Thursday, December 17, 2009


Perhaps one reader will recognize what this post is about from the title. At the beginning of this year, Alex and I began keeping tabs on our total climbing. I often wondered how much climbing I did in a year. I guess maybe 500,000 vertical feet, but really had no idea. I never tracked it. I did know that my 10 biggest vertical rides last year netted well over 100,000ft. So in January, I began logging my vertical from skiing, riding and hiking. Most of it was measured with a Garmin Edge 705 GPS. Some of it was taken from DeLorme Topo. A small amount was estimated.

You may have read about Mark Weir, the pro mountain biker that took a challenge to climb 1,000,000 feet in a year. He did it in 11 months, mostly on a mountain bike, and got much publicity for it in the bike mags. That seemed like an awful lot, nearly 3000ft per day on average.

For a while, Alex was ahead of me. But things like trips to Hawaii and North Carolina in the spring quickly catapulted me ahead. Then throw in a Colorado trip in August for another spike-up. These can all be spotted in the plot below. Yesterday's ski pushed me above 600,000ft. That means I climbed on average 1700ft per day this year.  Take out rest days, this average approaches 2000ft per day of activity.  I haven't tallied up how much climbing was on dirt, snow or road, other than a quick scan suggests about 62,000ft was on skate skis. Much more than this would have been MTB on dirt. A million feet in a year doesn't seem like a lot anymore. I have no desire to try something like that. The last time I set a silly goal of riding over 10,000 miles in one year, I had abysmal race results. At my age, I've learned quality pays better dividends than quantity.

I won't track my vertical progress next year. I already capture too many details in my training log. In fact, I'll probably delete the HR and power columns in the spreadsheet while I'm at it. It was interesting to track climbing this year. Now I have a baseline by which to compare going forward.


Big Bikes said...

600,000 for guy who doesn't get paid to do it like Weir does = damn respectable!

CB2 said...

With your Garmin where do you get your elevation gain from?
The number on the unit was always below the Motionbased number, which seemed to be more consistent (MB didn't seem to be effected by atmospheric conditions), then when Garmin switched over to Garminconnect the numbers were more in line with what the unit recorded at first, but now are the higher numbers that MB would give?

Hill Junkie said...

Motionbased often wildly over estimates elevation gain from GPS tracks, sometimes by 2x. Mapmyride goes the opposite way, smoothing the data so much it underestimates by 2x. I'm not sure if MB is off due to using satallite elevation data (horibly inaccurate) or faulty digital elevation maps (common in early web apps). Their elevation correction button appears to be little more than a random data massager function.

My Garmin elevation data is derived from the barometric altimeter in the unit. As long as the atmospheric pressure holds steady, this can be very accurate. I upload into Garmin Training Center (PC app) where I can see if there has been some atmospheric pressure shift and manually compensate for it (some apps do this automatically). Basically I take half the difference between total accent and total descent. They should always be the same for a loop ride. GPS's that don't have a barometric altimeter can't really deliver accurate elevation data. Downloading raw track into Topo gets you closer, as I suspect will Garminconnect.

I find the new Garminconnect to be useless. You cannot get GPX files out of it, so thus very limited sharing. Any mapping app can import/export a GPX file, but Garmin holds your data hostage in a proprietary TCX file format. There are data translators out there, like GPSBabel, that I should invest in sometime. Right now, if I want a GPX file, I have to upload to MapMyRide online, then download a GPX file. Takes a while. Garmin TC exports track directly to Google Earth, but it will not give me a GPX file. Again, they want you to use only their apps.

Mookie said...

Damn it! I was just going to "publish" my vert until I read this. Now I will go cower in a corner somewhere.

As I write I've got 520K in the bag. I recently just passed 6K miles so for the year I'm averaging 86ft/mile ridden. I guess not too bad considering 95+% of miles were on the road. I probably took about a month off on the year- 2 for my little superman into the woods at Smuggler's.

I use the Garmin TC total ascent number as well. In the future I'll take average of difference between ascent and descent to account for baro shift.

Maybe I'll shoot for a loftier number in '10 seeing as I plan on doing alot more mtbing, maybe even a bikecentric trip or two.

rick is! said...

I deleted all of the columns from my training log and then threw it out the window. Training schmaining.