Archive for January, 2011

January to remember…

OK, so I’ve just finished up the most insane month of training ever. It has been a great month, though, and I’m very confident now that it is going to pay off with sustained fitness to carry through the racing season when the intensity goes up and the mileage (and climbing!) goes down. The key thing to keep me on track has been to make sure that I’m allowing plenty of recovery time. Back in college when I was overtrained with way too many miles, I always rode at about the same speed/effort (zone 3/4) and had very few rest days. So the grand total for this month was 1,673 miles with 175,559 feet of climbing. That works out to just over six bike rides to the top of Mount Everest. Of course, what goes up must go down, so it also includes approximately 175,559 feet of descending, which means this was easily the most exhilarating and exhausting month on the bike. I had three rest days completely off the bike, whereas in my college days I would frequently go several months in a row without a single day off the bike. I also had several rides at much slower Zone 1 and Zone 2 pace for the entire ride.

Today, I made it through one more epic ride (cold near freezing with rain) with over 10,000 feet of climbing to break 175,000 feet mark for the month. It was fitting that at the end of the ride, I would make it home just in time to escort my family the last couple hundred meters on their walk home from school – riding with my 4 year old son on the top tube down the street into our garage. That alone was kinda crazy because I hadn’t been planning on riding for nearly 3 and a half hours and had run out of food at about the 2 hour mark. So I was about ready to keel over anyway let alone adding a 35 pound child. We made it without crashing, and it was a nice reminder that this cycling thing is important, but it’s my family that will be there when the wheels just won’t turn anymore. And I need to be there for them.

So how hard was this month? The stats below tell the story starting with last week’s 404 miles and nearly 46,000 feet of climbing:

Last week – 404 miles and 46,000 feet of climbing. Weekly mileage annotated in red

January 2011 – 1673 miles and 175,559 feet of climbing. Monthly mileage in red

January 2011 with mileage, hours, and calories burned


Finally, here is a screenshot is a close-up of me struggling up a 17% gradient (Vestavia Forest) with nearly 25 miles still left to ride!

January 31, 2011 at 11:22 pm 2 comments

Climbing galore and red-tailed hawks

Today was awesome. I’m going to try to convey some of the ride highlights, but I think this post is going to be kinda long. First, as I was climbing up on top of Double Oak Mountain, a red-tailed hawk swooped down from a tree beside me and flew in front of me for a few seconds. I was in maybe the “poop zone” only 10-15 meters behind him and maybe 10-15 meters below him. So if he pooped, I think it would have fallen on me. Anyway, it was cool to admire the hawk gliding away from me and then pulling up to land on a tree when the road bent slightly, and the hawk kept on going straight. It brought back memories of three other close encounters with red-tailed hawks all here in Birmingham.

1. Descending off of Vestavia Dr at about 30mph towards Vestavia Baptist Church, a hawk was flying beside me at about the same speed. The hawk spread his wings wide as he pulled up to land on a tree. The sun was behind me shining on the hawk so you could see the rust red tail very clearly.

2. Descending down Hackberry Rd at close to 50mph, a hawk divebombed across the road immediately in front of me to catch something beside the road. I missed hitting it by only a few feet (tenths of a second when traveling at 50mph)

3. Starting the climb up Rocky Ridge Road just past Countrywood, a hawk divebombed to the grass just beside the road to catch a chipmunk. It’s no wonder that you see hawks get run over by cars every now and then. They must get so “in the zone” when they are trying to catch something that they don’t watch what’s happening around them!

What is your favorite hawk story? Surely I’m not the only one who has seen them on rides here in Birmingham! Has anyone hit one before while biking?

And now onto the ride stats and climbing stats thanks to my awesome iBike power meter -

---------Total Ride---------
Dist:      104.06 mi (5:56:09)
Energy:    4293.5 kJ
Cals Burn: 4104.7 kcal
Climbing:   12795 ft
Braking:   -486.5 kJ (-11.3%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  200.9   726  W
Aero        0  109.7  1822  W
Rolling     0   23.3    73  W
Gravity -3662    4.8   904  W
Speed     0.0   17.5  55.9  mi/h
Wind      4.9   15.3  43.4  mi/h
Elev      126    513  1241  ft
Slope   -23.6   0.08  23.3  %
Caden       0   77.3   128  rpm
HR         85  140.7   176  bpm
NP 246 W; IF 0.886; TSS 465.8
1/30/2011 8:01 AM
62 degF; 1012 mbar

iBike ride data annotated with climbs, descents, max speeds, max slopes, and power spikes. Click for larger version.

So the ride wasn’t awesome just because of its length and climbing, but rather just a number of things that came together on the ride. First, despite another long week of training and a hard BBL ride yesterday, my legs felt fresh without the burning pain that was plaguing me at the end of last week. I was totally surprised by this seeing as how I was finishing off the second 400+ mile week in a row! So feeling good was in itself a motivator to push the ride to the extreme.

And the ride got off to the “extreme” right away, hitting a new max speed of 55.7mph down South Cove (verified by both my Garmin and my iBike) on the first of two descents. Then after climbing back up via Renfroe, I hit 55.9mph the second time down. This felt even faster than the first time (i.e., more than 0.2mph faster), because I waited a bit too long to brake and had to take the 90 degree turn at the bottom at nearly 25mph, which is a typical crit speed for a 90 degree corner – but feels entirely different when decelerating rapidly from nearly 56mph. By the way, if you live in Birmingham and want to try this descent, please, please, please DO NOT try to go this fast on it. I know every bump, every corner, when to brake, where to look for cars, where the “go”-”no go” point is, where the escape routes are, and still it is extremely dangerous. Plus, I would never do this descent at this kind of speed other than on a Sunday morning early, where the only danger would typically be a walker or jogger. But there aren’t too many people who are willing to walk/jog a 20+% hill, so I’ve never seen anyone walking or jogging on it.

South cove 55mph descents plus Hwy 31 climb to Vestavia Dr

I split the ride up into two rides (56.9 miles to church and then 47.1 miles back home) with about an hour break listening to our pastor preach about James. There is something about hearing the Word of God in the middle of a ride that makes it sink a bit deeper. Kristine and I had a good talk about the sermon later in the day. Speaking of Kristine, she was another highlight of the ride! So besides being at church with her, I ran into her again towards the end of my ride when she was out for a long run. She had left the kids off with my parents and was about halfway through her run, when I missed a light in Rocky Ridge and decided to turn right at the light onto Morgan Dr rather than waiting at the light, and climb up past Vestavia High School for some extra climbing. Well, as I crossed the creek, there was Kristine running on the sidewalk by the road. So I went ahead and did the climb, came back down, and rode with her for a few minutes through one of the small neighborhoods. She decided to run up to Panorama past the high school, and I decided I would climb up via Renfroe and double back to meet her at the top. It worked perfectly, and I got to ride alongside her for another couple minutes as she crested the climb. Out of food, out of water, I headed home while she finished up her run.

For those of you interested in knowing more about the climbs from the ride, I’ve included below all the stats for each climb that I labeled in the iBike data. But before I put those, let me show a zoomed in view of one of my new favorite climbs – the Ebsco parking lot climb. Check it out!

The Ebsco parking lot climb

This is another “Sunday only” climb as at least half of it is on Hwy 280. You start out the climb on Old Hwy 280 which is an amazing little road in a deep ravine that follows a creek as it climbs gradually. The climb through here is very gradual so you can admire the cliffs on either side. Then once you make it up towards the traffic light at the intersection of Co Rd 41 and Hwy 280, the road gets steep. Turn left onto 280 to complete the steadiest part of the climb at about 6-8% gradient. Fortunately, in the latest repaving of 280, there is about a 1 foot wide strip to the right of the white line but still left of the rumble strip that used to go all the way to the white line. So now you can ride off the highway, but on the left side of the rumble strip relatively debris free. As you get close to the top, start looking back for an opening to switch over to the left side of the road where a lefthand turn lane starts up for about a quarter mile leading up to the left turn onto the STEEP Ebsco switchback road. Climb up to the main building, veer right, and then just keep climbing all the way to the very top of the parking lot. At exactly 3.0 miles and 631 vertical feet, this climb is the longest continuous climb with no downhills in Birmingham (as far as I know!)

Ok, here they are – all the climbs – plus their Strava category rating:

---------Hwy 31 to Vestavia Dr High Pt---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        3.19 mi (0:14:05)
Energy:     192.5 kJ
Cals Burn:  184.0 kcal
Climbing:     689 ft
Braking:     -3.3 kJ (-1.7%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  227.8   372  W
Aero        0   24.4   177  W
Rolling    13   18.1    33  W
Gravity  -322  176.8   371  W
Speed    10.1   13.6  24.6  mi/h
Wind      5.0    8.4  19.9  mi/h
Elev      516   872   1171  ft
Slope    -3.9   3.78   7.9  %
Caden      13   78.1   101  rpm
HR        125  150.7   169  bpm
NP 241 W; IF 0.870; TSS 17.8
1/30/2011 8:30 AM
51 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Caldwell Mill to Smyer Circle High Pt---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        1.90 mi (0:10:25)
Energy:     159.6 kJ
Cals Burn:  152.5 kcal
Climbing:     599 ft
Braking:     -6.9 kJ (-4.3%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  255.3   466  W
Aero        0   20.5   241  W
Rolling     8   14.6    34  W
Gravity  -610  198.6   455  W
Speed     6.4   11.0  25.8  mi/h
Wind      5.0    8.5  22.7  mi/h
Elev      586   863   1136  ft
Slope    -8.9   5.27  15.3  %
Caden       4   75.7   106  rpm
HR        103  145.9   164  bpm
NP 285 W; IF 1.027; TSS 18.3
1/30/2011 9:05 AM
53 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Hugh Daniel to Brae Trail High Pt---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        2.17 mi (0:10:53)
Energy:     167.6 kJ
Cals Burn:  160.2 kcal
Climbing:     594 ft
Braking:     -8.0 kJ (-4.8%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  256.6   451  W
Aero        0   32.6   220  W
Rolling     8   15.9    32  W
Gravity -1164  191.0   437  W
Speed     5.8   12.0  24.1  mi/h
Wind      5.0   10.5  22.9  mi/h
Elev      601   882   1179  ft
Slope   -14.9   4.66  18.7  %
Caden       9   74.6    99  rpm
HR        136  150.2   165  bpm
NP 282 W; IF 1.017; TSS 18.8
1/30/2011 9:48 AM
64 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Mt Laurel to Double Oak Radio Towers---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        3.76 mi (0:17:39)
Energy:     250.1 kJ
Cals Burn:  239.1 kcal
Climbing:     827 ft
Braking:    -18.3 kJ (-7.3%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  236.2   492  W
Aero        0   52.8  1038  W
Rolling     0   17.0    61  W
Gravity -2354  139.8   476  W
Speed     0.0   12.8  46.1  mi/h
Wind      5.1   11.3  35.6  mi/h
Elev      797   1162  1485  ft
Slope   -15.8   3.20  23.3  %
Caden       0   73.2   112  rpm
HR        119  142.9   164  bpm
NP 269 W; IF 0.970; TSS 27.7
1/30/2011 10:08 AM
62 degF; 1012 mbar

---------280 Ebsco Parking Lot High Pt---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        3.00 mi (0:12:55)
Energy:     199.1 kJ
Cals Burn:  190.4 kcal
Climbing:     631 ft
Braking:     -0.7 kJ (-0.4%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  257.0   426  W
Aero        0   47.5   161  W
Rolling     0   18.5    29  W
Gravity  -227  182.2   426  W
Speed     0.0   13.9  21.7  mi/h
Wind      5.0   12.3  22.0  mi/h
Elev      551   814   1184  ft
Slope    -3.8   3.81  15.0  %
Caden       0   76.7    95  rpm
HR         98  148.7   170  bpm
NP 271 W; IF 0.976; TSS 20.5
1/30/2011 10:50 AM
65 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Chelsea Railroad Bridge to Double Oak Radio Towers---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        8.68 mi (0:31:46)
Energy:     462.4 kJ
Cals Burn:  442.0 kcal
Climbing:    1222 ft
Braking:    -16.6 kJ (-3.6%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  242.6   526  W
Aero        0   86.0  1104  W
Rolling     0   21.8    61  W
Gravity -2281  113.5   502  W
Speed     0.0   16.4  46.4  mi/h
Wind      5.1   14.5  37.0  mi/h
Elev      483    915  1481  ft
Slope   -15.7   2.02  21.8  %
Caden       0   78.3   122  rpm
HR        116  150.3   170  bpm
NP 268 W; IF 0.967; TSS 49.6
1/30/2011 11:33 AM
67 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Mt Laurel to Greystone Crest---------
---------STRAVA CAT 4 -------------------------
Dist:        2.66 mi (0:10:08)
Energy:     144.0 kJ
Cals Burn:  137.7 kcal
Climbing:     404 ft
Braking:     -0.3 kJ (-0.2%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  236.9   599  W
Aero        0   74.2   230  W
Rolling     8   21.0    32  W
Gravity  -330  136.3   554  W
Speed     6.5   15.8  24.4  mi/h
Wind      5.1   14.4  23.4  mi/h
Elev      797    913  1166  ft
Slope    -6.7   2.52  22.8  %
Caden      12   78.3   104  rpm
HR        129  146.3   171  bpm
NP 287 W; IF 1.035; TSS 18.1
1/30/2011 12:14 PM
64 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Caldwell Mill (Cahaba River) to Vestavia Dr High Pt---------
---------STRAVA CAT 3 -------------------------
Dist:        5.97 mi (0:23:49)
Energy:     351.5 kJ
Cals Burn:  336.0 kcal
Climbing:    1042 ft
Braking:    -26.1 kJ (-7.4%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  246.0   649  W
Aero        0   77.6   825  W
Rolling     6   20.0    52  W
Gravity -1443  116.4   533  W
Speed     4.9   15.1  39.0  mi/h
Wind      5.0   13.6  34.5  mi/h
Elev      460    762  1185  ft
Slope   -12.1   2.26  15.1  %
Caden      17   76.0   104  rpm
HR        106  146.0   176  bpm
NP 278 W; IF 1.001; TSS 39.7
1/30/2011 12:56 PM
65 degF; 1012 mbar

---------Little Shades Creek to Panorama via Renfroe---------
---------STRAVA CAT 4 -------------------------
Dist:        1.36 mi (0:06:54)
Energy:     101.2 kJ
Cals Burn:   96.8 kcal
Climbing:     338 ft
Braking:      0.0 kJ (0.0%)
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       5  244.5   459  W
Aero        0   49.8   297  W
Rolling     7   15.7    35  W
Gravity  -728  174.3   439  W
Speed     5.3   11.8  26.1  mi/h
Wind      5.0   11.3  25.2  mi/h
Elev      219    359   542  ft
Slope    -8.9   4.31  17.5  %
Caden      25   69.2    91  rpm
HR        123  143.6   154  bpm
NP 271 W; IF 0.976; TSS 11.0
1/30/2011 1:40 PM
64 degF; 1012 mbar

Ok, really, this is the last thing – it was a beautiful day and here are a couple cellphone pics I took during the ride:

The Double Oak Mountain doppler radar tower


Not the best self-portrait on top of Double Oak Mountain, but I was tired and staring at the bright light from the sun just below the edge of the building that was shading me. Also, note that it had gone from 40 degrees when I left my house to over 70 degrees in the sun when I took this picture!

January 31, 2011 at 12:30 am 2 comments

10,000+ feet of climbing


10000 feet of climbing in one ride – the garmin edge 800 cannot display 10,000 feet because it only can display 4 digits in any one column as shown in the red circle! As a side note, the yellow circle indicates what in my opinion is one of the best new features of the Garmin 800 – the ability to display your climbing rate (instantaneous and 30second average).

So how does one climb 10,000 feet in Birmingham? Here’s the maps and data! 10,000 feet of climbing in one ride – annotated with climb names and a line indicating all the descents approaching 50mph.

It’s Birmingham, so what would a ride be without a few greater than 20% gradients per the red iBike slope data above – 21% on Renfroe and Double Oak Way, 24.7% on the climb to Greystone Crest off of Hugh Daniel

10,000 feet of climbing in one mega-climbing loop! Click the map for the medium version. Or download the huge version to see all the residential road names.

January 19, 2011 at 11:53 pm 2 comments

Bad accident narrowly avoided

Today, I narrowly avoided a really bad accident more by luck than anything else unless there was some angels keeping me from low or high-siding the bike during the sideways skid to avoid a collision with a pick-up truck. Here’s the details and a caution / warning for a particularly bad intersection in the Hoover area … the intersection of Patton Chapel Rd and Chapel Ln. BE CAREFUL IF YOU RIDE THROUGH THERE IN THE LATE AFTERNOON!. The maps and data tell part of the story, but you will want to read the short narrative below to see how I almost got creamed by a pick-up truck that never saw me and why I didn’t see him until it was almost too late.

narrow miss overview map

closeup of the dangerous intersection(s) – if you click on the picture to view the large version you can see the deviation in the GPS data from the sideways skid when decelerating from 25mph to 12mph in 1 second

annotated speed and elevation data including the deceleration from 25 to 12mph

So it all started with my commute home from work. I was climbing up Smyer and ran into Chad Hubbard who was heading the same way as me over towards Bluff Park. (Chad, if you are reading this, great riding with you today! This all happened about 10 minutes after we parted ways) Normally on a commute route home through Bluff Park, I would take Farley over to Shenandoah (crazy steep) and then down Mountain Oaks (fast and dangerous) and Hackberry (crazy fast 50+mph but not as dangerous). Instead, I wanted to get home with an easier route and less climbing so I headed down Patton Chapel (relatively slow and straight) which is not a particularly fun road to descend because it isn’t very fast, goes between two schools across the street from each other (imagine the chaos around 3:00 in the afternoon!), and then has the dangerous intersection with Moss Rock Preserve Parkway and Chapel Ln towards the bottom where I almost got into an accident today.

Today was MLK day though so I knew that the schools were closed. The sun was starting to get low in the sky to the west, though, and I’m sure that played a role in why the old man in the pickup truck with snow white hair never saw me. So anyway, here is what happened. I was descending between the schools at about 32-35 mph (speed limit is either 30 or 35). I made it past the schools and started to approach the two traffic lights which are very close to each other. The first traffic light is newer and it was easy to tell that it was green. The second traffic light is older and much harder to see when the sun is behind you. So you have to look really hard at the traffic light as you approach it. I had slowed down to about 25mph because I wasn’t sure if the light was green or red. As I was looking at it trying to decide if I was going to have to stop, I finally made it to the angle where you could see the traffic light instead of the sun’s glare. I thought, hey, that’s great I’ve got a green light. Well, because I had been so focused on the traffic light and the car waiting to leave from the side street (b/c if he started to move before I could see my light I would know that my light was red), I didn’t see that there was a pick-up truck coming from the opposite direction as me who decided to turn in front of me. There was no room. Let me repeat, there was no room. I looked down from the green light and was immediately staring into the side of a white pick-up truck moving slowly across the intersection. I had enough time to do two things: slam on the brakes and steer left. As I slammed on the brakes, the rear wheel locked up and slid sideways while the front wheel continued to roll (I think). This pointed me hard to the left and when the rear wheel stopped skidding I had slowed down enough and moved far enough left (12mph – nowhere near close enough to stopping) that the pick-up truck had just cleared out of the way in front of me. I mean we are talking inches (or less) from what would have been a 12mph collision with the side of a truck. Not super fast, but it definitely would not have been good. The worst case scenario that was narrowly avoided would have been if my front wheel slid out or if it had grabbed too hard and I high-sided over the bike and slid right under the rear wheels of the pick-up. That guy didn’t see me. As I cleared him barely to the left and looked through the back of the pickup truck, I saw that he had snow-white hair so I’m assuming he was really old. Especially since he was turning so slow. If he had darted across in front of me, then it would have scared the you-know-what out of me, but I might not have even needed to touch the brakes. Instead, he was sorta just rolling across the intersection slowly. Anyway if he was old enough and out of his senses enough, he may have just kept right on driving with me under the wheels.

Just to clear up any confusion though, I had a green light. The next person after me to get a green light would be the guy who was waiting at the intersection to turn left onto Patton Chapel Rd. The guy in the pickup truck who turned across my lane was turning not on a left arrow, but rather on a green light where you are allowed to proceed if there is no oncoming traffic. He clearly didn’t see me, and he almost ran over me. So anyway, all that is to say please be careful at that intersection.

Also, as far as visibility, this is what I had on today – (although the picture below was taken back in early December and today I had on my green Nature Valley kit underneath the reflective rain jacket so my shorts were a contrasting green color)

January 17, 2011 at 11:15 pm 5 comments

Cold and Icy Double Oak Mountain

Great ride today – very cold though! I climbed up Double Oak Mountain to see if there was more snow and ice up near the top because of the elevation difference. I was surprised to find trees sagging under the weight of a lot of ice. I think we dodged a bullet here in Birmingham with what could have been a terrible ice storm!

Double Oak loop icy ride

Cold temperature – look at the temperature dip because of the elevation and ice/snow cover on top of Double Oak Mountain

Garmin statistics – small problem with regards to daylight

Beautiful icy sunset from the top of Double Oak Mountain

The Double Oak roller coaster section with icy roads and bent over trees from the weight of the ice

January 13, 2011 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

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Final score, our first win in a long time was a blowout! The bats finally came around tonight. Josiah just cleared the bases with a triple! Josiah hitting a line drive straight to the 2nd baseman.

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Quick reference stats

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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