I have been busy on my secret mission to infiltrate Japanese society. Happily, the Summer of Bruce is only fading away rather than ending abruptly but I’ve finally re-entered the workforce, starting work at Hokkai University teaching the kids English so that all of us native English speakers don’t have to go to the trouble of learning anyone else’s language. It’s a form of community service as well as a job. In the lead-up to that vital first lesson, I decided I had better get my head down and do a bit of lesson planning so I’m well-prepared for the term ahead. As you can imagine, this has led to a lot of procrastination-inspired cycling.
I have now been out riding with not one but two Japanese cycling groups in the past week. After the Tour de Hokkaido, I was able to make contact with the cycling team NSR and was keen to tee up a group ride after the last few months of riding alone or with Kazuko. Their coach/manager, Mr Kawakatsu turns out to be pretty enthusiastic and has been supplying Kazuko and me with a steady stream of emails with maps of training courses and links to other teams around town. I’m pretty keen to ride with them but the dilemma is that they are probably too strong for Kazuko and don’t have any lady riders. Kazuko noticed that one of these teams Mr Kawakatsu linked to was Attic bike shop which is very close to our house, so we went there for a look. It turned out to be quite a small shop but I get the impression that the whole thing is a front for the owner’s cycling obsession. The shop’s website is full of cycling and training information and the owner, whose name I sadly forget Mr Katahira, runs the shop’s group ride and also runs beginner courses as well as organising events such as a time trial that Kazuko and I are going to this Sunday. He said the Team Attic riders were fairly mixed in strength and also had a lady cyclist and he invited us to come for a ride with them that Sunday, which fitted well because NSR was having training rides on the Saturday and Wednesday.
So naturally instead of preparing classes, I had to get out on the bike for some training to make sure I wouldn’t get left behind on any of these training rides. I did a reconnaissance ride out to the course where the NSR training would be and found that around Sapporo, there is plenty of flat land without traffic lights which is great for cycling. You just need to ride 30km along a main road to get there. The training course was a 17km loop through some quite nice farmland. On the way out there, I went past the Big House:
And eventually got to the course, where I stopped to take a photo of the lovely rice fields:
And while I was doing that, a dragonfly landed on my handlebars:
At the moment, there are dragonflies everywhere and as it is apparently mating season, their minds are only full of one thing, at the expense of minor details, such as not being hit by cars or bicycles. I’ve accidentally swallowed a fly out cycling and that was bad enough. I really don’t want to be gulping for air and suddenly have a dragonfly in my gob. I did a couple of laps of the course and just as the weather started turning, I headed for home.
On Thursday night I was up late for reason and on Friday I worked late at the konbeni then got up bright and early to cycle out for Saturday morning training. Once I got out to the training area, it was oddly coincidental that the moment I realised I had got my dates wrong was also the moment I went front being fully charged for some hard riding to realising I badly needed some sleep. I managed to stay awake all the way home and just long enough to empty the fridge of food before crashing for the afternoon.
On Sunday, Kazuko and I joined up with the Team Attic ride, which was in roughly the same area as the NSR one. They had a pretty long ride planned but with a few stops along the way to regroup. The enthusiastic owner took a group photo at the start for his blog and which I have stolen for your viewing pleasure:
The best few guys set a pretty brisk pace and Kazuko couldn’t quite hang on to the wheel in front of her. She did pretty well, though and we were always in touch with the next riders ahead but just couldn’t quite get them back. There are never red traffic lights when you need them! We were almost at the pace of the next best riders so I hope we’ll be able to ride with them regualrly on a Sunday. When we stopped to regroup, we let them keep going while we turned around and went home. Their plan was to do 130km for the day but Kaz and I still ended up doing about 75km, which is still a pretty good day’s ride. We’ll meet up with them this Sunday for a time trial.
A spate of public holidays gave us Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, so I finally caught up with Team NSR for a ride on Wednesday. We did a couple of warm-up laps before Mr Kawakatsu strapped race radio on some of the boys (not me, thank goodness – I wouldn’t have understood a word) and hopped in the van to drive around and give us some training. It was great fun to ride around with a group again and be a bit competitive. Luckily I wasn’t hopelessly outclassed so I’m looking forward to riding with these guys again. And as you can see, I’m not just famous at the Team Attic blog, I’m famous at the NSR blog as well:
So as it turned out, I never really got much lesson preparation done but with the help of my age-old ally the photocopier I still managed to bluff my way through the first day’s classes. Now just the rest of the semester to take care of.