andy: 2011年5月アーカイブ

What is it that draws me to Isonobe? Other climbs are nearer. Komura Pass or Ishikawa Pass can be reached in about 20 minutes. Isonobe takes about 45. Staying closer to home I could get more climbing done in less time. But Isonobe isn't just any climb.

I've said it before, if you can climb Isonobe, you can climb any hill. You can't just ride it. You have to take it on. Take it head on. Attack the steepness. Fight the roughness. Drive through the tight hairpins.

You'll never beat Isonobe. In fact you'll never feel comfortable on the climb. That's what draws me to it. It'll work me over and I'll be all the stronger for it.

I was feeling good on the way out today. Nice smooth pedaling. Fully recovered from TOITO. Time to fine tune the engine. Get the spark back for Tsugaike.

Today I do two climbs of Isonobe:

Climb No.1 – intervals. I did a ratio of 1:2, 40 seconds hard / 80 seconds easy. Isonobe is great for intervals. You feel like Pantani for a few seconds. But reality and the gradient hit you, the legs start to burn and you are praying for the time to elapse.

Heart rate doesn't have time to respond to intervals. At the end of the work interval, the heart rate rises to about 180. It continues to rise a few beats even after you ease off. Then it starts to fall. How low can you go? Not very low on Isonobe! By the time it drops to 160 or so, it's time to go again. 10 sets today.

Climb No.2 – 170HR keep. Again easily done on Isonobe. I was pleased to make use of a few gears today. A good sign. As the gradient eases near the top I put it in the big ring and kept it there all the way to the top.

Armstrong named his TREK “Madone” after his favorite climb. Maybe I should name my VITUS “Isonobe”. I'm certainly enjoying climbing on this bike. Usually it gets overlooked for hillclimbs in favor of my lighter carbon bike. Maybe I'll give VITUS a run out at Tsugaike this year....


Today's training: Isonobe x 2

Climb 1 – intervals 40s hard / 80 s easy x 10 sets
Climb 2 – 170 HR keep

(75 km, 900 m climbing)

weath wind1.JPG

As cyclists we are always watching the weather. Checking weather websites constantly. Planning our weekly rides. Planning the best time to ride in a given day.

If one website tells us “rain”, we'll check another one. Always go with the best forecast!

“My mobile says 70%”
“Nah! Mine says only 40!”.

It rained all day yesterday. Rain forecast today too. However, I found a little weather window 4:30 to 6:30AM!

Last night, after an afternoon of LSD (long slow drinking), I put Luke to bet at 7:30. As sometimes happens, that was good night for me too. Next thing I know it's midnight and the whole house is dark.

Up at 4:30. Check the weather. Dry on the ground, looking dodgy above. On the bike at 4:40.

Out to Takayanagi. Feeling good. Look down at the watch occasionally, 100 cadence. Rollers do that for you.

Isonobe. Today's plan? 170 HR keep. Not difficult to do on Isonobe.

150HR up to the river. The road picks up. 155, 160, 165. Right hairpin. Road eases off. Paris~Roubaix like road surface. 160 HR. Left hairpin. Steep all the way from here. 170 HR by the next hairpin. Find the rhythm. 170 all the way through the village. The road levels. Into the big ring. The valley opens into the basin. A headwind now. The road rises again. But this is easy compared to what came before. It takes discipline to keep going hard now. Tempting to ease off. This is where your computer is important. 160,161,162.... 170 again. Goal.

Back to Kashiwazaki. Need to be back by 6:45. Nice pace. Pass Enosan's place. The rain starts. Mt. Yoneyama is lost in the clouds. It's really raining now. Not long to go. The bypass. The turn. The river. The bridge. Home.

Shower, breakfast, off to work....


Monday's asaren: Isonobe x 1 (58 km, 500 m climbing, 29 kmph)


It takes something a bit special to get me on the rollers at this time of year.

Underworld. The best training music there is. You don't really need to listen to a compilation like this one. Any album alone is good enough.

1.Cowgirl - bike set up

Dust down the rollers. 4 bottles of ice cold water. 11 towels (one for each song). Cowgirl gets me ready.

2.Pearls Girl - warm up

It takes longer to raise the heart rate than it did on the winter rollers. It's not a lethargic rise suggesting overtraining or tiredness, just more gradual. In the summer months the heart rate rises quickly due to the heat. It's hot in the garage. The slow build up is due to increased fitness gained on the road these last few months.

3.Born Slippy - 150 HR
4.Jumbo - 150 HR

In the winter, it's easy to get to and hold this HR. Now I have to work harder. I'm always in the 53×12 biggest gear, so the only way to go harder, is to spin faster.

5.Push Up - 155 HR
6.Moaner - 155 HR

Who decided to put these two songs back to back? They're powerful enough to send me bouncing off the rollers and drowning in my pool of sweat! Luckily, the ceiling is 155HR. These two songs could be put to better use later in the session really. They way they both build up is just fantastic.

Pushing, pushing, pushing, PUUUSH!

7.K.O.S. - 140 ~ 170 criss cross HR

Getting up to 170 HR is tricky. A cadence of 120 plus is necessary. The bike starts to bounce. Ready to take off. It requires skill. Concentrate of pedaling form. Concentrate on distributing weight evenly over the bike.

8.8 Ball - 150 HR
9.2 Months Off - 150 HR

These two songs slow everything right down. Underworld usually do everything full pelt. But they do have a few songs like this that are good to ride tempo too.

10.Big Mouth - 160 HR

One reason I like Underworld songs is because they have a decent vocal to accompany the pounding music. This song doesn't have the vocal but it does have a rasping blues harmonica Great music to accompany this interval.

11.Dirty 150 HR

I could keep going but the sweat loss takes it's toll. It's important not to get carried away at this time of year.

Warm down. A cold shower. Still sweating. Like the heat of summer.

I've got a booze up this afternoon. Need to put the sweat back in. Milk, orange juice and lot of water......

Sunday's training: Rollers - ride to the music

Underworld's 1992 ~ 2002

1. Cowgirl - bike set up
2. Pearls Girl - warm up
3. Born Slippy - 150 HR
4. Jumbo - 150 HR
5. Push Up - 155 HR
6. Moaner - 155 HR
7. K.O.S. - 140 ~ 170 criss cross HR
8. 8 Ball - 150 HR
9. 2 Months Off - 150 HR
10. Big Mouth - 160 HR
11. Dirty 150 HR

80 mins total


Up at 4:45. Some cereal, orange juice. On the road by 5:00. Meet Kitano san at the Handa 7-11 at 5:10. Always willing to get up early to train. Great training partner!

“How about the mountains?”
“How about Ogami Dake?”

We rode out to Komura Pass two abreast. Talking over last week's race. What went well. What we could try next time.

Komura Pass. I've climbed it 5 times this week. 5 different ways but all at tempo pace. No tempo pace today! Kitano san's on the front. Big ring. I found it difficult to get my heart rate up in the week. Not today. 150, 155, 160, 165, 175, 180 by the first hairpin. He's flying! I'd never be going this hard on my own. The gradient eases off a bit. Breathe deep. Keep close. HR down to 165. The gradient picks up again. 180. Holding on. Thank god it doesn't get any steeper. The gradient eases off again. My favorite part. I can't sit on all the way to the summit. My turn on the front. 185 HR. When was the last time I went this hard? Kusatsu?

The ideal training partner is someone who can push you but you can push them too. Great training partner!


Over the top. Roll up the arm warmers. Next up Ogami Dake.

Ogami Dake. We ride shoulder to shoulder for the first three spikes. Like two young boys playing with the volume control on the car stereo, we try to get the pace how we want it. I'm at 170 HR for each climb. That's the benefit of raising your heart rate once, you are always ready to go again.

Onto the last steep drag. I find my rhythm today. With the aerobars off, I can get the cadence up to about 70. If this was a race, I'd use compact cranks but this is training, and good training at that. It's raining on the way up and feels great. My turn to dish it out.

Rather than take the dirty road down to Sakurazaka Pass, we opt for the long descent to Yoshikawa town. What a great road this is. Long enough and hard enough to be a hillclimb race. We're descending it today though. It'll have to wait till next time.


The road to Kawatani is really pretty with lots of old beautiful farm houses. Old wooden school buildings with no children to fill them. After the abandoned onsen, the gradient picks up. A tricky concrete section and then some really steep sections. The first time for Kitano san to ride this road. He seemed to like it!

Asahi no sato and up to Ishiguro. The road is really rough through here. But the steepest sections have been resurfaced. It's a strange feeling to speed up as the gradient increases. It just goes to show the importance of road / bike contact.

At the top of the climb, as we often do when we bridge together, we compared heart rates:

Andy “177”
Kitano san “180”

Similar in fitness. Kitano san is a few years younger than me. Often a few beats apart.


Isonobe. Check the clock. 3h 20 mins. Like the decisive climb in a Tour stage! The pros drop the hammer here. I was happy to hold 170~175 HR to the top.

Takayanagi to Kahiwazaki. 40 kmph. In the drops. Like TOITO all over again.....

This is the type of training that makes you stronger. The heavy snow fall this year has held us back longer than usual but now we are raring to go. The engine is good. A bit of fine tuning and I should be good to go at Tsugaike...


Saturday's asaren: Komura Pass ~ Ogami Dake ~ Yoshikawa ~ R241 ~ Kawatani ~ Asahi no sato ~ Ishiguro ~ Takayanagi ~ Isonobe

(123 km, 2100 m climbing)


When Komura Pass opened last week it also opened the gateway to Ogami Dake. The steep road up to the top of Ogami Dake has likely been open for some time as it is an access road for the paragilders. However, the heavy snowfall on Komura Pass has prevented it being accessed from the Kashiwazaki side.

Ogami Dake and Isonobe are the two hardest climbs around Kashiwazaki. Isonobe is relentless from bottom to top and can be climbed in 18,19, 20 minutes. Ogami Dake has a few approaches. From the dam it takes about 30 minutes. There are three steep climbs followed by three steep descents before the long steep drag to the top. The final few hundred metres are the steepest as the road turns to concrete usually forcing you out of the saddle with all you have left.

Today was my first climb of Ogami Dake this year. Up at 4:50. On the road by 5:00. I was surprised to find the road wet and the air cool. It drizzled lightly for the entire ride. The kind of rain that wakes you up, rather than slows you down.


Komura Pass, a decent climb in itself, is only a warm up when Ogami Dake is on the cards. Up to the top. 30 minutes on the clock. The sweeping descent to the dam.

Ogami Dake. It doesn't mess about. Steep from the start. Through the hairpins. Crest the ridge. Another long fast descent. Pick up some water. Take a left. Steep again. The steepest part? Another long descent. Another left. Another steep rise. The paragliders' landing area. From here it's uphill all the way to their take off ramp. Steep too. The bike is still weighed down from TOITO (aerobars, deep rims, spare tubulars). 38 × 27 but it's difficult to get out of the 60s cadence bracket. Not too hard today. Keep the heart rate aerobic.

From the top I took the winding descent down to Sakuaraza Pass. First thing you notice is the snow. Not much sun touches this side of the mountain. And then the landslides. One after another. About 10 in total. The mud and rocks have been scraped off the road and dumped over the edge like mud off a hikers boot. There's still a crusty clay mix on the road though. Have to be careful. Perhaps this road is best left till summer.

Sakurazaka Pass was barriered off. Likely to be even worse down there so I took on the rough surfaced steep rolling terrain around Asahi no sato. A few of the steeper sections have been resurfaced which was a nice surprise.

Back home, a shower, breakfast and off to work. Does asaren get any better than this?


Friday's asaren: Komura Pass ~ Ogami Dake ~ Asahi no sato ~ Ishiguro loop

(70 km, 1350 m climbing)


Back in to the hills today. It's been a while since I've been focusing on climbing. 4 climbs of Komura Pass.


Climb 1: Easy pace.

Rode the climb to see how I was feeling. Not quite recovered yet. Not ready for any hard efforts. Decided that I would pass up on high end work like race pace, lactate climbing or intervals. Today I will do some aerobic work.

Climb 2: 38 × 27

This is a gear I wouldn't normally use on this climb. Too light. But this effort is all about spin, spin, spin.

Climb 3: Standing (151 HR AV)

I would never imagine I could climb the entire length of this pass out of the saddle but I'm really getting into these out of the saddle efforts. It's all about controlling the effort. Getting a good rhythm going. Lightly rocking the handlebars. Stretching the back. I'll be trying this out on Yahiko next chance I have.

Climb 4: Big gear, 53×24 / 53×21 (146 HR)

Likewise, I would never have imagined I could climb this pass in the big ring. Again it's all about controlling the effort. Concentrating on form. It feels great to slow down and listen to the birds, the streams, the animals in the bushes....


I got a nice taste of climbing today. Maybe take a rest tomorrow and then do some asaren in the mountains on Friday and over the weekend....

Wednesday's training:

Komura Pass x 4 (80 km, 1100 m climbing)


Outrun. Sega (1986). A legend in racing games, still to be found in seafront arcades up and down the UK, the sit-down Ferrari version was more than a game; it was an experience.

A real self-centering steering wheel, two gears, great music and even wind in your hair - this game had it all.

Surely no explanation is needed, put pedal to the metal and don't collide with trees, signs or other drivers.

Complete a level and you get more time, it's really that simple.


As a kid growing up in the 80s I used to love Outrun and used to dream of driving a Ferrari up the coastline of California with my girlfriend's hair blowing in the wind.....

I'm still living the dream!

These days I do it by bicycle, pedaling up and down the Sea of Japan coast, exhilarated, liberated, battling the wind in my face, loving the wind on my back.

How lucky we are to have this gorgeous road running up from Kashiwazaki to Niigata and beyond.


I'm still in recovery mode so I took it easy again today. Doubled the distance but kept the intensity the same.

A strong head wind on the way out so I was spinning the 53×24 / 53×27 to keep the heart rate down.

The strong tailwind on the way back makes the effort worthwhile and sends my mind wandering back to lost summer evenings playing Outrun in the arcades of Newquay, Cornwall...


Tuesday's training: coastline spin (87 km, 250 m climbing, 30 kmph, 104 HR av)


It's very easy to focus on the training, the nutrition and the rest that are required leading up to a race. But just as much attention needs to be paid to those few days after.

A race like TOITO really takes it out of you. For me it's not just the obvious tired legs. I'm always messed up inside (the crap you eat and drink in a race and the booze that flows afterwards will do that to you) and feel lethargic yet struggle to sleep (the adrenalin still floating around the system).

My focus now shifts to two races in June, Tsugaike hill climb and Uchinada road race / team TT. A shift in training is necessary, namely hills. I'm eager to dive into this training but it's important to be ready. There is no sense entering this phase tired. I need to refuel, rest and recover.

Since TOITO I've been refuelling with some big meals. I took a rest yesterday and did a recovery spin today.

Keep the gears high, the cadence high, the hear rate low, the body relaxed and focus on breathing and getting oxygen to those tired muscles....

Monday's training: Nota spin (40 km, 100 HR Av)


Tokyo here we come!




Yanagi san's TT machine






Enosan gives everyone's bike the once over





the perfect prerace meal








Kitano san, 大丈夫かい?

CP3から大屋さんと柳沢さんのペースメーカーになりました。後ろは楽しそうでした。コンビニで水をもらっている間に二人はそのまま行ってしまいました。オイオイ! (笑)






Well done to everyone who took part in the 40th edition of Tokyo ~ Itoigawa. Like every year, it was a great couple of days.

We left Kashiwazaki at Friday lunchtime on the じょんのび magic bus. It was 30 degrees outside and even hotter on the bus. Ohya san and I had necked two beers before we even got onto the highway at Ojiya! Anything for a good afternoon nap!

At the hotel we checked out our bikes, took a bath, had dinner, did the usual meeting and the usual beer...

The man who I'm counting on tomorrow, Kitano san, he's drank so much he's unconcious! Hey mate, tomorrow's the real deal!

On race day, up at 4, breakfast, a morning bath, and ride down to the start area. 5:55 is the last starting time and the starting time of last year's fastest finishers.

Our basic plan was that I would pull on the flats and rolling terrain, Kitano san would pull on the climbs, and we'd ignore any attacks and stay together.


じょんのび support team - Okaasan, Iku chan and Mark

From the start there is a climb straight away. I set the pace from the foot of the pass. Keeping the intensity just right, on the aerobars, 150 HR, 90 cadence. As the road steepens, Kitano san came onto the front. Into the small ring, hill climb mode (Kitano san stayed in the big ring for the whole climb and I'm guessing the whole race!).

At the top of the pass there was still about 10 of us together. Kitano san and I took turns pulling the group along. Tom and a Nalsima guy would come to the front occasionally too.

Sugawara san, just like last year, seemed intent on attacking and escaping. I didn't think he could make it alone, so didn't pay much attention to his efforts. As we approached the climb to CP1 he got the break he wanted. From the check point, Kondo san also took a flying start. I thought if the pair of them get together maybe they could do something, so I raised the the pace a little.

After the tunnel the road is super fast. I rode hard to get to the riders up front. Tom also got away on the downhill and unfortunately we had to swallow him up in pursuit of the other two. When we got up to Kondo san and Sugawara san, they were indeed working together.

The group was all back together. The riders who I had my eye on were all there. Time to slow things down. Again Kitano san and I did all the pulling. When no one else is making the effort on the front you have to be careful not to over cook it. “Keep it easy, keep it easy”.

I spoke with Kitano san, “if it stays like this, let's try to get away on Fujimi Pass”.

As expected Sugawara san tried to get away at CP2. Kondo san was hot on his heels. This kind of riding was helping me do exactly what I wanted to do and break up the group. We passed Kondo san on the first climb up from the check point. With Tom and Kaneko san, we were a foursome. By the top of the second climb it was just me and Kitano san, with Sugawara san somewhere up the road.

In last years TOITO I met and passed Sugawara san on Fujimi Pass. I was hoping it would be like that again this year.

As we approached the pass, I spotted him in the distance. Swerving in the road, looking back. He's waiting for us. Before we made the catch we went over it again, “take it easy to the foot of the pass, once we are there let's attack it like we do on Yahiko...”

We became a threesome. At the foot of the pass Kitano san came onto the front to set the pace. Then my turn. Up the effort. Lot's of people on the climb. “Ganbatte! Ganbatte!”. Look back and there's a gap. It's now or never. Fujimi Pass is always longer than you expect. A great place to cause some damage.

I looked back to see the gap widening. It was such a shame that we hadn't dropped him together. On his own, Kitano san could bridge to me but he didn't want to tow Sugawara san along. I really appreciate such selflessness and hope I can repay him some day soon.

At the top of the pass the wind had turned into a headwind. Chance! Time to put the foot down. I went as hard as I could and was at over 160HR even on the descents. Time for a 170 km individual TT!


the results are in

At CP3 I met Ohya san and Yanagi san. I became their pace maker all the way to Omachi. They seemed to be having fun at the back. So much so that when I stopped at a 7-11 to fill the bottles they carried on regardless! Hey! Hey!

After CP4 I started to get cramps. The first time for me in this race as I usually pace myself well and fuel myself well for the duration. Nothing to do but eat, drink, eat, drink and spin a lighter gear on the climbs.

I got to Itoigawa in 8h 44mins, which got me first place. Considering the slow start, the heat and the strong wind at the end, I'm pleased with it. Next year I'll be back to break 8h30!

じょんのびTIME guys, thanks for a fun filled weekend!


official certificate

(POLAR HR DATA: 8 h 17 mins, 149 AV HR, 292 km, 34.1kmph, 86 cadence, 2465 m climbing, 5497 kcal)


After yesterday’s stage of the Giro d’ Italia, pink jersey holder Alberto Contador announced, “This Giro could be won in the hotel”.

As leader of the race he has presentations, press conferences, interviews… all these get in the way of his rest. It’s the same for us every day amateurs too. Work and family influence how much we get to rest up well.

I was talking to my sister, a mother of a 3 and 5 year old, yesterday on the phone. “You sound tired” I said, “I’ve been tired for 5 years!” she said.

For me, I’m always looking for those bits of spare time outside work and family to get on the bike and train. However, these next couple of days, I’m looking to use those bits of time to rest. Some early nights? A sleep on the bus tomorrow?

Active rest is also important. I like to do 20 minutes in the bath. Followed by a leg massage. After which I rub in some tiger balm. Go to bed and sleep with feet raised on a couple of pillows.

Food is important too. People talk of carbo-loading, but I’m pretty sure I’m carbo-loading all the time! A healthy diet, perhaps a bit more than usual, and plenty of fluids are the order of the day.

Hoping to be fresh and raring to go at 5:55 Saturday morning…..


They say a picture tells a thousand words.

A two week biking holiday in the French Alps? Nah, a Wednesday morning commute in rural Japan!

Yesterday I was working up the coast. Today I was working out in the hills. Some people have to put in a lot of time, money and effort to get to roads like these. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful cycling opportunities right on my doorstep.


Commuting is a great way to get your training in while travelling to work. Kill two birds with one stone. But it’s more than that. A bit of exercise before work makes the working day that much easier. The ride home makes the bath and beer so much more enjoyable too.


May is the best time of year to be out on your bike. Get out there and enjoy it!

Two more short commuting days this week but I'll be doing nothing more than that. Time to rest and refresh...


Wednesday's training: Kashiwazaki ~ Nota ~ Ishiguro ~ Takayanagi (return)

(70 km, 750 m climbing)


“How much is too much?”, this is often a question I ask myself as I lead up to a race.
I love to ride and ride pretty much every day. I listen to my body and slow down when necessary.

However, with a race on the horizon, you have to force yourself to slow down even though you don't really want to.

Maybe the question should be “How hard is too hard?”. 80 km today, but these were 80 easy kilometres. Down by the coast. Keeping an eye on heart rate. Trying to keep it around the 110 mark.

I did one short hard effort on the climb behind the power station on the way back. 32 kmph / 163 HR max.

I'll ride in the hills tomorrow as part of my Takayanagi commute. Thursday and Friday will be total rest. AJ on Saturday!


Tuesday's training: coast road ~ Teradomari return

(80 km, 200 m climbing, 31.5kmph, 110 / 163 HR av / max)


2007, a flat tyre, a thunderstorm, split times on the top tube help to motivate in times like these…

Reviewing data from races can tell you a lot about how you rode the race. It can also help you to plan how to ride it next time round.

Every year as we get close to Tokyo ~ Itoigawa, I review past data. I think about how to ride it: the heart rate, the cadence, the speed…

2010 Official result:
8:31:58, 34.17 kmph (Polar HR data: 8:00:25, 297.4 km, 37.1 kmph, 89 cadence, 2460m climbing, 5466 kcal, 151 AV HR, 185 MAX HR)

2009 Official result:
8:51:26 / 32.92kmph (Polar HR data: 8:19, 33.2 kmph, 86 cadence, 152 AV HR, 184 MAX HR)

2008 Official result:
8:34 / 34 kmph (Polar HR data: 8:16, 34.2 kmph, 89 cadence, 151 AV HR, 181 MAX HR)


2010, stop

The similarities in data are obvious:

Average heart rate: 151, 152, 151
Average cadence: 89, 86, 89

This is the data to aim at.

In a hill climb, it’s easy to remain focused on a sustained level of exertion (usually I aim for 180 HR / 80 cadence for efforts of an hour or less).

In longer events such as TOITO, it’s possible to do the same on long drags such as the long straight incline up to Omachi. However, for the large part, it’s difficult to aim at specific values when the terrain is rolling and your activity stop / starting.

Focusing on these values is done not in the race, but in training.

In the winter, on the rollers, an hour or so at this specific HR and cadence is part of my staple training. This does two things:

1. It trains the body to be comfortable at this level of exertion.
2. It trains the body to know how hard to go, to feel the effort. Without looking at the computer, I should be able to maintain a similar level of output.


and go…

A 300km race is not rocket science. Basically you have to know what effort you can sustain for the duration. Moreover, you need to know how to fuel this effort with food and liquids. Finally you need motivation. Split times on the top tube give you something to aim at.

Can’t wait for Saturday!


The other day at Enosan's shop we were talking, “When will Komura Pass open?”, “Ishikawa Pass open?”, Sakurazaka Pass open?”

The passes around Kashiwazaki close when the first snow falls and open when the last snow melts. There is no snow ploughing these roads. These are single lane winding passes, usually a few kilometres in length and a few hundred metres in height gain. Not important enough to spend money ploughing. Free of traffic in the warmer months. Great training roads.

Once the snow melts, the roads are cleaned of debris and the inevitable land slides mostly by hand. The guard rails are then erected and the roads reopened to traffic.

Today I rode to the foot of Komura Pass. The hillside looking green on the approach. Maybe it's open? A little closer. Still barriered off. But wait, what's that sign say? “Cleaning in progress. Sorry for the inconvenience”.

Inconvenience? Thanks for the invitation! Sunshine. A spotless road. No cars (not that there ever are anyway!). A red carpet! VIPs only!

Next week I'll be hammering up his road. 180HR. Shifting through the gears. Trying to beat my best time.

Today was a recovery spin but I couldn't resist the chance to climb in these conditions. Into the easiest gear. 38 × 27. Spin, spin, spin. 130 / 140 HR. Perfect!

The road is spotless but the guard rails aren't up yet. If you have the chance, check it out!


Monday's training:

Recovery ride: bike to work / Komura Pass spin (45 km, 350 m climbing)


the sun is out, the sky is blue, there are no clouds, to spoil the view, and it's training, training in my heart....

Despite an afternoon of LSD (long slow drinking) yesterday, my body clock had me up at 5am on the dot. Out of the pajamas. Into cycling shorts and jersey. Apple in one pocket. Danish pastry in another. (Luke ate all the bananas!). A bottle of mugi cha. Pump up the tyres. 5:10 start.

Three 5am starts in a row. Back in the asaren groove.

Drop off last night's unwatched DVD at Tsutaya. Find myself on R8 and then R116. Horrible in rush hour, great in the morning. Rolling terrain. Climbing easy enough for the big ring. Descending fast enough to tighten helmet straps.

After yesterday's hard effort, I took it easy today. Nice high cadence. Enjoy the sunrise and the early morning shadows. A coffee boost at the Save On in Teradomari. Back before 8am. A day trip to the kids' park and onsen in Takayanagi.

Time to ease off now. Bike commuting, short spins and some rest....

Sunday's asaren: 116 ~ Teradomari ~ coast road loop

(85 km, 250 m climbing, 32.1 kmph)


When I woke up this morning I didn't say “What a great day for breaking records!”, I said “Listen to that bloody wind!”.

A wind stronger than yesterday!

Today I did the じょんのび200 course with Kitano san. Like Flanders for Roubaix, this is our warm up for Tokyo~Itoigawa every year. A course designed with TOITO in mind and with all that makes TOITO tough.

This is a dress rehearsal. Kit the bike up the same as race day. The same clothes as race day. The same preparation the night before. The same early wake up. The same breakfast. Constantly eating. Constantly drinking. Race pace.

We met at the start at 5:00. Wheels rolling at 5:11. With the ferocious headwind we decided this would be a day for training. Fighting the wind. Going the distance.


Kashiwazaki ~ Arai

The sign on Yoneyama bridge said “wind speed 10m/s”. 50 km to Arai. Time to knuckle down. The head wind was strong all the way to Kakizaki. We took the turn for Arai. I was dreading this stretch. Open. Exposed. Pan cake flat. There can be a side wind here on the calmest of days. The pros form echelons. The amateurs get blown into rice fields...

Luckily it wasn't so bad and we made good speed rotating all the way. At the first CP we were just 2 or so minutes down on the best time we set last year.


Arai ~ Nagano

This is my favorite part of the course. The stairway to Nagano prefecture. Kitano san paced me up the climbs. I paced him through the flats. This is a pattern, though not pre-discussed, we followed for the entire route. It worked really well. We always gel well together but today was exceptional. Hopefully we can ride like that in TOITO too.


Nagano ~ Tsunan

This is the hardest part of the course. Usually the wind is blowing down this valley right at you. But today as we headed back home from the halfway point, the wind was on our back. I've never enjoyed this road so much. We made record time on this section.


Tsunan ~ Kashiwazaki

We rode the pass between Tokamachi and Takayanagi at a sensible pace keeping our energy for the last haul. Saving yourself on the climbs and going hard on the flats and rolling terrain is a good strategy for long distance endurance events. At Takayanagi, I checked the watch, we had a chance to beat last years' time. I ride this road to work regularly so I have time splits for various landmarks implanted in my brain. It was touch and go. I rode as hard as I could. Somewhere en route Kitano san lost contact. As I entered Kashiwazaki the headwind was really strong. Despite the wind, I was feeling strong and good on the bike – a good sign.



I made the goal with two minutes to spare. Promised myself 1 beer per minute and knocked them back in no time.  This course answers a lot of questions you are asking yourself before a race such as TOTO. Feel more at ease now....

Kitano san, いつもありがとうね。来週も頑張りましょう!


Start: 5:11 / Goal: 11:41 (6:30)

(Polar HR data: 212 km, 142 / 169 HR av/max, 33.4 kmph, 86 cadence, 19C, 1615 m climbing, 3875 kcal)

course guide

official results

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Luke George. 2 years old today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Up at just before 5 this morning. Last night's heavy wind had made way for strong winds. I went outside to check the weather. The plan was a 2.5h Teradomari loop down by the sea. In that wind I'd be there in no time but would really struggle to get back. Change of plan. A 2h Takayanagi loop in the hills. Chance for 30 more minutes in bed.

On the road at 530. What a wind. A super strong westerly Up the right hand side of the Nota valley, a little protection from the side wind coming from the right.

Into Nota. Komura Toge opens up the natural barrier. Like a hurricane! Head wind, side wind, tail wind. It takes concentration to keep the bike upright.

Up the pass to Ukawa. 13% with a headwind! Great!

Next up the tunnel. A wind tunnel. I don't know the science behind it. Sucked in. 50 kmph. Fire out the other end like a Champagne cork. Downhill. Blast of a headwind. Hard to keep 30 kmph on the down hill.

Ishiguro to Takayanagi. The wind's on my back now. Up and down. Big ring. Aerobars. Fabian Cancellara.

Takayanagi to Kashiwazaki. Side wind again. This time on the left. Watch the landscape. Prepare for blasts from the side.

These days winds don't bother me like they used to. Maybe I'm stronger. Or maybe just heavier!

Friday's asaren: Takayanagi loop (58 km, 465 m climbing, 30 kmph)

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It seems Yahiko is cancelled this year

But fear not there is a new hill climb race taking place in Tokamachi

And Mt. Akagi in Maebashi too.

Thanks for the info Suzuoto!

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Routine. One of the most important aspects of a training plan. Train at the same time each day. Teach the body to know when to go hard, when to take it is easy and how to recover. If you can, train at the same time you race. Within a 24 hour cycle, your body has various states. Ready to perform. Ready to rest.

In the winter, I do most of my training at night on the rollers. The body gets used to this. Expects it. Night after night on the cold balcony.

In the warmer months, this routine is turned on its head. Asaren. Ride before the kids get up. Ride before it's too hot. The body gets used to this too. No need to set the alarm when you have a 5am body clock.

This week, a combination of bad weather and a heavy work schedule mean I've been grabbing scraps of training time. Asaren. Night time rollers. The body gets confused. Reluctant to perform.

Tonight I got on the rollers at 8 o'clock. Looked at the HR on the computer. 41. Almost asleep. The plan was to do an hour at 150HR. Usually it takes 10 minutes to warm up to this. Tonight the body was having non of it. Sitting comfy in the 130s.

I ditched the plan and went for an hour at 55 kmph instead. The Strokes turned up loud to keep me company.

Weather looks good from tomorrow. Weather permitting, I want to switch back into asaren mode. Ready for an early start for a 200km ride on Saturday.

Thursdays training:

Ride to the music – The Strokes

55 kmph target x 60 mins

(54 km, 54 kmph, 101 cadence, 132 HR)


I was working in Takayanagi today. Any time I'm working there it's a chance to ride. Time spent in the car is dead time when you could be riding there. Heavy rain today. I don't mind riding in the rain. So long as you are careful. Avoid traffic as much as possible. The post ride bike clean and dealing with the shoes etc are a pain but it's always worth it in the end.


I raced back home for my night job. I'm working 3 nights this week. Got back tonight and reached for the bike before the beer. Back into wet shoes. 1 hour on the rollers. Turn the computer off. Turn the lights down low. Turn the music up loud. Badly Drawn Boy's Hour of the Bewilderbeast. From start to finish, enjoyed every song.....

Wednesday's training:

1.Takayanagi loop (60 km, 450 m climbing)

2.Rollers – ride to the music - Badly Drawn Boy's Hour of the Bewilderbeast (1 hour)


Not much time for training today. A bike commute and 30 mins to play with on the local Shindou climb. 6 climbs in 30 minutes.

Climb 1 - 53 × 21 sitting
Climb 2 - 53 × 21 standing
Climb 3 - 53 × 19 sitting
Climb 4 - 53 × 19 standing

For these big gear climbs in the saddle you really have to grind the gear. It's tempting to put weight into the downstroke and rock the upper body to get the speed out. But it's not about speed. Try to keep a smooth pedal stroke. A relaxed upper body. Like a duck on the water.

Out of the saddle, again it's all about a smooth motion and pacing your effort for the climb.

Climb 5 - 38 × 23 spinning

The lightest gear on the bike today. Try to spin the highest cadence possible. 90 ~ 100 in this gear on this climb.

Climb 6 - 38 × 19 aerobars

Like Jan Ullrich on Alpe de Huez, time trialling on the aerobars. Not sure there's much aero benefit but I want to stay on the bars as much as possible for Tokyo ~ Itoigawa so good form practice for that.

Can't remember my last rest day off the bike so maybe it's time for one tomorrow. Looks like rain too....

Monday's training:

bike to work + Shindou climb x 6

(40 km, 600 m climbing)


This weekend has been a weekend of theme parks. Yesterday we went to Echigo Hillside Park in Nagaoka. Tulips of all colours are in full bloom. Luke and Ibuki got into the spirit of things doing a bit of Dutch “cosplay”. My requests for a “Dutch wife” were not deemed funny by the lady on reception...


It was a really hot day. Shinobu got the worst of it with a bit of heat stroke. She spent much of Saturday night at the hospital getting an IV drip. She seems to be getting better now though.

This meant I had to cancel today's 200 km ride. The final icing on the cake for TOITO will have to be done next weekend instead.


I traced a fair bit of the route in the car as I took Luke to Myoko Sunshine Land for the day. We were there from 930 in the morning to 230 and didn't even stop for lunch. Rides, rides, rides. It's amazing what some of the old guys operating the machines would let me and Luke ride on. I was feeling queezy but Luke just wanted “One more time! One more time!”

We got back at 4 to mum who was feeling much better. “Why don't you go for a ride?” When was the last time I heard this!? Being encouraged to go for a bike ride? I must be in the good books! I don't need to be asked twice...


Did a quick Takayanagi loop. This is standard bread and butter stuff for the cycling community in Kashiwazaki. Some hills, some flat, few cars, a natural spring, a shop... the perfect ride when you've got a couple of hours to spare.

I was only 20 minutes into the ride when I snapped a spoke on the climb above Ukawa. The third in the space of a couple of weeks. The wheel needs an overhaul. I opened the brake arch as far as it would go but the tyre was rubbing on the chainstay. Turn back or press on? Always press on!


A wobbly wheel, one brake and a swish swish noise all the way back to Kashiwazaki. And a crazy head wind too. A physical AND mental test!

I dropped the wheel of with Enosan tonight. How lucky we are to have Enosan there 24-7...

Sunday's evening spin: Takayanagi loop

(58 km, 450 m climbing, 32 kmph)


Up with the alarm at 5:00 this morning. Out of the pajamas. On with the cycling kit. Two bananas. One honnobi manju. Stuffed into the pockets. Two bottles of mugi cha. On to the bike. Look at the watch. 5:07. Faster than Superman in a phone box!


Want to be back by 7:30. Family trip to Echigo Hillside Park. Hard training recently, so was considering a rest. But tomorrow's weather looks a bit dodgy. If it's fine, we'll do the じょんのび 200km course, so I may regret riding today later.....

Anyway, nothing too hard today. Concentrating on form. Keeping low on the bike. High gears. Keep the cadence up. Keep the heart rate down.


Feel like I'm coming into good form now. At 76.5 kg, I'm 2 kg lighter than at Kusatsu. I can probably lose more still, but it's a good fighting weight for Tokyo~Itoigawa.

200km tomorrow?????

Saturday's asaren:

coast road ~ Teradomari ~ coast road

(82 km, 210 m climbing, 33.5 kmph, 88 cadence)


When it comes to dancing, I'm more Jon Travolta than Marco Pantani. I even took ballroom dancing lessons before we got married so that I could keep up with Shinobu (an excellent dancer with medals and certificates to prove it) on the dance floor at the party. In cycling, even on the steepest of hill climbs I try to remain seated as much as possible.

I've decided to try and improve in this area. My physique means that I should look towards Indurain, Boonen and Cancellara rather than Pantani, Miller or Contador for climbing inspiration. Certainly Boonen can get out of the saddle for the steep sections in the classics.

Today I did 10 1 minute out of the saddle climbing intervals on Isonobe. Out of the saddle, I immediately notice the effort in my quadriceps. I always feel that (unlike most cyclists) my quads are weaker than my hamstrings. Certainly this seems to be the case when working on the leg curl and leg extension machines in the gym during the winter.

I let my heart raise to about 170HR for each interval, concentrating on form and maintaining a steady effort.

I'm always looking for new, interesting and of course beneficial ways to take on a climb. I really enjoyed today's training.

Friday's training: Takayanagi loop + Isonobe

Isonobe climb: (60s standing / 60s sitting) x 10 sets

(68 km, 850 m climbing)


(75 km, 250 m climbing, 43 kmph)

Now that looks like the data of Fabian Cancellara on a Sunday morning coffee shop club ride. The fastest man on two wheels – Cervelo, Specialized, Trek, the bike doesn't matter to him! He's so fast. Last year, they tired to get him for “mechanical doping” in the form of a hidden motor in his bike.

When the UCI asked to check his bike after a race, Cancellara replied, “You should check my legs!”


That's not FC's data but mine, albeit with a bit of mechanical doping in the form of motor pacing. It's a rare treat to get Shinobu to pace me and how I love every minute of it.

We headed out to Teradomari on the back roads. The wind was a strong headwind so it was great to be tucked in behind the car.

Most people think the benefit of motor pacing is to be able to keep up to speed in a fast moving group. However, there is much more to it than this. Cruising behind the car at 55~60 kmph, 150 HR, 110 cadence is the easy part. Similar to riding the rollers really.

One great training benefit is to build the power to close a gap. Keeping up with the car after a traffic light changes to green or jumping on the back as it comes from behind.

Climbing is also great too. In the big ring. Try to keep as close as possible to get the greatest drafting benefit. Braking into corners going up hill. Shifting down (rather than up) if a gap starts to appear.

When a gap appears on the flat, it's onto the aerobars to close it. When dropped on a climb, there's no slacking over the summit but head down to close the gap.

Shinobu, although not a cyclist, understands this training very well. She knows she is pacing me, not pampering me. She is watching me all the time. If I'm having an easy time of it, she'll put her foot down. She's also good at keeping me on a leash at about 10m back. How she loves to watch me suffer!

Coming back on the coast road there was quite a bit of Golden Week traffic. I did about 50% of the ride back solo. With the wind on my back and the speed in my legs I could keep a nice high cadence and a speed of 40kmph plus quite easily.

We stopped for a family lunch at Tenryo no Sato. A great way to combine family time and cycling.

Thanks, Shinobu, Luke and Mark....


Thursday's training: motor pacing - Teradomari loop

(75 km, 250 m climbing, 43 kmph)


Directeur Sportif – LGW


Fighting the Golden Week traffic


Isonobe – before


and after


Classic Isonobe shot

Yesterday at the じょんのび BBQ, Suzuoto and I were talking about a few cycling business ideas....

One idea is to hold a cycling training camp in Takayanagi. The back drop being じょんのびonsen and Isonobe.

We could hire out some of the farm houses at the onsen. The target would be families who could enjoy the onsen and the childrens' play park.

We could get Murayama san in for some guest lecturing on hillclimbing and Enosan on bike maintenance.

Across the road from the onsen is Isonobe. Here we could put the theory into practice and maybe have a fun TT hillclimb event.

Today Suzuoto and I headed out to Isonobe and じょんのび onsen for a bit of a scouting mission.

Wednesday's training:

Kashiwazaki ~ Takayanagi ~ Isonobe (x2) ~ じょんのび onsen

Climb 1: Intervals (30 s hard / 90s easy) x 10 sets
Climb 2: 170 target HR

(42 km, 850 m climbing)

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Up at 5. Out of the door by 5:10. I was up till late watching a movie last night so was surprised how awake I felt this morning. The heart rate responded well and I cruised out to Teradomari.

A quick climb of Yahiko. Feeling strong on the flats and having fresh legs for a climb have little relation. Decided to take it easy up to the top aiming for 160 ~ 170 HR.

Raising your heart rate on Yahiko means that you are firing on all cyclinders on the way back home on the coast. Felt great today. 150 HR. 38,39,40 kmph.

Tuesday's asaren: coast road ~ Mt. Yahiko x 1 ~ coast road

(115 km, 800 m climbing, 32 kmph)


Back in Calexico tonight. Oh how much hotter it's got since I visited there last.

There are no air-conditioners or senpuki fans in Calexico. The environmentalist in me (an M.Sc in Environmental science no less) wouldn't have it any other way. I can't get past the irony of using electricity to cool you down when you are spinning out so many watts. If I was more mechanically minded I would find a way to wire the rollers up to a small motor to power a fan, a big screen TV and a small minibar. I'd make so much money I'd never have to work again, move to Calexico and ride my bike all day long....

No time to enjoy Calexico's blue skies today so I was limited to the trainer tonight. The music was wonderful as always. If I was a music critic I'd write all day long about how good this band are. In the days of itunes and ipods it's great to have an album when each song sounds better than the last and you don't want to it to end Check out the mini-documentary here.

Didn't empty the tank tonight as I want to get up for some early morning asaren. Easy on the Coronas tonight then....

Monday's training: Rollers - ride to the music - Calexico's carried to dust

140~150 HR / 100~110 cadence

(70 minutes, 63 km, 54 kmph, 143 HR AV)


(33 km, 850 m climbing, 27 kmph) that looks like the riding data of some French dude named Andre Du Bois. Living in his chateau at the base of Alpe d' Huez. Spending spring evenings sipping on vintage French wines and nibbling on fine cheeses. Up at the crack of dawn to tackle the hairpins of the Alp. Speed back down to the smell of fresh croissants and coffee from the kitchen and the sounds of Luc George and Marc Nicholas rising in the boudoir.......


Nope it's some British lad living in rural Japan. Spending evenings knocking back cheap happoshu like it's going out of fashion and munching on mixed nuts. Up with the sun and out of the door without a sound. 10 climbs of the little pass up the road. Back in time for cereal, toast, fruit and of course fresh coffee.....


Ten climbs this morning:

Climb 1: 53 × 27
Climb 2: 53 × 24
Climb 3: 53 × 21
Climb 4: 53 × 19
Climb 5: 53 × 17

I was happy to see my heart rate go over my lactate threshold 170HR quite easily. A lighter training load and a good sleep pattern in the last couple of weeks are to thank for this. Criss -crossing this threshold is important training.

I was also interested to see that the first 3 repeats yielded similar speed and heart rate and only a drop in cadence. In recent years I've been spinning a lighter gear for hill climbs. Partly a conscious choice and partly influenced by the ever easier gear ratios 23 > 25 > 27 > compact cranks. Maybe I should target a heavier gear in hill climb races, particularly at the start where it's important to push hard to follow wheels.

Climb 6: dancing out of the saddle
Climb 7: dancing out of the saddle

I'm very much a seated rider. Relying of shifts in gears and cadence to follow wheels or spring attacks. I've pretty much resigned myself to this style of riding but maybe I should work on out of the saddle efforts more.


Climb 8: intervals (30s hard / 60s easy) x 3 sets
Climb 9: intervals (40s hard / 60s easy) x 3 sets

The basic starting point for intervals is a work interval followed by a rest interval of 3 times the duration. This is often 30s hard / 90s easy. To make intervals harder, you can shorten the rest period or lengthen the work period.

For climb 8 I did a rest interval of 2 times the work interval. Less time to recover, time to go again.

For climb 9 I increased the work interval by 10 seconds. Need to dig that little deeper to complete the interval.

Climb 10: full gas

After a varied training session such as this, it's hard to know how to go “full gas”. Based on feel alone, I went as hard as I could for the last climb of the day.

Sunday's asaren:

Shindou climb x 10

(33km, 850 m climbing, 27 kmph)


In the evening I had a quick spin on the rollers. With nothing much in mind I turned the Super Furry Animals' Fuzzy Logic up loud and aimed for 140~150 HR / 100~110 cadence. I was happy to see an average speed of 55kmph for the 40 min ride. Speed on the rollers is only relative but gives you a good yardstick for measuring your progress over the season.

Sunday evening training:

Rollers - ride to the music – SFA's fuzzy logic

(40 mins, 143 AV HR, 36.9 km, 55.3 kmph)


Musical motivation: SFAs - God! Show me magic.....



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