Posts tagged ‘strava’
Quick post here … I took back the Smyer to Shades Crest KOM today. One of the things about that climb is that it is has been on my commute route home from work for the past eight years. Before I ever had a GPS I used to time myself with a very basic bike computer. I kept track of a backpack time and a non-backpack time. The segment doesn’t match if you are coming up from the 280 side (which I do quite often) so Strava only shows me as having done the climb 126 times — but I would guesstimate the number closer to one thousand times especially considering my pre-strava commutes from 2005-2008. I know that climb well enough to possibly do it with my eyes closed … actually I’ve experimented with that a few times and ridden sections of it with my eyes closed just for fun.
A few weeks ago Paul Tower took the KOM from me with an amazing time of 2’33”. A few days later I was able to put in an effort on the climb to try to take it back, but I ended up falling quite a bit short (2’37”). Just four seconds … but for such a short climb that is pretty much an eternity. Not racing this past weekend, I needed to get a good hard effort in to wake my legs up for this weekend’s Mississippi Gran Prix so it worked out for me to try again today. This time I started from a cross street instead of lower down on the hill … and that made a huge difference. Combined with a little bit of GPS love (i.e., the Strava segment matched up a bit early b/c my GPS track was offset a bit to the right at the end) led to a smashing of the old record with a time of 2’25” … almost 20mph.
Now that Paul (and Mark Fisher) know the ideal place to start the segment, I’m not sure how long that KOM will last — but rest assured if it falls, I will be back out there again to try to get it back! Here’s my data from the climb:
Smyer to Shades Crest KOM … 2’25” @ 484 watts, VAM 1500 on a 5% climb.
Today was quite the adventure – two flats and a KOM! The last week of the Strava Shoot-out competition was the Rocky Ridge – Vestavia Dr climb. With over 700 vertical feet of elevation difference and nearly 800 feet total gain (three small downhills), this is one of the biggest climbs you can do in the immediate Birmingham area (Double Oak and Pine Mountain both have more elevation gain, but they are both quite a ways out of town). This climb is really close to me, starting less than two miles from my front door!
So when Mark Fisher put in a spectacular effort to take the KOM from me for the last week of the Fall strava shoot-out competition, I knew immediately that I was going to take it back at some point. I expected that I would have to try several times, but I ended up getting it back on my first try today. The video below is a bikecam video of the entire KOM effort, including the Dashware overlay of power, heartrate, speed, and cadence (the colored bar that circles the power readings).
Shortly after the KOM effort ended, I tried to avoid a garbage truck by riding through some grass onto a sidewalk. The grass was deeper than it looked hiding quite a concrete lip on the edge of the sidewalk. So when I rode onto the sidewalk, I didn’t try to bunny hop onto it and I ended up pinch flatting my front wheel on the lip. I had left my phone, tools, tubes, and pump back at the house to save weight for the KOM effort. My only hope was to hitch a ride with somebody back down the mountain. Fortunately, Mike Davies from Richter Landscape Company happened to be driving by in his work truck, and he gave me a ride all the way back down to my house. Huge shout-out and thanks to him … if you live in Hoover, Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Homewood, or Birmingham give them a call at 205-942-1555 to come landscape your yard!!!
The KOM started out well with a bit of a light tailwind. My legs were burning fairly early in the ride as this was the first hard effort of the day, and it was still fairly early in the ride. But eventually I settled into what I thought was a good hard rhythm. Cresting the Veslub Lower part of the climb, I was pretty spent though and started to have lots of negative thoughts about how slow it felt like I was going. But then after I made up the steep part of Vesclub Upper, I saw that my time was just over 9 minutes. In my head at that point I was thinking that all I needed to do was finish the last part in less than 4 minutes and I would beat my old time of 13 minutes. This gave me a lot of motivation because I knew that would be easy. But then a few seconds later I realized that my old time was 11 minutes 13 seconds … not 13 minutes! So I only had a couple minutes left. But by this point I had already made it over to Vestavia Dr and had over a minute left to Mark’s KOM time. I knew I could fly up the last section in about a minute, so I was again motivated that I had a realistic chance to beat Mark’s time. Coming across the top, I hit the lap button showing a time of 11’03”, but Strava matched it up at 10’49” because I must have hit the lap button way to early to start the climb. Also, I made this video analyzing my KOM effort in a bit more detail:
After changing out my front wheel and uploading my ride to strava to see if I had gotten the KOM, I headed back out still planning to do another 90 miles or so out to Emerald Lakes to explore the climbs that I had discovered on my way out to Cullman on Christmas. About 10 miles into that ride, I had another flat. This one was from a pretty worn spot on the rear tire – so I put in a $5 bill to boot the tire and limped home after changing the tube. By this point in the day, it was too late to try again to make it out to Emerald Lakes — so I decided to do some climbing in Mountain Brook. Along the way, I made this video of the European bypass road (Old Brook Trail) reflecting on April 27th when the tornadoes came through the area.
After climbing over in Mountain Brook, I headed home just in time to meet Kristine and the kids coming out of the woods on their walk home from school. Later in the day, Josiah and I had a boys’ night out at the Lego store monthly free lego night while Kristine took Analise to gymnastics. All around, it was a great day!
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!
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.
So here is the backstory for this ride – I took Monday off, and on Tuesday my legs felt like a million bucks. So I decided during my ride on Tuesday that I would put in my Strava Shoot-out effort on my Wednesday ride. Tuesday night I was working on topocreator making a custom map of Vermont that somebody is going to use to build a set of custom skis, and I started to think about exploring some new roads up near Pine Mountain. Eventually, I mapped out a 100 mile route that morphed into the adventure below!
It started out with an easy somewhat direct route over to Red Mountain so that I could put in a max effort while my legs were still fresh. The video above has a brief analysis of how the climb went. I started out strong on the gradual opening Highlands section, and when it kicked up steep I felt strong enough to decide to stay in the big chain ring through the steep sections of the climb. This was a good decision, although I felt like I bogged down a bit shortly after the turn onto Cliff Road which averages 10% (max 13-14%) for a tenth of a mile. I got some extra motivation at the right turn onto the cement switchback road as I had to cut in front of a car that started to pull out from the left at the stop sign (I had the right-of-way with no stop sign from my direction). I dropped the car on the u-turn switchback and decided to take a really tight line on the inside of the potholes. The left onto Altamont was no problem, but the car I had dropped then passed me back when I was going 25mph on the flat section of the climb shortly before the house construction with all the cars parked on the left side of the road. There was a near-miss wreck as a utility van pulled out from the construction zone right after the car was passing me. The van then proceeded to drive really slow so I had to pass him on the right side shortly before making the turn onto Redmont. The extra shot of adrenaline there plus perhaps not digging quite deep enough earlier on the climb meant that I absolutely flew up the last part – raised my average power for the climb by 6 watts on the last 25 seconds of the climb. Data for the climb is below:
Strava shoot-out power map – wattages are 30 second averages
After the shoot-out, I headed over towards Ruffner Mountain via the reverse of the route I did on Thanksgiving. I wanted to get a picture of the launch ramp coming off the Gate City hill. I also got a video of the Ruffner Mountain climb to the fire tower. If you watch these videos on Youtube, then you can click on video bookmarks in the description to jump to a specific interesting point of the video.
After Ruffner Mountain, I climbed up the super steep Valley Hill Dr (27% max) on the way over to St Vincents East and Turncliff. Then I took Brewster road which is a nice hilly road up to Chalkville. From there, I took Tyler Loop up to Sweeney Hollow road. The tornado damage on Tyler was amazing to see 11 months after it happened. From there, I took Dewey Heights to Faucett to Faucett Circle, which were all new roads to me. Nice pavement, steep hills, and only two bad dogs.
From that point until the start of the Pine Mountain backside climb were all new roads to me. I was fearing a lot of dogs since I hadn’t ridden through there before, but I only saw a few before the start of the Pine Mountain backside climb. That climb was littered with dogs – especially across the top to the elbow road up to the 1440′ high pt. See video below (watch on youtube and click on the video bookmarks in the description to jump directly to the dogs)
Coming back through Clay, I got stuck behind after-school bus and car traffic. Then after climbing up Pineview Rd to the really cool isolated hill neighborhood in the middle of Trussville, I started down the descent and the road was being resurfaced. Nasty fresh tar balls, plus grated pavement, plus lots of crap on the roads I was lucky not to get a flat. It was getting late by this point, but I had brought my lights knowing that I would probably be getting home after dark. I booked it home sacrificing climbing for speed by taking Old Leeds. Traffic was a nightmare on 280 but I avoided it by some creative underpass riding. The sunset views across the top of Smyer Circle and Vestavia Dr were amazing. See below and see the gallery. I was disappointed not to hit 50 on the Vesclub lower descent (must have been a bit of an updraft) so I added on the climb up Little Valley Mountain so I could go down S Cove making sure that a 6.5 hour, 102 mile ride had at least one 50mph section. Guided home by the Christmas lights, I arrived well after dark to end a long, fun day on the bike.
It seems it has become an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition for me to head on over to Red Mountain and Ruffner Mountain to climb to the 1200ft summits. This year I did the route in the reverse direction so that I could put in my Strava Shoot-out effort on the Grants Mill – Karl Daly climb. It was a good effort on the climb, and I ended up beating my previous best time by 34 seconds … I made a video narrating my effort on the climb … if you watch it on youtube you can click on the time bookmarks in the description to jump to a specific part of the climb.
After climbing back up Karl Daly again to narrate the video, I headed on over to Red Mountain via John Rogers to get to US-11 to take me to Trussville. The first 1200 climb is the Turncliff radio tower climb. One of the unique features of this climb is the kudzu forest that you ride through. The other unique feature is the tiny neighborhood that is built almost entirely above 1200 ft on a very small saddle between two slightly higher 1200 ft points. There are some cool turns as well just to get to the neighborhood (see Garmin screenshot)
Turncliff kudzu forest
Turncliff neighborhood turns. The road to the lower left is the radio tower climb.
After descending back down from the Turncliff neighborhood, I headed back up again climbing up above the St Vincent’s East hospital to a cool water tower. This climb starts out with a 40% cement ramp out of the hospital parking lot, which then turns into a deep gravel road. I’m hit or miss on whether I can clear it on a given day … fall is particularly tough because of all the leaves, but I somehow managed to clear it today and not fall down on the way back down.
Descending back down from the hospital through the rollers took me to one of my favorite neighborhoods on the side of Red Mountain … don’t know the name of it, but it has this really cool climb up to a road called Observatory Road. Then you turn onto a one lane road that connects over to the outskirts of East Lake still on the side of the mountain. This neighborhood is home to the 27% Valley Hill Dr climb. I was coming from the other direction so I opted for a twisty descent that bypasses Valley Hill and takes you to some rollers to join up with the Ruffner Mountain climb near the entrance to the nature center. The last two Thanksgivings the nature center has been closed, but this year it was open. Making it to the top of the climb up to the fire tower, I made this video:
I took a new route through Gate City which has one of the coolest (and probably most dangerous) descents … I was flying down it when I saw a sign that said bump … so I hit the brakes not knowing what kind of bump it was, but it was actually a table-top ramp where the road kicks up to a table top where the road drops down 20% immediately, you go from a very small uphill to a 20% downhill with practically no transition … I’m sure you could catch air on a road bike if you take it at speed. That wouldn’t be too dangerous except for the 90 degree turn at the bottom less than two or three seconds after your tires land. I think if you apply the brakes gently while you are still in the air, then you might be able to make the turn at the bottom. I might try it next time I’m out there.
This was the only negative thing of the whole ride … while waiting for the train in the video to cross, I climbed up a hill into a project neighborhood where they were having a big outdoor community feast and somebody yelled “get out of my neighborhood” at me. I don’t know maybe they were just joking, but they certainly sounded serious. Not cool. Racial prejudice works both ways, folks.
After turning around and “getting out of their neighborhood” the train was gone and I was able to finish the climb up 58th street to the top of Southcrest, turn around and take Clairmont over to Altamont and the descend down the secret climb to five points heading over to the last climb of the day up Red Mountain – the Red Mountain water tower climb which starts on UAB’s campus. Got a video of it here:
I needed to stop by my house to pick up my backpack and change of clothes for Thanksgiving dinner … running a bit late on my ride so I had to drill it up Columbiana, down Columbiana, up Montreat, down S Cove, to my house and then over to my parent’s house. Guy in a red convertible offered to let me hold onto the side of his car up the Rocky Ridge road gradual climb, but knowing that it wouldn’t be fair for that Strava segment so I laughed and told him I’d have to pass on the offer.
One last video I got was the view of Oak Mountain view from top of Columbiana:
Other pictures and screenshots from the ride are captioned below:
Do you know how much I love riding in the true mountains? We got in last night at 11:45PM, and I knew that my 700x23c racing tires would be no match for potentially slick icy roads up here so I spent another 30 minutes changing both tires and putting on some good 700x25c all-weather tires (gotta love the Strada-Ks) so that by the time I made it to bed it was 12:30AM. Nevertheless, I set my alarm for 5:30AM so I’d have a chance to do some riding before my computer conference began. Now during a quick break after lunch I just uploaded my ride and see that I ended up with the KOM on the motor trail descent … heartrate still racing a bit from ducking, diving, and sliding around corners in the half-light of dawn shaded by Mt Leconte. Here are some pics I took along the way: