1st place overall! Thomas Turner dropped me about halfway up the first climb, but I ended up catching him again just before the start of the final descent (35 miles later) before he dropped me again on the descent. He had a good 20 second lead by the bottom of the descent, but I was able to catch him again on the steep rollers back on the road. I attacked on the last steep hill, got a small separation, and then drilled it as hard as I could on the final drag back to the winery. It was just enough so that I could make it through the winery and still hold onto win!
Annotated heartrate/elevation/speed plot (click to enlarge)
Heartrate zone/time/avg speed summary
Strava course segment comparison
The heartrate/elevation/speed data above pretty much tells the race, but here is how the race played out with as many details as I can remember. It was cold at the start with temps hovering around freezing and expected to stay there all day. By the top of the first climb, there was fresh snow (just light dusting) on the dirt road with some ice and slush in some of the ditches alongside the road. One glimpse towards the top of Springer Mountain, and you could see all the trees dusted with snow and shining bright white. At about that same time, it started to snow again — just some light flakes but enough to make it epic.
But back to the start — the opening cyclocross course was more difficult this year with some slick sections that seemed to slow everybody down. Some mud and a little bit of ruts made the opening cyclocross course tricky, only Thomas Turner (Jamis) was able to ride the run-up, but even then his rear wheel was slipping so he wasn’t able to get away from the rest of us who were running. Leaving the winery, we were straight into a stiff headwind and I was able to chase onto a group of about 15-20 riders including: Thomas, Garth Prosser, Gerry Pflug (racing singlespeed this year), Michael Simonson, Jerry DuFour, James Monk, and maybe 10 other guys. I looked back just before we made the left turn off of Hightower about 3 miles into the race, and there was a second larger group of maybe 20-30 riders only a few seconds back. Once we made that left, though, Thomas drilled it and I knew that there was no worry about the second group catching back up to ours. Thomas stayed on the front the entire time with Michael, Garth, and I taking turns trying to hold his wheel through the steep rollers.
Pretty soon there was just five of us left at the front: Thomas, Garth, Michael Simonson, Jerry Dufour (from Birmingham!), and me. This probably would have been the Top 5 for the race, but Jerry double flatted. Thomas set a brutal pace whittling the group down to just me, Jerry, and Michael. Then about halfway up the climb, Thomas hit one of the steep sections hard, and in short succession Jerry, Michael, and I all came off. This made for a lonely race because we didn’t come off at the same time (maybe spaced a couple minutes apart?). I quickly lost sight of Thomas, and he had 3 minutes by the top of the climb (time split from the aid station volunteers).
Snow, ice, and mud across the top of Springer Mountain made for a tentative descent — even though the descent itself was mostly dry. I started to feel better by the Cooper Gap climb and settled into a good rhythm on the climb, which basically consisted of hard tempo on the flatter sections and then standing up and drilling the steep sections. Fortunately, it was smooth enough that I could lock out the front suspension and torque on the bars pretty good to aid the standing up sections. The farther I got up the climb, the more I was realizing that there wasn’t anybody catching me. So this gave me a lot of motivation to push it hard to the top of the climb. Going through the aid station, I drilled it again through the rollers and still felt good through the next rollers, where I have felt pretty bad in previous years.
Then at the bottom of the first steep step of the descent (see heartrate/elevation plot), I flew into the next steep climb and could see Thomas about 3/4 of the way up it — maybe less than a minute ahead!!! I drilled it up this climb and nearly blew myself up in the process as my legs were screaming by the top. Fortunately, there was a long downhill before the next steep roller, and I settled into a more reasonable rhythm on this second climb and caught Thomas at the very top. Even on his cross bike (with me on my mountain bike), he dropped me on the long descent and had a good 15-20 second lead by the time we hit the pavement. I was able to catch him again on one of the last rollers before the sharp turn, narrow road, and steep paved climb. I attacked on the steep climb knowing that I would need a good lead going into the winery if I was to have any shot at winning. I got a little bit of separation, but he was still right there (only a few seconds back) as I turned onto Hightower.
I had been psyching myself up to try and ride the final run-up, but there was a car that got in my way driving slowly down to the run-up so I didn’t have any momentum and decided to just run up it. By the top, Thomas still hadn’t reached the bottom so I felt much better about my chances to hold on. Still, I kept expecting him to come flying by at any moment so I didn’t let up until all the way up the final steep grassy climb across the ditch and then onto the pavement for the last tenth of a mile to the line! So happy to win Southern Cross … that also makes for a nice odd mathematical progression of 5th in 2011, 3rd in 2012, and 1st in 2013!
This weekend was quite the kicker of a way to end the training season and dive headlong into racing season … starting next weekend with the southern cross race. Here’s a quick look at what I believe I’ll be racing the next few weeks:
Feb 16 - southern cross (mtb) Feb 17 - gsmr training race #1 Feb 24 - gsmr training race #2 Mar 3 - gsmr training race #3 Mar 10 - rouge roubaix Mar 16-17 - union city (crit, rr) Mar 23 - hell of the south
Yesterday was an epic 102 mile day with BBL with four attack zones and koms, adventuresome climb up bass pro cement road (close to 35% gradient), and followed up by more climbing with Mark through Mountain Brook and Vestavia. Today, Kristine was working up in Huntsville so I tagged along to do some riding/climbing up in Huntsville.
First, the scoop on today’s ride up in Huntsville … Kristine was working her admin assistant job for the army reserve center up in Huntsville, so I decided to tag along to try to get a good long climbing ride exploring some new climbs and putting in a couple hard KOM efforts on others. I ended up falling a few seconds short on the Monte Sano climb (kudos Mark) but taking the Hawk’s Nest one. Here’s a view from the top of monte sano looking back down torwards Huntsville with the space and rocket center visible in the background (look for the tall white rocket).
At this point in the ride, the temp had climbed into the mid 50s with a few clouds and even a little bit of sun. After exploring another Cat 3 climb on the Monte Sano ridge line, I headed down 431 towards Keel and the super steep Blowing Cave climb. As I approached Keel, it started to rain a bit off and on but nothing heavy or steady. By the top of the Blowing Cave climb, though, it was starting to rain a little more frequently so that by the time I had turned around and climbed Keel from the backside and then descend on the frontside it was pouring … and the temp was down into the 40s … and I had shorts and short finger gloves on. I immediately decided to cut out a huge chunk of the ride … Woodville to Skyline (Cat 2) … and trade it for an additional climb up Keel. This worked out well because the additional climbs up Keel kept me warm enough so that I wasn’t hypothermic for the descent down Blowing Cave.
That descent was insane in the heavy rain and cold. I knew I couldn’t get up too much speed because there would be no way to brake hard enough and turn without sliding out. Still, the super steep section towards the bottom (20% avg for 0.3 miles) I outran my brakes and had to negotiate some of the turns at much higher speed than I felt comfortable doing. By the bottom, I was frigid but thankful I hadn’t fallen and that I could start hammering again to try to generate body heat. Fortunately, I had a nice tailwind for a large part of the next ride so I was able to crush the 53×11 to a gas station near 4 mile post rd (east side of cecil ashburn). I spent a while warming up in the gas station drinking $1.09 ($1.18 with tax) 20 oz cappuccino before braving the cold rain again. Absolutely freezing and even with a tailwind and a Cat 3 climb, I still almost crashed coming down Cecil Ashburne with speed wobble because I was shivering so badly! Fortunately, once I made it to the bottom again, there was an awesome tailwind, a lot of open road, and a lot of green lights. I arrived back at the armory sooner than expected. As soon as I stopped riding, though, and my heartrate dropped I got so cold that I was shivering again uncontrollably for a good 5 minutes until I had warmed up in the car in the parking lot with the seat warmer on and heat blasting at 90 degF. Here’s pic of the conditions (it had been raining hard for the last 35 miles of my ride) at the armory after I had stopped shivering enough to get a picture:
Here’s the iBike data from the ride and from some of the popular Huntsville climbs…
Summary of all climbs listed below Dist Avg% Max% Gain Bankhead 4-way stop (Monte Sano) 3.63 mi 4.98 12.0 990 ft Big Cove - Governor's Bend 2.07 mi 6.57 23.3 786 ft Blowing Cave Wall (Keel Mtn) 0.30 mi 19.91 26.8 309 ft Blowing Cave Complete (Keel Mtn) 3.83 mi 4.49 26.8 1050 ft Keel Backside (north) (Keel Mtn) 1.55 mi 11.20 17.4 895 ft Keel Frontside (south) (Keel Mtn) 1.88 mi 9.39 25.2 897 ft Cecil Ashburne (east) 2.02 mi 5.47 12.6 582 ft
Bankhead from 4-way stop (Monte Sano) Dist: 3.63 mi (0:15:38) Climbing: 990 ft Min Avg Max Power 46 326.4 684 W Speed 9.5 14.0 27.4 mi/h Slope -4.0 4.98 12.0 % HR 142 170.0 182 bpm NP:332W IF:1.13 TSS:33 VI:1.02 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 7:59 AM 48 degF; 990 mbar
Big Cove - Governor's Bend (Monte Sano) Dist: 2.07 mi (0:14:21) Climbing: 786 ft Min Avg Max Power 0 243.1 420 W Speed 3.9 8.7 23.6 mi/h Slope -6.0 6.57 23.3 % HR 119 139.1 150 bpm NP:261W IF:0.88 TSS:19 VI:1.07 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 8:52 AM 50 degF; 990 mbar
Blowing Cave Wall (Keel Mtn) Dist: 0.30 mi (0:04:11) Climbing: 309 ft Min Avg Max Power 187 304.0 409 W Speed 3.1 4.4 8.6 mi/h Slope 8.6 19.91 26.8 % HR 141 148.9 155 bpm NP:311W IF:1.05 TSS:8 VI:1.02 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:03 AM 51 degF; 990 mbar
Blowing Cave Complete (Keel Mtn) Dist: 3.83 mi (0:19:59) Climbing: 1050 ft Min Avg Max Power 0 256.1 496 W Speed 3.1 11.5 35.1 mi/h Slope -10.7 4.49 26.8 % HR 126 141.7 155 bpm NP:273W IF:0.92 TSS:28 VI:1.07 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:02 AM 51 degF; 990 mbar
Keel Backside (Keel Mtn - North) Dist: 1.55 mi (0:14:57) Climbing: 895 ft Min Avg Max Power 0 254.0 427 W Speed 4.6 6.2 21.3 mi/h Slope 1.7 11.20 17.4 % HR 121 137.0 142 bpm NP:257W IF:0.87 TSS:19 VI:1.01 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:27 AM 52 degF; 990 mbar
Keel Frontside (Keel Mtn - South) Dist: 1.88 mi (0:16:00) Climbing: 897 ft Min Avg Max Power 0 248.6 449 W Speed 3.9 7.1 23.4 mi/h Slope -4.2 9.39 25.2 % HR 123 134.0 142 bpm NP:253W IF:0.85 TSS:19 VI:1.02 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 11:05 AM 45 degF; 990 mbar COLD AND RAINING HARD
Cecil Ashburne from Hwy 431 (east side) Dist: 2.02 mi (0:10:47) Climbing: 582 ft Min Avg Max Power 0 276.4 604 W Speed 0.0 11.3 24.1 mi/h Slope -0.6 5.47 12.6 % HR 111 138.5 146 bpm NP:287W IF:0.97 TSS:17 VI:1.04 168 lbs; 2/10/2013 12:25 PM 44 degF; 990 mbar COLD AND RAINING VERY HARD
Now, the BBL videos from the attack zones and the climbs – in reverse order starting with the Bass Pro climb.
Bass pro climb Dist: 0.22 mi (0:02:31) Climbing: 218 ft Min Avg Max Power 124 349.7 582 W Gravity 100 316.0 448 W Speed 3.4 5.4 11.2 mi/h Slope 3.1 18.05 33.2 % Cadence 32 49.1 102 rpm HR 133 164.7 178 bpm NP:374W IF:1.27 TSS:7 VI:1.07 168 lbs; 2/9/2013 12:11 PM 58 degF; 990 mbar
Baseball skills assessment collage … Josiah was scheduled for his tryouts at 2:45 … I rode 102 miles and arrived at exactly 2:42, but he had gone early because it was starting to rain. Fortunately I was able to catch them in the parking lot before they left.
Yesterday my new iBike Newton+ arrived, and so I ran through the basic setup to get up and running for today’s BBL ride. I still need to do my on-the-bike calibration ride, but looking at the numbers both during the ride and afterwards – the iBike Newton+ seems to be delivering pretty reliable power numbers even without that extra calibration step. We had a small turnout for BBL with a number of riders out for a variety of reasons — including the cylocross world championships up in Louisville, Kentucky. Still, we had a great time on the Kelly Creek – Tunnel – Wall – Mountain Top loop.
Once I get my Quarq fixed by SRAM I’ll be able to explore some of the more “wind tunnel” advanced features of the Newton. In the meantime, I’ve made a video and highlighted the data for each of today’s attack zones organized as follows – video first, attack zone data next, and attack zone graph last. I did this for all three attack zones / KOMs which I happened to take a clean sweep of today!
STERRETT ATTACK ZONE (1st place) Dist: 2.77 mi (0:06:57) Energy: 138.1 kJ Cals Burn: 132.1 kcal Climbing: 186 ft Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 0 331.3 1049 W Aero 0 264.9 774 W Rolling 27 45.7 66 W Gravity -657 1.3 482 W Speed 14.2 24.0 34.5 mi/h Wind 13.5 23.2 37.1 mi/h Elev 448 499 571 ft Slope -6.4 0.02 9.1 % Caden 33 85.7 111 rpm HR 139 162.4 184 bpm NP:379W IF:1.28 TSS:19 VI:1.15 CdA: 0.328 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 2/2/2013 11:20 AM 43 degF; 1061 mbar
VANDIVER KOM (1st place) Dist: 1.79 mi (0:07:21) Energy: 152.3 kJ Cals Burn: 145.6 kcal Climbing: 498 ft Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 180 345.4 642 W Aero 0 58.2 211 W Rolling 18 27.9 43 W Gravity 25 253.2 387 W Speed 9.5 14.7 22.4 mi/h Wind 4.4 14.1 23.2 mi/h Elev 565 822 1064 ft Slope 0.4 5.18 11.8 % Caden 60 76.9 100 rpm HR 141 170.8 180 bpm NP:352W IF:1.19 TSS:17 VI:1.02 CdA: 0.328 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 2/2/2013 11:45 AM 45 degF; 1060 mbar
MIMOSA ATTACK ZONE (1st place) Dist: 2.32 mi (0:06:07) Energy: 135.6 kJ Cals Burn: 129.7 kcal Climbing: 241 ft Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 0 369.5 957 W Aero 0 236.7 851 W Rolling 20 43.5 75 W Gravity -1043 60.9 768 W Speed 10.8 22.8 39.4 mi/h Wind 0.0 21.2 37.9 mi/h Elev 607 669 748 ft Slope -9.5 0.80 14.6 % Caden 57 82.0 104 rpm HR 122 165.6 181 bpm NP:406W IF:1.37 TSS:19 VI:1.10 CdA: 0.328 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 2/2/2013 12:08 PM 48 degF; 1059 mbar
COMPLETE RIDE Dist: 104.76 mi (5:51:38) Energy: 4063.1 kJ Cals Burn: 3884.5 kcal Climbing: 8491 ft Braking: -226.0 kJ (-5.6%) Min Avg Max Power 0 192.6 1049 W Aero 0 130.8 2294 W Rolling 0 34.1 93 W Gravity -2481 1.5 778 W Speed 0.0 17.9 48.8 mi/h Wind 0.0 16.1 52.5 mi/h Elev 408 706 1107 ft Slope -19.9 0.02 18.9 % Caden 0 81.8 130 rpm HR 68 133.6 185 bpm NP:247W IF:0.84 TSS:409 VI:1.28 CdA: 0.328 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 2/2/2013 8:28 AM 44 degF; 1063 mbar
Fun day today at the BBL. I mainly wanted to put a post up with my iBike data for those of you curious about the iBike. I’ve highlighted the attack zone data below first – along with a video for the Sterrett attack zone and the Vandiver KOM. I forgot to turn the video back on for the Mimosa attack zone. The format for the post below goes like this: 1) data 2) graph 3) video. Then I’ve got the data and graph for the entire ride at the end.
Sterrett Attack Zone (1st place) Dist: 2.64 mi (0:05:53) Energy: 119.1 kJ Cals Burn: 113.8 kcal Climbing: 121 ft Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 0 337.3 767 W Aero 0 264.7 830 W Rolling 33 51.5 70 W Gravity -632 9.7 481 W Speed 17.2 27.0 36.5 mi/h Wind 8.2 20.5 36.0 mi/h Elev 77 126 182 ft Slope -6.0 0.11 7.9 % Caden 47 86.8 107 rpm HR 123 158.7 182 bpm NP:366W IF:1.32 TSS:17 VI:1.08 CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 5/3/2011 2:52 AM 48 degF; 1013 mbar
iBike graph for the Sterrett attack zone – I ended up winning this one after covering Mark’s attack on the final hill and then taking off before the swarm led by Jeff Fuller, Jim Brock, and Darrell O’Quinn could catch back up to us. This one shows clearly when I was drafting and when I had my nose in the wind (not often) – CLICK TO ENLARGE
Vandiver KOM (2nd place) Dist: 1.72 mi (0:06:31) Energy: 134.6 kJ Cals Burn: 128.7 kcal Climbing: 458 ft Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 175 344.2 642 W Aero 0 51.1 300 W Rolling 23 30.2 39 W Gravity 49 260.0 482 W Speed 11.9 15.9 20.5 mi/h Wind 3.0 12.2 27.6 mi/h Elev 199 451 660 ft Slope 0.8 4.92 10.9 % Caden 54 83.5 113 rpm HR 151 180.3 185 bpm NP:358W IF:1.29 TSS:18 VI:1.04 CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 5/3/2011 3:16 AM 50 degF; 1013 mbar
iBike graph for the Vandiver KOM – you can see where the climb flattened out and I had trouble finding a gear that would hold that I could still keep up with Mark – couldn't do it and he rode away from me to take the KOM – CLICK TO ENLARGE
Mimosa Attack Zone (3rd place) Dist: 2.56 mi (0:07:08) Energy: 126.5 kJ Cals Burn: 120.9 kcal Climbing: 236 ft Braking: -0.0 kJ (-0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 0 295.5 793 W Aero 0 189.1 1560 W Rolling 16 41.2 79 W Gravity -1889 27.9 571 W Speed 8.5 21.6 41.6 mi/h Wind 0.0 17.7 44.6 mi/h Elev 221 302 375 ft Slope -14.2 0.39 12.0 % Caden 8 84.4 123 rpm HR 105 151.1 177 bpm NP:338W IF:1.22 TSS:18 VI:1.15 CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 5/3/2011 3:37 AM 50 degF; 1013 mbar
iBike graph for the Mimosa Attack Zone – I was having problems with a stiff link on my chain so I ended up setting a max cadence of 124 RPM when I finally found a gear that would stick … still held on for 3rd in the sprint – CLICK TO ENLARGE
iBike data for the ENTIRE RIDE Dist: 103.94 mi (5:58:22) Energy: 3781.5 kJ Cals Burn: 3615.2 kcal Braking: -174.7 kJ (-4.6%) Min Avg Max Power 0 175.9 793 W Aero 0 117.9 2724 W Rolling 0 33.2 95 W Gravity -2123 1.6 603 W Speed 0.0 17.4 50.1 mi/h Wind 0.0 14.6 54.3 mi/h Elev 77 347 823 ft Slope -16.5 0.03 19.1 % Caden 0 81.3 134 rpm HR 71 132.0 185 bpm NP:231W IF:0.83 TSS:415 VI:1.32 CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0057 168 lbs; 1/26/2013 8:35 AM 50 degF; 1013 mbar
This is my last week off before the start of the spring semester at Samford, so I wanted to get in at least one more long ride. I’m riding my Scott Addict right now because the Trek is down for the count with a crack in the frame. Because I switched bikes to my Scott, I could re-mount the iBike again (the Bontrager stem on my Trek is far too thick for the iBike mount to fit). The only problem is that when I went to mount the iBike, I discovered I was missing a screw for the mounting bracket … a quick trip to the local hardware store with the iBike and a screwdriver in my back pocket and I was able to find the right screw.
In my opinion, the absolute best thing about the iBike is its ability to measure gradients quite accurately — much more so than the barometric pressure calculated gradient from the Garmin. The iBike has an internal gyrometer/accelerometer which can calculate gradient based on immediate changes in pitch, unlike the Garmin which requires motion and change in air pressure to calculate gradient based on the change of elevation over time. The ability of the iBike to measure power is a secondary benefit … and not too bad either compared to all the other power meters I’ve owned. You do have to get it calibrated correctly, but that is a one-time setup step which is supposedly eliminated on the new iBike Newton.
Excited about the iBike, I wanted to measure the gradients on the Emerald Lakes climbs which I discovered over Christmas and rode again a couple weeks ago on the way out to Skyball. I’ve posted videos below where I am calling out a small selection of the iBike gradient readings (it updates itself about every second, but I’m only calling out readings every few seconds). The front side climb Cat 4 climb (from the Lake) has the steepest pitch topping out at 30.4%, but the 20+% section is much shorter than the 20+% section on the backside Cat 3 climb. The descent back down the 30% section is dangerous. I was trying to be conservative and still hit 53mph (last video). I’m glad I was trying to be conservative because any faster, and I might very well have ended up IN Emerald Lake.
When I was planning out the return route, I noticed that the climb up to the top of the Summit Pointe neighborhood off of Tyler Loop road would probably be an auto-detected Strava cat 4 climb. The picture of the hawk above is just below the summit of the climb. I was trying to maximize climbing on the ride so I created a route through that neighborhood up the climb not realizing that I would be doing the ride on the 1 year anniversary of the Chalkville EF-3 tornado (just under EF-4) which went through a corner of the neighborhood. I came to the realization that it was the 1 year anniversary late in the video below as I was narrating the damage still visible a year later. Click the “youtube” button to watch this on youtube, and you can jump to specific parts of the video using the video bookmarks in the description area below the video.
Finally, here is a photoshop – annotated view of the iBike data from the ride. I was concerned with the cold weather that the iBike battery might not make it the entire ride so I cut it off after the Vesclub climb and didn’t turn it back on again until I got up to Trussville.
iBike statistics - Emerald lakes ride (partial) Dist: 77.57 mi (5:12:38) Energy: 3691.5 kJ Cals Burn: 3529.1 kcal Climbing: 8806 ft Braking: -609.4 kJ (-16.5%) Min Avg Max Power 0 196.8 692 W Aero 0 120.6 2982 W Rolling 0 19.2 68 W Gravity -4009 4.0 548 W Speed 0.0 14.9 53.1 mi/h Wind 0.0 15.3 55.9 mi/h Elev -14 454 865 ft Slope -24.0 0.08 30.4 % Caden 0 72.8 126 rpm HR 79 131.3 165 bpm NP:226W IF:0.81 TSS:345 VI:1.15 CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0039 168 lbs; 8/14/2011 2:25 PM 52 degF; 1013 mbar
A few notes about the data … the climbing total is quite a bit lower because it’s missing 23 miles of the ride and the iBike is applying smoothing (either in the software or via how the barometric elevation sensor is recording) and doesn’t pick up all the rollers in its climbing total that the Garmin does. Also, the distance is short because I turned off the iBike to save battery after the Vesclub climb and didn’t turn it back on again until Trussville. Also, the “168 lbs” in the statistics at the bottom is my weight plus the weight of the bike plus weight of clothing, etc…
Long ice beard in Weyerhauser with Blue Hills I had just ridden through in the background. The beard is frozen breath, whereas the mustache is frozen snot (I had nasal congestion issues all week).
Kristine caught up to me near the very end of the ride and got this pic as we were pulling into Weyerhauser.
We’ve been back in Alabama for a couple weeks now, but I still have photos and videos from one last ride in Wisconsin. Perfect timing for me to finish up this post as we are under a winter storm warning today for a couple inches of snow and ice here in Birmingham. Back up in Wisconsin on January 2nd, my first ride of 2013, I left Kristine’s parents’ house in Shell Lake and rode about 65 mile southeast down to Weyerhauser, Wisconsin through the Blue Hills outside of Rice Lake. This was the coldest ride of the trip with an average temperature of 10 degF. I started pretty early in the day, and it snowed the whole time with most of the ride into a stiff headwind. The snow was just beautiful as it was falling, and especially up on top of Meteor Hill – the high point in the Blue Hills. See this video I took of the snow shortly before descending off of Meteor Hill.
Even though the temp had warmed up a bit by the top of Meteor Hill — maybe 12 degrees or so – this was still the coldest part of the trip because I stopped for a while at the top and took too long of a video (the one above) with my gloves off. Then once I started again, I was on really deep, rutted snow on a long gradual downhill. This meant that I spent a lot of time braking instead of pedaling and generating body heat. Plus, the area was really rural so it would not have been good to have any kind of accident so I was especially slow and careful, which meant my heartrate stayed around 100bpm for 9 miles on the long gradual descent. This meant I was VERY, VERY cold by the bottom. Fortunately, this dumped me out onto a good hilly Co Rd F right through the heart of the Blue Hills where I could warm back up again by going hard. All-in-all I think this was the best ride of the trip.
Here are some of the bikecam videos I got — ordered with my favorite ones first.
This adventure started out on Christmas day when we began our annual trek north to Wisconsin to visit Kristine’s family and enjoy the winter wonderland of the northwoods of Wisconsin. For the past two years, I have left our house in the morning and biked north towards Wisconsin. About six hours later, Kristine has picked me up somewhere north of Cullman, and then we have finished the rest of the 18 hour drive overnight to arrive in Shell Lake by the next morning.
This year, there was a major storm system moving in from the Gulf of Mexico promising lots of rain for Alabama and a huge blizzard for Indiana. We were racing this storm. Everything looked perfect for us to stick to our plan since the system wasn’t supposed to be arriving until later in the evening — at which point we would have already made it to Chicago. My ride started out great with over 3 hours of overcast skies and upper 30s lower 40s temp. Then shortly after discovering the Emerald Lakes climbs and making it to the bottom of Skyball Mountain, it started to pour down rain and thunderstorm. My Garmin cut off unexpectedly as my power meter died and the Garmin struggled to find a signal. I lost all of the data except for the first 15 miles of the ride. Sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the source of the problem is when the power meter starts to give off goofy power meter readings, which confuses the Garmin and then causes it to crash. This has happened several times — all related to goofy (or missing) power meter readings. I’m pretty sure about that since I rode a long time in the rain yesterday but turned off the power meter on the Garmin, and the Garmin had no problems recording the entire 8 hour ride – so it’s not a problem with the Garmin and the rain. It’s a problem with bogus (or missing) power meter signal while the Garmin still is looking for a power meter.
Anyway, back to the ride at Christmas, I ended up riding the rest of the way to Cullman (about 2 hours) including the climb up Skyball Mountain in the pouring down rain and temp in the upper 30s. I was freezing, but I rode really, really hard to stay warm. Then in the process of coordinating the pick-up with Kristine at First Baptist Church Cullman (heavily damaged by April 27th tornado) well short (30 miles) of our original pick-up spot, I stopped and waited for Kristine. It only took her a few minutes because she had earlier started to back track on the route. Those few minutes were enough to make me so cold that I couldn’t stop shivering until I had dried off, changed clothes, heater blasting in the car, and driving up to the original gas station in Falkville where we were supposed to meet.
During this amazing awesome time of warming up, I tethered Kristine’s laptop to her phone and uploaded the ride to Strava discovering that all but the first 15 miles were lost. Initially, I was pretty upset — but then a few minutes later I resolved to do the ride again as an out/back ride from my house. The thought of that adventure was exciting enough to quash the sick feeling in my stomach of losing about 60 miles of data from an epic ride with new climbs and probably a few KOMs.
Yesterday was the culmination, two and a half weeks after the original ride, of that excitement/anticipation. The weather forecast called for fog in the morning and slight chance of rain in the afternoon. Instead, it stayed heavy wet fog all day (misty light rain) and then rained hard by the end of the ride after sunset. Fortunately, I turned off my power meter on my Garmin so that the same problem wouldn’t happen again with the Garmin unexpectedly powering off and losing ride data. But that means I only have power meter data for the first hour or so of the ride, and the latter part of that data is bogus as the power meter starting giving off much too high power readings for the effort I was putting out. That is when I decided to turn the power meter off. Unfortunately, I had to keep a ziplock bag over the Garmin for most of the ride, which kills the total elevation gain as the Garmin is slower in responding to elevation change — which doesn’t make too much of a difference when you are crawling up a climb, but it does affect how it reads the descents … meaning that smaller hills get flattened because the Garmin never records the negative change before you’ve already started up (or completely finished) the next hill.
There were two key things that I was anticipating on this ride: 1) the adventure of an out/back ride from Birmingham up and over Skyball 2) The emerald lakes climbs which I feel could be the steepest paved climbs in Alabama. The top video on this post is from that “steepest climb” on the return portion of the trip after climbing Skyball, changing a flat tire, and lots of other adventures about 95 miles into my ride. The next video below is the climb up the same ridge line near Emerald Lakes, but from the opposite side on the way out to Skyball. It also has some extended 20-25+% sections, but is more of a stair-stepper than the backside climb. Both videos are long, but if you click the “watch on youtube” button then you can click on the video bookmarks in the description to jump directly to interesting spots.
The driest part of the ride was climbing up Skyball on the way out as the clouds had lifted a bit, but by the time I had turned around in the valley on the other side to climb back up, it had started to rain again. Here’s a short video heading down towards the Warrior river with a view of the skyball ridgeline.
After climbing Skyball, I passed a hunter hunting from the roadside (I don’t think you’re supposed to do that). I also got a flat tire climbing back up Skyball Mountain, so I changed it at the top right next to the Tour de Cullman Skyball KOM finish line. The video below is me narrating the last part of the climb back up Skyball telling about my favorite Tour de Cullman finish (2011) and also discovering that I had a flat tire. Also, the two pictures are from the flat tire change.
I spent a lot of time on changing the flat tire making sure I cleaned out all the debris that accumulated in the tire because I still had almost 70 miles left to get home. Fortunately, the single tire change held all the way home (although it had developed another slow leak so I had to change it again last night after I got home). I stopped at Locust Fork to refuel, and got two 20 oz Pepsi’s and one 32 oz gatorade for a total of $3.50. That was a LOT of liquid sugar for not too much money! I ended up with the nutritional equivalent of a perfect tweet – consuming that plus 7 powergels plus 3 cliff bars for a total of about 2300 calories during the ride arriving home without bonking and having eaten everything I had taken with me.
Shortly after the Locust Fork stop, I turned around on AL-79 to head down to the Warrior River bridge to see if the climb from there to the top of Tucker Mountain would cross the Cat 3 threshold (it did). I also went hard to try to get the Tucker Mountain KOM (I did – but just barely – taking it from somebody named “No One” who had ridden from Huntsville to Birmingham … that ride was only 111 miles compared to my 135 mile out/back ride).
By the time I made it back down into more familiar territory, it was past sunset and pretty dark given the rain. I did get a couple more videos below that are somewhat interesting (tornado damage from a tornado on January 23rd, 2012. And also a video starting the climb back up red mountain (including near miss with car towards the beginning). The audio is really muddled on these because I think water got in the microphone port. After climbing Red Mountain, I put my blinky lights on and rode the rest of the way home in the dark, climbing up to the top of Vestavia Dr just as started to rain pretty hard. The last 6 miles or so were in pretty heavy rain as documented by the last video (iphone)