Posts filed under ‘Training’
This adventure started out on Christmas day when we began our annual trek north to Wisconsin to visit Kristine’s family and enjoy the winter wonderland of the northwoods of Wisconsin. For the past two years, I have left our house in the morning and biked north towards Wisconsin. About six hours later, Kristine has picked me up somewhere north of Cullman, and then we have finished the rest of the 18 hour drive overnight to arrive in Shell Lake by the next morning.
This year, there was a major storm system moving in from the Gulf of Mexico promising lots of rain for Alabama and a huge blizzard for Indiana. We were racing this storm. Everything looked perfect for us to stick to our plan since the system wasn’t supposed to be arriving until later in the evening — at which point we would have already made it to Chicago. My ride started out great with over 3 hours of overcast skies and upper 30s lower 40s temp. Then shortly after discovering the Emerald Lakes climbs and making it to the bottom of Skyball Mountain, it started to pour down rain and thunderstorm. My Garmin cut off unexpectedly as my power meter died and the Garmin struggled to find a signal. I lost all of the data except for the first 15 miles of the ride. Sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the source of the problem is when the power meter starts to give off goofy power meter readings, which confuses the Garmin and then causes it to crash. This has happened several times — all related to goofy (or missing) power meter readings. I’m pretty sure about that since I rode a long time in the rain yesterday but turned off the power meter on the Garmin, and the Garmin had no problems recording the entire 8 hour ride – so it’s not a problem with the Garmin and the rain. It’s a problem with bogus (or missing) power meter signal while the Garmin still is looking for a power meter.
Anyway, back to the ride at Christmas, I ended up riding the rest of the way to Cullman (about 2 hours) including the climb up Skyball Mountain in the pouring down rain and temp in the upper 30s. I was freezing, but I rode really, really hard to stay warm. Then in the process of coordinating the pick-up with Kristine at First Baptist Church Cullman (heavily damaged by April 27th tornado) well short (30 miles) of our original pick-up spot, I stopped and waited for Kristine. It only took her a few minutes because she had earlier started to back track on the route. Those few minutes were enough to make me so cold that I couldn’t stop shivering until I had dried off, changed clothes, heater blasting in the car, and driving up to the original gas station in Falkville where we were supposed to meet.
During this amazing awesome time of warming up, I tethered Kristine’s laptop to her phone and uploaded the ride to Strava discovering that all but the first 15 miles were lost. Initially, I was pretty upset — but then a few minutes later I resolved to do the ride again as an out/back ride from my house. The thought of that adventure was exciting enough to quash the sick feeling in my stomach of losing about 60 miles of data from an epic ride with new climbs and probably a few KOMs.
Yesterday was the culmination, two and a half weeks after the original ride, of that excitement/anticipation. The weather forecast called for fog in the morning and slight chance of rain in the afternoon. Instead, it stayed heavy wet fog all day (misty light rain) and then rained hard by the end of the ride after sunset. Fortunately, I turned off my power meter on my Garmin so that the same problem wouldn’t happen again with the Garmin unexpectedly powering off and losing ride data. But that means I only have power meter data for the first hour or so of the ride, and the latter part of that data is bogus as the power meter starting giving off much too high power readings for the effort I was putting out. That is when I decided to turn the power meter off. Unfortunately, I had to keep a ziplock bag over the Garmin for most of the ride, which kills the total elevation gain as the Garmin is slower in responding to elevation change — which doesn’t make too much of a difference when you are crawling up a climb, but it does affect how it reads the descents … meaning that smaller hills get flattened because the Garmin never records the negative change before you’ve already started up (or completely finished) the next hill.
There were two key things that I was anticipating on this ride: 1) the adventure of an out/back ride from Birmingham up and over Skyball 2) The emerald lakes climbs which I feel could be the steepest paved climbs in Alabama. The top video on this post is from that “steepest climb” on the return portion of the trip after climbing Skyball, changing a flat tire, and lots of other adventures about 95 miles into my ride. The next video below is the climb up the same ridge line near Emerald Lakes, but from the opposite side on the way out to Skyball. It also has some extended 20-25+% sections, but is more of a stair-stepper than the backside climb. Both videos are long, but if you click the “watch on youtube” button then you can click on the video bookmarks in the description to jump directly to interesting spots.
The driest part of the ride was climbing up Skyball on the way out as the clouds had lifted a bit, but by the time I had turned around in the valley on the other side to climb back up, it had started to rain again. Here’s a short video heading down towards the Warrior river with a view of the skyball ridgeline.
After climbing Skyball, I passed a hunter hunting from the roadside (I don’t think you’re supposed to do that). I also got a flat tire climbing back up Skyball Mountain, so I changed it at the top right next to the Tour de Cullman Skyball KOM finish line. The video below is me narrating the last part of the climb back up Skyball telling about my favorite Tour de Cullman finish (2011) and also discovering that I had a flat tire. Also, the two pictures are from the flat tire change.
I spent a lot of time on changing the flat tire making sure I cleaned out all the debris that accumulated in the tire because I still had almost 70 miles left to get home. Fortunately, the single tire change held all the way home (although it had developed another slow leak so I had to change it again last night after I got home). I stopped at Locust Fork to refuel, and got two 20 oz Pepsi’s and one 32 oz gatorade for a total of $3.50. That was a LOT of liquid sugar for not too much money! I ended up with the nutritional equivalent of a perfect tweet – consuming that plus 7 powergels plus 3 cliff bars for a total of about 2300 calories during the ride arriving home without bonking and having eaten everything I had taken with me.
Shortly after the Locust Fork stop, I turned around on AL-79 to head down to the Warrior River bridge to see if the climb from there to the top of Tucker Mountain would cross the Cat 3 threshold (it did). I also went hard to try to get the Tucker Mountain KOM (I did – but just barely – taking it from somebody named “No One” who had ridden from Huntsville to Birmingham … that ride was only 111 miles compared to my 135 mile out/back ride).
By the time I made it back down into more familiar territory, it was past sunset and pretty dark given the rain. I did get a couple more videos below that are somewhat interesting (tornado damage from a tornado on January 23rd, 2012. And also a video starting the climb back up red mountain (including near miss with car towards the beginning). The audio is really muddled on these because I think water got in the microphone port. After climbing Red Mountain, I put my blinky lights on and rode the rest of the way home in the dark, climbing up to the top of Vestavia Dr just as started to rain pretty hard. The last 6 miles or so were in pretty heavy rain as documented by the last video (iphone)
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!
Yesterday was our last day at the cabin, so Kristine, Papa Dale, and the kids went for one last ski/skate on the lake. They were following a huge eagle around the lake, and I got pictures of his footprints later when I went out to check out the ice fishing with Kristine. I was planning on a good ride back home to Shell Lake, but first I wanted to do some more snow bike sled racing with the kids, and I also wanted to ride on the lake. Here’s a short bikecam video of me biking up the sled hill:
I’ve got another bikecam video riding across the frozen lake and then snow bike sled racing with the kids. It’s taking forever to upload so I will link to it here later.
After the kids were ready to go, I headed out the back way out of the resort area and ended up on Co Rd F. Good hills on the way out to F and then on F itself. I took F to Co Rd K, which also had some good long hills. Down at Co Rd A, I turned right to climb up and over the Spooner High School hill. On my way back over the hill, I saw a huge eagle glide across the road up in the distance. Later in the ride, I saw two more eagles and wild turkeys.
I ended the ride reversing a route I took back in 2005 when I got lost in the fog on the lake. That was quite an adventure, although even on a perfectly clear cold day with foot thick ice and pick-up trucks driving out onto the ice, it is still disconcerting to ride across sections of bare ice looking into deep dark frozen water so far from the shore. Check out the map zoomed in of my route up at the cabin and then also across Shell Lake.
Here’s a short iphone video from the middle of the lake:
This was my longest and fastest ride so far this year up in Wisconsin. It needed to be fast because I got a late start after sleeping in a bit and then having fun out on the frozen lake with Josiah ice/snow astronaut skating and Analise snow skiing. After warming up a bit, I left by about 1:00 with an anticipated 4 hour loop over to Mankville, Minnesota. This ride was different than yesterday’s because I headed north for nearly an hour first before heading west. There was a strong tailwind from the south — presumably why the temp was about 5 degF warmer than yesterday even though there is a strong blast of arctic air moving in with low temps tonight heading down into the double digits below zero.
I got lots of bikecam videos sorted by the best first. The snowmobile video (the second video) is bookmarked on youtube if you want to jump straight to the interesting parts. The others are not bookmarked. The first is only about 2 minutes long and shows some good snow biking on perfect snow leaving the cabin.
Today’s ride was really great … lots of fast snow and rolling hills. Frog Lake Road was perhaps the most rural road with some long stretches of untouched snow. But the highlight road was Lake 26 road which basically paralleled WI-77 for a good 15 miles heading west towards Minnesota. There was a good steady light snowfall throughout the day, but only a couple sketchy spots where a layer of ice covered the road. I’m still learning how to use my new contour camera, but I got some videos that I was really happy with — only have time to post one … see it below the brief pic gallery.