Archive for November, 2011

Thankful for mostly traffic free roads

An annual tradition for me for the past three years (including this year) has been to incorporate some of the more busy roads around Birmingham into a Thanksgiving morning ride since there is relatively little traffic out on the roads on this holiday. This year I hit all four US highways that run through Birmingham (31, 11, 78, and 280) as part of a ride that climbed nearly 8000′ in just over 56 miles.

Topocreator ride map with lots of annotations Download huge version (4MB) here –

Ride elevation profile

Looking northeast along the Red Mountain ridge line towards Ruffner Mountain

UAB and Birmingham-Southern

Downtown Birmingham – annotated Carraway Hospital closed in 2008 –

Standing at the base of the lookout fire tower.

Steep switchback on the way back down from the lookout fire tower.

The last part of the climb up to the top of Vestavia Dr. A tornado leveled the trees here in April 2000, the trees that were planted have started to grow back (scroll down to the bottom of the church history page, righthand column to read about the tornado).

View looking northwest from Vestavia Dr towards Samford

View looking north towards Homewood from Vestavia Dr

Descent off of Hwy 31 – looking towards Oak Mountain, Indian Crest, Little Valley Mountain

Complete interactive ride data on Strava:

November 24, 2011 at 9:51 pm 2 comments

Mount Cheaha Revisited 4.25x

Awesome ride today doing hill repeats out on Mount Cheaha. I managed to climb it 4.25 times (yes I turned around about a quarter of the way up to restart the climb from state highway 49 when I was not happy with how the climb was going … just a number of random things interrupting the climb that made me say “enough” let’s go try this again since it was a first ascent for me from Lake Henry on Hwy 49). Yes, with the climb from Lake Henry, I think that means I have climbed Cheaha from every conceivable direction except for the mountain bike trail. This has been an unusual year in that I have had the opportunity to ride out at Cheaha at least 3 times this year including one ride from Birmingham.

About the Strava climbing competition, this ride today gives me even greater respect for the guys out in California who do most of their climbing on longer climbs like this one. It took me almost 5 and a half hours and a lot more effort to climb the same amount that I could do in under 4 hours on the smaller climbs and rollers around Birmingham. You just never get a chance to rest on these long climbs! Give me a 500′ rolling monster with pitches of 20+% any day over a 7% climb that just goes on and on forever. Still, it’s always fun to change things up a bit with long climbs like today on Cheaha and last weekend on Clingman’s Dome and the Blue Ridge Parkway. My personal preference for now is the smaller, steeper stuff because the descents are faster and more frequent.

View of a cloud covered Mount Cheaha from Cheaha Lake about 1200 vertical feet below the summit.

Nearing the top on the first time up the Cheaha climb — the longest version of the climb from below Camp Mac with an elevation difference of about 1800′ and total climbing exceeding 2500′.

The lookout tower on top of Mount Cheaha – the highest point in the state of Alabama – trying to peak out through the clouds.

Switchbacks climbing out of the Lake Chinnabee canyon.

The view looking southwest down the ridge line, plus a view of the road climbing up from the western side.

My bike after the ride … not looking so good after my accident on Wednesday (check out the right handlebar tape and the seat).

Finally, here is a link to the interactive data on Strava as well as a gallery of all the pictures I took on the ride. Hover over each picture for a caption.

November 21, 2011 at 1:47 am 2 comments

Anatomy of a rainy crash

Branch segment that took me down on my commute into work.

Well, I almost made it through the rest of the year without crashing after my spill at the end of the Sandy Springs crit in May. Today, though, I hit the branch that is shown in the picture above. I never saw it because it was mixed in with a bunch of leaves on the ground. When I hit the branch, my wheels slid out immediately left and me and the bike went sliding on our right sides. It was not “slide friendly” pavement. Look at the damage to the handlebar tape and handlebar. Now imagine that same damage on my arm, hip, and hands. Or at least that’s what I thought I was going to find … instead I have some bad road rash in just a few isolated spots on my arm, hip, and hands. But enough to make it a challenge to type and to be dripping blood from those spots. I may have done something to my hip, though. Right now I am just hoping that I only damaged the muscles and tendons on the outside and inside of my hip.

As soon as I hit the branch and went flying along the ground with my bike, I had enough time to think as I was sliding along the ground for 8 SECONDS. My thoughts went something like this:

  • What did I hit?
  • I’m ok, that didn’t hurt too bad, I can still make it into school
  • Oh no, this is a really long slide
  • Oh crap, this is not good pavement to be sliding on
  • When am I going to stop?
  • Class is cancelled
  • I can’t ride home

It’s amazing what all had to come together for me to crash. There was a bad storm system moving in, so I left for work early and was planning on going through Bluff Park. But as I got near Lorna Rd, the clouds were getting darker and the rain was starting to get heavier, so I decided to turn around and take the more direct Vestavia route into school. Still, as annotated in the map, I was planning on taking the Vestavia Forest route since I had plenty of time this morning to add on the extra mile. Unfortunately, I missed the Hwy 31 light and I wasn’t going to wait for it so I turned around and was planning on taking my normal route up Badham – Willoughby – Garland – Wickford. But when I got to the Willoughby intersection, I decided that I didn’t want to do the extra steep climb in the middle and opted to stay straight on Badham since it is a more gradual climb. So this put me onto a section of Badham that I normally do on my way home from work. But on that route home, I normally turn at the intersection where today I went straight. It was just past this intersection on a stretch of road that I hardly ever ride where I hit the branch hidden amongst the leaves on the road.

Anatomy of a wet bike crash

Here’s the link to the data on Strava … you click and zoom in on the section of the crash to see the 8 second slide.

I stood up and was feeling some pain in my hip and a lot of pain from the road rash on my hands so I just started yelling “help” because I was hoping somebody would come out from their house and offer me a ride home or at least so I could borrow a phone to call home for Kristine to come pick me up. I stood there yelling for a minute or two and nobody came out. I walked back up the street and found the branch which was the only thing in the road that I could see that would have caused such a sudden jolt and crash. I stuck it in my backpack and tried to figure out what to do. By this point after falling, I had calmed down enough and had assessed the various pains enough to realized that I could probably ride home because I could still move everything and nothing appeared to be broken on my bike. I got on and started riding just as the storm really hit. It was a thunderstorm downpour all the way back to my house.

I was just inspired to see what I had written up about previous crashes … check them out here:

And a couple of accidents back to back in the summer of 2006: (hit and run)

November 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm 1 comment

Gatlinburg Climbing

I had a computer conference all day Friday, but I was determined to make the most of my time up here in the mountains of Gatlinburg. Friday morning I was up by 5:15 and out the door by 5:30 exploring the super steep climbs in and around Gatlinburg. I went down one road that was easily a 20+% descent for a quarter mile or more. Also, I did the Cherokee Orchard descent which is really crazy (but fun) in the dark. The one-way scenic road is barely wide enough for a car to fit through and it twists and turns around trees, numerous creek crossings, amazing dropoffs and thankfully no bears.

Today I headed out for a super long ride. I left early at about 6:30 to beat the traffic out of Gatlinburg heading to the Smoky Mountain National Park. I was trying to set the KOM on the Clingman’s Dome climb, but came up a few minutes short. Still it was the first chance this year to do a long threshold effort instead of the shorter efforts on the short climbs around Birmingham. I was able to finally get power data for a good hard climb, never too steep, and I was happy with my effort even if it did end up a few minutes short. The temperature difference between the shaded north side of the pass and the exposed south side was amazing – 23 degF was the coldest I saw. Even with the cold, I had to shed layers all the way up the climb. At the top, it was very, very windy with a steady 30+mph wind howling from the west. By the time I had snapped a few pictures and eaten a powerbar, I was freezing so that motivated me to push it really hard on the descent down towards Cherokee.

The Ocanaluftee visitors center at the entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park is really cool. There is a GIANT raised-relief map that covers all the way from Knoxville to Asheville and is laid out on a table that is at least ten feet long. There is also a convenient water fountain outside. I left the center and turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was a really cool climb. Towards the bottom of the climb, you would be riding along and see deep gouges in the road. Looking up, towering above you would be a cliff with either a fresh landslide or an omninous overhang. This stretch of the ride was the most rural. After 18 miles, I had made it to Waterrock Knob and climbed as high as the paved sidewalk went.

After the long descent back to 441, I was faced with one more climb – back up to Newfound Gap before a long descent back into Gatlinburg. This climb start out very gradually but then gets steeper the farther you go up the climb. I hit 100 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing near the top of the climb before the long descent back into Gatlinburg. What I had anticipated was going to be about 110 miles and 6 hours was actually 117 miles and 8 hours, 15 minutes long!

Here is the data from the ride and pictures that I took:

Screen Shot 2011-11-13 at 9.02.55 AM

Gatlinburg 2011, a set on Flickr.

Pics from my 117 mile ride on 441 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.


November 13, 2011 at 10:25 am 12 comments

End of the season maps

Lots of fun maps from the season. All of these maps cover routes between November 1, 2010 and October 30, 2011.

Quick summary-
Flying: 3,900 mi.
Driving: 17,300 mi.
Biking: 17,600 mi.
Total: 38,800 mi.

Zoomed in view of the Birmingham routes – Hoover, Vestavia, Homewood

Biking near Birmingham

Biking in Alabama from Birmingham north and eastwards

All bike routes (racing, training, and commuting) for the year

Biking (racing, training, and commuting) all over the southeast

Biking (racing, training, and commuting) all over the midwest

Biking in Nicaragua for our June 2011 Nuevas Esperanzas board meeting

All of our driving to/from races and/or family vacation spots
Lots of fun maps from the season. All of these maps are for one year (November 1, 2010 – October 30, 2011). 38,824 miles consisting of 3,940 miles flying, 17,314 miles driving, and

Roundtrip flight from Chicago to Nicaragua in June 2011

Everything all on one map – annotated

Screenshot of my website ( for creating these types of maps.

November 6, 2011 at 1:34 am 2 comments

End of the Season Statistics and THANKS

First, a huge thank you to everyone in the cycling community and to all who have been following my racing this year. I’ll expand this thank you at the end of the post, but I wanted to thank everyone up front first.

These statistics all run from November 1, 2010 until October 30, 2011 – 364 days worth of riding and racing. This is a deviation from previous years where I have calculated statistics for what I would call my racing/training season – from December 1st of the previous year until the weekend ending close to October 15th of the current year. This strategy is somewhat less than precise and completely ignores the “off season” where I am still riding, commuting etc… So from here on out, I’m just going to stick with a full calendar year (ending on the nearest weekend, in this case October 30th) for tracking all of the stats. The Polar Protrainer software makes it easy to re-calculate these statistics over new date ranges.

Statistics Summary
November 1, 2010 – October 30, 2011

Statistic Avg Max Min Total
Weekly training time (hours) 22.43 32.95 9.57 1166.7
Weekly distance (miles) 338.4 502.7 140.3 17,597
Workouts per week (#) 11 17 4 580
Weekly climbing (feet) 30,738 52,188 6,821 1,598,333

For eagle-eyed observers who note that the climbing total is lower than that reported on Strava, the reason is because I am generating these reports from my Polar Protrainer software. I wrote a converter that converts Garmin .FIT files and .TCX files into the .HRM format that Polar expects. The Polar Protrainer software then applies a smoothing filter when it is calculating total ascent and other statistics, but I can’t figure out how to turn it off so that the statistics match up with Strava, which doesn’t apply any smoothing filters.

Some weekly milestone totals (from Strava):

  • 11 weeks with more than 400 miles of riding, including one 502 mile week
  • 8 weeks with more than 50,000 ft of climbing, including one week with 58,000 ft
  • 11 weeks with more than 25 hours of training/racing

Other statistical highlights (from Strava):

The mileage and climbing represent a substantial increase from previous years, but my heartrate average dropped by 5bpm per ride on average which is a substantial decrease in intensity. The extra easy miles mixed in with bouts of intensity from racing and Strava KOM attempts combined with “SportLegs” and wearing compression clothing nearly 100% of the time that I am not on the bike or sleeping has been the perfect formula to keep from overtraining.

Comparison to past years
All years run from the Monday closest to November 1st to the Sunday closest to October 31st. This should result in about 365 days for each year give or take a day or two.

(per week)
Training (hours) 14.0/20.2 13.4/20.8 15.4/20.9 22.4/33.0
Distance (miles) 238.4/337.1 241.8/369.4 265.5/380.3 338.4/502.7
HR avg (bpm) 137/165 139/161 136/176 131/178
Workouts (#) 11/15 9/14 11/14 11/17
Climbing (feet) 12.7k/20.3k 13.5k/29.3k 14.4k/22.8k 30.7k/52.2k
(yearly total)
Training (hours) 726 698 798 1,167
Distance (miles) 12.4k 12.6k 13.8k 17.6k
Workouts (#) 560 4451 546 580
Climbing (feet) 661k 677k 750k 1,598k

1 When I first got my Garmin in November 2008 (which falls in the 2009 year), I was leaving my commutes as one ride. In other words, I would just stop the timer while I was at work and then start it back up for the return trip home. During 2008, I was using a Polar HRM which wouldn’t let you do that so each commute was counted separately as a workout. Then at some point later in the 2009 season, I decided to just do separate workouts for each commute on my Garmin. So really, the only apples-to-apples comparison for the number of workouts is for the years 2008, 2010, and 2011.

Racing Season Summary
The 2011 season has definitely been my best ever, but there have been a few disappointments as well … so I think I’ll call this the season of “almosts”. Somehow I managed to have some of the best results of my racing career, and yet, each result was tinged with a little bit of disappointment about what might have been. For example, near the beginning of the season I won the Alabama State road race this year by being the first place Alabama rider across the line, but I narrowly missed out on winning the race outright in a two-up downhill sprint. Then, near the end of the season, I almost won an NRC race solo. After getting caught on the last lap by a chase group of three, I managed to get DFL in the sprint and miss out being on an NRC podium by exactly one spot. In the same weekend, I missed out on a top 10 in an NRC omnium by one spot – placing 11th. Don’t get me wrong, I am really, really happy with those results, but it is still a bit disappointing to come so close and still miss out. In the Six Gap Criterium, I almost won a $150 prime towards the end of the race after almost bridging to the winning break earlier in the race. In the Six Gap Century the next morning, Jimmy Schurman and I almost beat the course record – falling short by 1 minute. For the season, I have six 4th place finishes, five 2nd place finishes, and three 11th place finishes – the dreaded “almost” positions (i.e., almost on the podium, almost winning, and almost in the top 10).

One “almost” that I am very thankful for is how a crash in May turned out when it could have been much, much worse. On the next to last lap at the Sandy Springs criterium, I came into a corner too hot, over-corrected when my wheels started to slide out from under me, and ended up t-boning the metal barriers shoulder first at pretty much full speed (30+mph), and somehow came out of the wreck with only a torn pectoral muscle, separated shoulder, and broken toe. This was the first broken bone and major injury I’ve had on the bike in nearly 20 years of racing even having gone down in many different accidents throughout the years. Everything healed up great and three weeks later I was racing again.

Despite all of the “almosts”, there has been lots to be thankful for and to celebrate -

  • Strava – motivation to climb more than I ever have before – should hit 2 MILLION feet by the end of the year and hopefully win a year-long worldwide competition. Fun to compete again people from all over the world, and there have been some close months that I have lost and yet it has still been really fun.
  • Long multi-day races – I had the opportunity to race several multi-day omniums. Perhaps my favorite was the Tour of America’s Dairyland where I stayed with an amazing host family for 10 days of racing – culminating with a top 10 finish on the last day of racing in front of the Wisconsin state capital
  • Athens Twilight – I won a late race prime coming around the entire United Healthcare leadout train (although they weren’t going for the prime) and still finished in the top 30.
  • Improved time-trialing – I have moved from the very bottom to somewhere roughly in the middle of the results sheet in time trials – including one time trial that was well-attended with strong riders where I almost won money. Yes, it was one of those 11th place “almost” positions where they paid 10 deep.
  • Podium, baby! – Counting the Strava monthly competition, I have been on the podium 25 times this year!

Finally, the graphs and charts!

2011 Critical Power. The red dashed line is the predicted power I should be able to sustain for the given time period. The solid colored area is the best I have ever attained for a given time period. The black line is the data from the Six Gap Century.
Time spent in heartrate zones. This bar chart is the report that I look at most often throughout the year. I want to make sure at certain times of the year that I am spending enough time in the “red zone”, and at other times of the year I want to make sure I am not spending too much time in the red zone.
Total training time. This graph is a display of my weekly total training time. Can you guess which week I crashed at Sandy Springs??? I still managed 9 hours that week riding with one of my arms in a sling!
Distance and heartrate average. This graph plots the weekly distance and the heartrate average for each individual ride for the entire year.
Weekly climbing. This is my weekly climbing for the year (with Polar smoothing filter that can’t be turned off applied). Can you guess which week was spent up at the Tour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin?
Number of workouts. Note the distinct drop in the summer when I am not commuting.

And finally, finally, some more thank you’s
I am deeply appreciative to so many people who make it possible for me to ride and race my bike as much as I do. First of all my @beautifulwife, Kristine Toone, and my kids Analise and Josiah, my parents and all of my teammates, friends, and family. I’m working on a separate post with a map of all the places that we have travelled and all the places where we have stayed for races. In that post, I’ll thank people by name who have helped out so much. I’ll leave this exceedingly long post with just one more thanks – thanks!

November 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm 7 comments

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Men's 100 mile podium, Left to right - Justin Lowe, Gordon Wadsworth, Kyle Taylor, Barnabas, and Jeff Clayton. Before the start. Awesome preride with Kyle.

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Brian Toone

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November 2011
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Quick reference stats

Anaerobic Threshold:
Power:315 watts
Heart rate:180 bpm
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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