I started this post earlier in the year when I decided to update my racing results dating all the way back to my first mountain bike race in 1993. My latest foray into mountain bike racing (winning the Chain Buster Battle at Oak Mountain 9 hour race on Saturday) has had me reminiscing into how I first got into mountain biking back in high school in 1993 so I thought I would go ahead and wrap up this post. Most of it centers around Oak Mountain. In fact, if you go back even earlier to the late 80s, my dad and I used to do road biking on a 10 speed (eventually 12 speed) with down tube shifters at Oak Mountain. We’d park outside the park at the info center and then ride in through the front entrance. I’d always start out fast and ride off ahead of him and his work friends, but then even before we made it to the golf course I’d be tired so my dad had to ride with me slowly the rest of the way to the spillway in the back of the park and then back to the car. Probably a couple hours for the 15 mile ride.
Fast forward to 1993 – my junior year of high school, and two of my friends on the math team (Steve Montgomery and Jeff King) were into mountain biking. Steve said his dad had a mountain bike I could borrow, so the three of us set off to Oak Mountain one day after school in two cars. We parked Steve’s Bronco II at the picnic area parking lot and then piled into Jeff’s jeep and hauled ass up the Peavine Falls road (seriously don’t know how we didn’t roll that jeep) up to the overlook area near the end of the red trail. We took off up the red trail and then turned left into the BUMP downhill. I don’t remember my first experience with blood rock, but I assume we walked it. We flew down the trail past what is now the berm (I don’t think there was a berm back then) to the twisty section of the downhill, popped out onto Peavine Road followed it for a tenth of a mile or so to reach the Johnson’s Mountain climb. It started out with a tricky entrance with a short log bridge over a small creek crossing, and then the super steep trail with the rubber run-off protectors across the trail every few feet. I eventually could clear all that on a good day, but I definitely walked it that first time up.
From the top of the steep section, you had a nice pine-straw covered straight gradual climb until a couple twists at the steeper section near the very top of Johnson’s Mountain (super fast coming back the other way) at the park boundary. Then you came down through some tight small trees, small logs turns entering the rocky bumpy section (where I would sheer a seatpost off in a ride the next year) that is now the opening climb for Johnson’s Mountain (when coming from picnic area parking lot). My first big wreck was on the downhill after the giant log (the log is long gone and replaced with some rock steps now) where there are some wood trail run-off protectors now. There were no wood steps back then (unless we were going so fast through there I forgot about them), just a fast downhill with me going right off the side of the steep hill falling halfway down to the creek at a high rate of speed.
Then it was up the shallow switchbacks and the fast straight section (now called Foreplay) across the horse trail intersection into the long set of twisty turns (now called Mr. Toads) through the picnic area parking lot down to Steve’s Bronco II for the shuttle back up to the top. I think that was it that first day out, but eventually we got into good enough shape to not need the shuttle any more, and we would just start out in the parking lot head up the climb to the red trail, turn around at the top and then come all the way back down adding on the lower section of singletrack by the paddleboats. This section was an out/back trail that wasn’t finished. We would ride it through to the end and then just keep riding a ways through the woods before turning around and heading back up. After buying my first mountain bike from James at River Oaks Cycles in Hoover (the Mongoose Alta shown in the top pic), I made this trip pretty much an every day after school experience. The lower section of trail was finished shortly after all this began so eventually I started to park at the old boy scout road just past the golf course where the lower trail section ended. I would ride from there all the way up to the Bump trail, turn around and ride back.
By April of 1993, I raced my first mountain bike race — the Cumberland Classic in Sewanee, TN — where I finished 6th in the juniors and 25th in the beginners (our fields were combined). There was more than 100 people in the race (IT WAS HUGE!!!) and I still remember starting and climbing out of a gravel parking lot area, racing across some huge field by a barn or something, and then a double track road before making the left into the singletrack. Whenever I think of “hole shot”, I still have this mental image of the gravel hill, followed by a wide open field leading to a double track leading to a lefthand turn onto singletrack overlooking a valley far below that made me think I was in an airplane (which I had never been in before). Later in the year, during the start of my senior year I would see a flyer for the Bull’s Gap time trial and race that as my second race (see pic below), following that up with two more mountain bike races (the Maddog Mountain Bike Race in Springville, Alabama and the Suck Creek Classic up in Chattanooga, TN).
Eventually, I’m going to link these pictures onto my results page, but in the interim, I’ve included a gallery of pictures that I scanned in from 1993-1998. If you are wondering how I could remember these results from way back then, I still have my “bike racing photo journal” (see pic below) that I kept which included a description of the race, the number of people in the race, my result in the race, as well as two or three 35mm snapshots. When I started college at Clemson, I kept track of everything in a Microsoft Access database (see other pic below).
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
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:
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):
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.
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.
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!
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!
With all that is happening in cycling right now, I definitely appreciate everyone who continues to follow my racing. I have never used any kind of performance enhancing drug, and it makes me sad/mad that so many of the stars of cycling from my generation have resorted to that during their careers. I think Phil Gaimon captured exactly how I feel when he describes Racer X at the end of this Velonews article. I will always love racing and riding my bike, so nothing changes for me in the wake of all that is coming out in the news now, other than a sense of responsibility to help promote clean sport. I’m not sure how or what difference I can make, but I’m open to suggestions and will continue looking for opportunities to help.
A picture is worth a thousand words so let’s start this long post out with a picture! My win at the Tour de Tuscaloosa road race to claim the Alabama state championship was definitely the highlight of my season. The inset pictures are the Alabama medals podium from Tuscaloosa as well teammates Boris and Kevin at the Pensacola stage race.
End of the season statistics
These statistics all run from October 31, 2011 until October 28, 2012 – 364 days worth of riding and racing. I define my racing/training season from the Monday closest to Nov 1 of the previous year to the Sunday closest to Oct 31st of the current year for all of these statistics and reports. The Polar Protrainer software makes it easy to calculate the statistics over the exact date range that I want to use.
October 31, 2011 – October 28, 2012
|Weekly training time (hours)||25.68||40.87||15.4||1336.3|
|Weekly distance (miles)||389.8||648.6||255.8||20,271|
|Workouts per week (#)||12||19||6||632|
|Weekly climbing (feet)||44,199||89,354||17,936||2,298,327|
For eagle-eyed observers who note that the climbing total is lower than that reported on Strava, I will give the same explanation that I gave last year: I am generating these reports from my Polar Protrainer software. I wrote a converter that converts Garmin .FIT files and .TCX files into the .HRM format that Polar expects. The Polar Protrainer software then applies a smoothing filter when it is calculating total ascent and other statistics, but I can’t figure out how to turn it off so that the statistics match up with Strava, which doesn’t apply any smoothing filters.
Some weekly milestone totals (from Strava):
- 3 weeks with more than 500 miles of riding, including one 648.6 mile week
- 25 weeks with more than 400 miles of riding
- 26 weeks with more than 50,000 ft of climbing, including a week with 100,342 ft
- 34 weeks with more than 25 hours of training/racing
Other statistical highlights (from Strava):
- Approximately 640 different KOMs on Strava
- A 249 mile mega ride to win the one-day Rapha Rising challenge with over 42,000 ft of climbing. I had some Garmin problems towards the end of the day and ended up losing 24 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing — but it was still enough to win the competition!
Comparison to past years
All years run from the Monday closest to November 1st to the Sunday closest to October 31st. This should result in about 365 days for each year give or take a day or two.
|HR avg (bpm)||137/165||139/161||136/176||131/178||123/156|
1 When I first got my Garmin in November 2008 (which falls in the 2009 year), I was leaving my commutes as one ride. In other words, I would just stop the timer while I was at work and then start it back up for the return trip home.
Racing Season Summary
This season was another “best ever” season highlighted by winning the Tour de Tuscaloosa road race over a really strong field to claim the Pro/1/2 Alabama state road race championship, having my best finish ever in the Athens Twilight criterium (20th place), winning the 47 day Strava climbing challenge sponsored by Specialized (my 20th place at Athens Twilight was near the end of that competition), placing 11th in the elite national road race in Augusta, making the podium three times at the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix including third overall for the five day omnium, and doing well in my first real foray into mountain bike racing since high school and college (3rd at Southern Cross, 2nd at the Skyway Epic, 4th at the Barn Burner in Flagstaff, 39th at Leadville in Colorado, and 13th at Fool’s Gold).
We did a lot of traveling over the summer, including a long road trip out to Arizona for a cousin’s wedding, that included the Barn Burner mountain bike race in Flagstaff and the three-day Tulsa Tough criterium series in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the way home. I had slightly disappointing results at the Tulsa Tough, but it was still one of the funnest weekends of racing the whole year — especially with the Tour de France like climb through the crowds every lab on Cry Baby Hill on the last day of racing. Another great adventure that didn’t quite have the results I was looking for was the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race. I ended up 39th but that was after bonking pretty bad about 75 miles into the 100+ mile race and struggling for the last 30 miles home. Still, the race itself was quite an adventure getting to race alongside two different world champions (Christoph Sauser from about mile 30 to mile 40 and Rebecca Rusch briefly on the powerline climb as she blew by me at mile 75). Altogether, I raced in ten different states this year (AZ, CO, OK, LA, MS, AL, TN, GA, FL, SC) over a total of 41 days covering 2,996 miles.
Map showing the locations of all my 2012 races (click to enlarge). Over 3000 miles of racing in 10 states. I just realized I acccidentally left Arizona off the map because I lost my Garmin during the Barn Burner race so I didn’t have any data from that race to pull into topocreator.
Finally, the graphs and charts!
Critical power curve for 2012. This represents an increase from 288 watts in 2011 to 305 watts in 2012. This is QUITE a substantial increase, but it’s mainly because I didn’t have very much power data for 2011 to base my 2011 figure on. It only takes one GOOD effort to push the curve up, and I believe that effort for me was when I set the Karl Daly KOM (on June 16, 2012). (click to enlarge)
I also spend a lot of time focused on climbing … usually this my daily focus as I will set a minimum amount that I want to climb that day and then ride as long as it takes to hit that amount. As it gets closer to the end of the week, I see what I need to do in terms of mileage to bring me up to the desired weekly mileage. (click to enlarge)
I rarely think about total time when training, but I do concern myself with time spent in different heartrate zones (particularly in the off season and base training period). I want to make sure I’m spending the right amount of time in the “red zone”. During the racing season, the race tactics that play out govern how much time is spent in the red. I aim NEVER to get into zone 4 or 5 during training during the racing season since I am racing pretty much every weekend where I spend a LOT of time in those zones. (click to enlarge)
Two new screenshots this year from Golden Cheetah … both “metrics” graph which highlights my best power output for a given time. This is like a discrete version of the Critical Power graph focusing on some well-known time intervals.
And finally, finally, some more thank you’s
A huge thank you to first of all my beautiful wife, Kristine Toone, and my kids Analise and Josiah, my parents and all of my teammates, friends, and family. I’ll be working over the rest of the week on a separate post with more maps of all the places that we traveled, all the places where we have stayed for races, and all the places where I have ridden this year. In that post, I’ll thank people by name who have helped out so much. Just as last year, I’ll leave this exceedingly long post with just one more thanks – thanks!
We’ve gone to Old Baker Farm to pick out pumpkins and enjoy all the festivities for the past seven years. Check out our first visit in 2006. I left the house a couple hours ahead of Kristine and the kids to make it out there at about the same time. Nice ride out enjoying the beautiful fall weather. Lots of pics below, too.
I posted a message to Facebook yesterday that I wanted to ride out to Double Oak Way today, and three brave souls (Russell Fulmer, Simon Prentice, and Jonathan Soto) showed up for the first cold ride of the season. Temps never got much above 50 degF spending a lot of time in the mid to upper 40s. Combined with a stiff north wind, the temp made for a chilly ride. But the ride itself, was a great adventure.
I set the bottom of Old Montgomery as the starting point for the ride because I wanted to put my Strava KOM shootout effort in for the week. Russell had gotten there early and already put his effort in so he waited partway up and got this video of me on my effort to get the KOM:
My legs were feeling great initially, but I botched the switchback in the video and paid for it later because I had to dig deep to keep my speed out of the corner. I broke my old time by 24 seconds and Boris’s KOM time by 14 seconds. I set a new power record during the short 3 minute effort as illustrated below:
Afterwards, Russell and I rode back down to the bottom to meet Simon and Jonathan to start our ride. We immediately began with the Cat 3 climb up Old Montgomery all the way to the high point on Shades Mountain on Vestavia Dr. From there we worked our way over to the Healthsouth Helipad Hill, which is where the photo at the top and the video below was taken.
Then it was onto a long 280 section taking us to the Hugh Daniel climb up and over into the valley at the base of Double Oak Way. The climb started out well (video below), but shortly after the steep part and rolling section, Simon had a stick kick up into his rear wheel lodging itself between the spoke and the non-drive chainstay. The stick not only broke a spoke but also cracked the frame. Because of how out of true the wheel was after breaking a spoke, there was no way for Simon to ride his bike. Nearly a mile behind a closed gate meant a mile of walking for Simon. So the rest of us took off back down the mountain to head back to Mt Laurel where we figured we could find a wheel to borrow from the scheduled group ride that was just finishing. I carried Simon’s broken wheel down and then returned with a loaner Campy wheel, which Simon was able to ride down to wait for someone to come pick him up.
During the wheel exchange (behind the gate), a property patrol vehicle came down and kicked us off the property. It was at the really steep part of the climb that the patrol agent was talking to us, so John pushed past not realizing what was going on — meaning that he was the only one of us who ended up making it ALL the way up to the top of the mountain. Luckily, the patrol agent wasn’t interested in going after him and turned to go patrol some of the trails on the property. After we all got back together, we headed over to Old 280 to do the Ebsco parking lot climb. Then we turned around, descended 280 past Lee Branch, worked our way across 280 (backwards at one point), navigated a hilly route through Meadowbrook, left out the back entrance to the Spain Park baseball fields cut-through, flew down Caldwell Mill to the Cahaba River bluff wall, climbed up to Dolly Ridge and then continued climbing on up to Vestavia Dr before descending down to the Brookwood Dental launchpad office cut-under (you ride under the office building, which is on stilts), through the apartments and finally back down Old Montgomery back to the start. I said good-bye to Russell and John before turning around and heading back up and over the mountain get home. What a ride!