Riding to the watts

My friend Kirk Flinte threw down the challenge last week when he climbed the Furman side of Paris Mountain in 11:37. I don’t know if I’ll be able to challenge that mark. It is nearly 30 seconds faster than my best time up the winding road. Still, it is worth it to have a goal.

Before I can set beating Kirk as a goal, I have to beat my own personal best up the mountain. Last year I made it to the top in 12:04. I was using a computer to find an average speed that I figured I needed to maintain and tried to hold it up to the top. It wasn’t an exact science and I found it hard to pace myself with speed.

One of the best purchases I have made in understanding how I ride is my Quarq CinQo power meter. It tells me the truth about my ability to move the bike regardless of how I feel. It also gives me steady, real time data that helps me pace myself much more efficiently than with heart rate or speed.

I put it to practice on Tuesday evening. I left home and easily pedaled my way over Altamont from the State Park side. It was neat seeing the various types of riders out on the road — from couples leisurely pedaling along to racer types zipping down the mountain in a tucked position. The best thing? They all waved!

Once to the top I started down. It gave me an idea. Any volunteers to strap my camera to their helmet and follow me down the Furman side? I’m serious. It would be really neat to have on the site. I thought about following in a car, but I don’t think a car could keep up!

Anyway, back to this post…

I weighed myself before leaving. I weighed in at 172 pounds with all my gear on. My bike with tool bag, power meter, and computer weighs in at an even 17 pounds. I left my bottles at the top of the road to lighten things a bit.

My goal was not to go for the fastest time. It was to try to average 300 watts for the entire climb. It wasn’t a matter of thinking I couldn’t do more. It was just I wanted to get a baseline for future attempts. I figured that was a nice round number to start with.

Paris Mountain climb 02.10.2009

Paris Mountain climb 02.10.2009

It was hard at first. I wanted to go much faster in the beginning. Still, I held it at around 300 watts. Obviously, I couldn’t hold it there on the nose and at times I would pop up around 340 or more watts. Turns out the hardest spots were where there was a flatter grade. I had to drastically increase my cadence to bring the watts up to 300.

Another time I paused just enough to reach down and tighten my shoe. If you look at the graph you can see the spot about half way up where the cadence and power drops. A couple of other times I saw my wattage slip and I reacted sending the numbers up into the 400 range. Finally, on The Wall, I just let it go. I had no idea what watts I was getting because I wasn’t looking at the computer. I figured I would get what I would get and I’d find out later.

Turns out on that last stretch I slowly increased the wattage up to 612 watts. Overall I ended up with a 318 watt average — pretty close to my goal. I wonder how many seconds I lost when I tightened my shoe?

Without any plans for trying to get a good time, I managed to land a 12 minutes and 14 seconds climb (my Garmin said 12:13 – my WKO+ says 12:14). Better yet, once I caught my breath on the way down the other side, I was feeling great. My recovery had me ready to turn around and go try it again!

So, I’m still a ways from Kirk’s time. However, I have a good baseline to build from. It is just a matter of finding the proper pacing up the mountain. In case you are interested, here is the data from the lap.

Duration: 12:14
Work: 233 kJ
TSS: 26.8 (intensity factor 1.146)
Norm Power: 321
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: 3.48%
Pa:HR: 14.32%
Distance: 2.19 mi
Elevation Gain: 792 ft
Elevation Loss: 9 ft
Grade: 6.8 % (783 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 612 317 watts
Heart Rate: 138 192 182 bpm
Cadence: 8 103 73 rpm
Speed: 2.5 16.3 10.7 mph
Pace 3:40 24:08 5:35 min/mi
Altitude: 1162 1948 1551 ft
Crank Torque: 0 715 379 lb-in

I’m coming to get you, Kirk 🙂