JCRC – Gunma Bicycle Race. July 14th, 2013. Winner!

Sunday July 14th I entered a race with JCRC (Japan Cycling Racing Club)  My first time to this event and I was a little nervous. There were heaps of intimidating riders who had come from all over Japan. It was as expected a well organized event.

One lap is 6 km.

One lap is 6 km.

We followed the pace motorbike for the first 2 km until we reached the first hill and then the race was on. I wanted to stay near the front of the pack because of all the dangerous corners, hairpins and bad road sections. I thought I might have an advantage on the hilly sections if I was close to the front because I live in the mountains and climb them every day, so that if a chance came – I might be able to break away. Well, in the very first loop as we were climbing the steepest section near the end I pulled away effortlessly. I didn’t know if they all were saving themselves or what? I thought about falling back into the pack and waiting until later in the ride to attack but it was only a 24 km race so I didn’t. I said good-bye and left them and rode behind the pace bike until the finish. I totally expected to be swallowed up by the group near the end but that never happened. I won by a good 1 minute and 20 seconds. I totally surprised myself. I wanted to finish in the top 5 but instead, left everyone behind.

That's Me at the Top.  Woot Woot

That’s Me at the Top. Woot Woot

A happy day pour moi.

It reminded me of my youth in Canada when I used to do well in the race circuit but never thought at this age I’d still have something to offer. This ain’t the Tour de France I know! But it was packed and riders came from all over Japan, booked hotels and probably set out to do well, too.  I’ll pat myself on the back, sleep well and then go about my daily life again tomorrow like it was dream!

Vitus frame, the first look clipless pedals and the first Oakley cycling glasses.  Cooooool

Vitus frame, the first look clipless pedals and the first Oakley cycling glasses. Cooooool

Sorry for the bragging here but hey… I don’t get a chance to do it so often!  And… this is my blog. hee-hee

Avg HR: 169 bpm   Avg Pace:  37 km/hr

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Haruna Hill Climb – May 19th 2013

Feel the pain in the thighs.

Great day. Got up at 3 am and met friends at Numata Inta at 4 am. From there we drove to the race in separate cars. Over 4500 people participated so you can imagine the ordeal with organization. But I must say everything was done flawlessly. There were almost as many volunteers as racers! I found my parking area and got myself together (including the unfortunate pre-race poop.

Haruna course

Where is everyone?
No chance of getting in a warm up with that many riders. My group (the 4000 numbers) were the 3rd set to go but we waited an hour sharing nervous small talk before the count down.
Once underway, the course started up relatively easy. Just a small grade for the 1st 3 km until it started to present its toughness. I was worried of going too hard at the beginning and having nothing left near the end so I paced myself accordingly. My legs were heavy right off the bat because of lack of warm up. People were passing me and I thought “dang”, this isn’t what I wanted. But I stuck with my gut and as the race progressed I started to see that there were no more “4000” numbers and I slowly passed the 3000 group, the 2000 group and ended up finishing surrounded by the very first group to leave! Now I do realize that those in front that were faster were long gone but to toot my own horn no one from behind passed me.

High Ho, A climbng we will go.
The last 4 km was very steep and I passed a lot of people there. I took the inside lanes which were steeper but faster if you have the legs. The race was only 15 km and before I knew it, I was sprinting for the last 100 meters.
I started my Garmin 500 from the parking lot so it was off mark. I was hoping for a sub 50 minutes but was doubtful after seeing others results. When I got mine it was 47.12.12 minutes. 3 minutes faster than I expected.

47 mintues!

The overall results are pleasantly surprising.  I was 21st out of 989 40-50 year olds. If my math is right, I believe out of 4500 plus participants I was 61st overall. I suppose living in the mountains has really helped my training.  And I’m sure being 10 kilo’s (22 lbs) lighter is a major bonus, too.

Me and my friend Yukiya desending after race.

Doing well has motivated me to train even harder for the rest of the season.

Haruna placement

Akagi Hill Climb 2012

This is the events 2nd year and my first time. I couldn’t register last year as it sold out too fast. This year also maxed out at 3200 riders. I saw only 1 other foreigner in this race but I’m sure there were a few more. It starts in Maebashi city and climbs for 20 KM to the top of Mt. Akagi.

This sounded like a good idea when I registered.

Earlier in the year I raced in Nagano at Utsukushi ga Hara which was another hill climb.  (Read that blog).  I also entered the Kusatsu Hill Climb at the beginning of the year but the bad weather only allowed for us to race half of it.   If I had to compare Utsukushi ga Hara and Akagi Hill Climb I’d say Utsukushi ga Hara was tougher.  Besides being a longer race it starts off at about 20% grade for the first 4 KM making you work right from the get go.  Akagi Hill Climb is gentle in the beginning, tough in the later middle half and then fairly easy again for the last 2 or 3 KM.

Can’t wait for the evening BBQ!

Out of 3200 riders, I placed 281st which puts me in the top 8% (8.78%). For the 40 year olds there were 950 of us and I placed 80th which once again put me in the top 8%. My time was 1:15.34 . The fastest time over all was 58.21 . The fastest time for a 40 ~ 49 year old was a smoken 1:03. I hope good health and good training will put me in the top 5 ~ 6 % next year!!

Finally, a little easier grade to work with.

The race was incredibly well organized and very well run. Rock bands and girls in bikini’s and lots of healthy people! It was a really fun day and a BBQ in the evening outside in a typhoon.

Just a few more clicks!

7 Steps to writing a song you’re proud of.

Playing iive at the Bunkakaikan in Japan.

There are 7 factors that I require when writing a  song that makes me happy and they are:

1) Emotions: The best place to find these are through the turmoils of your life.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  They are the driving force behind wanting to write something in the first place.

2) Catchy melody: Usually my songs start with some sort of chord progression on the guitar but not always. Then a vocal melody wrapped around the chords in an interesting and satisfying way. If you interviewed most famous songwriters, they’d tell you most of their best songs seemed to channel through them in an almost effortless fashion. If I look back on the songs I’ve written, I’d agree that my stronger songs were the ones that seemed to write themselves.

3) Strong lyrics: If you put strong lyrics with a very catchy melody then you’ve got something to be proud of for sure. Don’t ignore the importance of lyrics.  I’ve only recently realized that they are the “icing on the cake”.  A great melody gets you far but if you have lyrics that connect, they you’ve made a fan or two.  Write from the heart.  Write about something we all can relate to but do it in a way that you feel hasn’t been done before.  For example, write a love song without using the world “love”, or write a happy song with “minor chords”.  Whatever you do, make it ‘yours‘. 

4) Re-writing: This is where a lot of people fail miserably. They’re always too damn proud of their first take and are afraid to throw away something to make the song better because they really like one line.  Don’t be afraid to trash a line even if it was your best line.  If it doesn’t fit, save it for something else.

Changing Chords and melody can lift a song too. Sometimes for example, you can replace the root chord with a minor 6 and give it some mood.

5) Play it live: Play your song to your friends and ask for honest opinions. Don’t let the negative vibes get you down either. A lot of the time, you’re friends won’t know what they’re talking about- but a good song is pretty much universally liked and you’ll be able to weed out the good from the bad and generally get a sense of what is strong.

6) Write lots: You’ll get different opinions on this but for me, writing a lot of songs just makes me a better songwriter. It’s like learning to play the guitar. If you practice every day, you’re going to be much better than if you play it once a month.

7) Sleep on it: It’s weird but often I’ll wake up in the morning and play the new song again and it doesn’t have the same impact on me. That’s a sign that perhaps it just wasn’t the hit song I was planning on retiring on.

But I’m sure I’ve got one in me ready to surprise the world.  It’s just around the corner!  🙂

Good luck fellow songwriters.

In Melbourne Australia with the legendary Greg Arnold.


Giro de Hotaka bicycle race.

November 6th, 2011

It rained just once this week.  Yep, during race day of course.  Oh, and it rained hard.

I couldn’t sleep that night due to nerves and finally got out of bed at 4 a.m.  I arrived at my friends’ house at 5 and we drove to the race together talking strategy and pace. 

It was early, cold and wet and I was concerned about being able to ride the 120 km race (74.56 miles) in those conditions.  Because I work 7 days a week I haven’t had the time to ride over 100 KM all year.  Most of my rides are around 50 or 60 km (31 ~ 37 miles).  I knew I could do it but I wasn’t sure how sluggish I’d be. 

Giro de Hotaka. 7th Place.

This race was a little different from regular races and it doesn’t attract many pro riders.  In fact, out of the 128 riders there were only 2 at this event.  They were mostly using it for training I believe.  I think because we shared the roads with traffic and even had to stop at 1 or 2 traffic lights makes it less attractive.  However, when the awards were being handed out at the end, both pro riders agreed that it was one of the toughest courses they’ve ridden.  There is hardly a flat section to the race and if you’re not going down one side of a mountain, you are climbing the other. 

So, my plan was to start off with a comfortable pace and ride my own ride.  Let people pass me.  Don’t get competitive.  Save energy.  Finish!

The ride started with a 10 km (6.2 m) downhill and then 26 km (16.15 m) up and up and up.  There was an aid station at the top where I fueled up before going down the backside.  It was cold, wet and slippery with leafs and switch back corners but only one accident that I witnessed.  He went over a bank and into the river the poor guy!  I think only his pride was hurt though.

The last 20 km (12.4 m) was by far the toughest.  At the 100 km (62 m) mark the climb up Semene mountain pass to Katashina became really steep.  To my surprise those riders I let go ahead at the beginning were starting to appear in my sight.  Again, I just wanted to get up and over the hill but while doing so I passed a lot of riders.  I must confess when I finally reached the top and saw the tunnel I’d been praying for, I was bagged.  Then there was a nice 9 km downhill coast to get the legs back (somewhat) before having to do another grueling last 9 km climb to the finish.  How evil of them!

On the final 9 km I saw another 3 riders who I overtook.  The bike race brochure reads “120 km Giro De Hotaka”.  During the last stretch my bike computer was reading 118 as I climbed the tough grade.  I was thinking to myself,  “No, not another 2 km of this!  I don’t think I can do it.”   Then as I rounded the corner I saw the finish line in front of me at the 119 km mark.  That was a welcomed surprise (finishing 1 km earlier than I expected). 

I crossed over the line exhausted as they yelled out, “7th.   I said to them, “No, my race number is 98”.  And they said again, “No, you are in 7th place”.

Wow, that completely surprised me.  I figure I owe a big thanks to all my Dailymile friends for keeping me motivated and inspired.

Of course the 2 pro riders got first and second place respectfully and I should make it clear that they finished a good 30 minutes before I did!  Ha-ha

But heck, I’ll take lucky 7.

Click here for an earlier post I wrote about Giro de Hotaka.

Course and elevation.

Beautiful Fall bicyle race in Gunma Japan.