Archive for February, 2014

Racing season kick-off 2014

Last year, I opened up my season with back-to-back wins at Southern Cross and the Camp Sumatanga training race the next day. This year, I’ve started off the season with a 3rd place time trial podium, 6th place at Southern Cross, and 1st place again this year at the Sumatanga Category A race. The win yesterday at Sumatanga helped ease the sting from Southern Cross where I just didn’t have it on that opening climb and watched the lead group of eight riders ride away from me less than halfway up the climb. Also easing the Southern Cross sting was the outstanding performances by Birmingham riders Chris Edmonds, Jerry Dufour (17), and Reid Richesin (15) who placed 3rd, 5th, and 12th!

SOUTHERN CROSS ULTRACX RACE #1

Montaluce Monster with Brick Alley (my home shop!) riders finishingThe final run-up and beer-up at Southern Cross – the “Montaluce Monster” with Brick Alley riders finishing. Brick Alley is my home shop in Birmingham!

So let’s start with Southern Cross – amazing again this year. I could finish dead last and while disappointed would still feel like the weekend was worth it. Race promoter and ultra-endurance racer Eddie O’Dea announced before the start that it was the biggest field yet for Southern Cross, and I would go one step farther to say it was also the strongest field as evidenced by the lead group of eight still together well into the Winding Stair climb. New this year was an additional dirt climb out of the winery instead of the traditional climb out via the road. I was really happy with my start able to ride almost everything, including the log drop and the new dirt climb out of the winery. The only thing I had to run was the main run-up, which given the heavy rains from a few days before the race was too wet to ride.

Leaving the winery, the lead group consisted of Thomas Turner (Jamis), Nick Van Winkle (Litespeed-BMW), Chris Edmonds (Infinity), Mike Simonson (616 Fabrications), Jerry Dufour (Team Momentum), Tim Proctor (The Bicycle Station), Gerry Pflug (Rare Disease Cycling), Eric Murphy (UHC/706 Project), Andy Scarano (UHC/706 Project), and me (Friends of the Great Smokies Cycling). There may have been a few more riders behind me, but I was glued to the wheels in front of me and never looked back. I felt OK at this point, but we seemed to be riding really, really fast.

I wasn’t sure about the climb given that we were killing it on the rollers leading into it, but once we started I felt the pace was hard but manageable. Just before the first steep pitch I could no longer hold the pace. It happened somewhat suddenly as the lead group kept motoring and I was unable to stand up and match the pace. I had opted to take my camelbak explorer backpack to make sure I had adequate hydration and tools to combat any flats, but with the extra weight pressing down on my lower back I couldn’t stand up to get any extra torque out of the bars. If it had just been a couple riders left leaving me behind, I would have been OK mentally but as I watched them round a turn ahead of me I counted one, two, three, … eight riders! This was super de-motivating.

I continued on, but as you can see in my heartrate data below I was cracked and dropped back down into Zone 4 sub-threshold. Near the top, though, I looked back to see Gerry Pflug single-speed champ, killing it up a steep section of the climb. I knew that my best chance at getting any kind of result was to hop on when he came by. Sure enough, I dug as hard as I could when he came by with my HR skyrocketing well back into Zone 5. I stuck to his wheel like glue and then dug really deep again to try to hold on to make it to the true top of the climb. Once there, I knew I would be fine until the second climb.

I stayed tucked behind Gerry from that spot all the way until we hit the pavement at which point I took over to set the pace into the next climb. My plan was to simply hold onto Gerry’s wheel all the way up the second climb, but we caught Eric Murphy about 1/4 of the way up the climb. This climb rolls a bit and although I was content to rest, Eric wanted to push the pace a bit harder on the downhills where Gerry needed to coast (singlespeed) so we got into somewhat of a rotation. As we got farther up the climb I spent more time on the front. But as we neared the very top, Gerry came around forced to push the pace harder by his singlespeed gearing. I could barely hold on, but what really helped is that I had drank enough water that I could stand up again without all the weight from the camelbak pressing down right on my lower back.

Somewhere in the middle of the climb, Frank Marrs (Mission Source) came flying by us. No hope of our group latching onto him, and we let him ride away. Towards the top, we were starting to catch him again and then passed him when he had to stop at the aid station for water. A few minutes later, he came flying by us again. I was unable to hold his wheel and he rode away again but ended up flatting on the next fast descent. Gerry and I kept plugging along at a steady tempo and I related to him some highlights from last year’s race as we reached critical points from the previous year.

I led through the descent and onto the road with Gerry pulling up the hills on the road and me pushing the pace on the descents and flatter sections. When we finally made it back to the winery, we could see Jerry Dufour partway up the Montaluce Monster (100% grade beer run-up). This gave me some renewed hope of maybe catching one more rider to crack the top 5, but Jerry was too fast and ended up pulling away. Meanwhile when I was near the top of the run-up, I looked back and saw another racer (Brad Cobb) had already made it partway up the run-up. I was no longer even trying to catch Jerry, but I rode really hard to make sure I stayed away from Brad. It all worked out though with Jerry taking the last spot of the Open Male podium, Gerry winning the single-speed race, and me taking 6th. Brad was actually in the 40+ race where he ended up 2nd as Tim Proctor had already finished 5th overall to take the Masters 40+ race win.

After the race, I talked to Jerry and Chris to find out how the race had played out up front. Jerry was the only one who could match Thomas’s pace all the way up the Winding Stair climb. But across the top, Thomas put in some surges that eventually saw Jerry falling back to the chase group behind. The chase group got smaller as people flatted or dropped off the pace eventually leaving just Nick, Chris, Mike, Tim, and Jerry in the front group. Jerry came off this group on the road section while the rest of the group went into the finish together. The only reason why we saw Jerry at all is because he missed the turn back into the winery. Fortunately, he realized his mistake quickly enough so that he didn’t lose any places because of the mistake. Chris and Nick sprinted it out for 2nd place behind Thomas who had finished about 3 minutes earlier. Last year’s ulta-cx winner Mike Simonson raced strong and ended up 4th behind Chris and Nick in the winery course.

Very proud of the Birmingham results this year – Chris Edmonds (3rd), Jerry Dufour (5th), me in 6th place, and 15 year old Reid Richensin finishing 12th. Also, Pat Casey took 2nd place in the singlespeed division, and Hardwick Gregg took 4th in the Men’s 50+. Maybe next year we can aim for a podium sweep! I’m already looking forward to it.

Having won the race last year, I was interested in a side by side comparison of all the data from last year and this year. Basically I was 4 minutes slower this year with a heartrate average of 1 bpm lower. Given that it was really cold last year, I think that probably works out to 2-3 bpm lower than last year if the temperatures had been the same both years.

Southern Cross 2014 HRSouthern Cross 2014 – lower HR average overall but 10 additional minutes in Zone 5 Southern Cross 2013 HRSouthern Cross 2013 – higher HR average with quite a bit more time spent in Zone 4

2014 Southern Cross annotated heartrate data (click to enlarge)2014 Southern Cross annotated heartrate data (click to enlarge)

2013 Southern Cross annotated heartrate data (click to enlarge)2013 Southern Cross annotated heartrate data (click to enlarge)

CAMP SUMATANGA TRAINING RACE

Alan Laytham leads the combined fields.Alan Laytham leads the combined fields.

Me winning the final sprint from the breakMe winning the final sprint from the break.

A large strong field showed up for the first GSMR training race up at Camp Sumatanga. My former team Infinity Med-i-Spa had the largest team, but there were also two strong military team riders (Kurt Page and Chris Cundiff), as well as strong teams from Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and a number of other fast riders without teammates. I figured given the strength of the field, that the strategy was to let Infinity do as much work as possible bringing back moves. They scored a major coup though getting two teammates (Wes Douglas and Kevin Pawlik) up the road by themselves! It was still early enough in the race, though, that people from other teams in the field were motivated to chase. After about a lap, we brought them back. In the meantime, it got confusing with the Cat B field catching the A field. The combined fields rode a lap together before the officials stopped us at the start/finish to separate the fields.

Will Hibberts (Infinity) had just rolled off the front so he was given a 10 second start. A couple of us attacked immediately upon restart and killed it all the way up the hill, but it all came back together. Shortly after this, Wes (Infinity) and Pat Casey (Team Momentum) got away. I tried to attack on the backside hill to bridge up to them, but there was enough people strung behind me to keep it all together. When we crossed the start/finish with two 10 mile laps to go, I knew that we had to try to get away on the front hill or Wes and Pat would have too much of a lead to close by the end of the race. Near the top I attacked hard and only Mark Fisher (Village VW) and Jamie Alexander (Infinity) were able to go with me. Towards the end of the next-to-last lap we finished the bridge up to Wes and Pat.

I was worried that the field would catch us because our pace was not very fast at all in the merged group (everybody was trying to save up for the finish). When I looked back and could see the field not too far behind us, I figured the best bet at staying away was to shrink the size of the group. I tried attacking three or four times, but I could not get our group to shrink at all. The good news, though, was that our pace did ramp up as people also counter-attacked. Eventually, though, we came into the last couple miles as a still in tact breakaway of five. Wes attacked with 2 miles to go, I covered it and Mark led the rest of the break back up to us. Mark kept right on going hard and ended up leading all the way into the start of the sprint.

The order coming into the start of the sprint was Mark, Pat, Jamie, me, and Wes. Pat started the sprint with maybe 300 meters to go. Jamie kept his wheel and I kept Jamie’s wheel. As we got to about 200 meters, Jamie started to go around Pat to the right and I started to go around on the left. Right as both of us pulled even with Pat, he gave it one more surge! Fortunately for me that was still with 100 meters to go and he couldn’t hold that surge to the line so at the very end I was able to continue on past to take the win. Pat held on for second with Jamie in third, Wes in fourth, and Mark having led our group for the last 2 miles of the race finished fifth.

Sunset cool-down ride Tumblin GapSunset cool-down ride Tumblin Gap

Annotated iBike data - note the blue graph which shows wind, you can tell when I'm drafting and when I'm not draftingAnnotated iBike data – note the blue graph which shows wind, you can tell when I’m drafting and when I’m not drafting (click to enlarge)

GSMR #1 2014 - power record for the sprintGSMR #1 2014 – power record for the sprint (click to enlarge)

UNION GROVE TIME TRIAL

Union Grove Time Trial Podium - (left to right) - Jason Brasel (4th), Kurt Page (2nd), Mike Olheiser (1st), Me (3rd), and Doug Robinson (5th).Union Grove Time Trial Podium – (left to right) – Jason Brasel (4th), Kurt Page (2nd), Mike Olheiser (1st), Me (3rd), and Doug Robinson (5th).

I headed up to Huntsville for a 20 mile time trial making the podium on pace for a 57 minute 40K TT, about two minutes faster than my previous best time trial. The key difference, though, is that my legs did not feel great for this race and instead I had a time trial bike, disc wheel, and aero equipment to shave two minutes off my time – even coming near the end of a 430 mile week on the bike. I’m looking forward to later time trials where my legs feel fresh, and I’m able to push the pace even faster! I paired one of my Martindale 6.0s with a Zipp disc wheel on Mike Olheiser’s old cervelo TT bike (see setup below – it was really, really fast, love those Martindale wheels!)

Snow / sleet on top of my car at the start/finish areaSnow / sleet on top of my car at the start/finish area

Snow on the course during a warm-up lapSnow on the course during a warm-up lap

Union Grove time trial heartrate data - annotated (click to enlarge)Union Grove time trial heartrate data – annotated (click to enlarge)

February 27, 2014 at 9:20 am 2 comments

Winter Gridlock 2014 – a pictoral timeline

In this blog, I document the events of the surprise snowstorm that hit central Alabama on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014. I have selected several defining pictures to show full size here at the beginning to capture the chaos caused by the storm and its aftermath. Below the full-sized pictures, I have included small thumbnails of some of the videos I uploaded to youtube. Below the videos, I have organized a long pictoral gallery that covers the entire week. There are a ton of pictures, but I recommend that you click on the first one to open a full-size window and then click the arrows or click the picture to advance from photo to photo. If you do that, then when you make it to the end of the

People walk down a completely empty three lane highway about 3 hours after it first started to snow

Tues, 1/28 @ 1:07PM – US Hwy 280 abandoned top of pass. People walk down a deserted six lane highway about 3 hours after it first started to snow.

An ambulance spins out and struggles up the hill with a paramedic and a bystander helping to push it up the hill. People are abandoning their cars, while others try to get around. This is the spot where I started videoing my bike ride up the hill.

Tues, 1/28 @ 1:03PM – US Hwy 280 at Cherokee Rd. An ambulance spins out and struggles up the hill with a paramedic and a bystander helping to push it up the hill. People are abandoning their cars, while others try to get around. This is the spot where I started videoing my bike ride up the hill. http://youtu.be/ZlKTOy0J8WI

Tues, 1/28 @ 1:03PM – US Hwy 280 at Lakeshore Dr. This picture is taken from the same spot as the one above, except looking back down the hill. The highway is completely blocked. There are accidents along the side, and you can see the exact spot where the cars cannot make it any farther up the hill. At this point, the line of cars probably stretches all the way back into downtown several miles away assuming that Red Mountain isn’t blocked.

Tues 1/28 @ 6:08PM - icy blueberry lane. As I head out of the neighborhood, I encounter unrideable sections of Blueberry Lane coated in solid ice. To pass this section, I ride through the yard on the left where you can see all the footprints of people walking ... people unable and/or unwilling to walk anywhere near the crazy slippery road. I took this picture on my return trip after making it successfully to the grocery store to get milk.

Tues 1/28 @ 6:08PM – icy blueberry lane. As I head out of the neighborhood, I encounter unrideable sections of Blueberry Lane coated in solid ice. To pass this section, I ride through the yard on the left where you can see all the footprints of people walking … people unable and/or unwilling to walk anywhere near the crazy slippery road. I took this picture on my return trip after making it successfully to the grocery store to get milk.

Tues, 1/28 @ 9:42PM - city-wide sleepover. People sleep in their offices. Kids sleep at schools. At our house, we have a sleepover with stranded kids whose parents cannot make it to Rocky Ridge Elementary. Over 200 kids spend the night at Rocky Ridge as do 4300 other students across the entire Hoover school system.

Tues, 1/28 @ 9:42PM – city-wide sleepover. People sleep in their offices. Kids sleep at schools. At our house, we have a sleepover with stranded kids whose parents cannot make it to Rocky Ridge Elementary. Over 200 kids spend the night at Rocky Ridge as do 4300 other students in the entire Hoover school system.

Wed, 1/29 @ 8:03AM - first flipped car. I only have to ride 1/2 mile from my house to stumble (almost literally) upon the first flipped car. Rocky Ridge Rd was so icy that I walk stretches of it. I am trying to ride down the middle of the road where there is a little bit of snow (and traction), but graviity pulls me across to the side of the road onto the shoulder where I am completely shocked to be staring at this car in front of me. This moment is recorded 7 minutes and 50 seconds into this video: http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A. I park my bike alongside the sign and run down to the car just to make sure nobody is still in the car (i.e., in case it had just happened while I was biking down the other side of the hill). Nobody is inside, but the contents of the car are strewn everywhere.

Wed, 1/29 @ 8:03AM – first flipped car. I only have to ride 1/2 mile from my house to stumble (almost literally) upon the first flipped car. Rocky Ridge Rd was so icy that I walk stretches of it. I am trying to ride down the middle of the road where there is a little bit of snow (and traction), but gravity pulls me across to the side of the road onto the shoulder where I am completely shocked to be staring at this car in front of me. This moment is recorded 7 minutes and 50 seconds into this video: http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A. I park my bike alongside the sign and run down to the car just to make sure nobody is still in the car (i.e., in case it had just happened while I was biking down the other side of the hill). Nobody is inside, but the contents of the car are strewn everywhere.

Wed, 1/29 @ 9:12AM - ice skating. Boris and I decide to head south on I-65 all the way down to AL-119 to buy more water and food at the gas station to hand out to drivers stuck on I-65 north. When we exit the freeway, we discover rather quickly that the ramp is unrideable and head to the shoulder. Just how slippery is it? check out this video of Boris sliding on it - http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4

Wed, 1/29 @ 9:12AM – ice skating. Boris and I decide to head south on I-65 all the way down to AL-119 to buy more water and food at the gas station to hand out to drivers stuck on I-65 north. When we exit the freeway, we discover rather quickly that the ramp is unrideable and head to the shoulder. Just how slippery is it? check out this video of Boris sliding on it – http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4

Wed, 1/29 @ 11:05AM - welcome to the apocalypse! By this point, the roads are starting to melt and the middle two travel lanes are moving very, very slowly (0-1mph). But the melting ice makes what is left even more slippery. Instead of solid ice, you now have a thin layer of water on top of solid ice. Boris and I both pick are way very slowly between all of the abandoned cars in this picture and almost fall several times. Every car on the shoulder or in the right travel lane in this picture is abandoned all the way past the hill to the Hwy 31 exit out of sight. Our ride through this is recorded here: http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk

Wed, 1/29 @ 11:05AM – welcome to the apocalypse! By this point, the roads are starting to melt and the middle two travel lanes are moving very, very slowly (0-1mph). But the melting ice makes what is left even more slippery. Instead of solid ice, you now have a thin layer of water on top of solid ice. Boris and I both pick are way very slowly between all of the abandoned cars in this picture and almost fall several times. Every car on the shoulder or in the right travel lane in this picture is abandoned all the way past the hill to the Hwy 31 exit out of sight. Our ride through this is recorded here: http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk

Tues, 1/28 @ 1PM - US Hwy 280. http://youtu.be/ZlKTOy0J8WI

Tues, 1/28 @ 1PM – US Hwy 280. http://youtu.be/ZlKTOy0J8WI


Tues, 1/28 @ 2PM - US Hwy 31. http://youtu.be/y3BQokQ5Is0

Tues, 1/28 @ 2PM – US Hwy 31. http://youtu.be/y3BQokQ5Is0


Tues, 1/28 @ 10:45AM - Hwy 31 overlook. http://youtu.be/OgWEwn_UUg0

Tues, 1/28 @ 10:45AM – Hwy 31 overlook. http://youtu.be/OgWEwn_UUg0


Tues, 1/28 @ 2:45PM - Josiah skiing. http://youtu.be/RJAFvI-mSZ0

Tues, 1/28 @ 2:45PM – Josiah skiing. http://youtu.be/RJAFvI-mSZ0


Wed, 1/29 @ 8AM - Mountain biking to I-65. http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A

Wed, 1/29 @ 8AM – Mountain biking to I-65. http://youtu.be/31u73UqPQ4A


Wed, 1/29 @ 8:30AM - I-65 southbound. http://youtu.be/IH3tKdXRqSU

Wed, 1/29 @ 8:30AM – I-65 southbound. http://youtu.be/IH3tKdXRqSU


Wed, 1/29 @ 9:15AM - Boris ice skating on the interstate. http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4

Wed, 1/29 @ 9:15AM – Boris ice skating on the interstate. http://youtu.be/KqBRt_vA2z4


Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM - dollar general truck. http://youtu.be/Ufsg825mdtM

Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM – dollar general truck. http://youtu.be/Ufsg825mdtM


Wed, 1/29 @ 10:45AM - Welcome to the Apocalypse! http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk

Wed, 1/29 @ 10:45AM – Welcome to the Apocalypse! http://youtu.be/NDT8zeDPoMk


Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM - I-65 northbound to I-459 overpass on-ramp. http://youtu.be/cxyB3h4TXzc

Wed, 1/29 @ 10:30AM – I-65 northbound to I-459 overpass on-ramp. http://youtu.be/cxyB3h4TXzc


Thurs, 1/30 @ 1:30PM - Hwy 280 to Co Rd 41 - http://youtu.be/E77FVMy1VrI

Thurs, 1/30 @ 1:30PM – Hwy 280 to Co Rd 41 – http://youtu.be/E77FVMy1VrI


Thurs, 1/30 @ 3:30PM - Hugh Daniel descent to Hwy 280 - http://youtu.be/8Vi_Z1DMcok

Thurs, 1/30 @ 3:30PM – Hugh Daniel descent to Hwy 280 – http://youtu.be/8Vi_Z1DMcok


Thurs, 1/30 @ 4:20PM - caldwell mill gulley. http://youtu.be/3iyUGP48X90

Thurs, 1/30 @ 4:20PM – caldwell mill gulley. http://youtu.be/3iyUGP48X90

Below I have created a pictoral timeline of events based on photo timestamps. I have combined what was originally two galleries into one large gallery. Click on the first picture in the gallery and you can advance through each picture at full-size with the captions displayed at the bottom.

Monday – Friday

February 11, 2014 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment


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Very long day today, a bunch of disrespectful, selfish drivers didn't help make a bad day any better. 4th time over Vestavia Dr ... handlebar getting crowded and shadows getting long. Third time up and over Vestavia Dr - the nearly seven mile endless vestavia version of the climb.

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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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