Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 549-Weigh-in Day: My Bike Ride to Mount Fuji

Week 77
(Sorry, I don't have access to my scale here in Japan, so weigh-in info is not available)
Start Weight: 365.4lbs
Last Weigh-in: 278.4lbs
Current Weight: 2??lbs
This Week’s Weight Loss: ?lbs
Total Weight Loss: ??lbs
To Go: ??lbs
Miles Biked over the past 2 weeks: 87.63

Total Miles Biked: 2928.71
Miles to Go: 4571.29

GEOGRAPHY (Where I'd be on the map having started at my house in Salt Lake City, Utah, heading for Tokyo):
Pacific Ocean (2190 miles off the west coast. I am heading for the Hawaiian Islands which is 2650 miles from San Diego)

Weekly Bike/Workout Totals
Monday: 83.36 (to Mount Fuji-actual was 85+)
Friday: 4.27 (previous week)

This has been one of the most memorable, and probably the most physically active weeks and months in my life!

It has been an amazing week of memories both of pain and exhilaration! This was the week of “The Ride!” Sunday morning, my wife, daughter and mother and father-in-law got up very early to catch a bus from Funabashi to Kawaguchiko, one of the towns at the base of Mount Fuji. I stayed home resting up during the day, preparing for the ride which would start late in the evening. To be honest, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t really get any quality sleep…I was just feeling too anxious. I’d get up and do something and then think that maybe I should lay back down so that I don’t lose out on any valuable sleep.

Well, finally around 5pm, I got up, and got my cycling shorts on along with gathering all my stuff to get ready to go get on the train. My sister-in-law Shizuko was going to be my escort to get from the Goko train station to Nippori station in downtown Tokyo. Earlier in the week I bough a bike bag that one uses when taking your bike on the train. So with my bike in bike bag in hand, I hauled my bike over to the train station, and got on the train with Shizuko. We rode for about 30 minutes and got off at Nippori. I made a call to Travis, my biking companion, to check and make sure we were going to meet him in the correct place. We went out in front of the train station and within a few minutes Travis showed up on his bike, all decked out in his cycling clothes.

I met Travis online about a year ago as I was looking in to what was involved with cycling from Tokyo to Fuji. He had done the ride and recorded his experience in an entry on the Tokyo Cycling Club’s website. We’ve been friends online for a year, writing back and forth, and he giving encouragement as my “sensei” as I’ve worked to get ready for my ride. So finally after a virtual friendship online, I finally got to meet Travis for the first time outside in front of the train station. I could tell immediately that he was a cool guy and it was meant for me to be guided down the road to Fuji by him. He brings years of experience of cycling to the table, but more important, he’s a very friendly man.

Outside the station with Travis looking on, I quickly built my bike, putting the front wheel and fender on. I said goodbye to Shizuko and took off with Travis to his house. Travis lives right in downtown Tokyo, so it was very busy with cars and people running around. He lives about 5 minutes away so we rode our bikes home, and carried them up to the 2nd floor of his apartment. I met his wife who had prepared a nice spaghetti dinner for us along with some homemade ginger ale that she made out of fresh ginger.

Both Travis and his wife were very hospitable and took good care of me. I had some problems with my derailleur over to their house, so he took some time to turn my bike upside down and work on getting my gears back to shifting smoothly.

After dinner, we took a few pictures and before I knew it our departure time of 9:00pm had arrived. We took some pictures together in and outside his apartment and then “shoved off” into the depths of Tokyo. I didn’t realize how far through Tokyo we would ride. We would head right through “Shinjuku” which is quite a hustling place, even on a Sunday evening. It was kind of funny as we rode down the road….I noticed Travis take a drink out of his water bottle, and when I reached down to grab mine, both my bottles were gone! I remembered that as we went to take pictures in Travis’ apartment, I put my bottles on his counter, and forgot to grab them again when we went out the door. We stopped and I ran into a 7-11 real quick and bought a couple of bottles of Evian water.

We biked through the city weaving in and out of cars and people. Some areas were bright with large neon signs blazing in the evening sky. After a while we had finally gotten out of the major part of the city and stopped for a break. We bought some drinks and food to keep us going. We cycled for 35 miles in the dark going up and down hills, over bridges, etc. It was kind of a bummer that it was dark because I think we passed through a lot of interesting scenery.

At about 1am in the morning, we stopped at Gusto Restaurant to sit down and eat and rest. My body was feeling the effects of exhaustion, and didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I knew that despite not really having an appetite that I needed to eat. I looked at the menu over and over with my sleepy mind and just couldn’t seem to find anything that looked appetizing to me. I ended up ordering seafood pizza and some banana chocolate pancakes. I ate about half of everything when I wasn’t sleeping. I basically put my head down on the table and slept. Travis woke me up abut 1:30am when the restaurant was closing and said it was time to leave. I was tired. My body had just gotten over jetlag the past week, and now I was asking it to stay up all night again. I think it was freaking out a bit. I listened to my body though and took advantage of maybe 15 minutes of sleep while in the restaurant.

The first 35 miles of the ride represented the flat part of the ride. Form this point on, the climb would begin as we started riding up into the mountainous region where Mount Fuji lives. The road we would use is called Doshi Michi (road.)The climb was not bad, but was just a constant climb. Some of the grades would get a little hairy for me at times and I’d have to take it very slow, or stop and let my heart stop pounding. When riding at night with a sleepy mind, things get a little fuzzy and I remember going over huge bridges, up steep dark curves, seeing cargo trucks buzz by, and the back of Travis’ bike.

At one point, the grade got to be so steep that I had to stop. Again, I felt my body wanting to shut down. From my hike up to Box Elder Peak a few weeks back, I learned that that feeling is a sign of needing to eat and drink. We stopped by some vending machines on the side of a road in the dark, and I remember buying some drink and guzzling it down, and pulling out a packaged hotdog in a bun that I had bought earlier in a convenience store. I was amazed at how I scarfed it down. My appetite had returned and it felt good to actually want to eat something. Dealing with sleepiness, loss of appetite and exhaustion all add up to feeling not very good. Then on top of that, it was cold, and then with the humidity in the air, it started to sprinkle. Of course Travis had his rain coat and another layer of clothing to put on. Somehow, my jacket was sitting in my wife’s suitcase as she comfortably slept in her warm hotel room in the shadows of Mount Fuji. It wasn’t doing me any good. I had a sweat soaked t-shirt in my backpack that I pulled out and put on. Even though it was wet, it helped keep my a bit warmer.

I slept a bit while shivering, and then again remember hearing Travis tell me it had been 20 minutes, and the sooner we get back on the road, the sooner we’d get to Mount Fuji.

As I look back on that scene, it seemed somewhat of a slight nightmare. I had to push on despite the physically straining circumstances. It was probably about 3am when that occurred and knowing that the sun would come out in an hour or two gave me something to look forward to.

Despite the continued climb, things started to brighten up a tad. The sun soon came out and I could see the tree covered mountains that we were climbing through, and the quaint little villages that were located there. And then, we got our first glimpse of Mount Fuji peaking through miles of other mountains that were in the foreground. It was a morale booster for me as I actually could see that we had made progress towards our goal and that this crazy all night ride was actually leading to our destination.

We continued to pedal upwards. Travis had warned me that the tail end of the climbing portion of the ride had some pretty steep hills. The last 2 miles go from a 6% grade up to a 9% grade. After having to stop and rest multiple times, Travis taught me a great lesson that helped me get as far as I did on the next portion of our ride. He said to find a comfortable rhythm that you can hold and then drop it down a notch. Even if it seemed too slow, it allowed my heart rate to not over-do it and allow myself to not have to get off the bike and rest. This allowed me to ride for longer periods of time without breaking.

I will say though, that at 280lbs, or what ever I am right now, that there is only so long that you can push only so much weight up a certain grade of hill. The tail end of the climb was brutal for me as I had to work heard to get this big body up the steep grade. We finally reached “The Tunnel, which is the top of the climb where things get to change, and we got to start feeling some wind in our face.

It was sooooo good to feel a hill from the other side!! J We coasted all the way down through a little village and right before my eyes around one of the corners, the majestic Mount Fuji appeared in the distance. It was exciting, and it was scary, as this was the mountain that I had come to meet.

If you watch my little video featurette below, you’ll see the scene where Fuji appears around the corner.

My legs were so tired, and I was grateful to only have to pedal a few more miles to our next resting point at the Royal Host restaurant in Fujiyoshida. There were a few more small hills to climb before we got to the restaurant, and I was sick of hills by then. It was all I could do to make my legs climb another hill. Within a mil of our stop, I had to rest, and grab a drink, as I was out of water. We found a vending machine and I bought a Dr. Pepper and joyfully guzzled it down. I am not a caffeine drinker, but I will admit that I drank a couple of Cokes and a Dr. Pepper to help me through the sleepiness.

The next thing we knew, we had arrived at Royal Host. At that point, we were about 70 miles into the ride! We met my family there. I ate 2 breakfasts, and a bowl of soup. Travis I believe had a few breakfasts too.

I haven’t mentioned too much about Travis’ struggles through the ride. That is because he didn’t have any! It seems like he was Mr. Miagi from Karate Kid. He guided me, was patient, taught me along the route, and did I mention patient? Travis was a shining light for me through the entire experience. I couldn’t have done it without him. What a dude!

I heard that Travis slept at the restaurant, but I don’t know for sure because I was too busy sleeping after breakfast. My wife shot some video of that, and I look like I am in a coma.

Then again too soon, Travis said, “Are you ready?” I have to admit that as I went to the bathroom and was pondering the next phase of our bike ride, the climb up Mount Fuji, I thought about quitting. I was soooo tired, my legs were tired, I’d been up for 14 hours all night, and still had 18 more miles of climbing in front of me. But as was the case with so many other phases of this experience, I pushed through the doubt despite the overwhelming feelings of wanting to quit!

I handed off my backpack to my wife now that they were close by to this part of the ride. This gave me less weight to have to worry about. We stopped at the Lawson convenience store across the street from Royal Host to get some drinks and then took off.

There was a long 2 mile stretch that leads up to the toll gate of the Subaru Road, the road that takes you up the mountain.

Let me explain here that there are 10 stations up Mount Fuji. A station is basically a landing point where you can take a break on your ascent up the mountain. Some hikers will actually start at the very bottom of the mountain and hile to the top passing all 10 stations, but most hikers, either drive, or take a bus to the 5th station which is the starting point for the hike up mount Fuji. The 5th station has tons of shops, and on a busy day, thousands of people that are looking down at the amazing view and then turning around and going home, or looking up at the summit and preparing to hike to the top.

Originally when I had my vision of Mount Fuji 18 months ago, I envisioned myself biking to the base of Mount Fuji, and then going up to the 5th station and beginning the climb, like everyone else. But somehow along the way, I decided to throw in biking up to the 5th station. The idea was to say that you got as high up on the mountain as literally possible on a bike.

Well, we began the ascent up the actual mountain itself. I remember thinking that these hills seemed just as steep as the ones I had experienced at the tail end of Doshi Michi. I took what Travis had taught me abut not overdoing it, and slowly pedaled up the hill. These hills average 5% grades, but I tell you, these seemed steeper. I took it easy and pedaled slowly, within inches of Travis back tire. I’d just give it all I could as climbed and climbed. I’d hope around each corner things would flatten out for a moment, but most of the corners would reveal more grade. Going around each corner without the pitch ever really ever letting up was mentally defeating to me. After an hour or so, We made it to the 1st station. I was so tired and exhausted, and the mental game had started long before then.I would stop and have to take a break. I’d then let my heart rate get back to normal and get going again. I’d start doubting whether I could make it to the 5th station. I started thinking about every one at home that would be wondering if I could do this. I thought about all my training, and that I maybe should have trained more.

I’d again get weighed down with exhaustion, and have to stop and take a break. The road isn’t very wide, and there really isn’t a biking lane. I remember slumping over my bike with heavy breathing, as buses would whiz by within a foot or two of me.

I remember Travis telling me that I could walk the bike up cause I’d at least be moving up. I did so knowing that this would be considered a sissy-type thing to do for cyclists, but I had to face the reality that at the rate I was going, we were’nt going to get to the 5th station very soon.

The mental game continued and I entered into this space in my mind where it was no longer “I can do this!”, to, realistically, “I cannot do this”, and then it turned into “I don’t want to do this anymore.” In the minds of athletes, this is a place that the great ones don’t go, however, despite in my own little world of what I can do, it finally came to the point that I couldn’t do it anymore. I finally decided that I would just get to the 2ns station and call it quits for the bike portion of my ride. I tried to ride as far as I could, but ended up walking my bike for a while. I yelled up to Travis that I just couldn’t do it any longer and was quitting. I knew that he had realized that probably a lot sooner than I did. I thought about beating myself up for not continuing to continue on, but knew that would do no good. Instead of focusing on the defeat and the reality of not making it to the 5th station, I chose to focus on the fact that I had:

-Rode my bike 85 miles
-Rode my bike from sea level (0 ft) to 5100 ft.
-Rode for a total amount of elevation gain of 7493 ft.
-Have lost almost 100 pounds
-Weighed 365lbs 18 months earlier.

I had originally set a goal to weigh 210lbs when taking on this bike ride. So I was doing this with about 70lbs of extra weight I had originally planned on leaving at home.

Travis told me to get on my bike and arrive to my family pedaling on the bike, instead of riding it. I laughed, and got on my bike and climbed the last 50 yards to the 2nd station. My family could tell at the 1st station that I was looking pretty tired, and by the time I arrived at the 2nd station, I think there plan was to convince me to stop. I had already decided that and we all celebrated a good run!

I learned from this experience that riding up Emigration will not be a challenge anymore. And riding Millcreek at this stage for myself will be a very doable thing. After doing my bike challenge, I realize what I am capable of right now, and what I am capable of once I get to 210 again! I’ve learned that anyone, despite how crappy you may feel, can push through the hard times, and get to your destination. I’ve learned that you don’t have to try and be a super hero and do something physically impossible. Accept the fact that you’re where you’re at and work hard to get where you want to be.

The list of lessons can’t even be shared in this blog as there are things that I have discovered about myself at a personal level that I could never effectively communicate.

Anyway, we pulled the front wheel off my bike and somehow stuffed it into the back of our rental car that my father-in-law had been driving. I was so glad to sit down and shove food into my mouth and let myself rest in the car.

Of course we wanted to drive up to the 5th station to take a look at the surroundings and for me to get an idea of what tomorrow would bring as part two of my challenge would begin with my hike to the top of Mount Fuji.

Travis, asked if we wouldn’t mind if we took his backpack for him while he biked up to the 5th station. We too his backpack and I swear within about 30-40 minutes, he had arrived at the 5th station! Now that’s inspiration. It was good for me to see him in action and how a real cyclist just takes it on so eloquently. I got out and gave him a congratulations hug on a great ride! He again, was such a great friend to take on this ride with me. To me it was the biggest ride of my life, to Travis I am sure it was a walk in the park.

Travis of course wanted the experience of coasting down Mount Fuji on his bike. I of course was perfectly happy to sit in my comfortable car seat and enjoy the ride down the mountain. Travis and I said goodbye at the 5th station and he took off. Later on in the evening I got a message from him that he had arrived down at the Kawaguchiko station, and was able to get on the train and head back okay.

Wow…what an experience, and this is just the first part. The next day was my ascent and pilgrimage to the top of Mount Fuji. I will share part two in tomorrow’s blog entry…there’s too much to share today so I will write tomorrow!

So, how was your week?

The video below is a sampler of our bike ride, and my climb to the top of Mount Fuji.

Travis and I after dinner at his house in Tokyo. About to set off on the big ride.

1:30am at the Gusto restaurant. I had no appetite, but tried putting this and seafood pizza in my mouth.

Mount Fuji from my hotel room at Kawaguchiko.

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