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Bridesmaid but never a bride

Yep, I went out yesterday and tried to take back the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment. As has been the case often recently, I came up just a tad bit short. It was great to get a personal record, but I missed the KOM by 1 measly second.

I’ll come back to that effort in another post. Today I’m going back in time a bit to another time when I was a bridesmaid. Or, I guess I should say a groomsman…

Yes, this time I came up short behind Christopher Uberti. He has raced for several continental pro and elite cycling teams. You may have seen him a few years in the SmartStop colors. Most recently you may have seen him doing yeoman’s work in the Athens Twilight criterium race.

Chris is one of those guys on Strava with a little PRO badge by his name.  You’ll see a few of these on the Strava leaderboards around Greenville, SC. I think it might be time for Mr. Hematocrit to pay this place a visit!

There are a number of professional riders that live in the area. However, Greenville for many years was the location for the USA Cycling Professional Road Racing Championships. Some of the times up and over Paris Mountain still refer back to Strava data uploaded from those races.

This segment isn’t one of those. It is somewhat unique in that it is one of the few segments I created myself. It is long enough, safe enough, and challenging enough to be a segment. It doesn’t hurt that it is relatively close to my home.

I enjoyed the KOM for a bit back in 2013 before Mr. Uberti showed up one day and crushed my time by about 16 seconds. It was just about this time I started seeing his times popping up on other Strava segments I enjoyed. This wasn’t the last one I would see fall to him.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 8.55.26 AMHere is the thing. I make getting this KOM a goal in my old man cycling world. Chris picks it up just out doing what he does. If you look at the ride where he claimed the top spot you will see he named it, “Tooling around.” On this ride he claimed three KOMs and a number of PRs.

I don’t be grudge these guys their KOMs. Frankly, I am glad there are some times posted by pros. It gives me a chance to see the speeds and efforts it takes to ride at that level.

However, I freely admit that when it comes to pro times on Strava, I feel no shame in cherry picking. I figure it is only fair to level the playing field and give us amateurs a chance on the leaderboard. Sometimes you do what you can to avoid having to catch another bouquet.

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Brainy brawn beats brawn

When publishing my last Strava Segment Series video, I was pretty happy with myself. I told the story of losing my KOM on a segment in Cleveland Park and then tying for it the following day. At that point, I didn’t see how anyone could go much below the 40 second time set by Nathan Race and myself. Well, the next day that record fell.

Ron Babington is there on the left.

Ron (left) helping his friend Matt attempt Everesting .

Ron Babington is a certified stud. You have to be when you do the Tour Divide on a single speed! I’ve also come across him helping a friend attempt to climb Mt. Everest on a bicycle. Okay, so the attempt was to climb the equivalent of the height of that peak in the Himalayas… but still, that’s a lot of suffering.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he would give me a run for my money on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment. However, I didn’t expect it to lose it by 5 seconds! Yep, Ron thrashed us by covering the .2 mile distance in 35 seconds.

I just had to take a look at his attempt and try to figure out how he pulled it off. This can be done by pulling up Strava and utilizing the Strava Effort Comparison feature that you find on each segment leaderboard page. It was easy to see that by the time we crested the initial kick about halfway through Ron had a 3 second gain on me. At that point, things kind of leveled off until the very end when it shows Ron picking up another second.

Click image to access Strava page.

Click image to access Strava page.

Well, he definitely schooled me on that one. That lead me to take a closer look at his effort. I could see that he averaged 784 watts. On my attempt with 40 seconds I averaged 901 watts. It was going to be really hard to overcome that. The only way I would be able to beat Ron would be to 1) become a monster able to average 1200 watts plus for 35 seconds, or 2) find out how I could go faster without using as many watts.

Then I noticed something. I entered the segment at around 24 mph. Ron hit the start at over 35 mph. While it would not explain the entire 4 seconds, it certainly helps explain that initial jump of 3 seconds and some of the lower average wattage. Momentum is a wonderful thing!

That raised another question. How did he do it? How did he get up to 35 mph in that short run up from the stop sign to the segment start point? You would have to ramp up your wattage pretty high to hit that and then you would be going right into the climb. You would think that would have led him to burn out more toward the end.

Then an idea hit me and I confirmed it by going back to trace Ron’s route on Strava. What he did was to come off Washington Street which would have given him more distance to build up speed. Plus, it is a natural ramp that would help him get up to speed without having to put out as much power. He was using gravity to help him gain momentum.

Now, all that does not explain the burst of power toward the end of his attempt. Gravity would definitely be working against him at that point and any momentum gained by his rolling start would have been scrubbed off yards before. That can only be chalked up to a hard man giving it a go when his legs are rocks and his lungs looking for that next gulp of oxygen!

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Bottom line is that Ron bested me with his brain and his brawn. The fastest person isn’t always the strongest, but when you combine strength with synapses… that is a hard man to best. So, kudos to you, Ron.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out there and give it a go. I figured Ron learned a little about how to attack the climb from my video. I can at least attempt to return the favor by learning from his Strava profile!

Strava gives us a chance to better ourselves and compete against our friends. That’s what makes it fun! That, and Ron’s cool facial hair.

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Now is the time to get your I Ride For jersey

The store is still open for you to place your order for the I Ride For ___ jersey and shorts. If we are able to get enough orders sooner than the deadline, we will go ahead and start the order before the May 31 deadline. We will then reopen the store with a deadline further out. So, if you want to have your kit sooner than later… now is the time to act!

We are not seeking to make any money off of these items. We are making them available for what it cost us. We simply want to make them available so that the message of the I Do It For Foundation can get out. That message? We want to empower passionate people to make a personal difference through fundraising.

It has always been our desire to make this about more than money. Yes, fundraising helps to meet the needs, but that show of support by placing on your jersey the name of someone who inspires you to act goes a long way to providing needed emotional support as well.

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That is why the I Ride For ____ jersey has a blank. You can show your support for someone you love or desire to encourage each time you ride your bicycle. Some folks write in a name while others have the name professionally sublimated. Either way, it is a great way to show you care by putting the name right by your heart.

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There is also a location on the back of the jersey for you to place the name of your Inspiration. Of course, the foundation itself was inspired by the life of Michael T. McCaskill and the organization moves forward to help perpetuate his memory. It is his inspiration that makes me wear I Ride for Mike.

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Who do you ride for? Why not let others know about that Inspiration? Why not encourage them each time you wear this gear?

Of course, we also invite you to check out the I Do It For Foundation. If you are considering a GoFundMe or other crowdsourcing mechanism, take a look at IDoItFor.org. Yes, we ask a little more of our Doers, but we also provide our service with no expenses so that 100% of what is raised goes to the need.

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Remembering the Assault

In honor of those poor souls suffering their ways up to the top of Mount Mitchell, I present these videos from my last attempt. Will I do it again? I don’t know.

Wow, how video technology has improved over the years. This video was recorded with an early generation of the Contour action camera. The date was nearly 5 years ago… June 2010.

I’ve already heard that there was an accident in the event that started this morning. That is one of the main reasons why I have stayed away from the event. The last time I attempted it, there were multiple opportunities to crash getting out of Spartanburg. That year it was also a logistical nightmare getting back off the mountain. It made for a very long day.

My hat (helmet?) off to all those who do this year after year. They are some hard men and women!

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Strava Segment: Woodland Way Sprint Climb

I could have headed over to Donaldson Center for the Tuesday Night World Championships or stayed home for the throw down on Watopia. Instead, I made my way to Cleveland Park to make an attempt at earning back my KOM on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment.

My secondary objective was to get some video of the attempt in order to create another installment of my YouTube Strava Segments series. The cameras were prepped and the lighting was great. So I had no doubt I’d get some some good video. Whether I would get the KOM was not so certain.

Woodland Way Sprint Climb is .2 miles long with a 3% average grade. That average is a bit deceitful when it comes to understanding how much that segment can hurt. If you divide the climb into two sections you find the first portion averages more like 6%. The second section even has some negative grade. This combination actually adds to the challenge.

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I rolled into the park feeling kind of fatigued. The night before I climbed on the trainer to help get in some miles for the $5000 fundraising campaign on Watopia. As I was spinning, I felt that my legs were very flat. I made an attempt on the Watopia climb and it was as if my legs were telling me to “Shut up, Jonathan.”

After several laps of the abbreviated park route due to bridge construction, I decided it didn’t matter how my legs felt. I was going to have to give it an attempt at some point. It was now or I might as well go home.

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“Pain is good. Pain means you are going fast.” This is what I told myself. “Your legs might feel tired, but you’ve got power. This is yours.” I picked up the pace and my confidence lifted with my cadence.

I hit the base of the climb in 53×11. The Felt surged forward and I could feel the power transferring to the rubber on the road. As I fought against the grade, there were times when the bicycle seemed to want to buck to the right or left. I worked to keep it going as straight as possible to avoid any waste of movement.

I had no idea what power I was putting out. I just went hard. With the top in sight the effort began to catch up with me. I did feel that fatigue, but what I felt beneath it was power. The training was making itself known. My legs were riding through it.

Then I crested the major part of the climb and now I had to deal with something else. While earlier I was fighting getting bogged down, now I was fighting to get power and speed from a more rapidly turning crank. The problem was it still wasn’t turning fast enough.

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The slow twitch muscle that helped me on the climb was now working against me. I couldn’t get my cadence up enough to take advantage of the negative to shallow grade. My wattage dropped and my speed increased, but not by as much as it could have. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “More powaaarrrr!”

As I crossed the line I was done. It wasn’t that I was gasping for air or felt nausea. It was that my legs felt like two sticks of wood. With the effort done, so were they. Had I been in a race, I would have been dropped right there.

It was with some surprise I arrived home to find I had indeed earned back my crown. However, it wasn’t an out-and-out victory. I had tied Nathan Race’s KOM of 40 seconds.

I’ll take it! A PR and sharing the KOM isn’t so bad. Yes, I do believe it can be done faster. However, I’m not sure I could get the speed I would need to make the jump to 39 seconds. Frankly, I think this one will stand for a bit.

That is just fine with me! My legs aren’t ready to go out there to defend it.

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The shorter they are the harder they fall

Got another alert from Strava last night. Seems I just lost another KOM. This one has me concerned. I’m not sure I’ll be getting this one back.

The segment is the Woodland Way Sprint Climb… or is it the Woodland Way Burst? This is an example of one of the annoying things about Strava. These two segments are basically the same thing with the later being a bit shorter than the former. There is also a Woodland Sprint Interval which is shorter still. I removed my 7 second KOM from that leaderboard because I realize there was absolutely no way I went up that segment at 56 mph!

That leads us to a second thing you have to keep in mind when you are looking at the leaderboards with your mouth dropped open as you consider some of the times posted. In some cases you may even think that someone rode through the segment in their car. However, that isn’t always the case, and the shorter the segment the more likely you’ll see these wildly varying times.

The point is, it takes time and distance to make up a segment. Time is measured by the distance. Gimpy GPS data can lead to suspect time. My 7 second climb up the first part of Woodland Way is a perfect example. The more real estate Strava has to work with, the more accurate the time will be. Throw is the fact that Woodland Way is heavily covered in foliage and Woodland Sprint Interval can be a Strava tracking nightmare.

I had this confirmed from Strava when I once created a segment called Wellington Wall. I was frustrated because people were actually getting the KOM (which is a tough one to claim!) by simply riding down a perpendicular street. I went to Strava to see if I could find out what was going on and they let me know that the segment was too short. Also, it was in a wooded area that at times led to errant GPS readings.

So, I went back and increased the length of the segment. It is still a tough one with an average 17% grade! However, there are no longer any false-positive KOMs.

For this reason, I’m putting my focus on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb. While the Woodland Sprint Interval segment was the first created of the three, it can’t be trusted to be an accurate leaderboard. Woodland Burst is longer than the Interval, but I figure if you get the Woodland Way Sprint Climb, you are probably going to land the Burst anyway.

I am going to give it a try, but I’m not holding out much hope on this one. I know how hard I’ve gone up this segment. That one second looms large!

That is the other thing about short segments. The shorter the distance the less you have to work with to gain speed. The amount of speed you need to shave off a second grows each time a rider chops it down. At some point, you reach the lowest time humanly possible.

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When I took the KOM back in 2012, I crossed the segment in 41 seconds at 25.9 mph. I had to put out 710 watts to make it happen. Yesterday, Nathan Race knocked out a 40 second time at 26.6 mph. Strava shows he averaged 861 watts for the climb with a max of 1404 watts!

It doesn’t matter if Nathan did it in 40.9 seconds and I do it in 40.1 seconds. It still shows up as 40 seconds on Strava. Best case scenario there is that I manage a tie.

To get down in the 39 second range will require me to average over 27.5 mph. That will require quite an increase in power output! The closest segment I’ve done recently to this is the Walker Wimps. It is the same distance, but most of the climb is at the end instead of the start — kind of the opposite of my target segment. Also the average grade is 7% while Woodland Way Sprint Climb is 3%.

The question becomes… “Can I put out around 900 watts for 39 seconds?” My lungs and legs are screaming at me just thinking about it! However, I’m thinking that is what it is going to take if I’m to reclaim the crown.

Here is my one hope. You see, I’ve never actually set out to claim this segment. I landed the KOM back when I was attempting to get the KOM for the Cleveland Loop. That means I was not going all out up the climb because I was having to conserve a bit for the best time over a 2 mile effort. I landed the Cleveland Loop KOM that day with a time of 6:15 and then reclaimed it at 6:05, but I’m pretty certain I’ve lost it for good to Christopher Uberti (a continental professional who races for Smart Stop) who owns the KOM at 5:02.

Well, stay tuned… I’ll go for it and hopefully won’t die trying!

UPDATE: So what happened when an attempt was made to take back the KOM?

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Miles for money

I know I keep writing about Zwift. As soon as they stop doing things that give me a reason to write, I will probably stop. Today is not that day.

As a company, one of the things that has impressed me about Zwift is their savvy use of the social aspect of cycling. An important component of the cycling community are charity rides and causes. They’re not waiting until they have the product complete. Even now in the beta testing period they have used their program to show their support for a charity ride.

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This means a lot to me because of my own involvement in using cycling for a cause with the I Do It For Foundation. So, when I saw that Zwift was encouraging riders to download the promotional jersey for opportunity to raise $5000 for the Tour De Pier and fight cancer, I knew I would need to log in and do some laps!

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Here’s what Zwift has to say about it…

Make Your Miles Count! Today May 9th thru May 16th, you can join in and help the Zwift community raise funds for cancer charity. All you have to do is unlock the  Tour de Pier kit in game by pressing “p” and enter promo code “TDP2015″. While you are wearing this jersey your miles will count towards our ultimate goal of 50,000 miles. If we reach that goal Bank of America will $5,000 dollars to Tour de Pier! So lets unlock those jerseys and Ride On!

So, what is Tour de Pier? It isn’t technically a bicycle ride… at least not the way you might think. It is a stationary bicycle event raising money for Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach, Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and Uncle Kory Foundation (brain cancer). Participants line up on stationary cycles overlooking Manhattan Beach.

When you understand that, this seems to be a charity event tailor made for Zwift! So, if you are a Zwift’er, let me encourage you to grab your promotional jersey and join us in knocking out those 50,000 miles. I took are of 58 of them yesterday… we’ve got a few more to go!

Today Zwift will be posting their first update on the Zwift Facebook page with how many miles the Zwift community has ridden so far in their Tour de Pier kits. My guess the Zwift community is going to rise to the occasion and Bank of America will be handing over the cash! I plan to do my part.

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Play-by-play of Friday Training Race

This will be a short blog post. I’m letting the video do the talking. After last Friday’s Zwift Training Race on Watopia, I wrote a post about it. This time, I figured it would be fun to let everyone see it. Of course, this isn’t like a Tour De France production! It is told completely from my point-of-view.

Won’t be able to join the guys next week. Have to travel on business. I’ve come to enjoy these competitions and though I’ve never met the guys with whom I’m racing, I’ve come to consider them riding buddies. It would be cool to someday have a Zwift Live Meetup.

Until then… I’ll see you guys on the island. Ride On!

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Are you willing to do what it takes?

The title of my Strava activity for Tuesday’s World Championships was, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I’m not getting ready to go back on that by discussing it here. However, its time to use the blog as a catharsis to get rid of some bad mojo. So, bear with me!

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Here is the deal. I’m riding pretty well for early in this year. I’m seeing my functional threshold power increase and I’m sure I’m ready to take it to some long charity rides. However, I have an Achilles heel.

When it comes to racing (whether on the real road TNWC or Zwift’s virtual one), my FTP isn’t helping me much. Why? Well, you see, in racing no one just gets in a rhythm and rides that way to the end. Racing really is all about surges.

So, here I am trying to stay protected from the wind, but still stay up front in a race. The field begins to thin into a long line as the pace picks up. A break of three goes off the front. I wait. One by one the riders ahead of me move off like we are on a rotating pace line. Now I am on the front.

Suddenly, there is an attack of one rider, then two, and a third joins in an attempt to bridge over to the three already up the road. I have a choice to make. Do I rotate off the front and let the field pull me up to the forming break, or do I take matters into my own hands and follow?

For the sake of illustration, lets say I decide to jump on the wheel of the third rider and allow those attackers to help bring me up to the riders ahead. Well, two things are going to happen… 1) we are going to make it up to the break and then another scenario presents itself, or 2) as I grab the wheel going past me the field recognizes the threat and accelerates to neutralize the attack.

Either way, none of this takes place at a constant power output. Now, suppose I make it up to the break, but it becomes disorganized. After being away for a few minutes, the field behind gets organized to bring us back, or a new batch of riders attacks from the field to bridge up to us.

I’ve put out an effort to get up in the break. Just as I’m starting to get my heart rate under control, I’m faced with a new threat and a new need to ratchet up the power. This happens multiple times within the race.

Even if you make the decision to sit in the field (which I find it very hard to do), you can’t totally escape these surges. Often the field is like a rubber band. A movement starts at the front and everyone surges to release the tension being created as the front stretches away from the back. Then the front slows as the threat is neutralized or allowed to break away. The rear then collapses into the center. Only to have this happen again and again until a result is determined.

So, how do you prepare for this? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen by just going out and riding your bike for hours and hours on end. It doesn’t happen by going out and doing 20 minute time trials at your functional threshold power.

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90 min. 2 x [3 x 3 min. @ PI (3 min. RBI)(5 min RBS)] with chain falling off

How do you prepare? Intervals. You go out and do short bursts of power for one to five minutes. You rest for a minute or two and then engage in the next burst of pain. You do this until you are sick of them.

That is my problem. I’m loving riding my bicycle right now. I’m feeling strong. I could go out and do a time trial and possibly get a personal best. However, put me in a criterium, or even a road race, and I am toast.

However, I have not done a single interval training session. The result is that early in a race I can ride like I’m going to rule the field, but when the surges begin and I have to react to one or two attacks… I get ruled by the field!

Yes, a little bit of patience and correct reading of the tactics around me would definitely allow me to last longer, but I would only end up being field fodder when it really mattered. Yes, I need those things, but ultimately I’m going to have to face the training demons — intervals.

But here is the question… Do I care? Do I care enough about finishing well in what amounts to be a glorified shop ride that I am willing to put myself through that discomfort? Why can’t I just gain that ability by participating? Why can’t I just ride laps on Watopia going for jersey’s every now and again?

Oh, you’re still reading? I told you that this was a catharsis for me. This blog is more me talking to myself than to you. However, if you are new to cycling — especially competitive amateur cycling — I hope you will understand the truth of my words.

Intervals aren’t sexy. They are only fun for the cross fit riders of bicycles. However, if you want to be competitive and not just be field fodder, you are going to have to do intervals.

The question remains, “Are you willing to do what it takes?”

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Do it for someone you love!

It has been awhile since I have published a post about the I Do It For Foundation. I’ll be working up an update on where things stand soon, but I am excited to announce that we are making the I Ride For _____ kits available to anyone who would like to purchase one. Originally, they were available only to people participating in I Do It For Foundation campaigns. However, the purpose of the foundation is to help people show support for others. One way to do that is to get the kits on as many cyclists as possible!

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The jerseys are designed to allow you to personalize sections of the front and rear pocket panel. My jersey reads, “I Ride For Mike.” Your jersey will come blank for you to either write in or have a name sublimated into the provided area. All items are “race cut” and if you are looking for a more relaxed fit, consider going up a size if you normally wear a “club cut” jersey.

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The bib shorts have been some of the most comfortable I’ve ever owned. The fabric is quality and the chamois is very comfortable even on long rides either on the road or on the trainer. They are a great addition to the I Ride For jerseys.

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Those interested in shorts have an option as well. Not as long as the bibs, these shorts use the same fabric and chamois as the bibs. These are not “charity event” products, but rather race quality design and construction.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT GETTING IN ON THIS CUSTOM ORDER.

Note: this custom order window closes May 31. If demand is high, this order
could close sooner and will reopen for another 30 days.

Of course, don’t forget that you can turn your next cycling event into an I Ride For ____ campaign. In the past, I’ve used the Hincapie Gran Fondo as a personal fundraiser. Any cycling event can be used (any event for that matter) as an I Do It For event.

Show your support for someone you love… and for the I Do It For Foundation. Get your kit today!