Archive for December, 2012
Quick ride report … I was working from home this morning when I got a call from Rocky Ridge that Analise was sick with a fever. Kristine was down in Helena on a long run with Kim so I drove over and picked Analise up. We snuggled on the couch and watched Hugo while we were waiting for Kristine to get home from running and a short day at work. A late start meant that I would be finishing in the dark, but I put my lights on and headed out the door. I found a new climb in the Wimberly neighborhood on the way over to the Cahaba Cycles in Trussville to drop off brake pads for Alan’s dad.
After a quick stop there, I stumbled upon the Trussville mountain bike trails in the baseball, soccer complex off of Cherokee Rd. From there, I was able to make my way back over to Hwy 11 via a hilly neighborhood. A short jaunt on 11 took me over to the Camp Coleman road which is near the headwaters of the Cahaba River … found a new climb up from the river past the camp to the high point of a neighborhood off to the left. After turning around, I headed over towards Goodner Mountain and found a way up that turns it into a Cat 3 climb (starting from Advent Circle) … also, I came back down a different way which would also be a cat 3 climb if done in reverse. I went for the KOM and got it – very nice tailwind up the climb, extremely windy at the top.
Perhaps the highlight of the ride though was exploring the Carrington Pkwy area, asking the security guard nicely to be allowed to cut through to Blackjack Rd and riding through the last unpaved section of road to connect to Blackjack. It started out as hard packed dirt but then turned into a river of mud with several channels to cross. I was fortunate not to have to unclip b/c if I did then my speedplay cleats would have instantly been clogged with mud. The last hour or so was in the dark, but that is great this time of year with all the Christmas lights. Pics and videos below …
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.
The 2012 Bamacross series finale was held today at the historic Sloss Furnace abandoned steel mill. The course was epic for water, rain, mud, and location. I’m sure there will be some good pics up on facebook that people will post. I’m going to try to link to a couple of them here on this blog in the next day or two. The atmosphere at the race was just amazing — people grilling out under the highway underpass, music pumped up, people banging loudly on steel drums next to the course, cowbells ringing, people cheering, people heckling, people having lots of fun.
The course was just amazing … located right next to the abandoned steel mill, plus the start/finish stretch underneath the highway, plus active trains and train whistles on all three sides of the course during the race, and then the puddle lakes in the central part of the course and the muddy river that formed on the back stretch of the course from an inch of rain that started this morning and never let up through all the races. I did the race on my hard tail 29er running low pressure hoping to get some extra grip out of the wide tires. But in the mud, those wide tires just skidded across the top of the mud rather than digging into it.
In any case, I probably still would have finished DFL even if I had borrowed a cross bike. I started the race with old brake pads that needed replacing. So by the end of the second lap, I had no brake pads left at all … seriously no braking at all! Fortunately, the mud was thick enough that in most places you could just stop pedaling and the bike would slow down quick enough to make the turn. Still, there was a couple places where I had to unclip and dig my heel into the ground to slow down enough to make the turn.
Lots of mud – underneath the bridge next to the historic steel mill. (Click to zoom out and enlarge. Note that is not the bike I used in the background. Also, that is my backpack on the ground for the commute there and back.)
It was a really fun experience, especially since I got to cheer on all the other racers who lapped me (everyone from both the 1/2 field and the 3 field which started a couple minutes behind us). Afterwards, Craig Tamburello (Brick Alley) helped me a ton by switching out brake pads from Alan Barton’s dad’s mountain bike so I could safely ride home. Thanks tons Craig and Alan!! Here’s a picture of Alan riding through one of the lakes on the course:
What a fun experience, the atmosphere and the people are great. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the skills to corner in the mud, but I definitely want to try it again next year. A couple updates from this morning … I forgot to post my heartrate data (see below), and also Paul Roberts got some great pics from the race including one of my friend (and former teammate) Jacob Tubbs with Scott Staubach in the background in a pivotal part of the Masters 35+ race with them eventually taking 1st and 2nd.
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.