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2014 Season Summary

An epic season

I’ve been on many rides and raced in many races I’d classify as “epic”, but this is probably the first season I’d classify as “epic”. Lots of epic rides and races, but also one epic crash completely changed the course of my season. I’m super thankful to be able to write this post at all after slamming into the side of a car on a 25% section of a descent on South Cove Dr on a Monday commute home from work, waking up in the hospital, and then spending the rest of the week there. In addition to all of that, I created two new websites: di2stats.com for analyzing shifting data from Shimano Di2 shifters and howmuchtogo.com for tracking progress towards goals.

I had again this year been planning on targeting the SRS series on the road and the UltraCX series off-road with an additional goal of qualifying for the Race Across America for 2015, but when my good buddy Kyle Taylor asked me if I wanted to race 24 hour mountain bike nationals, which would lead to several conflicts with the SRS series, I decided to switch to a season with more of an off-road and ultra distance emphasis. This started out well with Rouge Roubaix followed up by an epic Hell of the South race. One week later, I won the 500 mile Heart of the South race. Things turned upside down just after the Cohutta 100 mtb race where two days later I had my bad wreck on the way home from work.

When I woke up in the hospital, I didn’t know what all I had broken, but I was sure that my season was over. Instead, the only long term consequence was broken ribs and a broken jaw. Even after surgery, my jaw still had to be wired shut for nearly two months. But since my legs were OK, I could ride again only a week after coming home from the hospital. Riding with my jaws wired shut was quite disconcerting because there was no way to get any more oxygen if I ran out by climbing too steep a hill or pushing it too hard to make a traffic light.

I think in the end this helped me out at 24 hour mtb nationals which was held at 8000′ of elevation in the beautiful enchanted forest in the mountains above Gallup, NM. I had almost two months of riding with my jaw wired shut before begging the surgeon to remove the wires the week before the race. I never noticed the altitude during the race, but I did have to sleep for a couple hours in the middle of the night, which dropped me from the top 5 out of the top ten. I woke up feeling really refreshed though and passed several people to end up 7th by the time the race was over.

After this race, I switched gears thinking about qualifying for RAAM and started doing long adventure rides as training (and for the adventure, too, of course!). This included four weeks in a row of back-to-back-to-back epics totaling almost 1200 miles in just 4 rides – starting with one of the crazier adventures of the year – racing elite amateur nationals in Madison, Wisconsin followed by a 315 mile ride through the hills of southwestern, western, and northwestern Wisconsin leaving at 1 in the morning barely 10 hours after finishing the 90 mile road race. One week later, I reversed the route and headed back down towards Madison but got caught in a bad thunderstorm that dropped the temps down into the lower 50s. Here I am in Wisconsin absolutely frozen trying to drink enough coffee at a gas station to try to warm up in the middle of July!!!

The next weekend back home in Alabama I rode down to the beach for a beach vacation via Alabama and Florida’s high points. It was a tough ride with 16,000+ ft of climbing with a painful leg infected from a bee sting on a ride the day before. The swelling was bad enough and getting worse after the 310 mile ride that we ended up in the emergency room the next day (three days after the bee sting) to scan for blood clots. So this year already had two emergency room visits by the middle of July.

After a fun beach vacation, I rode 333 miles back home hitting the Florida and Alabama high points again. This concluded four weekends in a row of long adversity rides done on very little sleep.

So less than a month later, when it was time to race the Mid-Atlantic 24 hour time trial to qualify for RAAM. I felt more than ready. I ended up leading for a good portion of the race, but fading by the end after pushing the pace way too hard to see if I could break 9 hours for 200 miles. I knew that it would cost me by the end, but I figured you don’t get too many chances to do that, given how flat and fast the course was. I ended up 3rd riding 444 miles over the 24 hour period, which earned me a spot in the 2015 edition of RAAM!

After one more trip to the beach (this time in a car) to race the Pensacola Cycling Classic, I switched into mountain biking and ultra cross racing mode, racing the Fool’s Gold 100, Oak Ass 100, and Gravel Grovel. In the middle of all that, I won the Alabama state road race, a couple of really cool Gran Fondos, and the Tour de Cullman. This year I rode up from Birmingham to Cullman, won the race, and then rode back home – a 209 mile adventure with a race in the middle!

One final addition to this year’s season was a pair of everestings – riding repeats on a single hill enough time to climb the height of Mount Everest on a single ride. Strava put out a climbing challenge in November, and the Hells 500 guys upped the ante by offering a special medallion for those who completed an everesting during the climbing challenge. Scott Cole from up in Vermont completed THREE everestings during the competition, whereas I was only able to complete one everesting – karl daly. Even so, I was able to place 3rd in the world for the climbing challenge and 1st in the US based on many, many, many, many repeats of the double oak roller coaster.

Towards the beginning of December after the climbing challenge was over, I looked at my stats on veloviewer and realized I could possibly hit 2.75 million feet of climbing for the year if I climbed a lot in December — which is tricky because of our annual trip up to Wisconsin for the last week of December. I created a spreadsheet to help me track my progress which eventually led to the creation of a new website (howmuchtogo.com). The picture below is after I completed the goal via everesting Mount Cheaha climbing 33,330 feet (over 10,000 meters) the night before and into the day we left for Wisconsin.

howmuchtogo.com - 2014 elevation goal 2.75 million feethowmuchtogo.com – 2014 elevation goal 2.75 million feet

Calendar year statistics

I compiled these statistics and graphs from the cool strava api app called veloviewer.com. These statistics are from the 2014 calendar year. Probably the most notable part of these stats is the two weeks off the bike after my April 28th accident on S Cove Dr. I was so fortunate to not only be able to recover from that crash, but also set new yearly personal records for most distance (22,056 miles), most climbing (2,757,359 feet), most 200+ mile rides (11), longest ride (516.8 miles), but surprisingly not the most monthly climbing (April 2012 – 310,000 feet) or most weekly riding (July 2012 – 649.5 miles).

2014 annotated distance graph2014 annotated distance graph – this is probably my favorite graph because you can most clearly see all the epic rides from this year plus the back-to-back-to-back-to-back weekends of epics in the summer.

2014 annotated elevation graph2014 annotated elevation graph – the pair of everestings at the end of the season really stand out in this graph.

2014 annotated time graph2014 annotated time graph – one trend to note here is how this more closely relates to the elevation graph than the distance graph. in other words time and distance aren’t as closely related when you are climbing a TON. in other other words – you can spend 4 hours riding 80 miles in flat ground or 4 hours riding 40 miles in extremely hilly terrain, but it will still on average take 4 hours to climb 10,000 feet no matter the distance.

2014 ride count2014 annotated ride count – you can see the start and finish of the semesters at Samford based on when I switch from 1 ride per day to 2 rides per day. Thanks to the gran fondo challenges introduced this year on Strava, I decided to keep my fall commutes as one ride which dramatically reduced the count of fall rides for this year.

Season statistics

The statistics below all run from October 28, 2013 until October 26, 2014 – 364 days worth of riding and racing. In the past I have defined my racing/training season from the Monday closest to Nov 1 of the previous year to the Sunday closest to Oct 31st of the current year for all of these statistics and reports. But with the addition of late fall mountain bike and ultra cross races, it no longer covers the entire season. This will probably be the last year that I calculate the statistics on a non-calendar year.

Statistics Summary
October 28, 2013 – October 26, 2014

Statistic Avg Max Min Total
Weekly training time (hours) 29:56 41:32 0:00 1527:11
Weekly distance (miles) 415.2 631.9 0.0 21,175
Ride distance (miles) 44.6 516.8 0.1 21,175
Workouts per week (#) 9 16 2 475
Weekly climbing (feet) 45,233 70,955 0 2,306,910

For eagle-eyed observers who note that the climbing total is lower than that reported on Strava, I will give the same explanation that I gave last year and the year before (and the year before that): 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.

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.

Statistic
(per week)
2008
Avg/Max
2009
Avg/Max
2010
Avg/Max
2011
Avg/Max
2012
Avg/Max
2013
Avg/Max
2014
Avg/Max
Time (hours) 14.0/20.2 13.4/20.8 15.4/20.9 22.4/33.0 25.7/40.9 27.8/34.3 29.9/41.5
Dist (miles) 238/337 242/369 266/380 338/503 390/649 394/586 415/632
HR avg (bpm) 137/165 139/161 136/176 131/178 123/156 122/162 123/166
Workouts (#) 11/15 9/14 11/14 11/17 12/19 11/17 9/16
Climb (feet) 13k/20k 14k/29k 14k/23k 31k/52k 44k/89k 42k/70k 45k/71k
Statistic
(yearly total)
2008
Total
2009
Total
2010
Total
2011
Total
2012
Total
2013
Total
2014
Total
Training (hours) 726 698 798 1,167 1,336 1,445 1,527
Distance (miles) 12.4k 12.6k 13.8k 17.6k 20.3k 20.5k 21.2k
Workouts (#) 560 445 546 580 632 554 475
Climbing (feet) 661k 677k 750k 1,598k 2,298k 2,196k 2,307k

Trends

It is interesting to note from the two veloviewer graphs below how the intensity of my workouts has decreased as my volume has increased. Hidden in that data, though, is that even with a ride with an average power of 125 watts, there may be a 500 watt two minute effort or a 400 watt 7 minute effort that helps keep my racing edge in tact. But I don’t know how much longer that will last so it will be interesting to see if I can still maintain those highest intensities in races in the future once I have finished with RAAM next year. I am so excited for RAAM, though, it doesn’t really matter too much to me right now to think that my regular racing is going to take a big hit (possibly permanently, which means I may be joining the masters fields soon instead of the Pro/1/2 fields). No matter what, though, I still love to ride my bike which is probably the most important stat of all!!!

2014-velo-power-calendar

2014-velo-time-calendar

2013 Season Summary

Veloviewer.com - 20,485 miles ridden in 2013 compared to 20,744 miles ridden in 2012 calendar year.Veloviewer.com – 20,485 miles ridden in 2013 compared to 20,744 miles ridden in the 2012 calendar year.

Veloviewer.com - total climbing elevation gain  2,594,511 ft  ... compared to 2,686,811 ft climbed last yearVeloviewer.com – 2,594,511 ft climbed in 2013 … compared to 2,686,811 ft climbed in the 2012 calendar year.

Veloviewer.com -  59days and 33 minutes spent riding my bike in 2013 ... compared to 59 days and 11 hours and 2 minutes in the 2012 calendar yearVeloviewer.com – 59 days and 33 minutes spent riding my bike in 2013 … compared to 59 days and 11 hours and 2 minutes in the 2012 calendar year

I look forward to writing this post every year, and this year I’ve got a new tool to help me – the veloviewer charts which compare stats from year to year. The three charts above show a comparison of elevation, distance, and time from the past five years. Note that I only used a Garmin in 2008 from Thanksgiving until the end of the year. This is the graphical version of the tables that I’ve been accumulating at the end of every season and which I continue to use in the rest of the post below – although the veloviewer charts are based on calendar year instead of my training/racing year.

End of the season statistics
The statistics below all run from October 29, 2012 until October 27, 2013 – 364 days worth of riding and racing. I define my racing/training season from the Monday closest to Nov 1 of the previous year to the Sunday closest to Oct 31st of the current year for all of these statistics and reports. Normally, this would include all of my racing for the calendar year. This year included an extended foray into mountain bike racing, which has more fall races, so the date range does not include two 2013 races (the November 23rd Oak Ass 100 mile mtb race and the November 30th Gravel Grovel ultracx race) and the associated training leading up to those races.

Statistics Summary
October 29, 2012 – October 27, 2013

Statistic Avg Max Min Total
Weekly training time (hours) 27:47 34:23 19:05 1445:04
Weekly distance (miles) 394.1 586.1 264.2 20,494
Ride distance (miles) 37.0 184.4 0.3 20,494
Workouts per week (#) 11 17 6 554
Weekly climbing (feet) 42,221 70,036 10,682 2,195,525

For eagle-eyed observers who note that the climbing total is lower than that reported on Strava, I will give the same explanation that I gave last year: 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.

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.

Statistic
(per week)
2008
Avg/Max
2009
Avg/Max
2010
Avg/Max
2011
Avg/Max
2012
Avg/Max
2013
Avg/Max
Time (hours) 14.0/20.2 13.4/20.8 15.4/20.9 22.4/33.0 25.7/40.9 27.8/34.3
Dist (miles) 238/337 242/369 266/380 338/503 390/649 394/586
HR avg (bpm) 137/165 139/161 136/176 131/178 123/156 122/162
Workouts (#) 11/15 9/14 11/14 11/17 12/19 11/17
Climb (feet) 13k/20k 14k/29k 14k/23k 31k/52k 44k/89k 42k/70k
Statistic
(yearly total)
2008
Total
2009
Total
2010
Total
2011
Total
2012
Total
2013
Total
Training (hours) 726 698 798 1,167 1,336 1,445
Distance (miles) 12.4k 12.6k 13.8k 17.6k 20.3k 20.5k
Workouts (#) 560 445 546 580 632 554
Climbing (feet) 661k 677k 750k 1,598k 2,298k 2,196k

Racing Season Summary
The highlight for the racing season was winning my very first race of the year — the Southern Cross ultracx season opener in Dahlonega, GA. I knew I could do top 3 in the race, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to win, especially the way it all shook out. This win dictated my season a bit as I decided to pursue the ultracx series overall. Also, the new Southeastern Regional Series was on my radar from as soon as it was announced so I put all of those races on my calendar as well. By the time the season was all finished at the end of November, I managed to place 2nd in the overall for both series. The UltraCx series was really close, but it came down to a single point separating me from winner Mike “Simonster” Simonson. The SRS series was not quite as close with Winston David turning out a phenomenal year and me a distant 2nd. More fun was the KOM competition, which was my pre-season goal for the series, and I chased it hard but Andy Scarano was just too strong for me and I ended up starting out strong in the KOM points but fading to 3rd behind Andy and Winston. It looks like after checking the results I also ended up 3rd in the sprinter’s jersey competition as well!

Another highlight for the season was Tim Hall’s Nashville to Natchez ride. I think this really gave me the bug for ultra-endurance cycling, and I’m already planning on tackling a 500 mile race in 2014 as well as RAAM in 2015 and then possibly the Iditarod Trail Race in 2016. This led to a number of adventures this year documented in these blogs summarized below (click on each heading to go to a blog describing the adventure) –

NASHVILLE TO NATCHEZ (AND THEN ONTO BIRMINGHAM) – 444 miles on the Natchez Trace followed by another 418 miles home to Birmingham in the middle of summer. Tim Hall invited me on this fundraising ride for Team Red, White, and Blue – an organization helping veterans returning from deployment reconnect to communities through social and physical activity.

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY AND CLEMSON FOOTBALL – I never did get a chance to write up a blog on this one, so I’ve linked to the strava activity. We had an awesome family weekend for the Clemson game against Boston College. This was my first Clemson game since graduating 15 years ago. It was my kids’ and Kristine’s first Clemson game. We tailgated, the whole 9 yards, and then Kristine and I stayed a couple extra days for me to get in a 184 mile ride from Clemson up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and take a new route across to Caesars Head. Found an awesome gravel road climb and descent a bazillion miles into the ride.

NASHVILLE TO BIRMINGHAM – a little bit of an arctic adventure in the deep south. I’ve always been fascinated with point to point rides so when the opportunity came for me to ride from Nashville back home to Birmingham after the Andrew Peterson concert, I jumped all over it. I wasn’t expecting temps hovering around 11 degF for an hour, though, and ended up having to cut the ride about 60 miles short. It still made for a 210 mile epic adventure. Technically this adventure will fall into next year’s training year but I will forget to write about it then so I’m including it in this calendar year.

RAPHA FESTIVE 500 – likewise, this adventure technically should go with next year’s season summary but since it happened this calendar year I’ll go ahead and include it. This was easily the hardest Strava challenge I’ve done and ended with one of the hardest bike rides I’ve ever done.

Finally, the graphs and charts!
CP curve - back down to 293 wattsCP curve – back down to 293 watts. Several efforts over the year caused Golden Cheetah to refit my data at a lower threshold. The black line in this pic is from my Whitewater Falls ride in October where I set the KOM on the Cat 2 climb (setting a 25 minute power record of 325 watts). (click to enlarge)

2013 - Much of my training is "distance-based" in that I aim for a particular weekly mileage. (click to enlarge)2013 – Much of my training is “distance-based” in that I aim for a particular weekly mileage. (click to enlarge)

2013 - time spent in heartrate zones ... I pay special attention to my heartrate ... ideally I'd like to be in Zone 1 or 2 or Zone 5. It's hard to put that into practice though. It is nice to see a significant drop in Zone 3 during the racing season and corresponding increase in Zone 3 during the off season. Explanation for this is that during the racing season, I spend a lot of time riding at very easy pace to recover from previous weekend's races.2013 – time spent in heartrate zones … I pay special attention to my heartrate … ideally I’d like to be in Zone 1 or 2 or Zone 5. It’s hard to put that into practice though. It is nice to see a significant drop in Zone 3 during the racing season and corresponding increase in Zone 3 during the off season. Explanation for this is that during the racing season, I spend a lot of time riding at very easy pace to recover from previous weekend’s races.

These three graphs are the ones that I pay the most attention to both during the season and afterwards during breakdown analysis. Also, the critical power curve is very helpful for KOM efforts and time trials where you can gauge the average power that you know you can sustain for a particular duration climb. Then, the next step becomes guessing what your time will be so you can know what wattage to target and weigh that against how tired your legs feel.

And finally many thank you’s
This is probably the first season in a long time that has not been my new “best season ever”, but it certainly wasn’t because of a lack of support. I owe so many people so many thank you’s far more than can fit here, but here goes – first to my amazing beautiful wife Kristine who has put up with many hours away from home on the bike and traveled to many races this year. Likewise, my kids are amazing and are quite adept at making an adventure out of what could be a lot of boring times on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere at a bike race. Plus, they have all put up with many miles in the car together as a family.

If you have ever wondered what kind of bike mechanic can deal with the crazy bike situations I find myself in, there are several in Birmingham from every shop in town who are certainly up to the task (what an amazing city we live in), but Craig Tamburello at Brick Alley opened up shop a couple years ago in Hoover just a couple miles from my house, and he has been amazing finding solutions to problems caused by all the insane rides my bike components have to deal with every year.

My new teammates from FGS Cycling, John Hart, Kurt Page, and Jeff McGrane welcomed me onto their team and helped me plunge into Tennessee racing including several new-to-me races this year (Hell of the South, Berry Peddlar, Rockabilly Classic, and Roan Groan). Awesome guys … thanks and I’m looking forward to next year!

Also, a big shout out to Mark Fisher who has challenged my climbing records and pushed me to dig deeper than anyone else has ever pushed me. Indeed, he has already passed me, and this year’s state road race was quite perfect. The two of us broke away on the second lap, and then Mark dropped me a little more than halfway up the climb on the final lap. I stayed with him longer than I expected I could, but as he rode away from me I was already thinking “this is fine, I’m happy to pass the torch of ‘Alabama’s fastest climber'” onto Mark. It’s cool, though, that we are still close enough that I can give him a run for his money in the end-of-the year strava shootout. We almost tied again this year … only 1 second separating us on the final climb!

And finally, to the entire Birmingham cycling community, wow. If you were to rank cycling communities the way they do football polls, there would be at least one #1 besides Birmingham. There is very little infrastructure (but not none, e.g., CommuteSmart has done some good work) to support cycling here, but my goodness there are a lot of amazing and dedicated riders who brave the car craziness and the hills and make it fun to ride to Birmingham. It is the riders themselves who have stepped up to replace what cities and communities have not done — made Birmingham a great place to ride.