Bicycle leaning against railing over weir

Mikan metric

We were shocked to wake up yesterday to non-stop tsunami warnings on the television, with a prominent “Run!” heading flashing over affected areas. But it soon became evident there was no danger for us here in Tokyo, and even the most-threatened areas of the Japan homeland would be facing nothing like the 2011 tsunami. We were soon holding our breath for news from Tonga — and in that we’re still waiting. What little we know is not encouraging, and we hope the world will join New Zealand soon in sending help to the small island nation.

But with no immediate threat and no way effective way to lend immediate assistance, there was nothing but cold weather to stop me having a nice ride on a very clear and fairly windless day. I quickly suited up in tights, heat tech undershirt and two winter jerseys, winter socks and gloves, face mask, bandana and shoe covers. I was loaded for bear.

I’d been dithering since early morning over the route, but in the end I decided I wanted an easy ride but with some distance: a metric century.

Not-so-cold start

Bicycle leaning against bush surrounding a dry fountain
Dry fountain

Google had led me to expect 1C at the start of the ride, but the Garmin put it at a more optimistic 4C. I could feel a bit of chill on my thighs through the tights, and ditto my fingers in the winter gloves, but was otherwise warm right off the bat. Once I started moving and burning some energy, I didn’t have any more trouble with the cold. The city traffic was as usual, apart from a long line of cars waiting to park at the department store at Futako, and I was soon taking a brief break at my usual spot at Nishigawara Park on my way up the Tamagawa.

Fruity, with hints of masochism

Between the new saddle and the thin chamois of my Pearly Zoomie tights, my backside has not been having an easy time on rides lately. From Nishigawara I usually like to continue on 15km to Persimmon Park, and typically I have no trouble apart from a bit of finger numbness near the end. This time I was shifting my butt around, trying to get a comfortable position, as well as taking my hands off the bars from time to time to shake out my fingers. I resolved to buy some persimmons from the eponymous vending machine by the park, only to find when I arrived that it was mikan that were now on offer.

Even better! I dropped my ¥100 coin and picked the largest mikan I could find. I posted the photo on Instagram and to some friends in chat, and quickly had their replies: “They look delicious!” and “They’re so big!”

It was already after 11 and I was feeling quite hungry. I didn’t want to start on the mikan and end up all sticky, so I decided I would be OK to continue on and eat when I reached Hamura. I estimated I would get there about noon or shortly thereafter, and I’d be in better shape than I was in December when I rode to Disneyland and didn’t eat until after 1 p.m.

And that’s how it worked out. After the break my bum was feeling a bit more accustomed to the saddle and I continued making good time. I got behind a family when emerging from a park about 4-5km from the goal, and resolved to bide my time through an underpass and then up a ramp leading to a cherry tree-lined path. At the top of the ramp the father — last rider in the group — failed to negotiate the bollards and came to an abrupt stop after touching a pedal, nearly toppling over backwards in the process. I was close behind, but quickly stopped, balancing on my pedals, and then passed by through the adjacent bollards. Soon after that, I was at the convenience store, stocking up on hot pork buns for my lunch. (Nana had failed to make rice, and so no onigiri for my ride.)

I reached Hamura with my pork buns slightly after noon. It didn’t take me long to finish eating, and then it was a balance between resting my tired body with the desire to get home before it become too dark. It was 12:30 when I struck out for home.

Into the wind

As is often the case, I’d assumed on my way upstream there was no wind. I soon realized my error on the return downstream. The wind wasn’t impossible, but it took a gear or two out of my pace — with the occasional gust demanding another gear or two downwards. I knew I could make it back to Persimmon Mikan Park before needing a break, but my tush was telling me otherwise.

From there it was a similar distance back to my usual break stop — the one with the dry fountain, and the last rest before Futako. I was fighting into the wind again, and soon I was dealing with a headache and cramping neck muscles in addition to my sore hands and bum. I realized I was hunching my shoulders against the wind and pulling my head in turtlewise. I made an effort to square my shoulders, straighten my neck and rest my hands on the tops of the handlebars, increasing my wind resistance but relaxing my entire body.

It helped. The other bit that helped was my decision to bypass Futako on my way home, diverting at Komae into the city on a more direct route. It would shave about 5km from my ride, but from my calculations I’d still clear 100km for the day.

Bicycle leaning agaisnt railing in park
Just 15km to go

Cross-town traffic

After Komae, the first couple of kilometers brought me even more directly into the wind. But as I was in traffic, I was naturally riding a bit slower and more upright regardless. I was tired, but the headache was easing. The more upright seating seems to suit the saddle also, and the pain in the tuchis dropped down a notch.

I had the Garmin set to show my route (which I knew well) rather than my stats, to prevent me checking it often while I should be looking out for traffic. But it was still beeping to let me know each time I completed another 5km. My spidey-sense was primed for the beep for 95km from the moment I passed the crossing that I knew was about 7km from home, and I was soon rewarded. At that point I relaxed a bit more, confident I’d reach 100km despite my shortcut.

At the next traffic light I knew I had about 6km to go. “So, about 20 minutes,” I told myself. I swiped the Garmin to check the stats. It was 2:52 p.m., so I was predicting I’d be home by 3:12. Somehow that seemed less realistic than saying I’d cover 6km in 20 minutes. I can do that without issue — on the flat, without traffic lights. And definitely without train crossings, I reminded myself as I was soon cooling my heels as I waited for a commuter train to clear the station and crossing.

I had the Garmin back on the map so I wouldn’t be racing the clock home. It was just as well as a driver wanted to play cat-and-mouse at 30km/h, only for me to catch him at the next light and replay it. I was happy for him to speed through a changing yellow while I braked to wait.

At last I was speeding downhill by Central Park towards the finish. The light at the bottom of the hill was green, for a change, and I only had to work my way around a large delivery van that had pulled almost fully into my lane from a cross street before I reached home.

I pressed the stop button on the Garmin and messaged Nana I was back. I hadn’t made my 20 minutes, but I was well ahead of the 3:30 I had told her I’d be home.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Mikan metric

Six hours and change total elapsed time isn’t bad for a century, and the Garmin put my riding time at 4 hours 50 minutes, for a moving average of 21.2km/h. So despite my bellyaching about the wind and the saddle, I’d made quite good time overall.

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