I’ve got the week off work, so I set off this morning in perfect weather — if a bit chilly. I wore my obnoxiously yellow windbreaker over my usual accoutrements, and that did the trick.
My goal today was twofold: get to the top of Otarumi Touge (in one go if possible) and then loop around lake Sagamiko and return through Kanagawa Prefecture. I’ve been up Otarumi Touge on a number of occasions, each time stopping for a rest at least once (and sometimes more often), but it seems I’ve only done the Sagamiko loop a couple of times, both in 2019 (if my Strava history is to be trusted). The last time was just a couple of weeks before the start of my Lejog adventure with Fearless Leader Joe.
Easy Rider start
It’s 51km from home until the serious climbing starts from Takaosan Guchi. This morning I was determined to take it easy, hold my energy in reserve until arriving at the climb. I was successful in this, not pushing it in traffic. When I arrived on the Tamagawa cycling course, my average was slightly better than 20km/h. Perfect. Of course, my thighs were still a bit tender as today was just two days after the Yokohama ride in the rain with the Halfakid. But that’s something that another ride should just work through, right?
The weekday traffic on the Tamagawa cycling course wasn’t bad, particularly given the nice weather. At 9 a.m. I arrived at the Yotsuya tennis courts and had a couple of Nana’s world-famous onigiri to make sure I would have plenty of energy by the time I arrived in Takaosan Guchi. I continued on the Asakawa cycling course, a bit into the wind but not too bad, still conserving my energy. About 10km shy of Takaosan I stopped and had another onigiri, umeboshi this time.
It’s hurtin’ time
With the onigiri already in my belly, I didn’t have to stop at the usual convenience store at Takaosan Guchi. Instead I proceeded straight to the Takaosan cable car entrance for the usual selfie. Then, with the GoPro rolling, I started the climb. It all went well. I reminded myself to shift down before I felt any burning, and I continued to inch my way up the climb. It’s gradual, and I felt fine, and it
The Garmin was giving me some sort of obnoxious misleading guidance, like “Continue on road after 2.1km” or something, when I know the climb is more than 4km long. And I really felt fine, spinning down in my lowest gear. Some of the pavement was new, which was nice, and they’d cleaned up the shoulder (where there is one), which is even nicer. Well, that lasted for half a kilometer or so.
And of course after I passed whatever imaginary navigation point the Garmin was nagging me about, the burn started. I kept going. “I can live with this,” I was thinking. “I got this. Just. Keep. Going.”
And then the incline ticks upwards, and with the switchbacks the shoulder disappears. And I came to the magnet. And then it’s not only the burning in the legs, but it’s seeing the next two curves ahead, steeper yet, and with no shoulders to stop if I can’t make it.
I stopped at the magnet. I made it a good, long rest. I wanted my thighs to be ready for more pedaling when I remounted. I watched some Japanese Self-Defense Force vehicles roll by. A few big delivery trucks and a couple of private vehicles. And then I mounted up and I rode the rest of the way to the top.
At the top I had a choice: turn back and return the way I came (my usual practice for Otarumi Touge), or (my initial plan for the day) continue down into Kanagawa Prefecture and loop around Lake Sagamiko before heading home. The latter choice offers a very swift descent and a beautiful loop around the lake, followed by a lot of exurb rubbish riding and a couple of bonus killer climbs.
At the top of the pass, I hit the water bottle and didn’t give it a second thought. At the first break in traffic I was back on Kuroko, on the wild descent into Sagamihara. I’ve only done this a couple of times before and so the switchbacks on the descent, while familiar in retrospect, were unknown quantities to me at the entry point. This was compounded by the speed strips placed across several of them. At speed, Kuroko would start to pogo over them, and I would drift from the inside of the curve towards the middle. (I’m sure if I were to complain about this to the proper authority, the answer would be it’s not a problem at the posted speed limit of 30 — and that is probably correct.)
As a result, I was hitting the brakes frequently on the way down from Otarumi Touge, and I think I may have worn through the brake pads — at least on the front. Tomorrow has rain in the forecast, and Kuroko is already safely in the Workshop in the Sky.
Not the end of the climbing
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with descending. The problem with coming off Otarumi Touge into Kanagawa Prefecture is it places me on the wrong side of the mountain range. I have to make my way back across into Tokyo. After a handful of leisurely kilometers around the idyllic lake, there’s suddenly a climb of 90m with a maximum rise of 12.8%, a moderate middle and then a kick up again near the top. I’d planned to take this the same as Otarumi: the slow and steady tortoise. But despite this strategy, and fresh off the Otarumi climb, I still needed a breather in the middle of the climb before continuing to the top.
The Garmin was reminding me during this climb that it was the second out of three for the day. I’d forgotten — willfully, perhaps — the last one. It’s a bit more gradual, but it does go on. And on. And on. There’s a convenience store halfway up on a flat stretch, and yes, it’s a familiar store for me. I stopped for a brief rest, a small café latte in a can, and a bottle of water.
Lots of exurb rubbish I won’t bore you with
From there on back to the Tamagawa, it’s essentially urban riding, just perhaps with the lights spaced out a bit more (and a bit more up-down yet to come). I started feeling hungry again during this portion. I kept looking at the Garmin and seeing, “Another 4km and then turn here for this or that,” and thinking that meant I was nearing the Tamagawa. I’d forgotten the lesson of my first ride around this circuit, which is: it’s a good 35km back to the river. Fortunately, the preloading of onigiri and the stop for a café latte were holding me pretty well.
With my memory working in retrospect — completing a segment and thinking, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” — I kept expecting to turn a corner and see the white towers and cables of the Fuchu Yotsuya Bridge. When it eventually hove into view and I pedaled across and into the tennis park for a final onigiri and some water, I was surprised to see it was still just 1:30. I messaged Nana that I was in Fuchu and had less than 30km to go, rested a couple of minutes and then was back on the bike. In the morning I had been taking it easy on my way upstream on the Tamagawa to preserve my energy. Now, more than four hours later, heading back downstream I was fighting the wind, balancing my progress against what little energy I had in reserve.
I reached the final rest spot (same as the first one of the day) at 2:15. I messaged Nana I would be home by 3:30, while hoping I would beat 3:15 and thus bring my ride time under 8 hours for the day. There’s not much to relate of the ride home through traffic except for the truck parked on a climb, forcing me around and in front of tailing traffic while I was doing just about 10km/h, and then starting off as I was drawing level with the cab of the truck! I shouted, “Dude!” The driver’s window was open and he shouted something in reply, but I didn’t catch if it was a swear word or an apology. In any case he let me overtake him and return to the curb before he passed me.
We were just 50m from a traffic light when this occurred, so I caught up with him as he waited for the red. I was able to pass and go on ahead when the light turned green, and I didn’t hear any more from that particular driver.
With my strategy of deliberately taking it easy, today’s pace was down from the average: 19.8km/h moving speed, vs. more than 21km/h on the previous two occasions on the same route. On the other hand, I brought the ride in under 8 hours at 7:58:52. This compares with 8:10 on my first go and a whopping 9:30 on the second go as the Halfakid and I spent ages faffing about in the June sun at the top of Otarumi Touge.
In addition to putting me over 500km for the month (with the rest of the week off will I reach 600? 800?), today’s ride brought me unexpectedly closer to another milestone:
At the current pace, the next ride will put me over 10,000km.