Down time before the storm

Our website was down a while ago due to a problem with the web server. Sorry about that.

On the other hand, my left ankle seems to be recovering without major problems in the two months after the surgery. My doctor was pretty psyched (and even said he was scared) that the progress was nothing short of ideal, in his own funny and casual way. He is referred to as one of the highest acclaimed in his field and so on, but is also a real frank guy. Golden combo right there.

Fair recovery doesn’t mean fast, though, as it involves multiple ligament reconstruction, bone extension, and anticipation of recovery of the necrosis in talus. I’ve been off crutches for a while now, but I’m still wearing a custom-fit plastic below-knee brace. I’m usually pretty good at adhering to doctor’s orders like that even if there are some inconveniences.

Probably the most inconvenient thing is that I can’t wear regular shoes. After I got out of the hospital, I was using a shoe cover over the brace at first, a trick I learned from another patient this time. It’s way cheaper than those covers your brace guys can supply, but was not ideal for extended outdoor use including driving, walking in rain or into puddles, etc.

That’s when I spotted a fake Crocs sandal I had bought for 250 yen. Even cheaper than the shoe cover hack. So I employed it when the brace was trimmed down a bit a month after surgery. I heated it with a heat gun and put my foot in, and re-forming worked perfect like that. Very comfortable, but I never knew that perfect fit wouldn’t last forever.

Snow is piling up as I’m writing this. What should I do…

The short-term solution is simple; I can stay inside until the snow melts. But it will start to stay on the ground in a month or so, thus I’ll need to figure something out if I’m wearing the brace at that point still. I’m seeing the doctor next week, so we’ll see.

Also I’ve been meaning to fix the roof before the winter comes, but I’ll just have to come up with the best temporary fix depending on my progress in the coming month. When your condition is not perfect, the perfect solution is not to haste.

Stay safe, everyone!

Left foot overhauled

Autumn is everywhere, in deep forests, supermarkets, and cozy hospital rooms.

Typically mid August to September is the time to get hospitalized for me for some unknown reason, and it happened this year again, for about 10th time or so and after two years since the last. I walked in mid September, stayed three weeks, and hobbled out on crutches last week.

Just like the last time it’s not for any fresh injury but to treat an old, lingering one. There was this new hope to fix my left foot that’s basically been in an unwalkable condition since the injury three year ago, so I just went all in for the new plan.

Previously the doctor said the main issue was necrosis in the talus bone and there was no easy rectification, but this other doctor I saw this time shed a different light on it. He instantly saw I had flexible joints, then proceeded to point out a few ligaments were missing and the joint was very loose, which he said could be fixed by ligament reconstruction and fibular osteotomy to make the joint tighter. It all happened during this one visit at the end of August along with normal x-ray, stress x-ray, and reservation for hospitalization. Light speed.

As for ligaments, I had long sensed the absence of the anterior talofibular ligament on the outside, but never suspected the triangular ligament on the inside to have failed since the seemingly successful reconstruction many years ago. I’ve always been pretty flexible, like flexible enough to do leg splits, which can contribute to severe looseness when damages like torn ligaments and crushed cartilages pile up in the joint. They say “flexibility helps keep injuries away” (at least in Japan) but you just can’t seem to construe it as “the more flexible, the less injury.” Too bad I didn’t know.

Winter Olympics are over, officially

As is already making headlines, Olympics have just come to a sad point, at least for the Japanese.

I was born between the Innsbruck Winter Games and Montreal Summer Games. Four years later, the Moscow Summer Games saw boycotts from various Western countries owing to the tension under the Cold War. Sarajevo, the winter venue another four years later, became a civil war battlefield several years after the Olympics.

History took another turn this time, where Japan is not welcome to the games anymore.

From the official 2018 PyongChang Olympics. Also found a captured image before sneaky rectification. Can you find Waldo, in his trademark red and white outfit? Obviously not.

So hey, isn’t it about time to give it all up?

I know, it’s the athletes who are gritting their teeth and betting their life on these events that should be prioritized. But then again, such athletes could be shot down by the media for irrelevant charges like dressing down or having attitudes (note for non-Japanese: this happened to Kokubo on a major scale in the past). I don’t want to witness that anymore.

On a more profound note, there is something about what the Olympics do. The games give short-term economic effects and medium-term action plans and goals for the host and participating countries as well as leave sport facilities and infrastructure for the area, though along with debts. In other words, the host gets a chance to promote and enhance sports to a great extent. However, all that may not mean a thing if the area has no potential for such sports, in which case it would just be a rather exhausting one hit wonder event supported by investments that never pay back. In reality, of course, it’s the matter of keeping a balance between these extreme ends of the spectrum.

So as I watched the Sochi Games, well I actually didn’t watch much at all but anyhow, it caught my attention that Sochi is a rather warm resort in Russia. If translated into the Western context, that’s the Gran Canaria Winter Games, Key West Winter Games, or Gold Coast Winter Games. To me it seemed like those days were over when the venues and games walked hand in hand by nature.

Also this time, some countries have started contemplating boycotts mainly due to the ongoing military tension in the area. Now in consideration of those poor athletes who are peaking for the event, if boycotting becomes commonplace, it might be a good idea to throw a different party, the very first Antarctic Sixth Ring Games.

Dust bin timewarp

While it took me a while to get this done, this has become a tiny story about something that happened over a month ago. It’s my own behind the scene story about MTB downhill equipment, told from the farthest place from what’s actually new and hot in the scene as of now.

Out of various disciplines of mountain biking, downhill is where most serious riders, if not all, use goggles just like in motocross or snow sports. But then I was the rider going down the hill in Niseko last month wearing protective DIY eyeglasses, all that for this one reason, a sad story about things gone.

My good old Oakley goggles that have served me in skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking. I only had the snow lens on hand, so I was secretly preparing some clear lens for them. I used to have a clear double lens but it came to the end of its life years ago. The persimmon one work real fine with great fogging resistance but is a bit too dark in summer.

So I grabbed some plastic sheet at a hardware store, wielded some punch and scissors, then voila! Seems usable, with comfortable, huge field of view. The frame is a bit sweaty and dusty so I might give them a little wash…

Bad move. Well I’ve got another pair!

Which just disintegrated the moment I touched em. You too, Brutus?!

I loved the first pair for the nice low-profile color, which was a blend between the original fluorescent pink and the black dye I added. There was a time when 4Runners with “Naeba” (ski resort) stickers in these very fluorescent colors were dope, and these guys WERE the icon from that era.

The encounter dates back to early 1990s. There was an MTB shop in West Side Ikebukuro, Tokyo that I’d go to without actually shopping much at all, and the folks were always super nice. One day, I spotted these goggles in the trash can there. I asked and found out someone had used em up. After exchanging a few words, these guys made their way out of the bin, and into my hands.

The rest is history, though may not be in your book. So for a rundown, they have supported my vision, chiefly in ski fields in places like Nagano, Hokkaido and Colorado, and that they did well.

1999, Arapaho Basin, Colorado. I actually didn’t stick it. Laid out straight enough to match my ego and under rotated. What a fail. Anyhow the goggles survived this one nonetheless.

So, with fond memories left along the way, the Pink and the Green have finally retired and gone back to where they belonged, at least where they had a quarter century back. What an outstanding performance and longevity. Thank you.

My debut into Downhill Series

Last weekend saw a downhill race event happening in Niseko, a little unusual one in that it was part of the Downhill Series organized and mostly done in the mainland. First time in Hokkaido, interesting format, so I jumped right in.

When I was on the national DH circuit about 15-20 years ago, the J-Series was the main focus, which has continued on to become today’s Coupe du Japon, the same national thing under a more chic name. On the other hand there is the newer Downhill Series, a private-run scheme kind of like the Eagle Cup back in the day IYKWIM.

So I went to race on my semi-vintage bike just like last year, photo courtesy of Kakusuke.

After all, what we said about these Norco bikes when we were the Japanese distributor was right; built tough, built to last. This photo is from the timed session on Saturday, and the race format is awesome in that you can have fun and be competitive throughout the weekend up to the final race time on Sunday.

I was horribly over-pumped for the timed session, which sent me off the bike 3 or 4 times, resulting in a bad chain suck that didn’t even allow me to keep both pedals level in the latter half. Nothing to be noted about my record of 4:59.863, more than a minute slower than the top pros.

For Sunday I was forced to take a different approach. Lots of taping on my legs and just staying away from crashes. Otherwise, my weekend would just leave me crushed and clueless. It worked, and I finished 11th overall, 27+ seconds slower than the winning pro Naoki Idegawa from Hiroshima, who made his August 6th count. Takusei, the fastest among the locals, was 15 seconds above me, not a minor difference at all.

People seem to think my rather poor run could be attributed to the equipment. I’d kind of like to think so, but actually I built a new wheel set for this, with my first tubeless setup and my first 27.5″ tire up front. I kept my good old 26″ tire from 16 years ago in the back, so that might have been a little stupid for sure. Either way, I’m happy I got to ride and have fun as well as try something new equipment-wise.

Quite randomly it got me thinking the future tire setup for downhills might be 29″ up front and 27.5″/26″ semi-fat convertible for the rear. Oh, mixed diameters banned by UCI? That may change anytime, anyhow. Everyone should have realized the UCI is not all it’s cracked up to be, no ultimate justice, when Peter Sagan was disqualified from the Tour de France this year.

Speaking of equipment, one may wonder why I was running protective glasses for DIY rather than proper goggles. It brings tears to my eyes when I try to explain, so I’ll try again on a later date.

At the end of the day, this great weekend at the national-level DH event coming to Hokkaido for the first time in decades would not have happened without Orie, an avid racer and landscaper in my neighborhood, who started participating in these events in the mainland a couple years ago and appealing for deployment to the north. So thanks and also congratulations on winning it as well. We’re all so proud of you.

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