Category Archives: Training

Epic catch-up: Nuevas Esperanzas 15km vertical, Eddington 250, County progress, goals, and more!

It has been quite busy with 16 weeks compressed down to 13 weeks so we can end the semester before Thanksgiving. I’ve still been riding because that takes priority over blogging, but between riding and work, I haven’t had a lot of time for anything else!

15km vertical for Nuevas Esperanzas 15th birthday celebration

It was hard. Very hard. Nuevas Esperanzas is an amazing organization whose tagline says it all: “building foundations, releasing potential, and transforming communities”. What this means in practice is that Nuevas Esperanzas provides technical assistance on a number of projects (clean water, infrastructure, farming, ecotourism) to help the people of Nicaragua find ways to thrive in sometimes harsh conditions … speaking of which … Nicaragua was hit by back-to-back hurricanes (Eta and Iota) starting the week after I finished my 15km vertical. Thanks so much to all who gave money to support this work! If you were still thinking about it, it’s not too late. Support their work now!

Back to the task at hand … I decided to mark the 15th anniversary celebration by climbing 15km vertical … no other number really made sense or felt challenging enough. 15,000 feet is not much of a stretch beyond a normal long ride for me. 1,500 meters would be even shorter. 30,000 feet and/or 300km of riding would also be fairly easy for me and well within the range of what I have done before.

But 15km of climbing (a tad bit under 50,000 feet of climbing). This would break into new territory for me. I’ve done several rides in the mid 40,000 feet of climbing, but those were all targeted local rides in extremely hilly terrain where downhills roll straight into steep uphills taking advantage of lots of momentum to accelerate the climbing.

I wanted to do this one differently. I wanted to ride out to Mount Cheaha (the highest point in Alabama), located 85 miles from my house. Then I wanted to do an everesting by repeating the climb 23 times accumulating elevation higher than Mount Everest. Then I wanted to ride back home to finish out the 15km vertical. Cheaha is perfect for this kind of climbing. It’s just the right steepness to get a lot of climbing done quickly. But it’s also not too steep that you can continue climbing at speed for a long time.

The problem with my plan was the very large, relatively flat Coosa Valley that you have to cross each way to get to the mountain. Even with a hilly route leaving town and returning back to town, you end up with 170 miles of riding and barely 15,000 feet of climbing. That would work out well with an additional 200 miles (23 laps) of climbing cheaha and nearly 33,000 feet of climbing. But ultimately, the problem I ran into was not enough sleep ahead of time. I got too sleepy to continue and hadn’t brought anything for laying down on the side of the road to take a nap.

So I decided to bail on the everesting and head back home. This all worked out well in the end, because the next day as I set out to finish the 15km vertical, I was able to include a memorial ride and a memorial to my friend Chris Shelton as part of this adventure. Chris was an amazing man and friend who influenced so many people and who loved to climb mountains on his bike … all over Birmingham … all over Europe. I took this picture of the picture of a collage of pictures of Chris and wanted to leave it here to remember him any time I think about and remember back to this ride.

What an amazing photo collage tribute to Chris Shelton … let this be an inspiration to me and to everyone that our lives are made up of all the moments we live and share with others.

Eddington 250

Originally I had set my lifetime goal for my Eddington Number to be 200. In case you are not familiar with the Eddington Number, check out this website I created that goes a bit into the history of it. I thought that was going to take many more years to reach, but as I’m currently at 195 with only 14 more rides left to make it to 200, I should be able to hit that sometime next year (hopefully early).

I have now updated my goal to 250, which is insane (by the way). This means I will have ridden 250 miles or longer in a single day 250 separate times! I’m thinking it would be a new world record, but I don’t know for sure and it may not last long if I do end up being the first to make it there (unlikely). Still, I’ve never been one for setting realistic goals, so let’s go!

Later in life who knows what may happen, but for now I really don’t see myself pushing beyond 250 and even then, that number is going to be quite a stretch no matter what others may be able to do.

In any case, I knocked out another Eddington 250 last Saturday riding with my friend Jason Bierley up into Northeast Alabama and back home to Birmingham via some fun climbing up to Cherokee Rock Village.

County progress

Lastly, in this catchup post, I’d like to share some maps and progress on my goal to ride in all the counties in the Southeast. As it turns out, I’m up to almost 20% of the counties in the whole country! And approaching . This surprised me the other day when I checked. For now I’ve been focusing so much on just riding in all the counties in my neighborhood – Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida … but the whole country seems tantalizing possible although realistically it’s probably not.

Updated map.

It looks like either Florida or Misssippi will be the next state I complete … especially with my upcoming “Vuelta de Florida”.

More details to this post coming soon, but I wanted to go ahead and publish it as a placeholder so that I could link to it on my everesting.cc submission for the Everesting Hall of Fame.

Everesting Smyer

It may have taken over 25 miles longer than we had planned, but Luke Caldwell and I successfully completed an everesting of what may arguably be the most scenic and iconic climb in the Birmingham area – Smyer Road. Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Distance:250.0 mi
Total elevation gain:30,102 ft
Total elapsed time:19:20:35
Total moving time:17:32:48
Total stopped time:1:47:47
Number of laps:87
Elevation gain per lap:346 ft
Distance per lap:2.87 mi
Average time per lap:12′ 6″
Fastest lap:11′ 05″
Slowest lap:14′ 40″
Friends who rode laps with us:TOO MANY TO COUNT!
Statistics from our everesting of Smyer Road on 9/4/2020

Thanks so much to everyone who came out and rode with us. We started out at midnight by ourselves and rode for 5 hours without seeing a single soul. Then starting from about 5am, we started seeing cyclists, walkers, joggers, and a few cars. It wasn’t until much later in the morning that the number of cars we saw started to catch up with the number of people, but I’m not sure if it ever did fully catch up. In other words, we saw either the same or more people on bikes or walking than cars driving during our entire everesting! Our Strava “fly-by” list has 170 people on it. Not all of those people rode with us, but I’d guesstimate we saw 150 people and rode with maybe 75 or more?

Thank you again to each and EVERY person who came out to see us and support us and bring us food and drinks. So awesome!!!! I cannot possibly thank or remember every single person who came out, but I did want to thank some people specifically with big shout outs – Greg Caldwell (Luke’s dad) rode with us for exactly half of the laps completing his first half-everesting – 14,600 feet! And he also supported us with food and sausage, egg, and cheese mcgriddle hand-ups.

Stuart Roberts came out super early and was the first person to join us for quite a few laps. Then he came back later and brought us some much needed Starbucks drinks. Also, joining us early were my TNGA / Skyway brothers (and sister) Josh Waldrop, Jason Bierley, and Audrey Tangey riding with us for a few early morning laps with Jason coming back later for a couple more laps. Then we had group after group rolling through on their way to different morning group rides … it was soooo awesome. But I don’t know about Luke, but I was really struggling by late afternoon as it was getting hotter and there weren’t many cyclists out at all. There weren’t any specific pains for me, but my legs were just tired. I think the weight of the Salsa Cutthroat and the rolling resistance of 2.2″ tires was really starting to catch up to me.

So big shout out to the last two people who joined us and turned what would have been two hours of miserable slogging into a much quicker two hours of chatting and joking and having fun again. First, Rick Swagler surprised us catching up to us from behind after we passed his driveway. He and his family had been out on their porch almost all morning ringing cowbells and cheering at us from 75 feet above the road (it’s a VERY steep hill – thankfully our road snaked up it instead of going straight up it). We joked with him that we were thinking he was waiting until he saw us walking our bikes by his house (instead of riding) to join us. And he did in fact join us at just the right time when we were going quite a bit slower compared to the earlier laps when we were flying by. We were fading quickly so that was a great boost.

And then maybe three or four laps later, William Seitz came flying down the descent and immediately turned around to join us for many laps. It was great talking about racing and bikes and remembering back to specific races that we’ve all done. Plus, William can fly down descents like no other so we stepped it up a notch on the descents. And going fast always makes everything better. William had to head out on our next-to-last lap though as the sun had set a lap earlier. So Luke and I started out together in the dark and we finished in the dark after sunset … it was a full sunrise-sunset ride…it was epic!!!

A big kudos to Luke completing his first everesting having come so close once before!

Smyer Road in context of my life … I was born in Montclair Hospital a long time ago, live at the other end of the map in Hoover, work in the middle at Samford University, with my son also born in the middle at Brookwood Baptist, and Smyer Road climbing up to the long ridge line overlooking it all … now everested completely for the first time. To put the everesting in perspective, the tracking markers on this website are only recorded once every 10 minutes. That means that in order to get that many tracking markers to completely line the entire road we everested, we had to spend a LOT of time on that road!!! It was worth it. It was epic. View and zoom in on an interactive map here: https://pickuta.com/album/191