THERE IS SOME PSYCHOLOGY behind cycling in a group of three. The leader has some pressure to set an agreeable pace and find the route while also fighting the wind. However, he has the benefit of a clear view of the open road. The number two rider reacts to the leader and can rest easy if he falls back because he is still not last. Number three must ride back from the pack for a clear view of the road while also staying close enough to keep connected. The benefit of the back (which I tend to exploit) is that the rider can fall back either to take a picture of a stunning coastal scene or go at a slower pace without holding others up.
For the second half of today the team did not cycle as usual. Typically Dylan leads, Scott rides behind him, and I am in the third position. Sometimes, Scott will move up, giving Dylan a rest from the headwind. I usually remain in the rear. I tell myself that I’m “touring not training,” but the reality is that I am a few kilometers per hour slower.
In college, I was an endurance sprinter specializing in the 400m dash. Learning to sustain a 100% output of effort for just under 49 seconds was my obsession. Fighting the burn of lactic acid, I would relax through the pain knowing I could recover after stopping past the finish line. Unfortunately, this approach is not transferable to ultra-long-distance cycle touring. My muscles need to learn to recycle while working, not after.
I like hard work, setting my own pace, and dislike holding back my best effort. Maybe I was tired of falling half an hour behind the pack, maybe I needed to feel the burn in my quads from pushing my pedals hard, or maybe I just saw open road and finally put the pieces together. But somewhere around kilometer 60, I started to book it at a solid 32 km/hr. My fast twitch muscles finally started to refresh while pedaling, enabling me to maintain high output without locking up.
This quickly brought about today’s previously mentioned peculiarity. I led for over 20km. Although mundane for Dylan and Scott, leading was slightly unnerving and a large personal achievement for me. Truth be told, I’m not really a cyclist nor am I very confident on a bicycle. The fact that I’m currently attempting to bike the length of Japan still baffles me. The best parts of the trip for me are camping, seeing new areas, being with the guys, and sharing my experiences on the web. Cycling is just a means to this end.
Once in Akita City, Dylan was somehow able to overcome my formidable sense of misdirection and lead us to our couchsurfing host for the evening. So far, all our couchsurfing hosts have been amazing. Takaaki Yatsuyanagi was no exception. He is a well-respected textile artist whose work is displayed in exhibitions worldwide. When we first entered his neat apartment, we noticed two things. The first was his 5000+ DVD collection that lines every wall of his living room. The second was the lavish spread of carefully prepared food laid for us. The evening faded into night as we pleasantly chatted over pepperoni slices, green olives, stew, and other assorted delights. Having showered and done laundry, it’s about time to hit the sack.
I write from his front balcony looking over Akita City. Hopefully on tomorrow’s ride I can maintain the confidence I found today.
Thanks for tuning in. See you tomorrow!
Spock: Asleep under the coffee table