Sunday, November 18, 2012

Low-Key Hillclimb: running Kennedy Fire Road (fail!)

Yesterday was the first-ever "self-ride" in Low-Key Hillclimb history. Since GPS has become sufficiently ubiquitous, it was a good opportunity to use a course which would be otherwise inaccessible to us. In this case it was Kennedy Fire Road.


For this purpose I wrote some Perl code which downloaded Strava activities using their rest API, the simple version 1 streams method. I'll provide more details on this next post. But in summary there were a series of "lines" which the data needed to cross in the correct direction in sequence. I had a start line, a first checkpoint 40 meters later to check for riders accidentally triggering the start before they'd actually started riding, a next checkpoint at a plateau a bit more then half-way, a third checkpoint at the dip before the final steep climb, then the finish. I had split times associated with each of these checkpoints.

I went to the trail head with Lisa Penzel, who gave me a ride there from the West Oakland BART station, which was super-easy for me to reach. She's an excellent trail runner in addition to an excellent cyclist (she's going to win the overall women's ranking in the series) so having her there would prevent me from slacking off. After a warm-up we set off together. She set a very nice pace on the opening climb and descent. Then the main climbing began. I was able to pass her there, but she was never far behind, so she provided constant motivation to keep the pace high.

Our start was good as indicated by that first 40 meter split. The data indicate I ran well: I see no fading in my rate of vertical ascent (although in running this is highly positively correlated with grade until it becomes difficult to walk, and the grade of Kennedy is highly non-uniform). I hit the second checkpoint at where I expected it: 3.9 km into the run, a sweeping right before the grade picked up.

Then came what I thought of the final push to the summit. I anticipated a steady grade, a flattish section which appeared to be the top, then a final "oh-my-god" wall to a brief left at whose exit point was the top. Then a flat plateau to a trail junction past the finish.

The trail leveled out and indeed this looked like it was the finish. I then turned the corner to see two riders riding up the hill in a low gear. I was able to run quicker than they could ride, and passed first one then the other. Approaching the top was a left turn. The actual summit was slightly past the exit point of the turn so I noted this and decided to move the finish line slightly.

Small detail: someone had volunteered to put chalk down on the trail at the start and finish of the course and indeed, there had been chalk placed at the start. I hadn't seen any at the finish but perhaps he'd been deterred from climbing by the wet weather.

After this peak was a descent: I continued running because Lisa had said there was a Strava segment to the junction. I came to a junction and concluded I was done. To the left appeared to be a lookout rather than another trail, but perhaps there was a small trail exiting the lookout. The Garmin was reading 5.7 km, I think, at this point, which was only slightly short of what I'd expected.

I waited a short time for Lisa to finish then congratulated her.

She seemed confused, however, uncertain this was the end. But I was able to convince her this was the the only junction on the course and surely it was the finish. Nevertheless after a delay we went a short distance to where there was another steep climb. We turned back here. This was my other big mistake: I'd studied the course beforehand and there was no climb following the plateau at the top. But I'd become convinced I had reached the top: two many details lined up, and I was at this point ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

She was dressed for climbing, not for standing around, so we began the run back. Along the way we came across Ralph Houk, a rider I'd not seen in a decade, and I didn't recognize him. But he recognized me, and we chatted a bit. He made it clear we'd not reached the top.

I felt shattered. It wasn't so much I'd spoiled my own run, but I'd spoiled Lisa's as well. I decided I'd pro-rate Lisa's time for the final short climb we'd missed by stopping at the lookout. It was a 400 meter section gaining approximately 45 meters, an average of 12.5 percent, but the actual climbing portion was more like half of that length at twice that grade. Despite this I decided to take her VAM on the last steep portion we'd climbed and apply it to the finish of the course. She was running a VAM of 1000 meters/hour here so the calculation was simple: 0.045 hours.

For myself, however, I deserved to pay the price for my mistake, so got a DNF.

Pat Parseghan photo
Descending after the climb

The run down was fun, an easy trot until Lisa decided to go for a CR on a segment along the way, and outsprinted me even though I tried to keep her pace. My top end speed is lacking and is something that clearly needs work.

At her car, she offered to wait for me to climb and descend the hill again, but I was tired from the first run and didn't want to make her wait around or try to arrange a ride with someone else.

I changed from my wet New Balance Minimus Road shoes into my Keen Sandles, putting my shoes briefly on the curb until I'd stepped into the sandles. Problem is they stayed on the curb, forgotten. Apparently someone later picked them up, so they're gone. I posted an ad to CraigsList but that yielded nothing. I'll need to find time to buy new shoes before CIM on 2 Dec, unless I want to run the marathon in my racing flats.

So a very bad day for me. I lost the overall lead in the running division in the Low-Keys. Since runners are scored on the same scale as cyclists, and Kennedy was by far the best climb for runners relative to cyclists, you needed to score there to rank. A runner who ran just Kennedy was able to score enough points there alone to beat my net score from Quimby + West Highway 9. Additionally my team, Low-Key, would have taken the top points for the ride and would have benefitted in the overall standings. Sigh. All for not having run an extra quarter-mile.

On the positive side despite the early rain the event had been a remarkable success. I can take some positive out of that. I'll plan more of these "self-rides" in the future.

No comments: