As suggested by Ludwig, a brief post about the shortest ride today. 24 km from my house to the Tokyo American Club, temporary residing in the area between Gotanda and Shinagawa. I played 45 minutes Squash with Carsten. He won 4 times, I did two. We recognized that we already became old men and we should not engage in this kind of activities. My body still hearts terribly, I can hardly move and life is only bearable with a bottle of red wine in reach.
After squash an hour back to Yokohama. Rode on my Cannondale Bad Boy.
In a break from my normal practice and to ensure that za German proprietor of this blog keeps talking to me I have posted verbatim my post for today's ride here as well. Missed you today Michael, but looking forward to seeing you on Friday :)
Up and out this morning a little later than usual - no-one to meet at Ebisu so straight to Kaminoge to meet David at 7:40am - a bowl of porridge and 2 slices of toast for first breakfast. Sporting my new Rapha gear - Christmas presents from za wife, za daughter and even za pups. Some toasty Winter tights, a pair of Merino socks (you have to get socks for Christmas, it's a rule) and the usual Softshell over a rather nice Merino base-layer from Finisterre.
Why all the product placement you might ask? Well, I was rather impressed with how warm I stayed given the fact that it was a mere 1C at Takao this morning. It warmed up as the day progressed and I never got too uncomfortable - a good sign of great gear. Oh, and it's my birthday next week and just in case you might be looking for gift ideas, wink wink, nod, nod.
Out on the usual Tama river route and second breakfast at the 7-11. We popped over Takao with no great effort or drama. Watching for ice in the shaded spots all the way up - it was that cold! (Click picture to enlarge) Rendezvous-ing at the peak and yet again a great view if Fuji on another beautiful winter's day in Japan. David had suggested another twist this week.. adding a second significant climb, followed by a really steep bugger. Although not as steep or as high as where Lance was yesterday. (Click picture to enlarge) Here's the guys - Tom, David & Hiroshi-san - before setting off up the steep ascent. (Click picture to enlarge) That'll be Hiroshi-san powering his way up. You can tell it's steep as in Japan they use concrete with circles as you can see. I am not 100% sure what the purpose of the circles are. I assumed they use concrete so it doesn't melt in the summer and 'slide' down. I guess the concrete circles would be to disperse water during storms? Hmm, something to investigate. (Click picture to enlarge) Tom contemplating life from the top of the climb. Our descent whilst on the south side of the hill was tentatively taken. The road was covered in salt. Amazing that they had been out to a road this remote to salt it to be fair. A first for me to be cycling with salt pinging up off the wheels. We made our descent and then handed over path finding duties to Hiroshi-san who not only was going to show me the second half of my road to nowhere but also a different route back to Tokyo. Sugoi! We first had a pit stop for first lunch. (Click picture to enlarge) Unfortunately David got a flat mere seconds into us setting off, but was as quick as ever in making repairs. (Click picture to enlarge) Over a small, yet very high suspension bridge. We climbed a fair few metres and then made our way back onto our normal return loop. Then Hiroshi-san, as promised, showed a new route home taking in tank road where Mitsubishi Heavy Industries used to test their tanks. (Click picture to enlarge) Quite a nice view from the top of the hill, although not much heavy industry now, much more commuter belt suburban living. So Hiroshi-san's route was a fast rolling road which again was a first for me on a Tokyo ride - it's usually flat or up. The downside was more traffic lights, the upside was that it brought us back to Kawasaki and therefore not much of the Tama river to follow home (the river route can get monotonous to say the least). A good tailwind saw us back to David's place in no time. He was feeling the pace/distance by now, but I suspect a couple of good night's sleep are all that is required. I felt reasonably OK, heavy legs for sure and not too much sustained power available. I got home around 2:15pm after 140kms and 7 hrs riding. Not too scruffy at all and a fantastic way to end the year. My sincere thanks to David, Tom and Hiroshi-san for their company, their pace and their directions today. Happy New Year.
View Larger Map As usual the Garmin went and did about twice as much climbing as I did.. 1100m for me today. (Click diagram for Garmin data)
Christmas season is hell for bicycle riders. All the good food on the table, the sweets send from home by well meaning relatives plus the relatively cold weather outside give ample reason to stay at home and do nothing. With Ludwig coming back from a cycling shopping spre in Germany, we decided to test his new stuff and break the vicious cycle yesterday.
We had some discussions where to go when we met at 8.30 AM at Tamagawahara bridge [the new meeting point for me coming from Yokohama] and in the end we settled for a Otarumi - Hinazuru, Suzugane - Matsuhime route, possibly going back by train from Otsuki.
Much to my dismay I found out that I lost my saddle bag filled with goodies (tools, CO2 cartridges, tube, jelly and, most important, the extremely expensive remains of DHC sunscreen from the 2006 Noto 400 ride) riding to the meeting point.
We then went in a fast draftline to Takao, aftertaking some Japanese riders. The road along the Asakawa was crowded and we almost crashed with a dog and some minutes later with an old man on a bike who suddenly steered out of line.
The traditional break at the 7-Eleven was followed by the discovery that I also lost my (non-riding) glasses on the way. This was really not becoming my day and I started to feel like Mr. Lehmann (if there is one) operating the bank and loosing everything. In case you wondered about the heading.
A medium-fast attack on Otarumi which we ended up to scale in 16 minutes, including fixing a lost chain on the way up. Route 20 was followed by route 76 until we took a right turn in direction Hinazuru. The Manju shop was closed, but out of tradition we were forced to do a break anyway. We then went up to the (new) Hinazuru tunnel and on the way down on the other side I proposed to take a look at the old Hinazuru tunnel, or, to boldly go where no other Positivo Espresso rider has gone before. The road was in pretty bad shape, but still better than route 76. Obviously Jerome has driven his car from Chichibu to Hinazuru and parked it close to the entrance of the Hinazuru tunnel. It seems to me that the left brake light is not working and I would recommend to check this. I do not want to reveal well guarded secrets, but Ludwig also found a nice water heater which he intends to give free of charge to the guy who buys his band new Selle Italia saddle.
The tunnel is in good shape, however closed by a gate which should not cause any problems to be ignored. Of course we missed the entrance to Suzugane pass and we continued to road 139 which then lead us back to route 20 and Sarubashi eventually. After a nice bowl of Tempura soba and the Daikokuya restaurant (a very traditional place), we decided in view of the time to abandon our plans to ride up Matsuhime (another great tradition of us to abandon great plans) and continue instead along the old Koshu Kaido, now called route 30, to Uenohara and then cross over to Itsukaichi.
This was another Lehmann-like management mistake (connection to the heading!) as we first had a hard climb in front of us which took as almost to elevation 600 m again. Once on top, the road was quite nice and we continued smoothly to Uenohara, but again we lost a lot of time. So when we finally arrived at Uenohara we decided to jump on the train and head back home.
Clearly we made a lot of poor riding management judgements and in the course of this I lost everything (glasses, tools, ...). This shall serve as a warning to all of you out there.
I took advantage of the weak Euro while in Germany over Christmas to do some shopping for my cycling. I thought I should try one of those saddles that are meant to be softer on your prostate and still look good, and bought Selle Italia Thoork Gel Flow (see photos above).
I tested it on the ride with Michael today. It is indeed somewhat softer on the front part of one's bottom and may thus avoid irritating the prostate, but I found the back part too hard for my taste. My old Selle Italia SLR has extra padding at the back, and I missed that. Mind you - it is just as hard or as soft as most saddles, e.g. Michael's older Selle Italia, which I guess is fine for most people, but not me who I have hardly any fat that would allow me to sit soft (my body fat ratio is 3 percent!).
I will return it to the internet shop (they pay back the full price if returned within a month), but if anyone is interested in it, I'm willing to sell it. It cost me JPY 16,500. The Japanese list price is JPY 23,000, though there are offers for JPY 18,900 on some internet sites. Let me know soonest before I send back to the shop.
Does anyone have experience with softer and yet prostate-friendly saddles?
Some month ago I wrote an unacceptable and disgusting post about a Positivo Espresso Rider Voluntary Recall. Actually, since then I have long forgotten about, but when I scanned the web for Positivo Espresso entries recently I found this after Mars Petcare, Haba Toys, Wegmans Bagels:
Since some month I have the idea of doing a check-up at the National Gymnasium in Yoyogi, perhaps I have spoken with one or the other about this one.It would be nice to do this check as a Positivo Espresso team at the start and at the end of the 2009 season to see how much we have improved. Or maybe not. This post is about the start check. Or maybe not.
There are three tests one can choose from. The most interesting one for us is testing the endurance capabilities, which is then done by either direct or indirect method. According to the website, as athletes we should take the direct testing method. It basically consists on riding on an ergometer and heart rates, power output, maximum oxygen capacity and anaerob max level are measured. I am not sure if I understood everything correctly from the website, so please also check yourself as well.
The cost is 1.650 Yen per person, but we must apply as a group one to two months in advance.So I thought about making a reservation for us on Thursday February 12th at 6 PM, after the end of the holiday season. The tests are only conducted on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 5 an 9 PM, please have a look at the website for the schedule.
It would be good if you could let me know if you are interested, so I could handle the reservation. Immediate response is not required, but I would like to know by January 4th if possible.
After staying in Shibuya late yesterday night with my son and doing the things young people usually do in Shibuya [to be precise: playing table tennis and eating cheese fries at Outback], I decided that I should not go through all the hassle of riding out to Chichibu or some other mountainous place just to end up in piles of knee-deep snow. Instead I had an invitation from Hiroshi to join him and his clubmates for a training session at the Kawasaki Keirin.
I got ready at home after checking the way to the track and packed the usually things plus, as this was the first time and Japanese customs requires to be polite and bring some presents, I took a handful of Haribo Lakritz Schnecken with me. These are tycpical German sweets which look like rolls of low grade Pakistan made industrial cables and taste alike.It takes only 30 minutes from my house on route 140 to Kawasaki station, I arrived on time. The road is not too bad and there is even a river, Tsurumikawa where one can ride stretches of the ride on a cycling/pedestrian way just as in case of the Tamagawa. I was surprised how big and well developed the area around Kawasaki station is, completely different from my image where I put Kawasaki in the file lettered "insignificant".
Actually for a very long time I have not been in Kawasaki at all. I mean, yes I have been in Kawasaki but the purpose was not to go to Kawasaki but to pass through, either on the way to Yokohama or to Tokyo. I have exactly three roads through Kawasaki, Dai-Ichi Keihin or Dai-San Keihin, if I am riding a car, the other one Nakahara Kaido if I am on my bike. This is my whole experience of the town which is insignificant indeed. Apart from that I have been in Kawasaki one time and that was in 1991 or 1992, going to Club Quattro to watch STAR CLUB, a Japanese Punk Band which a friend from Switzerland called Urs (all male Swiss are called Urs, that is similar to Kims and Parks in Korea) recommended to me as the Toten Hosen of Japan. After watching them, I believe there were more the Plastic Bertrands of Japan [Thanks Tom for reminding me of this guy when you wrote your blog recently].
In summary, my image of Kawasaki developed through the years like this:
1977 : "Hey, these are the cool green motorbikes that my hero Yvon du Hamel is riding"
1991 : "Star Club is playing there too!"
1992 : "The environmental problem between Tokyo and Yokohama [Tokyo Journal]"
followed by a long time of nothing and which has now completely changed again.
Hiroshi waited for my at the parking place. I gave him some Lakritz for welcome, he managed to eat them well. The parking space was packed with cars of the spectators, did they come to watch us? Was I am going to race immediately? Of course not, a lot of people come to the Keirin stadium, owned by the city of Kawasaki, to watch the Keirin races at other places on the big screen and place some bets.
Why would anybody wanted to do that, if one can sit at home, have a glass of beer, a bowl of octopus on sticks in front of you and a nice warm blanket over your feet and one can place his bets over the Internet? Well, I guess the answer is that one also have a wife, kids in the midst of puberty, things to do and and and and at home so it might be better to escape and spend the day in freezing cold on the stands of the Kawasaki Keirin and watch TV. I guess this is called "public viewing" today, a phenomena almost exclusively experienced by males in their forties and fifties. Hiroshi was so kind to show me around, so I could take a look at a hall with rollers, where the Keirin pro warm up before the races, including ventilators in front and ashtrays on the bench. I also took a look at the parking place where the pro bikes were standing; I saw a Kalavinka bike, so nicely described in this wonderful book : "The accidental office lady." He also explained to me the basic differences compared to road bikes. Not the obvious things, but the finer details, such as there is almost no distance between the lower tube and the front wheel.
We then went inside and met some of the other guys. About 20 or 30 riders were presented from various teams, the atmosphere was relaxed and there was not much club mood. No exercising, no long pep speeches, no long explanation of the rules. Very nice indeed for a change. Juliane and me have some experience with Japanese club riding and we didn't like the set of rules prevailing there.
We then started to ride on the track. Tracks in Japan are either 333.33 m or 400 m long, this one being the later type. The direction is always counter clockwise, which fits me well as I am much better in left corners than in rights. From the inside to the inside, there is a green marked part and a red marked one which is for warming up and almost flat. This is followed by a small part in green which is enclosed by two white lines. The inner one of these two white lines is precisely 400 meters long. This is the normal racing part where one rides during the race, mostly in a draft line. There is a slight inclination on the curved banks but not too much. Then further up is another yellow line, about halfway of the width of the track. First we went in a group of seven riders, starting slowly at 20 km/hr but accelerated equally slowly until 40 km/hr. We took turns in the lead after each lap. The pace was fast, but I could follow almost until the end. The last laps were at 46 km/hr and there it became increasingly difficult for me to hang on. It takes some power to concentrate on going at the same speed all the time, not faster, not slower, not to leave any gaps to the rider in front and keeping the same distance. It is not allowed to shift gears or to brake, so everything has to be managed with pedal power.
As I had no fixed gear bike, I could brake while continue to pedal but I rarely did. When I was in danger to overtake somebody, I climbed up on the bank in the curves only a little and that decreased the speed sufficiently.
The level of concentration is similar to riding in a a group during a race. I tried my best to keep pedaling all the time, not to use the brakes or shift the gears.The general feeling is a litle bit like on a home trainer, there is no change in position on the bike which I generally dislike because my butt starts hurting after some time. As long as one goes at the same speed I managed well, but sometimes there was some confusion when we overtook other groups and I started to brake or to shift out of habit.
After 40 minutes or so we made a break and after that we tried it again. This time we moved up to the highest point of the bank. When looking to the right, everything is normal, just riding along a fence. But when I looked down to the left and I saw the inclination and the height I didn't felt too good. But I got used to that. Hiroshi showed me how to get down from the high line in the curves to the two white lines and accelerate, taking all the momentum. One can easily go up to 50 km/hr.
I then felt strong and stayed with another group making more laps. Then another break. I talked to some of the other guys and everybody was very friendly. I spotted also Ms. Takamatsu, JCRC women champion of 2007 from Maglia Rosa, who I have seen at some JCRC races here at there this year.
Then I did a last try and went as fast as I could, followed by some laps to regain power, so some kind of interval training. Just for the fun of it I did 1.000 meter time trial and with flying start and I could do below 1.30 min which would be more than 40 km/hr average, but there is still a long way to go to achieve a good time with standing start, which should be around 1:15 min a guess.
I must say that everybody was very friendly and helpful and the atmosphere was nice, just the right balance of being taken care of but also left in peace. I personally felt much more powerful when I left the venue and I thought that this would be a good training to gain more stamina and absolute speed, something which comes in handy when thinking of the races I would like to do in 2009: endurance and flat course short races.
I distributed the remaining Lakritz to everybody as a token of gratitude. Not sure if this was appreciated. Then I rode home. which felt strange. I mean it felt good to change position from time to time and to get out of the saddle. But I tried not to brake and not to shift gears and to keep pedaling, I just couldn't get used fast to my usual style.
My thanks go to Hiroshi who as so kind to introduce me to track racing and to Tom who introduced me to Hiroshi. I would like to do it again in the near future. It is good to know that there are still so many things left in cycling which can be explored. Not only track racing but maybe I need also a mountain bike to do the remaining stretch of route 76 next year.
When I came home I found out that Hiroshi has already updated his blog about todays training. I got a very positive review and the Lakritz I have given him found their way into the glass heart of the family.
I went out riding to MiuraHanto last Friday. The idea came when I wanted to go out cycling but it was already very late. My wife asked: "Where are you riding today?" I said "Well, just around in the neighborhood." and she answered: "Neighborhood, that goes at least as far as Miura, am I right?" So I thought, that is a very good idea, I have not been out there in the South for quite a while.
This is probably one of the rides nobody would like me to join. Only one time I could convince David to come with me. One has to go through the congested traffic of Yokohama, followed by the congestion in Kanzawa followed by more congestion in Yokosuka, so 50 km at least of suffering on big roads and being passed by trucks. After Yokusuka it is basically the same until one comes to Kurihama. I always thought that it would be nice to take the ferry from there to Chiba and continue to ride on the other side.
After Kurihama there is one road  which leads along the coast. Yes, the coast. After focusing so much on riding in the mountains this year, one has almost forgotten that we are living on an island and riding there gave me the feeling back. The view was splendid on the Chiba coastline [One has to be a least 30 km away from Chiba to appreciate the beauty of the prefecture] and I passed some small fishing ports with boats neatly lined up in the harbour.
I then took the road back to Kamakura on the West side of MiuraHanto. I stopped at some shrines and bought 絵馬 for my collection, something I have not done for quite a while as I was always driven by speed. Mitsumine was an exception though. Mount Fuji was huge on the horizon, bot only the top as one can see from the Tamagawa, but one could see the full shape from the coast.
There were strong winds but I made only small breaks and managed to arrive at the coastline at 4 PM. I wanted to drink a coffee either at the Seascastle, the famous restaurant where fear and terror reign and which is operated nevertheless since 50 years by two German brothers and her sister, or at the Amalfi, a nice Italian restaurant further West on the coast in direction Enoshima. Both places were closed so I rode home through Kamakura and hopped the train in Ofuna.
From there it is only 45 minutes back to my house.
A nice ride, 5 hours long and about 110 km in distance. Could have gone faster but made a lot of short breaks. Not many climbs, but a lot of hills to oversprint.
Very pleasant short ride, just a good thing to do when one gets up late because of an overdosis or red wine and German movies the night before. I guess watching Rainer Werner Fassbinder movies on TV (Angst essenSeelenauf) and drinking too much alone is a German idea of having a good time.
So far, David, James, Ludwig and me will attend the Ekiden ride on January 2nd. The meeting point is close to the Tamagawa at the Family Mart at the cossing road 15 and road 409 in Kawasaki [see Google map below] at 8.30 AM.
If there is interest, we can do the Hakone climb and then the best downhill in Japan from Hakone Pass to Atami pass on route 20:
David suggested to do the first ride of the new year on January 2nd from Tokyo to Hakone. As the Ekiden is hold on this day, the roads are sealed off and one can go on the bike in front of the field almost without traffic from Tokyo to Hakone - a once a year opportunity.I could convince my family to go to an onsen in Hakone the same day already, so I would be very much interested to do this ride, but the details, where to start, how to go etc. should be clarified with David. It would be nice to have a larger group of Positivo Espresso Riders together for this trip. Please let me know if you would be available.
Being in Japan for more than years, Juliane left on December 20th for London. After david, - his departure somewhat related to hers - and Marek, this is the third hard core Positivo Espresso member that left Japan in 2008 and I feel very much obliged to write something about it - from my own perspective. In the last two years we have something like a Positivo Espresso Team and Juliane was one of our core members. Needs more to be written?
Going back very much in time, Juliane came to Japan with the same scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service as I did. She stayed on and could somehow convince a German curtain wall maker to establish her as a representative in Japan. Which she than did despite all obstacles for a very long time, considering the average shelf-life of (in particular female) expats in Japan. Juliane did a lot of interesting things here and I am glad that I could be part of some of them. She tried to sell my crappy sandwich panels from SKW when I was still working for Schindler Elevator.
She lived in Gotanda and an old wooden house with a huge garden by Japanese standards and invited us every year for cherry blossom viewing. One night we were all sitting in the garden, a strong wind blew through the trees and the cherry blossoms fell down in huge clouds, just like snow flakes. It was most beautiful and impressive.I in turn took her and her boyfriend at this time, Nils, to my favourite hair dresser in Jiyugaoka which was almost the end of our friendship. We shared some of our secrets nevertheless. I guess the first time we were riding on a bike together was in 2001, when Johanna, Tom (my boss at Schindler), Juliane and me embarked on the first Yamanote Challenge, a round trip along the 42 km long Yamanote line, stopping at each of the 28 stations and taking photos of all three of us. It took us eight hours. Which was mainly due to the time the photo taking took, we had to ask a harmless bystander and explain him what we want. I did not even have a digital camera at this time.
We did some races then together when we both joined Tamagawa cyclists (then : Veloz) and we were together at the first race I ever attended, Tsukuba seven hours endurance in 2003. And we raced also at Shuzenji and then later at Saiko the same year.
We had times when we were closer and we had times when we were not. We met often and we didn't. It was not always easy with here, but out of the hundreds of friends she made in Japan, I was one of the few that accompanied her from the beginning to the end of her stay here. I am not the one that took her to new shores, although. By chance I watched "Balzac and the little Chinese Seamstress" on video which includes a scene when the little Chinese Seamstress is leaving her small mountain village and parting from her lover and her friend to search for new luck in the big city. There is no relation whatsoever between this story and the story I am trying to tell about Juliane. But the sadness is about the same.
An interesting ride last Sunday. Six riders, three different ways back and now blogs on four sites [Jimmy Shinag/ Vlaamsewielrenner / Hiroshi / Positivo]. I wish we would do all the editing on one blog and write one epic story where everybody contributes from his point of view and create a Rashomon or "Lola rennt" like story. Champion jersey. On the way to the bridge I discovered already that it didn't make my any faster. And then going up I came to Sekidobashi with the full intention to show off my new 2008 JCRC Road SERISEOtarumi I felt a lot of pressure, as everybody naturally wanted to beat the champion. But I was still fast enough and get stay within a distance of Tom and Hiroshi which was good enough for this state of the season.
A typical Positivo ride, very fast along the Tamagawa and Asakawa. After we split before Sagamiko station, I had a hard time to keep the pace of Tom and Hiroshi on route 20. I went my own pace and I didn't thought that I would be slow, but they were just faster. Route 20 was surprisingly empty, as it was a Sunday there were also less trucks on the road. And going through Uenohara without an accident always feels like "the first time".
Now, the road up to Suzugane was beautiful as always. No traffic at all, only forest and sunshine and as last year, a strong wind that moves the fallen leaves on the road. I almost felt like being included in a movie from HayaoMiyazaki: I am moving through the nature and the spirits and ghosts of the forest are moving the leaves by invisible hands to create hidden messages and symbols.I went twice to the Ghibli museum in Mitaka and one can see a short movie at the cinema there. The first time I saw a short movie about a little girl that hikes through the forest, somehow it left a lasting impression on me. My children are afraid of the movies, I can understand why. There is this nativity with whom the characters, mostly children move through their lives and one can almost smell the danger that waits for them. There is always the expectation, that something, bad, terrible will happen. But it never does. Everything works out fine just naturally. I felt good, Tom was fast and Hiroshi was not up to the usual standard I have heard about.
We took a photo of all three of us with three cameras at the same time on top of Suzugane pass.
Then we took a break at the cyclingmanju shop; nobody knows exactly why we stop there, but it seems to be some kind of tradition. As we were sitting there, another cyclist joined us and we chatted about riding here and there. I noticed that he had a helmet with "Ravenello", the name of a strong JCRC team written on it and I asked him if he belongs to that team. So he said yes and I said that these guys are strong and I often see them at races, Then he asked me, if I would go racing often.
What a splendid opportunity! I felt like MitoKomon! I ripped down my winter jacket so that the full glory of the JCRC champion jersey came into display and said: "Of course I am racing often, I am the champion of 2008.", not mentioning D class or any other circumstances that would devaluate the full glory of this marvelous achievement. Caught red handed in an orgy of evil, the poor guy dropped down to his knees and grovel. After right and order was restored, we continued on our way.
We rode through the beautiful landscape until we came to a crossing with ... route 76. I immediately made up my mind and rode further to DoshiMichi, then to Miyagaseko and further on to Hon-Atsugi where I took the train home. There were very strong gusts when I rode down route 64 from Miyagaseko to Hon-atsugi. At one time I was riding past a small bamboo forest on the left side of the road. A strong wind from behind bended the bamboo almost completely down the ground. Gusts are OK from behind, but not from the side when one is riding fast and when there are a lot of leafs on the road and they are blown into your face it hurts quite amazingly.
167 kms and 9 hours total time, but only 7 hours on the bike. When riding in a group of six, we did not make too much breaks, but later on being with Hiroshi and Tom we did. So I decided not to take any breaks when I was on my own and went in one stretch from route 76 to Hon-Atsugi. So this was the shortest day of the year. From now on it will become perhaps colder, but finally days are getting longer. Good.