Sunday, August 03, 2008

Training - Quarry Road Loop at Night

Ever since we've moved to this apartment I've been doing what I call the Quarry Road loop. It consists of a loop that, oddly enough, has a section on Quarry Road. It basically follows the Farmington River, and since there are no waterfalls in the Farmington River (at least near my loop), it follows that the loop is mainly flat.

When I first got here it took me just about an hour to do the loop. The first time took about 1:10 but that's because I got lost twice. When I "got in shape" I regularly hit 54-55 minutes, and a nice hard effort would get me down to 51 minutes. I have my landmarks, my efforts, and I have an idea of how well I'm going when I hit my marks.

Today I did the loop on my road bike, equipped with all the lights I described previously. When I rolled out of the parking lot a couple kids driving in called out, "Cool bike!"

Reminder of what my bike looks like at night.

Right, the Fast and Furious look. I think it's cool in one way but I think most people think of it as a Fast and Furious look.

Anyway the start of my loop is always a bit deceiving since I start from the apartment parking lot. In other words, like most of my riding, I have no warm up.

Predictably I almost always go out too hard, doing a sharp 600-800 watt effort to get up to speed, throttling back to "only" 400 watts and start cruising at about 25 mph. Then, after a few hundred yards, I realize I'm going way too hard, ease up, and back it off to about 200 watts, maybe 18 to 20 mph. I huff and puff until I get to one of the cool spots on the loop, the first turn.

It's a nice right turn, great if I have a green, a disappointment if I have to stop, and unfortunately it seems to be red about two thirds of the time I get there. It's tempting to blow the "right on red" red but I haven't ever, even though it's only one of two real corners on my almost-hour long loop.

The right turn dumps you out onto a nice road, wide shoulder, smooth pavement. It rapidly narrows down to a normal 18 inch shoulder but it's a flat fast road and I usually do some pretend "pulling the field" here. You know, the little Walter Mitty thing where you imagine that your team leader just tapped you on the shoulder and said, "Okay, we need you to do 40kph for the next 100k."

So you get to the front, put it in the big ring 14, and start rolling.

Tonight was no different, doing about 1/200th of my fantasy 100k pull at 40 kph, my blue halo the only "team leader" accompanying me. A car came up behind me cautiously, and when I signaled a right turn the driver eased back even further, coming to almost a complete stop. The SuperFlash blinky and dual Down Low Glows make for a pretty conspicuous night bike.

This is the second (and last) real turn, a nice sharp uphill turn. No stop, no light, so it's always taken at full speed. A short rise follows so it's always big ring, stand, and go. The missus dropped me here once - I was tired, not paying attention, and she scampered up the rise. I had to do a 650+ watt effort to bring her back and vowed to pay more attention from there on. Tonight I rolled up the rise, trying to stay on top of the pedals. Usually I blow before the trees open up but tonight I rolled right through to the slight curves, big ringing it no problem.

There's a bit of a lull then a stop sign. At the stop sign I beat a car there by about 30 yards, stopped, and rolled on. I could see the hesitation in the car's lights until I wiggled my handlebars (where my NiteRider headlight is mounted). Then the car braked firmly to a stop. Since most people roll through that stop at about 20 or 30 mph, I wanted him to stop.

One trick I've learned is to ride "swervy" at night. My bike slaloms down the road, the headlight scanning a 10-15 degree arc, my bike swerving about six inches on every downstroke. This is because the human eye sees motion first, color second, and shape third. A wiggling head or tail light attracts attention because it's moving, and although I sometimes accidentally smooth out, I try and purposely wiggle the bike the whole time I ride at night. This is especially true if I know a car is coming up behind me or approaching from the front. I'll stand up to swerve a bit more, add more motion. When the passing cars go well over the yellow line I know I've succeeded. When I forget to swerve and the pass within a few feet, I get reminded real quick to be a bit more swervy.

I do a similar tactic during the day, flapping instead of swerving. I wear an unzipped windvest if it's a bit cool out. The flapping vest attracts a lot of attention, more so than a "still" back. I got this idea from a motorcycle-riding volunteer fireman. He told me he rides his motorcycle with a flapping rag thing tied to the back (a bandana or something). It attracts attention. I queried him on the need to do so. He told me about a call where a guy ran into the back of a fire truck at a fire - flashing lights, hoses everywhere, all that and the guy drove right into the truck. He wasn't drunk, he wasn't high, he was "thinking about my golf game". And very apologetic.

So, flapping vest when it's cool, and wiggly riding at night. Remember that.

Anyway, right after that stop sign there's a short sharp hill that is, well, short and sharp. Although normally I shift into the small ring, tonight I rolled over in a pretty big gear. I couldn't see if I was in the 53x23 (meaning I only had the 53x25 left, and I prefer not to use the big-big combo) so I didn't want to shift down. Based on my speed I think I was in something like a 19 - the advantage of not knowing what gear you're in due to the darkness behind the blue glow DLGs.

Then there's some slight undulations, ending in a long false flat. A pair of new houses sit on one side, a tiny farm on the other. The false flat is tough, deceiving, and much of the time I end up exploding dramatically as I hit the tree line. Tonight, with no references for gearing, afraid to shift down, I hammered up to, and into, the tree line. No detonations.

A truck pulled out way behind me at some point, and with a Y intersection coming up (with me veering to the left), I wanted to make it to the intersection before the truck got close to me. I made a strong sustained effort, not shifting down like normal, and after a minute of effort managed to get to the intersection well before the truck. Lo and behold the truck veered right, probably to get away from the two blue shoes and calves bobbing down the road in a wiggly fashion.

As soon as I veer left there's a tough little hill. It's extremely short but there are only two ways to take it - out of the saddle, 25-30 mph, or shifting down and easing over it, 10-15 mph. I grunted over it without going too hard, aiming at the 25 mph rather than the 30 mph.

Bonus was I could maintain some effort afterwards. I got high beamed at this point, aiming my light back at the car. It slowed but never turned down its blatant high beams so as it passed I hollered, "High beams!"

Maybe next time they'll turn them down. I was thinking of pretending I was blinded and veering at them. One time I sort of did that and the car came to a complete halt but the driver never turned down his high beams. Just stopped in the road and waited. I guess s/he thought I was going to car jack them. Whatever.

With a bunch of blue spots in my vision I continued on, adding an extra foot of distance from the edge of the road until the spots went away. There's a "you yield" stop sign and then some more flat stuff. That was uneventful, I started to ease a bit, going wide of the shoulder where there's an invisible pothole - the light hits it just right so there is no shadow so suddenly your bike just thumps hard. I've hit it maybe 20 times and I've learned to avoid that part of the road now.

A right turn at a stop, followed by a left at a light. Easy effort, not too hard.

Then rolling by the two gun places, the state police one and the private one. They fly RC planes at the state police range so I think they don't shoot there anymore. The other range I've heard full automatic ("machine gun") as well as silenced weapons, so the folks there are pretty serious. It's a wooded area, the river right next to the road (yes it floods regularly, and the state police are looking for a shooting range that doesn't require canoes to check the targets when it rains), and I rolled through there, turning the gears effortlessly. Beautiful.

The golf course hill was the next obstacle, a slight rise followed by a sharper one, leveling out at the golf course's parking lot. Sometimes I explode here and crawl past the parking lot but tonight I rolled easily over and through the busy area. The high beam blue spots were gone but the parking lot lights made up for them. Arg.

I did my one trackstand at a big intersection at the bottom of what they call Avon Mountain. No right on red and for good reason - lots of people have died here in the past 5 or 10 years. I did my trackstand, waited for green, checked for runaway trucks, and turned right.

I made it to my next light, slowly because of a short climb just before the light. I had a chance to check out my wattage - 144 watts - as I rolled up to the turn. Not very hard.

I bumped up the volume a bit after the right and rolled up to the first rise, maybe half a mile away. The bottom is protected from the wind but the top isn't, and as I crested the wind hit me.

Ah. Headwind on the return leg. Drat. That meant I felt good because I had a tailwind coming down to Avon Mountain.

I dropped down to the drops. Scooted forward on the seat. Started stamping out a good rhythm on the pedals. Lots of long straights, a couple rises, and I found myself able to go pretty hard, not blowing up. On the downhills I was careful to shift up aggressively - your heart rate can accelerate based on your cadence, so if I started pedaling too fast on the downhills I'd blow up. It worked, I didn't blow. I focused on pulling up, pulling over the top, and doing a complete power circle.

It occurred to me that I only do this when I'm feeling good, when I'm relatively fit. It also occurred to me that I forgot that this abs thing occurred to me. I hate it when I forget things and learn them all over again. I have to remember to work on this so I can do it for longer periods of time.

I also remembered another thing - I usually get this feeling in May or June. Okay, so it's August, but hey, I'll take "relatively fit". This realization encouraged me and I focused on working my abs - when my legs feel good my abs get recruited pretty hard. And tonight my legs were recruiting my abs to help out. Sort of an anatomical tap on the shoulder with the request to pull 100k at 40k per.

The rest of the ride was a blur. I knew I was on a 51 minute type ride, not a 55 or 58 minute. I started easing as I got a few driveways from the apartment. The street light switched from the far side to my side so I could finally see the elapsed time on the (unlit) SRM.



Must be 48.04 miles and I didn't download my last ride (it resets when you accept a download). I checked again. 48:30-something.

Wow. That's for real.

I signaled to turn left into the driveway. The car about 50 yards back almost stopped - I guess the blue glow shoes and calves biker signaling was too much for them. I rolled into the parking lot, onto the sidewalk, and up to the door.

The missus opened the screen door (it's nice out, not too hot), let me and my glowing-blue bike in. She retrieved and fed me a piece of just made zucchini bread (think molasses bread taste, can't tell there's a vegetable in there).


What a nice ride.


Anonymous said...

Great story and nice ride. The night setup does make it look like something of The Fast and The Furious. Zucchini bread...that must be awesome!

Aki said...

bryan - thanks for the note. I ended up eating pretty much the whole of one bread. The other is off limits as the missus is bringing it to work. Drat.

Anonymous said...

I think the answer is going to be no, but were you riding out by lyman orchards and such? There are shooting ranges and a golf course in that area, and I ride around there a lot.

I just thought it'd be funny if you were in that area.

-Young rider.

Aki said...

YR - no, this was well north of that area, mainly Simsbury. It'd take me a while to get down that way!