zaterdag 23 februari 2008

First Spring Storm?

"Sortie Montagne" was on the NFCC calendar and I was hoping for at least a few people to show up at 8:00. Ko, Ken and Goro had told me they would not be riding along today as they are taking part in the Shuzenji "Winter Ride" tomorrow. Nobody came so I left Sekidobashi at 8:00 precisely in splendid weather conditions... Just as I arrived at Takao 7/11, Nishibe-san got there too. I told him about my ride plan and we took off. Over Otarumi down to Sagamiko and crossing there on the very first bridge on the left. This road also leads to Doshimichi but with a lot less traffic. Nishibe-san had just started to ride again this winter and was far from his usual form. We parted before Akiyama Onsen and from there I increased speed all the way up to Hinazuru-touge and tunnel. Had spaghetti heated up again at the 7/11 just before Tsuru City exactly like last week. It felt a lot warmer though on the bike and riding through Tsuru, I was hoping to be able to take a few pictures of Fuji-san but today there was not even a silhouette to be seen! Wind was blowing from the south which is why. My GARMIN Foretrex GPS had recorded last week's ride telling me where to take the right turn...so convenient! As I started my ascent of Douzaka-touge, I sensed the south wind growing stronger and pushing me up...how nice! I got through Douzaka tunnel and a new landscape unfolded in front of me (picture above) on my way down to Doshimichi. The sweet tailwind turned into a gusty wind, sometimes very violent and having me struggle to keep balance. At every other hairpin corner, there would be a small whirlwind blowing up dried leaves and twigs. The more I approached Tokyo the stranger the skies started to look. I rode through three ochre-coloured zones with rainfall, hail and wind blowing with short, strong and sudden rushes. Sometimes the tailwind would come back making my Colnago move at 50km/h and faster. After my last climb of the day over Otarumi I decided to slow down along the Asakawa and Tamagawa CRs. The same dark-yellowish clouds were hanging deep over Tokyo. When I looked in the mirror at home, I noticed my face was very dirty with sand and dust accumulated onto sunscreen and sweat. The NHK weather news just confirmed Tokyo had its first spring storm of the year 春一番 signaling the arrival of spring! Haruichiban really makes for an exhilarating ride!
Went riding on Sunday as well - again facing an extremely strong gale - with David L. to the summit of Otarumi and back. The wind was so nasty, we were at times forced to put our feet on the ground or risk getting blown down the Tamagawa dike!

zondag 17 februari 2008

AKIYAMA-MURA

Overslept this morning staying in bed until 8:30...went out to get the newspaper and looking up at the blue sky I regretted my rising late. As soon as I finished my breakfast, I left home at 10:00 with the navigator containing yesterday's route mounted. I decided to go direction Hinazuru-touge again, going as far as I could until 13:00 before doubling back. That point came just beyond Akiyama-mura so I took a peek at the local onsen there...the entire place appeared deserted though like some ghost town, even the steamed manju bun shop was closed. Took a picture at the Akiyama Kannon Goddess of Mercy statue and headed back home. I am happy with this new route as one encounters hardly any traffic and the road is in perfect shape. Covered 111km today and cleaned & waxed the Colnago before putting her to rest....in my bedroom. Rode a total of 281km this weekend...not bad considering the biting cold north wind which felt particularly strong today.

"heso technique"
Experimented a little with my "heso belly button" technique and found out that the horizontal pull on the handle towards the navel should not really be actual energetic pulling but simply exerting a constant "tension"...just think of it as removing the slack in the muscle groups in the back and sides of your upper torso...no need to firmly stretch them but just keeping them more or less tightly in position that's all (well, not really all...you still need the legs to do the work) and you'll instantly notice the difference. Moving and keeping your butt in the rear of the saddle adds even more upward momentum.

zaterdag 16 februari 2008

HINAZURU-Touge & DOUZAKA-Touge

Left home after 7:30 for the RdV at Sekidobashi with 4 members of Team NFCC who happen to be the team's strongest hillclimbers (no doubt!). On today's touge menu we had Otarumi, Hinazuru and Douzaka, the latter one being a first for me. 0 ℃ was the temperature on Otarumi...no it didn't feel a bit like springtime! In no time I was made the lanterne rouge again but I tried to keep a steady pace keeping heartbeat and breathing under control. The next stretch to Hinazuru was almost one continuous climb interspersed with 15% inclininations. I know this road quite well having done it 4 or 5 times already but each time from the opposite direction. Although there are some very long straight stretches, I completely lost sight of the 4 seasoned climbers in front and I'm sure they must have been waiting quite a long time at the entrance of Hinazuru tunnel for me to catch up. The descent and lunch at Tsuru City allowed me to recover for the last big climb...道坂峠. The 7/11 spaghetti tasted great! Rd. 139 through Tsuru City presented some breathtaking magnified views of Fuji-san right in front of us. The top seemed so close one could clearly see a mini blizzard. Ko had warned us the way to the top of Douzaka would be long...and it sure seemed endless. Ko and Goro took the lead with Aichan in between and Ken and myself trailing far behind. Ken and I were going at the same pace and cadence with Ken in front most of the time. What a relief when Douzaka tunnel showed up! Picture time! The rest of today's ride was along the familiar Doshi-michi country road. There was very little traffic and the road was wide ... perfect for a game of "demarrage-gokko" so we took turns one guy after another taking off at full speed trying to keep the lead as long as possible. I must admit I enjoyed it a lot! The last climb of today was Otarumi and this time I reached the bottom in Goro's wheel with only Ko waiting at the Takao Station crossing. Aichan had already parted from us and Ken joined the three of us shortly afterwards. As we were crossing Tamagawa it started to snow very lightly. Ate plenty of gyoza after a long bath...today's ride was exactly 170km & good for more than 5,000 Kcal. I really enjoyed the company of today's buddies. They are not only very courteous towards a senior rider but they also strictly observe traffic rules and for me that removes a lot of stress!

zondag 10 februari 2008

CALFMAN JAPAN DUATHLON GRAND PRIX

For a first duathlon, I can only console myself with the thought that at least I tried hard and completed the entire course. I do have my regrets though as I did not train at all for the running part. I was doing fine until the middle of the race on the bike making up all the distance I lost in the first 5km run and easily overtaking one rider after another until suddenly I sensed stitches in the calf area of both legs! The cramps spread to my thighs forcing me to slow down and let all the riders I had passed overtake me...that was so frustrating. When the final run came, I could hardly move my feet! This really is a sport apart and the trick must be to learn how to keep those separate muscle groups under control. I found out the hard way why this event is called "Calfman" but I surely want to try again next year!


Two days later this morning I'm still having great difficulty in walking the stairs...particularly the descending part is excruciating....this must be how it will feel when I'll be over 90....I feel great sympathy for those elderly people now that I know how painful it is! The funny thing is I didn't feel any of the pain on the bicycle this morning on my way to the station. Hope the pain will be completely gone by the weekend. I'm longing for a long ride in the mountains!

zaterdag 2 februari 2008

Second Wind I, a novel by Ran Kawanishi

正丸峠

Lately I have been enlivening my long and boring commutes by train between my home and office by reading an interesting novel about the cycling adventures of Hiroshi Mizoguchi, a high school boy and his cycling buddies. The novel is written in an easy to read style with plenty of plain dialogue and beautiful Hayao Miyazaki-like depictions of downhill, uphill rides and time trials interspersed with short insightful hints making this the perfect literature for me to kill time on a crowded train.

As I was riding today with Ko and Ken, two of Team NFCC fastest hillclimbers (much younger than me), I recalled one passage from this novel ( セカンドウィンド1、 川西蘭 ) :

(page 225) どんなに強い意思をもっていても、自分だけの力で限界を突破するのは困難だ。不可能と言っていい。自分の限界を超えるには競い合う相手が必要だ。競い合いが自分の力を伸ばしてくれる。競い合う相手がいなければ、限界を突破する走りはできない。
No matter how strong-willed one is, it is difficult, or rather, impossible to exceed one’s physical limits by relying only one’s own strength. To rise above your limits, you need to have partners to compete with. Competition will boost your power. Without opponents, there is no way you can exceed your own limits.

Although I was almost broken on the wheel last week by the same new NFCC members, I had much less difficulty to stay in their wheel today. On the last long climb of the day to the summit of Shomaru-touge正丸峠, I even managed not to finish last! This time I had my heartbeat and breathing under control while trying my physical limits. On our way down, I saw a familiar-looking pink bike…Goro happened to be attacking the same hill! After a little chit-chat, we parted from Goro who was going to attempt the descent along the shadowy side of Shomaru-touge. With all the black ice patches, I hope he made it home safely. Today’s ride was good for 4,000 kcal, 145km and an average speed of 26.1km/h. I’m looking forward to my next ride with Ko & Ken and - hopefully - more "opponents” from Team NFCC.