Late Off the Line

Statue of flying squirrel against backdrop of green leaves

It was after 9 a.m. before I finally got on the bike this morning, and right away I was facing lines of traffic, backed up by road repairs and other construction work. I passed kilometer upon kilometer of vehicles idling at a standstill before I finally reached the cycling course at Tamagawa.

Nana had once again failed to whip up a batch of her world-famous onigiri, so I stopped at a convenience store along the way to get something to eat. Mindful of my bad experience last weekend, I avoided the onigiri and got a hotdog and a combo sandwich.

The wind was with me riding up the Tamagawa, and I stopped at a park to eat the hotdog before continuing. As soon as I was on the Asagawa, though, I was fighting into the wind. I encountered an easy detour, just a bit of traffic, and then a pleasant surprise: the sign welcoming riders to the Asagawa “Take It Easy” Road is usually a warning of very bad pavement to follow. But today — much to my delight — I found that the succeeding 500m or so was freshly paved, all the way to the rail crossing.

From that point on I was struggling. It’s not difficult on paper — gradients range from 0% to 2%. But I was definitely feeling the bonk. Even after stopping to rest and eat the combo sandwich, I just didn’t have the energy to push forward. It was not quite as bad as when I’d included this segment as part of a century ride, but it was palpable.

Too little, too late

By the time I reached the cable car entrance at Takaosan Guchi, I’d already decided: It was almost 12:30, I was starving, and my thighs had already had it. The last time I’d ridden up Takaosan to Otarumi Touge was in October, and I’d left home at 7:15. This morning’s 9:06 departure just wasn’t going to cut it, given a desire to be home in time to shower up for a 6 p.m. dinner date. I decided to be satisfied with a photo or two at Takaosan Guchi and then a more leisurely ride home.

I returned to the nearby Family Mart, where another rider struck up a conversation.

Fit Japanese rider
Hot, isn’t it?
Guy Jean
I’ll say! And it will be hotter tomorrow!
FJR
That’s what I’ve heard …
Guy Jean
Did you go up to the pass [Otarumi Touge]?
FJR
I went over the pass and down into Kanagawa Prefecture, and then I came back over the pass.
Guy Jean
Wow!

He was, at a guess, not any younger than your humble narrator.

Slight return

The return down the Asagawa was quite a bit smoother. That almost non-existent 0-2% gradient was now working in my favor, and so was the wind — for the most part. I posted a couple of 5km runs here at 26km/h, a big improvement over the 20km/h at most I was making on the way upstream.

I stopped for a rest in the shade and a last snack just before rejoining the Tamagawa. I took off my shoes and adjusted my socks to give the dogs a rest.

After crossing the Tamagawa and back on my home turf, the wind was very mixed. At this point the big question was how long I could go without resting my hands and my backside. I was pleased to find my thighs were feeling much better than on the way up to Takaosan Guchi — was it just because I was headed downhill now (however slightly), or had the break for lunch recharged me?

I was dealing with a bit of finger numbness along the way, but not as bad as it had recently been. I just had to move my hands about a bit on the bars from time to time, and occasionally lift one and give it a shake. Ditto the saddle soreness. A few times I had to squirm around a bit, and then all was good again.

I took a last break at a small park where I leave the Tamagawa for city traffic. I drank some water and took my time resting, and then messaged Nana that I would be home by 4. I was checking Garmie to see if I was going to get in 100km for the day, and it was looking close. I was willing to do an extra lap around Central Park if need be.

On the long stretch of Setagaya Ave. taking me back into the city, I’ll sometimes find a car that stands out from the pack, and I use that to gauge my progress. Given the traffic, it’s not too challenging to keep up. Once it was a Ferrari roadster that reeked of unburned gasoline. This time it was a young woman driving a grey 718 Cayman GTS with a beginner’s sticker on the flank. We played cat-and-mouse in the traffic most of the way back. She only lost me when she got ahead of a bus that then pulled in front of me and stopped for the traffic light, half a kilometer before I turned off the avenue.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Late Off the Line

A riding time of 4h56m gave me an average riding speed of 20.8km/h. The total elapsed time was a bit more than that as I took my time resting on the way back once I’d decided not to test the mountain. Last October, when I rode to the top with only a single rest on the way up, I came in at 6h17m ride time on a route that’s 22km longer for 19.8km/h.

Bar graph of distance by month, with 600km in May highlighted
600

Coming in at 100km (no extra lap needed) put me over 600km for the month, the longest monthly distance I’ve done since last October (which was just before I converted Kuroko to electronic shifting). There are a couple of more days this month but I’m not likely to be riding. Monday will be 30C and windy, and rain is in the forecast for Tuesday.

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