Tag Archives: climbing

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 638 counties out of 3007 counties in the whole country (21%). 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.

638 counties out of 3,007. Note that this includes a few routes that I rode all the time in California, South Carolina, and Virginia that I could recreate from memory having ridden them numerous times prior to owning GPS. It doesn’t include anything I couldn’t remember exact routes for … e.g., I rode from Myrtle Beach up into North Carolina one summer prior to having a GPS but I didn’t include that route b/c I couldn’t remember how far into North Carolina I went.

It looks like either Florida or Mississippi will be the next state I complete … especially with my upcoming “Vuelta de Florida” (see map below) during which I will compete in this year’s Cross-Florida ITT (the Spanish All-Saints 515 mile route from St. Petersburg to St. Augustine tracing a good chunk of what is thought to have been Hernando Desoto’s path through the state during early explorations).

1250 miles of Florida … red – all saints, green – back to start. Lots of adventure upcoming December 7th – 12th.

After the race, I will head back south towards Miami before veering west to get back to my car, which I will be leaving in St. Petersburg. Total mileage is looking like it will be around 1250 miles, leaving one small chunk of the Florida panhandle where I will be missing counties.

Adventure Home in the Apps

View of the Great Smoky Mountains from near the top of Cherohala Skyway.

“Apps” as in the Appalachian Mountains, not mobile apps or webapps – although both of those were discussed at the ACM Computing Conference I was attending in Gatlinburg, TN. I have been attending this conference in Gatlinburg every year for the past 13 years (including this year). Since I didn’t start my cycling blog until Summer 2008, my first reports on our Gatlinburg adventures were on our old family blog. I’ve had so many adventures over the years in Gatlinburg as documented below –

416 miles, 4 states, 15 counties, 37K+ feet of climbing – Gatlinburg, TN to Hoover, AL via Clingman’s, Cherohala, Lookout Mountain, Little River Canyon, and Karl Daly

Day 1 – Gatlinburg, TN to Chattanooga, TN via Clingman’s Dome and Cherohala Skyway
I wanted to get home to Birmingham relatively early on Sunday so I wanted to get as early a start as possible Saturday morning so I could get to the hotel in Chattanooga early and then leave again early Sunday morning. I woke up at 2:45AM even before my alarm went off (set for 3AM) so I was up, dressed, and ready to go shortly after 3AM. I left Gatlinburg with temps in the low 30s knowing that I would be fine for the first couple hours of the ride on the 25 mile climb up to the top of Clingman’s Dome.

My only concern was whether the sleet, snow, and rain from a couple days earlier would have dried out completely or left slippery roads. There were a few wet spots, and a few icy spots, but no ice completely covering any of the road so I could always find a clear path up. The temp did drop down into the mid 20s around Alum Cave, the coldest part of the climb, before rising again to 30-32 degF by the top of the mountain.

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