Tag Archives: Paris Mountain

Mid-life crisis

I think I’m entering a mid-life crisis. No, I did not buy a sports car or start styling a comb over. However, I do think I’m understanding more what it means to be at that stage in life. My relationship with the bicycle explains it.

I don’t think a mid-life crisis is so much a particular age as much as a stage in life where people find themselves “caught in between.” As I started out on my ride yesterday ruminating over the jumbled thoughts and emotions in my mind, that was the conclusion I reached. It best describes how I feel.

It isn’t just the bicycle… that is the least of it. Here I am as a middle manager. I still believe in the mission of the university where I serve, but I don’t really see a path of advancement from my current role. It has been exciting starting Worthwhile and watching it grow over the years. However, now it seems that I’m more of an observer than an active participant as I trust its growth to more knowledgeable and experienced team members. The I Do It For Foundation is a tool waiting to take off, but I lack the time and resources I really need to devote to it to help it grow.

A mid-life crisis is like being stuck in one of those Pacific doldrums. That place where the wind stops blowing and the waves disappear. You might be moving with a current, but it is imperceptible.

There was a time when the bicycle became my outboard motor. Getting out on the bicycle and pushing the watts would awaken energy and give me something for which to aim. That energy would carry over to my personal and work life.

However, as I mounted the bicycle yesterday, I sensed that “caught in the middle” feeling. I only had a small amount of time to ride. Even if I had more time to ride, what difference would it make? For what was I doing this? All I needed to do is have 30 minutes or so of exercise to keep myself healthy. The old days of training for an event are long gone.

So, I found myself rolling down the old familiar roads that I have ridden hundreds of times before. I almost felt myself tear up. Not tears of sadness, but of frustration.

With that attitude I found myself at the base of Altamont Road. I put it in the big ring and started the climb. My thought was just to let the frustrations out. I envisioned myself riding to failure and collapsing in a sobbing mess just over halfway.

By the top of the tower segment I felt surprisingly good. I slid under 5 minutes at the halfway point. Reason had returned and the old calculating nature kicked in. I knew I would blow on The Wall if I kept this up. I shifted to the inside ring and focused on my cadence. If I paced this right, I could beat my time of 12:39 from a week ago.

From that point until the end, I wasn’t thinking of my psyche. I was just focused on following the terrain and trying to keep my wattage as high as my physique would allow. Then about halfway up The Wall, I stood and let my pent up feelings flow to my pedals.

I stopped the Garmin at 12:04. I had crushed my earlier 2016 time by over half a minute. I rolled from the “You Made It!” line realizing that my body was actually as strong as it has been for the last several years. I was less than 15 seconds away from my fastest Strava time and just a half minute slower than my fastest time ever set about a decade ago.

You would think that effort would have reawakened something in me. I admit there was an evaluation of where I could have possibly picked up the seconds I would need to get a Strava PR. However, that was quickly followed by, “Why?” What was the purpose in that?

I still feel caught in the middle. It seems that the currents of the different parts of my life keep fighting each other refraining me from being able to gain momentum in any of them. I start to feel like a jack of all trades and master of none.

Anybody else out there understand how I’m feeling? Anyone out there ever faced your mid-life crisis and came out swinging? Anyone have a Corvette they want to sell?

Time or Scenery

Yesterday there was a Zwift race at 1:30 EDT. My Team Experimental One was going to be racing. I hated to miss it, but because it is in the middle of the day it cuts right into my afternoon work schedule. It means that most weeks I can’t do it. However, we were going to take a “team photo”, so I took a late lunch and hopped on the trainer for a couple of minutes.

After watching the guys roll off from the start, I headed back to the office. As I drove through the beautiful fall weather (mid-70s and sunny), I had a battle start waging in my mind. There would be another race that evening. Still pumped from seeing the huge roll-off from the line on the afternoon race, I was feeling the pull to jump back on the trainer for a six o’clock event.

The thing was, I had made my plans to ride on the road that evening. The weather is absolutely stunning and the days will soon be gone where there is enough light after work for riding. Make miles while the sun shines!

By the time I left work, my mind was made up. I was going to go climb Paris Mountain. If I left at 6 p.m., I would be able to get in an hour before the sun started to fade. It would also be interesting to see how 20 miles on the road would compare to 20 miles on Zwift’s Richmond course.

The ride turned out to be great! Altamont Road, which runs along the upper ridge of Paris Mountain and was featured in the USA Cycling National Road Race Championships for seven years, is being newly paved. Most of the sections are done. So, the ride was smooth and fast. Well, the road was fast… I don’t know if I was!

I met a rider I had not known before and Brock and I enjoyed the descent from the top and then turned around to climb back up the famous 2.1 mile “Furman Side” of the mountain. We talked along the way and admired the scenery looking out toward the Appalachians. I was glad I had chosen the road!

So, how did the two rides compare? I looked at this on-the-road ride and compared it with a Zwift ride of similar length where I felt that I was giving the same level of effort. Here is a snapshot of the two rides linked to the Strava activities.

Paris Mountain over and back from home.

Paris Mountain over and back from home.

Two laps of Richmond on a TT bike with only one hard lap

Two laps of Richmond on a TT bike with only one hard lap

So, I immediately noticed the difference in the “suffer score.” Everything else seemed to be pretty close — other than the elevation climbed! Also, the feeling of effort at the conclusion of my road ride was one of much more fatigue.

I decided then to bring out a recent Zwift effort where I recalled having a feeling of the same level of fatigue. It was an effort where I first tried out the TT bike on Zwift. This time I was on Watopia. That one hurt! How would it compare?

TT ride on Watopia

TT ride on Watopia

Ah, this one came out closer. I rode for 13 more miles and about 15 minutes longer. However, the road ride had several stops where Brock and I talked. It also had more downhill than Zwift. What I mean is you have to work more on Zwift to get your speed on the downhill than you do on the road. Of course, looking at the Max Speeds, they are all pretty close to the same. Those stops would also have an effect on my power averages since I didn’t stop the Garmin — so I got a few 0’s added into the average!


What is my conclusion? I really think it comes down to Time and Scenery. If I have the time to get out on the road and ride, it is definitely the way to go. However, especially in the winter months when the days are so short, it is pretty clear that Zwift is — while maybe not as good as the road — a great option for keeping your fitness and also enjoying the social aspects of cycling.

How slow can you go?

Wednesday’s ride wasn’t for reaching some goal. It wasn’t me trying to increase my fitness. It was a ride just to get away.

I struggle sometimes when life seems to be piling up on me. I know this happens to most everyone, but we all deal with it differently. I get almost paralyzed.

It is hard for me to concentrate. I find myself just staring at the task I need to accomplish. Of course, it doesn’t help anything to just stare! Reason knows that the best thing I could do is to just start. Emotion just keeps staring.

I have found at times like these that the bicycle is great therapy. There have been many times I’ve left for a ride under these clouds and returned with a sunny disposition. More times than not I also return with a solution to some roadblock I’m facing.


I set out in search of that relief. While on Tuesday night I focused on riding with a high cadence, for this ride I just focused on going slow. Low cadence doesn’t always mean you are pushing a big gear and going fast. It can also mean you are just putting along taking in what is around you.

Wondering how long it would take me to climb Paris Mountain at that pace, I started climbing the Furman side of Altamont. I’m so used to going hard up that climb I had to work to hold back.

It gave me a chance to look around at things and notice some characteristics of the road I hadn’t really paid attention to in the past. It also freed my mind to think of blessings I have in my life. It was a pleasant 20 plus minutes.

11733970_10155852982580650_838457357_oI woke up this morning in a better frame of mind — until I looked at Stava and noticed that John James had taken the KOM on Walker Wimps.


Tour of Confusion

After basically spending my week on Zwift’s Watopia, I was looking forward to getting outside for my weekly Saturday morning excursion with the guys. The only thing I was not looking forward to was the 2,500 feet of climbing we typically do over the 28 mile route. I could only hope it wouldn’t be a slugfest at the numerous sprint zones along the way.

I pulled into the shop to find Luis, Matt, and Art just arriving. There were also two other guys I had not met before; Mitch and Adam. We waited for a few minutes to see if anyone else would show. While waiting, we discussed the plans for the day.

Only Art and Luis seemed to have a strong desire to ride a certain route. So, we all decided to repeat last Saturday morning’s route with a little alteration on the other side of Paris Mountain. With that all decided it was time to execute.

Matt and I took the front and we headed out talking as we moved along on a beautiful morning. It was a little humid, but there was also a breeze and the sun was still low enough that it wasn’t using the humidity to boil our already sweating skin. It was going to be a good ride!


The first part of the ride takes you along the base of Paris Mountain. There are no large climbs, but there are numerous rollers that can have a sting if you take them fast enough. Thankfully, I didn’t think we were setting too hard of a pace.

Then we reached the smooth tarmac of Parker Road and we headed up what is called the Evangelical Climb due to a camp along the road. I don’t think I have ever attempted this segment at full gas. It is deceptive in that it appears you could fly along it, but you gain over 130 feet over the mile distance.

It was here I noticed Mitch starting to wain. Everyone else was tapping out a tempo that suited each individual and they were all moving away from the slower rider. So, I backed off and allowed myself to get overtaken.

Mitch was riding a new Giant bicycle with road disc brakes. It was the first time I had ridden with anyone who had a full on road setup with disc brakes. I asked him if his name was Mitch. He replied in affirmative with somewhat of a surprise as if to say, “How did you know?” I told him I had heard the guys in the shop talking about his new ride.

We continued along until we came to the first direct turn since we had been dropped by the others. They weren’t there waiting for us. So, I led Mitch off of Parker onto Phillips Trail.

Phillips Trail is currently packed dirt and gravel as it awaits resurfacing. It makes it a nice diversion from the normal asphalt, but it also has some biting little rises in it. I knew it would take some time for the two of us to make it. I was hoping the guys would be waiting for us as we intersected Patrol Club Road.

They weren’t there. “Man,” I said to Mitch. “I can’t believe they didn’t wait for us!” Surely they would be at the next stop sign. So, we pushed on along the long stretch of Pilot Road to Old Buncombe Road. They just had to be there.

I looked at my phone. There was a text message. “Where did you go?” Matt was asking.

“I had to drop back with Mitch.” I replied. “Pick a stop sign and wait for us. We are just now on Buncombe.” I put the phone back in my pocket and began to pull Mitch in my draft toward the next stop sign at Poinsett Highway.

Ahead I could see some riders. That might be our missing comrades. So, I put my head down a bit and picked up the pace. However, as we got closer, I could see it was a different group.

Once again I pulled out my phone. There was a new message from Matt. It had me staring at the phone in disbelief.

“We are at Philips and Patrol. We will head to Buncombe.”

I then replied to Matt as a plan began to form in my mind.

“How did that happen? We turned right onto Phillips and I never saw you. Just keep riding and we will meet you at Tandem.”

My thought was that I could take Mitch on a short cut and cut off the loop that would take the route out to the Green Valley Country Club. I could do this by turning off of Roe Ford Road onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The SRT and the full route would then meet up again at the crepe and coffee shop named Tandem. This way the guys could get in their full miles and Mitch could take his time and get ready for the push back to the shop.

Then something unexpected happened. I pulled out my phone to see Matt’s reply to my message. Mitch and I were now rolling peacefully along the bike path. That peace was shattered when I noticed my message to Matt was hung.

The Message app had not sent it. I closed and reopened the app and all my messages were gone! ALL of them. So, I rebooted the phone and by the time I got the new message composed and sent, Mitch and I were almost in TR proper.

Then came Matt’s reply. “Ha. We are now at Old Parker and Buncombe. We will meet you at Pilot and Old Buncombe. We never turned on Phillips.” Well, that wasn’t going to work.

I tried to salvage my idea. “Sorry. My text messaging crashed. We are on the SRT headed to Travelers Rest. Keep riding along the normal route at a good speed. We will go to Tandem and then backtrack on the route. We will meet you then.”

Mitch and I passed Tandem and then headed along the route as I mentioned. I decided to keep the guys up-to-date with where we were so we could make a proper junction. Then I got another text from Matt.

“We are at Tandem.”


“So you guys did not continue on the normal route? Mitch is having trouble staying up. He would not be able to maintain the pace. We are headed back to you on Sweetgum and McElhaney.”

Finally, we were all back together and we decided to take the direct route to the base of Paris Mountain. A couple of the guys had time constraints and we had already gotten too far behind the clock. Not everyone was happy with it, but we had to do what we had to do.

We were all looking forward to the top.

We were all looking forward to the top.

At the base of Altamont Road, Luis decided to roll on in a different direction to get some more miles. He would later return to the mountain and cross over it to the shop and his waiting truck. The rest of us headed up the 2.2 miles climb.

I was rolling talking with Matt and noticed on the water tower section that I was still riding in my 53 though I was all the way up on my 32 cog. I decided to ride the rest of the way in the big ring. It would give me a challenge.

The slower pace in the first part of the climb had me feeling a little spritely for the last third or so. Another rider who was just descending the mountain when we turned up it had joined us and he was just on Matt’s wheel as I looked back to see a gap had formed. I couldn’t help it. I just had to keep him behind me.

From that point on I rode pretty much at around 350 to 400 watts with that rider slowly pulling himself towards me. Then right before the wall as he was about to make contact, I stood and pushed to the top. I could see his shadow disappear from behind me and I cross the line with a few seconds to spare.

As he crested I called out, “Good job!” And he replied with, “Thanks for the extra motivation!” as he kept rolling. I stopped to wait for my crew.

Matt came up. Then Art followed. Art said he was just going to roll on. He was supposed to meet his wife and extend his ride.

Then Adam came and went. Matt then said that he would need to roll. Mitch had not yet arrived.

I headed down to find him. I did as he was suffering through the dreaded section I call the “Box of Death” (named after a box at the top of the section where I typically begin to feel the full brunt of an effort up Altamont). He was standing along side the road.

I encouraged him to mount up again and turn the pedals just enough to keep the bike moving. There was no need to kill himself on the climb. I’d stay with him.

During conversation along the route, I had learned that this was his first real ride on the Giant and that he had only ridden the shop ride twice. Both other attempts had been the traditional Hour of Power route. Something dawned on me.

“So,” I slowly said. “This is your first climb of Paris Mountain?”

Wow, poor Mitch and his Giant were getting a baptism by fire! All the more reason I wanted to help him to keep the pedals turning. I was offering words of encouragement and finding an excuse here or there to stop.

Mitch crests the top of Paris Mountain for the first time!

Mitch crests the top of Paris Mountain for the first time!

Finally, we made it.

The way back to the shop was uneventful. Where Mitch had to struggle on the climb, he seemed very comfortable descending on his machine. Before we knew it, we were standing drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying his accomplishment.

“I’m sorry I held you guys up,” Mitch said. “No.” I replied. “I’m glad you came. Otherwise all we would have done was what we always do.” I let him know I was happy to experience his adventure with him.

And I meant it.

Down? Do.

I got home from work and stood silently in my bedroom. It was a moment of decision. Was I going to ride or not? For the first time in awhile it wasn’t that I had something else to do, it was that I actually felt an aversion to putting on my gear and slogging out into the humidity… and for what?

I suited up.

When I first started out, it seemed that my fears were realized. My legs felt heavy and the air which was threatening rain was heavier around me. Mentally, I found myself staring at my stem and I was hardly out from my driveway.

Still, I decided to ride on. I know you will think it is silly, but I had joined the Strava climbing challenge and only had a few more days to get the meters necessary to claim the little virtual badge. An over and back of Paris Mountain would bring me about one ride away from the goal.

Down Wade Hampton and onto Chick Springs I rode. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t feeling very motivated, I wasn’t pushing hard. By the time I reached Rutherford Road, I was starting to at least feel that the ride would not be a waste of my time.

Dodging through the traffic at the Piney Mountain Road intersection, I gave a medium effort up the east side. Cresting the top, I was once again feeling down. The effort made me feel slow. It made me feel old. I was feeling sorry for myself.

Then I crossed State Park Road and headed up Altamont. Ahead I could see the blinking light of another rider. He looked an awful lot like a rabbit to me.

Suddenly my mind shifted away from myself to the target ahead. I didn’t take off after him, but I did settle into a pace that had me gaining. I figured I would catch him on The Wall.

Sure enough, I was on his wheel as we both came out of the saddle to keep our bikes moving up the short but steep grade. I noticed that he was wearing a full Strava kit. The jersey was green and the shorts black. Actually, it was a nice design. I’d wear one… if I didn’t have to pay for it.

We exchanged breathless hellos and I was going to go along with him, but he seemed to be hurting from the effort. I rolled easy for a bit, but then kept going as he lagged behind. It was getting late and the rain seemed eminent. I wanted to get home.

However, I had forgotten my morose thoughts. My muscles were now loose and the humidity didn’t seem so oppressive. Rather, it felt like it was playing a part in loosening my earlier tight and sore muscles.

I found myself turning off of Altamont onto Lake Circle. Here I was adding to my ride. I told myself it would help add extra meters to my climbing goal.

By the time I was reaching the last straight toward the Paris Mountain KOM, I was smiling to myself. I was feeling much stronger and the rhythm of my spinning legs was keeping time for each breath. My body was doing its own thing and my mind was just the passenger.


Even Tower Road didn’t seem to bother me now. I stopped at the top and took a picture. Taking time to reflect on what had happened to this point, I thought to myself, “You suffer when you are not motivated so that when you are motivated you can better enjoy the ride.” Avoiding the bike when you don’t feel it, only sets you back for those times when you want to let it loose!

Descending the Furman side was a joy… if anything, it was cold! The sweat from the climbing effort was now a cooling agent with the lower mountain temperatures and wind from the descent. By the time I reached the bottom, I was ready to warm up again.

On the way down, I saw two riders nearing halfway. Farther down the road, I had passed three other riders. Those last three were just low enough on the climb to make me wonder if I might be able to join them.

I quickly sped to the finish and then turned to begin my ascent. My mind wasn’t on much of anything other than seeing if I could catch those guys. As I came around each bend in the road, I would look ahead to see if I could glimpse my herd of rabbits.

Finally, just after passing halfway, I could see a lone straggler from the group. I hoped I could perhaps catch him before the top. At first I gained on him, but I think he realized I was there and started to pick up his pace. I knew if he reached the final grunt to the end before me I would just have to let him go.

Sure enough, when I reached the base, I saw him about halfway ahead. He was standing and giving some effort toward the finish. “Not tonight,” I thought. No need to bury myself just to get around him.

As it was I reached the top just as the guys were regrouping. It wasn’t a great time for me (13:27), but I felt good about the climb. I waved as I came by them as they were turning to make a run down the road they just climbed.

I then made one more climb up Tower Road. At the top, I came upon the two cyclists that I initially saw on my descent. Approaching them I said, “Wow, it is humid out, isn’t it!” They affirmed my weather announcement. I then started to coast toward the road out.

“Hey,” came the voice behind me. “Are you Jonathan Pait?” I said I was. “I was just telling my son about a video you made of the climb up Paris Mountain, and wouldn’t you know it, here you are.” He went on to say he recognized my voice from the commentary.

We chatted some about segments and various riders in the area. Then he said something that made me feel a bit awkward. “Your videos got me from the mountain bike to the road bike.” I didn’t know how to respond to that and so I mumbled something about how I started out on mountain bikes as well.

We parted after a bit more chatting and I rolled away. I admit I write this blog for me even if no one else reads it. It scratches that writing itch I’ve had since junior high. However, to have someone tell me that this exercise was an encouragement to them was a real shot in the arm!

It was hard not to have a smile on my face as I sped toward home. It was no longer about motivation or a lack thereof. It was now all about the ride.

And it was good.

Strava Segment: Paris Mountain

When it comes to Strava segments, Paris Mountain is iconic. As I have ridden about capturing video for these installments this is the one I wanted to do first, but the one I feared to do most. Finally, I just had to decide that if it was going to happen I couldn’t wait until the perfect time. No attempt up the mountain is perfect because I always want to climb it faster.

The Paris Mountain segment is what a segment should be. It isn’t a quick and done effort. Trying to team time trial up might give you a little help pacing. A bunch of average riders can take the time from a good single rider on a flat stage, but a good single rider can out climb a group of average riders.

For this particular attempt, I knew I would come nowhere near the KOM (Nathan English at 8:52). I knew I couldn’t beat my PR (11:24 in the pre-Strava era and 11:51 on Strava). Climbing in 12:30 is now considered an exceptional attempt for me. However, I needed something for which to aim. So, I set my goal to climb during this video at an average of 310 watts. Based on my current FTP, that seemed reasonable and would have me climbing the road in 13:36.

How did I arrive at that? Well, I won’t go into it here. You can read more details in my post where I talk about the climbing formula: watts = (kg*9.8*e/t)+(kg*9.8*e/t)*r. I’ll just say that I ended up making the climb in 13:06 by averaging 322 watts. I’m thinking I’m headed for some low 12 minute climbs this season.

Anyway, enjoy the video. I know it is long and that does not make for very compelling viewing. However, I threw in some extra footage of a following rider and a split screen view showing some of the downhill from both a front and rear camera view. I hope that will make it worth it.

Thanks for reading and thanks for watching!

I love a surprise

I haven’t been on my bicycle since Friday. Both Saturday and Sunday were packed with events and along with that it was pretty soggy any time I did have a little freedom. Not to worry though, I was basking in the good vibes from Friday.

Things didn’t start out so good. Most of Friday was spent shifting an outdoor event I had planned for Saturday evening to a “plan B” indoor event. While I had it all sorted out by late Friday afternoon, I was pretty fried. While I had planned to go and ride some, I was now second guessing the idea.

JosiahThat is when I got a text from the Beautiful Redhead. She was letting me know that she and Thing Three would be going on a bike ride down the SRT. She mentioned that she hoped that I could catch up with them.

Well, the decision was made. I would be riding after all. The more I thought about it, the better I felt about it.

Before long I was on the bike and heading to Cleveland Park. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I caught them. I probably depended on where they started their ride.

I kept looking ahead and trying to find two people riding together that had the general shape of my family. Nearing Blue Ridge, I thought I recognized them. Sure, enough I was soon riding along with them toward Furman where they planned to stop and return home.

It was fun riding along with my chatterbox of a 9-year old. Annette was following more behind us. We continued this way until we stopped by the lake at Furman.

They would head back the way we came. I would continue on and go over the mountain. If it took them as long to get back as it did to get where we were, I would probably beat them home.

We said goodbye and I started off to the base of Altamont Road. I was curious to see how things would go. My calf muscles and Achilles tendons had been bothering me for a couple of days. At that moment, they didn’t feel so bad, but sometimes climbing makes things worse.

I hit the start line with a simple plan. Don’t worry about power. Don’t worry about time. Just try to keep an average speed over 10 mph. If I could do that, I would reach the top in around 12 minutes.

My computer face was reading speed, average speed and cadence. At first I was being thrown off by the speed field. It was jumping all over the place and not much of it was over 10 mph. However, as I looked at the average, I could see it was climbing until I finally stopped looking at the speed and focused on the 10.6 mph in the average speed field.

In the first segment from the start to the first turn I averaged 11.1 mph. From that turn to the water tower segment I increased the average to 11.8. On the water tower segment I grunted up at 9.7 mph. This still had me averaging over 10 mph through one of the harder sections.

I made up for it between the top of the tower section and the halfway there point. By covering the section with an average of 12 mph, I was pleased to have a 10.6 average to work with. I knew it would go down. The question was how much?

Things start getting tough for me at this point. I figure it is mental more than anything. However, I was happy with the average and I was feeling pretty good. The average speed from halfway to the Blue Post of Death was 9.8.

It was at the blue post that I started to think this could be a good time. Not a record breaking time, but a solid finish that would be the best of 2013. I would really have to croak in order to not get under 13 minutes.

These thoughts spurred me on to keep that average. My next segment would be from the Blue Post of Death to The Wall. The grade improves a bit once you pass the post and you start getting encouraged as you can count down the turns to the yellow 15 mph warning sign that to me signifies the star of The Wall.

That segment rolled under the wheels with an average of 10.2 mph. It would now all come down to how fast I could climb The Wall. I shifted down and stood to give it the best I could. I pushed it up and didn’t let up until I got over the line. My mind just kept telling me that I was definitely going to make it under 13 minutes.

I crossed the line having averaged 8.5 mph for that final segment and 10.7 mph for the entire climb. I pushed my lap button and looked down. I thought I was seeing 12:24. Wow, that would make me happy seeing I hadn’t climbed in under 13:05 at any point this year.

Rolling home I was a happy camper. It wasn’t just because of the good time. It was mainly because my legs were feeling good. The heaviness I mentioned a few posts ago was gone. I actually felt I had some power when I reached the first kick up after cresting the top of the mountain.

Getting home I uploaded the information and was pleasantly surprised to see that Strava listed me climbing in 12:19. That is only one second off my best time since I’ve started using the service. I was tied with my second best time from May of last year.

Maybe next time I’ll aim to keep the average over 11 mph.

Blame it on stop lights

I’m playing around with the Strava training feedback. They have a new Fitness and Freshness tracker for those who use a power meter. It is very similar to my WKO+ performance graph. It allows you to track your fitness and freshness (though they actually track your fatigue) and then help you project into the future to arrive at your best form.

Right now I’m just trying to get a feel for how it works. How does it decide that I am fresh? That ultimately leads to the question of how do they know that I am on good form? Those answers will come, but right now I am just seeing what happens to the numbers when I take a day off completely or what happens when I do various efforts.

I am currently seeking some freshness. As I was doing the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan, you can see the graph slowly inching its way up with little dips here and there. It was clear that the plan was moving me up in fitness without overdoing it.

Then the weather changed and I started doing more riding outside. I am afraid I have to say that the TCCP went out the window. The graph started taking a dramatic spike up in fitness. At the same time, my fatigue spiked and that destroyed my form. So, the plan is go easier for a few days and then ramp it up with another spike.

Ultimately, I want to get my fitness up as high as I can at about two weeks out of the Memphis In May ride. Then I will start easing off to maintain as much of the fitness as I can while getting rest. The idea is that I will be peaking in form (as much as I can be) by the event.

I do have some other goals as well. That leads us to last night’s ride. I didn’t want to go a long distance at a hard pace, but I did want to give my Pait’s Place to Paris challenge a go. This is the ride where I attempt to make it to the top of Paris Mountain from my home within 30 minutes.

After a short warm up in my neighborhood, I went after it. The traffic light at the end of my street delayed me, but I was able to make up some time moving down Wake Hampton and onto Chick Springs. I was feeling good about my start.

Then disaster struck. The route leads you around the back of the shopping center that contains Big Lots and Play It Again Sports. You then have to get into the correct lane on Pleasantburg to turn onto Piney Mountain Road. This is a multiple lane endeavor. On this particular evening, the traffic was not working in my favor.

Finally, the light turned red and I made my way over to Piney Mountain. Of course, by this time I was caught in an argument… Was it worth it to go for the goal? Should I just pull up here and save it for another day? The answer came in a question, “Why are you doing this anyway?” It isn’t that covering the distance in 30 minutes wins me some reward. What it does is give me something to use to motivate myself to go hard.

So, I decided to give it a go. That means that I was pushing it up Piney Mountain and over the top to the intersection with State Park Road and Altamont. There I was stopped once again. Still, my timer showed that if I could make it to the top in 16 minutes, I would hit my goal.

The down side is that to have made it to that point with the stop lights that means I had burned some matches to get there. It showed on the climb. I started out strong enough and even put a good effort up The Wall. However, after that point I could feel it slipping.

By the time I reached the final climb up to the KOM, I was hurting. Still, I stood and climbed as best I could to the top. I looked down to see a time of 33:19. It took me 18 minutes to reach the top… a far cry from my best time of 15:13.

My next thought went to the traffic lights. I wondered what my time would have been from home if I had not had to deal with traffic. This was something I could discover.

At home I uploaded my data and looked for those sections where I had to stop along the way due to traffic. Hmmmm, interesting, the total amount came out very close to 3 minutes. Even with the slower time up the mountain, I could have come very close to my goal had I not stopped for those instances.

So, what do you think? Is it fair for me to consider starting to pause my timer in those situations? It seems that is the only way to make each effort consistent. It isn’t like it makes reaching the top in 30 minutes any easier!

From the trainer to the wind

The trainer has seen a good amount of my rear tire the last 30 days. The days on the road have been few and far between. Yesterday, for just an hour and a half, I was able to experience again riding on the road — even if most of the time the wind was trying to blow me off of it.

I was starting to grow trainer mad. Yes, I was following the training plan and while not spending the entire amount allotted on the bicycle going nowhere, I did get in the intervals required and at least one hour each session. However, I needed a break to remind me why I was doing this stuff.

Matt Jaeggli was planning to do the route that the Boyd Cycling group takes each Wednesday during lunch time. I decided to connect with him and Neil Browne who Matt said would be coming along. This time I was determined not to be late and get left behind!

The weather app on my phone informed me that it was supposed to get up into the 50s for the day. However, as I headed home to get my bike I couldn’t help noticing how chilly it was. It wasn’t just the temperature. It was the sharp, biting wind that made things seem colder.

I layered up and headed out. This time I arrived right at noon and found Matt and another rider I did not know. Neil had gotten caught on a conference call and would not make it. So, we would be joined by Billy Campbell.

Billy has just moved to Greenville from Ohio. At first glance he certainly seemed fit enough and he wore his racing kit with ease. Seemed that the three of us would have a good ride.

We headed off down the SRT and I was glad I had layered well. Going beneath the trees and out of the sun made things even a bit more chilly as the wind filtered through. Before long the exertion as Matt lead us out of town began to warm me up.

As we neared Furman I was actually starting to to get a little warm. The sun started peeking out of the cloud cover that had been hanging around all morning. Now I was wishing I could get rid of some of the stuff.

Here we were at the base of Paris Mountain. By this time I learned that Billy does a fair amount of riding and was currently only about 10 points away from his Cat. 2 license. At around 145 pounds to my 175, I knew that it was going to be very tough staying up with him.

I won’t bore you with a pedal-by-pedal description. Just suffice to say that we started out at a fair pace. I was feeling pretty good even through the water tower section. However, about halfway, it was obvious that Billy was being kind to wait for me. By the time we reached my “blue pole of death” I had put out of my mind even trying to stay up with him. Still, I could tell he would accelerate and find he was creating a gap and then slow for me to get back in range.

He allowed me to come along side when we neared The Wall. He asked, “We’re nearing the final step section, aren’t we?” “Yes,” I replied, “We call it The Wall. You go ahead. I’ll meet you up at the towers.”

And so he went. As I started up the final incline I could see him climbing as I plodded along. The gap kept growing and by the time I was halfway, he had already made the left turn that would take him up to the line. I finished in 14 minutes. He must have climbed it in less than 13:30.

We went up to wait for Matt by the towers. It was COLD! The cloud cover had returned and the wind was even more biting at the top. We had fought it climbing up and knew it would be dangerous going back down. It was as we were talking about this that I learned that Billy’s best time up the Furman side was in the 9 minute range. Ha! Well, that explained it!

We decided not to wait for Matt, but to head down until we could connect with him as he climbed up. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that we were supposed to have ridden down the CVS side and then back up to the towers. So, he slipped past us and we missed him. We were going down the Furman side looking for someone who would not be there.

Going down was an adventure! Dry leaves flitted across the road hiding little pieces of dried limbs. At least twice I came around a turn to find a branch that the wind had blown onto the road. They weren’t heavy branches, but the ends of branches with all the leafy twigs.

Twice as I got up speed, I got blasted by wind coming out of the north. You could feel it push against my body and attempt to turn my front wheel. Between the leaves, sticks, limbs and wind, I decided to back it off nice and easy to get to the bottom alive.

We made it. Billy headed back up and over the mountain to home. I decided to take the Old Buncombe route back to town. I had assumed that Matt had turned around and headed back early to get to work. It wasn’t until we connected later that I learned what had really happened.

That, my friends, is what you don’t get on the trainer. Yes, I rode about 10 more miles than I would have on the trainer, but more than that I got the experience of being on the road and got the opportunity to enjoy the company of others. It is making me look forward even more to this weekend and the time change.

Yes, the days will get longer and I can kiss that trainer goodbye!

What a difference 4 years makes

Yes, yes, I am riding the bike. Actually, this week I should be riding more than I have in quite awhile. I have signed up for the Strava Rapha Rising Challenge challenge. I’m going to need to climb over 22,000 feet over the next week.

However, what goes up does come down. When you are climbing around Greenville, you are invariably going to end up climbing Paris Mountain. Once up, you come down. That brings us to the topic of today’s blog post.

Back in 2008 I started doing some recording of my rides with the Contour helmet cam. I enjoyed it, but then the device started acting up and the quality of video surpassed what I could produce. Wow, technology has certainly advanced — not just in the recording of video, but also the producing and streaming of Internet video.

The above video is that video from May, 2008. I see my descending skills have not improved! However, I can tell I’m going to have fun with my new GoPro HD2. You’ll see the quality difference better if you watch the below video in HD quality.

By the way, I’m planning to start posting on a more regular basis. Things are starting to ramp up for the 2012 Ride for Mike. Stay tuned to find out what the plans are for this year!