56 consecutive months of "A Century A Month" complete I rode 238 km with 2900 m of elevation gain in a 200 brevet on Saturday, April 8 (BRM408 by AJ Nishi-Tokyo) plus the ride home from the finish.
I'd been watching the weather forecast for a week and invariably it predicted rain. "You don't have to go!" my rational wife told me. That would have been the easy thing to do, but long distance cycling is not about doing the easy thing, is it?
The night before I packed my stuff, including rain gear, and rode to a cheap but clean hotel near the start. The sky was still mostly clear. I didn't go to bed until midnight and woke up again to my 05:30 alarm. When I looked out of the window the roads were wet and I could see the raindrops hit a roof. It kept raining as I cycled to the start, wearing my nylon pants and rain jacket.
I hadn't cycled much for the past two weeks, after a couple of days of bicycle touring in Italy with my son where we did about 80 km a day from Perugia to Florence (Italy was fabulous!).
I met many friends and familiar faces at the start, but quite a few people chose not to start because of the weather forecast. The rain gradually eased into a slight drizzle. As we got closer to the mountains I decided to take off my rain jacket. I would get wet either way, if from drizzle or from sweat, so why not opt for drizzle and conserve the electrolytes? Even the drizzle stopped completely after about two hours.
I had made myself a short summary of the cue sheet for the map pouch of my front bag. Normally I only carry the cue sheet for emergencies and navigate only by computer, but I did use this summary to remind myself of PC distances from the start, distances to highest passes and their respective elevations plus a few important but not so obvious turns. Another reminder was the location of the last convenience store before the turn-off to a rural road where I stocked up on bananas.
The first pass was Akiyama-toge, some 650 m high, about 50 km from the start. The climb took its toll and I was wondering how I would feel later in the event, if I was feeling this tired after one quarter. But then I could recover on the 8 km descent to Tsuru. I kept the stop at PC1 short.
From Tsuru the road climbed for about 20 km to Lake Kawaguchiko near Mt Fuji. I passed this waterfall with hexagonal basalt columns. Last time the bridge in front of it was under construction, this time I could take a picture from it:
I cycled around the lake and then on to Lake Yamanakako, both at the foot of the mountain, but never saw Fuji, not even the base of it. It was simply too overcast. The clouds to the south, towards Kagosaka pass looked grey and intimidating. Feeling low on energy I stopped for food at a convenience store between the two lakes. At Kawaguchiko the sun had come out briefly and it was surprisingly warm. Normally temperatures are quite a bit lower at the Fuji 5 lakes at around 900 m than down in Tokyo at sea level, but I was comfortable in shorts and t-shirt.
That changed as I climbed up to Kagosaka Pass at 1100 m. The wind picked up and got quite fierce. I could feel the first drizzle. At the pass I put on my rain jacket and nylon pants. I had to be careful with the wind and the rain to not get blown off the road. Normally the Pacific side of the pass has the warmer weather and the Yamanako side is the chilly one, but not this time.
I was glad about the ease of use of my new hydraulic disc brakes on the 20 km descent (see my 11 speed / hydraulic brakes upgrade report here). When I reached PC2 at km 130 I was about 40 minutes ahead of cutoff time, an improvement from PC1. After this came the steepest part, the climb to Ashigara Pass. On the other side I had to climb once more to a barbecue site up a valley. This was an untimed control. We were served barbecued sausages and chicken. Mostly I met the same group of 5-7 people during the second half of the ride.
Even after Ashigara Pass there were plenty of hills on the way back to the start. Even on the last kilometers the route climbed out of two river valleys. Having made PC3 with 14 minutes spare I knew I'd have 24 minutes spare with a 15 km/h average to the end, so I took it a bit easy. In the end I arrived with only 8 minutes spare, just before one couple that arrived just after me as the final participants.
On Sunday I felt pretty beat up still. The ride definitely had left its mark, but I was fine again on Monday. The amount of climbing was about as much as in the 300 km brevet I'll be doing next month (but with a 50% longer time limit), so I feel well prepared. Having ridden in the rain I also have confidence again that I can do long rides in all kinds of weather.