04 June 2008

A weekend out there

I am not sure but some of you might actually be aware of the rumor, that there is a very large mountain in Japan called mount Fuji. Sometimes friends from abroad come on tourist missions to visit me and then they always want to visit two things, mount Fuji and the emperors palace. I find it ironic that you never ever see mount Fuji anyway, as it is almost always shrugged in clouds (if really there) and that you have no access to the emperor palace so you cannot see it either. What one sees is usually rain and mist in the first place and a huge field of gravel in the second. And these are supposed to be the two major tourist attractions of Japan.

It is the mystical mountain which always leads to announcements in airplanes such us "Here is your captain speaking. On the right side you can now enjoy a wonderful view of Mount Fuji in the sunset." Unfortunately I always tend to sit on the left side, sometimes in the middle and I never had the chance to actually see this wonderful mount Fuji. I also refrain from jumping off my side and trying to get to the windows on the right. If everybody would do so, the airplane would surely get out of control and crash into Mount Fuji. If really existing.

So I was not surprised that when we rode the magical mystery bus organized by James and Walter from Azabu in direction of the Fuji, the air was full of rain and mist. Another ploy to feign the existence of the said mountain. We were supposed to attend a Fuji Hill Climb race the next day as TEAM BGC, a fictitious name of a fictitious company taken from a novel by Nick Leeson. This is of course for all of us except david, who belongs to TEAM HSBGC. According to the organizer this mountain should have been higher than Jerome's hill in Itsukaichi and the race harder than the ascent on Byoinzaka.

But first we registered in the rain and then drove back to our luxury accommodation at the Fuji Q . highlands. With us was the creme de la creme of the Western pro rider elite [only derivative
time trials and M&A ultra endurance although]. In order to stay anonymous, James had the very clever idea to register us under completely made-up larger-than-life characters. I, for example, was supposed to be a guy called Andy Veale, aka "Chop", married to Siti Selamat, a Singaporean Lady played by Juliane. I am sure pretty sure that such crazy characters do not exist in real life, but then again, we are taking about finance here and who knows. David J played a crazy character called "David J", and James Knott a funny guy called "James Knott", whereas Walter played another ridiculous role as the infamous "Walter".

We had a nice dinner at the famous Italian restaurant ANGELO MIO [or was it ANJERO MIO?] at the Fuji Q hotel, the dished obviously selected by competitive teams in order to make us heavy and complacent. After a few beers David and me retired to our room, which was slightly more spacious than the R&B Hotel in Hachioji where I got lost in the smoking saloon of my apartment some weeks before. Yes, as we have been racing together for quite a while, David and me are now confident enough to share a room, although he immediately moved one half of the double bed 15 cm away from the other half. It would be anyway hard for anyone to seduce a man who is sleeping with his Blackberry in his hands.

David woke up early as he needed to take the shuttle bus to the start. Bin, Juliane, david and me decided to ride on the bikes from the hotel the next morning. We had no idea where the race would be but everything was perfectly organized and we easily found the way to the start. It was still cold and misty when we left the hotel, but the sky was clearing up. This was no surprise, as we constantly have pointed out the improving weather conditions on the day before during the bus ride:

"It looks less cloudy in the direction we are going!"
"It seems that the rain is getting less."
"Tomorrow the weather should be perfect"

We have developed an eye for such things and we are now experts in finding also the closest family restaurant in case our eyeswere wrong. Of course it helped also that the weather forecast on TV said basically the same thing. Not only less rain, but also 11 degrees C increased maximum temperature the next day. This is what I call local warming.

Anyway, so we took one of the last curves before the start area and then we could see mount Fuji. Yes, it really existed. I forgot to take my camera with me, but I am able to draw a pretty precise picture out of memory with the help of advanced CAD software [MS Paint]:
You have to understand that it is a very big mountain indeed and I was standing right in front of it. After we realized what we were up to, a 24 km distance 1.200 meter upwards struggle against this thing we realized that this got serious. James very precisely summarized it when he noted that it was always nice to brag in the office about it, but now it was really getting serious. But on the other hand, now that I am back safe in the office, I can again brag about it.

Ok, here is my race strategy :
It consists of two mayor elements:

1. Don't let yourself be pushed by the other riders: they are younger, they are lighter and they have more time to train. And there are about 4.000 of them.

2. But whatever happens, finish in front of David.

Juliane was a little bit earlier to start at 7:03, but all of us others started between 7:20 and 7:30. David, david, James, Bryon and me were all in the same age group. We couldn't find Tom at the start. I warned David not to overtake the pace making motorbike at the start and gain an unfair competitive advantage, but there was no such cycle anyway. After riding up at a leisurely speed for 1.3 km, the race started close to the Subaru Line tool booth.

I accelerated a little bit at the start. I wanted to go up at 18 km/hr in average in order to cut the 1:30hr time line, but very soon I realized that this would be a little bit too ambitious. James, David and Bryon overtook me early in the race and as usual I felt super-bad during the first 5km. I was ready to give up. Really, I was almost throwing up. But on the other hand I know that every race this is the same feeling. Not only every race, but every time I am stepping out of the house and do the first km on my bike or starting to climb in the mountains: it is just no fun. And it goes away. Always. So after reaching the 5 km mark I felt better, but my time didn't look too good. But I overtook David again and also the first riders from the earlier start groups.

In this kind of races it is important to have a nice and steady wheel in the front which goes up at about the same pace. It is difficult to find though. Riders steering wild from the left to the right costing a lot of energy and if the frontman is too slow one is loosing time. If he is too fast it leaves one exhausted. I found a nice wheel (something blue in a Skoda jersey) and I continued to ride with this guy for the next 5 kms or so, before I moved away. When I reached the 10 km mark I
was already at almost 42 minutes, so no way that I would make it below 1:30hr.But I started to feel ok and I still had power to accelerate on the flatter slopes a little bit. The ascent is really very gradual, but the feeling was that 2/3 of the ascent were over after the first 15 km or so, after that it became less steep.

In the meanwhile the better riders of the later starting groups started to overtook me. When I arrived at the 19 km mark I had no power left to indulge in useless speeding to get a good result for the mountain prize. I overtook James and gave a little push so that he could make it to the finish line as he was running low on ammunition.

But after that the envisaged flat part came and I could start to go really fast. Nobody overtook me there. But this might also been because all the fast riders had finished the race already. I wanted to keep a high pace, but the last stretch was too long to do so and I fell back in my usual rythm. Also I could feel the impact of the high altitude.

I was feeling a little bit funny in the head. So I didn't want to stretch it. The good thing about high altitude is, that everything is emotionally emphasised over there. I laugh more, I cry more. When watching movies in airplanes I normally start to cry, even when watching say "Ghostbusters" or "Alien III". And also on the top of Kazahari everything is funny whatever Juliane, David, david, jerome or Tom are saying. I guess that must be the reason why pro athletes are training in these altitude chambers: It is that much more fun.

Also I felt funny because David gave me that NY Times article about this Slowenian ultra endurance athlete : "That which does not kill me makes me stranger". The gist of this article is that this guy gets nuts when riding very, very long. He is seeing for example Mujahedeen, shooting at him so he goes even faster. So I was ready too to see the Mujahedeen coming up any time from behind.

Overall as a team we had some very good results. Juliane, ahem sorry Siti, would have reached 4th place if she had been registered in the proper age group. Bin was close to the athletes class result and the rest of us stayed mainly in the 1:30 to 1:40 hr bracket. This is not bad, as for many of us it was the first time. I for myself was satisfied. It was the first time to climb mount Fuji, including any try to do this without a bike, and I never climbed 1.200 meters elevation in one stretch without a break. Normally I can do 10 m/min climbing for longer stretches, but here I did an average of 13 m/min. I am not in climber, the mass I have to move up a mountain is more than 100 kg - obviously mainly because of my very heavy Cervelo bike which is made out of solid granite. And it was a good training for the more serious JCRC races to come in the near future. And my cadence is now very much higher than last year - this is good for training and races.

I did some more analysis on my Ciclo and using the data provided by Runnet, I will post that on the weekend.

We were quite exhausted and after a rest on the top where we met David Marx, we joined one of the groups going down. As usual David was the fastest guy down and he was awarded the reverse Polka dot jersey.

We were all very exhausted, so some of us decided to take a leisurely ride home from Yamanakako by Doshi Michi. James, david, David and Juliane, sorry Siti, joined the trip while the rest was sleeping on the bus home according to rumours I have heard.

We were immediately penalized by congested roads and a longer climb up to the Yamanakako. And of course in this formation, there is no leisurely riding, only pure competition and fight to death for the pole position. So we made a stop at a nice restaurant on the shores of lake Yamanakako, unfortunately not at the British Cafe there. Then there was a last climb up before we had the long descent basically down to the Tamagawa with only one more climb.

The weather was good and our five rider team worked brilliantly together. We overtook some Jelly bean riders and before we could make another stop we were back at the banks of the familiar river of Tamagawa. Then, after more than 90 km of constant riding, we took a last break at the Segafredo at Futagotamagawa station. All of us looked very tired, it is a pity that no photo exists of us then. david looked exactly liked he has looked at the Lawson in Omachi on the Itoigawa fast run. I don't know how I looked like but I remember how I felt.

So we split and rode the last km home after a remarkable weekend. We were all proud of ourselves and have a new story to tell to our grandsons one day. But these stories will be told another time as I have to stop blogging. Siti is calling from the kitchen for dinner.


[Analysis to follow]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michael, another funny post! Maybe you have invested in one of those oxygen restricting tents for home?? In our Miyakejima race plan to crush the opposition like insects beneath our steel tipped boots, I'm worried that a little Island will not be able to furnish us with the the essential Positivo pre-race dinner. I believe leading sports nutrionalists, alerted by our success, are now analysing the low-carb, deep-fried, lashings of beer and wine diet. Should we pack our own cigars? Tora, Tora, Tora