I was thinking of a longer ride this weekend during the break in the rainy season, something in the 130-145km range, and then a coworker pointed out the forecast temperatures. I immediately revised my plans: short ride, early start. I informed Nana that I’d be leaving at 7 a.m. for Haneda, with the goal of being back before noon — most importantly, being back before the temperature got much north of 30C.
As luck would have it, I was up not long after 4 a.m. I’d set the alarm for 5:30, and as usual I had to nudge Nana several times to get her up well after 6. After the necessary preparation and with a bag full of Nana’s world-famous onigiri, I was on the road at 7:05.
Is it 5X points at Costco?
Everything was going smoothly until I reached Futako, where suddenly the traffic was mad. At Seta crossing the vehicles turning right onto 246 had backed up across two lanes of the No. 8 Ring Road, causing havoc. That mostly cleared up as I waited for my light to cross the No. 8, but then 245 itself was backed up through two consecutive signals. After weaving through traffic on the swift downhill into Futako, I ended up on the sidewalk for a ways to avoid the long lines of traffic. I remained on the sidewalk to cross Futagobashi over the Tamagawa.
Once on the river cycling course, everything went smoothly. The course was crowded as well: joggers, cyclists and little league baseball players. But it was much more manageable than Futako traffic had been. After recrossing the river at Marukobashi I had a brief rest before continuing on my way.
When I reached Daishibashi, just a couple of kilometers from the goal, I encountered a fellow waving a flag and directing traffic onto the road. There’s bridge construction adjacent to Kosokudaishi Bridge over the cycling course. No worries — after confirming with another flag waver that the road was open, at least to cyclists, I continued on my way and was soon wheeling into Haneda.
I sat down in the shade and messaged Nana that I was at Haneda eating onigiri. “Already?” she replied. It was 8:54, and I was ravenous. I had two onigiri, wiped my hands, messaged Nana that I was returning and set off for home at 9:09. Temperature: 28C.
The ride back upriver progressed smoothly. When I came to a portion of the course that was covered in puddles from the recent rainfall, I cheerfully splashed through. On the switchbacks where I had to climb a few meters up the levee banks, I could feel the heat was already sapping my thighs. I crossed the river again at Marukobashi and was soon overtaken by two young, fit riders and top-notch bikes. I was gratified to note that the Pinarello was making a lot of noise compared to Kuroko, which had been running silently and smoothly all day. That fellow better clean and oil his chain soon, and perhaps have an adjustment.
Following a brief stop at my usual resting spot, I must have mounted up carelessly — I suddenly discovered a bruise high up on my inner thigh. As I pedaled upstream in increasingly hot weather, I was shifting my bum around on the saddle to find a position that didn’t give me a stabbing pain with each pedal stroke. I’m glad I was soon able to find a spot that let me continue without pain.
On Futagobashi back into Futako there was a moment’s confusion where I was ringing for a group of pedestrians to let me pass. They moved aside and I made my move — only to find a rider coming head-on from the opposite direction. I quickly skidded back into line behind the pedestrians, only to have the other rider shout imprecations in my ear as he passed.
Without further incident I crossed the bridge and started the climb out of the Tamagawa valley. I didn’t try to push myself but quickly dropped into lower gears and crawled my way up the rise. The park at the top was completely in sunshine so I stopped in the welcome shade near the Dogseal to rest.
I made short work of the one remaining onigiri, drank some water and checked the time. At 10:21 I messaged Nana that I would be home by 11:30. Of course I was hoping for better.
Racing the clock
I had a secret goal of riding the round trip with an elapsed time of under 4 hours. But I also knew what I would be like if I was keeping an eye on the clock as I rode home. I set Garmie to the nav screen, although I know the way home blindfolded, just so I wouldn’t be watching the screen instead of traffic. I did take a few shortcuts — pedaling through pedestrian crossings against the light, after checking for traffic — but I didn’t want to take any big risks. I was making good time, but it was still traffic, and there’s nothing I can do about traffic lights and railroad crossings.
I got to Sasazuka in the typical heavy traffic there and had a glance at the stats as I waited for the light. I still had just a tad less than 7 minutes, and was just under 3km from home. That would be ambitious — not an outrageous pace on a cycle path without traffic lights to worry about, but not really a possibility given the conditions. I put Garmie back on the nav screen and raced home without consulting it again. I was able to get ahead of the city bus at the corner of Central Park and raced downhill, making the light.
I rolled into the tower plaza and hit the stop button — 4 hours 2 minutes after I’d left.
The average temperature as I was riding was 28C, and it was above 30C when I returned home. I was drinking water at every chance along the way. I drained two bottles of 620ml each, or about 3.5 beer cans’ worth. When I left Futako for home, with about 12km to go, I had perhaps 100ml left and I was rationing water all the way home — not ideal in these conditions.
On a moving time of 3:07:01, I averaged 20.6km/h. Strava tells me that’s above my average for this route. As noted, the elapsed time of 4:02:08 was slightly over my goal for the day. I’m pretty sure I’ve done it under 4 hours in the past, and may do so again someday when the Futako traffic isn’t as bad and I gobble down the onigiri a bit more quickly.
It would be far more ambitious to bring the riding time under 3 hours, although I believe I may have done so in the past. I’m not sufficiently motivated at this point to have a look. It’s worth noting though that today’s effort did not result in any personal records along the way, nor any 2nd or 3rd places.
I’ve done a number on myself with the bruise. It’s uncomfortable to walk and I have to choose my sitting posture with care. At my age, hoping for a swift healing is moot.