The steep and empty streets of the new Moncrieff development are great for hill intervals. It will take a few months before house construction makes the streets a bit too busy and dirty. But now, it is good for maximum efforts at up to 10% grade.
After a gut-busting (I hope) series of intervals I took a moderate ride home; apart from a blast up Heritage Park Pinch (Forde) for a PR.
I was only 200m from home when I was hit on the back of the arm by an egg! I wobbled a bit, noticed the egg on the handlebars and the shells on the road and found the car.
My trusty #Fly6 camera was recording. Top Tip: When an incident occurs, immediately read the number plate out aloud “for the benefit of the tape”.
I decided to ride to the Police Station to make a report immediately; repeating the number to help remember it.
But then I saw the car straight ahead at the end of the road. I was heading in that direction and though they had a 500m head start I picked up my pace. As luck would have it the car was stopped at traffic lights opposite the Police station! I sprinted to the car, banged on the driver’s window, exchanged some choice words, showed them the camera and calmly walked across the road to make a report. (I wonder what the two cars waiting behind made of it.)
My MaxHR on the hill intervals was 180-185. My MaxHR at the traffic lights was 192!
I read the W on the plate as an M, but the officer was able to match the car. The officer took my details and a few photos of my eggy handlebars and eggy arm and asked for the video; on CD (!) if possible. I went home to clean up.
After failed attempts at editing 15 minutes of video down to the 30 seconds required without a massive drop in video quality and then not being able to burn a DVD, I took the memory card and laptop to the station.
‘I’ve had a busy night’ said the constable upon my return. As luck (and a sudden burst of good sense) would have it, the driver had visited the station to make a statement (‘it wasn’t me, it was him’) and soon afterwards the assailant walked in with his parents to make a full admission.
The constable told me that he had made the danger and stupidity of the act quite clear; what could happen if a cyclist falls in traffic! Apparently the parents were livid… and the kid wants to be a policeman when he grows up.
Because of his full admission I have elected to have ‘restorative justice’, as I think that it will make a greater impression than a Court or a caution. This is an arbitrated process where we will meet in a controlled atmosphere and I can ask for ‘restoration’. It must be reasonable. For example if a window was broken, restoration might be payment for the window. Or it might be a spot of gardening.
I wondered if volunteering at a Pedal Power event might be suitable, but it might be a bit hard to explain. “No, Brian isn’t a cyclist.He threw an egg at me so now he has to mix gerry cans of sports drink.”
At the moment I am tending towards just an apology. And perhaps 500 words on the subject “why a metre matters.” (This post is about 600 words.)
And most importantly, because of his full admission I will NOT be posting the video.
It’s a bit tricky to watch a marathon; 42.195 km around a closed track would be good for spectators, but would be hell for the 16,000 participants. By the way, 16,000 starters took up 3/4 of two regulation running tracks shoulder to shoulder, so a track event is out of the question. Incredibly, all 16,000 passed the start line in less than 15 minutes.
Why does Kyoto have a marathon?
As we’ve seen, Japan has an obsessive love of running that might not be as obvious as its love of karaoke, extraordinary food or pop idols, but it is every bit as powerful. Of the top 100 male marathon runners, about 94 are African and 6 are Japanese. Of the top 100 female marathon runners, about 85 are African and about 12 are Japanese. [The Way of the Runner]
Don’t take this the wrong way, but the Kyoto Marathon is mostly about giving runners a beautiful view of a beautiful city. The narrow roads and dirt riverside paths don’t lend themselves to a serious race. However, the sights, the extensive menu of of energy snacks and the regular and enthusiastic cheer squads give it a special character.
And as with most things, there are important concepts that must also be combined.
Great Eastern Earthquake commemoration
The first Kyoto Marathon was held on 11 March 2012. A number of runners from the affected areas can run for free, and they wore purple ribbons to signify their presence. The starting ceremony included a moment’s silence.
Do you Kyoto?
Environmental issues are also emphasised. The Kyoto Protocol took effect on 16 February 2005. Tap water was supplied, not 20000 2L bottles, 21 February was declared “Car free day”, the event was carbon-neutral and printing was minimised. Nice.
Following the action – my secret weapon
My secret weapon was a Micro Suspension scooter. It’s big 200mm wheels and suspension would run over cobbles and coarse asphalt, I hoped. The test in Tokyo showed that it worked well.
The course headed West after exiting the stadium. I hoped to go North to intercept at about the 10km mark and at the top of a hill. The maps provided were vague and only showed a selection of major roads. I headed North… I reckoned.
Guide No. 1
Fortunately I found a guide; a woman running North at about 4:00/km! She was looking at an annotated map of the course that seemed to show where to meet someone who was running. I asked if the road was the best road to the marathon course. She said that she was going there too, so we ran and rolled together.
She told me that her boyfriend was in group G (from A to K, not including I). I asked why she wasn’t running as she seemed very fast.
I reached the top of Ichijō-dōri and Route 162 to find the B to D runners running past. Despite waiting until the support vehicles, I didn’t see Chikako in the crowd of runners. But I could see that she had passed the 10km mark some time before, and at a good steady pace, so I moved to the next rendezvous.
Following the course was not an option; the roads would not reopen for a while and the narrow footpaths would be clogged with spectators. I had to go back down the hill (testing the limits of the brake) and ride east.
I managed to get to a main road Nishijō-dōri with my inadequate map. I stumbled across some Australians staying in Kyoto for 2 months but who live in Norway; they helped confirm my path. I can’t believe I couldn’t remember “Mange takk, tusan takk” to thank them.
I reached Imadegawa-dōri and turned East. I found a new guide.
My third guide was easy to spot. Just like the first guide, she was in running shoes, compression socks, carrying a small backpack and was fast. Unlike my first guide, she was wearing a cow-print onesie!
Again, she agreed to help me find the course. She ran even faster; slowing down at bus stops, but not much else. At one point she hurdled the front wheel of a motorbike who didn’t stop in time.
Guide Nos. 4 & 5
My third guide turned off to visit a shrine, but I quickly found a couple on their 50’s running in the same direction. We ran and rolled past the Kyoto Imperial Palace gardens; me ringing my bell to get clear path and them running behind, and not much slower than the previous two.
I reached the river; again about 30 minutes ahead of ETA.
The waiting, the weather, the wind
My original plan had included scoping the course beforehand so I could estimate the time it would take to get around. I’d hoped to stop along the way to warm up and recharge at a cafe with Wi-Fi. Unfortunately any rehearsal was spoiled by the atrocious weather. I couldn’t quite work out where the 30km mark was. However, I discovered an official photographer further up the river and I could stand on the bridge and get a good view. A few minutes later guides 4 & 5 sat nearby. After they cheered their friend they ran over the bridge; the woman gave me two energy sweets. How nice!
Chikako had just passed the 25km mark, so I knew that she would be here soon. Except… both my compact camera and my iPhone decided that it was too cold to operate. The camera refused to open, the iPhone displayed 1% battery. I put them in my vest pockets to warm them up in the hope that they would return to life.
I saw Chikako and shouted to her from the bridge. It will be a great photo. She looked to be in good condition, given that this was the furthest she had run in one go!
Next rendezvous – 37km
Warm up the iPhone and find 65% of battery. Enough for 7 seconds of bliss.
Let’s leave that until the athlete interview.
Kyoto Marathon features a World Champion, of sorts
The race included the Nobel-Prize-winning stem-cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka who ran 3:44:42.
When a rest day involves 30,000 steps…! We had a few places to visit in Kyoto and racked up about 4km of walking before heading back towards our starting point and the Miyako Messe.
As expected, the level of organisation at the “Kyoto Marathon Okoshiyasu Welcome Square” was extraordinary. The simple ID check was followed by enthusiastic volunteers handing out the runners’ kit.
J50443 – Not in the last place to start!
Then entry into the sponsors’ zone for a photo and an opportunity to buy more gear from CW-X Wacoal, as worn by Ichiro Suzuki.
Toyota as a major sponsor showed off their Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (review later). Lots of supplement and sports companies handed out sample bags (with samples of brochures, mostly) before we got off the first floor.
It continued on 3F with more sponsors. Asahi were handing out 0.00% Super Dry (review later), bus and train tickets to the start were for sale and yet more sporting goods. Only the Japan Post display was subdued and silent.
Stalls from the Tohoku region sold arts, crafts and foods from the areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. (Runners from those areas can enter the marathon for free.) I bought some things and a pack of persimmons from Fukushima that were dried on the tree to intensify the flavour.
Finally, I picked up a t-shirt at the official goods store. There’s a map on the back, you see.
Overnight stay in Tokyo started with an amazing view of Mt Fuji. Winter is often dry and hazy and a clear look across 95km to see it like this is unusual. We saw Fuji-san only once on our previous trip on a clear day after the heavy snow in 2014.
Lovely day for a run after a day sitting down. (Does it count as altitude training?). Today’s plan for Chikako included 6km and intervals. The ideal place for the run was a lap of the Imperial Palace, and the 5km walk to there would be a good, gradual warm-up. There were some intervals along the way; beating the crossing lights is a real motivator.
It is a popular 5km loop, and can be packed with runners in training for the Tokyo Marathon on 28 February, as it was when we were here two years ago.
There’s about 50m of elevation between the Route 301 Uchibori-dori in the East and near Route 20 in the West. (Don’t believe the trace that drops to 64m below sea level at Kokyo-Gaien; it is flat and close to sea level.)
There weren’t hundred of runners this time – maybe next week – but a few teams of university and high school runners; coaches in long coats waited near neat piles of towels and tracksuits.
The popular route includes inspirational and informational signs.
All the while I kept watch on my Micro Suspension scooter. I walked much of the way to the palace to be a nice footpath user
Total walking/moving for the day was about 25km; not including trains. That’s a typical Tokyo day for us. Really.
It’s an 80km/h zone, I’m in a bus doing 100, we’re being overtaken by a Prius doing 120. I must be on a Japanese tollway.
The speed signs are like a serving suggestion on a cereal box; no-one really puts sliced strawberries on their cornflakes.
To be fair, the variable speed signs were blacked out for the first 20km.
Don’t think that reckless driving is the norm. People drive to conditions. When the road is good and clear they go fast. If there is a traffic jam ahead, they flash their hazard lights. (But there’s too much overtaking on the left for my liking.)
And don’t think that drivers are impatient. Only taxis have functioning horns as far as I can tell.
The Electronic Toll Collection lanes at the tollbooths requires slowing to 20km/h, which is only slightly faster than paying by coin. (HINT: Places coins between index and middle fingers. Drop into hand of toll collector. Take receipt between thumb and ring finger.)
I finally entered Fitz’s Challenge after first hearing about it in 2013. Strictly speaking I only entered (and completed) the 105km Tharwa Challenge, which doesn’t include Fitz’s Hill.
Website testimonials tend to be upbeat, optimistic and slightly rose-coloured… and written by the staff. Pedal Power didn’t get that memo. The testimonials for Fitz’s include one “great ride, something for everyone” with the rest summarised as, ‘I was reduced to a babbling, drooling idiot in a foetal position. Will definitely be back next year.’
Numbers can be deceiving
The 105km course is described as 1660m of climbing with grades up to 12%. How does this compare to the Bobbin Head Cycle Classic 104km? Same distance, but the Bobbo seems to have the edge for total ascent (the website does not show an ascent number, but most GPS report about 1,950m).
Five Cat 4
Cat 3, 4 and 5
2.82km “Cotter Rd Climb (Full)”
10.72km Not on Strava as a segment: Start ‘Akuna Bridge’, finish “McCarrs Ck to Thai @ Terry hills”Carrs Ck to Thai @ Terry hills”
Average gradient of
1.6% (sections average 4%)
Highest average gradient
2.7% (sections average 6%)
Drill down and the numbers paint a different story. Of the 11 climbs on the Fitz’s profile, 7 have an average of over 5%. My Garmin 500 measured short sections over 12% on most of those.
I admit that even the Bobbo will bite; any gran fondo can. Ride either course and you’ll find that numbers and elevation profiles are rough guides at best. Most of the Fitz’s climbs are too short to get a CAT number, but they are very steep and long enough that momentum won’t carry you over. The Fitz’s roads are coarse unlike most of the Bobbo, which coincidently is situated in the electorate of our cycling ex-PM.
Remember, the 105km is the second-shortest distance on offer at Fitz’s.
Numbers don’t lie
Seriously, my heart doesn’t seem to care how fast it beats. I peaked at 196bpm at the bottom of the “Uriarra Climb”, but I managed it down to the 170’s by the top. (I later discovered that I had reduced my time from 12:16 to 8:54 this year, so I shouldn’t feel too bad.)
How’s that first third feel?
13km in and it wasn’t looking good. On “The long and grinding road” along Uriarra Rd I wasn’t great and felt in danger of being isolated as I couldn’t afford to push hard to join an echelon.
Fortunately, isolation meant that I could descend “Ragazzo Grasso Possibilità” from Mt McDonald very quickly, setting a PR on the curves.
So I felt somewhat better at the base of “Pierce’s Creek” and “Break my spirit” and got over them fairly comfortably (with PRs) by just sitting back and grinding them out. I’d only ridden them once before, but they were familiar. Watching other riders grinding along at more or less the same pace can be strangely comforting.
To help with climbing I have a Garmin screen with Altitude, Gradient, Cadence, HR and Speed. But I noticed that my HR was not dropping on descents or flats as much as I’d expect. I had barely ridden in the weeks before let alone trained, so I focussed on at least trying to keep below the 190’s for the rest of the ride. I also realised that I was calling “car BACK!” and “moto UP!” at top voice; so my lungs were in fine form even if my heart wasn’t.
Burn carbs today
High HR means burning carbs. My big, low-GI breakfast was gone by 33km at the Gravel Pit check point. I sacrificed a very fast descent I was leading to turn off and refuel in fear of not making it to Tharwa. The profile of the 26km from Gravel Pit to Tharwa to goes from 507m to 704m and down to 580m, and there is probably 500m of climbing. My speed varied from 7 to 70km/h. The first of the 105km riders were returning, including all of my mates, before I reached Tharwa.
(According to Strava, I spent 3 hours at threshold and nearly 1 hour at anaerobic. No wonder I was hungry.)
At Tharwa (60km) I ate, drank and rested for about 30 minutes. But I felt confident and I was having fun. Being over halfway helps.
As more riders from the 165 and 210 started to ride through Tharwa I decided to leave to try to get aboard their trains. After the very steep climb out of Tharwa, I managed 2km of drafting behind two 165km riders at 35km/h. That was all I dared until the end. As riders overtook me I couldn’t risk blowing up trying to hook on. Instead, I rode alongside a familiar half-dozen of so riders, losing them on the climbs and blasting past them on descents.
The climbs too much for some, reduced to walking or even stopping under any shade they could find. One recurring character was Ian, with whom I spoke at Tharwa. His distinctive red kit was easy to spot. We must have caught up, passed, stopped and caught up again half a dozen times between Tharwa and the Gravel Pit.
Second time at the Gravel Pit I took all of the cake, snakes and liquorice I could stomach. There was an immediate 2.77km climb, plenty of bumps and the Cotter climbs to go in only 16km. I’d already had twinges of cramp that had go no worse during the climbs, so I was confident.
What goes up, must come down
“Pierce’s Creek” climb is character-building. “Pierces Creek Descent” is the reward. I didn’t hit the top of the descent as fast as I would have liked, but I don’t think that I used the brakes after that. Clocked 83.6km/h (according to Garmin) @ 49s and was the fastest of the day.
Nice. Now to climb the Cotter.
Last climb (but one)
The “Cotter Climb to Stromlo KOM” segment is 7km long with two sections joined by 1km of slight downhill. I sighted Ian near the beginning, in the shade, coping with cramps. You can really have quite a conversation at 9km/h.
My cramps were not getting worse and my HR was orange, not red so I kept on. I was surprised to reach over 40km/h on the false flat and carried some of that up the last 1.5km and over to blast past down Cotter Rd to the finish.
Ah… before the finish the new 400m climb up Opperman St was not on my course, but by then it was just a roll across the finish line.
My elapsed time was about 6:15 with a saddle time of about 5:08. However, according to the first results published on Wednesday 28 October, I came first with a time of 3:19 (average speed 31.6 km/h). Pedal Power have since fixed the error, which was down to my transponder being detected twice at Tharwa.
What I learned
Indoor trainers teach continuous pedalling. You can’t underestimate the efforts that your legs, feet, bum and gentleman’s area go through on a long ride without traffic lights and intersections.
Strava arm warmers will also keep you cool in hot weather and free from sunburn. I have slivers of burn on the tiny gaps between my gloves and sleeves.
I need something under my helmet to prevent “horns” from being burnt into my forehead.
And something to stop sweat pouring into my eyes on descents.
Load the course into your Garmin. Knowing what you are about the face and how long you need to face it is very good for pacing and confidence.
If the course is not downloadable from the ride website, try www.plotaroute.com or similar.
Prepare your bike. My tyres were new, I degreased the drive-train before full tuning, brakes were tightened for fast response. My KMC chain doesn’t like my Ultegra top jockey wheel, but at least I never missed a shift.
Keep it steady for the first third. If you feel good, then push it.
Ride at your pace. Jump on a train if you can, but don’t burn up trying to stay on.
Eat and drink regularly.
Some drivers have no idea about overtaking.
Motorcyclists have more respect for cyclists than drivers do.
Note: This is by no means a comprehensive guide to preparation for a challenging ride. However, as I did make it back alive, in one piece and under the cut-off then I can say that these tips helped.
Know the route
There is something exciting about riding in a new place and experiencing it for the first time. But unless you are experienced at similar distance and gradient, riding Fitz’s Challenge without reconnaissance is insane. Riding Fitz’s with reconnaissance is merely foolhardy. I drove the 165km route, which proved that my recollection of relationship between Fitz’s Hill and the turnaround at Rendezvous Hill missed almost 20km of route.
I knew that I could climb everything this side of Fitz’s Hill, so I stuck with the 105km Tharwa Challenge. The 165km and beyond is for another year.
Preparing the bike
My mate Stuart Pedro had a flat 20km into the Great Ocean Road Ride because of badly-worn tyres and it only went downhill from there, which was unfortunate because there was a great big hill up ahead. Stuart climbs hills very well, but now he was sad.
To avoid sad, here’s the list of things I changed:
Adjusted brakes for quicker response and cleaned the pads
Degreased chain, adjusted derailleurs for 11-32T 10-speed Deore cassette
Packed saddlebag: two new tubes, full-size 2-6mm Allen keys plus mini tool
Did you know that Randonee rules in Europe used to stipulate mudguards?
Preparation of body
My physical preparation was nearly non-existent; a combination of illness, hay fever and a packed schedule saw to that. I even had my right knee in a Thermoskin supporter for the week before, which came good on the day! But I did a few things:
Aussie Butt Cream – for comfort down under. I covered my gentleman’s area with it before and used a little afterwards. Top Tip: Apply butt cream before you attempt to apply Dencorub.
3/4 knicks – I was prepared to wear the Thermoskin, but the 3/4 knicks offer just enough support and added sun protection.
Arm warmers in Strava orange – the start was cool, but as I found in the Bobbo the arm warmers feel cool when the temperature increases. And they are UV-proof.
Arrogant Bastard Ale jersey – to stand out from the crowd and as a conversation-starter.
Netti UV tube thing – I wore it to protect my neck, but it has 21 other uses, apparently.
Preparation of mind
You’ve got to enjoy it. There’s is little point going hard without taking in the sights, sounds and sensations of the ride. My mate Christopher saw an Antechinus on the Amy’s Ride in March. Don’t keep your head down and miss something like that.
If like me you are slightly unprepared physically, you must make it up with brain. Don’t let the steep climbs grind you down.
Nurse the first third
The experienced riders watch the guns take off, safe in the knowledge that they will overtake the exhausted shells of the fallen. No matter how fit you are, take it easy for the first third. At that point you will have an idea of how the rest of the day will fare.
Its been a long time coming. Back in 2012 I ordered a Tesla Motors Model S, on the day they were announced. I believe that my car was order #69 in the world, and at the time there was no guarantee when – or if – they’d be sold in Australia.
A few weeks ago, and around 60,000 Model S vehicles later, my shiny new Pearl White and Carbon Fibre Black P85+ is finally in its home in Adelaide, South Australia.