Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Low-Key Score History

With the completion of the Low-Key Hillclimb score archives, it's fun to look at some score histories.

Most of the riders in Low-Key version 2 (starting 2006) were new: it had been 8 years since the previous Low-Key series, and that's a long time in the cycling world. But for riders who've done the series in both decades of its existence (next year it enters its third), it's interesting to see how their performances compare.

A few riders come to mind. For example, me.

Okay, so I admit I was nervous in doing this exercise. A decade's passing is often unkind to a cyclist's results. Nobody likes to be reminded that they're getting older. Okay, just plain getting old. So let's see what the numbers say.

First, the method. These are calculated using the scheme used to calculate rider scores presently: first I take the median time among non-tandem riders in the same "division" (divisions typically comprise "men" and "women"), then I take the ratio of the median time to a rider's time and multiply by 100. Simple.

Okay (gulp). Here's my results:


1995 was a good year. I'd done a hard 3-week bike tour in France that summer, "Le Tour des Cols" run by Ed McLaughlin, president of Chico Velo, with his French connection Pierre Maisoneuve. Wow -- what fun that was! A real eye opener that made me realize I could do a lot more than I'd thought.

I didn't have that in 1996: that was just a miserable year of grad school. So I'd clearly lost a bit. The worst of it was the final climb, Mount Hamilton Road, where I completely fell apart. Indeed, at the time I figured I was over-the-hill. But in retrospect it was clear that riding haute categorie climbs in July had left me feeling invincible when I got back to California. Oh, yeah: and ripping myself apart because of my difficulty in finishing my research program didn't help, either. That was a very hard time. Indeed, I broke down with a case of chronic fatigue not long after. No surprise.

In 1997-1998, I was in Austin, TX, working at Motorola. Not much climbing there... but lots of miles. Miles which served me quite well when I returned to California late in 2000. But no Low-Keys in 2000. Or 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005. It wasn't until 2006 that Kevin Winterfield talked some sense into me and we started it again.

2006 I'd done another very nice tour: the SuperTour Sierra for two weeks in July. Heat + altitude + distance in abundance. That was another fantastic tour: I'll forever be grateful to Jeff Orum and Perry Stout for putting that together. SuperTour is a wonderful thing, organized in 2010 by Gary Gellin and Holly Harris.

In the Low-Keys that year, I did far better than I'd expected. I'd not been competing since the 2002-2003. So I was pleased I was placing where I was.

2007: a bit better still. Again a bad day, this time on Diablo. I clearly have had an issue with the longest climbs in the series. No SuperTour that year, but oh, what a wonderful Tour Cara and I had in Italy! We spent a week in Rome, Florance, Lucca, and Pisa, with some nice riding but also some wonderful sight-seeing, before joining Andy Hampsten's Cingale Tours for his Tuscany-Elba tour. Hardly the same training load as Super Tour or the Tour des Cols, but I returned with solid fitness anyway. Enormous fun.

2008 I improved again, and improved through the series. No bike tour that year, but I'd taken up running again, and that had caused me to lose a little weight which had been with me since around 2001-2002. A few % of weight = a few % more points, and that's what I saw. For fun, I ran Metcalf, the shortest climb in that series. It was fun, but as you can see, I'm no Gary Gellin.

2009 I fell off a bit. I've been sick a lot this year, and discovered late this summer I had stomach ulcers, likely since my ibuprofen course following a crash at the Berkeley Hills RR in May. So I wasn't surprised I lost a bit: in fact, I was absolutely shocked I did as well as I did. It seemed like the only days I felt good on a bike were at Low-Keys. I had a good time. It was good the series was there, as there hasn't been much else positive to say in my athletic pursuits since the Woodside Half-Marathon trail run in February. It's been a challenging year.

Of course my body isn't the only thing which is lighter: my bike is a lot lighter, as well. The bike I rode in the '90's is a Trek 1500, over 20 lb. The bike I rode this year is a Fuji SL/1, which was down to 11.08 lb by the time I rode Mt Hamilton at the end of the series. Of course its all relative, and the average bike in 2009 is a lot lighter than the average in 1995. But 10 lb is a big drop. The average hasn't fallen that much. So I think the harsh reality is I am a bit slower than I was then, by a few %, anyway. But I'm not riding as much, either.

Okay, enough. Next time I'll look at some other prominent Low-Keyers.

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