Archive for January, 2011
OK, so I’ve just finished up the most insane month of training ever. It has been a great month, though, and I’m very confident now that it is going to pay off with sustained fitness to carry through the racing season when the intensity goes up and the mileage (and climbing!) goes down. The key thing to keep me on track has been to make sure that I’m allowing plenty of recovery time. Back in college when I was overtrained with way too many miles, I always rode at about the same speed/effort (zone 3/4) and had very few rest days. So the grand total for this month was 1,673 miles with 175,559 feet of climbing. That works out to just over six bike rides to the top of Mount Everest. Of course, what goes up must go down, so it also includes approximately 175,559 feet of descending, which means this was easily the most exhilarating and exhausting month on the bike. I had three rest days completely off the bike, whereas in my college days I would frequently go several months in a row without a single day off the bike. I also had several rides at much slower Zone 1 and Zone 2 pace for the entire ride.
Today, I made it through one more epic ride (cold near freezing with rain) with over 10,000 feet of climbing to break 175,000 feet mark for the month. It was fitting that at the end of the ride, I would make it home just in time to escort my family the last couple hundred meters on their walk home from school – riding with my 4 year old son on the top tube down the street into our garage. That alone was kinda crazy because I hadn’t been planning on riding for nearly 3 and a half hours and had run out of food at about the 2 hour mark. So I was about ready to keel over anyway let alone adding a 35 pound child. We made it without crashing, and it was a nice reminder that this cycling thing is important, but it’s my family that will be there when the wheels just won’t turn anymore. And I need to be there for them.
So how hard was this month? The stats below tell the story starting with last week’s 404 miles and nearly 46,000 feet of climbing:
Finally, here is a screenshot is a close-up of me struggling up a 17% gradient (Vestavia Forest) with nearly 25 miles still left to ride!
Today was awesome. I’m going to try to convey some of the ride highlights, but I think this post is going to be kinda long. First, as I was climbing up on top of Double Oak Mountain, a red-tailed hawk swooped down from a tree beside me and flew in front of me for a few seconds. I was in maybe the “poop zone” only 10-15 meters behind him and maybe 10-15 meters below him. So if he pooped, I think it would have fallen on me. Anyway, it was cool to admire the hawk gliding away from me and then pulling up to land on a tree when the road bent slightly, and the hawk kept on going straight. It brought back memories of three other close encounters with red-tailed hawks all here in Birmingham.
1. Descending off of Vestavia Dr at about 30mph towards Vestavia Baptist Church, a hawk was flying beside me at about the same speed. The hawk spread his wings wide as he pulled up to land on a tree. The sun was behind me shining on the hawk so you could see the rust red tail very clearly.
2. Descending down Hackberry Rd at close to 50mph, a hawk divebombed across the road immediately in front of me to catch something beside the road. I missed hitting it by only a few feet (tenths of a second when traveling at 50mph)
3. Starting the climb up Rocky Ridge Road just past Countrywood, a hawk divebombed to the grass just beside the road to catch a chipmunk. It’s no wonder that you see hawks get run over by cars every now and then. They must get so “in the zone” when they are trying to catch something that they don’t watch what’s happening around them!
What is your favorite hawk story? Surely I’m not the only one who has seen them on rides here in Birmingham! Has anyone hit one before while biking?
And now onto the ride stats and climbing stats thanks to my awesome iBike power meter -
---------Total Ride--------- Dist: 104.06 mi (5:56:09) Energy: 4293.5 kJ Cals Burn: 4104.7 kcal Climbing: 12795 ft Braking: -486.5 kJ (-11.3%) Min Avg Max Power 0 200.9 726 W Aero 0 109.7 1822 W Rolling 0 23.3 73 W Gravity -3662 4.8 904 W Speed 0.0 17.5 55.9 mi/h Wind 4.9 15.3 43.4 mi/h Elev 126 513 1241 ft Slope -23.6 0.08 23.3 % Caden 0 77.3 128 rpm HR 85 140.7 176 bpm NP 246 W; IF 0.886; TSS 465.8 1/30/2011 8:01 AM 62 degF; 1012 mbar
So the ride wasn’t awesome just because of its length and climbing, but rather just a number of things that came together on the ride. First, despite another long week of training and a hard BBL ride yesterday, my legs felt fresh without the burning pain that was plaguing me at the end of last week. I was totally surprised by this seeing as how I was finishing off the second 400+ mile week in a row! So feeling good was in itself a motivator to push the ride to the extreme.
And the ride got off to the “extreme” right away, hitting a new max speed of 55.7mph down South Cove (verified by both my Garmin and my iBike) on the first of two descents. Then after climbing back up via Renfroe, I hit 55.9mph the second time down. This felt even faster than the first time (i.e., more than 0.2mph faster), because I waited a bit too long to brake and had to take the 90 degree turn at the bottom at nearly 25mph, which is a typical crit speed for a 90 degree corner – but feels entirely different when decelerating rapidly from nearly 56mph. By the way, if you live in Birmingham and want to try this descent, please, please, please DO NOT try to go this fast on it. I know every bump, every corner, when to brake, where to look for cars, where the “go”-“no go” point is, where the escape routes are, and still it is extremely dangerous. Plus, I would never do this descent at this kind of speed other than on a Sunday morning early, where the only danger would typically be a walker or jogger. But there aren’t too many people who are willing to walk/jog a 20+% hill, so I’ve never seen anyone walking or jogging on it.
South cove 55mph descents plus Hwy 31 climb to Vestavia Dr
I split the ride up into two rides (56.9 miles to church and then 47.1 miles back home) with about an hour break listening to our pastor preach about James. There is something about hearing the Word of God in the middle of a ride that makes it sink a bit deeper. Kristine and I had a good talk about the sermon later in the day. Speaking of Kristine, she was another highlight of the ride! So besides being at church with her, I ran into her again towards the end of my ride when she was out for a long run. She had left the kids off with my parents and was about halfway through her run, when I missed a light in Rocky Ridge and decided to turn right at the light onto Morgan Dr rather than waiting at the light, and climb up past Vestavia High School for some extra climbing. Well, as I crossed the creek, there was Kristine running on the sidewalk by the road. So I went ahead and did the climb, came back down, and rode with her for a few minutes through one of the small neighborhoods. She decided to run up to Panorama past the high school, and I decided I would climb up via Renfroe and double back to meet her at the top. It worked perfectly, and I got to ride alongside her for another couple minutes as she crested the climb. Out of food, out of water, I headed home while she finished up her run.
For those of you interested in knowing more about the climbs from the ride, I’ve included below all the stats for each climb that I labeled in the iBike data. But before I put those, let me show a zoomed in view of one of my new favorite climbs – the Ebsco parking lot climb. Check it out!
The Ebsco parking lot climb
This is another “Sunday only” climb as at least half of it is on Hwy 280. You start out the climb on Old Hwy 280 which is an amazing little road in a deep ravine that follows a creek as it climbs gradually. The climb through here is very gradual so you can admire the cliffs on either side. Then once you make it up towards the traffic light at the intersection of Co Rd 41 and Hwy 280, the road gets steep. Turn left onto 280 to complete the steadiest part of the climb at about 6-8% gradient. Fortunately, in the latest repaving of 280, there is about a 1 foot wide strip to the right of the white line but still left of the rumble strip that used to go all the way to the white line. So now you can ride off the highway, but on the left side of the rumble strip relatively debris free. As you get close to the top, start looking back for an opening to switch over to the left side of the road where a lefthand turn lane starts up for about a quarter mile leading up to the left turn onto the STEEP Ebsco switchback road. Climb up to the main building, veer right, and then just keep climbing all the way to the very top of the parking lot. At exactly 3.0 miles and 631 vertical feet, this climb is the longest continuous climb with no downhills in Birmingham (as far as I know!)
Ok, here they are – all the climbs – plus their Strava category rating:
---------Hwy 31 to Vestavia Dr High Pt--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 3.19 mi (0:14:05) Energy: 192.5 kJ Cals Burn: 184.0 kcal Climbing: 689 ft Braking: -3.3 kJ (-1.7%) Min Avg Max Power 0 227.8 372 W Aero 0 24.4 177 W Rolling 13 18.1 33 W Gravity -322 176.8 371 W Speed 10.1 13.6 24.6 mi/h Wind 5.0 8.4 19.9 mi/h Elev 516 872 1171 ft Slope -3.9 3.78 7.9 % Caden 13 78.1 101 rpm HR 125 150.7 169 bpm NP 241 W; IF 0.870; TSS 17.8 1/30/2011 8:30 AM 51 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Caldwell Mill to Smyer Circle High Pt--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 1.90 mi (0:10:25) Energy: 159.6 kJ Cals Burn: 152.5 kcal Climbing: 599 ft Braking: -6.9 kJ (-4.3%) Min Avg Max Power 0 255.3 466 W Aero 0 20.5 241 W Rolling 8 14.6 34 W Gravity -610 198.6 455 W Speed 6.4 11.0 25.8 mi/h Wind 5.0 8.5 22.7 mi/h Elev 586 863 1136 ft Slope -8.9 5.27 15.3 % Caden 4 75.7 106 rpm HR 103 145.9 164 bpm NP 285 W; IF 1.027; TSS 18.3 1/30/2011 9:05 AM 53 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Hugh Daniel to Brae Trail High Pt--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 2.17 mi (0:10:53) Energy: 167.6 kJ Cals Burn: 160.2 kcal Climbing: 594 ft Braking: -8.0 kJ (-4.8%) Min Avg Max Power 0 256.6 451 W Aero 0 32.6 220 W Rolling 8 15.9 32 W Gravity -1164 191.0 437 W Speed 5.8 12.0 24.1 mi/h Wind 5.0 10.5 22.9 mi/h Elev 601 882 1179 ft Slope -14.9 4.66 18.7 % Caden 9 74.6 99 rpm HR 136 150.2 165 bpm NP 282 W; IF 1.017; TSS 18.8 1/30/2011 9:48 AM 64 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Mt Laurel to Double Oak Radio Towers--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 3.76 mi (0:17:39) Energy: 250.1 kJ Cals Burn: 239.1 kcal Climbing: 827 ft Braking: -18.3 kJ (-7.3%) Min Avg Max Power 0 236.2 492 W Aero 0 52.8 1038 W Rolling 0 17.0 61 W Gravity -2354 139.8 476 W Speed 0.0 12.8 46.1 mi/h Wind 5.1 11.3 35.6 mi/h Elev 797 1162 1485 ft Slope -15.8 3.20 23.3 % Caden 0 73.2 112 rpm HR 119 142.9 164 bpm NP 269 W; IF 0.970; TSS 27.7 1/30/2011 10:08 AM 62 degF; 1012 mbar ---------280 Ebsco Parking Lot High Pt--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 3.00 mi (0:12:55) Energy: 199.1 kJ Cals Burn: 190.4 kcal Climbing: 631 ft Braking: -0.7 kJ (-0.4%) Min Avg Max Power 0 257.0 426 W Aero 0 47.5 161 W Rolling 0 18.5 29 W Gravity -227 182.2 426 W Speed 0.0 13.9 21.7 mi/h Wind 5.0 12.3 22.0 mi/h Elev 551 814 1184 ft Slope -3.8 3.81 15.0 % Caden 0 76.7 95 rpm HR 98 148.7 170 bpm NP 271 W; IF 0.976; TSS 20.5 1/30/2011 10:50 AM 65 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Chelsea Railroad Bridge to Double Oak Radio Towers--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 8.68 mi (0:31:46) Energy: 462.4 kJ Cals Burn: 442.0 kcal Climbing: 1222 ft Braking: -16.6 kJ (-3.6%) Min Avg Max Power 0 242.6 526 W Aero 0 86.0 1104 W Rolling 0 21.8 61 W Gravity -2281 113.5 502 W Speed 0.0 16.4 46.4 mi/h Wind 5.1 14.5 37.0 mi/h Elev 483 915 1481 ft Slope -15.7 2.02 21.8 % Caden 0 78.3 122 rpm HR 116 150.3 170 bpm NP 268 W; IF 0.967; TSS 49.6 1/30/2011 11:33 AM 67 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Mt Laurel to Greystone Crest--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 4 ------------------------- Dist: 2.66 mi (0:10:08) Energy: 144.0 kJ Cals Burn: 137.7 kcal Climbing: 404 ft Braking: -0.3 kJ (-0.2%) Min Avg Max Power 0 236.9 599 W Aero 0 74.2 230 W Rolling 8 21.0 32 W Gravity -330 136.3 554 W Speed 6.5 15.8 24.4 mi/h Wind 5.1 14.4 23.4 mi/h Elev 797 913 1166 ft Slope -6.7 2.52 22.8 % Caden 12 78.3 104 rpm HR 129 146.3 171 bpm NP 287 W; IF 1.035; TSS 18.1 1/30/2011 12:14 PM 64 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Caldwell Mill (Cahaba River) to Vestavia Dr High Pt--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 3 ------------------------- Dist: 5.97 mi (0:23:49) Energy: 351.5 kJ Cals Burn: 336.0 kcal Climbing: 1042 ft Braking: -26.1 kJ (-7.4%) Min Avg Max Power 0 246.0 649 W Aero 0 77.6 825 W Rolling 6 20.0 52 W Gravity -1443 116.4 533 W Speed 4.9 15.1 39.0 mi/h Wind 5.0 13.6 34.5 mi/h Elev 460 762 1185 ft Slope -12.1 2.26 15.1 % Caden 17 76.0 104 rpm HR 106 146.0 176 bpm NP 278 W; IF 1.001; TSS 39.7 1/30/2011 12:56 PM 65 degF; 1012 mbar ---------Little Shades Creek to Panorama via Renfroe--------- ---------STRAVA CAT 4 ------------------------- Dist: 1.36 mi (0:06:54) Energy: 101.2 kJ Cals Burn: 96.8 kcal Climbing: 338 ft Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 5 244.5 459 W Aero 0 49.8 297 W Rolling 7 15.7 35 W Gravity -728 174.3 439 W Speed 5.3 11.8 26.1 mi/h Wind 5.0 11.3 25.2 mi/h Elev 219 359 542 ft Slope -8.9 4.31 17.5 % Caden 25 69.2 91 rpm HR 123 143.6 154 bpm NP 271 W; IF 0.976; TSS 11.0 1/30/2011 1:40 PM 64 degF; 1012 mbar
Ok, really, this is the last thing – it was a beautiful day and here are a couple cellphone pics I took during the ride:
Not the best self-portrait on top of Double Oak Mountain, but I was tired and staring at the bright light from the sun just below the edge of the building that was shading me. Also, note that it had gone from 40 degrees when I left my house to over 70 degrees in the sun when I took this picture!
10000 feet of climbing in one ride – the garmin edge 800 cannot display 10,000 feet because it only can display 4 digits in any one column as shown in the red circle! As a side note, the yellow circle indicates what in my opinion is one of the best new features of the Garmin 800 – the ability to display your climbing rate (instantaneous and 30second average).
So how does one climb 10,000 feet in Birmingham? Here’s the maps and data! 10,000 feet of climbing in one ride – annotated with climb names and a line indicating all the descents approaching 50mph.
It’s Birmingham, so what would a ride be without a few greater than 20% gradients per the red iBike slope data above – 21% on Renfroe and Double Oak Way, 24.7% on the climb to Greystone Crest off of Hugh Daniel
10,000 feet of climbing in one mega-climbing loop! Click the map for the medium version. Or download the huge version to see all the residential road names.
Today, I narrowly avoided a really bad accident more by luck than anything else unless there was some angels keeping me from low or high-siding the bike during the sideways skid to avoid a collision with a pick-up truck. Here’s the details and a caution / warning for a particularly bad intersection in the Hoover area … the intersection of Patton Chapel Rd and Chapel Ln. BE CAREFUL IF YOU RIDE THROUGH THERE IN THE LATE AFTERNOON!. The maps and data tell part of the story, but you will want to read the short narrative below to see how I almost got creamed by a pick-up truck that never saw me and why I didn’t see him until it was almost too late.
closeup of the dangerous intersection(s) – if you click on the picture to view the large version you can see the deviation in the GPS data from the sideways skid when decelerating from 25mph to 12mph in 1 second
So it all started with my commute home from work. I was climbing up Smyer and ran into Chad Hubbard who was heading the same way as me over towards Bluff Park. (Chad, if you are reading this, great riding with you today! This all happened about 10 minutes after we parted ways) Normally on a commute route home through Bluff Park, I would take Farley over to Shenandoah (crazy steep) and then down Mountain Oaks (fast and dangerous) and Hackberry (crazy fast 50+mph but not as dangerous). Instead, I wanted to get home with an easier route and less climbing so I headed down Patton Chapel (relatively slow and straight) which is not a particularly fun road to descend because it isn’t very fast, goes between two schools across the street from each other (imagine the chaos around 3:00 in the afternoon!), and then has the dangerous intersection with Moss Rock Preserve Parkway and Chapel Ln towards the bottom where I almost got into an accident today.
Today was MLK day though so I knew that the schools were closed. The sun was starting to get low in the sky to the west, though, and I’m sure that played a role in why the old man in the pickup truck with snow white hair never saw me. So anyway, here is what happened. I was descending between the schools at about 32-35 mph (speed limit is either 30 or 35). I made it past the schools and started to approach the two traffic lights which are very close to each other. The first traffic light is newer and it was easy to tell that it was green. The second traffic light is older and much harder to see when the sun is behind you. So you have to look really hard at the traffic light as you approach it. I had slowed down to about 25mph because I wasn’t sure if the light was green or red. As I was looking at it trying to decide if I was going to have to stop, I finally made it to the angle where you could see the traffic light instead of the sun’s glare. I thought, hey, that’s great I’ve got a green light. Well, because I had been so focused on the traffic light and the car waiting to leave from the side street (b/c if he started to move before I could see my light I would know that my light was red), I didn’t see that there was a pick-up truck coming from the opposite direction as me who decided to turn in front of me. There was no room. Let me repeat, there was no room. I looked down from the green light and was immediately staring into the side of a white pick-up truck moving slowly across the intersection. I had enough time to do two things: slam on the brakes and steer left. As I slammed on the brakes, the rear wheel locked up and slid sideways while the front wheel continued to roll (I think). This pointed me hard to the left and when the rear wheel stopped skidding I had slowed down enough and moved far enough left (12mph – nowhere near close enough to stopping) that the pick-up truck had just cleared out of the way in front of me. I mean we are talking inches (or less) from what would have been a 12mph collision with the side of a truck. Not super fast, but it definitely would not have been good. The worst case scenario that was narrowly avoided would have been if my front wheel slid out or if it had grabbed too hard and I high-sided over the bike and slid right under the rear wheels of the pick-up. That guy didn’t see me. As I cleared him barely to the left and looked through the back of the pickup truck, I saw that he had snow-white hair so I’m assuming he was really old. Especially since he was turning so slow. If he had darted across in front of me, then it would have scared the you-know-what out of me, but I might not have even needed to touch the brakes. Instead, he was sorta just rolling across the intersection slowly. Anyway if he was old enough and out of his senses enough, he may have just kept right on driving with me under the wheels.
Just to clear up any confusion though, I had a green light. The next person after me to get a green light would be the guy who was waiting at the intersection to turn left onto Patton Chapel Rd. The guy in the pickup truck who turned across my lane was turning not on a left arrow, but rather on a green light where you are allowed to proceed if there is no oncoming traffic. He clearly didn’t see me, and he almost ran over me. So anyway, all that is to say please be careful at that intersection.
Also, as far as visibility, this is what I had on today – (although the picture below was taken back in early December and today I had on my green Nature Valley kit underneath the reflective rain jacket so my shorts were a contrasting green color)
Great ride today – very cold though! I climbed up Double Oak Mountain to see if there was more snow and ice up near the top because of the elevation difference. I was surprised to find trees sagging under the weight of a lot of ice. I think we dodged a bullet here in Birmingham with what could have been a terrible ice storm!
Cold temperature – look at the temperature dip because of the elevation and ice/snow cover on top of Double Oak Mountain
Garmin statistics – small problem with regards to daylight
401 miles this week with 37,373 feet of climbing!
I wasn’t sure if I was going to ride today with the winter storm warning, but the system wasn’t moving in until later in the day. So I rode 45 miles on the way to church with almost 6,000 feet of climbing. Then after church I did a shorter 30 mile ride to take me over the 400 mile mark for the week (measured from Monday to Sunday). Check out the rides below (and temps – almost felt like Wisconsin!)
Temperature graph for commute from home to Clearwater
401 miles is the most I have ridden in one week since my college days in the 90’s… back then, though, I did 400+ mile weeks once or twice a year and even hit 500 miles one week. I usually was way overtrained, though, and had pretty miserable racing results. To avoid that happening again, I’m following up this nice long week of riding with Monday and Tuesday completely off the bike (especially since we are under a winter storm and ice storm warning until Monday night).
I also entered a free online KOM competition for 2011 from Strava. Currently, I’m in second place!
And lastly, since 401 miles in one week is a new milestone (post-college), I found a few pictures I had taken of previous milestones in the past few years. 10,000 miles in one year for 2006 after training for and competing in Ironman Florida in November. 300 miles in one week in the middle of June of that year. The other stats for that week are also included. It was much easier back then – I had a bike computer that tracked time, speed, distance, and temperature. I would reset it once a week on Monday morning and accumulate a week’s worth of stats over the course of a week. Now it’s GPS systems and detailed individual ride analysis including power, heartrate, cadence, etc…
300 miles in one week – June 2006
300 miles in one week – total training time – June 2006
300 miles in one week – June 2006 – average speed for the week
300 miles in one week – June 2006 – maximum speed 53.1mph
We just got back to Alabama after traveling up to Wisconsin for Christmas and New Year’s. On the way back home, we stopped to visit Kristine’s grandmother in northern Indiana. During the trip, I got to ride in Wisconsin and Indiana. Then yesterday I did a 54 mile ride with over 6000 feet of climbing and today a 47 mile ride with over 5200 feet of climbing. So today I was inspired to share how I keep track of the “hilliness” of a ride. During a ride or ride segment, I keep track of the ratio of distance traveled in miles to total ascent (climbing) in feet divided by 100. If the ratio works out to be 1 to 1, then it is a really hilly ride. 2 to 1 is not very hilly, and 3 to 1 and above is really flat. For Garmin users out there, this is really easy to keep track of during the ride. Simply select distance and total ascent to be displayed on the same screen, ignore the last two digits of the total ascent, and divide! See the chart below for a comparison of the hilliness of rides in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Alabama along with a ride earlier in November in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
|WI||Hayward to Shell Lake||60.6 mi||2500 ft||2.42||Gradual hills|
|IN||Indiana Hills to Hwy 30||59.4 mi||2409 ft||2.47||Sorta hilly (<2) then flat|
|AL||Hoover Hills||54.3 mi||6068 ft||0.89||Very hilly|
|AL||Red Mountain Cahaba||46.9 mi||5269 ft||0.89||Very hilly again|
|TN||Clingman’s Dome||57.9 mi||9074 ft||0.64||Big climbs|
Here is the chart again with a small thumbnail showing the route and its topography (courtesy of Strava). Click on the thumbnail for larger image.
|Wisconsin||60.6 mi||2500 ft||2.42|
|Indiana||59.4 mi||2409 ft||2.47|
|Alabama||54.3 mi||6068 ft||0.89|
|Alabama||46.9 mi||5269 ft||0.89|
|Tennessee||57.9 mi||9074 ft||0.64|
And one more time with the elevation profiles …
|Wisconsin||60.6 mi||2500 ft||2.42|
|Indiana||59.4 mi||2409 ft||2.47|
|Alabama||54.3 mi||6068 ft||0.89|
|Alabama||46.9 mi||5269 ft||0.89|
|Tennessee||57.9 mi||9074 ft||0.64|
With all the climbing this week, I’m currently in the lead in the Strava weekly climbing competition. Check it out!
Strava Leaderboard – Monday Jan 3 – Sunday Jan 9, 2011
So how do you measure how hilly your ride is? Does anybody else have a different formula or approach?