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)

Meet the Crew: Wes Bates (chief)

(Kristine posting…) Welcome to our first installment of Meet the Crew!  I am really excited to introduce the amazing people who have committed to do whatever it takes to get Brian 3,000 from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. We’re still finalizing the last couple people, but I will start the introductions with the anchor of our crew.

Wes Bates is a sophomore at Indiana University, and he will be our Crew Chief.  He grew up in Aurora, Colorado and started racing bikes in high school. He’s currently on the cycling team at Indiana University.  This past summer, he rode from Astoria, OR to Mobile, AL (3,400 miles) in 42 days with the Ride4Gabe fundraiser . He has a background in nutrition, fundraising, and event planning, and he is proving to be wise beyond his years. 

From Wes:

I am so excited to be a part of this adventure. I met Brian when I was finishing Ride4Gabe last summer. It is hard to not like the guy. In August, I told Brian that I would take the 2 weeks off to be on his RAAM crew. I didn’t think he had taken me seriously until he reached out to me in January of this year

Brian is the only person with whom I would to take on this journey. I have met with plenty of people [about RAAM], and they have all told me that Brian “has the goods” to be successful. There is nobody I trust more than Brian to get the job done. And hey, it will be nice to say that I am the youngest crew chief ever.

This is one of those experiences that you can’t turn down. I actually turned down a pretty good internship offer so I could make this trip happen. I know that this is something I have to do. Adventure calls.

Racing Update

One of the challenges I face with RAAM is that I am a racer at heart – road, mountain bike, cross, alley cat – you name it and I want to race it. But I am also an adventurer who loves to explore roads, routes, and trails that might be terrible for training but great for adventure. While these long adventures may be great training for RAAM, they are not ideal for regular racing – i.e., starting a race with nearly 500 miles in the legs for the week before the race begins is about as opposite of “tapering” as you can get. But I’ve made the decision that it is worth the sacrifice of a single season of racing to really dive into RAAM and give it my best shot at actually winning the race. The only people right now who really grasp this are the awesome cycling friendly folks at Raymond James Birmingham, Philip Martindale at MC2, and a bunch of my friends.

What has surprised me, though, is that my first two races of the year have gone pretty well even with all the miles in the legs – I’ve already ridden 3700 miles this year and climbed halfway to the International Space Station. I think the low intensity nature of my training means that my aerobic engine is pretty big with plenty of high-end muscle fibers available for quick bursts and shorter sustained efforts since they aren’t being stressed that much in training — even if it hurts like hell during the race.

Camp Sumataunga Cat A Training Race

I had great weekends of racing both this past weekend (GSMR Camp Sumataunga Training Race #1) and two weekends ago (the Union Grove Time Trial). Both weekends also involved epic pre-race and post-race rides with friends at the races. This past Sunday I placed 4th in the 50 mile training race that came after a fun four county 65 mile adventure with Justin Prior exploring the unique geology and topography of Sand Mountain – i.e., we climbed a ton.

Sand Mountain exploring with Justin - plus the Sumataunga training race - plus  climbing Chandler Mountain after the race. (click to enlarge)Sand Mountain exploring with Justin – plus the Sumataunga training race – plus climbing Chandler Mountain after the race. (click to enlarge)

Continue reading Racing Update

Topocreator Map

I got some sort of nasty stomach bug yesterday and was forced into a day of rest off the bike. Hopefully it won’t come up (pardon the pun) during RAAM, but it will be interesting to see how I can persevere through that if it happens. Does anyone know of any good anti-nausea meds that are USADA legal I can take during RAAM? Because I was off the bike, I had a chance to start working on one of our logos, probably the basis for the kit design.

Updated logo - click to enlargeUpdated logo – click to enlarge

Don’t miss out on getting your company’s name on this awesome map. It will look even better in the finalized version! Contact me at brtoone@samford.edu about sponsorship. Or check out our sponsorhip page to learn more.

Cheaha and Skyway

Yesterday, I wanted to see how I would respond to back-to-back 200+ mile rides. My friend Michael Staley wanted to ride from Tuscaloosa to Mount Cheaha and back, but I convinced him to come join me on a ride with a ton more climbing on a shorter route leaving from Birmingham at around 1AM. My rough plan for RAAM is the following – ride for roughly 20 hours a day with 4 hours devoted to miscellaneous stops, eating, and sleeping. I want to stay on as regular a schedule as possible so I’m planning on riding until my normal bedtime of about 9PM, sleeping for 3 hours, and then starting to ride again by 1AM each day. If this plan goes exactly to schedule, then it will end up being a bit more sleep than the typical RAAM racer, but hopefully with enough energy to recoup the time with a faster moving average.

For this reason, I’ve been starting all my long training rides at about 1 in the morning after 3 hours of sleep. This ride with Michael was no exception. He drove over and parked out front of my house, and we left at 1AM as the neighbor dogs were barking at this unusual activity in the middle of the night. We knew it was going to be cold by the morning, but we didn’t realize how cold! The picture below is shortly after sunrise near Talladega after the temp had been down in the mid teens for several hours – cold enough for beardcicles … a little bit of Wisconsin all the way in the deep south in Alabama!

There were so many fun things in this ride, but one of the highlights was Horns Valley road snaking along the backside of the Alabama Skyway ridge line – probably Alabama’s longest narrowest ridge line extending from northeast of Mount Cheaha all the way down to Sylacauga. Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain are both longer but they are so wide that you could almost just call them plateaus. The picture below is annotated on the topocreator map roughly halfway down the Horns Valley road.

Annotated topocreator map with the Cheaha and Skyway ridge lines visible in the east. (click to enlarge)Annotated topocreator map with the Cheaha and Skyway ridge lines visible in the east. (click to enlarge)

High resolution version

In addition to the really fun, smooth dirt road that dwindled to a fast, fun, smooth double track in a number of places – we ended up climbing the ridge line itself at several of the major gaps – Adams Gap, Clairmont Gap (2x – both sides), Porter Gap, and Bulls Gap. During this middle stretch of the ride, the temp climbed up into the 60s thanks to the strength of an Alabama sun, but by the end of the ride a few hours after sunset we were back down into the 40s. Overall, we saw a 45 degF swing in temperature from a low of 14.5 degF near the Coosa River on our way out to Cheaha up to high of 61 degF near a different section of the Coosa River on our way back home.

One final note about this ride – I knew when I was planning out the route that we would be covering the old Bulls Gap time trial late in the ride – but I was thinking at the time of the more recent iterations of the race in the 2000s. It wasn’t until I was riding with Michael and telling him about the course that I remembered that the Bulls Gap time trial was my very first time trial and road cycling event. Check out the pic from just before the start in 1993 when I had absolutely no clue that I was even wearing a world champions jersey let alone that you weren’t supposed to do that!

toone-bullsgap1993Me before the start of the 1993 Bulls Gap time trial.