2012 Year in Review

Independence Pass triumphant!

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. For me, it has been fantastic. I set the bar high with some ambitious goals, and met or surpassed all of them. This is the first of three wrap-up posts. This will be just the overall recap, and will be followed over the next few days by my list of climbs and rides of the year.

First, here are the personal stats from the year:

Milestone Number
Miles Traveled 5,263
Time in Saddle 328 hours
Elevation Gained 324,068
Total Rides 111
Climbing Events 11
Running Events 4
State Highpoints 5
Country Highpoints 1

Overall the miles were down from last year, but that has more to do with my season ending injury. If I was at full strength all year, I very likely would have achieved 6,000 miles.

Top five accomplishments of the year:



1. The Big Five Mountain Events. The goal was to complete the four toughest mountain centuries of the southeast, which I later expanded to five. Whether the ones I chose are indeed the toughest is a debatable topic, but trust me, they were plenty tough. They were: Tour de Cashiers, Assault on Mount Mitchell, Blood Sweat & Gears, Bridge to Bridge, and Six Gap Century. I was so determined to complete this goal, that I rode the last one with a stress fracture in my hip.

2. State High Points. I should clarify that the state highpoints in the stats table above are for the highest paved roads in each state. Even though a few of them were the highest mountains in the state, the roads do not typically travel all the way to the summit. Those were: Brasstown Bald, Clingman’s Dome, Mount Evans, Mount Mitchell, and Sassafras Mountain. Not to my surprise, these were among the toughest climbs of the year, which I will go into more detail in a future post.

3. Colorado Conquests. I spent more than a week in Colorado with family and friends. I shipped my bike ahead of time and mapped out a few climbs. Again, I exceeded my expectations, conquering some of the most scenic and challenging climbs in the area. Overall I rode 280 miles, with 25,000 feet in climbing, conquered eight mountain passes, including the highest paved road in North America.

4. Strava Classic Climbing Challenge. There are a lot of Strava challenges that I’ve passed on, most of which are a measure of mileage. This one was too tempting. Since it was climbing, it was right up my alley. It came at the time when I was training for Mitchell, which was extra incentive to succeed despite the insane difficulty. Weather and bad timing messed up a lot of my mountain trip planning during that month, so instead I rode a lot of local hills. Since they are of the rolling variety, this required a lot of repeats. I got a big chunk of the mileage at the very end during the Table Rock weekend, then finished up with some nearby hill repeats. My reward from Strava was a water bottle that I’ve seldom used, but my real reward was performing well on Mitchell. Speaking of which …

5. Mount Mitchell Improvement. This was my A event, the one where performance really mattered. With the others I was aware of my time, but not as concerned. For Mitchell, I wanted to do well. I actually fell short of my goal of beating 7 hours, but only by a few minutes. I improved over last year by almost an hour, which is a significant achievement that I’m more than pleased with.

Top 5 Posts:

As most of you who read this blog know that I write a lot, and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my writing is better than others. Since the most popular posts are almost always the mountain centuries, most notably Mount Mitchell and Bridge to Bridge, a lot of my other posts by contrast fall under the radar. Oddly enough, those can be the ones I get the most positive feedback about. The following are my favorite posts of the year.

1. The First Leaf Tour – This was written just before riding the Tour de Leaves again. It was a nostalgic reflection of the first time I participated in the event, which also happened to be my first organized event period. I was a true ‘noob’ at that point, and had fun laughing at myself in this post.

2. Why Climb? – This simple question prompted a lot of thought. Why do we punish our bodies the way we do? What is it about pure climbing that motivates people? This is my raison d’etre post, my mission statement in a way. I had a good time exploring this passion.

3. Media Matters – This year I got a fragment of media attention. It was nothing extraordinary, and it probably made little overall difference to the website’s popularity. These were small, local publications, which turned out to be a good thing since I fell on my face twice before finally doing a good interview. This is the post where I had fun discussing these experiences.

4. Short History of Learning to Eat – Nutrition has become a big part of my life, but this was not always the case. I had to learn how to be healthy over a period of time, most of which happened before I was on the bike. Now the difficulty is sticking with my good habits. This post was autobiographical about how I learned to eat properly.

5. Measuring the Blue Ridge – Colorado was a fantastic experience in every way imaginable, but it was also a good measuring stick for how our climbing compares with the rest of the country. This is a very unscientific comparison based on a miniscule sample size, but I had fun with it.

Top Photos:

This is my favorite picture of the bunch.

The View from Mount Evans.

Schull's Mill Road, heavenly sunlight pierces through the trees.

Schull’s Mill Road, heavenly sunlight pierces through the trees

Steep descent down Hogpen begins.

Getting ready to descend Hogpen Gap.

The view from the ledge up Independence Pass.

The view from the ledge up Independence Pass.

Near the top of Pinnacle Mountain.

Near the top of Pinnacle Mountain.

Chimney rock from below.

Chimney rock from below.

6 responses to “2012 Year in Review

  • Robert Armstrong

    Aaron – that’s one hell of a 2012. Looking forward to being part of your 2013 year. Recover as fast as you can.

  • Steve

    Very well done! Excellent pics, as always, to boot. I note with interest that you and I had nearly an identical number of rides in 2012 yet you somehow managed more than twice the mileage and almost three times the climbing. I suspect the answer to that riddle lies in the fact you spent nearly twice as much time in the saddle as I did! My key to a more productive 2013 can be found right there, I think.

    Best of luck in 2013 and I look forward to more entertaining posts!

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Steve. A lot can said for putting your butt in the saddle and keeping it there. As for the climbing, just participating in Mountains of Misery next year will be a major boost to your numbers. Cough cough. 🙂

  • bobissett

    Nice work, man. Glad you’re on the path to getting healthy. Looking forward to more awesomeness in 2013.

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