Everesting Mount Cheaha

Final stats #everesting #cheahagranfondoultra #festive500

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Training for next year’s Race Across America is giong really well. One of my training techniques is to do “adversity” rides, where it’s not just the distance, but also the unknowns on the ride that add in a bit of mental training to the physical effort. So when a huge storm system came through the southeast on the night I had chosen, I toyed with the idea of going anyway and doing the whole ride in the storms and rain starting at midnight on December 24th so I could be finished and back to Birmingham early in the afternoon in time for Christmas Eve with the family.

The evening of the 23rd rolled around, and the weather was looking too crazy and the idea of riding in a thunderstorm on top of mount cheaha was beyond what I was willing to do – so I bailed and decided to wait until Christmas day starting in the early afternoon and hopefully finishing sometime in the middle of the night. This meant, however, that immediately after finishing the ride we would be getting in the car and driving 18 hours to northwestern Wisconsin to spend the rest of our winter vacation with Kristine’s family.

After brunch, I headed out to drive over to Mount Cheaha – about an hour and a half away. I hate driving to ride or race my bike, but sometimes it is necessary just so you can take all your stuff and supplies for the ride or race. Many times, though, it’s a matter of deciding to ride hundreds of miles. I found a cool parking area right near the start of the segment that I was going to everest –

Strava segment for my everesting of mount cheaha - "Cheaha from 281 low pt on Adams Gap side"Strava segment for my everesting of mount cheaha – “Cheaha from 281 low pt on Adams Gap side”

This segment is an interesting one that I made a few years ago – it’s the lowest spot on AL-281 on the west side of the mountain so it gives you the most vertical diff up to the lookout tower at the top (Alabama’s highest point at 2,407′). That low spot, however, is located in the middle of several steep rollers. So even though the vertical diff is about 1300′, you get even more climbing than that both on the way up and the way back down. I knew that this would make it easier to reach the everesting elevation, but I was surprised that it was over 2 full laps sooner than everesting based on the vertical diff alone. I wanted to everest it that way as well, so I did the required 23 laps.

This is probably the “best” climb in Alabama to everest. It may not be the fastest, steepest, etc… but it is the perfect grade for some fast climbing, yet not too steep to exhaust you quickly. Also, the descent is still plenty steep in spots to give you lots of free speed on the way back down. On top of that, the rollers at the bottom are fun and add to the climbing as I mentioned previously.

But perhaps what makes this climb the “best” is how scenic it is. During the day, the views are amazing as the climb rises quickly out of the valley with a good view looking far below. You really get the sense of climbing high in the mountains. Most everesting attempts end up involving some sort of night riding. The lower part of this climb is so open that moonlight really lights up the climb (and descent). I did several descents with no lights towards the bottom using just the moonlight … in addition to having a shadow from the moon, I could clearly see the outline of the road and the pavement was so perfectly smooth that there was no danger of hitting any debris. This was not the case higher up the mountain which goes through a heavily wooded section. After the storms a couple days ago, there was lots of branches and debris on the road. I found a good line though and cleared it out by riding it over and over again. By the end of the ride I was not worried about hitting anything at the top either. I used my light on its medium setting for this part of the descent, which twists gently (no brakes) several times, and is much darker because of the tree cover.

Well, I’m running out of time here, so I’ll leave with a collection of all the pictures I instagrammed. Previously, I had posted pictures at the 1000 meter elevation marks all the way up to the summit of everest. This time in honor of the work that Nuevas Esperanzas is doing in Nicaragua, I wanted to start out in Nicaragua, then Central America, and finally South America before running out of elevation and having to head over to Asia … but this time I picked K2 all the way up to its summit before finally switching over to Everest for the final summit picture.

These are the first few from Nicaragau:

To see the rest of the pics, click the collage below to go to my instagram account kartoone76


Garmin 1000 and Windows Phone Tracking

I started this post a while ago earlier this summer, and it looks like I finished it but never hit post. Oh well! I’m posting it now rather than deleting the draft. After several extra months of riding, my assessment of the Garmin 1000 hasn’t changed, except that I am even more impressed with its stability and ability to record ultra long 24 hour+ rides. None of the earlier Garmins could last that long without crashing!

Ride stats 2

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

The positives

  • Large crystal clear display, easy to read in any lighting condition with auto-brightness enabled. In the picture above, compare the Garmin 800 (left) to the Garmin 1000 display (right). Both are displaying 10 pieces of information, but look how much clearer the 1000 is.
  • Di2 integration, no more guessing about whether you are in the 28 or 26 in the back. Plus, being able to see a history of gears used in a KOM effort will be cool to see. Some of the climbs that Mark and I have been trading KOMs on can ultimately come down to using the right gears at the right time. Being able to compare times with the gears used may help optimize KOM efforts.
  • Improved processor speed. The 1000 is much more responsive, able to lookup information on the map much more quickly, and able to calculate turn-by-turn directions for long routes more quickly than the 800. Most importantly, with an improved processor there is presumably less opportunity for deadlock leading to less frozen screens and lost rides. I won’t know this for sure until I get some really long rides done with the 1000. So far my longest ride after the accident has been just over 7 hours. The Garmin 800 was pretty reliable for rides under 8 hours. Once you hit the 8 hour mark, you better not try to do any routing or looking at the map with the 800. You are pretty much guaranteed to have the 800 freeze and possibly lose the entire ride.
  • Improved map detail, plus free maps! Thanks in large part to the OpenStreetMap organization and the USGS, there is some excellent map data that comes standard with the Garmin 1000 instead of having to buy the City Navigator SD card to get good street data. Also, the entire collection of USGS named summits is included in the map data so that you can see a little mountain icon and click on it to see its exact elevation. See screenshot below.
  • The new Personal Records feature is kinda cool, especially if you are coming back from an injury as I am – each time you set a new PR that is especially meaningful.

Garmin 1000, USGS mountain closest to our house.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

The negatives
Let’s start this off with a video showing you the differences in total ascent between the Garmin 800 (left) and the Garmin 1000 (right). Some things to look for in the video – note the iBike gradient stabilizes much faster based on the accelerometer (not barometric pressure). Even so, the Garmin 800 stabilizes much, much quicker than the Garmin 1000. Also, note when total ascent starts to accumulate on the 800 vs the 1000. Note based on the iBike grade how long you are on the hill before the 1000 starts to read any change in total ascent.

ibike data laurel view lapibike data laurel view lap

  • Lack of Windows Phone support. Yes, I know that windows phones are a small (but growing) share of the market, but for people more interested in the camera (Nokia Lumia) than the phone, the current Windows Phone offerings blow away anything from Apple or Samsung. Also, lack of open API for communication between the Garmin Edge 1000 and the Garmin Connect mobile app prevents writing my own home-brewed windows phone app. I contacted support to let them know I was interested in writing a Windows Phone app to support live tracking from the Garmin 1000, but never received any response back.
  • New location of the barometric pressure sensor behind the quarter-twist mount. While this may protect the sensor from rain, it is the nemesis of anyone who lives in an area with lots of steep rolling hills. The new sensor location causes the unit to respond much more slowly to changes in elevation, which means you miss the bottom of every climb. This is also true in large mountain areas, but since you are only doing a few climbs on a ride in the mountains it doesn’t matter much to lose 20-40 feet on each one. But if you are doing hundreds of hills on a ride, then losing 20 feet on each one adds up pretty quickly.
  • The aggressive total ascent filter. It isn’t just the location of the barometric pressure sensor as it is also the “new and improved” algorithm for accounting total ascent. In the Garmin 800, the filter was placed on the raw elevation change. You had to climb more than 7 feet before the elevation changed, at which point every foot was counted towards the total ascent. Now with the Garmin 1000, you see small 1-2 foot changes in elevation, but these are not counted towards total ascent until some magic variable number (I think it is time based) of feet have been climbed. I think you have to have been climbing for 20-30 seconds before it starts to count total ascent, which means that the raw number of feet climbed differs based on how fast you are climbing rewarding slower descending and slower climbing.
  • Total ascent maxing out at 9,999 feet. The Garmin 1000 cannot currently display total ascent greater than 9,999 feet. The display field goes blank and displays four underscore characters instead. (See screenshot below the next bullet)
  • The elevation graph screen only uses the first three sections of the screen. The fourth section is only used if you are following a course with embedded elevation data. This is similar to a bug for the Garmin 800 which only used half the elevation screen. This bug was fixed in an early release of the Edge 800 firmware. The bug currently remains unfixed in version 2.2 of the Garmin 1000 firmware. What’s even worse with the 1000 is that they introduced an auto-scaling feature that scales as if it were using all four sections, but then only uses three sections and chops off exactly 1/4 of your ride. (See screenshot below)

Note the blank “total ascent” field. Also note that the Garmin 800 recorded 12,271 feet of climbing, but the Garmin 1000 only recorded 10,629 feet of climbing. If I had mounted the Garmin 1000 in a normal fashion instead of using the out-front mount with the Garmin angled up at a 60 degree angle to expose the barometric sensor then the elevation difference would have been much, much larger. My lap tests showed a difference of over 40% in total ascent when the Garmin 1000 is mounted in a flat or slightly angled position. Also, note that the elevation graph doesn’t use all four sections no matter how much you zoom in or out. The PR feature is really cool, though, and fortunately it does show you your total ascent – but this is only after you end your ride and only if you actually set a new PR for total ascent. Otherwise, you are not able to see how much you have climbed if you climbed more than 9,999 feet.

Most of my issues with the new Garmin are related to elevation. Other people in the Garmin forums have mentioned random screen locks and dropped bluetooth connections as problems. I haven’t seen either of these problems in the first 500 miles of usage because I am unable to use bluetooth at all. Perhaps the random screen locks are related to bluetooth, which means the lack of Windows Phone support is a blessing in disguise. Overall, I’m happy with the improvements made to the Garmin 1000 and once the elevation readings are sorted out – I’m planning on gluing something to the bottom of the Garmin to funnel air around the mount into the pressure sensor – plus hopefully a new release of the Garmin 1000 firmware will not have such an aggressive total ascent filter.

Windows Phone Tracking

Unable to use the live tracking feature on my Garmin 1000, I decided to write my own for Windows Phone. Without a published API from Garmin, there is no way for me to pull the data coming from the 1000, but I can track position, time, and speed on the phone itself. As I dug further into this, I found an already existing app that looks perfect and works on Windows Phone: locatoweb.com.

LocaToWeb - Laurel View tracking testLocaToWeb – Laurel View tracking test