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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Racing Three Times in ONE Day - Indy Criterium Cycling Race & Festival

Results from the Indy Criterium Cycling Race & Festival
When I signed up for three races, I thought it was a crazy decision, but looking back on that day, it was a lot easier than what I expected!  Before race day, I had a plan nutritionally and tactically which was all determined by the schedule/ duration of each race.  Here's the schedule of the Indy Criterium Cycling Race & Festival:
  • Race #1:  Cat 5/ Citizens - 30 minutes @ 10:30 am
  • Race #2:  Cat 4/5 - 45 minutes @ 1:00 pm
  • Race #3:  Cat 4/5B - 30 minutes @ 4:55 pm
Race #1 (Cat 5):  Before this race, I ate my usual breakfast and warmed up the same way as I would on a single race day.  However, during the race something unexpected occurred.  Because there were a lot of riders (~50), I was pushed near the back of the group.  I worked hard to move up in position quickly and by the time I moved up to what I thought was the front of the group, I noticed that a large gap had formed.  Apparently, an early attack split the group in two.  Unfortunately, I was in the group that was slowly beginning to get dropped and DNF'd out of the race...

Without hesitation, I sprinted all out and attempted to bridge the gap.  I failed to catch a wheel on my first attempt and started to drift back, but after a few seconds, I forced myself to sprint one more time even though my legs were on FIRE.  Although it didn't feel like a fast sprint, I was luckily able to catch a wheel and hang on.  For the remainder of the race, I tried my best to survive, recover and hold a decent position.

Surviving this race was difficult because of the combination of rain and a mix of inexperienced riders.  Several riders crashed or lost control because they didn't try to avoid slick spots such as sewage drains and paint lines.  In order to avoid crashing, I frequently used an early apex to prevent myself from getting sideswiped by other riders- it was a slower and less efficient line, but a safer one.

Since I put a higher priority on staying safe, I wasn't able to recover and save enough energy for a strong sprint.  I lost about three positions before the finish line, but was happy to safely place top 10.

Race #2 (Cat 4/5):  With a 2.5 hour break, I stopped by my car to replenish the carbohydrates I wasted from trying to avoid accidents in Race #1.  Although I knew that a mix of carbohydrates and protein would have been optimal for glycogen replenishment (1), I didn't pack any chocolate milk for the day.  Why?  I'm one of the many people who gets gastrointestinal distress after drinking a glass of chocolate milk.  Since I had a higher priority on feeling comfortable before the next race, I decided to take the safer route and drink Gatorade that I purposely made at a higher-than-normal concentration.  While it wasn't the best option, I still reaped the benefits of replenishing carbohydrates similar to the effect of chocolate milk without the risk of GI distress (1,3).  After eating two bananas and finishing some of my Gatorade, I drank half a bottle of green tea to help my body utilize fat and save my carbohydrate stores for before and during the race.  I had an additional bottle of Gatorade during the last hour which was provided for free near the registration tent.  I couldn't pass up free Gatorade!

Early in this race, I was in a better position because I cut my warm up short so that I could start closer to the front of the pack.  It was a good decision since there were about 75 riders in this race.  I didn't want to make the same mistake that I made in the first race.

Because of the size of the group and the mix of inexperienced riders, more people crashed in this race compared to the first race.  To avoid crashes, I used an early apex as often as possible.  Unfortunately, I almost crashed in the final lap because I was unable to position myself closer to the inside of the turn.  During the turn leading into the roundabout, a rider on the inside of the turn forced me to take a wide line and run straight into a line of large construction cones.  Luckily, I was able to stay upright despite hitting three cones, but as a result, I lost about 10-15 positions due to the close-call wipe out.  Again, I was happy to end the race crash-free.

Race #3 (Cat 4/5B):  Since I had almost four hours to rest before the last race, I knew I had enough time to eat and digest a full meal, so I conveniently went to Subway for a late lunch.  Since caffeine is best ingested about an hour before exercise (2), I drank the rest of my green tea an hour before the last race.

This race was supposed to be 45 minutes long, but was shortened to 30 minutes to meet the scheduled time for the raffle prize- a Zipp 303 wheelset. Throughout the entire race, I didn't really have an opportunity to recover.  The pace was fast, so passing was very difficult to accomplish.  Thankfully, the roads were completely dry, so I was able to take more efficient lines and save energy around the corners.  I ended up placing 16th without losing my position to other riders.

Take Away Points:
The course favored the heavier rider mainly because the course had nearly no elevation changes.  As a result, lighter riders (like myself) had to work harder to maintain the same speed.  In order to reduce this handicap in the future, I made changes to my training program to focus more on improving my maximal power output and lactic threshold to make high speeds easier to sustain.
Indy Criterium Course Map
In the upper section of the course, passing was very difficult because the turns were close together.  The only two convenient opportunities I had to pass were in the two long straightaways.  Because a lot of riders were aware of this, the pace would lift to very high speeds in the straightaways to prevent riders from passing.  This was a major reason why start position was very important to having a successful finish- it was easy to hold a position, but difficult to move up.

My next scheduled race, the NUVO Elite Indiana Criterium Championship will be nearly flat with only three turns and three opportunities to pass.  This is another course that favors the heavier/ more powerful rider, especially since the race will only be 30 minutes long.  After spending a week training to raise my maximal power output and lactic threshold, I hope to perform significantly better at this race.  We'll see what happens this weekend!

References:

  1. Casey, A., R. Mann, K. Banister, J. Fox, P.G. Morris, I.A. Macdonald, and P.L. Greenhaff. Effect of carbohydrate ingestion on glycogen resynthesis in human liver and skeletal muscle, measured by (13)C MRS. Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 278(1):E65-E75, 2000.
  2. Fletcher, Deborah, and Nicolette Bishop. "Effect of a High and Low Dose of Caffeine on Antigen-Stimulated Activation of Human Natural Killer Cells After Prolonged Cycling." International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 1 (2011): 155-165. Print.
  3. Wojcik, J.R., J. Walber-Rankin, L.L. Smith, and F.C. Gwazdauskas. Comparison of carbohydrate and milk-based beverages on muscle damage and glycogen following exercise. Int. J. Sports Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 11(4):406-419, 2001.