06 October 2009

The Ducks of Endurance

Dear Mob of 2010,

This is the Mob of 2009 writing a letter to you on the evening of the Yokohama endurance race. I just would like to remind you that before you coax yourself and your friends into riding in the 2010 Yokohama endurance race you read this one. I am sorry for the shortness of the letter, this is due that every single of my bones seems brittle, my major muscle groups are still shivering in cramps and my tendons are squeaking and aching every time I try to get them moving. Yes, mob of 2009, I would like to remind you that this was not an easy race. Perhaps you forgot your experience from 2008 when you applied in 2009, but make sure to think about it when you consider of riding it again in 2010.

Yours sincerely

mob of 2009

If I would have known (or remembered) how hard this race is, I wouldn't have registered in the first place. James has kindly written about all the racing aspects and our share of suffering and there is little to add but some personal observations:
When we registered, we met Fujikawa-San and his friend from Catteni Positivo; this being the other team supported by Nagai San's Positivo shop. I met Fujikawa-San also last year at the race and we talked about the experience. These are nice guys and they also have their own blog where it seems that they are focusing more on brevet style rides.
Without wanting to appear to arrogantly I shall nevertheless remark that during the race we made it abundantly clear which is the Positivo A- and which the Positivo B-Team.

The next thing I remember was that James and me were standing in the starting field when the cheerleader performance began. I am not sure why, but endurance races in Japan do always field cheerleaders (Tsukuba, Yokohama) or at least Weider girls (Motegi) although the connection is not so clear for me.

"How was your last endurance race?"

"Great - we had a fantastic cheerleader performance"

Would probably be a perfectly normal conversation in Japan. Actually the ones which were performing in Yokohama were so bad, that even the rain stopped for a while. They also held posters with the words "Care", "Fun", "Joy" and some others up (Not sure, I think the other ones were "lung cancer" and "non-linear depreciation") to inspire us.

The the race started. I tried to get into the first or second fast group, but had to give up after the third lap and from then onwards James and me stayed with the third fastest group. The first hour is always the hardest for me and when it started to rain really, really hard I was considering to throw the towel. I couldn't see very much through my sun glasses as in the cavity between the sunglasses and the optical glasses inserts humidity was gathering, slowly obscuring any vision left. Luckily James rode in front of me and I could see his bright orange Positivo jersey, but some of the black clad ("anti-globalization dress", as David said) riders where hardly contrasting with the road surface at this point. I was very lucky that the rain stopped and I could regain some vision.

Next thing was, that I was leading the group and riding down the tight flyover from the stadium to the park. The rims were still wet and I braked too late and too hard: so suddenly my rear wheel blocked and I was fast going in direction of the barriers. But luckily I got the bike under control and could avoid a crash, but at the cost of stopping and getting out of the cleats.

"Daijobu ?" I heard from someone of the Japanese riders in our group.... "Matte!" I shouted in despair, clipped in and went in pursuit of our group. Luckily I could manage to hang on.

There were quite a few crashes, but not as manya and as hard as in Shuzenji in August. The amount of human suffering one sees at the ramp leading steeply (I guess 15%) up from the park to the stadium level is just amazing. Many riders were so exhausted that they pushed up their bikes; others took the initial swing to capitulate them up about a third and then they just stopped there and couldn't go further on their own power.

My strategy was to stay in the outer front and shift down to my 27 teeth cog on the rear. That worked pretty well and I wasn't so bad in sprinting up the ramp. But once I was up it was hard to accelerate from 20 km/hr again and than there is this ugly right curve leading into the stadium which takes the momentum out of the ride again.

This is not an easy course, unlike Hitachi Naka where you stay in the peloton all the time and go virtually straight for about 160 km. Yokohama requires constant acceleration and braking - add some attacks from the group - that takes it's toll on the body.

One of my of legs after my semi-crash was cramping and I had a hard time to ignore that. Later on I was not able to let my leg rest in the highest pedal position when manouvering a corner. Cramps only stopped when I was pedaling.

So in the end I had no reserves and although we managed to decimate our group to only four or five riders over time, I couldn't follow James when he sprinted away at the very end.

Nevertheless I was very pleased with our performance and I was sure that we had a good finish even before the results were released.

At the start to the two hour race in the afternoon I was so tired, I could have slept on my bike. I was also incredibly dirty but luckily I brought some equipment for exchange. And at least the weather was getting better and the rain stopped.

The two hour race was not as good as the morning one. In fact I was even a little bit slower than last year. All the fresh new riders were overtaking me to the left and to the right and I couldn't found a good group to draft with after I have lost contact with James.

I was so tired and so slow. I was cursing that I shouldn't do this kind of stupid races any longer. Really, I was so exhausted. Nevertheless I made it to the finish and in the end we had a splendid result.

As the Prince Figure Skate Center - the location in town where my daughter and my wife spend more time than at home - was just around a corner and I knew that there was also a 7-Eleven, we went there and had some food and drinks. Looking at the girls coming from the figure skate center and comparing them to what we have seen in the Yokohama stadium, we were wondering if we shouldn't' put a different focus in our sport activities. OK, at this poin tim time we weren't looking exactly attractive. I would say the only thing that looked more dirty that us were our bikes.

James asked if we should lock them. I thought that he made a joke, nobody at the figure skate center knows want I bike is and what it is good for.

By the way, we were noticed. My wife told me some days later that at least one ugly-duck-becomes-olympic-hero-educating-mother has noticed us and described as later as "dirty, foreign perverts handing around at the entrance to the centre". My wife wisely decided not to disclose her relationship.
"Dirty, foreign pervert"

So after getting back to the stadium and checking the final results (Complete surprise that TCCs Naomi and Alan and their teammate were also riding in the event, I haven't seen them at all)
we rode home.
I asked one a the reception if James would be eligible for a price with his 6th place finish, but I was told that only the 1st place will get something in the King of endurance category. Naturally, there can be only one king. So we have to be conten with the title of dukes, or, as Laurent remarked, ducks of endurance.

Riding home after the event was a 5 km monster brevet-like trip along long roads and high mountains. So it seemed. Which completely exhausted me. And after having a business meeting and entertaining my family with heroic stories at the local Yakitori restaurant I felt asleep, dreaming and cramping until the early morning light.

The next day I went hiking with a group of German friends. We started at Mitake station on the Ome-Ouktama line an walked up the road to the cable station. This road is well known as "The mother of all pointless rides" by James, Graham and Michael. From Mitake we took a hiking trail to Hinode mountain and then further on to Tsuru tsuru Onsen (on the road from Itsukaichi to Umenoki pass leading to Ikusabata at the Tamagawa West of Ome). Quite nice and very painful. Perhaps a new trail to be explored by Tom and his new bike?
Anyway, after a good soak in the water and some good food and beers later at the Ishikawa brewery (= Tama Jiman, Positivo approved) I was ready for my bed and didn't woke up until late on Monday morning.

My muscles are still hurting and I am not completely unthankful that the rain is stopping all biking activities for the time being. I wanted to tell our heroic deeds to the students at university but decided later that history of the Japanese zaibatsu would be equally interesting for them.


TOM said...

Crazy story again Michael, too funny! BTW, when are you getting yours?

Manfred von Holstein said...

Congratulations to both of you! Really impressive performance and lots of skill in avoiding crashes.

James said...

Cheers guys, went for a short ride with Tsukino on the Sunday and she was complaining that I was riding way to slow!

My muscle groups had recovered by Monday but my back has only just recovered. Have to say that its the most grueling race I've done so far.

Who's in for next year????