Selfie of biker with Japanese shrine torii

Wind and Construction

Nana and I had plans for the afternoon, so I set out for Haneda with the goal of returning within four hours. I’ve done this run in less than four hours on several occasions in the past, but it’s not easy. It depends as much on discipline in keeping the breaks short and luck with traffic lights as it does on pedal power.

When I set out just after 9 a.m. it was cold and clear … and windy. I didn’t push the pace hard through the city traffic but right from the start I was feeling a bit weak. I resolved to keep on and not worry for the time being about making it in four hours. Before long I was hitting pockets of construction, watching for the signals of the flag and baton wavers. On one particularly narrow street I got caught behind a couple of trucks carrying construction materials, but I was soon able to leave them behind as they waited a turn at an intersection.

I left my legs in Shizuoka

I got down to Tamagawa in pretty good time, all things considered, and set out downstream. The wind was very changeable: at times coming from ahead or behind, but mostly from the side. I soon discovered I didn’t have any power in my legs. What low hills and switchbacks constitute climbs on this course were taking the wind out of my sails. It’s been six days since the Hamaichi ride, but my thighs felt as if it was just yesterday and they were still recovering.

There was more construction on the Tamagawa cycling course. In addition to the detours I noted on my last Haneda ride at the end of December, there was a length of a couple of hundred meters where the path had been torn up and left as just a gravel trail. Apparently they’re paving a couple of hundred meters at a time (probably working overnight). Fortunately, Kuroko is very rideable in gravel.

On schedule

Despite the wind, construction and lack of legs, I arrived at Haneda just 1 hour 48 minutes after setting out. And that included a rest stop during which I’d devoured one of Nana’s world-famous mentaiko onigiri. With the goal of four hours still in play, I quickly wolfed down the remaining onigiri and some water, and set out homewards.

Upstream, into the wind

The wind which had bedeviled me on the way downstream was now unabashedly in my face. I found myself dropping a gear, and then another. I’d intentionally set my Garmin to show the map so I wouldn’t focus on stats, but I was dying of curiosity to see what kind of progress I was making. It felt like I was just crawling along. I was very surprised to see a 5km segment drop in less than 15 minutes (meaning I was averaging more than 20km/h).

I took a break at my usual spot just long enough to drink some water, catch up on messages, and work out the numbness in my fingers. I wasn’t eager to head back in the wind, but I wanted to see if I could still make my sub-four hour goal. 風神 was doing his best, at times as strong as we’d encountered during our first few kilometers at Hamanako, but I just tucked my head down and kept grinding. Big shout-out to the half-dozen or so riders who passed me like I was standing still, as if the wind were nothing to them. This includes the guy on a chari standing upright on the pedals.

Back at Futaka — finally! — I dropped to my lowest gear on the modest climb out of the Tamagawa valley (further evidence of my absent legs, as I’m usually a gear or two up from this). It was about 12:15 when I reached the park at the top of the hill. I sipped some water and messaged Nana that I would be home by 1:30. In truth I was wondering if it was possible I’d make it home by 1:05 — the golden four-hour mark.

No reprieve

I’d been hoping for a rest from the wind once I got out of the river valley, but in this I was sadly disappointed. I had a headwind the entire ride home, and at times it was substantial. Taken together with my lack of thighs on the few remaining bumps — and more construction, including a new detour I hadn’t encountered in the morning — I was certain I was not going to make my goal.

I resolutely kept the GPS on the navigation map so I wouldn’t be checking my stats at every chance, or taking chances as a result of seeing the data. As it was, I needed all my concentration for the traffic. Just shy of halfway from the river to home, there was a sudden long queue of traffic, resulting in a sequence of missed traffic lights. I was doomed!

My resolve finally broke when I was waiting at a light just 3km from home. It was 12:52 — I was still in the game! Making 3km in 13 minutes is by no means a given in traffic, and my thighs were now completely spent. When the light changed I crawled up the scant rise following, and was gratified to clear a metro bus before it left its stop.

From there on I had excellent luck with the lights, making a string of greens in a row where I usually stop and wait at light after light. I made the turn at Central Park just before the light changed, then sped downhill. The light midway down the hill changed as I was approaching, and ditto the light at the major crossing at the bottom of the hill. Moments later I rolled to a stop outside our tower and hit the save button on the Garmin. I messaged Nana that I was home, and I took my time getting Kuroko down the ramp into the parking garage.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Wind and Construction

I’d made it! 3 hours 55 minutes total elapsed time. Based on a moving time of 3 hours 11 minutes 50 seconds, I had an average moving speed of 20.0km/h. No one is more shocked than I to see that figure, as I’d felt all day long as if I was crawling on a treadmill towards a jet blast of wind.

The bell doesn’t toll for thee

Kuroko was perfect through the day’s trial. The only mechanical was a loose bell. The lever was rotating further and further from my reach with each ring, until at last I gave up and just shouted a warning when it was needed. I kept meaning to adjust it each time I had a break, but of course I forgot at each break.

Record for forgetting planned maintenance at the next break: 100%

Guy Jean

I took care of it after I got home. It took a few tries to find the right hex size on the multitool, and to guide that into the screw on the bell. But I didn’t mind as I’d already stopped the clock. I gave it a few experimental rings and then gathered up my bottles and wallet and chapstick, etc., and headed for the elevator.

Shifty character

Now that I’ve got the Di2 shifters and the wireless hook-up with the Garmin, I can see my shifting stats after each ride. Exciting!

Compared to last week at Hamanako, with all the climbing, I shifted the front chainrings a lot less. (I only shift to the small one when there’s some serious climbing in store.) Curious now why I shifted the rear more, given the shorter ride distance. One explanation could be the time spent in traffic, where I shift down X number of gears at each stop.

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