22 February 2015

Flat Kanto 300

At Choshi - Eastern Tip of Chiba Prefecture and the Kanto region

In order to participate in Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) this summer, I need to complete a standard series of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km brevets by mid-June.  Of course, last year I had planned some early season brevets ... but snow resulted in cancellations.  Weather, injury, equipment failure or illness; these are the things that can trigger a DNS or DNF and ruin as plan to ride PBP.

So I want to "check the boxes" quickly and get through the standard series quickly and without incident.  Thus, I signed up to ride the February 21, 2015 first edition of the "Flat" 300km sponsored by the Audax Randonneurs Nihonbashi.  AR Nihonbashi is a new group sponsoring Audax events (one of several to crop up in the past year).  I guess just about everyone who does enough Audax rides at least considers the idea of forming a group with friends and planning their own.  But Nihonbashi?  Surely a terrible place to start a brevet, meaning at least 60-90 minutes of traffic signals to get to the countryside, repeated on the return.
Future randonneur (randonneuse?) with papa
The 7:30 starters begin to gather at Kiba Koen in Koto-ku.  20 riders each at 6, 630, 7 and 730 on this event.
As the AR Nihonbashi website indicates, by starting near central Tokyo, they want riders and organizers to get to the start by bicycle or public transit, and avoid using cars to the extent possible.
  • オダックスランドヌール日本橋は2015年より、東京都・日本橋近辺を発着地とするブルベを開催します。都心発着のメリットを生かし、参加者・主催者とも自走や公共交通機関を利用し、できるだけ車を使わないブルベを目指します。
Okay, this is a worthy goal ... though not necessarily one requiring a Nihonbashi start.  For 200, 400 and 600 km events, it should be possible to start/finish on the edge of the Tokyo metropolis, and still get to and from the start by public transit (same day for a 200km; next morning for a 400km, next evening for 600km) or bicycle.  But for a "normal" rider on a 300km event, taking between 15~19 hours out of the 20 hour limit, indeed, it is tough to plan an event without an automobile if start/finish are far from one's home. One solution:  an evening start.  This has two merits:  first, it is possible to come and go via public transport.  Second, you get to ride at least the first half of the event with little to no traffic, no matter the location or road.

But an evening start does not seem like a great idea for a February brevet near Tokyo.  Icy roads, and starting straight into the coldest part of the day ... between midnight and 7-8AM ... do not seem appealing.  So this event started from Kiba Koen, only 4 km east of Nihonbashi in Koto-ku.

I rode the Canyon Shark, with my Gokiso wheels.  This, and the flat course, made it one of the easier 300km Brevets I have joined, and my fastest to date, at 14 hrs 59 minutes.  And yes, I did ride to the start and back from the finish (almost 22 kms each way).  When added to the event (which was actually 307~308 kms), that put me at 350 kilometers for the day.  I had the 5th fastest time out of around 55 finishers (with another 22 DNS and 7 DNFs) -- typical that I do better on a flat course like this.

But so many, many times I needed to accelerate, only to see a light in the distance -- first the walk light turns blinking green, then red, then the traffic light turns yellow, then the right turn signal (if there is one), then red.  For a minute or more.  Each time, I would ease up my pace hundreds of meters from the light as soon as I realized I would not make it.  Each time the Gokiso wheels would roll and roll, and I would need to brake as I neared the (red) signal.  Mottaenai.
Home to the Start of the Brevet
The Brevet course-- 308 kms

Home from the Finish
I rode the first 20 kms or so with Hayashi-san, a Utsunomiya-based randonneur.  He rides with lots of zip, so helped me get off to a fast start despite the endless traffic signals.  I saw my neighbor Kazu Tachikawa, and rode together briefly through Chiba City.  ウワン-san (Twitter handle), who I got to know during Tohoku 1700, rode as well, starting a 630AM.  He looked a bit surprised when I caught up with and passed him before PC1 (how did I get there so fast?  Hayashi-san, of course ... and Gokiso). And, of course, I was traveling very light -- my Q36.5 Salopette tights and hybrid que perfect for Saturday's 0-10 degrees C range, just some extra glove liners and a warmer head garment needed early and late, and a thin rain shell in my pack just in case.

ウワン was in and out of PC1 quickly, and we met again between there and PC2, and again when he arrived at PC4.  And he complimented me on the Guide for Audax Staff.  Glad to hear some people are enjoying it.

And thanks to Yoshiaki Philippe.  He and another rider passed me as I was slowing a bit, riding along on Ku-ju-ku-ri about 85 kms into the event.  I could hop on the back, draft and ride with them, dramatically boosting my speed over the next 30 kms or more.  Yoshiaki Philippe has switched the trusty mountain bike I remember him on at Rocky Mountain 1200 and numerous other events ... to a sleek Focus road bike with Enve deep rimmed carbon wheels, and he looked as if he was enjoying riding fast(er).  Over the 30 kms, Yoshiaki Philippe pulled at least 20 kms.  The other rider at least 5 kms.  And me, only a few.   Still, I flagged again and needed to pull over for an energy bar near Iioka ... and so lost the benefit of their speed a few kms before the Choshi checkpoint.  That was the last I saw of them.

Hara-san, one of the Vice-Chairs of AR Nihonbashi, had warned me I would not like this course because of the constant stop and go.  He was right.  The course was the worst I have ridden on an Audax event.  Constant stop and go with signals.  And riding in heavy traffic what seemed like most of the way. The course needs a serious redesign.  Yes, heavy traffic is inevitable for a ride in Chiba and Ibaraki, but there must be better alternatives.

Generally unpleasant stretches included:

-- from the start through Chiba City.  Especially under construction Routes 14/357 through Chiba City.
-- Chiba Route 20 (Oami Kaido) across the northern Boso Peninsula to Kujukuri beach.  Many congested stretches and nowhere near as nice as the route further south on the Chiba 300km event last October that brought us to Takataki Lake in the center of Boso.
-- after Choshi, Route 124 then Ibaraki Route 212 near Kashima.  We were blessed with a tailwind ... but this was another very heavily traveled stretch of road.
-- after a few nice stretches on Route 354, ... but more heavy traffic on Route 355 to Ishioka!
-- then long stretches of heavy traffic most of the way back to Tokyo, Ibaraki Routes 48 and 26, Route 6 etc.  (I would like to try the Audax Saitama route on their 300km event yesterday -- which also traveled between NE Tokyo and Kasumigaura.)
A quiet moment. Dusk at Lake Kasumigaura, over one of the HUNDREDS of solar farms we passed.
Even the section along the beach at Kujukuri offered only limited actual views of the ocean, and plenty of mid-day Saturday traffic.

There was a nice stretch on the return to town, as we could see Tokyo Skytree in the distance, and it was late enough in the evening (after 9PM) so that traffic had started to thin.  Indeed, Sumida-ku seems to have undergone a bit of a revival.
From a hill near Choshi, looking North
From a hill near Choshi, looking back SW
But other than the nicest view sections at Choshi, I have to say my favorite parts of the entire ride were ... going through Tokyo in early morning and late night, getting between the start/goal and my house.  I got to enjoy at least some parts of the city at a very quiet time of day.  Much better than riding along the narrow shoulders of roads through traffic jams, or racing trucks and weekend warriors on the highways of Chiba or Ibaraki.
Dawn at Eitaibashi -- the welcome peace of central Tokyo before and after hours

1 comment:

A.HAYASHI said...

I am HAYASHI. Thank you for ride with me! I would like to ride with you again. See you next time.