Collage of cyclist selfies at Hamura and Haneda

The Whole Enchilada

After yesterday’s learning experience, I was confident that Kuroko was up for a nice, long ride. The only question was whether I wanted to challenge Otarumi Touge once more, or do the length of the Tamagawa cycling course, which I haven’t done since January. Considering the relative amounts of climbing involved and my recent training regime, I opted for the latter.

Bicycle leaning against hedge in front of dry fountain
Nishigawara Park

Looking at my time from January (total elapsed time of 9 hours 38 minutes), I planned to set out at 7 this morning. As it happened, it was 7:20 before I hit the road, and that was all down to me. Nana had the onigiri ready and was constantly prompting me if she should call building security to open up the freight elevator for me so I could bring Kuroko down from the Workshop in the Sky to street level.

I’d chosen 7 a.m. based on my time in January and a goal of returning home by 4:30, so I could be showered and ready for our 5:30 dinner reservation. As I’d started out with a 20-minute deficit, I was constantly looking to improve my time. Mostly, this meant limiting my break times. January’s time included two-and-a-half hours of non-riding time (including time spent at red lights in traffic), so I knew I could easily improve on that.

Ahead of the game

I reached Persimmon Park by 9:10 a.m., which meant I was already ahead of the game. I had about 16km to go into Hamura, the turnaround point, so with luck I’d be there by 10 (which would amount to something of a record for me). I had a few sips of water before setting off again. After negotiating my way through a troupe of young ‘uns on a weekend outing, I was back in force on the path, the wind with me, making good time but conserving my energy for the long haul. I started feeling hungry along the way, but I knew I was just a handful of kilometers from Hamura. I pressed on, and eventually rolled into the goal on the dot of 10.

I rationed my time at Hamura, getting a couple of onigiri in and resting my hands, feet and backside. But I was loathe to spend too much time resting and wasting the gain I’d made against the clock. So as soon as I had the onigiri inside, I mounted up again for the return ride.

First one-third in the bag

I’d racked up the usual 53km on the way to Hamura, but I knew this was just one-third of the day’s planned total. On the way back downriver, I could feel those 50-plus kilometers in my hands and my butt. I knew that I could cut the day short by turning home once I got to Futako, but I also knew it was too early to be making alternative plans. The bike was behaving well, I was kicking out a steady pace, and the wind was … not exactly fighting me. It was a crosswind, not strong, that was sometimes with me and sometime slightly against.

Soon after I left Hamura it began sprinkling. The sky had been cloudy up to this point, and while rain was not in the forecast, it wasn’t a total surprise, either. I kept pedaling. The pavement was not getting wet, and ditto my tires. My sunglasses were getting spotted with the rain, and that was about the extent of it. I thought about taking the shades off, but the sky overall was still rather bright. The rain — never heavy — ceased after 15-30 minutes.

In fact I was making very good time downstream. I’m sure the wind was with me overall. I racked up a couple of 5km splits at less than 11 min each — 10km at less than 22 minutes. I’d been providing Fearless Leader Joe and Sanborn with regular updates on my position, as well as photos, without any response. But when I reported this stat, the reply from Sanborn was quick: pix or it didn’t happen.

Table of 5km split times
Doubting Thomas

(Split 14 included a second stop at Persimmon Park.)

In any case, I responded to Sanborn with the most appropriate pictures available to me at the moment: my current location, and one of me devouring another of Nana’s delicious (and world famous) onigiri. After averaging north of 27km/h for 10km, I deserved it!

Eye on the clock

When I’m riding a route I know, I usually put the GPS on the map, just to keep myself from checking my stats every two minutes (and possibly missing some developing situation on the path ahead of me). At this point, though, I put it on the stats so I could keep an eye on the time. I knew I was doing well overall, but I wasn’t sure of the total ride time — particularly as I was starting to fatigue. I figured that I needed to reach Futako by 1 p.m. at the latest, which would put me at Haneda by 2:30. Given that it usually takes about two hours to get home from Haneda, that would put me home in time for dinner.

Onward, and reserving my energy. I had more than 90km on the clock after crossing the Tama Suido bridge the second time, and was now facing both a headwind and increasing traffic — pedestrians and slower riders both.

I came back to Futako at just under 5 hours into the ride, or about 12:15. Well ahead of schedule. I pressed on for another 3-4km until I came to a familiar resting spot, where I pulled over for a final onigiri. From this point I had about 14km to go until Haneda, my second turnaround point of the day, and I figured I could make it in one go. More importantly, I could make it with the water remaining in my bottles.

Nothing really to report on the remainder of the run to Haneda. The wind turned against me, so I hunkered down and kept pedaling. With the sun now out and it being after lunchtime, there were more cyclists, dog-walkers and bric-à-brac competing for the path. My thighs were telling me they were OK for the flats, but not to expect anything on the climbs.

Selfie of cyclist in front of Haneda Peace Shrine
Haneda shrine without the peace

I reached Haneda at 1:15, well ahead of the deadline. The nameplate was missing from the famous torii. I have no idea why. I sat in the shade and finished off the remaining water while an oji-san noisily dismembered plywood boxes just a few steps from where I sat.

Snickers to the rescue

I was ahead of schedule, but I was also tired and hungry. I knew that there was a convenience store just 5km away on the route home, and I soon stopped there for a bottle of water, a Snickers and a café au lait. I ate the Snickers standing in the parking lot and washed it down with the au lait, and the sugar of the two was just what the doctor ordered. After emptying the water from the PET bottle into my water bottles, I hit the trail again well refreshed. The wind was at my back once again, and I made jig time back upriver to Futako.

When it came to the climb out of the Tamagawa valley, I just dropped down the gears until I was comfortable and took my time on the way up. I pulled in for a rest at my usual park at the top of the climb and noted I still had another two gears to call on if the need arose.

It was 2:30 p.m. — my deadline for leaving Haneda, and I was already back in Futako. I messaged Nana that I’d be home in an hour, possibly a bit more (allowing for the fatigue I was suffering), and swallowed a bit more water. I turned on the rear light (clouds were moving in) before mounting up for home.

NBD, and a bit of a cheat

The ride home was no big deal. I fell in behind another cyclist after a traffic light and stuck with him until we came to a small climb, where he left me for dead. Once again, I just used a comfortable gear and didn’t push myself. The traffic (which had been missing in the morning on my way to the river) was out in force, and I took care negotiating my way. To get home ahead of time, I reminded myself, I had to get home.

With my stats on the GPS screen, one thing I was keeping my eye on (in addition to the current time) was the total elapsed time. When I’d done this ride in January with the Halfakid (and his then-fling), I’d come in at 9:38 total elapsed time. I was now looking at bringing it in under 8 hours. Could I do it? The answer relied more on traffic than on my legs. I had to remind myself on a few occasions to pay more attention to the road conditions and less to the clock.

In the end, I came swooping down the descent by Central Park with scant seconds to spare. As I waited at the red light at the bottom (still a couple of hundred meters from home), I watched the seconds tick down to 8 hours total ride time. And … I simply ended the ride at that point. Satisfied, I relaxed until the light changed and spun my way into the tower courtyard before dismounting and parking Kuroko in the basement.

GPS record of cycle ride
The Whole Enchilada

Sleight-of-hand notwithstanding, a few comparisons are in order. In January I completed the same route in 9:37:50 total elapsed time and 7:08:01 ride time, for an average of 20.1km/h. Today the figures were 7:59:42 total elapsed time and 6:18:07 ride time, for an average of 22.6km/h. I hadn’t just cut down on the rest times, I’d taken 50 minutes out of the ride time! I feel totally justified now in complaining loudly that I have no energy and people should be rushing to set pillows out for me to sit on, rather than vice-versa.

Fearless Leader Joe asked if this has been my longest ride this year, and — apart from the January go on the same route — the answer is yes. It doesn’t seem like it should be the case, but doing the Futako course in both directions is longer than the three rivers course.

The Halfakid and I did a century (162km for me) back in May 2020 in 7:57:22 ride time. That remains, to date, my longest ride. FLJ and I had a 148km day during our Lejog outing, but — with laden bikes, and day-after-day riding fatigue — we didn’t make anything like the time I recorded today.

The Fyutchaa!!

We’re just one-third of the way through October, and I already have 320km under my wing for the month. Next weekend the Halfakid may be able to join me for a ride (Otarumi Touge, depending on his condition). The following week I’m off work (with two road trips on the subsequent two weekends), so let’s see how the month comes out.

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