Category Archives: Racing

RAAM 2015 Data Analysis

"Oh, the places you'll go..."“Oh, the places you’ll go…”

2015 Race Across America county elevations - 12 states, 88 counties - click to download huge image, click again to zoom in your browser.2015 Race Across America county elevations – 12 states, 88 counties – click to download huge image, click again to zoom in your browser.

Sleep and Stop Data
There is a reason why every RAAM racer’s advice is to “stay on the bike” and “just keep riding”. I could have knocked a day and a half off my time if my only stops were for sleeping. While this is somewhat unrealistic as you do have to use the bathroom and make other stops throughout the day, my average of 16.2 stops per day riding an average of only 17.6 miles between stops is somewhat ridiculous. Altogether, I stopped 170 times with an average stop duration of 24 minutes. This is entirely my own fault as I struggled not only with sleep, but also with pain in my hands and feet.

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RAAM 2015 Race Report

Race Recap
I took off fast after the long neutral section and got caught up in all the excitement of passing people and trying to make it through the desert as quickly as possible. I stayed well below my lactic threshold power, but perhaps this was the beginning of my battle with heat exhaustion. That battle would play out the next day, but first during the middle of the night I crashed in the uneven lanes construction zone between Blythe, California and Parker, Arizona. My front wheel caught on the rise between the lanes and went right out from under me. I hit my head hard and slid on my face and left shoulder.

After a quick check of everything on my bike and my body, I was up and riding again. Heading into Parker, Arizona Rob White caught up with me, and we rode together for a few minutes as the sun came up and the temp started to rise (very quickly). I was struggling and told him to go on. The temperature just kept on rising and rising. It was unbelievable. I stopped at a bar/lodge that was open at 9AM to use the bathroom and change kits. It was already 100 degF outside when Kristine took the picture below:

After another hour or so struggling in the heat, I knew I needed to get out of the heat. Our RV air conditioner could only keep the temp at 20 degrees below the outside air temperature. So it was still 90+ degF in the RV. Fortunately, in Hope, Arizona there was a gas station with good air conditioning. We setup a small cot in the corner of the store, and I slept there for a couple hours. I was off the bike for about 4.5 hours before continuing.

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Skyway Epic 2015

Skyway inaugural 100 mtb podium #raam, now to ride home (very slowly)

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The Skyway Epic 100 men’s podium – left to right – me, David Potter, and Eric Nelson.

The Skyway Epic 100 mountain bike race definitely lived up to its name on Saturday. I was happy to be racing again this year for the inaugural 100 mile (107.5 miles) version of the race having missed last year after crashing into the side of a car. Being in the final stages of training for the Race Across America, I need to make the most of every minute of bike-related activities. Therefore, I decided to ride my mountain bike down to the start of the race, do the race, and then ride home. This made for a very long 185 mile day on the bike that ended with Kristine driving down to Chelsea to rescue me at the base of the double oak climbs. Overall, it was excellent training for Race Across America, and the race itself was nothing short of epic and awesome.

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Heart of the South Topography

One of the things that makes the Heart of the South 500 mile race one of the most difficult 500 mile races in the country is the enormous amount of climbing over the course of the race. The major topographical features include the three main climbs – Lookout Mountain, Fort Mountain, and Mount Cheaha – as well as four crossings of the Coosa River. I’ve annotated a topocreator.com map of the course below. Click to enlarge and then click again to zoom in on your web browser to see maximum detail.

topocreator.com - annotated map of the heart of the south race (click to enlarge)topocreator.com – annotated map of the heart of the south race (click to enlarge)

I especially like that the entire course fits on the raised relief maps I have mounted on the wall next to my home office. This is the pic and overlay I made for last year’s race.

Raised relief map with overlay of the Heart of the South 500 race.Raised relief map with overlay of the Heart of the South 500 race.

Racing Adventures

Back to Back Weekends
Back to back race weekends last weekend and this weekend. I won Friday’s Heart of the South 515 mile race just missing the course record only five days after placing 25th in a strong Pro/1/2 field at the inaugural Fort McClellan road race last weekend with lots of strong teams visiting Alabama from around the country as part of the national criterium calendar kickoff event (Sunny King) in Anniston. I raced that race RAAM-style meaning I left my house at 3AM and rode the 80 miles to the start of the race, raced the race, and then afterwards rode home a longer way going up and over Mount Cheaha for a grand total of 255 miles of racing and riding. There is so many great things I could say about that race — primarily getting to see a lot of friends from the racing community that I haven’t seen much this year because of my RAAM (Race Across America) training, but in the interest of time I’m going to skip straight to how the Heart of the South race went down this weekend.

Heart of the South – Start to Camp Comer
Tailwinds and thunderstorms
Friday was a beautiful day – I rode my bike to and from Samford to teach my Friday classes as usual (16.6 miles round trip). Later in the day, my awesome crew of Michael Staley and Payne Griffin drove over to my house so we could pack up everything for the race.

Side note – huge shout-out to my rookie crew of Michael and Payne. Those two guys did an amazing job of anticipating my needs for food, drink, and bike supplies. Plus, they did a good job of staying awake for a really long time as well as keeping me awake late in the race when I hit my sleep wall. Thanks guys!!!!

Side, side note – huge shout-out to my sponsors as well. Raymond James has been behind me financially and helping to get the word out to other companies and individuals who might be interested in joining our team. My Martindale wheelset was amazing again this year. I’m excited for the new Carbon Clincher wheels Philip will be getting me for RAAM – easily shave hours (if not at least half a day) off my total time!

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Rouge Roubaix 2015

Annotated topocreator.com map of Rouge Roubaix 2015 (click to enlarge)topocreator.com map of Rouge Roubaix 2015 (click to zoom)

Every year I look forward to Rouge Roubaix and coming down to this unique corner of Louisiana and Southwestern Mississippi. The race itself has everything you’d imagine in a spring classic like Paris-Roubaix or Ronde van Vlaanderen (Flanders) – from strung out fields barreling down dirt roads at 30mph to tactics of making a break, chasing a break, or figuring out the run-in to a tricky sprint at the end of the race. No matter how experienced you are, it’s impossible to come away from this race without having learned something new about bike racing and/or yourself. Each category (even beginner) races the full distance of 100+ miles covering about 15 miles of gravel/dirt roads and some paved roads that are significantly harder to find a good line than the dirt roads.

The unique topography of the river bluffs above the Missisippi River delta is just fascinating with two Category 4 climbs rising up from essentially sea level to 400 feet. Plus, everything is so wet that the dirt roads sink down under the trees. See the annotated topocreator.com map above and the elevation profile and instagram photo below:

Annotated rouge roubaix elevation profileAnnotated rouge roubaix elevation profile (click to zoom)

This spot best captures the beautiful wild adventure that is #rougeroubaix #raam

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How the race played out (P/1/2)
After the neutral section, there were a couple short-lived breaks. I was working my way to the front when I saw an opening and a rider about to attack. I hopped right on his wheel and we quickly got a gap. Three more riders bridged up to us, and our break of five quickly got a gap on the rest of the peloton. I thought this break had a good chance to survive all the way to (and possibly through) the first dirt section – but alas, we were chased down a few miles later after making the right-hand turn off of LA-66.

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Two more epics

Racing Camp Sumatanga RAAM-style, redux
This past Sunday was the training race series finale with a 100KM race ending with a steep 1 mile cat 3 climb to the top of Chandler Mountain. I had a four day block from the end of last week until Tuesday of this past week where I rode 586.9 miles with 73,087 feet of climbing. I had a pretty light load the rest of the week, and I wondered if I would be recovered enough for the race. It didn’t really matter, though, because the weather was absolutely beautiful and I was able to enjoy a shorts / short sleeved jersey ride all the way to the start of the race.

Annotated topocreator map of the race and the route there and back again (click to enlarge).Annotated topocreator map of the race and the route there and back again (click to enlarge).

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Updated RAAM elevation profile

I’ve updated the topocreator.com elevation profile using a higher resolution dataset to get the full 3005 miles of the course. Plus, I turned on the box gradient feature. The box gradients are drawn into the profile and show ALL climbs and descents of at least 1 mile in length and a 5% average grade. Inside the box is the exact length of the 5% section of the climb, the exact grade, and the vertical difference between the start and end of the climb (or descent). Click on the image below for a 8500 pixel version of the profile. Your browser will probably load the image in a window by itself and then scale it down to fit on the screen. You may need to click on the image itself again to zoom in to see full detail.

Full 3005 mile RAAM 2015 elevation profile with box gradients (click to enlarge)Full 3005 mile RAAM 2015 elevation profile with box gradients (click to enlarge)

To get this to work, I rewrote the entire algorithm in Java so that it could run on a real machine rather than the virtual machine hosting the web server. The profile creation took only a matter of a couple of minutes … most of which was transferring the megabytes of data back and forth between the web server and my home system.

First Win of 2015

I’m happy to report my first win of 2015, and it was quite the epic! I rode from Birmingham to the training race up near Gadsden, won the 50 mile A race, and then rode back home to Birmingham for a grand total of over 200 miles and just under 20,000 feet of climbing on the day. This was in the middle of a very heavy block of training with the following rides:

Day Distance Climbing Description
Sat 155.6 mi. 32,618 ft February climbing challenge
Sun 203.9 mi. 19,377 ft Camp Sumatanga training race
Mon 18 mi. 2,700 ft Short commute recovery
Tue 209.4 mi. 18,392 ft Tuscaloosa locks touring adventure
4 days 586.9 mi. 73,087 ft 4 day block totals

The Camp Sumatanga training race series put on by GS Montagna Rossa of Birmingham has been a stalwart of early season racing for the Alabama cycling community for many years. Bill Seitz and his crew of GSMR teammates do an excellent job putting on this race year after year. For the second week in a row, the weather was not very cooperative with an annoying light misty rain for most of the day. At least this week, though, it wasn’t quite as cold with temps hovering around the upper 40s most of the day (and night).

I timed my ride to the start pretty well picking a 75 mile route that included Walker Gap and Chandler Mountain (if time allowed). I was running a little bit ahead of schedule so I went ahead and climbed Chandler Mountain at a very easy pace to kill some time before the race and to see the climb one more time before we race it for real at the finish of next week’s training race. By the time I finished the climb and headed back down to the camp for the race, I had just enough time to pay for the race, sign the waiver, and roll to the start line.

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2015 RAAM Elevation Profile from Topocreator.com

UPDATE: I’ve uploaded a new profile with box gradients on this post: Updated RAAM elevation profile

Wow, it took a lot of computing power, but this morning the elevation profile I had started for RAAM yesterday finished. Part of the reason it took so long is that my algorithm scans for the highest and lowest point as well as all gradients along the route greater than 5%. This may not sound too difficult, but finding the exact starting and ending points of a hill allowing for smaller downhills to be included in the hill if the general slope is still up … is very difficult. To make it feasible, I had to filter the entire route down to 5000 data points or roughly one data point every km which is why the total length is shortened by almost 45 miles. So it looks like the total climbing for RAAM will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 feet of climbing for the 3005 mile route or roughly 4 times flatter than my normal riding. The profile below doesn’t show the gradients because I thought it would be too hard to see them so I checked “hide gradients”, which still does the calculations but doesn’t draw them on the map. Hopefully, I’ll have an updated version by tomorrow that has what I call “box gradients” — i.e., a box drawn around the climb with the vertical diff and average gradient.

topocreator.com - raam elevation profile (click to enlarge)topocreator.com – raam elevation profile (click to enlarge)