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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Climbing Out Of A Rut: Foothills of Central Taiwan From the 88 to the 136

Japanese Colonial Era Kendo Dojo

I think my recent troubles have been well documented and I don't need to rehash the particulars, but what I really needed this weekend was something that could force me to push my body back into shape. Sunday made a great opportunity to abuse my legs.

My Wife's Jr. High Classmate Campaigns

I was originally slated to meet Michael for one of several plans we devised throughout the week. I often find myself devising new schemes for rides yet-to-be. The weekend weather was amazing. It was just too ideal for riding.

Michael Climbs Through Orange Groves

I arrived at Michaels bright and early and we took off onto Fengyuan and up the Taichung Local 88. The 88 is a fantastic little climb that makes for a great entry point onto the Hsin She plateau; a large spread of farms and agriculture just outside of Taichung. The Hsin She plateau is also a 1900ft. climb. Most of the ranges between 6% -10% grades, so it is not impossible. The views are also well worth the effort as they offer a full panorama of the city below. Unfortunately, the haze prevented me from taking any pictures that were worth a damn.

Look Out Below

Michael seemed to be having a particularly rough time with the grade and expressed a few doubts in regard to his performance. I have seen him ride and I cold tell he was not riding like he usually does, and so he turned back. I was really looking forward to riding with him, but he was showing definite signs of over training when the body refuses to exert too much energy in order to concentrate on recovery.

It happens to us all. One of the most important things an athlete can do is to listen to the body. Proper training consists of exercise, diet, and recovery. When we deny ourselves any one of those... we simply can't perform up to our abilities. A smart athlete will see the signs of overtraining and stop. Unfortunately, athletes are also competitive and driven people who are always seeking improvement, so many people overtrain.

Egret Hanging Out

After Michael left I had to mentally shift gears. I had been mentally preparing myself for ony type of ride, and now I would be doing another. It was not easy to make the transition or to know which direction to go.

I finished my climb at a pretty fast pace and looked for some barometer as to where I was mentally and physically to gain some clue as to what I should try. A 15 min. coffee stop at the 7-11 in Hsin She allowed me to sort through the mitigating factors, such as time, ability, goals and estimated return time. I decided to go over the fence. Seeing as I had climbed up the 88 to Hsin She... I thought a day of climbing would do a body good, so I set my sights on the Highway 21 to Guoxing, and I committed myself to returning to Taichung on the famed 136.

Photo-Op By The Cafe At The Top Of The Highway 21

I made really good time up to the base of the Highway 21, but made sure to keep my heart rate down. I kept pushing up the 21 at about 16kph with the thought in the back of my mind that the 136 still lay ahead.

Banana Farms

My descents were not as quick or crisp as I would like. The sight of a van heading up my lane as I rounded a corner just made me gun shy.

99 Peaks From The 136

After a morning of climbing... I thought I should add some more climbing and so I headed up the 136 back to Taichung.

Most of the 136 is really not that bad. It ranges between 6%-10% grades, but there is one section about 3/4 the way up that is just a long stretch of 17% gradient... the kind that saps the legs of energy and dishes out the punishment.

It seems most riders try to get their rides finished in the morning, so I had the road to myself. I think I could just describe the feeling as one of noisy quiet. There's a lot going on besides the sound of my turning crank, but it all fades into the white noise of random thoughts.

View From 136

I used the descent to cool off my legs and recover for my return home. I was surprised to find my legs in good shape and, despite being tires, I managed to roll through Taichung at a good clip.
Kendo Dojo

On the way back I noticed the old Kendo dojo has finally been unveiled. The building is in Taichung City, on Lin Sen Rd. across from the old dormitories by DaTong Elementary School.

Character "Wu" or "Martial"

Many years ago I noticed this building when it was in a serious state of disrepair. I would bring guests by to take a look at a hidden piece of Taiwanese history. I went as far as interviewing some of the locals from the neighborhood who, at the time, were mainly Hakka speaking spouses of old KMT-era government workers.

The building served as a Kendo dojo during much of the Japanese colonial period; mainly for Japanese government employees, but later it served the nearby schools. During the 1930's Japan introduced a policy, which, among other purposes, served to prepare Taiwanese boys for war. Kendo and the martial arts was used to teach young boys the "martial spirit" the Japanese hoped to cultivate in the empire's youth.

This building is an amazing example.

I finally returned home at 2:00pm with 5581ft of climbing in 110km. A much better 110km than my awful race. Redeemed? I don'k know. A good ride... YES!