Bicycle leaning against Kawazuzakura tree in bloom

Why are we riding when it’s cold?

I’d thought about having a longer ride last weekend, but schedules changed and I ended up with a deadline. José was available to ride, under the same conditions, and we decided as we’d done Yokohama in 6 hours previously then that would be the plan.

It was still just 4C when we met in Futako, and the first words out of José’s mouth were, “Why are we riding when it’s cold?” In fact the sun was out and I’d already started warming up from the exertion, so before continuing on I took off my outer jacket and stuffed it in the saddlebag.


Kawazuzakura blossoms against blue sky

Just 3km south of Futako on the Tamagawa course there’s a rest area with a line of sakura trees. Half the trees are kawazuzakura, a special, early blossoming variety named after their town of origin: Kawazu at the southern tip of Izu peninsula.

Ripping his legs off

As we rode it soon became apparent the José was not on his usual form. I had to strain to look over my shoulder at times to see him hundreds of meters back. I knew he could catch me anytime he wanted, so I didn’t worry as long as I could see him every few kilometers. I stopped and waited once at a detour to make sure he found the correct route.

At the next rest stop, José told me he’d been to the gym the previous two days in a row, and had in addition run 5km. So his thighs were not completely fresh.

Meanwhile I was feeling OK, but not at my best. We joked about the one serious — brief but steep — climb waiting for us in Yokohama, and I began wondering if I would make it.

Over the river and through the traffic

We crossed over the Tamagawa on the Rokugo Bridge and descended into the steady traffic and uneven pavement of Rte. 15. As has become our habit on the Yokohama ride, we soon stopped at a park for the first of the delicious asari onigiri prepared fresh by Nana that morning. We didn’t dawdle but soon mounted up again and continued on the long, straight road into Yokohama.

Not sending their best

Yokohama Bay Bridge
Yokohama Bay Bridge

We stopped once more at a convenience store just before the climb to Minato no Miero Oka Koen, our destination, and I waited patiently while José finished a protein drink. Then we pedaled off again, waited for the light and finally began our climb.

I immediately dropped to Kuroko’s best climbing gear, and José powered past me just seconds later. I have a long habit of making it just past the steepest part of the climb and then running out of steam immediately afterwards, but I’ve made it in a single go on my last two attempts. Alas, it was not to be — as I reached the steepest section I just ran out of reserves. I watched in bemusement, though, as José struggled slowly on ahead of me: usually by this time he’d be well out of sight at the top. To my amazement, he remained in view the entire time I paused to catch my breath and let the ache in my thighs subside. (In fact my break was so short it barely registered on the Garmin.)

I mounted up again and got off to a wobbly uphill start, but soon I reached the top. It proved to be my third best effort on this particular climb. José was out of sight by this time, but I caught up to him just as he was parking his bicycle by the observation deck. We stopped long enough to finish off the onigiri, plus the supplements that José had procured at the convenience store.

Into the wind

On the way back, we were beset by a headwind, and now we both had aching thighs. In addition, my more tender regions were starting to swell up at the point of contact with the saddle. I shifted my position frequently, trying to ease the pressure, as we once again braved the traffic. I made it through a light just as it was changing, while José — a good couple of dozen meters behind — was mindful of the police car waiting at the light as he decided to wait out the red.

We didn’t break any records on the way home, although I put in my second-best effort for the entire Rte. 15 stretch from Yokohama back to the Tamagawa — much to my surprise. Over the bridge into Tokyo, we stopped again at another convenience store (at my urging) and had a nice, long break with Snickers bars and sweetened café au lait. We rested long enough that we started to feel chilled again as we stood in the shade of the convenience store parking lot.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Why are we riding when it’s cold?

The wind continued to dog us as we returned up the Tamagawa. At times I felt we were barely making progress, while my dissatisfaction with the saddle only increased. José and I parted ways at Futako and I climbed out of the river valley in my lowest gear. In the small park where I always rest after the climb, I noted it was already 1 p.m. We’d been making good time in the morning, but now — between the extended breaks and the upwind struggle — I knew I was going to fall behind my previous 6-hour mark for the ride.

I messaged Nana I would be home by about 2. There was no reply — she’d already departed for the sauna. I did what I could for the ride home through traffic, against the wind and with failing thighs, and arrived at 1:54, sore and worn out. As quickly as I could manage it with my remaining strength, I unloaded the GPS, empty water bottles and discarded onigiri wrappers from Kuroko, ascended to our flat in the sky, and slid into a hot, relaxing bath.


In the end, I’d finished with a riding time of 4 hours 29 minutes, for an average moving speed of 19.6km/h. This was a bit more leisurely than the pace of 4 hours 9 minutes (21.1km/h) I’d done on the same route in October (when I cleared the climb to Minato no Mieru in a single go). Likewise my total elapsed time was 6 hours 36 minutes, with lots of generous rests, compared to a more blistering 5 hours 51 minutes on the previous occasion.

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