10 January 2011

Shizuoka 200 km Brevet - January 9 - Fighting A Cold and The Wind

Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, with Mt. Fuji in Background, across the Abe River

When I think of Shizuoka, the picture above is pretty much the mental image that comes to mind -- Mt. Fuji in the background (with much less snow on the Southwest side than we typically see from Tokyo or Yamanashi), riverbeds,and a more or less continuous stretch of sprawling smaller cities along the coast (Numazu, Fuji, Shimizu, Shizuoka, Yaezu, Shimada, Kakegawa, Fukuroi, Hamamatsu ... just to name a few of them).  And also maybe some tea bushes planted on the hillsides.  Of course, Izu is technically part of Shizuoka Prefecture, but I'm thinking now of non-Izu, "Tokaido-adjacent" central Shizuoka. 

If you use a wide angle instead of telephoto, Mt. Fuji recedes pretty far into the background.  This is much closer to the perception with the naked eye.

Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, the Abe River and Mt. Fuji in the background

If I had planned better, I would have managed a photo that shows also the upstream bridges where Rte 1, and the JR Tokaido-sen, and the JR Sanyo Shinkansen, and the downstream bridge where the Tomei Expressway, all cross this same river (the Abe-gawa, at the western entrance to Shizuoka City, to the extent there is any noticeable, delineated border).  Regrettably, I did not, but those transportation arteries are one's constant companion in a trip through Shizuoka.

My image of Shizuoka was recently, perhaps permanently altered, by MOB's report of his cycling trip back to Fukuroi/Hamamatsu last Spring before leaving Japan, and the difficulty in finding a good route through the urban parts of this prefecture.  I was surprised on re-reading the entry to note that the Brevet I joined on Sunday took many of the same roads on its "return leg" as MOB's trip.

Just like MOB, we rode the "Strawberry Line" or Ichigo Kaigan Dori -- and there were the students MOB described, trying to lure customers in.  The strawberries are cultivated inside plastic sheeted houses, and so they grow even in the winter sun.

Just like MOB, we rode Rte 416 between Shizuoka and Yaezu (Yaizu?), where it winds along the coast and eventually climbs up a hillside, after passing an area called "Oo-Kuzure" (big landslide) where the road is more like a bridge, out over the ocean for more than 500 meters, with pillars embedded in the sea, since the hillside has completely fallen away, destroying a former road that was in the form of an "open tunnel" built into the hillside -- some pieces remaining.

And just like MOB, we eventually joined Rte 79, then 73, and traveled in the middle of nowhere past the entrance to the Fuji Shizuoka Airport, and then rejoined Rte 79 and took it and some other city roads, mostly with heavy traffic, through Kikugawa, Shimada and Kakegawa, and back to Fukuroi.

At the Fuji Shizuoka Airport,a  remarkable monument to Japanese transportation planning built on top of a long, wide ridge, no doubt flattened with the efforts of hundreds of earth moving machines over several years, I even saw one flight depart in the several hours I was close enough to monitor -- the initials "FDA" visible on the side of the plane.  I did not see any landings.  And I heard (but did not see) the hum of shinkansen trains going into a tunnel directly underneath the airport, as we climbed up Rte 73 nearer the airport entrance.  I only saw one or two highway signs the entire trip pointing out how to actually get to the airport ... and I fear that FDA may have only two planes -- one red photographed in MOB's report and one blue that I saw. The hillsides around the airport are covered with tea bushes, and I wondered how many years it would be before the Shizuoka redevelopment authority would propose tearing up the runways and taxiways and planting a massive tea plantation.  Or maybe, since the land has been leveled and tea is grown on hillsides, there is a higher value added use -- rice, perhaps?

So given MOB's March 2010 report, I only need to mention a few points particular to this event, even though it was my first time to ride in mid-Shizuoka. If of interest, you can see the Brevet routes here:  outbound and return, on Yahoo Route Labi (short for Route Laboratory, I think), a/k/a/ "Lat Long Lab"?

1. The outbound route was entirely different from the impression given above, for the first 70-80 km.  It quickly headed North, then took Prefectural Rte 81 through various valleys and over small passes.  There was little or no urban sprawl, and plenty of nice riding -- it was almost like a "rindo" at points, a road of one narrow paved lane with leaves on parts of the road surface, except where tire tracks had passed.  It climbed over small passes, the highest less than 400 meters elevation, and descended back down into valleys.  For the local ride, this would be a great route.  For a rider going Kanto to Kansai (or vice versa), this would add distance and elevation, but be much more pleasant than along the coast, and less extreme than Jerome's alternative of the interior route through Nagano.

2.  Wind.  As we left the start area at 6:30AM, climbed a short hill to the South and did a kind of "fish-hook" loop around to the West and then to the North, I noticed a disturbingly strong headwind on the short West leg.  If there was a strong wind at 6:30AM, and the forecast had shown winds getting stronger over the day ... what would the return trip be like?  I did not really notice the wind at my back much on Rte 81.  Of course, the wind was at my back, but also we were in and out of valleys and not directly exposed much of the time.  But once we emerged and hit the coastline near the Strawberry Line, wow.  Almost no work effort at all to keep 38-40 kph, my main concern whether a car would get frustrated with the miles-long traffic jam and pull over suddenly onto the shoulder.  I used my brakes more than I pedaled for at least 4-5 km.  As I got further up the "Strawberry Line", I saw a couple of the strongest and fastest riders, already on the return leg.  Another wow.  They must be well over an hour ahead of me already, but they were barely moving into the headwind -- couldn't be going faster than 20 kph.

Sure enough, the return leg was hellish.  The wind was in front at least 75% of the way home, and was at its strongest when the route was on the seacoast (other than Rte 416 into Yaezu, which was in the lee of a hill).  But after Yaezu there was a lovely 10 km stretch to Yoshida, on Rtes 416 and 150, with a straight, boring road heading due SW, plenty of traffic, the gale force wind directly in your face, and the sun also directly in your face, already low enough in the sky so that the glare was constant.  The windchill was bitter at the second checkpoint -- a hilltop 7-11 just after passing the airport, and with less than 25 km left in the ride as the sun dipped near the horizon.

A last view of Mr. Fuji, as I rested beside this seawall a few meters from Route 416 where the wind was mostly blocked by a headland.  The sea looks calm -- as opposed to the large, white-topped rolling swells off the Strawberry Line.

The wind was a good test of my HED Jet 6 wheels.  They worked beautifully -- slicing the headwind and easily manageable even in extremely challenging crosswinds.  A few times I got out of the saddle and shifted some weight over the front bars/wheel, and that seemed to keep the wheel from getting pushed around at all in the gusts from the side.  The crosswind seems to slide right off of them, giving credence to the manufacturer's claims that their drag co-efficient is lower than a typical aluminum clincher even with the wind at the worst angles.

3.  Cold.   A nasty cold is going around -- just close your eyes and listen to the coughing, sneezing and sniffling on any train in Tokyo.  I started to get it on the 4th of January -- sore throat and fatigue.  I made sure to get extra sleep on the nights of the 4th and 5th, and thought perhaps I had beat it back.  The morning of Friday the 7th it was back -- a hacking cough and more weakness.  I took medicine, slept about 10 hours Friday night, and felt a bit better.  No fever.  I went to bed very early Saturday night ... hoping I would feel good enough to get up at 3AM, drive to Shizuoka, and start at 6:30AM.   No need to break any records, just finish within the time limit and check off my 200 km Brevet for this year, on the way to the PBP 2011 qualification requirements, and thinking of my Washington DC-based friends who used to "ride through" a cold, swearing that exercise helped recovery from the illness.

In any event, whether from the illness or otherwise, I felt like crap as I approached the turn-around checkpoint and for about the first 75% of the return leg -- until the last checkpoint.  On the early part of the return leg, as I led two other cyclists through the streets of Shimizu, I needed to excuse myself, dismount and huddle by some shrubs as they went on, woozy and nearly sick.  But the nausea passed without incident, I needed a couple more rests on the return leg when I feared dizziness, and the muscles did not give up.  So not many photos this ride, and a long, slow slog.

On the drive home, as I got out at a 7-11 in Kakegawa and again at a Tomei rest stop after passing Gotemba where I stopped for 30 minutes or so to try to wait out a traffic jam, my body started to shiver and shake almost uncontrollably from the cold air as I passed between car and building.  But today, I seem over the harsh sore throat, hacking cough and fatigue/achy feeling, and just have some modest sneezing and sniffling.  Maybe, for the right bug, there is something to the "ride through it" theory?

My next Brevet is the 300 km Chiba event on February 26, starting at 10PM -- with Jerome and Steve T. also signed up.  Sign up opened on Friday on "Sportsentry" ... and it was full already when I checked this morning.


Jimmy Shinagawa said...

Glad to hear you completed with no drama, illness not withstanding, good luck with the next one. I still think these are bonkers.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Congrats on completing your first brevet in 2011, despite your cold and the wind.

Actually, Jerome and I were also facing headwind all day on Saturday, nicely turning with (against) us as we progressed. Though it was never as strong as what you must have experienced at the shore.

Unknown said...

congratulations David! The cold/frost must have been painful. I'm planning to join a Brevet event this year as a guest and already bought myself a reflective vest!