zaterdag 28 februari 2009

Snowy & wet Reverse Kobu Tunnels Loop

Did only a short 118 km-ride this afternoon as a "reconnaissance" of TCC's Kusatsu training ride planned for tomorrow. Only five minutes on the Tamagawa CR, I suddenly heard the sound of a bell nervously ringing and approaching very fast towards usual these days, the Fuchu stretch along the Tamagawa was crowded with dog-walkers, elderly couples walking double, joggers swaying their arms like windmills...but in no time I got the one and only David in my periscope. Me (raising right hand): "David!" David: "Hi Tom!"...brief but efficient conversation between old mates.

I made a brief stop at Y's to look for some kind of rear wheel fender and found the nicest contraption costing me less than 900 yen...a single piece of plastic that fits neatly under the bolts no tightening and yet as aerodynamic as it can get plus extremely light short, a most ingenious piece of technology! Now at last I can prevent that bip area around my crack from getting all those embarassing dark grey spots on those wet rides.
As I approached Hinohara-mura, I thought of different routes but because of my late start (11:00), I decided not to venture too deep in Okutama area. Then I remembered reading David's Reverse Paul Jason Loop...perfect exercise! As I wound my way up to the Kobu tunnels, snow piled up along the roadside got increasingly higher and the road surface was mostly wet but fortunately not icy or slippery.

The two Yuzurihara golf course hills are such a joy - especially when you do them from this side - and along the descent I hit a 61 km/h max. As it was getting late and rather cloudy, I decided to skip Wada and continue the downward momentum toward Koshu Kaido. Otarumi was easy today, I didn't time it but I'm pretty sure I broke my Positivo Espresso record.

When I got home, I was very pleased to see an average speed of 27.1 km/h on my Cateye! Sono choushi!

Weatherforcast for tomorrow...deteriorating...cloudy followed by rain. I'm afraid no V練 tomorrow morning.

donderdag 26 februari 2009

Cycling life’s remaining period of validity


Age-mate and cycling buddy Hiroshi posted a most interesting observation on his blog as he tried to offer an explanation for the seemingly endless long-distance rides enjoyed by over-the-hill hobby racers like myself.

Hiroshi, who started riding “road racers” as a high school kid and has been doing so ever since (never dare to call him a "roadie" though - that misnomer was invented long after he took up cycling), was wondering why 300k+ weekend rides content a certain breed of middle-aged cyclists and why on earth they don’t seem to mind cycling along boring, ordinary and often dangerous national roads…

To explain these admittedly weird behavior patterns of mine, I have developed my own little theory: it is this “double strength” feeling of extreme happiness and invincibility one suddenly gets after passing a certain milestone on an extra long and excruciating ride. It is what is in learned terms called “endorphin,” some sort of chemical produced by the brain reducing feelings of pain like a drug. Not that I have ever used it or ever intend to use it, but an endorphin rush makes me feel like I’m with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds!

As with all hallucinatory and most other drugs though, the drawback of endorphin is dependence…one inevitably gets hooked. Not unlike narcotic addicts needing an increasingly larger dosage of their drug, I feel a strong urge to cover increasingly longer distances in the saddle…only strings of steep hills crested en route can bring that happy milestone somewhat closer…so far I have never experienced multiple endorphin rushes on a single ride though, ha ha!

Hiroshi’s theory is a little more fatalistic but not less poetic I find. He is talking of certain limitations, a “quota of fixed years/miles in the saddle”…within the confines of a lifetime, we unavoidably must cross the Rubicon. Exactly where this finish line is lurking, we can never know with certitude, GPS being of no avail…it could be right behind the next bend.

Since he has been cycling for more than 30 years and I have only been riding for less than 5 years, Hiroshi postulates that I am now desperately trying to make up for the lost years and meet my quota of miles in the saddle! He could be very right.

zondag 22 februari 2009

Sunday V練...猪武者 headlong rush!

Took part for the first time in the Sunday edition of the VLAAMS training rides (short: V練). Six riders assembled at Koremasa Bridge at 6:30. Everyone was complaining about the felt like freezing contrary to today's forecast for max of 14 degrees. By the time we reached Squirrel Park (リス園)however most of the cold was gone. We headed direction Odawara at high speeds without stopping even to take a leak (!) like a tribe of wild inoshishi boars running amok until we lost our "nushi" 主 Saruto-san in Isehara! At that point, average speed on my computer read 28.9 km/h...crazy! In the end there were only three of us left and we rode home along roads with relatively little traffic. Got home well before noontime. Adding yesterday's distance, I did a little more than 300 km this weekend...I'd like to keep this pace going. One thing left me worried Polar recorded a max heart beat of 214, which one is malfunctioning...the Polar HRM or my poor heart ???

zaterdag 21 februari 2009

Miura Hanto revisited

Took Nishibe-san along on another ride around Miura Peninsula. We left from Tamagawara Bridge at 8:00 and arrived at our destination in Miyakawa Port before noon. Different from my previous times on the peninsula, there was a lot of traffic on the roads - too many cars and trucks to make this tour a real pleasurable one. We had lunch at Maruyoshi Shokudo. This time, we were not the only cyclists...two solo riders were already eating when we got in and afterwards a group of 10 arrived ! I guess this place should no longer be considered a real "anaba"...too many cyclists seem to know about its charms.

On our way home along the other, Tokyo-bay side of the peninsula, we encountered a very chilly and rather strong northern headwind! To make make matters worse for Nishibe-san was the re-occurence of a throbbing pain in his left knee. We dropped speed and stayed together until Kannonzaki when Nishibe-san begged me to go ahead so he could complete the rest of the ride at his pace.

I got home at 4:30 with 190km in the saddle. Tomorrow, if I can wake up, I plan to join the weekend V練 leaving home at 6:00....

zondag 15 februari 2009

Plum blossoms and cedar pollen clouds

To my disillusionment, a Miura Loop planned with Positivo Espresso did not materialize after many postings on the blog. I suppose the starting time at 9:00 was a bit too demanding...oh well there is always a next time. Instead, I decided to go back to the easy climb or two: Otarumi and Yabitsu. Following my descent of Otarumi, near Asamayama Seikozenji, I saw some very radiant plum blossoms. I proceeded for a while along Rte. 412 until Tsukui-machi and then turned right through Sagamihara-shi along Rte 513 and 64 crossing the artificial Miyagaseko lake. I have never climbed Yabitsu from the south but I really like the "gentle slope" approach from the north. As I was meandering my way up, once in a while, the cedar hills would release a thick yellowish mass of sugikafun pollen setting it afloat in the air... hay fever season has started again! I saw many cyclists near the top of Yabitsu, many female too all having climbed from the steeper south side. I completed today's ride (144km) cycling through Atsugi, Zama, Machida and Minami-Tama...too much traffic in these Kanagawa cities...must find some quieter alternative route. Adding yesterday's distance, I was good for a total of 340km this weekend.

zaterdag 14 februari 2009


Haru-ichiban on St Valentine's Day...with all the passion heating up the air, the first strong south winds of the year signaled the arrival not of spring but ...of summer !

Woke up at 5:30 for the weekly V練, had breakfast and just as I was about to take my VLAAMS out, it started to rain heavily. I took some time to read the newspaper and check my email.

Left home at 7:30 with the intention to crest Yabitsu, hit the sea and ride back home via Enoshima along the Sakaigawa river. The road was still very wet though and I was almost right away covered with muddy spots all over my back and legs. The eastern sky looked a lot brighter than the mountains in the west so I changed my mind and re-programmed my Garmin for a repeat of Tictac's loop!

I climbed the entire Randozaka (the slope leading up to Yomiuri-Land, hence (R)Lando-zaka) out of the saddle as fast as I could. This is about the only more or less serious climb in this whole loop which is why I wanted to go all out (according to my new POLAR, I hit a max of 199 bpm here...can't be good for the heart). At the entrance of "Kaigun-doro" (Navy Road), supposedly an emergency route for naval personnel, I stopped to take a picture. This road is perfectly straight with sakura trees lined on both sides.

I reached Enoshima in just two hours and a half. It felt good to smell and also hear the sea as I was not wearing my earwarmers. To my surprise, it was not all that windy at all. The west coast of Miura Hanto was nice, not too much traffic and this time no cyclists at all. I reached the small harbour of Miyakawa at 11:15 and treated myself to some "toro zuke-don"...fabulous taste!

Along the east coast it was getting increasingly hot...saw some joggers in naked torso and girls wearing mini skirts and beach sandals...very surreal!

Like last time, the final stretch of the loop was along a terribly crowded Tamagawa.

At home, I found a cute rice crispy and chocolate teddy bear made by my youngest daughter! Apparently not many fathers receive valentine presents from their daughters anymore these days... I guess I should consider myself a happy father!

zaterdag 7 februari 2009

Fisherman’s stomach

Had a most memorable ride today with Tictac-san from team “Piano Piano” and GORO-san…more than 200km circumnavigating the entire peninsula of Miura!
Tictac-san – always up front showing us the way – took us to a marvelous, little fisherman’s canteen called “Maruyoshi Shokudo” まるよし食堂, tucked away in the small harbour of Miyakawako宮川港. The three of us enjoyed various dishes sitting by the window overlooking this quiet inlet. The food was wonderful and the whole place felt like a sanctuary. We almost had to force ourselves to leave this most cozy canteen behind us and get back on our bikes…right away a small hill was waiting and our legs felt like lead for the first 10 minutes!

The way back was along Rte. 134 taking us through Yokosuka. Along the way, we crossed a small bay called Uraga 浦賀港 on a little “watashibune” ferryboat…200 yen per person/bicycle! It felt nice to be moving ahead on the water…can’t wait to see how the route will show up on my new GPS.

I am very thankful to Tictac-san for his superb steering, the restaurant, the route, the pace…just everything was so wonderful!
Time for a Pères Trappistes (blue label) now!

zondag 1 februari 2009

Arasaki Cape, Miura Penisula

Rode to Arasaki and back today covering about 180km sped up by a fantastic tailwind and slowed down by a mighty head wind! Ludwig of Positivo Espresso was there recently and I was so impressed by his pictures I wanted to see those rough rock shores and wave-cut benches of the Arasaki Cape with my own eyes. As I approached the cape, I visited a nice marina and a small fishing village where elderly fishermen basking in the sunshine were holding a lively conversation. Without a map, I tried in vain to find the weekend house of my employer. There were more residential houses than I had expected. As I took me less than 3 hours to reach Arasaki from my home, next time I plan to ride all the way to Jogashima Island and circumnavigate the entire peninsula!