Sunday, February 3, 2008

Speedy Mercer Island Loop

Yesterday the SiR ride got canceled due to fear of snow/ice, so Dennis & I hammered out about 70 km on the Green River Trail instead. It was pretty scenic, and we worked on pacing and drafting. My two layers of wool worked out great, even in 30-something degrees & light rain: short-sleeve Ibex wool jersery, with a long-sleeve classic wool jersey over that, and then wool arm-warmers over all of that. I was pretty tired last night after our ride, but decided to do some fast-paced riding today.

Usually when I do the Mercer Island Loop I'm doing about 32-36 km/h throughout most of it, but today was a bit different. I passed up a rider on I-90, and sprinted up the little hill onto Mercer. Already a little winded from the 3km effort (40 km/h for 2 km or so) of catching up to they guy in the first place, I got onto the rolling hills of the Mercer Island Loop and started hammering away (for me, I'm no racer yet, just out to have fun) at 34+ km/h (21+ mph).

By the way today I was on my fast bike, not the heavier Bianchi that I've been randoneurring on. It lives up to its title as the "fast bike," no doubt. If only it fit full fenders on it, I'd use the thing for randonees.

About 4 km into the loop, I noticed a black shape behind me. Was it the guy I'd dropped earlier? Who knows. I pedaled on, at an estimated %75 of my max heart rate (I don't use a heart-rate monitor, I'm just going from perceived effort), at a steady 34-40 km/h pace. I even jumped and sprinted at the top of a hill, thinking that would do it, but he eventually passed me, and I could see that he's a racer-type: local team kit on, powertap hub, fast pace. Me, I'm just in a blank blue wool jersey, but I love to see how long I can hang onto a fast wheel. He wasn't the guy I dropped earlier, so he must've been catching up the whole time I guess.

So we're cruising at 36-44 km/h, over the rolling hills of Mercer. No big climbs, just little inclines up and down, up and down. I'm drafting off him, at about 1.5 bike-lengths back. I don't even know this rider, so I'm not about to sit directly on his wheel, but I don't think he minded the competition/pacing. (Who knows if I was even competition for him at all, for all I know he was on a recovery ride!)

I kept up with his pace for about 16 km (10 mi) or so, the whole time getting close to my max heart-rate/bonking level, and recovering. Even when we got to the 200-foot climb (towards the southern tip of the island), I was steady at his pace, just hanging on. At times I felt like I could've passed him, but I figured he's the sponsored one, I'll let him tug me around for a bit.

Even through the twists and turns coming up the east side of the island, I was hanging on to his pace, still 36+ km/h. Eventually he pulled out and motioned for me to take the lead, so I did. I think at that point I had the advantage of having conserved so much energy, and kept up the pace, or at least tried to. After a few km I noticed he was gone, not sure what happened to him.

I tried to keep up the pace all thew way back home, but it gets hilly once back into Seattle. On the I-90 bridge heading back to Seatown, my average read out at a whopping (for me) 30 km/h! It was a little less than that by the time I got home, but this was probably the fastest I've done that loop. I definitely felt the toll at the end, but never bonked. I probably need to start doing more fast-paced rides like this if I'm gonna do anything useful at the crits this season!

Distance: 40.77 km
Time: 1hr 26 minutes (roughly)
Avg Speed: 28.5 km/h
Elevation Gain: 571 m (1,818 feet)
Total Distance for 2008 so far: 888 km (551 miles)


psychenaut said...

I need a Mercer Island loop! That ride sounds really sweet.

I've been commuting and riding in Salt Lake City in the snow and ice. Despite the extra time needed to clean the grit and salt off the bike, it's not that bad. I'm still riding my slicks, too. While the conditions are keeping me from really pushing it, it's nice to keep up with your mileage (or KM-age) total. It's a good motivator; I'm cycling everyday! I'm currently at 944 KM for the year. Can scarcely wait for warmer weather to see how the cold season work will pay off! I wonder how well I ride against sponsored racers?

Ted Diamond said...

Sounds like you went around counter-clockwise. I've always perceived that direction to be faster. Once you enter the "loopy" section on East Mercer Way, you go downhill into a 180-degree turn, and then uphill out of the turn. If you take the turn just right, you exit with enough momentum to carry you to the next downhill without slowing down...much.

Been awhile since I've been there -- too many close calls from the drivers (and, to be fair, other cyclists), but maybe this season I'll go back.

Good write-up, mate!

matt m said...

thanks for the comments!

psy: wow, SLC sounds rough - keep up the mileage! if only i wasn't so lazy, i'd ride daily, but for now i'm a few-days-a-week commuter, and then a 'weekend warrior' when i'm not slaving away at work. =]

ted: yeah, it was the counter-clockwise loop, and those turns on e. mercer are indeed fun! except for when there's gravel on the road, that makes cornering at 32 km/h a bit scary! but i know what you mean about keeping your speed, what a feeling! sometimes i hit those turns just right, and it feels like i'm on a motorbike!