Selfie of cyclist. The cyclist is wearing a red jersey, a black-and-white helmet, sunglasses and a black UV mask over his face. A vermilion Japanese torii stands behind the rider, partially obscured by his head. Beyond the torii a blue river and blue sky can be seen.

Hittin’ the Bottle

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.

Dark ochre Fujisan in early morning light with narrow streaks of snow from the peak down the flanks. The sky behind is pale blue-orange. In front of Fujisan is a low line of dark hills and in the foreground is a cityscape in early morning light, with one building mirroring the sunrise.
Morning Fuji

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.

A statuette in dark stone that could be a dog or a seal. Someone has wrapped a blue shawl around the statues' shoulders, pinned with what looks like a silver darning needle topped with a large ball of crumpled aluminum foil.
Dogseal spiffed up for the occasion

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.

GPS record of bicycle ride
Hittin’ the Bottle

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.

A cartoonish badge of a cyclist in blue with red hair. A red lightning bolt is coming from the rear wheel. At bottom left is the legend 200k.
June Cycling Challenge badge

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.

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One response to “Hittin’ the Bottle”

  1. […] hoped to get out of the house by 7, and ended up departing just a few minutes later than that. On my last ride to Haneda, two weeks ago, I’d brought in the round trip at 4 hours 2 minutes. Could I beat 4 hours […]

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