zaterdag 31 december 2011

woensdag 28 december 2011

In retrospect

2011 was a pretty good cycling year for me with plenty of smaller and bigger “ups and downs” both literally and figuratively.

In a figurative way, there were 3 "major" downs: seeing my old VLAAMS asaren (V練) team disband immediately following the March 11 disaster, losing my great training buddy and daredevil adventurer Ludwig von Rindomeister (a.k.a. Manfred von Holstein, his real name) due to a serious but not life-threatening lower back problem* and suffering myself from a cycling-induced medial collateral ligament (MCL) ailment (because of excessive climbing in the saddle).

In terms of literally “ups,” I was very fortunate to scale new heights (Crystal and Venus lines, Hikarigahara-kogen and many more ridges) and crest new toges (Nomugi, Suzuran, Sakai, Mugikusa, etc.) thanks to Ludwig’s superb planning and guiding skills. Particularly memorable were our multi-day mid-summer exploits such as the two-day Karuizawa-Hakuba-Ueda adventure which Ludwig had purposely mapped out with meandering detours to make sure we would climb every single mountain pass and ride on every single rindo en route to our final destination…sometimes that meant cycling on gravel and muddy forest roads in the middle of the wilderness for extended lengths! As a “dream combi,” Ludwig and I easily managed to keep a great “fast & steady” pace on each of these adventures. On a typical “toge-goe” 峠越えride, I was able to get my breathing back under control while waiting at the top (WATT) while Ludwig was able to do some back stretching (quite a bit!) while patiently waiting for me to reach the bottom.

My only “race” this year - the classic TOITO - went fine, finishing 5th in age group (11th overall) in under 10 hours (9:45) more than one hour slower than Andy W. of Niigata. I enjoyed riding with (mostly behind) Andy and his teammate during the first one-and-half laps of the ride. Andy will be aiming to finish under 8:30 next year! Not sure yet if I will be participating again next year now that my VLAAMS team has disbanded. If I can find a team willing to take me on board, I would like to finish under 9:30 and 1st in age group (yeah…moving up to “50+” !!)

In terms of total distance covered (not necessarily an indication of athletic prowess - plenty of junk miles !!), I have been doing better than last year’s 15,272km and am projected to reach around 16,200km by year-end. The 18,000km target set at the beginning of this year turned out to be an elusive one after I began underperforming due to a knee problem (torn/overstretched MCL in left knee about to become chronic) from mid-September on. I think I have by now completely recuperated from this ailment and intend to focus on LSD training this winter using my kotei as well to regain stamina and build up muscle strength. I also want to improve my climbing skills and try to find a better “seated vs. danseuse” balance so as to avoid future knee problems.

Looking forward to another year of happy and accident & injury-free cycling!

* A good sign for 2012…LvR in the meantime underwent a successful operation in Germany considerably reducing his back pain with excellent prospects that the pain will disappear…all right!

zondag 18 december 2011

Antique market browsing

Rest day spent browsing at the monthly Takahatafudo antique market...found two delicate ochokko cups but my better half wouldn't let me have them.  Then I found this gorgous kappa-assault/underwater rape woodblock print by Utamaro...again I was not allowed to take it home with me.  I love these antique markets for all their little voyeuristic charms. 

zondag 4 december 2011

Amamezasu...aiming for the sky?

Too lazy?  Strong wind blowing early in the morning, an excuse to turn off the alarm clock?  I guess I was in need of some extra rest and only left the house at 7:30 am...    Went straight to Amamezasu-toge after filling up my bottle at the Holy Fountain.  Skipped Nenogongen and let the GPS perform a quick routing calculation to home instead...this resulted in a new and very pleasant route.  Nice & quick 130km loop!