Anyone who glanced out of the window at 5 30 or 6 this morning could have read the ominous looking sky and pitter patter of slight drizzle and decided to give it best. But, dammit, I had paid for this and I was jolly well going to take part - so there !
Headed across town and across Eitaibashi down to Arakawa and then down river to the start at Rinkai Park meeting, quite by chance, Shinobu and her two friends on the way. We had originally agreed to meet at the start but that`s how it worked out.
At the start there was the usual sign in and numbers and electronic tags were issued. Shinobu and her friends were in a later group and so I decided to stick to my scheduled start time as I wanted to try out a few new things today ahead of Sado. Shinobu had explained that it was first time out for her friends so they might be a little slow. Very gallantly I accepted her offer to meet up after the race and so I was free to give it some stick and not have to be too concerned about staying with the group. Thanks Shinobu
For the first time I had a new very lightweight Deuter backpack with me - it is the Crossbike - and only weighs 620g. I also had made up some sports drink that Y`s sell - called CCD - I wanted to see how I got on with that. I find it hard to feed on the go apart from gels so maybe this would be a solution to that.
We had a long wait to start and it was really quite cold. I had summer gear on and just a waterproof windcheater but I was beginning to wish I had opted for longs and full waterproofs. Finally we were off.
The first stages were very civilised with everyone obediently following the staff bikers at a snails pace whilst we negotiated the first stages crossing the river. Then we were free. I wanted to use the ride as training so I was determined to go at a fast pace and not fun ride style. It seemed the wind was not up which surprised me but neither was it at our backs either. As we know only too well upstream on Arakawa can be a difficult undertaking when the wind sets its mind to it !
I was only passed by one other guy at speed, down in the drops and hammering really hard. My cadence was mostly 90+ and the heart rate holding perfectly in Zone 3, exactly as I wanted. I felt strong, the bag was a feather, and the drink was doing the trick.
After about 5kms I could hear someone behind me and I let him pass. With him was his wife and son, I would guess about 12 or 13, all hammering along and clearly good riders all of them. I said - lets run together - he said - you are too fast ! But that`s what we did and the four of us had a really good chain going eating up the kms. The boy was very strong and did his share of the work too.
Towards 25km, for some reason, the pace slowed and we were once again in follow the staff bikers mode. Actually too slow and no reason not to overtake and go for it. I asked the guy next to me - why so slow - and he said this was the leading group and we should not overtake the guy in front. Not being the rebellious sort anymore I tucked in and we trundled towards the finish, or halfway mark before the return, to be accurate. All was well, except that we missed the finish ! The entire group (rabble, peloton ?) sailed by until somebody squawked across the walkie talkie of the leader that we had gone too far. Hilarious !!
Turned round, found the finish en masse, ate a banana (free !), got my sticker, had a nature break and then it was really too cold to do anything else except get going again.
I was really going for it on the way back and the wind was definitely assisting. Passed over one of those rough patches with loose surface and "bang" - rear blowout. Luckily near a bridge where I could shelter underneath and change. Double luck as the assist guys were there and insisted on doing it for me - now there`s service !
(When I arrived home this tuned out to be a single hole clearly made from the inside out so down to impact I think.)
Now I had lost time on the leading bunch so I thought I would really go hard for the last 25k or so. Cadence in the mid-nineties, heart rate again in Zone 3, steady as you like. Shinobu and her friends flashed by in the opposite direction - !!
Then next to me is a guy riding an immaculate InterMax with all the trimmings and the kit to match. He leans across and says "hayai desu ne !" then realises I am not Japanese and says "sorry ! ". I speak to him in Japanese and ask him how it is going, he says "too wet, too cold, its a shame". And then he puts the hammer down and is gone, I can hear the sound of the power going down in the hiss of his tyres.
Turns out he is Imanaka Daisuke, a full on pro who rode in the tour in 1996 amongst other events.
I do not try to keep up.....well just a little bit !
5kms from the finish and I have caught the bunch who are all riding slowly now as we are escorted back to base, just spinning now. Soon we are home, time for the inevitable ankete, a Coolish ( the last thing we needed really) and that was it.
Meanwhile Shinobu had called to say they were half way and I should not wait around in the cold for them. I was very grateful for that and headed off. Another double punk on the way home was somewhat annoying. That`s life and finally vindicated my policy of always having two inner tubes on every ride.
So, all in all, an enjoyable event. You could say what`s the point of paying to ride along Arakawa in the cold and wet when you pick a nice day for free instead. True, but there is something addictive in chasing down the next group or ride ahead and the sheer number of riders in the larger groups is a great experience, at least for me.
I would do it again.
The bag works, the drink works, two more ticks in the preparation boxes for Sado. Fitness levels are coming up, I should be quite OK on the flat and undulating stuff, actually I think I will do well there. Now the hills are quite another matter though !
Negatives - CO2 pump - I still have not got the hang of this and need to practice. Still need a regular pump at all times too which is weight I don`t need, but I am just not confident with the CO2 gadget yet. First load got some air in the tire but the second one just hissed airily and froze the end of my finger for my troubles ! More work needed
Shinobu and friends - hope you had a great day despite the cold and wet and look forward to riding together with you and them next time. I hope your friends enjoyed their introduction to longer rides despite the weather.
Nice report, chazzer, thanks. As you say, while it's possible to do many of these kind of rides "for free" on another day, being part of a big event with lots of other cyclists really makes for a different experience (like having a chance to chat with former pros, for example )
I have talked to more than three people recently about their blogs - to which they have all replied "Oh! I did not think anyone read it!". Well they do Charles and I enjoyed your report very much. Thank you.