Selfie of cyclist wearing black shades and a colorful jersey, standing in front of a statue of two Japanese men

Goodbye, 2023!

I’ve been meaning to get back to the Three Rivers ride for at least a month now, but I hadn’t had the dedication to get rolling early enough. Yesterday I was up at 5 and Nana got up at 6. When I told her I would like to start at 7 or 7:30, she got right to making some her world-famous onigiri.

For a change I got going at the time I’d hoped. Sunrise had been at 6:49 — a full three minutes later than at the solstice — but the city roads were still in shadow and I had my taillight on. I wasn’t cold so long as I was moving, but waiting at lights was a bit chilly.

It wasn’t until I got on the cycling course at Tamagawa around 8:15 that I saw my own shadow, leading the way on the course as I pedaled upstream. Fujisan remained visible off to the west, although the sun came and went. I stopped at Persimmon Park about 9:15 and had the first onigiri of the day before continuing on.

Between the park and Hamura at the end of the Tamagawa cycling course, I was really lagging. I didn’t have any power and I was riding a gear or two down from the usual pace. I’d been passing a number of detours along the way and thinking, “No, I won’t be coming back this way.” But now I had to seriously consider turning around once I reached Hamura.

When I limped to a stop at Hamura, I was stunned to find it was only 10:20 a.m. I was well ahead of my mental schedule. Furthermore, despite my lack of power, I’d been keeping a pace of 15.5km/h (based on elapsed time), which meant I was in good shape to finish the ride. I’d have about 50km to go if I turned around at this point, compared to 80km if I pressed on. It seemed like I was making good progress. With these stats under my belt, and fortified with two more of Nana’s onigiri, I continued on the way.

There’s a brief climb just a couple of kilometers after leaving Hamura behind. I knew I still didn’t have power for climbing, but I took my time with it and got to the top eventually. Once the road flattened I was making good time. In fact, I was soon back to what I would consider my typical pace. I said a mental word of thanks to Nana for the energy-packed onigiri.

The Iruma course starts with about 9km of path winding through parks and another couple working through traffic before ascending to the top of the river dike, where it continues on for another 17km or so. It’s here in the past that I’ve had to detour off the course and into farmland to get around construction.

I was glad to see the previous construction was completed and I remained on the course. But then, just after crossing under a busy roadway and climbing back up to the dike, it was a new section of construction! The detour was clearly marked, and for a change Garmie was actually helpful in guiding me back on course.

[I realized for the first time — because I had to stop and study the signs — that this is Oppegawa, a smaller river that feeds into Irumagawa. So is it now the Four Rivers Ride?]

From the Irumagawa I dropped down onto farm roads with broken pavement as I paralleled the Arakawa. I had 40km to go. I was tired but confident I’d get home in one piece. Garmie insisted I was making good enough time to be home by 3 p.m., but I knew I had a couple of rest stops yet to take and then it would be city traffic. I was prepared to message Nana that I’d be home by 5, but I was hoping for 4.

I rode the path up to the top of the dike near a country club and stopped for a brief rest. The sun came out strongly for the first time all day, and I was too warm in my winter gear. I had about 15km to go down the Arakawa, and I’d just finished the last of the water. Would I be fighting into the wind the whole way?

A bicycle leaning against a large, blue, irregularly shaped sign with painted fireworks and Arakawa spelled out in faded paint.
That’s Arakawa done!

In fact I had something of a tailwind. What luck! When I saw the UFO-shaped water gate where I always stop for a break, I thought it was far too soon. I had a Snickers and checked the Garmie and saw I had another 6km of Arakawa before it was time to head into traffic. The wind stayed with me and once again I arrived much sooner than I’d expected.

At 2:42 I messaged Nana I’d be home about 4. It’s typically about 50 minutes, but I had to stop for water, and I knew I really had nothing left in the tank for the few undulations along the way. It’s a very gradual rise out of the river valley but I was still reaching for the lowest gear, and was grateful for a red light halfway up the climb.

From that point on, my only thought was to hang on. I’d confirmed I would clear 130km for the day, so I just pictured the bath and beer waiting at home. And yet … I’d estimated the ride at 9 hours. Was it possible I could shave half an hour off that? I didn’t press any harder — I honestly had nothing more in me — but I held the hope in mind as I waited a lights and dodged traffic.

As dead as I thought I was, the last climb up to Nakano Sakaue took less effort than I expected, and I had a green light at the top. Traffic on the downhill prevented me cranking up the speed, but soon enough I’d made the final turn towards home, and I even passed another cyclist on the way.

GPS record of cycle ride
Goodbye, 2023!

It was 3:43 when I messaged Nana I was home. (She was out having her hair done at the time.) I didn’t waste time checking my stats but parked the bike and gathered up my gear. I stopped at the convenience store for some snacks and picked up the newspaper from the mailbox.

At last, beer in hand and bathtub filling, I sat down and had a look. Eight hours 30 minutes and change. Not bad. On a moving time of 6:44:44, I’d averaged 19.5km/h. I’m pleased with those stats overall.

(Let’s not talk about how many times I fell asleep in the bath, or how sore I am today.)

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One response to “Goodbye, 2023!”

  1. […] my previous ride I’d come down the Arakawa from Saitama, and I’d seen signs announcing today’s […]

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