Friday, October 1, 2010

Pouring Pack 'Peats

The weather thwarted what might have been my last chance to ride the Kingdom Trails on Friday. No trails are suitable for riding after inches of rain has fallen. Local roads aren't safe either, as visibility is so poor during a deluge. So what's a poor soul with an aversion to indoor trainers to do?

When you can't get get quantity, go for quality. Intensity always trumps quantity when time is at a premium or you just don't want to turn into a raisin by being out there for five hours. So off-road was off limits. Trafficy roads were taboo. What else was left?

I thought there was a reasonable chance Miller State Park would be gated. This park has the popular training climb to the summit of Pack Monadnock, rising 820ft in 1.3mi. I suppose I could suffer through an hour of repeats in the downpour. To be safe, I would take my Dean Colonel mountain bike, which has disk brakes. I haven't ridden this hardtail in over a year now, mostly because it took Dean almost that long to repair the frame. Since a 26 pound bike with fat knobbies wasn't enough of a work penalty, I filled my Camelbak with water and such, and I wore a wool jersey that was sure to hold another five pounds of rain. I took note of Tom Ramsey doing repeats on Mt Ascutney one time with two water bottles in the frame and one in each of his three jersey pockets. This has similar effect to riding a single speed up steep grades. It becomes a strength workout.

En route to Pack, I drove through rain that made me think I should pull over and wait it out. Oh man, riding in this stuff is what makes nice weeks in Colorado just that much nicer. Fortunately, it wasn't too cold.

Pulling into the Miller SP parking lot, I found the summit road gated and not another car around. Excellent. It is not often you get an entire state park to yourself. Pack Monadnock averages 12% grade. I planned to go right into it with zero warmup. It wasn't that warm where I could tool around for a while.

I'll spare you the details of hillclimb intervals. They suck until the endorphins kick in. Then the world is a pleasant place again. I did three climbs at near race pace. My third was 20 seconds slower, so I used my fourth and final repeat as a cool down climb. Bagged about 3300ft of climbing in 10 miles. That, my friends, is an efficient, quality workout. In little over an hour, you can leave Pack Monadnock feeling pretty wrecked.

Needless to say, there was no view up top. The summit poked into the clouds. Second time in a week I hiked or biked into the clouds. The summit was very inhospitable. It was colder and blow you over windy. The rain wasn't going sideways. It was going upwards.

I've played a little more with the newest version of Google Earth. It has many cool features. You can draw an arbitrary path on the map, right click it, then show elevation plot. The plot as all the metrics you'd care about, like distance, average grade, max grade, min and max elevation, etc. What is even more cool is this. You can highly any section of the profile and obtain stats for just that section. I did this in the plot below for top part of Pack Monadnock. A tenth mile section averages 24% grade. Note that it is highlighted in both the elevation profile and the path. You can save these in your places or export as a .kml. It would be nice if Google also provided a .gpx export option. One of the best parts of GE is its free.

Another cool site that Davis Kitchel, co-developer, brought to my attention is Strava. I think climber types the world over will like this one. There are free and fee account options. Basically, you upload your rides/workouts from GPS to Strava. The app will find and categorize climbs in your ride. It will compare your time on the climbs with others, showing KOM and QOM for each climb. If your friends join Strava and upload their rides on climbs, you'll see where you fit in. Everything is linked, so it is easy to navigate from climb to athlete to climbs that athlete has done, etc.  You can even compare instant by instant pacing between riders on a climb. Check out the 6-gaps ride.  Clicking on the App Gap climb will bring up a list of the fastest climbers. Click on Barton (435W for 13min!) to bring stats up on him. You could click away for hours on Strava, looking up climbs or riders you know. I could see a virtual BUMPS challenge down the road with sites like this. The app looks very clean and professionally implemented.

The world certainly is going the way of web apps. Makes sense for so many apps, really. Mapping apps need to draw from huge amount of information. You have digital elevation, all types of imagery, hosts of overlays for streets and points of interest, you name it. Apps you buy and install on your PC couldn't possibly stay up to date for long. Does it really make sense for every user to own a personal copy of giga-gig's worth of data? No. A master copy mirrored on small number of servers is so much more efficient. Web apps also enable new possibilities for athletes too, as Strava is doing.


Dave said...

Thx for the GE info, it let me see that the last few hundred feet of a loose gravel road climb I savored last Saturday averaged 24% explaining the world of hurt I was in. You pay $6 per month for strava or is there a free option you are liking?

Hill Junkie said...

Dave - I haven't done much with Strava yet. I don't use my GPS much for road riding, so I'm not sure if paying for the premium subscription to Strave makes sense for me. Several riders I know ride exclusively with a GPS and save all their riders. These riders could have a lot of fun with Strava.