Archive for November, 2012

Oak Mountain Chainbuster MTB Race

The Report
My first experience in timed endurance mountain bike racing went really well – I came away with a win in the solo expert class. But more importantly I think the switch flipped on during the first lap of the race, and I discovered how to ride a mountain bike over technical terrain. I still have a long ways to go with a mental battle to trust the tires on tight turns, but I have much more confidence rolling the 29er over rocky and rooty terrain. I got the hole shot into Mr Toad’s after nearly running into the back of the lead vehicle. I got passed by one rider (a 6 hour solo rider) in the tight switchback turns at the end of Mr Toad’s, but I had no problem catching back up on Johnson’s Mountain. I decided not to pass, though, because I knew he would be fast down the descent, and I wanted a firsthand view of how to ride the Johnson Mountain descents fast. It was awesome. I kept up through most of the descent, but lost him in the tight turns just before crossing Peavine. Also, Eddie O’Dea and one other rider had caught up to us at the road so I slowed for a second to let them by on the road rather than entering the next twisty section and having to let them by there.

I lost some ground on the initial technical part of the Bump climb, but then caught up to Eddie and the other rider by the big berm before the bumpy steep part of the climb. They let me by and I flew up the climb. I wanted to try to have a big enough gap so as not to get in the way on Jekyll. I ran up Blood Rock and continued running through the switchbacks where I had fallen and hurt myself last Wednesday. Plus, for me it’s actually faster to run that section than ride it … especially if you don’t clear the switchbacks. I entered Jekyll nervous but fast which turned out to be key to riding that section (thanks John Karrasch). I rolled over stuff that I had to walk previously. And other stuff that I wanted to walk I came onto too quickly to stop so I had to ride it. And after not falling through each tricky drop or rock section, I got more and more confidence. Then shortly after the switchback that separates the two technical sections of Jekyll, I bobbled and unclipped right as Eddie was catching up to me. So I let him by and then tried to follow his line. I had to unclip two more times, but I was close enough to see some of the lines he took and also see that he was riding everything which gave me the confidence to try everything. This was hugely important for me eventually winning the race. If I had done all of Jekyll on my own then I may have not even attempted some of the trickier sections, let alone seen the lines to take. Huge thanks to Eddie!

Also, while I’m thinking about it – huge shout-out to Jacob who convinced me on Thursday night during our practice run on the course to run much lower tire pressure than I have been running. I ended up with 25PSI front and back for the race instead of my normal 30PSI. Also, thanks to Boris Simmonds for showing me the fast lines at night down the Hyde portion of Jekyll and Hyde and also for teaming up to share resources in the pit. I loved the sign he made “Borat & Toone” and wish I had gotten a picture of it. And thanks to Lennie Moon for coming out and cheering with his family. Also, a big thanks to John for the advice about just tackling Jekyll one section at a time and not looking too far ahead, this was hugely important later after I got more comfortable so that I stayed focus on the immediate section. I basically learned that the bottom portion of Jekyll only has three sections which are tricky and knowing that meant I could roll the stuff in between faster and use each of the tricky sections as benchmarks for the descent. Also, thanks to Roger Byrd from Bob’s Bikes for loaning me his awesome headlight.

I crossed the line in third after the first lap, but the two riders in front of me were a six hour solo expert rider and Eddie from the Eddie/Namrita six hour team. So that meant that I basically led the 9 hour solo expert race from start to finish! I ate a powerbar each lap and drank a full bottle of gatorade each lap. So I felt like I stayed on top of my nutrition better than I have in previous long mountain bike races (Leadville and Fool’s Gold, particularly). Still, I was really struggling on the 7th lap and by the time it got dark I got nervous that I was going to see Jeff Clayton’s lights approaching me. But when I made it up Blood Rock and could look down the entire bump climb and not see any lights I knew that barring a mechanical or bad fall I was going to win! That last time down Hyde was a bit tricky because I got into the mode of thinking “don’t fall, don’t fall” rather than just flowing with the descent.

Here’s my data from the race.

Annotated heartrate zone summary

Annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge).

Kids Race

Analise and Josiah got to participate in the racing action as well. The day started out with a kids race at 8:30. This was the first time for my kids to ride on real trails apart from the 0.2 mile section of woods on the way to school, which is pretty much a straight shot downhill. So this time they got to ride uphill, around corners, over bridges, around logs, and roll over small roots on a mile long portion of the family trail. They loved it!

Finally a couple frantic (me being the frantic one) videos from the pit and gallery of pics from the day:

November 11, 2012 at 11:34 am 1 comment

Lover’s Leap, Bluff Park, Alabama

Beautiful overcast fall day today for my commute home from work. I wanted to head up to Bluff Park instead of my normal commute through Vestavia Hills. A little more than an hour into my ride, I found myself exploring the Lover’s Leap rocks up in Bluff Park with the cool inscription shown below (and narrated in the video above):

Lover’s Leap inscription. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see my best guess at what it says.

Here’s the rest of the pics from the day, plus one more video — the somewhat crazy descent from Crest Lane all the way down through the Green Valley roller coaster. I’ve put some bookmarks into the description on youtube so you can jump to specific spots of the video if you watch it on you tube and then click the timestamps in the description.

Tho W. Farrar
Seraphine F. Farrar
-------------------
To sit on rock ... head and fell
To slowly trace the forest's shady scene
Where things that own not in one dominion dwell
And mortal feet ... rarely been
August 20th
1827

“…” means I have no clue what that part of the poem says.

November 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm 2 comments

Strava Shootout Week 3 – Smyer KOM

We are nearing the end of Week 3 of the second annual Birmingham Strava Shootout. Basically, we pick a different climb each week and then see who can get the fastest time up the climb. Mark Fisher has been crushing it (and crushing a lot of my KOMs along the way) so when he laid down another smoking fast time yesterday crushing by 20 seconds my KOM on the long version of the Smyer climb, I knew that I was going to give it everything I had to get back the KOM today.

The rock where I left all my stuff while I was going for the KOM

I did a new version of the endless Vestavia climb at a really easy pace to get nearly an hour of warm-up in before my KOM attempt. I came into the KOM from the top so I dropped all my stuff off (water bottles, tools, pump, food, iphone, etc…) behind the rock shown in the picture above. Then I drilled it down the descent to keep my legs loose and ready to go at the turnaround at the bottom. I forgot to look ahead of time to see what wattage I should be able to maintain for 6 minutes, but I guessed it should be around 425 watts. I made the final decision on that wattage as I was descending and kept telling myself not to go too hard at the beginning.

As narrated in the video, I started out by looking at the wrong wattage number (3s wattage which happened to be 370watts at the moment when I looked instead of the Lap wattage which was actually 470 watts at that point). After I figured out that I had looked at the wrong wattage number, I settled into a good rhythm backing off my initial pace so that the power average drifted back down towards 425 watts. The last time I looked at my wattage was near the Brookwood Metro back entrance road where the wattage average had dropped to just below 450 watts. I looked at my average speed a few seconds later as I turned onto Smyer and I had a solid 18.8mph average through that point. This gave me a ton of motivation because I was expecting to be closer to 18 flat and was afraid that I would even be under 18 based on the fact that I was trying to be more conservative through the opening part of the climb.

Up ahead I could see two other riders side by side as they entered the switchback portion of the climb. I was on them really quickly and had to pass them on the wrong side of the road because there was no time to yell and wait for them to get out of the way. Fortunately, I had a clear view through the switchback and was able to pass them very quickly and get back onto my side of the road. There was a good tailwind through the 280 overlook section so I entered the flat section before the next set of switchbacks with a ton of speed. I got a bit overconfident at this point as I tried to hammer through the next switchbacks in too big a gear leading to quite a bit of bogging down. I upshifted into an easier gear at the Hurricane Ivan landslide/washout area to try to get back on top of a gear and proceeded to nail the deepest pothole in the washout.

I happened to look down and see my time as I rounded the last turn before the straightaway leading to Shades Crest, and I saw a time of 4:00 or maybe it was 4:05. This caused a lot of mental anxiety/consternation because up until that point I felt really good about my prospects of getting the KOM, but when I saw that I was already up to 4 minutes, I wasn’t sure if that was going to leave me enough time to get to the top. I don’t normally ever look at the time through that section so I had no clue how much time was left in the climb. Those thoughts/doubts were quickly dismissed as I saw a group of riders strung out climbing up from the steep portion of Shades Crest Rd crossing the intersection that I was barreling towards at 20mph. Normally, you have to time the merger to slide into the road either in front of or behind cars that are coming up the hill. The still image screenshot in the video at the top of this post is a picture of that intersection (Shades Crest is the road coming up the hill from the left).

If I wasn’t digging so deep, then I probably would have laughed at the irony of having to time that intersection based on riders coming up the hill instead of cars. I found a hole to dive into and then passed the rider who I had slid in behind. He cheered me on as I came flying by, and that helped motivate me to push it really hard through the sharp steep turn onto Smyer Circle and then the flatter drawn-out ending of the climb. When I hit the lap timer button, I saw 5’55” and I was about ready to fall off my bike.

It’s funny, too, because I was really trying to discipline myself to maintain a 425 watt average throughout the climb instead of starting out too hard and then watching the power drift down. I ended up hitting my 425 watt target wattage exactly even though I cannot recall ever looking at my wattage again after passing the Brookwood Metro entrance. Speaking of wattage, when I loaded this ride into Golden Cheetah, I first noticed that my effort was indeed a new maximum that extended all the way to the edge of the critical power curve. But then I noticed that my CP curve had been dropped from 305 watts down to 293 watts. I’m guessing that this has something to do with a better fit to the curve. The good news is that this shift in the curve means that I theoretically have a lot of “wattage-room” to take back the shorter KOMs on Old Montgomery and Big Momma that Mark got the last couple weeks. But it seems strange that my new curve predicts a new, lower 1 hour wattage of exactly 300watts instead of the previous prediction of 315watts based on the new 293 CP wattage vs the old 305 CP wattage. Can any power/golden cheetah/critical power experts out there weigh in on how this ride would cause my curve to shift? I’ve included three screenshots below that show my CP curve before updating with the Old Montgomery KOM effort, after updating with the Smyer effort, and then one that shows the CP curve with today’s Smyer effort in black before Golden Cheetah had updated the CP curve. Thanks!

305W CP curve with the Old Montgomery KOM effort shown in black (click to enlarge)

293W CP curve updated after my Smyer KOM effort — shown in black. (click to enlarge)

305W CP curve with the Smyer effort shown in black. This is the screenshot before Golden Cheetah updated the CP curve to a 293W CP curve. (click to enlarge)

Smyer power map annotated with 30second power averages (click to enlarge)

Smyer KOM lap summary data (click to enlarge). I thought it was interesting that my xPow (normative power) was lower than my average power. I’m pretty sure I was pedaling the entire time so I’m not sure why there is a difference between normalized power and average power?

Finally, I’ve posted screenshots from the ride and also taken some screenshots from the video showcasing the beautiful fall colors. These are in the gallery below. Enjoy!

November 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm 1 comment

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24 hour race here tomorrow morning, first step in a long journey to RAAM 2015. Jefferson county. Most of this ride was reasonable, but the last 2 hours were like an inferno.

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Brian Toone

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Quick reference stats

Anaerobic Threshold:
Power:315 watts
Heart rate:180 bpm
Maximums:
Power:1097 watts (5s)
Heart rate:198 bpm (5s)
AT power estimated by critical power curve in Golden Cheetah, which predicts I should be able to maintain 315 watts for 1 hour.

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