On Sunday I repeated a ride I had done exactly 5 years before, on the first anniversary of the East-Japan earthquake and tsunami. That ride was the second 220 km ride in my life and my first in Japan.
On my friend Jose's invitation I had signed up for a 300 km brevet around Mt Fuji in May 2012 and then decided to do a few of training rides. The first was a shortened version of the full brevet course. Jose and I set out from Machida at 07:00 on a Saturday. Exactly a year after the tsunami it was an uneasy feeling, riding along the flat coastline between Enoshima and Odawara, only a couple of metres above sea level...
Here is the highest point of that test ride 5 years ago:
Five years after that ride, with another brevet coming up the following Saturday, I decided to revisit the route on my own.
Like on the first ride, snowflakes started dancing around me on the climb to Kagosaka Toge between Gotemba and Yamanakako, but this time there wasn't enough snow to cover the ground on the toge or around the lake. I did not use the train to and from Machida, as I rode my Elephant NFE all the way, but I took a slightly more direct route to Gotemba and returned via Doshi instead of Tsuru-Otsuki-Uenohara (neither return route matches the Fuji brevet route, which goes via Rt35/Akiyama).
Compared to last week's 190 km ride to Chichibu and Shiraishi toge, I felt much better throughout and the next day, despite finishing the distance almost at a brevet average. I made more of a conscious effort to stay hydrated and always topped up both water bottles on stops. I think the winter temperatures had led me to underestimate how much I needed to drink to stay hydrated, until this ride. I also kept the pace pretty consistent from beginning to end and layered up and down as needed, avoiding to get too sweaty on climbs because of not taking off a jacket early enough.
I left home a little before 07:00 and got back at 22:00. There was a fair amount of Saturday morning traffic up to Odawara. I met some guys riding an AJ Tamagawa 200 km brevet including Yabitsu toge. The weather was gloomy for most of the day.
The climb from sea level to Gotemba seemed shorter than I remembered it from previous Fuji brevets, where I ride this route after midnight. Everything looks quite different at daytime. More often I ride to Yamanakako via Doshi and descend on this route to Odawara for a train return, so this was a rare opportunity to ride it uphill in daylight.
Once I got to the top, I put the jacket and windbreaker on again and changed into full fingered gloves. It was very chilly along the lake shores. The road everywhere was covered in salt, a reminder how much snow and ice they must encounter there usually. I never got to see the top of Mt Fuji on the climb and didn't see much of the mountain at all along the lake.
It was a little after 16:00 by then, so I had less than two hours left until sunset, with 90 km left until home. Still, I stopped at a 7/11 near the lake for a cup of coffee to warm my fingers before starting the short climb to the Doshi tunnel. I tried to make as much distance before dark and fortunately the road from the tunnel to the Yamanashi-Kanagawa border near Aone village is almost all downhill. There weren't too many cars.
I started climbing again on Doshi road before Aone as it got dark, then another long stretch of downhill. I had a banana every now and then so I wouldn't run out of energy.
When I finally arrived back in Setagaya, I did some grocery shopping before getting home almost exactly when I had told my wife that I would, about 4 hours earlier.
The next day we went for a 12 km walk to the Gotoh Museum near Futakotamagawa and back, which has a beautiful Japanese garden. I'm happy to report that my legs felt completely normal