Posts tagged ‘strava’
The Rapha Rising climbing competition started on Sunday, and today I had a fun ride per the pics and Garmin screenshots below. I started out with lots of laps in the neighborhood to start out the ride while Kristine was at work and the kids were playing in the front yard. Then when Kristine got home I rode over to Brick Alley carrying my race wheel with a broken spoke – but they were closed so I had to ride back carrying the wheel – about 7 miles of climbing hand-carrying an extra wheel. Then I did some Skyland Repeats in Vestavia and RTB loops in Mountain Brook and snapped a few photos along the way.
Well, today’s mountain bike ride definitely fit the bill for a “cycling adventure”. Highlights included riding in and behind a thunderstorm, riding through a pilgrimage of devout Catholics, stumbling upon a small forest fire, discovering another Strava Cat 2 climb for Alabama, lots of mud, lots of flying ants, and lots of yellow jackets. Here are annotated topocreator maps of my route.
We had some thunderstorms roll through Birmingham this morning, so it was lots of rain on the long ride out to Double Oak and eventually over to Signal Mountain. Most of the thunder/lightning activity stayed just to the east of my location, but it was still disconcerting to be on the edge of a thunderstorm while climbing over the highest ridges in the area. Apparently, lightning from the storm had struck the top of Signal Mountain as I would later discover a small forest fire near the top.
Before climbing Signal Mountain, I had to first climb up and over the Double Oak ridges taking me down into Bear Creek Valley. As I rode north on Co Rd 43 through Bear Creek, I noticed hundreds of cars parked alongside the road. This was really unusual, but it got even stranger as I started reading the license plates which were from all over the country. I eventually made it through the cars to this field and found out by asking someone walking back that some devout catholics believe Mary appears in this field every year near the Fourth of July.
Continuing on Co Rd 43, I eventually made it to this barn which used to have a cool concrete statue of cyclists resting on the ground with their bikes propped up behind them, and turned onto the street/driveway (Moss Rock Trail) that leads straight down to Bear Creek itself and the low point for the start of the Cat 2 climb up Signal Mountain. I turned around at the bridge and began the climb by heading back out to Co Rd 43 and turning left to go back all the way through the pilgrimage area until I reached Season Rd, which is the start of the steep part of the climb.
I’m pretty sure this will be the only time I ever do the climb. It is a good climb through a beautiful area, but the majority of it is on private hunting grounds (hence the name “Season Rd”). I reckoned that on a rainy Monday morning in the middle of summer everything should be deserted, which it was. But this is property that should generally be avoided. At the top of the climb is a single radio tower, which is ironic given that the name of the mountain is Signal Mountain.
The climb starts out steady and steep for the first mile before leveling out when you cross over from the back side of the ridge to the front side of the ridge. The view along the front side of the ridge is absolutely amazing – overlooking the valley over 1000 ft below and the adjacent ridge of Double Oak at nearly 1000 ft above the valley floor as well. After about a half mile, the climb bends around the side of the mountain again and really kicks up in elevation. It was just past this bend where I saw the forest fire. Also, I had to run the last bit because I got off-balance in the wrong gear, and it was too steep to remount – but theoretically the entire climb is rideable without stopping.
After I made it down the mountain, I rode back to the pilgrimage area and reported the fire to a Shelby County police officer who was helping with crowd control. He thanked me and called it in on his radio. Then it was time for me to head back up and over Double Oak ridge … the mountain was swarming with yellow jackets and flying ants. Because of the earlier rain, I had to run several sections and with every footfall there would be a yellow jacket rooting around in the rocks and mud. I was super careful, but it wasn’t until I was actually riding on a slight downhill at about 15mph when a yellow jacket, bee, or wasp came from in front of me and collided directly with my head. The sting was immediate – I couldn’t tell a difference between the “thud” of the bee hitting me and its sting. One day later as I finish off this post, the entire righthand side of my face is swollen along with both sides of my neck.
To view the ride interactively on Strava, click this link: http://app.strava.com/rides/12387038
Finally, here are all the pics that I took during the ride:
Today was another highlight day as I had the opportunity to drive down to Tucson and climb Mt Lemmon. I knew that I had no shot at getting the KOM on the short version of the climb after riding 104.5 miles yesterday and setting a new 25 minute power record taking the South Mountain KOM along the way. So I used Strava’s Explore feature to find a longer version of the climb that went all the way to the very top of the mountain. I figured that I had a shot at it if I just stayed steady at about 250 watts – well below my threshold power.
I felt surprisingly good at the bottom, though, and managed to average 273 watts for the first 7 miles of the climb before the average started to drop – particularly into a headwind 2 mile section of the climb towards windy point. It was dropping about a watt every mile as I struggled to maintain 250 watts. Then somewhere between milepost 15 and 16 up a steady part of the climb, I was looking at my wattage and it was down to 97 watts. I knew that I was still pushing about the same effort, but I also knew I was starting to struggle so I pushed much harder to try to get it back up to 250 watts. But the highest I could get it to was something like 175 watts. Then I realized that something must be wrong with my power meter. I’m hoping it is just a dead battery. This was very demotivating for me as I was relying a lot on the power average to push myself to keep that average higher – but the average started dropping quite rapidly with my current power output hovering around 100 watts eventually dropping to zero watts. So for the last 1200 feet of the first section of the climb and for the entire last section up Ski Valley to the high point, I just kept the elevation screen on and watched the dot get closer to the high point. I tried to use PRE to put out the same power, but I’m sure I had dropped below 250 watts by this time. It was enough, though, as I was able to set three KOMs on the climb – the full monte, and two shorter climbs at the end.
I was not in good shape by the top. I started late in the day (9:48AM) for this ride and had 18 miles of a gradual climb to reach the Catalina Highway where the official climb starts. I had two full bottles and a quarter of another bottle at the bottom – but I was completely out by the top. I did the last steep bit from the Irondoor Restaurant to the top with nothing to drink. Thankfully it was kinda cold at the top with temps in the upper 60s / lower 70s by the top and a steady wind blowing. Cold and very thirsty I asked one person to take my picture and then immediately headed back to the Irondoor Restaurant to refill water and get something to eat. I had only brought $10 with me so all I could afford was coke ($3) and cornbread/honey ($4.50). It was all I needed though as I drank several glasses of coke and doused the cornbread with nearly half a bottle of honey.
I stopped a couple times on the descent to get pictures, but by this point I really wanted to be done riding. I tried to push the pace on the descent but struggled to maintain 30mph on the flatter section and 40mph on the steeper sections. My max speed was 46mph – a little disappointing considering I regularly hit 50+mph on the steep descents in Birmingham. I kept the temperature screen open on my garmin and watched it rise through the 80s all the way to 101.2 by the start of the bikepath along the Rillito River. Fortunately, there was at least a little bit of shade on the bikepath and the temp on my Garmin dropped down to 98 by the end.
Here is a gallery of all the pictures I took … two of them were on the way up the climb while riding and trying to push 250 watts (the cactus picture towards the bottom of the climb and the rock outcropping next to the road)
Thursday, Day 4 – sunset adventure with Josiah
After a fun hobo dinner over the campfire, Josiah and I set out on a sunset adventure. We took the new trail I found to the Bright Angel lodge and then connected with Hermit Rd, which is open only to shuttles and cyclists. I pushed Josiah up the big opening hill before we took a gatorade break at the first overlook point. Then we continued on eventually making it to Maricopa point, which is closed to cyclists. BUT, as we started walking our bikes along the trail, we realized there was nobody there! So we hopped back on and rode the paved trail all the way out to the lookout point where we got the picture and video below:
Josiah showing the view looking west … note we were able to ride to the edge of the canyon because Maricopa was empty!
Friday, Day 5 – worst ride ever – Grand Canyon to Flagstaff
The views were great, but there was a lot of traffic, and the wind was horrendous. 20+mph steady headwind with gusts up to 50mph. Once I finally made it to Valle, I was hoping for a cross-tailwind, but instead it was just a nasty knock your front wheel sideways crosswind. As the road climbed gradually towards the San Francisco peaks, the wind got increasingly worse. Eventually, going across the Kendrick Park meadow, the wind was sustained at 30-40mph with gusts probably in the 60mph range. It is easily the worst wind I have ever ridden in. The only redeeming part of the ride is that after about a mile or two of descending from the high pt of 8046′, the road had bent enough to give me a tailwind. So I had a fast downhill with tailwind to end the ride. I made it to the Snowbowl climb turnoff ahead of Kristine, so after waiting a few minutes I headed up the climb even though I was tired and out of food. Shortly after starting the climb, Kristine drove up so I gladly called it a day – I had had enough of the wind. The views were great – see these pics from Hermit Rd in the grand canyon and much later in the ride approaching the San Francisco peaks.
View looking west from Hopi Pt at the start of my ride
The San Francisco peaks outside of flagstaff
Saturday, Day 6 – exploring Mummy Mountain and Camelback Mountain in Phoenix
We drove down to Phoenix later in the day on Friday arriving while everyone was at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding. The next morning Josiah and I went for an hour long ride exploring the very cool canal trail and tunnels while Kristine did a 5K running race with her cousin, Kimberly. When they got back, my uncle Jim helped guide me through the canal tunnel system over towards Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain where I tried to find every way possible to get high up on the mountains. There were many mansions built into the side of the hill with super long, steep driveways but they were all gated-off private property. Still, the roads leading to the driveway were really fun with several steep sections.
Approaching Camelback Mountain from the west – praying monk on the left
Approaching the “castle” climb on Camelback Mountain
Sunday, Day 7 – South Mountain KOM and North Mountain KOM attempt – 104.5 miles
The ride down Central Ave to South Mountain was relatively easy with a bike lane for most of the way. The route when straight through downtown Phoenix, which was deserted on a Sunday morning. Most of the lights could be timed so that I think I only had to wait at one or two lights. This road takes you directly into the climb. The Strava segment that I had looked at was the one that started at the restrooms so when I passed a parking area that looked like it had restrooms, I drilled it. I was trying to maintain 350 watt average, but after about 5 minutes of this, my average started to slowly come down until I ended up with a time of 24’27″ and a 324 watt average. I saw a sign at the entrance that said “Silent Sunday, no motor vehicles” which probably explains why there were hundreds of other cyclists climbing the mountain. It was motivating for me to always have people up ahead to chase. On the way back down, I explored all the side roads and lookouts enjoying the amazing views.
Right to left – Camelback Mountain, Mummy Mountain, Squaw Peak, North Mountain, Thunderbird, Deem Hills
View of the summit climb on South Mountain from the San Juan side road
Later in the afternoon I headed out to meet Uncle Bruce at the Deem Hills park to go mountain biking. Along the way I climbed North Mountain to see if I could set the KOM on it the same day that I set one on South Mountain. Unfortunately, the climb was far too steep and technical and it was all I could do to make it to the top without putting my foot down – ended up third on the KOM. To give you an idea of how steep part of the climb was – there was one stretch of the descent where I was leaned all the way back off the back of the saddle because I felt like I was going to tip over the handlebars if I hit the brakes too hard or hit a rock. Here are a couple pics of North Mountain:
I continued on up towards Deem Hills and met Uncle Bruce for some awesome desert singletrack riding. We started out by climbing from the parking lot up to the top of one of the northern peak. The climb was pretty steep in parts – particularly in the tight switchbacks. I was able to ride a couple of the switchbacks but had to walk one or two of the others. The trails were rocky in spots, but not overly technical. You could have fun on both the climb and the downhill. Perhaps the thing that stood out the most, though, was all the different kinds of cactus and cholla with the trails clearly visible on the sides of the hills. After we finished riding, Bruce directed me on a much better route that involved a small climb up Thunderbird canyon followed by some very cool canal trails all the way back to 7th avenue.
Finally, here is a gallery of some other pics that I took while riding. They are mostly in chronological order with pictures from the sunset with Josiah first and my rides yesterday last – except for some reason the mountain bike pictures in the afternoon are before the road ride pics from the morning.
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.
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: