Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Training - Chasing Trucks

I've been lamenting (privately until now) about the lack of motivation I've felt for training. I managed a solid three days in a row on the trainer, doing at least an hour a day. I worked first on pedal form, spinning my 23T in the small ring for 90-odd minutes.

Whenever I take a break of more than a few days off the bike I try and work on pedal form. If I do I buy myself a decent spin for a few weeks. If I don't then I slog through the gears at 70 rpm, cursing at myself for not spinning more. The more days I take off, the more I work on pedaling.

So I worked on pedal form.

Then I did that some more.

When I finally put on a heart rate strap on the third day, doing the same pedal stroke thing, I realized I'd been hammering along at the incredibly high heart rate of about 132 bpm, give or take, or about 12 or 13 mph.

I tried to go harder that third day (yesterday) but mentally I couldn't push, even with Tour DVDs, music, fan on high, ice water in the bottles, everything I could think of.

Today the Missus recommended that I go out and ride. The weather ended up very nice, overcast, not too humid, not too hot, not like the past few days.

After I installed the new clincher tires I bought (I'll have to review them later - they're the second pair I have now), got my helmet cam situated (one of my straps broke in Vegas), figured out what repair kit to bring (36 mm valve tubes, recently purchased from Manchester Cycle via Expo Wheelmen), and snagged a vest in case the "overcast" turned into "rain", I headed out the door.

I had carefully pumped up the tires to the "wide rim" recommendation of about 95/105 psi (front/rear), but the front felt very squishy in the first hard turn I took, a hard left at the bottom of a descent. I usually push it going into the turn because I have an out - if I mess up I have in front of me about 3 soccer fields worth of grass to in which to stop.

I'd joked on BikeForums that after the dismal days on the trainer I needed to go chase a truck to motivate myself. There's only one real truck chasing spot around here with some chance of even seeing a truck, and that's on the main street going through town.

First, though, I headed south on the "out" loop, back roads, recently covered by the flooding after Irene. A quick cut west on a busy road, and a minute or two later I ended up heading north, my "in" loop. A mile, maybe two, of this loop is good truck hunting territory.

I also have two other standing goals when I do this loop - the first is to hit that downhill left turn with no traffic around (and it happened today). The second is to hit a right turn with a green light and no traffic in the way. Both turns feel like a crit, pretty much the two fastest turns in the whole loop.

And cornering fast is fun.

It's disappointing when one or both turns get interrupted by oncoming traffic or a red light (no turn on red at that second turn).

Fortunately that first downhill left was clear. I had to change my line as I didn't trust the tire as I loaded it up in the turn - I had to go a bit wide, but I had plenty of room before I hit grass.

I filed this tire pressure tidbit away for future reference.

Then, out of the saddle, sprinting up the hill after the left turn (usually my peak power for the ride), the tire squished so much I actually wobbled a bit. I adjusted my out-of-saddle form a touch so I'd hold a straight line.

I believe the studies that say that lower pressures give lower rolling resistance. But I also think that lower pressures will affect traction in turns and efficiency in explosive out-of-saddle efforts. Food for thought, and if anyone wants to experiment with this theory, feel free.

The rest of the out loop is kind of boring, but suffice it to say that I could work kind of hard, I felt okay on the bike (comfort wise), and things were fine.

The only thing weird that happened is I pinched a nerve in my ring finger when I climbed a short hill on the hoods. It hurt so much I couldn't hold the bars for about a minute - the combination of the ring, the angle of the ring digging into my finger, and holding onto the hoods did something weird.

Hand recovered, I headed back north on the in loop, passing two signs that make me grin when I see them.

The first is the town line sign. It's been in place only a short time, replacing a Boy Scout looking burned letters into wood thing. Now it resembles an Inca tomb or something, a western-ized version of one anyway.

Town line sign.

Since there are no group rides that ride on this road (that I know of), I've never sprinted for this sign. The lead up to it is kind of tough though; not my kind of sprint.

LAW sign.

The second follows shortly thereafter - the League of American Wheelmen sign, proclaiming this town to be a bicycle friendly community. Apparently it's the only town in CT to get this honor.

I hit the target rich mile stretch of road, and on cue...

It went by too quickly for me to jump.
Note green lights in distance.

I looked ahead, hoping for some red lights. Alas they were all green. I hoped they'd turn red, giving me time to latch on.

Hard to see but they're all red now!

My hopes fulfilled, I started to roll. I've learned the lights a bit from driving here all the time so I knew I had about 15 seconds.

Too much gap?

The truck started to accelerate when I was still a bit far from it. I had to make an effort to get on, then again when he sped up. Luckily the speed limit is a manageable 35 mph for most of this straight, so the truck stayed just about at that speed. Combined with the fact that they just repaved the road and I felt pretty comfortable on the truck's wheel.

I could see down the road.

Anything coming from the left would hit the truck first. I could see stuff from the right. And I knew the road and could see enough to check for debris. I felt pretty safe here, more so than if I was riding on my own.

After almost a mile I eased, my legs suddenly twinging in protest. Lack of training sometimes forces me to cut fun things short.

I kept going up to that second turn, the no-turn-on-red one.

Red lights... I have time.

It's a quick green, and you can see when it'll turn green based on the turn signal for the road to the right. I eased, knowing it's a long red, but when that turn signal turned yellow I panicked for a moment. I thought I left it too far and started accelerating hard.

Sprinting for the turn before it goes yellow.

I flew into the turn, a bit cautious because of the squishy front tire. I accelerated hard, like I was attacking out of the turn. With most traffic going about 40-45 mph after the turn, I usually can't catch anything. But today, with a tailwind, I felt okay. The red Honda didn't accelerate all that briskly either.

Suddenly that red Honda, previously out of my mind as being "too far", became a goal.

Instead of easing after 10 pedal strokes or so I punched it again, going first to the shoulder to allow any really rushed drivers to pass if they wanted to pass. No one did so I checked back and started sprinting up to the red car. By now it was accelerating briskly - I thought I'd lost the opportunity.

But then it stopped accelerating.

Counting coup.

This was like counting coup, kind of like touching your enemy with a spear instead of gutting them with it. With this car tagged (not literally), I eased. My legs already hurt from the truck effort just a couple minutes before and I had a long climb up to the house.

It's a busy road so I try and ride the hill fast - I call it my Poggio, the fast climb before the finish. I can do it, on form, in a 53x14 all the way up, but sometimes I'm struggling in a 39x19. Today I was struggling, using the 15 and 14 (and the small ring) up the not-quite-half-mile climb.

At the top I slowed - there were a lot of cars at the three way stop.

I'm at the stop sign.

The two white trucks were there before me and the minivan directly in front of me stopped at the same time I did. The second white truck started going in the above picture, as he should have.

The minivan followed.

Then I went.

Because that's the way things are supposed to work in such an intersection.

He started pulling out when I was halfway through.

Tired from climbing the hill but aware that I had to clear the intersection as fast as practicable, I did a track stand until I saw the minivan move then started going. Halfway across the green Honda started to move a bit - I figured it was one of those "roll a bit while waiting" things.

He kept coming.

If I leaned down I could support myself on his bumper.

I realized he wasn't stopping. It all moved in slow motion. He wasn't gunning it per se but he was definitely going to hit my knee or foot if he didn't stop, and I wasn't moving fast enough to be able to steer left out of the way.

I briefly contemplated letting him hit me, toppling onto his hood, and letting the police in on the whole thing. I knew I was right, I knew that the impact would be light, but I also wanted to see this guy's reaction. Did he think I was wrong? Did he think he was there first? What would he say to the officer that responded to the "car hit a biker" call?

And if he lied, I'd let him lie, let him say whatever he wanted to the officer.

Then I'd show the officer the tape of the whole incident. Me stopping. The other two cars going. Then me getting hit.

In a split second I decided not to go through all that. Every time I've been in this situation (all three times) I've decided to try and not get hit. Twice I got knocked off my bike, once when someone turned right while I was next to their passenger side mirror, once when someone turned right when I was next to their front wheel.

I decided that I wouldn't get hit.

So I yelled, really loudly.


And he stopped.

Then I turned and (regrettably) yelled, just as loudly, just as clearly, "What the F?!"

I saw the driver of the car behind the Honda turn and look at me in surprise. That's when I regretted yelling it.

I did what I did, and at least my first yell produced a good result - I didn't get hit, I didn't let the guy try and talk his way out of the situation, I saved the guy a big dent in his hood.

(Which reminds me I need to start tracking my diet again, but that's another post for another day.)

But I yelled something I probably shouldn't have yelled. If he hit me, okay, I'd be justified.

I headed down the steep descent to the house, the hard turn onto my road, the hard turn onto my driveway.

Toss garage door remote back in car.

Blinky off. Bike stowed. SRM off, bring helmet (and camera) inside.

Next ride outside I'll pump up the tires to "normal pressure", 110/115psi. I'll skip wearing the ring on rides even when I don't wear gloves (I thought it appropriate for me to wear the ring if I had no gloves on). I know to bring the 36mm valve "kit" for the non-aero HEDs I usually use for training.

And I'll definitely wear the helmet cam.


Loren said...

I might have yelled wtf myself. You were clearly right in front of him, and yet he kept coming....where was he looking?

Abu Jack said...

I'd like to see the video of that ride.

Aki said...

I don't know where he was looking but he wasn't on the phone, unless he was steering with his knees. One arm was holding his door shut (vs holding his roof on), and with a left turn he had to have his other hand on the wheel.

The intersection clearly had vehicles there - there were cars behind me, cars behind him. I have no idea why the green Honda went when he did.

I have lots of training videos that would be interesting to watch, at least sections of them. I need to make a clip of the good stuff. I recall one Mercedes SUV skittering to a stop - they didn't see stopped traffic and not-quite-skidded to a stop just to my left. Etc etc.