turn. Couldn’t I be placed in the front of the list, as this was my last day in Japan? No, this wasn’t possible. So could I exchange the cassette by myself? No, also this wasn’t possible. OK, Sayonara Y.

So in the end after spending a great deal of time for nothing at Y (An experience that many Y customers are making as well, should I believe other blog entries), we decided to ride home to my house and get the Zonda rear wheel for exchange.

Here everything went smoothly expect that my wife was very happy that I have arrived back from the trip in time for some family activities and I needed to tell her that the ride has now finally started and that I won’t be back before 6 PM. That created some friction that were substantially bigger than the rubbing of my rear wheel on the cable stays. Wives cannot be kept in closets and exchanged when causing friction as in case of back wheels. We need to consider this when making decisions about one thing or another and we have to be careful not to mix things up. In this case however, and as this was now scheduled to be my very last ride in Japan for a longer time, the decison was quite clear. I excused myself and without wasting too much time Ludwig and me paced along the Tsurumigawa river on our way to Hashimoto.

And finally, afte getting almost lost one more time and crossing over some hills to Takao, we arrived at 3 PM and after having done more then 136 km at our traditional 7-Eleven in front of Takao Station. What is normally a two hour , 50 km ride from my home, turned into almost 8 hours of despair and friction. But we have made it.

When one is out on the last ride, everything turns into symblic „last“ meanings: The last time to meet at Tamagawahara bridge in the morning. The last time to take a photo of Ludwig pissing with his back to the camera. The last time a spoke breaks. In Japan, but elsewhere they will continue to break. The last time to set a Togebaka record.

So, this was the very last time to give Otarumi a try and after 136 km of warm-up the condition was not the best one. On the one hand. On the other hand Ludwig gladly agreed to let me draft behind him. On the other hand Ludwig had by now more than 300 km within the last 36 hours in his legs and he wasn’t sure if he would make it up fast. Plus there was a nice headwind.

We started at 25 km/hr all the way to the Family Mart where the TT starts and then we accelerated to 30 km/hr plus while I was staying closely behind Ludwig. „Hey – that is nice and easy“, I thought as we rode fast through the flatter parts of the approach. If this continues, I would have enough power to overtake Ludwig and sprint to the top. I thought foolheartily.
Because once the gradient started to become steeper (not steep, but steeper) and Ludwig was still going strongly, I could barely stay on his back wheel. At least I had the feeling that I was fast. About 11 to 12 minutes into the ride Ludwig pulled away and I was on my own. In the distance I could see the final corner, after which the overpass should have been. Looking at the watch I thought that I was doing well. I mean, if this is really the last curve because going up Otarumi there are two curves which look almost the same and I always mix them up.

„Hey, I am the god of speed …. ups …. that was not the final curve, I still need much more time to go“ is what I have been thinking many times at Otarumi. Perhaps one would erect a signboard on the second last curve „THIS IS NOT THE LAST ONE“ and another one at the last curve „STILL THINKING YOU WERE FAST?“.

This was the last one. One more push out of the saddle and I achieved a new personal best of 13:34 min. Ludwig was of course faster, as I can name at least ten more riders from TCC who can kill me easily on this hill, but please remember: I walked up this hill in 2004 when I tried it for the first time. I have come a longer way at an older age than most of you guys.

This was a very nice good-bye present from Ludwig that I will remember for a very long time.
We then took some final photos on the top. There seems to be a huge wolfhound beast lurking around at the Ramen shop which is always closed on the left side, but perhaps you need to understand Japanese and be afraid to encounter him.In order to shave off time, we rode down the same side in direction Takao station and I made it home before 6 PM so I could „true“ the relationship with my wife.

When Ludwig and me said good-bye to each other we had a final, typical conversation. Out of nostalgic considerations, I wanted to state some of the beautiful rides we did together and the high mountains we have climbed together for the first time as well. I thought of our ride up to Mitsumine Jinja and to Haccho Tunnel in Chichibu. But Ludwig wasn’t too impressed about these two rides. We thought long and hard which other passes over 1.000 m elevation we have climbed together for the first time and coundn’t come up with any. And we couldn’t agree on any single ride that was great, except for a vague feeling that we did something quite interesting sometimes in Chichibu…somewhere. So we parted.

Meanwhile in Bremen: My Cervelo bike is with me and now ready to ride, but I didn’t had to time to do any junk miles yet. No wonder, grey skies, light rain and a temperature of 10 degrees almost all of the time. I better get used to that weather quickly or I will not ride at all.

I checked out the race events yesterday and much to my surprise there is a kind of brevet hold on Saturday for 210 km. I first laughed when I read the desciption of the route: „There are almost no elevation gains. The biggest challenges will be to cross railroad lines and highways.“
Then I stopped laughing when I noted that one has to do the 210 km in nine hours time. Not impossible, but surely not for the easy-going ones. I completely stopped to make any npoise when I checked the weather forecast for Saturday.

So I called the organizers: No. it isn’t a problem to register at the start on Saturday. Yes, the route will be marked and there will be supply stations. Yes, there will be even something warm to eat. They expect about 500 riders (for various distances between 60 and 210 km). Yes, I can pay 20 Euros (2.600 Yen) at the start.

This is great. No registration two weeks before the race, paying at the 7-eleven, than not starting because of bad weather. So I will wake up on Saturday morning, check the weather and .. not start AND not loose any money, great. Or perhaps I start. Will let you know later.

The other good thing is, that even in May the sun sets only after 9 PM, so there is still time for a short loop after work. Theoretically.

Need more latex.

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Chainring of the week

via GH

plus bonus quote (of last month)..

“I though, I’d better let this motorbike come by but when I turned around and looked it was Cancellara”

via cyclingnews

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Sunday Riders

As this weekend is the last week I should do any distance training for the Tokyo Itoigawa Fast Run I was wondering if anyone is free for an epic 200+ km ride this Sunday (Saturday is a no go for me)

I was planning on doing the same route I did a few weeks back with Dave –  Otarumi, Matsuhime, Tomin no mori and home. This was about 250km from Yokohama and also leaving early to avoid climbing at midday and allowing us home at a reasonable time.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/29645226

I’ve posted the ride details on the TCC forums so hopefully we could get a good turn out.

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How Rapha are you??


Photo of the week:

I lifted this photo from the Cycling Inquisition blog site. It shows a woman in full burqa buying loads of Rapha (and apparently Assos) stuff. You know you too want/need Rapha gear….

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Taking it to a Higher Level of …

achievement.

planning.

pain and suffering.

spectacular scenery.

camaraderie.

I was surprised on Saturday morning to see 80-90 cyclists assembled at a park along the river North of Ichinomiya, on the outskirts of the Nagoya area, for the Chubu Audax-sponsored 600 km BRM501.  I had expected maybe 30.  The crowd was bigger than all the people on the streets of central Ichinomiya when I arrived at the station from Tokyo early Friday evening, buildings shuttered for Golden Week, or for good?

We started out by riding 4-5 km along a narrow „cycling road“ through the park, disturbing at least 2-3 elderly people per kilometer on their morning walks.  Finally we came up onto a wide path on top of a levy, and a tail wind helped me stretch my legs a bit … talking it up to 38 kph for a few minutes while keeping the heart rate down, so I could move forward into the front 20-25 or so riders.

My cardio conditioning is WAY better than 6-8 weeks back.  Rewards of hard work — proven by my threshold power test at Bryon’s studio on Friday, where I moved up from a terrible to a mediocre test number, but was able to gradually accelerate over the length of the 10km test, keeping my pulse down, and finished wishing I had pushed a bit harder.  Then again, on Saturday morning my legs felt stiff, not at all fresh.  … maybe also a result of the prior day’s power testing (remind me not to try something like this again the day before a big event).  Anyway, the muscles would stretch out and get loose as the ride continued, and continued, and continued.

We finally exited the park and were on heavily traveled roads for awhile, before reaching light traffic.  A quick move up onto a deserted sidewalk before a long guardrail and a narrow lane allowed me (and a few others) to pass about 30 cars and another 10 or more cyclists who had been penned in by cars, waiting for a light to change, and when a few riders came together with me at another traffic light, 5-10 minutes later, I found myself in one of the front groups.

These guys looked really strong.  One (in front, in blue and yellow — photo above), who had chatted with me at the start, had not an ounce of body fat, and a rucksack that looked outsized on his small climber’s body frame.  Another had calf muscles (back of lower leg) that bulged.  He wore „pedal fast“ shorts and a Saitama Audax 2007 PBP jersey (see photo above).  I rode much of the last 2 legs with other people in these and similar 2007 PBP commemorative articles of clothing — vests and jerseys — notching up their 2010 mileage to get their 2011 spots).  Mr. Pedal Fast was riding alone, while the other 3 were clearly working as a group.  Another rider pulled up behind me and pointed to one of the three.  „That’s Mifune-san.  He was a pro for 8 years in Europe, rode with Landbouwkrediet-Colnago.“  (actually, he said „Rabobank Colnago“ … but who wouldn’t, given the extra vowels in „Landbouwkrediet“).  Sure enough, Mifune-san had a bit of the look of a Euro pro … and turned around just as I was about to photograph the personal url on his jersey to preserve for a visit to his website later.  His jersey’s „dragon scale“ decoration was interesting — almost as if a yakuza tattoo had instead been placed onto a cycling jersey, subtly and without color.

Anyway, I rode with them almost to the first checkpoint (at only 36km) … or maybe I should say that the last 10 km I rode behind them, catching up at lights and on short descents that followed a few short climbs.  I was having fun — and why not, as long as I could keep the effort within limits, my heart rate not high.  I lost them on one of the longer, open stretches, a few kilometers before the checkpoint, but arrived as they were still buying their food.

Now the real ride began.  Many beautiful valleys, even the dams and reservoirs were nice, on a smaller scale than Okutama-ko or the massive one we sometimes pass in Gunma when heading toward Honjo Waseda.

This segment involved a number of smaller climbs of 150-250 meters net elevation, the first on Rte 85 over a pass, then one up to a reservoir, then further up to another reservoir, then finally up a hillside to a tunnel entrance, and through the tunnel and down a real descent, into Gero and then Hida-Hagiwara, for a quick stop at PC2.  105 km done, 500 to go.  The third segment started with another 21 km ride up crowded Rte 41 along the Hida-gawa, and just a few kilometers before Takayama turned East with Rte 361 and toward the day’s major climb.  There were flowering trees and quaint villages everywhere, but my main impression of the second and third segments is of the sound running water.  Almost everywhere, we are riding alongside rivers, streams, or just water burbling through the drainage systems alongside the road.

I rode with 2 other riders for awhile, one of whom had cut very short his first rest-stop visit, and had a mostly-uneaten submarine sandwich in his rear center jersey pocket.  … very tempting.

Another rider with strong legs and plenty of gear in his rucksack, was my companion for part of segments 2 and 3, before he went ahead (I saw him one last time briefly at the top of Nomugi Pass, as I rolled in and he finished his rest stop):

More rivers, hillsides, trees:

Even the reservoirs looked pretty:

Plenty of work this Golden Week for the rice farmers in Gifu:

Are those mountains in the distance?

Checkpoint 3 was at a small rest stop (Michi-no-eki) on highway 361.  One of the organizers was waiting there, logging us in, and checking off our convenience store receipts from the first two unmanned checkpoints.  Only about 10 riders had arrived before us.

Up Rte 361, through tunnels, around reservoirs, a bit harsher, higher territory, and finally, the turnoff for Nomugi Pass — onto Rte 29 for the long climb. Again, I found myself alone — below is a photo of the lower middle of the climb and Norikura Mtn (before the first „false“ pass at 1375 meters, the descent back down to 1225, and the „real“ climb up to pass at 1670).  (Today I see that this same stretch of road is photographed in Cycling Sports‘ Nomugi Pass write-up in the June 2009 special on the top 20 mountain passes of Nagano — the road pictured is probably a 9% grade, visibly turning up to 11% or so):

When I made it to the top, I saw the rider from earlier in the day leaving the visitor center to start his descent.  Have you seen anyone else?  „No.  Nobody.“

There were probably 10-15 fast riders ahead, and the rest … are far enough back so they did not even catch ME on the long climb … maybe I started out too fast, again?  It is somehow reassuring to see another rider come up to the Pass just as I am remounting.

Norikura Mtn, looking back from the top of Nomugi Pass, as the sun gets lower in the sky:

Zoomed in:

I was with another rider on the dark country roads between Akashina and Tokura Onsen … I had ridden with him after PC4, as we lost the route, took an alternate, and ended up rejoining it on Rte 147 and then Rte 19 to the North.  I pulled him much of the way for 10 km+ down Rte 19 — flat or a 1% downgrade, light traffic, and even a slight tail wind allowing me to make great time and put the hammer down a bit.  We then headed into the cold and the hills, the first of several climbs on the next stretch.  Eventually, I bid farewell and pulled off at a rare convenience store that appeared out of nowhere in the countryside, as the Nagano Expressway loomed overhead in the dark just before the turn from Rte 403 to Rte 12.  Fatigue, exhaustion, a desire for sleep — nothing a Rainier Double Espresso with plenty of caffeine and sugar wouldn’t hold at bay, at least temporarily.  As I continued, a few other riders passed me, including Mr. „My Pace“ from two weeks back in Nishi Izu — who was riding strong and reported that this time, he was well-rested and going all the way, as he no doubt did. 

There was one more climb on Rte. 55 before the last flat section to the turn-around.  On the map it was labeled „forty eight turn pass“ or   四十八曲がり峠, though I could remember that there was a tunnel before the top (looming above in the dark), saving us from the actual pass.  I started the climb and could see some lights of other riders behind me in the night.  Two passed me, and I passed someone who was lagging.  3 of us were relatively close when we came upon a sign that was like someone’s idea of a cruel joke — „warning 13% uphill grade ahead.“  A few meters later the road entered a shed, designed to shield it from snow in the winter — way too steep for plowing or for cars to travel if covered with snow or ice.  Fortunately, after a few minutes and couple hundred meters of barely turning the crank, the road started to level a bit, the shed ended, and we could approach the tunnel.  The forty eight turns seemed to be on the OTHER side of the pass, as the road down twisted and turned many times. I finally made it down Rte 55, to Togura Onsen.

One young rider struggled with me to navigate the recommended route through Togura, that would lead across the bridge, onto the next main road (Rte 18).  There were plenty of people out and about strolling after enjoying the hot water.  We ended up choosing alternate routes — he made the better choice, since I passed him again 10 minutes later as I hit my pace again on the flats of Rte 18.  As I approached Kawanakajima and the war memorial park, I kept thinking I must have overshot, checking my map repeatedly … but then I saw some of the faster Brevet riders heading the other way on their return, so knew I was still on track.

Eventually I found the park/memorial — pitch dark, nothing visible there, not even the statute of Uesugi and Takeda.  The Daily Yamazaki down the street … was dark, boarded up, with a „tenant wanted“ sign.  Where was the turn-around?  I pulled out the cue sheet and finally figured out my mistake.  There was another Daily Yamazaki that did not show up on Google Maps, and I needed to go back to Rte 18 and head back 500 meters.  I must have passed this store going in the other direction, across the wide (6 lane, with divider) highway and not noticed it.  … my concentration was fading.  I reached for my maps in my jersey pocket … NO MAPS.  They must be on lying somewhere back on Rte 18 within the past 3-4 km.  Well, even with no map, if I could just get Rte 70 out of this area, that would take me all the way to Rte 19, then I just needed to retrace my steps, with one required (and easily identified) side trip after Nomugi Pass, and I could finish even without a map, and assuming that my GPS battery would not last much longer.  No map, no problem.  And I was halfway done in just under 15 hours, with a 40 hour cut-off, and an informal goal of 36 hours (8PM finish giving me plenty of time to wrap up and find my way to Nagoya for the last shinkansen to Tokyo (leaving 10:10PM Sunday).

I studied a map off the magazine rack at the turnaround checkpoint’s Daily Yamazakistore, and headed out after eating, chatting with the organizers and trying to rest … somehow 50 minutes had passed but I did not even get a chance to lie down, and I certainly did not feel rested.  I found the turn-off toward Rte 70, went ahead as it twisted and turned, remembering the map in my head, despite lack of any signage and another rider (who DID have a map) pulling off at several points, finally stopping at intersection to check the route … and not following, no light even visible behind me when I looked back 500 meters later.  Someone else did catch me as we approached the climb, a younger rider from Mie Prefecture, and first he, then a sign ahead, confirmed that this was Rte 70.  He seemed like a nice guy, and wanted to talk.  He clearly had extra energy left.  I told him to please go ahead.  He said no, that he found riding alone at night could be boring.  He would zip up a section of the climb, then slow down and wait for me to come lumbering up.  He asked a lot of questions.  :How long have you been in Japan?  When did you start doing Brevets?  Have you done one in the U.S.? I’ve heard they have some in the U.S. without hills, is that true, and where is the fun in that?“  I suggested to him again, REALLY, he should go ahead.  He did not take the clue.  My answers to his questions got shorter and shorter, as did my breath.  On a different route at a different time, I would have been delighted to chat and returned the questions and then some, but not at 12:30AM on a climb.  Finally, another rider came up and joined us, and I could see more lights down the hill one or two switchbacks behind us.  I seized the opportunity, „please go ahead without me, I need a bathroom break, I lied.“  That finally did it and they left me in peace.

The next couple of hours, after midnight, were very tough.  My pace slowed, there was no good place to rest, and it was way too cold (3 degrees?) for me to contemplate the idea of resting outside.  A few minutes and my sweat would cool, with teeth chattering effects.  I slogged ahead, saying to others that I would look for a family restaurant in/near Matsumoto, for a meal and 45 minutes of sleep.  I saw a few more riders on Rte 70 — most passing me, fewer being passed — but I saw almost no one the whole time I was on Rte 19 all the way back to Akashina and then on toward Matsumoto.  Only the occasional truck racing through the night.  In Akashina, one more quick unofficial 7-11 stop, … where I noticed that my sunglasses were missing.  They had been hanging around my neck, but must have fallen when I zipped up my jersey, or jacket.

I had one major crisis on the ride.  Still on Rte 19, I started to lift out of the seat to „dance“ on the pedals and stretch my back, and just as my weight transferred toward the front wheel I heard a loud „ping“ sound coming from the vicinity of my front wheel.  A spoke had broken cleanly into two even pieces — the first spoke to break on my Fulcrum wheels in 14 months since I bought them, though I’ve had plenty of other minor difficulties and a few false alarms where the spoke just came loose and I thought it must have broken.  Fortunately, I had brought the Fulcrum spoke wrench, in case I needed to true the wheels.  I was panicked.  It was near 3AM.  No one around.  If I could not get the wheel into „rideable“ shape, relatively „true“, I would need to drop out.  No spare wheels and no support here.

15 minutes later, I had adjusted the spokes to the point where the wheel only rubbed slightly — a slight thwamp, thwamp, thwamp, when I leaned on the handlebars.  If I sat back, there was no rubbing at all.  I’ve ridden home with a broken spoke before … maybe even 50 or 75 km at most.  But 260 km?  The odds of completion had just fallen dramatically.  I gave up all hope of rest, or finding a family restaurant for a warm meal, and decided to push ahead straight to checkpoint 6.  I would try to take it easy a bit while continuing to ride, no sudden shocks to the wheels on the descents.  In my continued panic over the wheel crisis, I misread a sign – I want to turn right at Rte 147, taking it over to Rte 48.  Instead, I turned right at a sign that leads „to“ Rte 147 and Azumino City.  I must still have been 10 km North of the turn I wanted.  I finally realized the error when I got to Rte 147, several kilometers away — out of the way.  It was very cold.  When I checked the weather Friday, Azumino was colder than Matsumoto, Nagano, Chino, Suwa, or any of the other cities in Nagano that I could find … I just did not realize it because I could not read the kanji for Azumino — 安曇野 — but at 3AM Sunday morning I figured it out [CORRECTION — actually the cold temperatures on Weather News website were for Azumi (安曇) Middle School weather station — which is on Rte 158 just past PC6.  Azumino City is just in the same sloping plain as Matsumoto and is not any colder].  So I turned left onto Rte 147, heading SSE, knowing that eventually I would get to the SW turnoff I was supposed to approach from the other direction … just not sure how far, and no map to help.  I tried a few false starts, but each time returned to Rte 147.  (It was incidents like this that put my total mileage for the 600 km ride at 625 km.  Add in 11 km from the hotel to the start. .. to get 636 km, or just shy of 400 miles — a quadruple century).

It was getting light by the time I arrive at checkpoint 6.  Two riders were trying to rest outside, in front of the store, clothes pulled over their legs in an attempt to keep warm.  I stayed inside, eating my instant soup and other food.  They did not kick me out (the „foreigner’s privilege“?), even though the store was surprisingly crowded for 4:45AM Sunday morning.  I decide to push ahead slowly — no place to sleep or rest until over the big mountain, but at least I could hope to get off Rte 158 (the most crowded, narrow shouldered stretch of road on our entire route), before the traffic, and the big buses.

Not.  Only a few kilometers into the climb up Rte 158, I start being passed by massive empty tourist buses, heading up to start their days.   And lots of other traffic as well — others who decided to beat the traffic.  Finally I made the turn South onto Rte 26, losing 80-90% of the vehicles who continue up Rte 158.  I passed some covered bus stops … little sheds with a bench inside.  Each had a bicycle propped up against one side and a rider trying to stretch out and sleep inside.  At least it offered a flat surface and shelter from the wind, but not the cold.  I could not imagine stopping in that cold — still in the 2-3 degree celsius range.  Looking at the bright side, I was climbing so slowly that the sun would be up and temperatures warmer before I reached Nomugi Pass again — the top of the climb.  Until then, my activity would keep me very warm.

One of the Chubu Audax members manages a small onsen (hot spring) along the 秋神川 (Aki-Kami-gawa?) on Rte 435, a mere 7 km detour off of Rte 361 along a reservoir and then up a river valley.  PC 7 was at this onsen, where we could relax in a day-house, take a quick shower and soak to freshen up, and even sleep (in my case, for 45 minutes — I arrived around 11AM, and wanted to make a 1PM departure to stay on track).  This was an incredibly nice feature of this Brevet — even a chance to sit in a room with some of the other riders, eat cup noodles and mikan, and hear some stories of this and other events.  Thank you, Chubu Audax!

The organizer who managed the onsen had a high end digital camera and was snapping pictures as riders headed out, one of which I’ve copied and pasted from the Chubu Audax BBS:

My front wheel held all the way to the goal.  The „thwamp“ grew a little worse, so that by the time I was coming down Rte 41 along the Hida-gawa on Sunday afternoon, I heard the noise whether or not I leaned on the bars in order to brake.  I stopped using the rear brake to slow the descents.  I started to go full speed ahead, clearly 60 kph at times and throwing caution to the wind.  I stayed generally close to the same 4-5 riders on the last 2 legs, until we got into town and were completely separated.

I had saved some battery juice in my Garmin GPS for the last part of the ride, to navigate the many twists and turns after dark (what a feeling — two sunsets on one ride).  But it died just as I got into town.  I outpaced on 2007 PBP jersey-wearing rider on the last descent (his front derailleur had malfunctioned, leaving him with only the smaller chainring).  I stayed behind another rider who looked as if he knew exactly where he wanted to go … until he missed an obvious right turn.  I yelled out at him „Right!“, „MIGI-Desu“, „MIGI-Desu“, following him through the intersection, then stopping.  He looked around, but then went on … down a dark road that I was pretty sure would have him hunting for an „alternate“ route where no good one existed, and I did not see him again at the finish.  I did fine until the entrance to the final park.  It was pitch black, and the map would do not good.  I decided to try to ride along the southern edge of the park — a road along a levy – instead of through the park, at least until I got closer to the finish.  I ended up fumbling my way through dead ends and another darkened park (where I stumbled upon a large group of youth hanging out in the dark, up to who knows what … but this being Japan, they did not rob or attack me and I actually found a way out the other side, over a second levy and entered the maze-like main park.  Finally, I found a mapboard, which, to my disappointment, showed only a tiny portion of the park, and did not highlight or identify the „cycling road“.  A light approached and a rider passed me by, he apparently knew where he was going, and I hopped in behind to be guided the last 5 km.  It was almost 8:30PM by the time we fumbled into the finish. 

1.  Planning/logistics.  This ride offered some great challenges.  In addition to the distance, the climbing, and the time limit, there was the temperature variation — a low near zero Celsius (which would have been several degrees at least colder for someone who made it back to Nomugi Pass in the dark) and a high near 20 degrees C — and the long distance between rest stops/food options over the main pass.  Everyone had studied the route carefully and most seemed to have a strategy for how to get through.

The organizers offered to take a „drop bag“ to the 300 km turn around spot/PC5, and a second „drop bag“ to the hot spring/PC7.  I made the mistake of putting my brightest, heaviest headlight in the PC5 drop bag … when it turned out that the darkest roads were earlier than PC5 (especially, the fast and partially blind descent from forty-eight turn pass), whereas the moon was large and high in the sky after I left PC5, and Rte 19 back to Akashina was lit much of the way.  But the drop bags generally this worked great.  I put a warm, long-sleeved inner layer in the PC5 drop bag, but carried enough warmer gear to get to PC5 without difficulty, and before the really cold hours.  I put some of the „High5“ goods into the PC5 bag as well — refilling my saddle bag and pockets just as they hit empty.  My PC7 bag … included a small towel, disposable razor and toothbrush/toothpaste — luxuries that would have been foolhardy to try and carry the first 450 km, but were nice to have.  Now I just need to get the USB charger to work for my Garmin 705 …

2.  Chubu Audax is a really impressive group —  Otsuka-san, Ichikawa-san, Ikawa-san, and many others I met, but whose names I did not learn.  They offered encouragement at stops 3, 5, 6 and 7, organized the really nice Kurumi hot spring rest stop, and pulled off a very complicated logistical effort (to get the drop bags transferred around seamlessly.  It boggles the mind that the entry fee for this event was only 2500 yen, half of which went to pay for insurance (as a non-Audax member).  This required an incredible volunteer effort, probably 4-5 times the effort of a 300 km ride given the logistical challenges.  I got a little extra help that I suspect was offered to me as the only foreigner to attend — a 10 kilometer lift in Ikawa-san’s SUV from the finish to the Owari Ichinomiya train station that allowed me to get the last shinkansen back to Tokyo Sunday night.  I am deeply grateful to the organizers. They are sponsoring a 1000 km ride in October (that also starts in the same park N. of Ichinomiya, and includes the entire route of the „Tour de Noto“ along the way).  I definitely want to join it — and will try as much as I can to keep my schedule clear.

And as I have sensed before, the longer the ride, the more friendly other riders become (well, except when you are feeling cranky and someone keeps peppering you with questions at 1AM).  Every rider is a potential savior if you get in trouble, and the common endeavor breaks down any barrier that might otherwise exist to communication with these folks.

3.  Pain and Suffering.  Even the slightest physical problem gets magnified over this kind of distance.  Everything worked perfectly on my last 300 km ride, so I had confidence in my gear set-up, and was happy to get a larger „Dyna Pak“ Topeak under-saddle bag and thereby avoid a rucksack at least until PC5.  On this ride, I was pain free and enjoying the ride most of the time.  I had only very minor physical problems — nothing that would usually be of any note … except that I did notice, over this distance.

My left ankle somehow got a mild sprain during the ride.  I barely noticed it until the finish, and could walk fine until Monday morning.  It made a bit of a „tick“ sound sometimes as I used it Monday, of some concern.  Tuesday AM it was still very tender — definitely a mild sprain and difficult to walk on or go up/down stairs — but after one day wearing an ankle brace it seems 90%+ healed today.

My cleat placement ended up „off“, the cleats farther forward than the balls of my feet.  I only realized it from shooting pain in the bottom of my feet late in the ride that told me something was wrong.  The new style of Look Keo cleats with grips on the bottom were a disaster.  The grip part came loose on the right cleat, and prevented me from clipping in properly numerous times, until I finally had a „near miss“ from slipping out of the pedal while remounting and about to gain speed going down a hill after 10PM at night (maybe this caused the ankle sprain?).  I managed to pull off the partially separated grip pad by hand, and I could clip-in and unclip okay the rest of the ride.  I suspect that putting my feet down in the „near miss“ is when I hurt my ankle and when the cleat placement shifted.

On Monday, I was as stiff as I have ever been.  The tips of my outer two fingers were a bit numb and tingly on both hands.  The palms of my hands started to get tender and red 25% of the way through the ride — combination of the Shimano 7800 brake hood shape, too much pressure too long, and moisture inside my gloves.  I guess this tenderness was not caused by the FSA wing carbon bars, as I had thought.  (Otherwise, the new Ritchey carbon bars are great for me).

Even the Assos bib shorts were not perfect this time — my butt ached, a result of moisture and chafing I think, since it seemed to be solved by application of some Assos magic chamois cream at the hot spring rest stop.  But the aching butt and need to stretch my back at times meant extra „dancing“ (stomping?) out of the saddle, which probably triggered the broken spoke.  A problem with chafing shorts eventually triggers a broken spoke?  A problem with cleat grips ends up causing a sprained ankle and aching feet?

I had no issues with nutrition.  For me, the High 5 4:1 carbs/protein drink is good, the electrolyte tablets for water are good.  I filled up 1 liter of water (w/ electrolytes) at every stop, and mixed a 667 ml bottle of the 4:1 sports drink nearly as often, and I don’t get sick of them.  Spaghetti with meat sauce is still edible after 500 km., as are yogurt and yogurt drinks.  Cup noodles and soups are good.  I avoided anything fried or unusual, and anything sickly sweet (no Aquarius or Pocari Sweat).  The 7-11 burritos (ham and cheese version) that I usually like at a first rest stop on one of our rides out of Tokyo … are much more difficult to consume 18 hours into a ride.  If possible, always best to avoid any non „ride tested“ foods — once you start to have stomach issues on a long ride, it is very hard to recover.

Here is the GPS recording of the route through the first 360 kms, when I switched off the Garmin battery to try to save a little juice for emergency navigation later:
http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/32052833

BRM501 Statistical Review …  As long as the Garmin battery lasted:
Split Moving Time Distance Elev Gain Corrected Elev Avg Mvng Spd Avg HR Max HR Calories
Start to PC1 1:17:29 36.6 247 310 28.3 131 152 1,786
PC1 to PC2 (valleys of Gifu) 2:48:37 70.22 910 1,473 25 135 159 4,056
PC2 to PC3 (Rte41) 1:18:48 32.31 403 430 24.6 137 151 1,828
PC3 to Nomugi Pass 2:25:58 39.4 1,176 1,551 16.2 135 150 3,036
Nomugi Pass to PC4 1:05:35 37.31 196 255 34.1 119 145 1,306
PC4 to PC5 (turn around) 3:33:10 88.2 719 733 24.8 121 142 4,008
PC5 to … Garmin off 2:02:24 38.88 567 485 19.1 116 134 1,894
 Summary  Totals/Averages 14:32:01 342.92 4,218 5,237 23.6

17,914

The „corrected“ elevation gain suggests that we went over at least one mountain that had a tunnel — and is shown merely for amusement. Actual elevation gain is around 3600 meters for the outbound trip and maybe 3200 on the return?

Another very memorable ride.  I hope to see other P.E. members on these at some point … This format seems designed for Tom S., and I’m sure others would like it, though not for everyone.

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weetin‘ the heid of the bairn

And so it is…the day has arrived that the ceremony should commence.
The Blide-meat shall be held at the current location for which we are staying and all are invited. As per tradition (Orkney not Irish) scones and whiskey will be served as well as a number of other tasty eats and drinks.
The original date was posted on another blog post but not so clearly stated, so…

Date: May 8th
Location: The Moncrieff residence in Meguroku 2-10-68-302 Masters Y House Mita
Time: TBD
Post event: near by pub to carry on with the celebration

Please let us know if you can make this event as we hope to pack the house we have been so greatly invited to stay in.

Thank you All for the warm wishes of health and prosperity.

Bryon, Natsumi & Yuta

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