Monday, September 17, 2012

Training - Who Let The Dogs Out

In the White Plains Crit post I allude to some training and such over the prior weekend. That would be the weekend of September 8th and 9th. In fact we were up in Maine for a day before and two days after, visiting friends and relatives. I'd brought my bike - with the great weather forecast I hoped to do a mini-training camp, maybe 3 hours a day for a couple days. The Missus's mom had calculated a low-mosquito-density time for us to visit, and, in fact, I got bitten just a few times in a few minutes towards the end of the trip. Perfect timing.

We were pretty far up in Maine. How far up? Well, the speed limit on I-95 is 75 mph there. That's fast enough that even the locals barely break the limit. It's not a matter of the road conditions or whatever - it's just that our cars and trucks really aren't made to cruise comfortably at 80 mph. You have to push your foot a bunch more towards the floor; our Jetta TDi struggled to stay at 36 mpg at that speed. As comparison, with a bike on the rack at 70-75 mph, we'd get 38-40 mpg, and in traffic at 65 mph (think Jersey Turnpike) we got 53-55 mpg with a fully loaded car, AC running the whole time, and no special hypermiling techniques.

I occupied my mind with trying to figure out if we'd see a moose around. The state of Maine had done a count and proclaimed that about 70,000 moose lived in Maine north of Portland. Guessing from driving distances I figured that Maine was roughly 90,000 square miles, like 300 miles by 300 miles. This meant there ought to be a moose every square mile, and that meant we ought to see a moose any second. I kept an eye out for small trees in the road (that's what moose legs look like at night) and large brown things resembling oil tanks floating about 6 or 7 feet off the ground.

(I looked it up later - Maine is only 35,000 square miles so even if you put wild moose in the center of Portland, there ought to be two moose per square mile.)

At one point while driving around the area I zoomed out on the DroidX nav system.

I saw a dark line, unusual. Then I saw the maple leaf Route 2 to the right.

By the way see the green line on the highway? It means that traffic is moving smoothly; it's part of the nav system on the (Verizon Wireless) DroidX. It's a great feature - we use it on road trips to navigate around heavy traffic in areas we don't know. It's amazing enough that I wonder how they get such accurate data.

My theory is that they use mobile phone locations to see how fast the phone is moving, then they can match the speed of the phone to the posted limits on the roadways. If traffic is moving well then the lines are green. If they're slow there's a yellow overlay. If it's gridlocked there's a red overlay. If there are no cars then there's no overlay.

I was surprised at how much green I saw. Then I realized - we  were the traffic report!

According to the nav the road we just drove on is in good shape traffic-wise.
It should be - there's no one behind us.

As a joke I took a picture of the cars in front of us, waiting for the longest stretch of visible pavement.

Heavy traffic in Maine. We're going about 77-78 mph.

Apparently there are Amish in the area. There are supposed to be 70,000 moose too, but we hadn't seen a single one. Therefore I took a picture of the buggy sign as proof that there were Amish in the area.

Alleged Amish in the area.

A few minutes later we finally had our first Maine siting - an Amish person. Or one that appears a lot like one.

And there's an alleged Amish person, waving even!
The brown thing in front of the buggy is a horse. It is not a moose.

Of course Maine has a lot of open spaces, broad views, and even mountains. Just no moose that we could tell.

A mountain. I forget the name of it.
Apparently there are at least two moose in this picture.

I decided that I'd go and do a ride. Last time I did a ride here it was Thanksgiving, I mapped out a route on my phone that seemed pretty reasonable, maybe 30 miles. It was only after I set out that I realized it was much, much longer than that - closer to 68 miles. As the sun set I called the Missus to rescue me. She drove to my location like Juha Kankkunen, even bruising the rims with the tires as she bounced along the rough backwoods roads.

"Wow, did you know that the speed limit on that road was 55 mph?!"

In much nicer conditions I set out on a less ambitious route. This time I checked the mileage first - 46 miles. At my normal training pace it ought to take me 3 or 3.5 hours; at most I'd average 15 mph. I took along some food and my standard training ride "kit" (which I'll post about shortly). I wore my 2010 Bethel Spring Series leader kit - with local roads set at 55 mph, and drivers routinely blowing away that speed limit, I wanted to be obvious to even the most oblivious driver.

A friend Shovel had just raced at Nationals. I read his account of the race, thought of all the training and discipline required for someone to be as good as possible on a given day. The idea pushed me and I tried to push hard over the various rollers (aka short hills) along the route. I worked moderately hard on the flats too, staying in the drops, trying to be aero.

The fourth roller seemed a bit tougher than the first three. I pushed for a bit then relented, slipping into the small ring. I realized the pitch increased toward the top - I had to shift lower and lower in the back until I was in my 39x25, struggling to keep the pedals turning.

At this point two dogs, about 60 or so pounds apiece, came bolting out of a yard. In Connecticut this happens infrequently. Strict leash laws and a litigious populace means most owners carefully corral their dogs. At worst the dog will peel off and run parallel to you; at best they stop at the edge of their yard as their electronic collars beep warnings at them or shock them when they push the limits.

Of course this was the land of 55 mph two lane roads, cars about once a mile, and lots and lots of open land. Owners treat their dogs a bit differently here.

So these dogs popped up. The first one, an all black dog, came tearing at me and immediately nipped me. My ankle went numb.

I couldn't believe it. Did I just get bit?

He peeled off as his buddy came flying over, and, scrambling to line himself up to me, the second dog chomped me too.

Then, as the owners screamed at them to come back, they both turned tail and sprinted back to home base.

"Rover One breaking off, scored one hit. Rover Two you're clear for attack!"

I stopped, stunned. I wasn't sure if they bit me yet because I didn't feel anything, no pain, no nothing. In fact I didn't even feel the normal things I feel, my sock, the shoe cover, the top edge of my shoe. The whole left ankle area had gone numb.

When I looked down I could see blood seeping through the shoe cover, which meant it had already seeped past the sock (the sock ends just above the shoe cover). As I watched the blood stain started to grow downward.

I stopped, unclipped, and realized as I weighted the foot that, yes, it hurt. I called the Missus, reported what happened and where. She was probably peeling out of the driveway before I could hit "End Call".

I also, in a somewhat annoyed and accusatory tone, asked if the owners had their dogs up to date on rabies and the like. Fortunately for me they did, and the wife produced the documents in about 3 or 4 minutes.

Now, part of the whole "we live in the boonies" thing about this part of Maine is that most towns are unincorporated. It's like Las Vegas, just smaller. The immediate effect of this is that there is no police force in town - the state police handle all law enforcement things, and today there was one officer on duty for a huge swath of territory.

After a call with a number of "let me transfer you to" type transfers, the wife gave me the phone so I could officially decline an ambulance. I did, but the dispatcher told me to sit tight and wait for that sole trooper to show up.

The Missus showed up. After a few preliminary questions she tucked away the dogs' papers, expertly put the bike up on the rack (I was barely in earshot of the car and she never asked for help regardless). She came back and before I could ask she told me she'd taking the SRM head off, both bottles, the frame pump, and yes, she remembered to lock the skewer bit as well as close the wheel strap in back. Then she collected my helmet and such and tucked those in the car too.

A few hours later, with no trooper in sight, the wife called the dispatcher. Apparently the trooper figured it was an animal control thing ("game warden") so he never came. The Missus and I said our goodbyes and headed to the hospital, a good 30 or something miles away.

Luckily I hadn't gotten hostile or anything - it ends up the couple know some of the family. In fact they, like all the people in that area, have kept careful track of the "newcomers" that moved into the house 12 miles away, all the improvements and such that they'd done. They rattled off stuff that even I didn't know had been done to the house.

We also learned a bit about Rover One and Rover Two. They're used to herding cows - the couple raise cows. Apparently I looked like a sickly yellow two legged cow that needed some herding.

The hospital treated us really well - they could afford to because, we were the only ones left there. They cleaned out the wound, tut-tutted over the bite, and prescribed me a round of antibiotics. This scenerio mirrored the one where the glue trap cat bit me. They even gave me the first pill because, at 7 PM, all the pharmacies in town would be closed.

When we left the Missus checked all the pharmacies. Yep. Closed. Another drawback of 75 mph speed limits. At home, even though we live in a pretty bucolic place, there's still a 24 hour pharmacy 20 minutes away (at 35 mph, not 60). We started heading back, something like 40 miles to the house.

A long time later we got home. Junior had fallen asleep already, under Grandma's care. I think it was the first time both of us had been away when he went to sleep for the night.

Although I felt like I could barely walk the next day I improved rapidly by the afternoon. I ventured out on the bike, heading directly opposite where the dogs were. Although I meant to ride just an hour max, I turned around after 45 minutes. I could have ridden longer but I didn't want to worry the Missus (I'd told her an hour max) and I couldn't call her to let her know because, right, you got it, I had no signal.

So that's my September training camp in Maine. I got about 30 miles of training in, ended up on a round of antibiotics, and never saw a moose. In all fairness I had a great time otherwise, catching up with the Missus's mom and Bob, my little bro and his family, and a former teammate and fellow worker from way back when.

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