Posts tagged ‘strava’
I might use “epic” a few times in this post… Today was epic x3, starting with my commute into work climbing up South Cove Dr inspired by the Dirty Dozen film I watched last night describing an annual ride that goes up Pittsburgh’s toughest climbs. Then after finishing teaching, I headed back home climbing up and over Little Valley Mountain hitting 60mph on the S Cove Dr descent. Afterwards, I hopped in the car to drive 43 miles out to Lake Howard in Sylacauga to pre-ride part of the Skyway Epic course. Traffic was already pretty bad on 280 and it took over an hour to get there and get ready to ride.
I headed out about 1:30 hoping that I had enough daylight to ride the course. 4 hours 15 minutes later, I just barely had enough light left finishing about 20 minutes after sunset. Along the way, I encountered just about every possible terrain you could imagine for a mountain bike race course – flowing singletrack, a few roots/rocks in singletrack, a grassy dam, various levels of bumpiness on gravel/dirt forest service roads and rural roads, steep rocky fire roads, huge mud puddles at the bottom of each hill across the top of the ridge line, fast steep relatively smooth descents, fast loose rocks … basically everything you could imagine in a non-technical epic mountain bike race.
COURSE ANALYSIS FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN RACING
THE SKYWAY EPIC ON MAY 20TH
- The singletrack portion that I rode is fast and smooth … only a few rocks and roots … much, much less than the Bump trail at Oak Mountain. I only had enough daylight to ride the opening singletrack section, but there is quite a bit more singletrack that will be included for the finish of the race … has anyone rode that portion and comment on whether it is more technical or about the same as the opening singletrack?
- The opening county roads (Wiregrass and Rocky Mt Church) are very fast in both directions. The rollers are pretty steep, but you can fly down the descents leading into the climbs to chop off some of the work you have to do on the climbs
- The “big climb” of the day is much more gradual than I expected. It does, however, go on and on forever. I rode the whole thing in my 38 (big chainring)
- There are some rather large mud puddles all across the top of the ridge line – basically every small hill that bottoms out into another small climb will have a large mud puddle. I was able to ride around most of them, but the ones I had to ride through were not that deep even though they were HUGE taking up the entire forest service road!
- The most difficult part of this entire course is the DESCENT and rollers from about mile 14 to mile 18 … I went FASTER on many sections of the climb back up (mile 36 to mile 40) than I did on the descent!!!
- The descent to the turnaround at AL-77 is very fast and fun. There are a couple of loose gravel corners mixed in with the fast corners. It is pretty easy to see the loose ones in enough time to brake.
- The entire skyway portion of the ride (mile 12 to mile 42) is rough with ruts, rocks, and sometimes water. I found a few sections where you can just bomb over the ruts, but there are definitely some sections where you need to pick and choose your line through the rocks/ruts carefully. If I were to guesstimate, I’d say that 25% of mile 12 to mile 42 is really rough, 50% is moderately rough, and maybe 25% is smooth. As I mentioned before, there are definitely some rough sections that you can still fly over, but there are also some rough sections that are kinda slow (at least for me, coming from a road racing background)
- Overall, the course is AWESOME. It is definitely EPIC. I am very tired after having ridden only the first third of the course at near race pace and not having ridden the last several miles of singletrack. This course has something for everyone, which should really even the playing field. Plus, simply finishing the race should be reward enough for anyone who enters!
Complete ride data from Strava is here: http://app.strava.com/rides/4244882.
Here is the elevation profile and topocreator map – note that my garmin was reading a couple hundred feet lower than the real elevation. Note all the hills and the long climbs. The first long climb is Alabama’s newest Cat 2 – the climb from Rocky Mt Church Rd to the first high point on the Skyway forest service road. This brings Alabama’s Cat 2 climb total up to 9.
Finally, I’ll let the pictures and garmin screenshots tell the rest of the story for the day –
Riding today was easily the most fun I’ve had on the bike in four or five years. Considering how much I love to ride all the time, that really is saying a lot about my ride today. I guess the thing that strikes me the most is how many times I was just flat out surprised on the ride – not just “oh I didn’t see that coming”, but more like “are you kidding me? are you for real?” in a really good way. I summarized the ride in terms of 10 surprises, listed below. I also took a bunch of pictures and Garmin screenshots I will post later.
A few things to set the background for this ride: Kristine and I are in Oxford for her work this weekend, and the kids had separate sleepovers last night at friends’ houses and again tonight at my parents house. Kristine had the idea last week that maybe I could come up here with her and enjoy some riding while she worked and a weekend getaway when she wasn’t working. Some of Alabama’s tallest mountains are right out the door of our hotel, so I thought – “sure!”
Surprise #1 – no rain!
The original plan was for me to leave work on Friday and ride part of the way over here where Kristine would pick me up along I-20. I documented yesterday’s ride, which also included a surprise climb up to a radio tower that I hadn’t planned on doing. Then today I was going to bike back home via a long 150 mile climbing route over Mt Cheaha (the highest pt in Alabama). But the weather forecast all week long indicated that most of today would be spent with heavy rain showers and even thunderstorms. So I changed my plan to do a shorter ride (60-70 miles) today and then do the longer ride tomorrow when the rain was supposed to have cleared out. I woke up expecting to find rain and was instead greeted with partly cloudy skies and no rain.
Surprise #2 – an empty interstate-like climb
The route I had created ahead of time had me climbing up Henry Rd and then into some neighborhoods that looked ultra-steep on the map (and a little bit later in the ride when I did get to the neighborhoods, they were even steeper than I had imagined). So I’m following the route and then I realize that I’ve ended up on a divided highway not on the map that for all intents and purposes is a full-blown interstate that looks like it may climb up higher than the neighborhood route. There was practically no traffic, so even though I could see where I needed to turn, I wanted to just keep on going and see how far the climb went. You could tell where they had dynamited through the mountain and there were some killer concrete drainage ditches with 40-60% gradient that I really, really wanted to try but there were concrete blocks at alternating angles to slow the flow of water. I’m 20% sure you could ride it on a mountain bike with a 1-1 gear ratio while dodging the blocks, but I wasn’t going to try it on my road bike with a 39×28. I crested the mountain and of course there is still this tall divider for the interstate so i’ve got to figure out where/how to turn around.
So I’m on the descent on the other side when I suddenly I realized that the whole thing is still under construction and the road ends at a spot in a valley before another mountain climb where the road hasn’t been finished yet. For whatever reason, I just found this all to be hilarious … I guess I was giddy with excitement for the ride to begin with, and then to be only a few miles into my ride on a four-lane divided interstate-like road that is still under construction with no cars in the middle of a beautiful mountain valley was just so awesome that I couldn’t stop laughing until I had to focus on the 180 deg turnaround at the bottom. I went back up and over the mountain and halfway down to take the original route I had planned which fairly quickly led to surprise #3.
Surprise #3 – GPS “fail” bigtime
My Garmin worked great as I picked back up my original route, which had all kinds of turns in it as I was looking for contour lines closest together when planning the route — which often means making a bunch of turns from street to street through a neighborhood. I was surprise by how steep the Lynn Rd climb was — the first of maybe thirty or more 20+% gradients for the day (I tried to take a screenshot of all of them so I could count them later – and I know of at least three or four that I missed because I couldn’t take my hands off the handlebars to hit the button to take the screenshot).
So anyway I make it back across Henry Rd after the Lynn Rd climb, and I’m diving down hills (53×11), climbing back up 20% gradients (39×28), and then I get to a spot where I’m supposed to make a turn and I see a sign that says “Dead End” … interesting. I pulled up the map screen on Garmin and saw another way to get around, but when I got to the next “road”, it was a steep grassy descent behind a curb and a gate. It looked rideable so I hopped the curb and rode around the gate, but after a tenth of a mile or so, the access road ended at a water tank that was gated off. I couldn’t see any path beyond it through the woods, so rather than risking poison oak so early in the ride, I turned around and headed back up the grassy climb. I looked at my map again and found another way around, headed down a steep descent and came to another dead end. This was getting to be laughable at this point. This turnaround involved a steep Cat 4 climb back up to the top of the mountain. I revisited the original dead end sign that my route was trying to take me on, and sure enough it really was a dead end – complete with a basketball goal in the road. Another steep climb back up to the top of the mountain, and I tried a third way off the mountain leading to surprise #4.
Surprise #4 – Awesome descent/climb with three different kinds of pavement
This was a mini-surprise, so I won’t spend much time describing it – but the descent that finally worked to take me off the mountain transitioned through three different kinds of pavement (chip/seal, tarmac, cement) with some cool switchbacks through a neighborhood into a city golf course. The descent was so cool, that I had to turn around do the climb. Hitting the top of this mountain on a road called “Hillyer Rd” (probably pronounced “hilly-er” road) for a fourth time (maybe fifth? i lost count), I turned around and came back down and hit my original route plan to head through a VERY hilly part of anniston.
Surprise #5 – upper 20% gradient in Anniston
I went through this really hilly neighborhood on the outskirts of Anniston and hit one section that was cemented b/c of the gradient which was probably approaching 30% … I wouldn’t know though b/c my speed dropped too low and the Garmin switched over to –% gradient. Easily steeper than Woodcrest in Birmingham which is in the upper 20s. Probably even steeper than Valley Hill, but much shorter (maybe only 1/10th of a mile).
Surprise #6 – Steep Cat 3 climb to radio tower in Anniston
Immediately after leaving the neighborhood with surprise #5, I started a climb that I had seen on the satellite to some radio towers just on the edge of the Fort McClellan boundary. I wasn’t sure the status of the road, whether it was gated, or what. It turned out to be a very steep gravel road with even more 20% gradients. Gates were open all the way to the top, and I was able to summit at just over 1500′, which I had not been expecting.
Surprise #7 – Woodland Park
On my way up towards Jacksonville, I road right past the starting spot of the very first century I ever did back in high school (the Woodland-Calhoun century). This was not planned at all, and was therefore quite a surprise that brought back tons of memories.
Surprise #8 – Cat 2 climb in Jacksonville
I had scouted this climb out, and knew that the current segment on Strava was on the upper end of the Cat 3 range but stopped well short of the actual crest of the climb. I knew that if you started the segment a little bit lower and went all the way up to the towers at the top, then it would probably be a Cat 2. So I scouted out the starting point and started on the climb. It starts out very gradually, but then gets steeper as you start to leave town. At the bottom were three college-aged girls (maybe from JSU) all decked out for running – and they were walking up the very steep hill. One of them shouted “good luck”, which kinda tells you how steep and long this climb is. It started out steep, flattened out a bit in the middle, then got really steep at what I thought was the end, but as you come around the corner, you see the road skyrocket up for the last 200 feet of climbing and a rather large fence with razor wire across the top blocking access to the towers. But, I was very lucky today in that the gate was wide open. So I was able to ride the climb all the way to the top – where there is an observatory, fire tower, lots of radio towers, and a beautiful view of the valley.
Surprise #9 – Mt Laurel neighborhood
On the Cottaquilla climb, which is on the Foothills Road Race course, there is a neighborhood off to the left called Mt Laurel that was surprisingly steep (I saw 26% at one point), plus a bunch of roller coaster like climbs/descents I wasn’t expecting inside the neighborhood.
Surprise #10 – stumbling upon a Cat 2 climb!
The last surprise was the best of all. I had seen a climb called Bain’s Gap, which was on the Fort McClellan property, that I assumed would be inaccessible because of the military. So when I passed the turn-off for the road and didn’t see a gate, I decided to just turn and see how far I could make it up the climb before encountering a gate, or road block. Instead of a gate, I found a national wildlife refuge, amazing waterfall, more 20% gradients, a nearly unrideable gravel road that I was able to ride (barely) and a friendly local at the top who was able to tell me a shortcut to get back home – oh and it worked out to be a climb with over 1200′ of gain putting it well into the Strava cat 2 category.
Today’s BBL was quite a ride … Strava marked it in the “Extreme” category, and I set two new power records. Ironically, they both came in the first attack zone where I went too early and got caught in the last 50m before the line. The power map is quite colorful in the attack zones where you can see some of the tactics playing out. Here are the graphs!
Here is the link to the ride data on strava – http://app.strava.com/rides/3338627
Diabolical double oak climbing profile. Each red box represents a climb/hill of at least 0.25 miles long and average gradient >5%. Each blue box is a downhill at least 0.25 miles long and >5% gradient.
Yesterday was the first day of the Rapha 500 challenge (ride 500km Dec 23-31). I’m hoping to knock out all of it in just four days (85 miles yesterday, 93 miles today including a KOM on the BBL ride, 30-40 miles tomorrow, and 135 miles on Monday riding from Birmingham up to a spot near the interstate in Hartselle where Kristine will pick me up for the rest of our trip up to Wisconsin). Yesterday was also the day that I picked to put in my effort on this week’s Strava KOM shootout climb – Oakdale. My friend Warren St John was back home visiting from New York, and we got in a good short climbing ride on Thursday ahead of a much longer, and more diabolical climbing ride on Friday (yesterday). Basically, I looked at the topo map and tried to direct us to wherever the contour lines were closest together (i.e., the steepest hills I could find). This was all on the way out to the Double Oak Way climb which is 3 miles long with gradients exceeding 20% in several places and maxing out at 25% in one spot. We didn’t finish the Double Oak climb, however, because some hunters or Alabama power workers were at the gate and turned us around. That’s ok, though, because it was still well over 11,000 ft of climbing packed into a difficult 85 miles.
Making the ride even harder, I did my max effort on the Oakdale KOM – 7’07” at an average heart rate of 179bpm towards the beginning of the ride. Here is my heartrate and strava-calculated power data for the climb –
Oakdale KOM heartrate, Strava calculated power, speed, and elevation Here is the link to an interactive version of the Strava data – http://app.strava.com/rides/2848502
And finally, here is the detailed topocreator map of the route.
Scroll to minute 7:30 and watch the Altaloma descent, South Cove KOM climb (at 7:45), Panorama (at 8:06), Renfro Descent (at 8:32), and a second descent down Altaloma (at 8:42).
It all started with my teammate Nichole and her husband Paul posting the following comments on my Facebook page -
Nichole got right to work on it and did a search on Strava to download all the climbs in Birmingham along with the fastest time and number of times ridden. From that selection of climbs, Nichole and Paul narrowed it down to a nice variety of climbs of varying lengths and steepness. I put together a website using the Strava API so that all somebody has to do is copy the Strava URL for their effort on the climb to have it recorded alongside everyone else.
This week’s climb, South Cove Dr, starts less than 1 mile from my house as the crow flies, 1369.4664 meters to be exact. I’ll give it the steepest climb in Birmingham designation given that you can hit nearly 60mph on the descent (and it is only 0.2 miles long). I do know of a few climbs that have higher max gradients, but none of them sustain those max gradients for as long as South Cove sustains its max.
Two more things to emphasize how steep this climb is:
1) As I was doing a max effort on it today, I kept on pulling the front wheel off the ground slightly on every pedal stroke and had to back off on how hard I was pulling on the bars
2) This climb is 1/4th the length of the Pumphouse climb, yet climbs 30 feet higher, and would take longer than Pumphouse with similarly applied power on both climbs
3) Minimum of 385 watts not to fall over through the steepest section (see the ibike data from a ride from February earlier this year and elevation profile below) -
---------South Cove Dr Monster--------- Dist: 0.22 mi (0:02:50) Climbing: 229 ft Energy: 52.0 kJ Cals Burn: 49.7 kcal Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 226 306.0 403 W Aero 0 10.9 17 W Rolling 5 6.3 10 W Gravity 198 291.0 385 W Speed 3.5 4.8 7.6 mi/h Elev 512 634 740 ft Slope 9.0 18.01 24.3 % Caden 31 41.3 65 rpm HR 132 158.3 165 bpm NP 309 W; IF 1.114; TSS 5.9
South Cove Dr – less than a mile from my house, this climb has the highest average gradient of the monsters.
Here is a 3D annotated view of the climb: contour intervals are 40ft
Wow, what a week this has been for the Strava KOM shoot-out. I thought for sure I had Pumphouse signed, sealed, and delivered – but no – Paul “TreeTrunk” Tower came along today and set down a blistering time of 2’22” with an average speed of 20.4mph on the 0.8 mile climb. Still, here is the data from my 2’25” effort (20.0mph) yesterday, which put a bulge in my Golden Cheetah critical power curve: (I can only imagine what Paul’s power must have looked like since he weighs a few pounds more than me!)
What a beautiful fall day today with temps never even making it out of the 60s! I had set aside today to take back a KOM that is one of my favorites here in Birmingham – the Vandiver KOM climb. So after Analise’s soccer game this morning, I headed out on what would turn into one of the funnest training rides of the year. I started out pretty easy to the point of actually getting passed by somebody on the Dolly Ridge climb. You have to understand riding in Birmingham to know that it is entirely possible to do an 85 mile ride on a Saturday and not see a single other person riding, so to encounter another cyclist less than two miles from my house, and to be passed by that person was a bit of a shock. It took quite a bit of discipline to continue on up the climb at an easy tempo and let whoever it was ride away up the climb.
I headed up Dolly Ridge, did the tornado loop in reverse, down through the Colonnade, out Sicard Hollow to Rex Lake over Bailey eventually to Elliot and up the first of the ridges where the photo at the top of this post was taken a few years ago. I climbed up the steep side of Vandiver at a nice steady tempo, headed down the descent, turned around at the bottom and headed back up to try and break my teammate Paul Tower’s KOM time. I couldn’t remember his time exactly, but I knew if I was close to 6 minutes that I would beat it. I started out in my big chainring thinking that I would switch to my little chainring towards the middle of the bottom steep part of the climb. Instead, I found that I was nearly over the steep part before losing all of my momentum from my initial surge at the bottom. I decided to power through the last remaining steep part at the bottom in my big ring to avoid having to shift down and then back up again. This worked well because my speed never dropped below 15mph so I entered the less steep part of the climb carrying some momentum and was able to accelerate back up to nearly 20mph by the middle flatter part of the climb. I started to fade again towards the switchback at the top, but I used this switchback to push myself to the top thinking of the Tour de France commercial about the temporal nature of pain.
The rest of the ride flew by, and I ended up setting KOMs on Bailey Rd, Grants Mill into nasty headwind, and Big Spring, so by the end of the ride I was completely drained. But the main highlight for the latter part of the ride was setting a new all-time max VAM of 2031 m/hr on the short, steep 0.5mi Big Spring Cat 4 climb. I double-checked the elevation and it is recorded correctly (no atmospheric drift) 300ft in just 0.5mi for an average gradient of 11.6%. I averaged 10.9mph, 417 watts for the super steep section with my weight at this point of the ride probably down to around 140 pounds and 12.9mph by the top of Smyer Circle. I can’t even count how many times I have ended a hard training ride at the top of Smyer Circle knowing that I can just cruise on home from there! I was out of food and hungry, though, so I kept on pushing to get home and ran into John Karrasch heading the other way to the crest of Vestavia Dr on his mountain bike as I was heading down.
Another highlight on the latter part of the ride was a first ascent of Oakdale via a crazy climbing route I mapped out last night that has nearly 1000 ft of climbing, one 27% section, a couple other 20% sections, and a couple very fast roller coaster sections.
And the final highlight of the ride was making it back home to find my son and daughter playing with chalk on the front sidewalk with a friend and to have them so happily welcome me home!
Here are some of the data highlights from the ride:
Interactive data from this ride is available on Strava: http://app.strava.com/rides/1821635