What a beautiful fall day today with temps never even making it out of the 60s! I had set aside today to take back a KOM that is one of my favorites here in Birmingham – the Vandiver KOM climb. So after Analise’s soccer game this morning, I headed out on what would turn into one of the funnest training rides of the year. I started out pretty easy to the point of actually getting passed by somebody on the Dolly Ridge climb. You have to understand riding in Birmingham to know that it is entirely possible to do an 85 mile ride on a Saturday and not see a single other person riding, so to encounter another cyclist less than two miles from my house, and to be passed by that person was a bit of a shock. It took quite a bit of discipline to continue on up the climb at an easy tempo and let whoever it was ride away up the climb.
I headed up Dolly Ridge, did the tornado loop in reverse, down through the Colonnade, out Sicard Hollow to Rex Lake over Bailey eventually to Elliot and up the first of the ridges where the photo at the top of this post was taken a few years ago. I climbed up the steep side of Vandiver at a nice steady tempo, headed down the descent, turned around at the bottom and headed back up to try and break my teammate Paul Tower’s KOM time. I couldn’t remember his time exactly, but I knew if I was close to 6 minutes that I would beat it. I started out in my big chainring thinking that I would switch to my little chainring towards the middle of the bottom steep part of the climb. Instead, I found that I was nearly over the steep part before losing all of my momentum from my initial surge at the bottom. I decided to power through the last remaining steep part at the bottom in my big ring to avoid having to shift down and then back up again. This worked well because my speed never dropped below 15mph so I entered the less steep part of the climb carrying some momentum and was able to accelerate back up to nearly 20mph by the middle flatter part of the climb. I started to fade again towards the switchback at the top, but I used this switchback to push myself to the top thinking of the Tour de France commercial about the temporal nature of pain.
The rest of the ride flew by, and I ended up setting KOMs on Bailey Rd, Grants Mill into nasty headwind, and Big Spring, so by the end of the ride I was completely drained. But the main highlight for the latter part of the ride was setting a new all-time max VAM of 2031 m/hr on the short, steep 0.5mi Big Spring Cat 4 climb. I double-checked the elevation and it is recorded correctly (no atmospheric drift) 300ft in just 0.5mi for an average gradient of 11.6%. I averaged 10.9mph, 417 watts for the super steep section with my weight at this point of the ride probably down to around 140 pounds and 12.9mph by the top of Smyer Circle. I can’t even count how many times I have ended a hard training ride at the top of Smyer Circle knowing that I can just cruise on home from there! I was out of food and hungry, though, so I kept on pushing to get home and ran into John Karrasch heading the other way to the crest of Vestavia Dr on his mountain bike as I was heading down.
Another highlight on the latter part of the ride was a first ascent of Oakdale via a crazy climbing route I mapped out last night that has nearly 1000 ft of climbing, one 27% section, a couple other 20% sections, and a couple very fast roller coaster sections.
And the final highlight of the ride was making it back home to find my son and daughter playing with chalk on the front sidewalk with a friend and to have them so happily welcome me home!
Here are some of the data highlights from the ride:
Interactive data from this ride is available on Strava: http://app.strava.com/rides/1821635