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Back, alive!

Just letting you all know, that I made it to Niigata on time, and came back on the Shinkansen earlier this evening.
I'll write a full report later, but in the meantime, just to whet your appetites, here are the important figures:
Total distance (from Tokyo station): 358km.
Time taken (riding): 19 hours, including breaks.

Will post a few preliminary pics in the gallery, too.
Awesome stuff, Travis! Glad you're back safe and sound, and psyched to know that you completed the adventure. I look forward to hearing your report!

Congratulations, Travis, I'm totally jealous! Looking forward to reading your report too.
Epic Travis :) Congratulations!

The picture of the Mikuni Tunnel looks ominous ;)

well done mate! can't wait the read the ride report. how was the traffic? Reading the report the traffic was quite managable. Thanks for the report and the inspiration. I always look forward to reading your ride reports.
Big bravo Travis...I bet you craved those frites at 3:00 in the morning...only in Japan! What a great country this is! Was this a solo run after all? Can't wait for the full report!
Nice one. I really want to do this ride. My knee's getting better. Sometime soon...

Full report...

Well, that was harder than I thought!
Don't get me wrong, I didn't think it would be easy. But I did think it could be done with less discomfort if I didn't over-exert myself (ie. stayed aerobic) for most of the way. It turned out to be quite painful though, no matter how I rode.

I left home with my wife (Nobu) at 7pm, and we both rode in towards Tokyo station. Nobu took some photos, then bid me farewell as I left, right on 8:00. I zeroed my meter, and headed around Tokyo palace, onto Hakusan-dori (Rte.17), and past Tokyo Dome, before heading north towards Arakawa and Saitama prefecture. It was threatening to rain, with a few drops here and there. One might even say, it was raining pleasantly – not enough to make you wet, but enough to cool you down one square centimeter at a time.

I crossed the Arakawa – The Tokyo / Saitama border – at 8:45, and then took a slight detour through Toda towards the "Shin-Omiya bypass" 3km to the west. The Shin-Omiya bypass is really great! It runs directly below the freeway, and has three nice wide traffic lanes itself, with very few traffic lights. This certainly saved me a lot of time compared to the regular road, and it took me about 6km past Omiya city itself, meaning I didn't have to deal with stop-start traffic all the time.

After the bypass, the road narrowed to 2 lanes (each way). I continued on until I reached my first turn-off just past Kitamoto. I had my first break there, at 22:25 with 55km on the meter. (*Note: Beggars can't be choosers! I had actually stopped 5km earlier at a 7-11, but they didn't have the multi-mineral gel I wanted, so I left without buying anything, in the hope that there would be another convenience store before the turn-off that was a little more considerate to my needs. There were no more conbini's after that…) So, my first break was at a gasoline stand; Calorie Mates & vending machine drinks.

I was now on the "Kumagaya bypass, which was where I wanted to be, but was about to make my first navigational error. In order for me to get onto the right Rte.17 (*Note: The Japanese propensity for naming or numbering two or more completely different roads exactly the same, just because they run roughly in the same direction), I would have to take 3 turn-offs correctly. I only managed two. I turned from Rte.17 onto Rte.17. Then, from Rte.17 onto a different Rte.17. Good, I'm still on track! But then, when I went from Rte.17 to Rte.17, I realized I should have been on Rte.17. Damn it! I missed my turn-off! Unfortunately, I didn't even know I was on the wrong road until I stopped to check the map – 30km away – I was not happy! At all!!:mad:

I wanted to get to Maebashi without going through Takasaki, as going through Takasaki adds an extra 10km to the trip. After realizing I was still heading towards Takasaki (being on the wrong Rte.17, and all), I checked the map for a more direct route to Maebashi. Fortunately, I managed to save myself about 5km by cutting directly north on Rte.13. This actually put me back on schedule, as I had planned on being in Maebashi by 1am. I made it there right on time, with 115km on the meter, so I stopped for my second snack break.

After leaving Maebashi at 1:20, the road had finally narrowed to one lane each way. It also starting going up ever so slightly. Even though this area is considered fairly rural, the roads were still very well lit. After passing Shibukawa, I saw the turn-off to Kusatsu, but kept going straight. Not long after seeing the Kusatsu sign though, the streetlights almost disappeared. It was on this section of road (the last 15km to Numata) that, for the first time, I had to switch on all of my lights, and switch into the inner chain-ring on some of the steeper sections. It was here too, that I first noticed the traffic, by the lack of it. I was only getting passed by a vehicle every few minutes, and the ratio was about 3 trucks to one car. I made it to Numata at 2:40, with 146km on the meter. The "Joyfull" family restaurant was right where it supposed to be, and I could relax for a little while.

I ended up staying in the restaurant a bit longer than I expected (while I waited for my stomach to settle), and started riding at 3:40. This is also the climb (singular) of the ride, and it wasn't too bad. The first half followed a basic pattern of going up steeply for a couple of hundred meters, and then leveling off to a very slight gradient, before going up again. That broke the monotony of it, and kept the ride interesting (so did playing with my lights – especially the "Mini-Maglite" taped to my helmet). The second half of the climb was more typical of a mountain pass, with a constant gradient of between 5-7%. I also got to watch the full moon setting as the sky gradually began to lighten – the camera in my phone did not do it justice. Seeing as how it was not a race situation, nor was I in a huge hurry, being in energy-saving mode, and carrying 4kg on my back (enough excuses?), I decided to climb at a leisurely pace – Sitting at a reasonable 12km/h with a comfortable cadence all the way to the top – arriving at 5:40; 177km on the meter.

I stopped there to put on my windbreaker and shoe-covers, take some photos, and to suck down another gel before the descent. It's not a pure downhill, in that there are a few uphill sections (this time, the "monotony breaking" was not appreciated). The only low point was the tunnels; The surface is not asphalt, but concrete blocks laid down in a grid. Nearly all of these concrete blocks have had their surface layers stripped away by years of tire snow-chains, which made for a very rough ride – especially at speed. Once I had come most of the way down the steeper sections, I stopped for a quick sandwich in Yuzawa. 204km at 6:45.

It was after this point though, that my legs started feeling really weak. It wasn't from a lack of food – I'd been eating constantly, and it wasn't like "hitting the wall" either. When I hit the wall, I usually feel dizzy as well. This wasn't like that – my head was fine, but my legs just did not seem to want put out any power at all. They would turn in a circle, but that's about all. If there was a slight uphill, or a headwind, I'd be lucky to hold 20km/h. That was the only time I was worried about not making it all the way to Niigata.
[Although in hindsight, the only 2 rides I did in preparation for this ride were the "Tour de Westside" on July 25 (240km), and "Hilly Boso – Farewell Chazzer" on August 15 (216km). It makes perfect sense that my legs would think the ride had already finished after only 200km, or so.]

Fortunately, as I pushed on, my legs seemed to recover little by little; although never back to what they were like before the tunnel. I stopped again about 14km south of Nagaoka at 9:45 to have more to eat and take a rest. My meter read 264km – I was very conscious about not stopping before I was within the 100km-to-go point; That would make it much more difficult to give up & catch the train home.
"Pride carries a greater momentum than pain!"…Thankfully.

I rode past Nagaoka and Kita-Nagaoka, passing underneath the shinkansen tracks a couple of times and arrived in Mitsuke (289km at 11:00). This is where I had a difficult decision to make – Should I take Rte.8 directly to Niigata, thus saving myself an extra 20km, OR take the originally planned slightly longer "Ocean road" (Rte.402) option. I decided to take the latter, as I was hoping any extra distance would surely be made up for with a rip-roaring tailwind directly from the sea.

After the short map-check break in Mitsuke, I rode across to Shinanogawa and onto Rte.22. This was the closest thing to a cycling road during the whole trip; 12km without a single traffic light. There was a lot of local traffic (farmer' small utility trucks, etc.), but I hardly noticed the cars because I had to fight a headwind all the way to the coast. Which way would the wind be blowing once I was on the ocean road?

Rhetorical question, really! At 12:20, with 45km to go, I finally got my first glimpse of the Sea of Japan (or is it the "Japan Sea"?) after 312km of riding – There ARE easier ways to get to the beach! Anyway, the wind! How was I to know that just because the wind is blowing from the south in Tokyo, it would not be doing the same in Niigata? That kind of sucked, but I was now on the last short (in comparison) stretch. Besides, once the road moved inland a bit, the wind wasn't as strong, and by then there was less than 20km to go.

Niigata was easy to find. Niigata station, not so! Signs giving directions to "Niigata-Eki" start from over 5km away, with each leading one to think the station is just around the next corner. No station, just another sign. Until finally you find yourself on a road with NO signs to the station. Ask a local. Yes, of course you passed it. There was no sign. Yes there was. I didn't see it. Do you see every sign? Yes, except for ones with 17 written on them, apparently….

Anyway, I finally arrived at 15:00 – 19 hours after I'd started – with the meter reading 358.61km. I bagged my bike and was heading home on the 15:46 shinkansen, which arrived in Tokyo at exactly 18:00.

[*Note: I took short videos of myself with my keitai at each break location, to record time and distance. Most of these are extremely unflattering! But in the interest of cycling science, I'll endeavour to make a compilation for "youtube", so that you can all laugh at me.]

Thanks for all of your encouragement along the way. Might even make it a yearly event.
The pain...

As for the "pain" mentioned at the beginning of the full report, it was all gradual, and worked its way around one part of my body at a time. Apart from the obvious, quadriceps were burning slightly even before I reached Numata, but were O.K. after the long break there.

At around 200-260km – My arse! Very noticeably sore after that distance. Then, my upper back & neck, straining just from the weight of my head. Ankles, from lack of any lateral movement – I had to unclip and rotate my feet every 10km or so. My hands (surprisingly), after all that time resting on the handlebars, I found it hard to find a comfortable position. I had to keep moving them around every few minutes, or experiment with new positions, utilizing thumbs & various finger combinations.
My ARSE! Continually aching! Near the end, I was having to click up a few gears and get out of the saddle for several hundred meters every kilometer or so – that's how bad it was.

Mentally, the challenge is more subtle. Here's an analogy:
Imagine you have a super strict perfectionist art teacher, who tells you to complete a tedious project. You go away and work on it for a few hours, which is actually quite enjoyable, and then you bring it back to the teacher for inspection. He looks at it and says, "Very good. Go and do it again!" So you go back and try some new things, and it's still a bit of fun. After all, what else do you have to do? You take the second piece to the teacher for inspection, and he gives you the exact same reply. Finally, after doing the same thing over & over & over again, you are ready to scream at the teacher, "Please, just let me do something different even for an hour, anything but what I've been doing. Preferably two hours! I'm sure I'll be able to do much better after that". At which time, your teacher looks at you incredulously, and says, "Are you mad, young man? This is your life's greatest passion. How you can think of doing anything else for even two minutes is completely beyond me. Yes, yes! We'll have to beat those evil thought out of you…"
Something like that.

Well done mate!

Great report Travis. You are a far braver man than I am to attempt and actually finish such a ride. Would never consider that sort of thing.

I am not worthy!:pray:


Brilliant !! Have been looking forward to the report all weekend, and you didn't disappoint. How do you remember all those details ...??

Anyway, amazing job. If you're planning to make this an annual event then I'd better start training now ...

so i'm guessing 380km with your trip to tokyo? in 24 hrs? u d man! congrats travis...
Yeah, great report, thanks a lot Travis. Some good lessons there for epic rides in the future.

Normally I say that reading your reports is the next-best thing to being there, but in this case, I think it was better than being there... :D;)

Just want to express big congratulation to you . I respect your determination.

Minoru Arai
Hope you have recovered Travis...

Just for comparison I came across one of my team mate's rides from earlier in the year... similar in many ways to your ride...

here it is on youtube (taken with his mobile phone)

One rule he had was to only use the BIG chain ring for the journey... not something that I'd ever consider but certainly an extra challenge...

I wanted to do my big ride to Hakuba again this week but due to injuries of late and other weak excuses I drove up and rode a little once there...

Also check out Alan & Naomi's ride in the blog section they did last week... also as awesome...
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