Posts filed under ‘Off-season’

Lover’s Leap, Bluff Park, Alabama

Beautiful overcast fall day today for my commute home from work. I wanted to head up to Bluff Park instead of my normal commute through Vestavia Hills. A little more than an hour into my ride, I found myself exploring the Lover’s Leap rocks up in Bluff Park with the cool inscription shown below (and narrated in the video above):

Lover’s Leap inscription. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see my best guess at what it says.

Here’s the rest of the pics from the day, plus one more video — the somewhat crazy descent from Crest Lane all the way down through the Green Valley roller coaster. I’ve put some bookmarks into the description on youtube so you can jump to specific spots of the video if you watch it on you tube and then click the timestamps in the description.

Tho W. Farrar
Seraphine F. Farrar
To sit on rock ... head and fell
To slowly trace the forest's shady scene
Where things that own not in one dominion dwell
And mortal feet ... rarely been
August 20th

“…” means I have no clue what that part of the poem says.

November 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm 2 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

The Double Oak Way 1500 (aka fun in the off-season)

The Double Oak Way 1500ft climb (medium version)
Huge version (5.9MB)

3D map of the complete Double Oak Way 1500ft climb

The Double Oak Way climb has been a favorite of mine since I first rode it a couple years ago after somebody at Tuesday Worlds mentioned that they had rode their motorcycle up it the day before. The very next day, I went for a ride out to Mt Laurel and climbed it for the first time. I had scouted it out ahead of time using and knew that the road would take you up over 1400ft, which is very rare for the Birmingham area. The only other climb I am aware of that tops out at over 1400ft is the Pine Mountain climb north of Trussville.

So anyway, my first time up the Double Oak Way climb was the summer of 2008. Since then, I have climbed it probably 20 times over the course of a couple years. Well, as I was working on the website last night (yes, it is going to go into real beta testing soon!), I stumbled across a topocreator map of the climb and noticed for the FIRST time that there was a small thick contour line representing 1500ft not too far from where the road ends at the radio towers. The towers are at an elevation of just over 1450ft, but less than 3/4 of a mile away was the opportunity to ride up to 1500ft. I immediately scanned the map to find the lowest point in the area to see just how big a climb I could make it. And it turns out there is a spot in nearby Chelsea at 475ft meaning that the total vertical relief was just over 1000ft. Plus with a few downhills thrown in throughout the climb, there is over 1700ft of total elevation gain in the 10.3 mile climb.

Today, for the first time I did the complete 10.3 mile climb topping out at 1502 ft. Let me take you through the climb as I remember it. First, I didn’t get started until later in the day, so I knew that the only way to make it all the way out to Chelsea and back before it got dark was to bee line a good portion of the route on 280. Once I made it to Chelsea, I promptly turned around and began the climb. You first go through the Chelsea Corners shopping center before crossing under a small railroad bridge where the road turns into onto Old Hwy 280, which follows a creek on a fairly gradual incline right between these towering cliffs on either side of the road and creek. At the top, I just missed the light to cross 280 so after a short wait, it was game on again to finish the climb. There are a couple of steep rollers as you head out on Co Rd 41 towards Mt Laurel. Then, once you make the right turn onto Double Oak way just on the outskirts of Mt Laurel, the real fun begins!

The climb hits you hard right at the beginning with a 0.6 mile stretch that climbs 389ft for an average gradient of 11.8%. There are a couple of short spots where the gradient approaches 25%! There is also a gate about 3/4 of the way up this part of the climb, where you have to dismount and literally climb through the middle of the gate between the thick bars to keep cars and motorcycles out. Remount just in time for the 20-25% “am I going to fall over” 1/10th of a mile stretch which I went up at 7.1mph (avg), 5.9mph (min), 9.2mph (max). The next part of the climb starts out with a short steep downhill followed by the start of the next section of the climb, which is a 1.75 mile stretch with an average gradient of only 2.75%. This is where the best views are, too, and it is so nice and peaceful to ride on a road without any cars at all! The only thing you have to worry a little bit about is deer. I startled three on the ride today narrowly missing one on the way back down!

The road kicks back up to 16% gradient as you make it to 1425ft at the top of this first crest. On the other side, is a super steep downhill (20%) that bottoms out before you immediately start climbing again at nearly a 20% gradient up to the radio towers. This is where I have turned around the past 20 times I have done this climb. But after seeing the topocreator map last night, I knew that I was going to do my best to make it to the 1500ft circle on the map! So I headed off-road onto what is probably a hunting trail (have to be careful about that, I tried to make a lot of non-deer sounding noises, i.e., whoops and hollers which was pretty easy since I was having just about as much fun as I have had all year on the bike!). I followed the trail which was mostly double track covered in leaves and even some grassy areas. I flew through this area which was fairly flat at 1450-1475ft before it dives down again to an intersection with what is probably a motorcycle dirt trail judging by the ruts and rocks. This was really hard to ride because the rocks were big and loose.

At the intersection with another trail, my memory was getting a bit hazy about where to find the final stretch back up to 1500ft, and I almost turned around thinking I had missed it when I looked up and saw another split in the trail heading up to the top. It was super steep, sandy in spots, rutted, and rocky in some spots so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it up the 1/4 mile trail with max gradient of 18%. But as I got further and further and hadn’t fallen off yet, I thought maybe I could make it to the top. Alas, I got stuck in a rut not 50m from the top and decided it would be faster just to run the rest of the way up. At the top, there was another path off the trail that led to some rocks where I got a few of the pictures below. I had made it to 1500ft. Total time for the climb – 10.3 miles in 41 minutes for an average speed just under 15mph!

It was beautiful, and the sun was getting ready to set so I couldn’t enjoy it long. Took a few pictures and then booked it back through the trails, over Hugh Daniel, back across 280, and all the way home just after sunset. It was an amazing awesome ride. Check out the maps, pictures, and data below. Also, the bottom map shows the climb in relation to several of the other climbs and high points in the area. So who’s going to go with me next time??? I can’t wait to tour guide this climb to some adventurous riders!!! Click on the maps for the “medium” version or click on the link marked “huge” for a huge version where you can read all the residential road names.

Complete ride, shows entire 280 corridor (medium version)
Huge version (17.9MB, prints at resolution of 84″ x 84″)

November 8, 2010 at 2:20 am 6 comments

Gatlinburg to Clingman’s Dome

Island in the Smokey's

Gatlinburg to Clingman's Dome Heartrate Data

How is that for a scenic view and ride profile? It took just over two hours to do the 22 mile climb out of Gatlinburg up to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot – and then only 42 minutes to make it all the way back down! That works out to an average speed of 11mph on the way up and 31mph on the way back down. My one mistake for the ride was not realizing that there is actually a paved path the rest of the way up to the lookout tower that is like a hot wheel’s track for grown-ups. When Kristine and I drove back up to the top later, we passed a small group of cyclists nearing the top. We then saw them riding up the path and caught up to them while they rested at the lookout tower. I found out they race for a team in the tri-state area (TN-NC-VA). The view is absolutely amazing. Check out the rest of the photos from the ride.

Another view from the Clingman's Dome parking lot

After about 45 minutes of climbing I made it to the Chimney Top trailhead - this is the view looking back down the valley

View from near the top of the spur road leading to Clingman's Dome

Cyclists at the top of the Clingman Dome's lookout tower

The paved path to the top of Clingman's Dome

Looking south towards Brasstown Bald - the tower ramp is in the foreground

Looking east-northeast towards Mt Mitchell

Looking north to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

November 14, 2009 at 11:40 pm 2 comments

Dauphin Island Ride

Yesterday I took two of my programming students to the University of South Alabama just west of Mobile for a programming competition. The competition involves a 5-hour session where we cannot make any contact at all with the students. What is a biking professor to do for those 5 hours? Well, let’s see, I’ll go for a bike ride! Here’s a map of the route I took from the university down to the coast and across a 4 mile long bridge.

University of South Alabama to Dauphin Island

I started out heading due south on Hillcrest Road which was surprisingly hilly with some 5, 6, and 7% grades. It was a very wide 4 lane road, but there was a bit of traffic. Eventually, I made my way down to Carol Plantation Rd which took me for the next 14 miles south towards the coast. This road had much less traffic, but it was a narrower 2 lane road with a speed limit of 55mph. The road was very straight so most cars passed on the opposite of the road. I had a pretty strong side-headwind to battle so my pace hovered right around 20mph. It was very windy once I made it to the bridge. The middle of the bridge rose up very sharply with a maximum grade of 7%. Just to the right of the white line was about 18 inches of smooth, debris-free shoulder which allowed me to ride the bridge without being in traffic and without worrying about getting a flat tire. The actual shoulder was probably 6 feet wide, but it was quite debris-strewn past that 18 inch mark. It didn’t matter much though because there was hardly any traffic.

Dauphin Island itself was a great place to ride with low speed limits, and wide smooth roads. I rode to the easternmost point of the island just past the ferry which is a 45 minute trip across the bay to Fort Morgan. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ride the ferry across, so I turned around and headed back with a strong tailwind. I was able to average much closer to 25mph for large sections of the return trip, except for the portions of the route which turned northeast since it was a strong southeasterly wind. It was an awesome change of pace from my normal riding in Birmingham.

November 8, 2009 at 10:10 am 3 comments

Fall Commute

I biked home from work early today to make it ahead of the rain. Even though the lighting wasn’t good, the fall colors were absolutely amazing. I had my old camera with me and got to do one of my favorite things to do while riding a bike — taking pictures! These pictures below are all taken on the climb up Smyer Road or from the top of the mountain at the Baptist Church.

November 7, 2008 at 5:32 pm 3 comments

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I left the house just under 30 hours ago and ridden 311 miles with well over 32,000 feet of climbing (the ibike under reports gain even more than the 1000). Easiest climb to get home. Plus my dead Garmin 800 still crashes every time I try to boot it up, presumably trying to load the in-progress #everesting 237 miles and 28,000 feet in. Thankfully I was using my Garmin 1000 to silence all the doubters who question the accuracy of my 800 and somehow trust the 1000 data because it's lower and that somehow makes it more accurate. Does anyone know how I can retrieve the file? Summit #everesting #fizik #stravaproveit just before the manatees.

Kristine’s ToonesFanClub

Brian Toone

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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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