Tag Archives: Piney Mountain Road

Piney Mountain Throw Down

Yeah, yesterday was my birthday. I would love to say that I went out and rode my age in miles. Well, it didn’t happen. However, I did get to torture myself for about a third of my age. That should count for something.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Do not eat a lunch of chicken pot pie before you go out and do power intervals. I love chicken pot pie, but prefer to only taste it once. No one wants to throw up when throwing down some power!

Piney Mountain Road

Starting up Piney Mountain Road

The day was beautiful and the Beautiful Redhead asked me to come home early for lunch because she would be teaching as a substitute in the early afternoon hour. As I got out of the car to walk up to the house, I could feel the warmth from the sun. The urge to do my workout on the road instead of later that evening on the trainer awakened within me.

My workout for the day would be power intervals — 3 x [(2 x 2 min.)(2 min. RBI)] (6 min. RBS). I decided to head over to Piney Mountain Road. I recalled that Jim Cunningham would send me there for short repeats. It is near by and at power the climb takes me around 3 minutes. So, it should be simple to get the 2 minute burst.

I turned off of Pleasantburg Drive and there in front of me was the beginning of the climb. I used the cement guardrails of a bridge crossing a small creek as my start marker. The road then begins a shallow climb. Soon you begin a slight turn to the left.

When you enter this curve, you notice the grade begins to angle upward. Up ahead you can see more of the road and you realize that it is going to hurt pretty soon. As you look up the now straightened road, you see another kick up and then a more noticeable turn to the right.

My two minutes were up before I reached the turn to the right. There is a yellow traffic marker indicating the sharper turn to the right. That is about where I ended up at 2 minutes. It became my target.

Race to the sign.  Turn around and spin to the bottom. Race back up again.

Nine times. I would start out spinning at a pretty high rate until the road started kicking up. It was possible to keep seated for a little longer as I shifted to an easier gear. Then I ended up having to stand through the steepest section. Then it was a plop back into the saddle as my heart rate spiked and the grade began to decrease.

I tried several different approaches with my cadence. I tried some in the small ring and some in the big ring. They all hurt.

Still, when I returned back home about an hour and fifteen minutes later, I was happy. It is such a difference doing these power intervals on the road and not on the trainer. I will be fighting to pull this off more as the days get longer.

The numbers made me happy. All but the last interval (336 watts) averaged over 350 watts. Most of them were over 380 watts. The first one (before the chicken pot pie began to squawk) was a 435 watts.

It makes me feel better about where I am right now. It is good to get a “real world” view over the trainer experience. At the same time, I realize how far I need to go to be competitive. Only thing is that now, I’m encouraged to think I can get there.

The pros are safe for another day

I’m starting to recognize that life isn’t going to slow down any. I keep looking ahead in the calendar looking for a break and not finding one. It means that my weird training schedule is going to keep fluctuating day by day.

Monday I got out at my normal “get out of work and jump on the bike” training time. As I was coming back in on the SRT, I happened upon Spencer Beamer. We rode into town together talking about work and our “training.” He asked me if I was out normally at this time on that course.

I’m sure I looked strange as I had a pretty blank look on my face. Thing is, I didn’t know when I ride! Sometimes early morning, sometimes at lunch, sometimes after work and sometimes late at night on the trainer.

Well, Tuesday I rode at lunch. Originally, I was supposed to ride after a late business meeting and dinner. However, a business lunch got moved, the Beautiful Redhead had a lunch with friends and the weather was threatening rain in the evening.

The Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan called for me to do 6 x 2 minute Power Intervals. That was good because it wouldn’t take too long to knock those out. I’d even had a little time left over and I had designs on measuring myself on a Strava segment.

The Power Intervals went well. I went to Nature Trail to do the workout because 1) it was close to my house, 2) it would cause me to put out a good amount of power over a short distance and 3) there wouldn’t be a lot of traffic to worry with. Actually, the first one went too well.

Of course, I was feeling pretty fresh as I started the first interval. I was seeing numbers in excess of 600 watts as I started up the 6% grade. Since the ground was disappearing beneath me at a rapid pace, I decided to just let it all hang out and see what would happen. What happened was I ended up running out of road. I had to turn onto Beverly in order to finish out my 2 minutes.

With that out of my system I settled down to do the next 5 intervals at a more reasonable pace. I was pretty pleased when all five of them came in within 20 watts of each other… the final four within 5 watts over 345 for each effort. Not having any appreciable drop off in power was a huge encouragement.

That done, I went in search of a KOM for Strava. To be honest, I knew it wouldn’t be a KOM, but I did want to improve my time on the Piney Mountain Climb segment. Before the ride, I was sitting a couple pages back on the list.

Now, the top seven places were held by professional riders during the USA Cycling Professional Road Championship. These guys were able to ride on the closed course coming off Paris Mountain at least at 50+ mph. This meant they had a good amount of momentum to get them up the first part — and steepest part — of Piney Mountain Road.

That being the case, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to get a KOM! However, I did want to see how fast I could make it up. Maybe, just maybe, I could unseat one of the pros.

I was finally feeling a bit recovered from the power intervals as I rode slowly about 100 meters up Altamont Road. My plan was to wait there until a car came along and tripped the traffic light. Then I would get up as much speed as I could to get some advantage — though definitely not a 50 mph one — as I started the climb.

I was in my small front ring as I started my attack. I crossed the State Park Road at about 27 mph and started to climb. For the first 30 seconds I was averaging 600+ watts. Then the grade started to diminish. I regretted at this point that I was in the small ring. I shifted to move to my 53 and the chain didn’t move up!

My legs were spinning around and I was losing momentum. I adjusted my rear gearing and tried to bring up the chain again. Finally, it engaged, but I knew I lost valuable time at that point. My wattage had dropped to an average of 380 during that section. Once I got the right gearing, I moved the wattage up to a 430 average to the finish.

Actually, I didn’t get to the finish. I let up at what I thought was the finish and ended up losing some time at that point as well. Still, when I glanced down at the computer to see my climb time, I saw 1:37. I knew that would at least put me in the top ten!

I finished up the ride and got home. First thing I did was upload my data. Where would I fall?

The first thing I noticed was that I had beat my own KOM on Nature Trail by about 9 seconds. That first power interval covered the segment in 1:50. Once again I got a surprise KOM.

I then looked to find a trophy beside the Piney Mountain Climb segment. It had an 8 in it. Looking at the segment leaderboard I found myself in 8th place at 1:41. Ahead of me were names like Ted King, Ben King and Jacob Rytlewski. The rider ahead of me in 7th place with a time of 1:36 was Chad Hartley.

All of the times ahead of me had been set during either the 2010 or 2011 US Pros race. I’m more convinced than ever that a KOM won’t be in my future! However, Mr. Hartley might be on shaky ground. If I big ring it up on fresher legs and don’t let up before the finish, I bet I could take off 5 seconds.

Go ahead. Mock me. I don’t care. I’m having more fun on the bike than I’ve had in a long time.

Make sure your head is in it

So much of cycling is mental. You can work and work on the physical aspects of the sport, but you’ll never get all you can out of your ride unless your mind is in it. This is definitely true in racing, but the law extends to training as well.

It is amazing how when your mind is in gear, you can do things that you didn’t realize you could. For instance, I struggled for a couple of years trying to break a 12 minute ride up Paris Mountain. Finally, I nudged below it. Then with some mental encouragement from friends, I smashed the 12 minute mark by nearly 30 seconds. Physically, I was pretty much the same. Mentally I was given reason to believe.

It works the opposite way as well. That is what happened to me yesterday during one of my proscribed workouts. I’m waiting for the feedback from my coach and I bet he is thinking, “Where was his brain?”

I got started off on the wrong foot because I was rushing to get on the bike so I could have enough daylight to finish the session. The start time was just a few minutes past my target, so I was feeling a little better. Then once on the road I realized I had not confirmed that the Garmin Edge 500 had picked up my Quarq CinQo powermeter. Sure enough, I wasn’t reading any watts.

That problem solved I headed out into the park to do my 20 minute warm-up. As I was moving along I started to argue with myself what I was supposed to be doing during this portion of the workout.  I knew it was supposed to be something other than just spinning along, but I couldn’t remember. I should have just stopped and checked my handy dandy TrainingPeaks iPhone app, but I was still driven to get to the meat of the workout and beat the dusk.

TrainingPeaks iPhone application

TrainingPeaks iPhone application

So, I missed the 5 minute at 100% FTP portion of the warm-up. However, I did make it to the base of Piney Mountain Road. The good news is that it appeared that I would have plenty of light to get in this portion. I stopped to make sure I was aware of what I was supposed to do: 7 X 90 – 60 seconds seated at 350+ watts and then 30 seconds standing at 500+ watts. This was to be done on a 6% – 10% grade. Welcome to Piney Mountain Road.

Piney Mountain Road

Piney Mountain Road

The first three went off without a hitch. As a matter of fact, I was feeling really good. Then the phone rang. I stopped to check the message and returned the call. Ten minutes later, I was back at the workout. Now I was quickly losing daylight and my fingers were getting cold as the temperature dropped.

That fourth attempt felt completely different. My mind was reminding me of my mess up in the beginning and berating me for answering the phone instead of staying on task. Attempts 4 – 6 were solid, but not with the same feeling.

The seventh attempt started out okay. I had myself psyched up for the final push. Even the 60 second portion progressed well. However, in the back of my mind I was thinking that the final 30 were really going to hurt!

I shifted down and tried to register over 500 watts on my computer. The returning home from work traffic was starting to pick up and cars were zipping by me inches to my left. Then my legs just quit. I started to swerve as I willed my legs to pull and push the pedals around. Zip! Zip! went a couple of cars. Then I lost my nerve. I sat and the session was over.

Gasping for oxygen, I then tried to move into the next portion of the ride — 20 minutes at 245 – 265 watts. Of course, light was starting to fade and I knew I could not go too far from home. That meant more traffic and traffic lights. With each rush of traffic and stop at a light, my mind drifted further and further out of focus. Even though I worked pretty hard, I still only ended up with a 212 average for that 20 minutes.

Finally, I arrived at home in the dark. I was supposed to do another 10 to 15 minutes easy spinning. However, as I pulled into the driveway, I saw my family sitting at the dinner table in the warm light. Forget the spin. I’d just stretch and then go join them.

Later, I went out to get my bike and looked at my computer. I had forgotten to stop the timer when I got home! Yep, I think I’ll just chalk that one up as “just one of those days” — one of those days when my mind just wasn’t in it.