Tag Archives: climbing

BBL Wrap-up plus Huntsville Climbing

This weekend was quite the kicker of a way to end the training season and dive headlong into racing season … starting next weekend with the southern cross race. Here’s a quick look at what I believe I’ll be racing the next few weeks:

Feb 16 - southern cross (mtb)
Feb 17 - gsmr training race #1
Feb 24 - gsmr training race #2
Mar 3 - gsmr training race #3
Mar 10 - rouge roubaix
Mar 16-17 - union city (crit, rr)
Mar 23 - hell of the south

Yesterday was an epic 102 mile day with BBL with four attack zones and koms, adventuresome climb up bass pro cement road (close to 35% gradient), and followed up by more climbing with Mark through Mountain Brook and Vestavia. Today, Kristine was working up in Huntsville so I tagged along to do some riding/climbing up in Huntsville.

First, the scoop on today’s ride up in Huntsville … Kristine was working her admin assistant job for the army reserve center up in Huntsville, so I decided to tag along to try to get a good long climbing ride exploring some new climbs and putting in a couple hard KOM efforts on others. I ended up falling a few seconds short on the Monte Sano climb (kudos Mark) but taking the Hawk’s Nest one. Here’s a view from the top of monte sano looking back down torwards Huntsville with the space and rocket center visible in the background (look for the tall white rocket).

View of downtown Huntsville and the Space and Rocket center from the top of Monte SanoView of downtown Huntsville and the Space and Rocket center from the top of Monte Sano (click to enlarge and read the annotations)

At this point in the ride, the temp had climbed into the mid 50s with a few clouds and even a little bit of sun. After exploring another Cat 3 climb on the Monte Sano ridge line, I headed down 431 towards Keel and the super steep Blowing Cave climb. As I approached Keel, it started to rain a bit off and on but nothing heavy or steady. By the top of the Blowing Cave climb, though, it was starting to rain a little more frequently so that by the time I had turned around and climbed Keel from the backside and then descend on the frontside it was pouring … and the temp was down into the 40s … and I had shorts and short finger gloves on. I immediately decided to cut out a huge chunk of the ride … Woodville to Skyline (Cat 2) … and trade it for an additional climb up Keel. This worked out well because the additional climbs up Keel kept me warm enough so that I wasn’t hypothermic for the descent down Blowing Cave.

That descent was insane in the heavy rain and cold. I knew I couldn’t get up too much speed because there would be no way to brake hard enough and turn without sliding out. Still, the super steep section towards the bottom (20% avg for 0.3 miles) I outran my brakes and had to negotiate some of the turns at much higher speed than I felt comfortable doing. By the bottom, I was frigid but thankful I hadn’t fallen and that I could start hammering again to try to generate body heat. Fortunately, I had a nice tailwind for a large part of the next ride so I was able to crush the 53×11 to a gas station near 4 mile post rd (east side of cecil ashburn). I spent a while warming up in the gas station drinking $1.09 ($1.18 with tax) 20 oz cappuccino before braving the cold rain again. Absolutely freezing and even with a tailwind and a Cat 3 climb, I still almost crashed coming down Cecil Ashburne with speed wobble because I was shivering so badly! Fortunately, once I made it to the bottom again, there was an awesome tailwind, a lot of open road, and a lot of green lights. I arrived back at the armory sooner than expected. As soon as I stopped riding, though, and my heartrate dropped I got so cold that I was shivering again uncontrollably for a good 5 minutes until I had warmed up in the car in the parking lot with the seat warmer on and heat blasting at 90 degF. Here’s pic of the conditions (it had been raining hard for the last 35 miles of my ride) at the armory after I had stopped shivering enough to get a picture:

Warming up in the car at the reserve center after the ride while Kristine is working. Very cold rain for the last 35 miles of the ride.Warming up in the car at the reserve center after the ride while Kristine is working. Very cold rain for the last 35 miles of the ride.

Here’s the iBike data from the ride and from some of the popular Huntsville climbs…

Summary of all climbs listed below
                                  Dist     Avg% Max%  Gain
Bankhead 4-way stop (Monte Sano)  3.63 mi  4.98 12.0  990 ft
Big Cove - Governor's Bend        2.07 mi  6.57 23.3  786 ft
Blowing Cave Wall (Keel Mtn)      0.30 mi 19.91 26.8  309 ft
Blowing Cave Complete (Keel Mtn)  3.83 mi  4.49 26.8 1050 ft
Keel Backside (north) (Keel Mtn)  1.55 mi 11.20 17.4  895 ft
Keel Frontside (south) (Keel Mtn) 1.88 mi  9.39 25.2  897 ft
Cecil Ashburne (east)             2.02 mi  5.47 12.6  582 ft
Bankhead from 4-way stop (Monte Sano)
Dist:        3.63 mi (0:15:38)
Climbing:     990 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power      46  326.4   684  W
Speed     9.5   14.0  27.4  mi/h
Slope    -4.0   4.98  12.0  %
HR        142  170.0   182  bpm
NP:332W IF:1.13 TSS:33 VI:1.02
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 7:59 AM
48 degF; 990 mbar
Big Cove - Governor's Bend (Monte Sano)
Dist:        2.07 mi (0:14:21)
Climbing:     786 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  243.1   420  W
Speed     3.9    8.7  23.6  mi/h
Slope    -6.0   6.57  23.3  %
HR        119  139.1   150  bpm
NP:261W IF:0.88 TSS:19 VI:1.07
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 8:52 AM
50 degF; 990 mbar
Blowing Cave Wall (Keel Mtn)
Dist:        0.30 mi (0:04:11)
Climbing:     309 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power     187  304.0   409  W
Speed     3.1    4.4   8.6  mi/h
Slope     8.6  19.91  26.8  %
HR        141  148.9   155  bpm
NP:311W IF:1.05 TSS:8 VI:1.02
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:03 AM
51 degF; 990 mbar
Blowing Cave Complete (Keel Mtn)
Dist:        3.83 mi (0:19:59)
Climbing:    1050 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  256.1   496  W
Speed     3.1   11.5  35.1  mi/h
Slope   -10.7   4.49  26.8  %
HR        126  141.7   155  bpm
NP:273W IF:0.92 TSS:28 VI:1.07
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:02 AM
51 degF; 990 mbar
Keel Backside (Keel Mtn - North)
Dist:        1.55 mi (0:14:57)
Climbing:     895 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  254.0   427  W
Speed     4.6    6.2  21.3  mi/h
Slope     1.7  11.20  17.4  %
HR        121  137.0   142  bpm
NP:257W IF:0.87 TSS:19 VI:1.01
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 10:27 AM
52 degF; 990 mbar
Keel Frontside (Keel Mtn - South)
Dist:        1.88 mi (0:16:00)
Climbing:     897 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  248.6   449  W
Speed     3.9    7.1  23.4  mi/h
Slope    -4.2   9.39  25.2  %
HR        123  134.0   142  bpm
NP:253W IF:0.85 TSS:19 VI:1.02
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 11:05 AM
45 degF; 990 mbar
Cecil Ashburne from Hwy 431 (east side)
Dist:        2.02 mi (0:10:47)
Climbing:     582 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power       0  276.4   604  W
Speed     0.0   11.3  24.1  mi/h
Slope    -0.6   5.47  12.6  %
HR        111  138.5   146  bpm
NP:287W IF:0.97 TSS:17 VI:1.04
168 lbs; 2/10/2013 12:25 PM
44 degF; 990 mbar

Now, the BBL videos from the attack zones and the climbs – in reverse order starting with the Bass Pro climb.

Mark and Kyle at the bottom of the bass pro climb (click to view the annotations)Mark and Kyle at the bottom of the bass pro climb (click to view the annotations)

Bass pro climb
Dist:        0.22 mi (0:02:31)
Climbing:     218 ft
          Min   Avg    Max
Power     124  349.7   582  W
Gravity   100  316.0   448  W
Speed     3.4    5.4  11.2  mi/h
Slope     3.1  18.05  33.2  %
Cadence    32   49.1   102  rpm
HR        133  164.7   178  bpm
NP:374W IF:1.27 TSS:7 VI:1.07
168 lbs; 2/9/2013 12:11 PM
58 degF; 990 mbar

Skyball out and back epic

This adventure started out on Christmas day when we began our annual trek north to Wisconsin to visit Kristine’s family and enjoy the winter wonderland of the northwoods of Wisconsin. For the past two years, I have left our house in the morning and biked north towards Wisconsin. About six hours later, Kristine has picked me up somewhere north of Cullman, and then we have finished the rest of the 18 hour drive overnight to arrive in Shell Lake by the next morning.

This year, there was a major storm system moving in from the Gulf of Mexico promising lots of rain for Alabama and a huge blizzard for Indiana. We were racing this storm. Everything looked perfect for us to stick to our plan since the system wasn’t supposed to be arriving until later in the evening — at which point we would have already made it to Chicago. My ride started out great with over 3 hours of overcast skies and upper 30s lower 40s temp. Then shortly after discovering the Emerald Lakes climbs and making it to the bottom of Skyball Mountain, it started to pour down rain and thunderstorm. My Garmin cut off unexpectedly as my power meter died and the Garmin struggled to find a signal. I lost all of the data except for the first 15 miles of the ride. Sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the source of the problem is when the power meter starts to give off goofy power meter readings, which confuses the Garmin and then causes it to crash. This has happened several times — all related to goofy (or missing) power meter readings. I’m pretty sure about that since I rode a long time in the rain yesterday but turned off the power meter on the Garmin, and the Garmin had no problems recording the entire 8 hour ride – so it’s not a problem with the Garmin and the rain. It’s a problem with bogus (or missing) power meter signal while the Garmin still is looking for a power meter.

Anyway, back to the ride at Christmas, I ended up riding the rest of the way to Cullman (about 2 hours) including the climb up Skyball Mountain in the pouring down rain and temp in the upper 30s. I was freezing, but I rode really, really hard to stay warm. Then in the process of coordinating the pick-up with Kristine at First Baptist Church Cullman (heavily damaged by April 27th tornado) well short (30 miles) of our original pick-up spot, I stopped and waited for Kristine. It only took her a few minutes because she had earlier started to back track on the route. Those few minutes were enough to make me so cold that I couldn’t stop shivering until I had dried off, changed clothes, heater blasting in the car, and driving up to the original gas station in Falkville where we were supposed to meet.

During this amazing awesome time of warming up, I tethered Kristine’s laptop to her phone and uploaded the ride to Strava discovering that all but the first 15 miles were lost. Initially, I was pretty upset — but then a few minutes later I resolved to do the ride again as an out/back ride from my house. The thought of that adventure was exciting enough to quash the sick feeling in my stomach of losing about 60 miles of data from an epic ride with new climbs and probably a few KOMs.

Yesterday was the culmination, two and a half weeks after the original ride, of that excitement/anticipation. The weather forecast called for fog in the morning and slight chance of rain in the afternoon. Instead, it stayed heavy wet fog all day (misty light rain) and then rained hard by the end of the ride after sunset. Fortunately, I turned off my power meter on my Garmin so that the same problem wouldn’t happen again with the Garmin unexpectedly powering off and losing ride data. But that means I only have power meter data for the first hour or so of the ride, and the latter part of that data is bogus as the power meter starting giving off much too high power readings for the effort I was putting out. That is when I decided to turn the power meter off. Unfortunately, I had to keep a ziplock bag over the Garmin for most of the ride, which kills the total elevation gain as the Garmin is slower in responding to elevation change — which doesn’t make too much of a difference when you are crawling up a climb, but it does affect how it reads the descents … meaning that smaller hills get flattened because the Garmin never records the negative change before you’ve already started up (or completely finished) the next hill.

There were two key things that I was anticipating on this ride: 1) the adventure of an out/back ride from Birmingham up and over Skyball 2) The emerald lakes climbs which I feel could be the steepest paved climbs in Alabama. The top video on this post is from that “steepest climb” on the return portion of the trip after climbing Skyball, changing a flat tire, and lots of other adventures about 95 miles into my ride. The next video below is the climb up the same ridge line near Emerald Lakes, but from the opposite side on the way out to Skyball. It also has some extended 20-25+% sections, but is more of a stair-stepper than the backside climb. Both videos are long, but if you click the “watch on youtube” button then you can click on the video bookmarks in the description to jump directly to interesting spots.

The driest part of the ride was climbing up Skyball on the way out as the clouds had lifted a bit, but by the time I had turned around in the valley on the other side to climb back up, it had started to rain again. Here’s a short video heading down towards the Warrior river with a view of the skyball ridgeline.

After climbing Skyball, I passed a hunter hunting from the roadside (I don’t think you’re supposed to do that). I also got a flat tire climbing back up Skyball Mountain, so I changed it at the top right next to the Tour de Cullman Skyball KOM finish line. The video below is me narrating the last part of the climb back up Skyball telling about my favorite Tour de Cullman finish (2011) and also discovering that I had a flat tire. Also, the two pictures are from the flat tire change.

A lot of water (and greasy mud) had accumulated on the wheelA lot of water (and greasy mud) had accumulated on the wheel
The tour de cullman Skyball KOM finish lineThe tour de cullman Skyball KOM finish line

I spent a lot of time on changing the flat tire making sure I cleaned out all the debris that accumulated in the tire because I still had almost 70 miles left to get home. Fortunately, the single tire change held all the way home (although it had developed another slow leak so I had to change it again last night after I got home). I stopped at Locust Fork to refuel, and got two 20 oz Pepsi’s and one 32 oz gatorade for a total of $3.50. That was a LOT of liquid sugar for not too much money! I ended up with the nutritional equivalent of a perfect tweet – consuming that plus 7 powergels plus 3 cliff bars for a total of about 2300 calories during the ride arriving home without bonking and having eaten everything I had taken with me.

Alabama won the football national championship on Monday. Here's the headline on Wednesday at the gas station in Locust Fork where I stopped to refuel.Alabama won the football national championship on Monday. Here’s the headline on Wednesday at the gas station in Locust Fork where I stopped to refuel.

Shortly after the Locust Fork stop, I turned around on AL-79 to head down to the Warrior River bridge to see if the climb from there to the top of Tucker Mountain would cross the Cat 3 threshold (it did). I also went hard to try to get the Tucker Mountain KOM (I did – but just barely – taking it from somebody named “No One” who had ridden from Huntsville to Birmingham … that ride was only 111 miles compared to my 135 mile out/back ride).

By the time I made it back down into more familiar territory, it was past sunset and pretty dark given the rain. I did get a couple more videos below that are somewhat interesting (tornado damage from a tornado on January 23rd, 2012. And also a video starting the climb back up red mountain (including near miss with car towards the beginning). The audio is really muddled on these because I think water got in the microphone port. After climbing Red Mountain, I put my blinky lights on and rode the rest of the way home in the dark, climbing up to the top of Vestavia Dr just as started to rain pretty hard. The last 6 miles or so were in pretty heavy rain as documented by the last video (iphone)