Archive for February, 2013

Road Ride Report

Posted in ride reports with tags , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

After putting down my bikes for the past 3 or so weeks to focus on running, I knew I had to start getting my legs back to riding form in order to do a few of the endurance races I have been eyeballing….especially since I likely will be riding them with a singlespeed.  After attending Sunday School, I went home around 10:30am on Sunday, suited up, and got my mountain bike out for what was to be at least 20 miles of riding at Oak Mtn State Park.

However, as I was airing up my rear tire the valve stem decided to come loose and let all of the air out.  Not wanting to pull off my tire, reseat the stem, add more sealant, and air it back it up (i.e. not wanting to spend a ton of time), I begrudgingly set off with Sexy Lady on a road ride.  But I made a mental note that it sure would have been nice to have a backup mountain bike in times like this.  Or maybe a cyclocross bike like the one I’ve been eyeing.

I really didn’t know for sure where I wanted to ride.  I had thought about doing the standard 30-mile Hwy 41/43/25/41 loop, but then figured I might just ride down towards the Pelham city limit sign on Hwy 11.  There and back would have been around 20 miles or so.  Nothing much out of the ordinary on Hwy 41 or Old 280, though the Narrows Creek was churning some heavy water due to all of the recent rains.

Hwy 11 started out in typical uphill fashion, with a fairly steady procession of traffic letting out from the various Chelsea churches.  One thing I really like about Hwy 11 though is that the road shoulder is very generous and therefore I can ride its entire distance without ever crossing the white line into the actual roadway.  But that didn’t stop some Alabama/Nascar redneck (I know from his various stickers on the truck) from honking at me as he passed.  My quick instinct was to shoot up the bird finger, knowing he would just keep driving.  But I was actually finding myself hoping he would stop so that I could ask him what the hell he expected me to do…I was riding totally on the other side of the line as it was.  I think at that time I was still a little aggravated by not being able to ride my mountain bike.  But whatevs…I just kept on riding.

I made it to the city limit sign and figured I would go a little further.  Perhaps all the way to the Hwy 52 intersection that leads to I-65.  Then I got to Hwy 52 and thought I would just keep going.  I had only driven past Hwy 52 once, a long time ago, and wanted to see what the ride was like.

Next thing I knew I turned into the Weatherly development/subdivision.  It promised a dedicated bike lane, so I thought this would be a good place to cool down before turning around.  Next thing I knew I was climbing up a steep hill heading towards Ballantrae Golf Club, while trying to somehow eat my Honey Stinger waffle while one-handedly grinding out the climb.  This took me from around elevation 430’ to 750’ according to my Timex Ironman GPS.  Before I knew it I was turning right on Alabaster Blvd and ended up at the backside of the Colonial Promenade shopping center, which sits alongside I-65.  I decided that would be an appropriate time to turn around, especially considering I needed to get back so that Leslie could go to a meeting that afternoon.

The ride back on Hwy 11 seemed to drag on much longer than my outgoing trip.  My average speed was down for sure, as the quick pace I rode on my first 20 miles was starting to eat away at my limited energy reserves.  The only real highlight was when the same redneck as before passed me once again honking his horn.  I threw up my hands in a “what’s up” gesture, but once again no reaction.  And like before….whatevs.

My least favorite stretch of road when I return from Hwy 11 is the stretch of Old 280 leading back to Hwy 41….it’s pretty much a continuous false flat and the wind always seems to be in your face.  But alongside the Narrows Creek it is actually quite a nice change of scenery.  My other least favorite stretch is the early part of Hwy 41, from the Soccer Blast fields to the crest of the hill.  It’s a long, slow hill that you just have to gear down and get through.  Nothing much, but after 30-plus miles there is just no way for me to carry it with a lot of speed.

All in all my first semi-big ride of the season was a pretty good one.  The folks at say I rode 37.8 miles and climbed 3320 feet.  That’s not a crazy big number, but I made sure I pushed myself pretty hard throughout most of the ride.  My quads went through a few cramping episodes, which is a problem I have always had to deal with.  But for the most part I got exactly what I needed, which was two hours of high intensity pedaling.

What I found a little surprising when looking at the ride profile below is that my starting and ending point (i.e. my house) was actually the highest elevation I rode all day.

ride map 02-24-13 alabaster

end of ride at alabaster retail area

ride map 02-24-13 narrows creek

not-so-fun stretch of road along old hwy 280

ride map 02-24-13 overall




ride profile and map

ride profile and map


Mercedes Half Marathon race report

Posted in ride reports, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 21, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I recently took up running.  That’s not to say I never ran before, but until 2012 my annual number of runs was always in the single digits.  I began 2012 by running a little bit in the Spring (maybe once every other week or so).  Then I ran a little less during the Summer due to the oppressive heat.  But once Fall came around I began to run every Monday night while waiting for my daughter to get through with her nearby gymnastics class.

As my running fitness began to build up from 4 miles to 7-8 miles, I began having thoughts of running the Mercedes Half Marathon here in Birmingham.  It’s an annual event that gets a lot of great attention, and is also a race my wife has completed in the past.  In January 2013 I decided once and for all that I was going to participate this year and that I needed to start logging in some more miles to prepare.  I still did not come close to what I would call proper training, as evidenced by my Strava stats below, but this was BY FAR the most miles I had ever put in during a 4-week stretch in my life.


Race day morning arrived with some very cold air (low 20s) as Mike Suco and David Brush swung by my house at 6am to pick me up for the race.  We made our way downtown, found a free parking spot around ¾ of a mile from the start corral, and got in a quick warmup by jogging to the start line.  As we were getting to the corral, I realized I did not have my race number pinned to my shirt.  I grabbed Mike’s keys and hauled butt back to the car, grabbed my race number and timing chip, and hurried back.  So by this time I had put in over two miles of running already.  But the good thing was that I was completely warmed up, despite temps still in the mid 20s.


I lost track of Mike and David and ended up positioned way towards the back of the start corral, near the 11-minute mile pacers.  Considering most of my training runs were well under 8-minute mile paces, I was stuck with some slower runners.  When the gun went off, it took close to three minutes just for us to past the official start line due to the crowds in front of us.  This meant I had to mentally subtract that time in order to determine my true pace while on the course.

My buddy Travis Grappo gave me some great advice the day before the race, saying to be very cognizant of my pace and to not go out too fast or else I’d risk a meltdown in the later miles.  Considering I had never run more than 8.8 miles before, I felt it was important to try my best to heed his advice.  While on the course, I was amazed at how fast the miles went by even at a pace slower than I am used to running.  Having so many other runners nearby, along with the sights of the city, definitely helped distract me from just grinding it out like I typically do on my solo runs.  Whereas I have never really enjoyed the actual act of running much, this was rather pleasurable.

After 4 or 5 miles I saw my good friend Joey Longoria and was able to run with him for a bit.  He was doing his first full marathon and had to pace himself a little more than me, so after a short chat he told me to just go on without him.  I was happy to see that he finished his 26.2 miles a little later that morning.

I made sure to grab some water or Powerade at least three times while on the course even though I never felt very thirsty.  And just after 7 miles somebody was handing out gummy bears.  Who knew that one of my all-time favorite candies would be made free for the taking?!!  That was an awesome little boost of excitement, though I’ve got to admit that chewing a mouthful of gummy bears while running and out of breath is not exactly the most easy thing to do.

Because of my number plate issue prior to the race, I never got to pee out the Gatorade and coffee I had before the race.  Therefore, my bladder was absolutely ready to burst.  Every time I’d see a porta-potty there was always a line outside of it and I really didn’t want to stop and wait.  So, I kept going until around the 9.5-mile mark when I saw an unattended porta-potty ready for my presence.  While it cost me two minutes, it was the best two minutes I had on the course and was really a necessity since my bladder was starting to really sting it was so full.  I was amused to see that my pee had steam coming off of it as it slid down the porta-potty chute….guess it was still that cold.

The last few miles were what worried me the most since I was in uncharted territory in terms of my previous maximum running distance.  But, thanks to Travis’s advice to start with a slow pace, the last few miles saw me feeling probably my best all day.  I was able to keep hammering, actually having some negative split times.  In fact, if you take away the down time for my pee break, I would have had consecutive negative splits for every mile starting at mile 8.

It felt great crossing the line with a chip time of 1:51, and even greater knowing that I had plenty of energy left in the tank.  I think I realistically could have shaved six minutes off of my time had I known at the start how I would feel during the last third of the race.  While I still don’t plan to do much proper training, I am definitely looking forward to my next half marathon to see how much I can reduce my time.  But maybe even more so, I’m looking forward to getting back on my bikes for some good rides this Spring.