This was my longest and fastest ride so far this year up in Wisconsin. It needed to be fast because I got a late start after sleeping in a bit and then having fun out on the frozen lake with Josiah ice/snow astronaut skating and Analise snow skiing. After warming up a bit, I left by about 1:00 with an anticipated 4 hour loop over to Mankville, Minnesota. This ride was different than yesterday’s because I headed north for nearly an hour first before heading west. There was a strong tailwind from the south — presumably why the temp was about 5 degF warmer than yesterday even though there is a strong blast of arctic air moving in with low temps tonight heading down into the double digits below zero.
I got lots of bikecam videos sorted by the best first. The snowmobile video (the second video) is bookmarked on youtube if you want to jump straight to the interesting parts. The others are not bookmarked. The first is only about 2 minutes long and shows some good snow biking on perfect snow leaving the cabin.
Today’s ride was really great … lots of fast snow and rolling hills. Frog Lake Road was perhaps the most rural road with some long stretches of untouched snow. But the highlight road was Lake 26 road which basically paralleled WI-77 for a good 15 miles heading west towards Minnesota. There was a good steady light snowfall throughout the day, but only a couple sketchy spots where a layer of ice covered the road. I’m still learning how to use my new contour camera, but I got some videos that I was really happy with — only have time to post one … see it below the brief pic gallery.
Yesterday’s ride from Shell Lake to Heartwood was much colder than I anticipated mainly because of the constant light snowfall that combined with salted county roads meant wet, cold, cold, cold feet. Fortunately, I had a chemical warmer pack and was able to put that into my shoe about halfway through the ride. Unfortunately, I also took the opportunity to drink about half of my gatorade bottle which had turned to slush by this point. Stopping and consuming that much frozen slush dropped my core body temp a ton and I never really got warm the rest of the ride. Still, in comparison to the Cullman ride in the rain where I could not stop shivering for a good solid ten minutes after the ride was over, this was like riding in short sleeves weather. I even had enough warmth to go “bike sledding” with the kids over on the frisbee golf course. These are the first two videos below. The third video is a cool one of frozen rapids and tunnel water on the Namekagon River. The fourth video I took while I was stopped and got really cold after I got the chemical warmer put into my shoe.
So I mainly just wanted to upload a video of my kids in their first ski race yesterday, but I thought I would compare and contrast cross-country skiing and cycling as part of the post. First, the video:
Josiah is the boy taking off running without any ski poles. Analise is skiing next to my wife at the back. One of the things that my wife and I connected on when we first met each other back in 2001 was the similarities between her cross-country ski racing and my bike racing. Kristine first started to ski when she was only 2 or 3 years old. And she would ride in a backpack with her father skiing even earlier than that. Through elementary, middle, and high school, Kristine ski raced in the winter eventually earning a full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay to ski collegiately. I didn’t start bike racing until high school and college, but I dove right into it so that I experienced many of the same things she did: from the travel with a small group of guys usually to a very rural area, parking in fields (snow covered fields for her), and then taking your body to the limit racing against others. Also, the training – most skiers run or bike in the off-season to maintain the aerobic fitness required to excel in the sport. Up here in Wisconsin, many serious bike racers (Greg Lemond for example) switch to cross country skiing and ski racing to maintain aerobic fitness for biking when it finally thaws out late into spring. In Alabama, I’m fortunate to be able to ride year-round. Part of the adventure of biking for me is the ability to travel from point to point and explore new places so much more efficiently than if you were running. Skiing has the same allure because you are able to travel through the woods and explore trails much more efficiently than snow shoeing.
As far as the racing goes, I’d compare the ski racing more to mountain bike racing or cyclocross racing on non-technical courses with more of a notion of “getting the hole shot” and pushing yourself mostly alone or chasing one or two skiers just up the trail without as much drafting as in road racing. Still, there is a drafting component particularly at the elite end of the sport where the speeds are much closer to 20mph than 10mph, and there tend to be large groups of skiers able to maintain the same speed throughout the race. The tactics are different because of this, but you still see skiers attack each other and change pace to try to drop the others. Cross-country skiing at the winter olympics is by far my favorite winter sport to watch … not the least because of the way the skiers push themselves to the absolute limit. In any close cross country ski race finish, the skiers will fall over as soon as they cross the line because there is not enough energy left in their muscles to support their body weight. Cyclists push themselves similarly to that extreme, but because we aren’t standing up we can usually manage to keep the bike upright as it coasts to a stop. Although in one close finish this past year, three of us sprinting at the end of the 105 mile Rouge Roubaix race all fell over on the side of the road into a grassy yard … completely spent, utterly exhausted, but also undefinably happy – and we were only sprinting for 2nd place!
Of course, I buck the trend a bit when I visit from Alabama … bringing my mountain bike and enduring the cold weather for a week in some truly epic rides rather than cross country skiing. Today I’m traveling point to point to Heartwood cabins where Kristine and I had our wedding reception back in the summer of 2003. We’re going to spend a few days up there so Kristine and her dad can do some good cross-country skiing on the trails up there … while the kids enjoy ice skating, sledding, and a little bit of skiing. I’ve got a three hour ride planned to get there today, and then a couple four to five hour rides planned for the next couple days taking me through the snow mobile capital of this area (Danbury, WI), and across the St Croix into Minnesota. Heartwood looks completely different in the winter covered in snow, but that’s the beauty of the northwoods – each of the seasons up here transforms the land into a completely different amazing world.
We are in cold, snowy Wisconsin after twenty hours of driving. The temperature fell from 50s degF in Alabama when we left to -2 degF by the time we arrived in Shell Lake. But the coldest I felt all day was at the end of my six hour ride to Cullman where Kristine was picking me up on our way to Wisconsin. It had started to rain hard at the bottom of Skyball Mountain and never let up in the final 26 miles of the nearly 100 mile route I took from my house to downtown Cullman. When Kristine met me, I was shivering uncontrollably and huddled behind a pillar to block the wind, which had fortunately been mostly a tailwind while I was still riding but immediately sent my core body temp plummeting as soon as I stopped riding.
My day started out early leaving my house shortly after 7AM to put in my Strava Shoot-out KOM effort on Vestavia Dr. After a long week of riding and only one day of rest, I didn’t know how it would go, but I ended up setting a new power record in the process of setting the KOM. I held just under 360 watts for the 11.5 minute climb (see graph below).
The ride highlight for me, though, was discovering a super steep climb (possibly the steepest in Alabama) back in the Emerald Lakes neighborhood. It’s one of the only times I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it up a climb due to the severity of the gradient. Unfortunately, the GPS data from my Garmin was erased in the monsoon thunderstorm that hit at the bottom of Skyball mountain. The first video below documents one of the steep sections of the Emerald lake backside climb. The second video documents the status of my Garmin after it had unexpectedly powered down. I was able to power it back up, but the GPS data was gone for a majority of the ride.
Despite the GPS fail and the hypothermia at the end, it was still a great ride, and I’m super motivated to repeat the first part of the ride out to Skyball and back as soon as we make it back to Alabama so I can get the data on the Emerald Lakes backside climb. The kids were already skiing around the house this afternoon after we got a little bit of sleep, and they have a 1K kids ski race tomorrow in Spooner. Should be fun!
Quick ride report … I was working from home this morning when I got a call from Rocky Ridge that Analise was sick with a fever. Kristine was down in Helena on a long run with Kim so I drove over and picked Analise up. We snuggled on the couch and watched Hugo while we were waiting for Kristine to get home from running and a short day at work. A late start meant that I would be finishing in the dark, but I put my lights on and headed out the door. I found a new climb in the Wimberly neighborhood on the way over to the Cahaba Cycles in Trussville to drop off brake pads for Alan’s dad.
After a quick stop there, I stumbled upon the Trussville mountain bike trails in the baseball, soccer complex off of Cherokee Rd. From there, I was able to make my way back over to Hwy 11 via a hilly neighborhood. A short jaunt on 11 took me over to the Camp Coleman road which is near the headwaters of the Cahaba River … found a new climb up from the river past the camp to the high point of a neighborhood off to the left. After turning around, I headed over towards Goodner Mountain and found a way up that turns it into a Cat 3 climb (starting from Advent Circle) … also, I came back down a different way which would also be a cat 3 climb if done in reverse. I went for the KOM and got it – very nice tailwind up the climb, extremely windy at the top.
Perhaps the highlight of the ride though was exploring the Carrington Pkwy area, asking the security guard nicely to be allowed to cut through to Blackjack Rd and riding through the last unpaved section of road to connect to Blackjack. It started out as hard packed dirt but then turned into a river of mud with several channels to cross. I was fortunate not to have to unclip b/c if I did then my speedplay cleats would have instantly been clogged with mud. The last hour or so was in the dark, but that is great this time of year with all the Christmas lights. Pics and videos below …
This week’s Strava shoot-out climb is Belmont Rd over in Irondale. I was working on the computer this morning when Kristine mentioned that the high was going to be close to 70 today. After having frost in our yard and on our neighbhor’s roofs this morning, I immediately thought “updraft!!!” So I finished what I was working on, and got ready for a long ride. I started out on a somewhat direct route out to Belmont and sure enough there was a massive tailwind on the climb.
After dropping my stuff off behind the Overton Rd Church, I set out to tackle the climb. I had taken off my jersey since it was getting hot and I had all my stuff in my jersey pockets, and I still had my vest on. Made it simpler to dump stuff rather than having to empty all my pockets. So here I am heading up towards Belmont with a sleeveless vest on December 19th in nearly 70 degF sunshine — gotta love Alabama! I hit the lap button on Overton so it would hopefully auto-lap at just the right spot on my way back, turned around at the utility shed and then hit it hard to get some momentum going into the turn. But it was a bit too much momentum for the super sharp turn. I entered the turn at 25mph went straight across the road, slammed on the brakes as I’m about to enter the gutter and then straightening up and accelerating back out of the gutter up the 12% gradient. This led to a nice 646 watt power surge in the little chainring. It was good to be in the little chainring, though, for the opening part of the climb which stays consistently well above 10%.
Coming across the top, I shifted into the big chainring and then down into the 11 trying to grind a big gear while tucked in as aero position as possible for the 35mph downhill to the interstate bridge. I still had a lot of momentum entering the bridge thinking that I would try to stay in the big chainring the rest of the way up – but then by the end of the bridge, I was already struggling in my 21 in the back with my cadence rapidly decreasing down below 70rpm, so I dumped it back down into the little chainring and decided to go little chainring the rest of the way up the climb. There was a brief headwind section after the bridge, which was the first time I had thought about the wind since the climb began, so in my head I was thinking “oh no, where is my tailwind” – this was quite a bit demotivating but I was already committed, so the next thought was how hard can I push this gear? Then, not 50 meters later, the wind switched direction again, and it was the tailwind I was expecting (and which had been there the entire time except for that one stretch right after the bridge) so this gave me extra motivation to stand up again, mash the pedals really hard and be as un-aerodynamic as necessary to get as much power into the pedals to make it up to the top as quickly as possible.
By the end, my lap timer had 4:45, but I wasn’t sure where the auto lap had kicked in. I was thinking it might have been after the turn at the start of the climb, but in fact it had auto lapped back on Overton right before the turn. So my actual strava segment time was 4:44. And I still had nearly six hours left of riding to wait to find out if I had gotten the KOM! It was a couple watts short of a power record, though, so really it was the tailwind that got me up the climb fast enough to beat Mark’s time of 4:52, which had blown away my previous KOM time by 20 seconds!
The rest of the ride was fun, although a bit flatter in sections than I would normally like. A couple “adventure” notes include nasty traffic in Trussville which I avoided by riding through “cut kudzu” off the side of the road … check out this zoomed in satellite pic of my route … also, I created a new segment on Mountain View Rd heading back towards Margaret – a really long gradual climb. It was quite enjoyable b/c of the ruralness of the area despite me occasionally thinking “uggh, this is killing my total elevation gain”. This really nice Chinese family (mom, dad, 18 month old toddler) gave me some water at their restaurant in Margaret, which is a really cool rural community. I had been out of water for several miles so that was super nice. On the way back up Smyer and then Vestavia Dr, I ran into three other cyclists – Clint climbing Smyer and then Dusty and his daughter climbing Vestavia Dr. When I finally made it home, I met Kristine and the kids as they were heading out of the neighborhood for dinner before my brother’s Christmas special (see video at the end and pic of program). I had just enough time to get home, wash up a bit, upload the ride to strava, and then head back out with my lights on to get over to the church for dinner (steak!!!) and then the program. It was an all-round epic awesome day!
View of the Belmont water tower – note the tailwind via the huge flag (it takes a bit of wind to get that moving at all) and also note that this is 150 feet up the Grants Mill climb so the Belmont climb starts out a bit lower from where this pic was taken. (click to zoom out and enlarge)
Lots of videos from the ride below … click the “watch on youtube” link to use the bookmarks (on the longer videos) to jump to interesting parts of the video.