Posts tagged ‘climbing’

Birmingham ridges

After three weeks of traveling out west and enjoying some really amazing riding and sightseeing with the family, I have been enjoying a week of riding back in Birmingham. Today’s ride typifies the type of ridge riding that you can do here in Birmingham. I started out this ride with a loop on the side of Little Valley Mountain followed by a route crossing all the major ridge lines to Birmingham. Then I turned around and took a different route home recrossing the same ridge lines at different points. After a quick stop at home, I did a loop through Bluff Park bouncing back and forth between the two ridge lines on top of Shades Mountain. That last bit through Bluff Park is shown with ridge and creek crossings highlighted in the first elevation profile and map below:


Numbered crossings of the two ridge lines across the top of Shades Mountain. Click to enlarge

  1. My neighborhood – on the remnants of Altadena Ridge
  2. Little Shades Creek – feeds into the Cahaba River
  3. Little Valley Mountain – Panorama Dr home of S Cove, Renfroe, VHHS
  4. Little Shades Creek again – after the S Cove Dr descent
  5. Little Valley Mountain again – this time descending off the other side of the mountain via Gay Way
  6. Patton Creek headwaters – near Vestavia Pizitz Middle School
  7. Vestavia Lake overlook – high point on the lower Shades Mountain ridge
  8. Vestavia Falls bridge – tucked down below a cliff, cool and shady
  9. Hwy 31 at Shades Crest – right before the descent past Brookwood hospital. Crosses the upper Shades Mountain ridge
  10. Shades Creek – high bridge (Hwy 31) over the creek and Lakeshore trail
  11. Red Mountain on Woodcrest – http://goo.gl/maps/xHwf – super steep descent to Five Points South
  12. Five Points South – still nearly hundred feet above downtown (Village Creek, etc…)
  13. Red Mountain Crest Rd with all the mansions across the top of the ridge – http://goo.gl/maps/MTu2
  14. Shades Creek – after descending down through Mountain Brook (Crestline Village)
  15. Shades Mountain eastern ridge – the part of Shades Mountain east of US-280
  16. Shades Creek at the 280 flyunder – http://goo.gl/maps/hjbV – flying down westbound 280, cross under on Shades Creek Pkwy, back up the ramp/climb eastbound 280
  17. Shades Mountain high point crown – this includes the real high point at Vestavia Dr plus lower summits at Smyer Circle and Chester St
  18. Little Shades Creek – awesome descent down Vesclub – crossing the creek at an upper branch
  19. Dolly Ridge at Skyland roller coaster
  20. Little Shades Creek – down at the actual creek
  21. Dolly Ridge at Rosemary
  22. Altadena Ridge back in my neighborhood

Entire ride profile with 15 mile zoom (numbered ridges, creeks explained below)

  1. Little Valley Mountain
  2. Shades Mountain
  3. Shades Creek
  4. Red Mountain
  5. Shades Creek
  6. Shades Mountain
  7. Shades Creek
  8. Shades Mountain
  9. Little Shades Creek
  10. Hoover
  11. Patton Creek
  12. Shades Mountain
  13. Patton Creek

And finally, here is a topocreator map of the entire ride … plus a super hi-res version (10.7MB).
Entire ride – ridges and creeks annotated (click to enlarge) … or download the super hi-res version (10.7MB)

June 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

Strava Climbing Challenge Wrap-up

March 15th – April 30th – 96 rides, 3084 miles and 468,661 feet of climbing – the Strava Specialized Climbing Challenge is done.

Last year I climbed a lot because I really like climbing (and descending). This year in this climbing competition, I was driven by a desire to win so I climbed more and rode much more than I have ever ridden before. Jeremy Philippe still has a chance to win if he has any more rides that he hasn’t uploaded yet, and if he does win then he deserves it because all of his climbing was on real mountain climbs in the French Alpes. Earlier in the competition, it was a race to see who could get to the prescribed climbing total 105,312feet first, and Robin Squire in England came out on top there reaching the total in an amazing 9 days. My climbing has been on the short, steep (sometimes super steep) climbs in the southern suburbs of Birmingham. Almost all of my climbing has been on three different ridge lines with hundreds of different roads criss-crossing through neighborhoods on the sides of the hills – see maps below showing only the 96 rides that counted towards the climbing challenge.

Birmingham climbing – routes overlaid on top of each other – darker blue means more times ridden – click to enlarge

Birmingham zoomed out with double oak way ridge line (click to enlarge)

Climbing challenge – rides in three states

The nice side effect of all this riding and climbing is that my racing has gotten even better as well. I assumed that there would be a trade-off as I bumped up the volume, my high end intensity would tank. But this didn’t happen – instead, I tied an all-time max heartrate at the end of a 422 mile week racing the Mississippi Gran Prix. Then the next week, I finished 26th in a really tough Sunny King criterium with some of the best criterium pros in the country near the end of a 475 mile week. Then towards the end of 510 mile week on the 75th mile of the day I finished in the top 20 (20th) of the Athens Terrapin Twilight criterium. I think there really is something to a term that a friend of mine coined – terrain based training (thanks Warren!) The secret is one word – recovery. Terrain forces you to go easy. If your legs are shredded from racing, then when you climb a hill you have to go so slow that it gives your legs a chance to recover. Whereas if you are on flatter terrain with smaller hills, then you might be tempted to punch it up a hill or maintain a fast speed if it is flat. If you are climbing a 15% grade, then it is easy to go 3-5mph and weave up the entire climb, and there is no mental pressure to go even the slightest bit faster. Plus you have a downhill coming up soon where you can coast, soft pedal, or tuck-and-fly instead of having to keep on pedaling on a long mountain descent or on flat roads. I’m going to write up some more about my training strategies in another post.

For now, here are some highlights/timeline from the final day of the challenge:

  • 7:30AM – walk the kids to school
  • 8:15AM – first ride – commute to samford with mind-numbing 25 repeats of skyland dr – 40+mph to 5mph each repeat
  • 9:20AM – teach languages and theory course at samford
  • 10:30AM – help student with senior project
  • 11:30AM – second ride – run into Mark Fisher (almost literally) while doing more repeats on skyland – ride together doing some of my favorite climbs/descents in vestavia
  • 2:50PM – finish second ride and pick up kids from school (literally – see photo below)
  • 3:15PM – third ride – combine mountain brook climbing route with hoover – bluff park climbing route – new max speed coming back down from bluff park
  • 6:45PM – finish third ride, shower, and go on date with kristine while grandparents babysit the kids – firebirds for dinner, world market, barnes and noble coffee, awesome
  • 9:30PM – upload data – see that Jeremy hasn’t uploaded any more rides – start to get paranoid
  • 10:45PM – fourth ride – laps in the dark, tired but full of adrenaline, hammer out 30 laps
  • 11:50PM – upload last ride and screenshots, for some reason i really wanted to get all my data uploaded before midnight

Kristine got a video of Analise and Josiah running with me up the hill to our house on what I thought was going to be my last ride of the day. See video below:

Riding with Josiah after school at the end of my second ride of the day.

Between my third and fourth rides, Kristine and I had an awesome date night.

May 1, 2012 at 10:17 am 7 comments

Climbing analysis

Today was a really hard ride … no racing this weekend (sadly) since the Barbers race was cancelled this year. So I did a bit of race simulation by picking out the longest climb in the Birmingham area (Pumphouse – Vestavia Dr) and trying to take back the KOM on it. I also picked out two other climbs to hit hard – one before the Pumphouse climb and one after it. The Vestavia Falls to Vestavia Lake overlook climb came shortly after the Pumphouse climb. I had gone hard enough on the Pumphouse Climb to be hyperventilating across the top down to chester and then nearly fall over climbing up chester so I had only barely pulled it together by the time I hit the Vestavia Falls climb. By the top of this third KOM effort for the day, I had so little upper body strength left from pulling on the bars that I felt something was wrong with my wheels/tires because any bump or small gust of wind would knock me a little sideways. I realized later that it was because I had nothing left in the muscles to compensate for the normal riding conditions. Thankfully this only lasted a short ways back down the descent. Still, I was somewhat shell-shocked from the back-to-back efforts, and it wasn’t until I had made it over closer to Bluff Park that I was starting to feel normal again. The rest of the ride was at a much harder than normal tempo to try to minimize total ride time given that today is my wife’s birthday, and we were heading out to the cheesecake factory for a late birthday lunch.

Here are the iBike stats on the KOMs I set today (in order) -

---------Caldwell Mill to Abingdon Abandoned House ---------
Dist:        0.78 mi (0:03:33)
Energy:      78.9 kJ
Cals Burn:   75.4 kcal
Climbing:     288 ft (Strava cat 4)
Braking:      0.0 kJ (0.0%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power     204  370.5   562  W
Aero        0   39.2   191  W
Rolling    10   17.1    28  W
Gravity    -2  298.7   520  W
Speed     7.9   13.2  21.5  mi/h
Wind      0.0    8.4  22.2  mi/h
Elev      291    433   560  ft
Slope    -0.0   6.79  15.6  %
Caden      55   73.7    92  rpm
HR        106  161.2   173  bpm
NP:371W IF:1.34 TSS:11 VI:1.00
CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0039
168 lbs; 4/7/2012 11:05 AM
71 degF; 1013 mbar
---------Pumphouse - Vestavia Dr ---------
Dist:        4.85 mi (0:16:22)
Energy:     335.2 kJ
Cals Burn:  320.4 kcal
Climbing:     864 ft (Strava cat 3)
Braking:    -15.5 kJ (-4.6%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  341.3   678  W
Aero        0  127.6   900  W
Rolling     0   23.0    43  W
Gravity  -971  163.4   667  W
Speed     0.0   17.8  33.2  mi/h
Wind      0.0   16.3  41.1  mi/h
Elev      157    468   853  ft
Slope    -8.8   2.75  14.8  %
Caden      16   77.9   107  rpm
HR        126  171.6   193  bpm
NP:363W IF:1.31 TSS:47 VI:1.06
CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0039
168 lbs; 4/7/2012 11:32 AM
75 degF; 1013 mbar
---------Vestavia Fall to Vestavia Lake overlook ---------
Dist:        0.75 mi (0:03:17)
Energy:      73.2 kJ
Cals Burn:   70.0 kcal
Climbing:     274 ft (Strava cat 4)
Braking:      0.0 kJ (0.0%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  371.6   675  W
Aero        0   35.8   321  W
Rolling    12   17.7    32  W
Gravity   -89  317.4   693  W
Speed     9.3   13.7  24.4  mi/h
Wind      0.0   10.6  27.2  mi/h
Elev      416    562   684  ft
Slope    -2.5   6.96  14.8  %
Caden       8   70.6    95  rpm
HR        122  170.1   180  bpm
NP:392W IF:1.41 TSS:11 VI:1.05
CdA: 0.342 m^2; Crr: 0.0039
168 lbs; 4/7/2012 12:07 PM
76 degF; 1013 mbar

The pumphouse climb is the longest climb in the immediate Birmingham area (that I know of). It is just over 4.5 miles long with nearly 750ft of vertical diff from the low point near the Cahaba River to the highest point on the Shades Mountain ridge on Vestavia Dr. There are also two stop lights, three stop signs, and three downhills on the climb so the total elevation gain is well over 850ft. What was really interesting today is that there was a steady, firm breeze blowing from the west and yet I had a tailwind on most of the pumphouse climb which should have been straight into the headwind. The deep valleys in Birmingham sometimes get colder in the mornings than the top of the ridge lines. Then during mid to late morning and even early afternoon, you get an updraft on the hills as the air warms in the valleys and rises. Note in the iBike screenshot below zoomed into the pumphouse climb that there is a headwind on the flats and downhills and a tailwind on the uphills. This wasn’t just erroneous wind readings on the ibike, it was really obvious when you were hitting the headwind and when you had the tailwind.

pumphouse climb annotated map with wind direction
ibike graph for pumphouse climb – annotated

ibike data for the complete ride (click to enlarge)

Finally, here is a fun easter picture I got of the kids right after I got back from my ride … happy easter everyone!
THREE easter bunnies

And here annotated garmin screenshots from the ride:

April 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm 1 comment

More spring climbing for the Specialized Climbing Challenge on Strava

Chasing Josiah up the hill at the end of my ride – wearing @strava bibs and #southerncx jersey
iBike data annotated at peaks (click to enlarge)
Today was an easy day with a big criterium tomorrow in Dothan. I spent most of the ride looking for good hills in the shade to do repeats on. The nice thing about the hills through neighborhoods like Bluff Park and Green Valley is that you can practice criterium cornering using gravity to help you accelerate up to crit speed rather than wearing yourself out trying to punch it up to 30mph to head into a corner. The course tomorrow has a pretty good hill so that will make for a bit of climbing, but I’m likely to be even farther behind Robin who is crushing the climbing over in England. Jeremy in France is catching up with his climbing in the Alps, and Guido from Australia is not too far behind. That’s four riders in three different continents pushing hard in the Strava virtual competition. That’s the beauty of Strava — bringing riders from all over for virtual competition.

March 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm Leave a comment

Lots of climbing stats

Today was quite a combination of rides — hitting a new personal record of shortest distance to 5,000′ of vertical gain on the way into work and then hitting 5,000′ ft again in less than 30 miles on the way home from work. Both rides were pretty slow with lots of weaving on the steep parts and several roller coaster repeats. The best thing about the roller coaster repeats is that they are insanely fast in the 53×11 on the descents and then nearly instantly into the 39×28 — that’s a lot of wear and tear on the derailleurs. No wonder I have broken three front and one rear derailleur in the past year and snapped several cables.

Morning ride (annotated) – click to enlarge

Afternoon ride topocreator map – annotated – click to enlarge

Annotated ibike data from morning ride (click to enlarge)

Annotated ibike data from afternoon ride (click to enlarge)

Finally, here are the garmin screenshots:

March 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

It’s Sunday – a great day for two flats

Well, this makes two weeks in a row of two flats on Sunday. Last week, two flats might have cost me a podium at Rouge Roubaix. This week, I had two flats on the way to church, but just like last week where thanks to a quick change from the motorcycle wheel support, it all worked out just fine. Today’s ride started out really great with the typical Skyland – Dolly Ridge – Caldwell Mill climbing. I was looking for a hillier way to get over to Hugh Daniel and ended up discovering a really cool climb up onto (literally) the Healthsouth Corporate Headquarters helicopter landing pad. Very cool! Then on the fun, fast, twisty descent out the backside of Healthsouth, I pinch flatted on a drainage cover at the back gate. I thought I would practice a quick change, and I thought everything went well, but I flatted again about 5 miles later just before the top of the Hugh Daniel – Greystone Crest climb. The flat was on both sides of the valve stem so it looks like I might not have had the tube in straight after the first flat. I didn’t have any more tubes, but I did have a patch kit. It turns out that my original flat was a snake bite in one location and a small gash in another location. Two patches later I was able to pump up the original tube that had flatted first and continue on to church. Thankfully, I made it because after church the tire was completely flat again. So I just caught a ride over to grandma’s house with Kristine, and we had a nice afternoon together as a family. I’ll definitely take that any day of the week – flat or no flat!

When we got home, I tried to get a picture of the whole near the valve stem when a chipmunk wandered into the view finder literally a foot or so away from me. Then as I was trying to take a picture of the chipmunk eating some nuts, a beautiful female cardinal landed right behind the chipmunk. A little while later another bird landed but I couldn’t get a good picture of it. Here are the pics:

March 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

Shades Mountain and Red Mountain climbing

Annotated view of the Big Momma (West Oxmoor Rd) climb
Fun, hard ride today. I didn’t have any particular goal in mind other than steady tempo climbing for most of the ride and a KOM attempt on the West Oxmoor Rd climb (Big Momma). Big Momma is a moderately steep climb that starts out really steep and then gradually gets shallower and shallower as you get closer to the top. I’ve tried at least once to take back this KOM and fell far short. Today, I wanted to give it another go. Along the way I did a lot of steady climbing over in Mountain Brook and Irondale.

Then, as I headed over to Red Mountain I started to get antsy (sp?) to go hard. I hit Woodcrest kinda hard and then as I got closer to the top I felt really good so I drilled it. Crossing over the Red Mountain ridge at the top, I took the Warwick Dr neighborhood cut-through to descend back down towards Five Points South, but I missed a light and turned early onto 12th (I think) and climbed back up the ridge again before heading all the way back down the ridge again into UAB campus. This felt a bit like what I would imagine most of the Tour of Flanders would feel like – climbing up cobbled steep roads and turning around at the top to descend down before turning around at the bottom to climb back up the same ridge line on a different cobbled road. Check out the topocreator map and elevation profile below.

Annotated profile with gradients for larger hills and climbs (click to enlarge)

Annotated map of red mountain shades mountain climbing (click to enlarge)

The main difference being that instead of cobblestones in downtown Birmingham, you just get sections of really crappy pavement with potholes, bumps, and rough pavement mixed in with whatever random section of road has been repaved recently and is perfectly smooth. I went hard from UAB all the way up the Red Mountain Water Tower climb – around one of the closed gates (hello cyclocross) and ended up setting the KOM on that climb as well. I’ve updated the annotations on the panoramic picture of Red Mountain that I have posted on a previous ride.

Annotated view of Red Mountain taken from high point on Shades Mountain (Vestavia Dr) – click to enlarge

Finally, it was time to head down Valley Avenue over to West Oxmoor and do the climb. By the bottom of the climb I had already climbed almost 8500 ft and set two KOMs, but I was still feeling good when I hit the climb. I started out way too hard and struggled at the top but it was enough to take the KOM. Afterwards I stopped by a Starbucks to get some water after it turns out that the Hoover Burger King has replaced its nice soda fountain with easy access cold water with one of those silly fancy “Mix your own drink” coke machine. I had run out of water just before the Big Momma KOM so I had been out for a little while. The iced cold water from Starbucks though was perfect. I headed back up Shades Mountain through Bluff Park at a much easier pace and ended up running out of water 20 miles later close to home. Hot, hard, fun ride!

Here’s a link to all the interactive data on Strava: http://app.strava.com/rides/5334767

March 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

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Bushwhacking led to this! Climb 3 is the most epic 25% max grade and bushwhacking to get to the high point. Columbiana climb 2 is the shortest of the three, but it has the funnest descent with sweeping fast switchbacks.

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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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