… too late for my thighs
Today’s the day!
I woke at 6 and, after some dawdling and assuring Nana she didn’t have to rush to finish the onigiri, set out about 9:20. The temperature at the time was somewhere around 2-4C, but there was no wind and I was warm from the moment I started riding. Soon I was on the Tamagawa and headed upstream.
At first along the river, the wind was with me. Nevertheless I wasn’t feeling strong. I messaged Fearless Leader Joe at the first stop that the weather was beautiful but my legs were nowhere to be found. I stopped just before turning off the Tamagawa and had the first of Nana’s world famous onigiri — mentaiko!
Fujisan all day
On the good foot, Fujisan hove into view as soon as I left the Tamagawa and turned up the Asakawa. Less fortuitously, I was now battling against the wind. It wasn’t overpowering, but it was slowing me down and sapping my energy. For the most part I was down a gear or two from my usual pace, but at times I was as low as it goes (unless I’m climbing) — the same gear I use to start from a red light. Mindful of the climb I had ahead of me, I kept the gears where I could spin without using up all my energy.
I stopped at the usual rest area about 5km shy of Takaosan Station and ate the remainder of the mentaiko onigiri. Thus sated, I continued on. The wind was still an issue, but it wasn’t long before I was leaving the cycling course for the urban Takao experience. There, mercifully out of the wind, I rode right past the convenience store that’s a usual stop on this route and started the ascent.
Any idle fantasies I had about today being the day I would make this climb in one go were quickly dispelled. I downshifted early to preserve my energy for the climb to come, but after just a couple of kilometers I pulled off the side of the road for a short rest. At that point the seal was broken — I continued upward, but the motivation to punish myself to reach the goal was gone. I stopped several times along the way, including one last stop when I knew the goal was just around the corner ahead. I was shameless.
View from the top
Despite all my shilly-shallying, I was never really tempted to throw in the towel. I made the top in a time not much different from my usual — and in fact set a PR because I’d skipped over the convenience store. At the top I breathed deeply until my heart stopped racing, and I took in the view that was on offer.
The descent was rapid enough to bring tears to my eyes, and I hit 50km/h at one point. (A driver insisted on passing me at another point when I was going 40 in a 30km/h zone, just so we could sit together at the next light.) I pulled off the road at Takaosan Guchi for the traditional photo.
After that the going was slower as the wind picked up along the Asakawa. It came and went, and I adjusted my speed accordingly. I stopped about 6km after leaving Takao for a snack of convenience store apple pie, and then another 10km on, when I reached the Tamagawa again, my last Snickers bar. I checked the time and my distance remaining and let Nana know I would be home about 5 p.m.
And will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the earth?
And the strong winds continued. I already had 85km under my belt at this point (as well as three onigiri, two Snickers bars and an apple pie), so again it was a matter of shifting down to keep spinning, not trying to force my way against the wind and use up my energy all at once. Whenever the wind let up for a moment, my speed picked up correspondingly. I had a tad less than 15km to go downstream on the Tamagawa, into the wind the entire way, before leaving the cycling course and heading back into city traffic. As I fought the wind, I tended to turtle my head into my shoulders to reduce the drag, but that was leading to very stiff shoulders and neck. So with a will I put my head up high and shifted down again and soldiered onwards.
The final 15
At last I left the river course and headed into city traffic. Usually I hate the traffic, but today it meant blessed relief from the headwind. On my last rest stop of the day I checked the time and let Nana know I would be home just about 5 p.m. I drank the last of my water and headed into it.
The ride from this point was unremarkable. The usual tussles with traffic, including a driver who tried to squeeze me against the curb at the back of a line of traffic. The usual broken pavement and construction work. I had my lights on for safety (it was mostly still bright at this time, but the shadows were lengthening), and at one traffic light I took off my shades and stowed them in the cockpit bag. After a railroad crossing about 6km from home, I encountered a high school baseball team on their way home on bikes, riding three and four abreast. A policeman passing in the opposite direction waved to them to move over to the side of the road, and I took that chance to pass the lot of them. At the next light, as I was waiting, they all crossed ahead of me, against the light, but thankfully headed in a different direction.
At this point I was looking at my overall average speed for the day — total elapsed time including breaks. It was hovering right around 15km/h, but dipping below that whenever I stopped to drink water and message Nana about my progress. Now that I was out of the wind, I was moving at more than 20km/h while riding, but I was also spending significant time at lights. Surely I couldn’t pull that time up — from a dip to 14.8km/h after my last rest break — while in traffic and obeying the lights, could I?
I simply kept pressing on, and didn’t run any of the lights on the way. And to my disbelief, I got the needle to move back to 15, and to hold there. With enough kilometers on the clock it would take quite a pause to make a difference, and now I was watching a different clock: Could I get home by the promised 5 p.m.? It looked like I was in the clear, but not by much. With aching thighs, but triumphant, I rolled into the plaza and stopped the clock at 4:49 p.m., with an all-in average speed of 15.1km/h.