Archive for July, 2012
It’s 4AM – time to start my longest ride ever.
At midnight, celebrating with @beautifulwife the end of a very long day of riding.
Wednesday – Day 4 – 249 miles, 42,200 feet of climbing
These two pictures above bookend my longest ride ever with the most climbing ever. Getting up at 4AM and then riding all the way until midnight with only a few breaks along the way. Even though my grand total was exactly 248.84 miles and 42,200 feet of climbing, my Garmin lost 24 miles of GPS coordinates. So only 225 miles and 38,000 feet of climbing counted on Strava towards the climbing competition. I’m still waiting for official results, but I believe it may have been just enough to win the “one-day challenge within a challenge” for the Rapha race bag given to whoever climbs the most on Wednesday.
I rode laps around my neighborhood for the first hour or so until it got light enough for me to venture out onto the main roads. I kept it nice and slow on the laps since I was hand carrying a flashlight and because I knew that I had a long day ahead of me. I was really, really sleepy and had a lot of negative thoughts about how on earth I was going to last 20 hours of riding. The repetition of the 1K lap along with the really sketchy corners in the dark didn’t help with my motivation. But then I started to notice that the sky was getting lighter. Each 2.5 minute lap would see the sky brighten ever so slightly until I could see the sketchy corners clearly and could start going a bit faster. This was all it took to get rid of the negative thoughts, and I was ecstatic by the time I headed out of the neighborhood.
My first destination was South Cove to get in some super fast descents before traffic started to pick up. There were people out jogging and walking (seriously, how do you people get up that early on a regular basis??? That is some serious motivation). But the nice thing about the S Cove Dr descent is that it is so steep that it is rare for anyone to try to walk or jog up it. So I let it all fly and hit these max speeds approaching 60mph just about every lap.
After the S Cove loops, I went over to Skyland Dr to do my first set of roller coaster hill repeats. Unfortunately, I nearly t-boned a German shepherd that gets out of its yard occasionally on the first descent down the roller coaster. I decided to come back later and opted instead to head on over to Vestavia Dr and then back home to say good morning to the family before Kristine left for work and the kids left for a day of playing at Grandma’s house.
After a nice breakfast, it was back out again – this time heading through hilly, curvy, fun Georgetown over to Bluff Park and Green Valley. When I climbed to the top of Green Valley I could see a thunderstorm building to the east not too far past my house – but the storm was heading south and not going to hit me over in Bluff Park. It was cool to watch the sky darken and to be far enough away to see close to the top of the storm. I continued riding through Bluff Park and made my way over to Vestavia to get water at the Publix grocery store. Then as I made my way to the top of Vestavia, I could see a huge thunderstorm that had built over downtown which was hidden from me because of the ridge line. I thought maybe I had enough time to dip down into Homewood and then back up the Hwy 31 climb while traffic was light – but as I was descending Hwy 31, I had a perfect view of lightning striking the Vulcan (less than 2 miles away) and decided to cut through Brookwood and try to make it home. I made it about 1/2 mile before the storm hit hard with heavy downpour and lots of lightning. I continued on making it home where I took these videos:
After a long lunch trying to wait out the thunderstorm, I had to eventually head back out in the rain. I had just made it over to Mountain Brook and started climbing over there when my Garmin shut off – went completely blank. I turned it back on, but as soon as it made it past the startup screen, it would shut off again. I did this several times – almost in a panic because here I was 8 hours 48 minutes into my ride and I was thinking that the Garmin might be in the process of losing the ENTIRE RIDE. So as much as I wanted to do the entire ride in a single file, I decided to try to reset the Garmin while it was on the “picking up satellites screen”. This worked AND it saved the entire ride. So that is why I have annotated the screenshots at the end of this post with the approx total time and total elevation gain.Since it was still raining, I decided to head over to Karl Daly since it is more straightforward without very many turns. By the time I had made it out to Karl Daly, the rain was gone and the sun had come back out. I climbed Karl Daly from all three sides going for a KOM on the long version from the Grants Mill road bridge (after snapping these pictures of the canoe landing on the cahaba river). I was 130 miles into my ride at this point, but I still felt great and set a new KOM on the climb. No power meter to pace myself, but I basically went as hard as I felt reasonably possible with 120 miles still left to ride. I did get the KOM (sorry Kyle!)
Then it was back down the Irondale side of Karl Daly to cut through the Irondale neighborhoods back into Mountain Brook. There is a steep descent that leads to two traffic lights. I normally turn at the second light – rarely missing the first light. But today the first light was red and I decided to go ahead and go through it since there was no cars coming out of the shopping center where I was turning left. Not a good decision, especially since there was an Irondale police officer at the intersection. He came after me in the shopping center and was absolutely furious asking if I had a death wish. He ran my social security number through the system with the dispatcher since I didn’t have any ID, gave me a stern talking to. Thankfully he didn’t give me a ticket, and I learned a lesson – obey the law. I was very respectful to him, and told him that it was a mistake, a bad decision, and I shouldn’t of done it – but he was still really angry even several minutes later after calling in my social security number and everything. The only other time I’ve gotten pulled over while biking is when I was drafting an unmarked state trooper on Hwy 280 towards Lee Branch. I didn’t realize it was a state trooper because I was focused on the rear end of the car and brake lights. He also was really angry when he pulled over into a bank after turning his lights on, but after a couple minutes he cooled off and we ended up joking together about the whole thing. This officer, on the other hand, was really upset. Don’t mess with the law in Irondale, folks.A couple hours of climbing through Irondale and Mountain Brook and I was home for refueling again. Kristine was home from work, and the kids were home my parents’ house so they came out to cheer me on a couple laps. This was a really short stop at home – just to grab a quick bite to eat and refill my bottles before heading back over to Hoover / Green Valley / Bluff Park / Vestavia for some last minute climbing while there was still daylight. The Vestavia Dr area is a favorite of mine along with these mountain goat statues at the very top of the Vesclub descent.
I ended up doing the Vesclub descent well after sunset – then I realized that instead of being stuck doing laps in my neighborhood for the rest of the night – I could do laps over in Countrywood and Dolly Ridge. I discovered this when I had to ride home in the dark from that area with no light – and it felt very safe so after a long stop for dinner with the family, Kristine kicked me out of the house telling me to go get the last 38 miles I needed for 250 miles for the day. I headed out needing to average a fairly high speed to do it. I got more and more motivated as I got closer to midnight. But at 11:15 PM (about 8+ hours into my second ride of the day and only 45 minutes left to ride), my silly Garmin cut off again. This time, unfortunately, I lost everything from after dinner – about 24 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. I didn’t realize it, though, because the ride was correctly listed in my history as 126 miles. It wasn’t until I uploaded it to Strava that I realized the GPS coordinates were not stored so Strava would only recognize 102 miles of that ride.
Even though I didn’t know all of this at the time, the second power outage on my Garmin really cut my motivation. I was trying to do some math in my head to figure out if I was going to make 250 miles, given that I needed 14 more miles and had less than 45 minutes to do it. I incorrectly calculated 30mph when in fact it was only a bit less than 20mph. So I cruised on home no longer trying to hit 250 miles, but instead trying to hit 400km which is about 248 miles. I figured I could do that … but as I started to do laps with Kristine cheering me on and taking pictures at 11:30 in our neighborhood, I recalculated and figured I might be able to make it all the way to 250 miles. This renewed my motivation in a big way, and I really hit it hard – each time up the hill in front of our house, I sprinted like the end of a night criterium. When all was said and done, though, I only made it to 249 miles as the clock rolled over to 11:59PM – which I decided would be my stop time.
Then I spent the next 3 hours trying to figure out how to merge all three ride files into one file – and to figure out why the total was only showing up as 225 miles. Eventually, I figured it all out – but there was nothing I could do to recover the missing 24 miles. Grrrrrrr. 249 miles, 42,200 feet of climbing, 1 crazy hard fun cycling adventure!
Thursday – Day 5 – 52 miles, 7,636 feet of climbing
Easy recovery day today started out with a short ride to the grocery store with Josiah. My forearms were the sorest part of my body from all the shifting on my long ride on Wednesday. It was really difficult to shift by the end of the day! We bought a few things and headed home for a nice relaxing day watching the tour de france. In the early afternoon, I headed out for an easy ride and ran into somebody who lives in the neighborhood across the street from us. We rode together all the way through Mountain Brook to the Irondale turnaround and back – before I took off to head to my brother’s house for a birthday dinner. After dinner, I headed back home and did some more climbing in the dark. Legs were starting to feel better by the end of the day. There was a huge thunderstorm blowing up just to the north and I managed to snap a picture of some lightning (although I only got the afterglow).
The most interesting thing that happened during the ride was early on when I passed this guy only slightly faster than he was walking up a hill carrying a big log on his shoulder back up to his truck. He asked me “Are you doing this for fun, or because you have to?” I thought for a second and then said “A little bit of both”. And then I proceeded to spend the next hour of my ride thinking about how complex a question that was that he asked me and how complex an answer could be given – but was boiled down to “a little bit of both”. I was thinking I would go into more detail on my blog post about the answer to that question – but it requires more thought and I’ve spent too long on this one already!
Friday – Day 6 – 57 miles, 10,261 feet of climbing
My legs were still feeling tired today – wrists/forearms all better. I really wandered on this ride although I basically did all of my normal routes hitting the Green Valley roller coaster loop several times. The only thing out of the ordinary was the Hwy 31 sidewalk climb – which I normally only do on my commutes into work. It has been 2 months now since the end of the semester so it was fun to revisit a climb I haven’t done in a couple months. Plus, I wanted something easy and steady towards the end of my ride, and yet I wanted to go snap some more photos from the top of Vestavia Dr. The mountain goats didn’t disappoint as they were in a new position today.
Finally, here is a gallery of photos and screenshots. Most of these are from my ride on Wednesday – but the ones from Thursday and Friday I’ve tried to pick out and label as such. Also, the Garmin screenshots are in order starting before sunrise and ending after dark.
I’m working on a longer post with details from yesterday’s ride … but here is a quick summary:
- Wake up at 3:45AM to begin riding by 4AM … a little slow getting going and out the door by 4:10AM
- Do laps in my neighborhood for about an hour before it is light enough to head out on the open road
- South Cove laps – hit 60.5 mph on deserted descent
- Head over to Vestavia to do Skyland Repeats but chased by dog and decide to climb up Shades Crest instead
- Refuel and say hi to the family at 7:30AM with over 9,000 feet of climbing already done
- Green Valley / Bluff Park as thunderstorms build to the east … watch them head south towards Alabaster … pics later
- Notice a thunderstorm building over Birmingham, Homewood heading my way … no way to avoid … stuck in it for 10 miles on the way home … lightning everywhere … flash/crack, flash/crack
- Wait out the thunderstorm and have lunch
- Head back out in the rain towards Mountain Brook/Irondale
- Karl Daly climbs and KOM effort
- Pulled over by Irondale police officer for running a red light (in front of Sam’s Club) and then riding wrong way against traffic. Whew … bad decision but thankfully no ticket
- Home for afternoon break / food (see video below)
- Back out for more Green Valley / Bluff Park / Vestavia climbing pushing all the way until an hour past sunset (no light but safe deserted roads)
- Dinner and then only 38 miles left to hit 250 miles
- Laps in Countrywood and Dolly Ridge … Kristine rigged my helmet up with a light duct-taped to the front and back … saw drunk driver on Dolly Ridge … all the way in my lane on the wrong side of the road heading very fast … safely avoided by riding into the ditch
- Home for laps around the neighborhood with Kristine cheering me on … see pic below … rode until 11:59pm which happened to occur the final time up the hill in front of my house
The Rapha Rising climbing competition started on Sunday, and today I had a fun ride per the pics and Garmin screenshots below. I started out with lots of laps in the neighborhood to start out the ride while Kristine was at work and the kids were playing in the front yard. Then when Kristine got home I rode over to Brick Alley carrying my race wheel with a broken spoke – but they were closed so I had to ride back carrying the wheel – about 7 miles of climbing hand-carrying an extra wheel. Then I did some Skyland Repeats in Vestavia and RTB loops in Mountain Brook and snapped a few photos along the way.
Summary – 2nd in the masters 35+ criterium, 3rd in the pro/1/2/3/4 combined criterium, plus 5 points on a bonus points prime gave me just enough to tie Beth Hollingsworth (Velocity Pro Cycles) in the overall, combined omnium. With the tiebreaker being the time trial time, I ended up winning the tie breaker to take 2nd in the omnium behind Chris Brown (Litespeed – BMW).
Masters 35+ criterium – this race started out fast, so fast that the field split at least once before the first prime. The field was back together by the first prime, but I wasn’t in good position to go for it. A couple laps later, however, there was another prime that I thought was for a bouquet of roses. In a field full of masters, I thought that this would be hotly contested (to bring home to give to our wives) so I jumped really, really hard on the inside on the short flat stretch before the final turn. I was sheltered from the cross-wind by the pack when I attacked and then when I made the turn I had a strong tailwind. It turns out that I jumped hard enough that nobody else contested the prime, and I had opened nearly a 10 second gap by the time I won the prime — (unfortunately, after the race, I found out that it was a gift certificate to a restaurant named Rosie’s).
About halfway through the next lap, I looked back and saw Chris Brown closing in fast bridging the gap by himself. When he got close, I jumped back up to speed and together we worked to try to fend off a chase group of 5 riders that had split off of the blown apart field. We worked together well, but the gap stayed at just a few seconds for several laps. Then finally after several really hard laps, the gap started to increase by a second or two every lap so that it eventually got out to 20 seconds. But then it started coming down again — by 5 seconds in a single lap to take our gap back down to 15 seconds. Then, the next lap it was down to 13 seconds. Fortunately, by this point we only had five laps to go in the race. So we turned on the gas one last time and held it to the end where Chris took the sprint.
Monte Sano – climbing
The Rapha Rising climbing competition had also begun today so I headed out after the masters race to do some climbing. I ended up breaking a spoke at the bottom of Monte Sano, turning around and getting my spare wheel, before doing the climb again. It was a long, steady, gradual climb but my legs were tired and I needed to rest for my the pro/1/2/3/4 combined crit later in the day so I only did the climb once. I’m in a deep hole for the climbing competition right now, but I am hoping to make up ground by Wednesday.
Pro/1/2/3/4 combined criterium
One of the unique things about the Huntsville omnium is that it is combined over all the categories. And to finish the combined omnium off, there is a combined Pro/1/2/3/4 criterium for the last race of the day. By the start at 2:00 – it was very hot – well over 100 degF in the sun on the start line. Combine that with the humidity that somehow hadn’t burned off from the morning, yet, and it was going to be a sweltering race that I wasn’t sure I could finish.
On the start line, as the race official said “go”, they also rang the bell for the race’s points prime – 10 pts, 5 pts, and 5 pts for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I was on the front row so I thought about just taking off and going for it from the gun — especially since Chris had started farther back. But I also knew that it would be a long race and that if I won the prime, I stood a very good chance of not being able to finish the race at all. So I hung back in 2nd and 3rd position as a couple riders drove the pace pretty hard anyway. I started the sprint for the prime, but Chris was able to come around me just before the line. I figured that the race was over and that Christian Parrett (Global Bike) and maybe one or two riders would bridge up to us for the break. But instead, the field came back together.
Shortly after that, Christian began a series of attacks that eventually saw him get away solo. Chris’s teammate Anders got away in a chase group of 3. But one of the riders got shelled making it a chase group of two. Our average pace in the field slowed way down as there would be an attack and then when the attack was chased down the pace really dropped. After only 20 minutes into the race, Christian lapped the field which was down to less than 10 riders by this point – but the chase group of two still hadn’t caught us. So Christian went immediately to the front and began driving the pace. He very slowly started extending the gap on the chase group (we had been getting splits to the chase group behind us). At one point the gap from the chase group to the back of the field was only 20 seconds.
I had won a couple field primes during this time, but then while Christian was driving the front they announced a $230 giro helmet prime. I need a new helmet, so I went really hard for this one. Will Fyfe (Birmingham Bicycle Company), however, just got me at the line. Our effort for the prime, however, shelled some more riders from the group and later when Chris attacked I was able to go with him. He was in an awkward position because he couldn’t work too hard or we would catch his teammate. At the same time, though, it was safer to be off the front then contesting the field sprint. So we settled into a rhythm that looked like would keep us in front of the field but behind the chase group of two.
The chase group had been out front for a long time in the hot conditions so we ended up catching them with about 5 laps to go. This put four of us working together to stay in front of the field. In one of the corners, I felt my rear wheel slide a bit. It felt like I had a flat tire. But I bounced on it and it didn’t seem to be bulging out too much so I kept on going. By three laps to go, though, the tire was rolling on the faster corners. I went to the front to drive the pace so that hopefully I would have enough time to get a wheel from the pit and stay in front of the field since there was no more free laps. But in the end I decided to just risk it since it seemed to have enough air to not be rolling on every corner. Fortunately, the sprint at the finish didn’t start in earnest until after the last corner and I was able to give it max effort up the hill to finish just behind Chris for 3rd place. Here is a picture I got right after the race – I’m guessing that the slow leak had taken it down to maybe 40 psi by the end.
All the data
With five separate races this weekend, I have gobs and gobs of data. So I’ve highlighted what I consider the most interesting data and then put the rest into a gallery. First, I set three new power records this weekend … the first was during the masters road race over the range from 17″ (916 watts) to 20″ (878 watts). The second was during the time trial over the range from 1’07” (607 watts) to 1’30” (545 watts). And the final power record was during the P/1/2/3/4 combined crit (probably sprinting for either the points prime at the beginning of the race or the giro helmet prime) over the range from 2″ (1107 watts) to 16″ (930 watts).
The next two most interesting data items are the heartrate plot and summary for the Pro/1/2 road race Saturday morning. This was a particularly difficult race to start out the weekend with!
Pro/1/2 road race heartrate summary
Pro/1/2 heartrate and power plot (power smoothed with 30second smoothing filter)
The time trial power plot is interesting … speed data is from GPS, but it looks like there is a second in the middle where my Garmin dropped the power reading right around the time that the GPS-based speed was getting goofy. I wonder if it was because the Garmin was devoting more processing power to trying to pin the GPS signal and dropped the power reading. I stayed big chainring the entire time trial and never stopped standing so my power should never have dropped to zero.
Heartrate plot for the timetrial
Finally, here is my lap data from the two criteriums on Sunday.
MASTERS 35+ criterium - 2nd place Lap Time AvgPow NormPow MaxPow AvgHR Avg Spd 1 1:47 234 205 725 138 23.6 2 1:38 197 176 626 144 25.6 3 1:38 197 169 528 142 25.4 4 1:38 215 186 668 145 25.8 5 1:39 188 155 636 150 25.3 6 1:38 220 204 664 149 25.7 7 1:38 267 238 1092 146 25.6 8 1:31 323 268 647 170 27.6 9 1:27 364 319 1067 167 28.5 10 1:29 333 281 775 180 26.6 11 1:32 306 259 594 179 26.9 12 1:34 299 251 610 177 26.4 13 1:30 299 243 624 178 25.8 14 1:31 281 229 718 178 25.9 15 1:36 291 242 643 179 25.8 16 1:38 286 242 546 179 25.4 17 1:36 267 231 577 176 25.4 18 1:40 268 223 539 176 25 19 1:39 268 229 536 174 25.2 20 1:34 290 239 548 176 26.1 21 1:35 281 235 639 176 26.2 22 1:31 269 212 499 176 25.8 23 1:31 287 234 699 177 26.1 24 1:33 284 225 571 176 26.8 25 1:34 263 222 600 174 26.4 26 1:36 270 224 696 173 26.2 27 1:34 234 194 613 172 25.1 28 1:42 252 226 759 165 24.3
Pro/1/2/3/4 combined criterium - 3rd place Lap Time AvgPow NormPow MaxPow AvgHR Avg Spd 1 1:37 398 321 1108 151 26.6 2 1:28 326 265 801 171 27.8 3 1:28 344 297 1086 170 26 4 1:30 341 282 1039 171 25.9 5 1:31 262 232 1033 176 25.3 6 1:36 234 202 673 165 26 7 1:40 214 181 784 162 24.8 8 1:38 166 146 451 158 23.7 9 1:49 168 149 773 150 23 10 1:44 216 190 931 152 23.9 11 1:46 254 253 968 151 23.5 12 1:37 247 198 780 168 24.2 13 1:25 361 303 1110 171 27.7 14 1:43 238 205 918 171 22.8 15 1:26 270 240 897 170 26.5 16 1:40 241 208 793 168 23 17 1:46 212 187 933 158 23.8 18 1:47 186 167 722 157 23.3 19 1:42 218 192 951 153 23 20 1:36 205 184 645 162 23.8 21 1:33 232 192 910 156 25.2 22 1:31 222 182 568 156 25.3 23 1:33 213 176 775 156 24.9 24 1:39 220 186 662 156 25.1 25 1:33 221 184 674 155 24.9 26 1:37 284 253 1125 154 25.6 27 1:36 230 193 623 165 23.9 28 1:30 405 378 1044 168 27.9 29 1:28 289 239 627 181 26.5 30 1:29 274 222 619 179 26.3 31 1:32 292 238 654 178 25.1 32 1:32 243 200 630 176 25 33 1:34 283 235 899 171 24.7 34 1:33 274 230 862 174 24.8 35 1:33 348 292 1111 177 24.8
And here is a gallery of all the data and photos from the race weekend… organized by race.
Huntsville Omnium Day 1
Two roads races and one time trial makes for a long day of racing. It was a lot of fun, though, and I ended up getting 3rd in the Pro/1/2 road race, 3rd in the Masters 35+ road race, ? in the Pro/1/2 time trial, and ? in the Masters 35+ time trial. After racing two road races in the morning, thankfully we only had to race the time trial once to be scored in both categories based on our time.
Before I dive into the details of the races, some quick stats:
|Race||Avg Power||Avg Speed||Avg HR|
|Pro/1/2||213 watts||23.4 mph||159 bpm|
|Masters 35+||200 watts||24.0 mph||152 bpm|
|Time Trial||586 watts||26.2 mph||166 bpm|
I wanted to post these stats because the Pro/1/2 road race and Masters road races played out so differently and yet I got the same place in each race. I was already thinking even before the end of the Masters road race that it was going to be really interesting to compare the data from the two races as well as the tactics and how everything played out.
Pro/1/2 road race
First, the pro/1/2 road race was a pretty small field, but it was quite strong. This meant that whenever somebody attacked, there was always somebody strong enough to bring it back together. The days action started out with Nate Robinson going solo and establishing a 1 minute+ lead. At some point the entire field got into a rotation, and we started to gradually close the gap. Then the attacking began. It’s hard to remember all the attacks because there were so many. I launched one attack that led to a good break with me, Christian Parrett (Globalbike), and Anders (Litespeed-BMW). We worked together really well and were absolutely drilling it, but the gap never got more than maybe 20 seconds. Anders teammate, Chris Brown, bridged up to us and even with the extra horse power, the rest of the field brought us back on the downhill/headwind section of the course.
After the umpteenth attack was brought back on the last lap, we had about 5 or 6 miles of steady very slow riding. Then John Hart (Friends of the Great Smokies) put in the first attack to start the end game with about 3 or 4 miles left in the race. The sudden attack after several miles of slow riding meant that it was “cramp city” for me and probably a lot of other riders. I was able to fight the initial cramp and go with Anders when he countered John’s attack. After these late attacks, the field had been whittled down to just five riders – and we were at a stalemate going into the last mile. Christian put in the first attack with about 1K to go. Anders covered that move with me on his wheel. But then Anders stepped up the pace to lead out Chris. Christian ended up on Anders wheel, then Chris, then me. Christian started his sprint on the downhill leading to the finish. I was still in third position as we hit the bottom of the hill. The finish line seemed so close, and I was in perfect position so I attacked thinking that we had maybe 200 meters left. But after a few seconds into my sprint, we then crossed the 200 meter mark so I had gone too early and both Chris Brown and ? (Harpeth Bicycles) was able to come around with me taking third.
Masters road race
The masters road race had a larger field of maybe 25 riders. I was still tired and very hot from the 8AM race which had gone longer than expected because of our slow average speed. I wanted to race conservatively to make sure that I could finish. Fortunately, there was an early break that got up the road. Also, fortunately, there were some strong riders/teams at the front that worked well together to slowly bring the move back after about a lap and a half. This meant that for the first 15 miles of the race, the pace was very smooth and I worked hard to make sure that I stayed out of the wind as much as possible.
Towards the beginning of the 3rd lap, Chris Brown (Litespeed-BMW) launched a hard solo attack. I was in good position to cover so I drilled it as hard as possible and was able to catch up to him. At this point, there was a solo rider up the road and I figured that we would bridge up to him and have a break of three. But lo and behold, the field came charging up to us just as we starting to get into a rotation! We sat up and our pace dropped leaving the solo rider still close to a minute in front of the field.
I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but only a couple miles later I ended up off the front with three other riders (Britton, Chris, and John). We drilled it hard, fully committed to the move and yet two riders were able to bridge up to us from the field (GW and somebody else). This meant we had a group of six chasing one guy. We worked well together as a group, caught the solo rider towards the end of that lap with one lap to go. Our group worked well together all the way to the end. This time in the sprint, I thought I would wait as long as possible and it worked pretty well as I had a ton of speed for the finish coming up hard on the winner (Britton) and second place – but it was too late as they had already crossed the line leaving me in third again.
Two road races down and only one very short (1K) time trial to go. It turns out that there is a lot of strategy that goes into a 1K time trial – especially one that starts out at the bottom of an 11% hill, then crests to a false flat downhill with a massive tailwind. How hard do you go up the hill? How much do you need left in the tank for the false flat downhill with a tailwind?
I decided ahead of time to meter my effort based on average wattage. I know that I can maintain 500 watts for over two minutes – so for a 1K effort that would take about a minute and a half, I was aiming for about 550 watts given the 100 miles of road racing that I had just done. I took one look at my power meter, however, saw 800 watts and decided not to look at the power meter anymore. I ended up with an average power just under 590 watts – so I was happy with that although I’m not sure how that will compare to everyone else.
My attempt at the Alabama State Time Trial last week shortly after having some pretty bad food poisoning went really poorly. I had been looking forward to comparing my time with what I had done two years ago, so today I put my clip-on bars back onto the bike and swapped out to my Reynolds Wheels so that I could try again. I picked a relatively flat route to get all the way out there to Columbiana since it was going to be a long ride in the heat. But showers this morning, cloudy skies, and rain still in the air brought the temp way down to 70s and 80s for most of the ride.
When I finally made it out to the high school, I put my foot down on the start line, hit the lap button and took off. I initially set a target wattage of 300 watts, but I felt good and kept the average (including the initial surge from the start line) closer to 325 watts for the first few miles. Watts were gradually dropping from my average as I tried to keep my current wattage close to 300 on the flatter sections and 400+ on the steep rollers. On the downhills, though, I didn’t want to spin like crazy so I just let the power drop to the low 200s.
At the turnaround, I still had a 310 watt average and 24.5mph speed average so that gave me confidence to push it hard on the way back to keep a 300+ watt average for my effort. I ended up setting a half hour’s worth of power records along the way. My time ended up being just over 58 minutes, which I believe would have put me into 3rd or 4th place in the Pro/1/2 category. Definitely redeems the miserable 1 hour, 17 minute effort last week.
This course is really a great time trial course for criterium racers b/c you can take advantage of the steep hills to use your upper body strength and give your legs a bit of a break. And since you are only going 10-15mph on the steeper hills, the aerodynamic penalty of rocking the bike back and forth doesn’t matter so much. Of course, if you have a disc wheel, large front chainring and full aero setup, you might be able to carry enough momentum on the steep downhills to top out some of the rollers.
Heartrate summary for today’s tt effort
And finally, some Garmin screenshots from the ride including the lap summary screen with different stats shown … (and my TT position setup, which is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in a time trial so I wanted to take some pics to remember how to set it up like this again in a couple weeks for the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix time trial)
Well, today’s mountain bike ride definitely fit the bill for a “cycling adventure”. Highlights included riding in and behind a thunderstorm, riding through a pilgrimage of devout Catholics, stumbling upon a small forest fire, discovering another Strava Cat 2 climb for Alabama, lots of mud, lots of flying ants, and lots of yellow jackets. Here are annotated topocreator maps of my route.
We had some thunderstorms roll through Birmingham this morning, so it was lots of rain on the long ride out to Double Oak and eventually over to Signal Mountain. Most of the thunder/lightning activity stayed just to the east of my location, but it was still disconcerting to be on the edge of a thunderstorm while climbing over the highest ridges in the area. Apparently, lightning from the storm had struck the top of Signal Mountain as I would later discover a small forest fire near the top.
Before climbing Signal Mountain, I had to first climb up and over the Double Oak ridges taking me down into Bear Creek Valley. As I rode north on Co Rd 43 through Bear Creek, I noticed hundreds of cars parked alongside the road. This was really unusual, but it got even stranger as I started reading the license plates which were from all over the country. I eventually made it through the cars to this field and found out by asking someone walking back that some devout catholics believe Mary appears in this field every year near the Fourth of July.
Continuing on Co Rd 43, I eventually made it to this barn which used to have a cool concrete statue of cyclists resting on the ground with their bikes propped up behind them, and turned onto the street/driveway (Moss Rock Trail) that leads straight down to Bear Creek itself and the low point for the start of the Cat 2 climb up Signal Mountain. I turned around at the bridge and began the climb by heading back out to Co Rd 43 and turning left to go back all the way through the pilgrimage area until I reached Season Rd, which is the start of the steep part of the climb.
I’m pretty sure this will be the only time I ever do the climb. It is a good climb through a beautiful area, but the majority of it is on private hunting grounds (hence the name “Season Rd”). I reckoned that on a rainy Monday morning in the middle of summer everything should be deserted, which it was. But this is property that should generally be avoided. At the top of the climb is a single radio tower, which is ironic given that the name of the mountain is Signal Mountain.
The climb starts out steady and steep for the first mile before leveling out when you cross over from the back side of the ridge to the front side of the ridge. The view along the front side of the ridge is absolutely amazing – overlooking the valley over 1000 ft below and the adjacent ridge of Double Oak at nearly 1000 ft above the valley floor as well. After about a half mile, the climb bends around the side of the mountain again and really kicks up in elevation. It was just past this bend where I saw the forest fire. Also, I had to run the last bit because I got off-balance in the wrong gear, and it was too steep to remount – but theoretically the entire climb is rideable without stopping.
After I made it down the mountain, I rode back to the pilgrimage area and reported the fire to a Shelby County police officer who was helping with crowd control. He thanked me and called it in on his radio. Then it was time for me to head back up and over Double Oak ridge … the mountain was swarming with yellow jackets and flying ants. Because of the earlier rain, I had to run several sections and with every footfall there would be a yellow jacket rooting around in the rocks and mud. I was super careful, but it wasn’t until I was actually riding on a slight downhill at about 15mph when a yellow jacket, bee, or wasp came from in front of me and collided directly with my head. The sting was immediate – I couldn’t tell a difference between the “thud” of the bee hitting me and its sting. One day later as I finish off this post, the entire righthand side of my face is swollen along with both sides of my neck.
To view the ride interactively on Strava, click this link: http://app.strava.com/rides/12387038
Finally, here are all the pics that I took during the ride: