Tag Archives: Personal Best

The monkey is officially off my back

Monday evening I headed out on one of those rides where I didn’t have any plans. I treated my bike like a horse in the old west. I let the rains loose and let the steed head whatever direction he would.

This led me along the base of Paris Mountain. I had been feeling kind of rough, so I was just spinning along enjoying the cooler weather. As I rode along I remembered some of the rides we had along this route during the summer days.

On these back roads I had my iPhone playing on random. The tracks happened upon the soundtrack to The Man from Snowy River.  It seemed the perfect soundtrack for the ride.  By the time I reached Old Buncombe road I was feeling pretty satisfied with the entire experience.

I turned onto Altamont Road and started up pretty strong.  That first 3 minutes – which took me beyond the water tower – I was averaging 395 watts.  As I made the turn from that first test, I realized that this might be a night to give it a try to go sub-twelve without any pacing or cheering section.

The next three minutes would be confirmation of whether this was something worth trying.  My watts dropped to 312, but I was still holding a speed average over 12 mph.  I reached the halfway point in under 6 minutes averaging over 350 watts.

Yep, this would be the night!

Over the next three minutes I covered a half a mile.  My wattage was holding steady at 312 watts for that section, but my speed dropped to a 10 mph average. I tried to remember what Boyd and Strad had told me during my last successful climb.

The thing that came to my mind was Boyd saying, “The worse thing about this is that now you know you can do it.”  Actually, that ended up being my encouragement.  I knew I could do it.  I just had to draw on that past experience.

I needed that memory as I approached those last minutes of the climb.  I picked up my average for that last attack to 332 watts.  Never did I look down at the computer.  Then I reached the final section of the wall.  Without even looking at the computer I knew that if I gave it my all the 12 minute barrier would be broken.

Unfortunately, as I crossed the line, I pushed the wrong button on my computer.  By the time I realized what I had done and pressed the correct button, my time stood at 11:56.  Looking back at my WKO+, I see it was actually 11:53!

I also see that my heart rate on that final kick to the finish was 203 bpm!  No wonder I felt like I was going to puke as I rolled over the KOM line. My overall power average was 338 watts with a heart rate average of 184 bpm for the climb. My average speed was 11.1 mph.

So, I can say that even according to the official unofficial rules of recording your personal best up Paris Mountain, I have broken the 12 minute barrier.  There is no doubt in my mind that now that I have I will be able to do it on a regular basis.

Funny how that is.  You work and work to reach a goal and once you reach it, you find that you can do it again and again. I think it shows that much of this thing we call cycling is mental.

2 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1305 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!

11:35 or Thank you, Boyd Johnson

Funny.  Just yesterday I was talking about how I was about to go into hibernation.  That post finished with me saying, “Sometimes all it takes to get you back going is a good ride.”  Well, I can definitely say I had a good ride, but I have to give the credit to the guys who made it happen.

First I was just hoping it wouldn’t be raining.  It was cool but a little humid.  There had been times of very light rain through the day, but for now it was holding off.

Then I was hoping people would show up for the ride.  As I pulled up to the parking lot, I didn’t see anyone or the cars of the typical members of this ride.  Maybe tonight’s ride would be solo.

I went inside and found Billy White.  He was putting down a Powerbar and looking around probably wondering the same thing I was… “Hey, where is everybody?”  It was good to know that there would be at least two of us.

Boyd Johnson rolled in about the time I was getting my Powerbar finished.  The three of us went out to check the parking lot one last time.  There we found Strad Helms.  Four is definitely better than one.

We headed out at a pretty nice clip.  I was talking with Boyd about his plans to import frames and build up his own brand of bikes.  We also had some of our usual unusual sightings.  One guy passed us on a moped and he had a huge knot on his head.  Another time we saw a guy out running – sweat dripping off him – with a beer in his hand.

It was a pretty typical ride until we made a turn onto a road and I went to put weight on my right pedal.  I heard a twang and felt my leg spin around with no resistance.  My chain broke.  Of course, none of us had a chain tool.

The good news is that we were very close to Boyd’s house.  We removed my chain and I remounted my bike.   Boyd then commenced to push me the distance to his street.  Before long, I was back together sans a couple of chain links.  John James happened by.  Now there were five of us and we were back on the road.

That road led us quickly to Paris Mountain.  We started up and I could sense John had designs to get to the top a bit faster tonight.  Billy and I tucked in behind the three other riders and tried to hang on.

It wasn’t uncomfortable.  I felt I was on the edge of too much, but not quite.  When we reached halfway, I knew why.  We reached that point in just around five and a half minutes!  Hmmmmm, this could be interesting.

As we moved past that point, John eased off to join a rider we were coming around.  As he did so, he said to Strad, “Fall back and let Jonathan on your wheel.”  Strad was a bit confused about John’s intentions and ended going behind me.  It was just Boyd’s wheel ahead.

I figured he (and Strad) would end up riding off to leave me in the dust.  However, I was staying with them.  The difference was I was laboring a bit and they weren’t.

We reached a point where I thought I was going to have to ease up a bit and at that point I realized these guys weren’t going to leave me.  They had plans to coax me to the top for my personal best.  Boyd turned around and coached me to shift down a gear and encouraged me to keep going.

We were at the dreaded blue post section of the climb.  It is the point where I normally begin to lose my rhythm.  However, the realization that I had a couple of guys expecting me to give my best motivated me to do just that.  I didn’t want to let them down if they were going to be there for me.

I settled down and just tried to get some oxygen in me while concentrating on trying to avoid gaps forming between me and the riders ahead.  No doubt those gaps would have come, but Boyd and Strad were keeping the pace just high enough to push me but not drop me.

“Keep your head up,” I heard Boyd say.  “Don’t look down.  It will defeat you.”  I jerked my head up to look at the road ahead of me.  I know it is psychological, but he was right.  I concentrated on keeping my eyes focused on the road ahead instead of myself or the bike — especially the computer!

“Two minutes to go!”  Boyd and Strad were now turning around to check on my progress and push me when they noticed me begin to ease.  My spirits lifted when Strad called my attention to the fact that we were nearing the yellow turn sign that marks the beginning of The Wall.

“Forty-five seconds…” Boyd called, “you’re going to have to stand the whole finish.”  I obeyed.  “Shift down,” he instructed and I put on more resistance.  “Good,” he said.  “Now, stand.”  He had to remind me one or two more times to get off the seat, but for the most part I was pushing hard for the top.

Strad now moved behind me and I could hear Boyd ahead and Strad behind.  They were willing me to the finish.  There was no way I was going to sit up at this point.

“Fifteen seconds,” Boyd was counting the time.  “You can do anything for fifteen seconds.”  I still had enough pride left that I didn’t want to sound like I was dying – even though I felt like I was.  I tried to contain the grunts and whimpers that I felt trying to come out.

Pride be hanged!  I was riding with a guy who just days before had raced up this mountain as part of the professional peloton during the USA Cycling Professional Championships.  Of course I was going to have a harder time making it to the top!  Then there was Strad still calling encouragement from behind.  He races with the Hincapie Development team and my guess is it won’t be long before you’ll find him on one of the teams now racing in the Tour of Missouri.

I let out a grunt and what probably could be classified as a whimper.  That kind of whimper that comes from a kid getting beat up by bullies.  However, I stepped on it and attacked that last kick up to the finish.  Only once did I drop to my seat, but I was immediately up at the command from Boyd.  Finally, I pushed that infernal bike across the line.

It took awhile for me to see the computer screen in front of me.  I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof.  As it came into focus I saw 11.  That was awesome!  However, I actually felt a chill as I noticed what followed the “:” – it was a “35”!  I had crushed my best time by 30 seconds!

I didn’t know what to think.  A goal I had been trying to break for two years fell on a night when I had no intentions of trying.  The thought crossed my mind what my time could have been without the two nearly full water bottles.  Then I wondered if I could really claim the time since I got it by being paced up the mountain.

I’ll take it.  I worked hard enough to get that time.  Take off 20 seconds as a penalty for pacing and I’ll still have a sub-twelve minute climb.  Of course, as Boyd told me as we eased up on the other side, “The bad thing about this is now you know you can do it.”

I kept waiting for some sort of feeling of elation to come over me.  It never did.  It was more of a matter of fact feeling of relief.  There was no immediate feeling of, “Okay, now I need to get an 11:30!”  No, for now I am happy with having broken 12.

As I helped my six year-old break into the bathroom that had been inadvertantly locked so he could get the all important reach extender so he could rescue a toy out of a hole, it crossed my mind how much more time and devotion it would take to knock off another 10 seconds.  “Thanks, Dad!”  Hey, it is just a number.  If it comes, it comes.  If it doesn’t?  There are more important things in life.

Three measly seconds

One thousand one… One thousand two… One thousand three… the time it took you to read that is how close I was yesterday to climbing Paris Mountain in 12 minutes flat.  That is the goal I set for myself over a year ago.  I’ve never been able to best it.  Last night I got really close… I got a personal best at 12 minutes 3 seconds. It will fall.

Now, Saturday there will be guys riding up that incline that will make a 12 minute climb look like a snail assault.  I regularly ride with guys who bust out sub-twelve climbs.  That time on the venerable climb is not that special… except to me.  Forgive me while I dissect my ride again.

It started with an easy ride up to the top.  I took my time to enjoy that day.  Too often I’m just riding with my head down with some goal in mind.  I don’t look around and enjoy the scenes.  This time I even stopped to take some video with my iPhone.  I need to go back with a better camera!

I knew that I could get a good time because when I reached the other side and turned around, my legs were feeling good.  I put my bike in a very easy gear and started up spinning at a higher cadence than normal.  My plan was to take it easier in the first half and then attack toward the end.

It seemed to be working.  Through the first three minutes – that would take me up to the water tower section – I was averaging 330 watts and hit a high heart rate of 174 bpm.  Still, I was maintaining a 10.5 mph average.

The next three minutes of riding brought me to the midway point of the ride.  I was pretty happy to reach that section at almost 6 minutes on the nose.  The better news is that I had been able to pick up some more speed and was still feeling pretty good.

That section after the water tower is a 5.3% grade.  I was able to average just under 12 mph while putting out a lower average wattage of 314.  My heart rate did climb to a high of 179, but I was still averaging 176 bpm.  When I looked down to and saw 6:00 on my Garmin, I knew I stood a chance!

I stood and started to attack the next 6 minutes.  I planned to attack, recover, attack, recover, and then let it all hang loose on The Wall.  Things got a little tougher in the next three minute section.  The average grade was now 7%.

My body was showing some strain as well.  My heart rate climbed to a high of 186 and held an average during that section of 183 bpm.  I was riding in my red line.  Still, I was putting out an average of 343 watts and holding an average speed of 10.6 mph.  It was during that section that I looked down at my computer for the second time in the ride and saw 10:00.  I knew I was close!

I’m about to hit The Wall.  The average grade over the next three minutes was 7.4%.  I settled in for a steady push in the early part of this three minute section, but stood to give it all I had toward the end.  This averaged out to be 361 watts for the just over half mile section.  My heart rate was letting me know we were near the end by peaking at 190 bpm and averaging 186 in that section.

However, it was the easy start and the driving finish that made it work.  I bet I covered the hardest portion of this climb faster than I have ever done in my life.  The average grade over this 650 feet is 10.4%.  My average wattage over this section was 507 watts.  That garnered me a 10.5 mph average for that distance.

The entire climb’s numbers looked like this: Average – Power = 336 watts, Heart Rate = 177 bpm, Cadence = 78 rpm, Speed = 10.9 mph; Maximum – Power = 641 watts, Heart Rate = 190 bpm, Cadence = 100 rpm, Speed = 17.5.

It will be a while before I’ll get a chance to try this again.  However, I think I’ve found the keys to making it work.  I just have to be sure I’m in good shape when I try it.  My guess is that when the temperatures begin to drop, I’ll start to see myself regularly breaking the 12 minute mark when I give it a try.

Three measly seconds.  Man… soooooo close!