First Century

Two cyclists selfie in front of statue of the Tamagawa Brothers

The Halfakid has been wanting to do a century ride — 100 miles — for more than a year now. I keep saying, “Yes, we should do that.” Recently he’s gone on a couple of solo rides in the 120-130km range, and so I knew if I wanted to reach this milestone with him it was time to get on the bike. I’ve done a number of rides in the 140-150km range and so I knew I could reach 161km, but somehow I just hadn’t found the chance to do it.

I spent some time working out a route that would get us to 161km without much climbing or traffic. Finally, by combining the Tamagawa cycling course with Asakawa up to Takaosan Guchi, I hit on a route that was nearly exact.

GPS route for century ride with directional arrows and km markings
Directions and milestones

The Halfakid suggested that we climb up to Otarumi Touge since we were going out to Takaosan Guchi anyway (kilometer 90 in the route above), and shave a few kilometers off the Hamura end (kilometer 48) instead. I didn’t want to do that because there isn’t really an equivalent rest stop about 4km shy of Hamura, but mostly because I didn’t think I’d have the energy for the Otarumi Touge climb in the middle of a 161km ride. It turns out I was quite right about that!

Bicycle leaning against railing over Hamura intake weir
Kuroko at Hamura

The weather was mostly good on Saturday: overcast with a temperature of 15-18C. We set off at 8 a.m. towards Tamagawa and then upstream. Taking short breaks every 16km, we reached Hamura for the third break at 10:40, where we feasted on Nana’s world-famous onigiri.

Two cyclists selfie in front of statue of the Tamagawa Brothers
With the Tamagawa Bros at Hamura

We still had more than 112km to go at this point, so we didn’t dawdle. We mounted up to head back down the Tamagawa — and into the wind, as it happens. We were doing OK though until we branched off onto the Asagawa. Here, the condition of the path is not as good, and we were fighting directly into the wind. In addition, the path is climbing, however gradually, the entire way into Takao. I soon found my energy fading away, and by the latter half of the Asagawa route I was thoroughly bonked. The Halfakid led the way, thinking he would pull me through the wind, but he soon left me far behind. I dropped onto the smaller chainring and just kept moving the pedals, and eventually I found the Halfakid waiting for me where the path meets up with the road at Takao Eki. From there it’s just a couple of kilometers (although noticeably uphill at this point) to Takaosan Guchi.

Selfie of two cyclists in front of Takaosan Guchi
Takaosan Guchi

After taking the photo we stopped at our usual convenience store for more onigiri, some fried chicken and sweets. Anything with calories at this point! We had 90km under our belt, with 70 to go, and I wanted to make sure the fires were fully stoked before continuing.

Not surprisingly, the return down the Asakawa went quite a bit faster. The wind was at our backs and we were descending slightly, and I saw on the GPS we were hitting 30km/h on a regular basis. I was starting to feel I might actually be able to finish the ride. We zipped right along for another 22km and took a short break once we rejoined the Tamagawa.

Purple and white flowers
Flowers near a rest stop

Going downstream on the Tamagawa, we were again fighting the wind at times, as well as dealing with fatigue. We had a short break just before crossing the river to the Kanagawa side, but from there we rode to the end in one go. We’d done 139km at this point and we knew it was just a matter of persistence to get home again. We headed back upstream, and with the wind at our backs once again we made better time. The Halfakid recommended taking the road instead of the path, but I’d done that once several years ago and didn’t like the traffic. We crossed the bridge at Futako back to the Tokyo side and climbed the hill out of the Tamagawa valley. I wasn’t sure I had the energy for the climb, but I went down into my lowest gear and just kept turning. Meanwhile the Halfakid had rocketed past me and was waiting at the top of the hill.

At this point I felt sure of success even though my hands, neck and butt were aching and my calves were burning. The Halfakid said his back was aching as well. I checked the time and let Nana know I’d be home about 7 p.m., an hour later than I’d estimated. It was getting darker — it had been overcast all day but now it looked like it might rain — so I turned on my lights. The Halfakid turned on his light, only to discover he hadn’t charged it. We set out into traffic. I took my time on the few small hills remaining, with the Halfakid going ahead. The 5km back to his flat went quickly and we said our goodbyes and I pointed my front wheel for home. Just another 8km to go, and it was getting darker by the minute. I’d averaged more than 20km/h up to this point, but I knew I wouldn’t be keeping that pace up for the remainder. I watched 5km splits go by at well over 15 minutes and crossed my fingers (mentally) for the finish. At last I took the left by Central Park that puts me on the final downhill towards home, and rolled up to our tower at 6:50 with the GPS (now in night mode) still showing more than 20km/h.

Covid century

The cycling paths were not as crowded as we’d found them the last couple of times we’d been out. People were making an effort to keep their distance. When I walked into the convenience store at Takaosan Guchi without a mask on, I felt self-conscious.

Apart from that, the ride was a great success. We both survived our first century — the Halfakid said he was just coasting the entire time, and he’s probably not exaggerating much. I had a return of the problem with the front shifter, but I was able to work around it each time.

When I left the Halfakid at his flat, he joked, “Same again tomorrow?” Not bloody likely. It’s now two days after and my legs are feeling mostly OK, but I’m still taking care when I sit down.

GPS route of century ride showing 100 mile badge
100 mile badge

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