I found my limits yesterday, today I surpassed them. And died.
It's amazing how driving in the mountains changes your perspective. At first I was cycling up an incline, then that incline became the new horizontal for me. Then another incline appeared, and I got used to that too. Then another one appeared and I started to wonder why it was suddenly so hard for me to cycle on a flat road. Then I looked back and realized what I was doing.
I was standing on this slope, exhausted, out of breath, and decided to take a break. I started to wonder if it was just my stamina that sucked, and then I saw a squad(?) of cyclists pass me by, suffering and barely making progress. That cheered me up a little. But not for long.
I finally reached a point where I was completely and utterly empty. The slope became so high that no matter if I cycled or pushed the (really heavy) bicycle, I would reach the end of my energy in less than a minute. And there was no end to it! After every corner another even steeper incline appeared. I couldn't go on and just parked my bicycle at the side of the road and sat down. I didn't want to go back, but I couldn't go any further. My legs were ok, but my arms were slightly trembling. I didn't train my arms at all before the trip. I walked the bike uphill a bit, which I could carry on for maybe 3 minutes at a time, but even stopping the heavy bicycle from falling when on an incline takes a lot of effort. To top it all off it was getting colder and colder, and starting to get cloudy.
I kept on going, sometimes walking, sometimes cycling, about 40% moving, 60% catching my breath and waiting for my muscles to recover. I really failed here, because every time I heard the sound of a car in the distance I was hoping that it would be a small van with a nice grandpa inside who would carry me up to the top. That never happened. The last bit was horrible, but somehow I made it to the top. 1100km's high according to my watch, but I forgot to reset it during the night so it's probably wrong (it uses barometric pressure to calculate the altidue, but the pressure changes with the weather so you can't use it for long). At the top I met some cyclists that drove past me earlier. They wanted to take a photo of me, and I gave them my blog address.
After that everything is a bit of a blur. The downhill to lake Yamanaka was just about the right slope for me, so I never had to pedal and I never went too fast. Reaching the lake, I found a ramen shop and had my first warm meal in two days. It was less delicious than I expected somehow. Some people in the restaurant told me it would get cloudy and very cold tonight, and it might even snow. Not exactly ideal weather to camp. I decided to cycle towards Fujiyoshida city 9km's from the lake, thinking there'll be some hotels along the way. There weren't any cheap ones. I made a small detour to see Fujinohakkai, but I kind of went past it in a blur, not even stopping to take photos. I guess I was too tired.
I'm in a hotel right now, almost falling asleep. Depending on the weather I may or may not leave tomorrow. If it's cold, then camping would not be very enjoyable. If it rains, then going downhill would be very dangerous. I may have to wait for the weather to improve in that case. Knowing me, I'll probably end up halfway down already before realizing that it's too dangerous though..
Here's some tips for killer uphill courses:
- Keep your head down. Never look up. Follow the white line or the cracks in the road with your eyes. Concentrate on that. That should be the only thing on your mind.
- Listening to music, especially loud, fast-paced music, calms me down. I get the feeling it regulates my heartbeat, like an aural pacemaker.
- Never look at your watch.
- Never look at your bicycle computer's distance. (speed is ok, you can try to keep it constant and concentrate on that)
- If you have an altimeter, don't look at it. You'll become depressed, I assure you.
Basically, it means: concentrate!
Sorry, no photos today. I'm tired and going to bed!
(my face and ears are red from the sun. it took only two days...)