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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Eagle Creek Park Cycling Grand Prix v2.0 - FIRST PLACE & FIRST PODIUM FINISH!

I can't even begin to describe how awesome it felt to have two dreams come true at once!  I always wondered what it would be like to be on the podium, but I never thought I had a chance at first place!

THE COURSE
Below is a map of the course highlighted in blue.  It ran counterclockwise.  There were a few corners that stuck out to me.
Bottom right (corner #1):  This wasn't a very sharp corner, but the trees and brush made it difficult to see around it, so the group had a tendency to slow down and merge into a single line here.
Top right (corner #2):  This corner was very sharp, so oftentimes the group would merge into one or two pacelines, especially at higher speeds.
Top left (corner #3):  The inside half of this corner was covered by loose asphalt, so it wasn't an ideal or safe place to pass.  Pretty much everyone had to take a very awkward, wide line.  We could only fit about three abreast in this corner.
Bottom left (corner #4):  This was a very fast corner that led straight into a short ~4% climb which tapered into a flat road towards the finish line.
THE LAST LAP
We lifted the pace significantly in the final lap and I was about four wheels back by the time we entered the bottom right corner.  As we were approaching corner two, I accelerated to hold my position near the front to avoid getting pushed back by traffic within the group.  After exiting corner two, I glanced back and noticed that the group strung out due to the sharpness of the corner, so I relaxed and held my position to recover until they bridged all of the mini gaps.  One by one, two of the riders at the front of our lead group shifted off the paceline to force everyone to work harder.  By the time the group caught up, it was time to prepare for corner three- a corner where it was almost impossible to pass safely.  After corner three, only one rider remained.

The last rider was very powerful and I knew the downhill leading into corner four was his forte, so I waited until after corner four to make my move.  As soon as the rider I was drafting began to lose speed quickly, I broke off his wheel and sprinted for dear life!  Before I reached the summit, every rider fell out of my peripheral vision rather quickly.  Since I had a feeling that the larger and more powerful riders would try to pass me after the climb tapered into a flat, I summoned everything I had to sprint even harder in an effort to hit my top speed first.  The plan was to hit a speed that no one else could exceed.  As I approached the finish line, all I could think about was "am I really going to win?"  I couldn't believe it at first, but from the climb to the finish line, I never saw a rider in my peripheral vision, so it was clear that I won.

After talking to my parents and my friend's wife who came to cheer me on, I learned that a rider tried to draft my wheel and slingshot ahead.  Luckily, as soon as he left my draft, he was only able to speed-match me.  I ended up taking first by about a bike length!

EMBARRASSING!
I don't know why this happened, but at around three laps to go, I started to feel a draft on my leg.  I later looked down at my legs and noticed that my shorts started rolling up my thigh!  It eventually rolled up high enough to expose a large section of skin between my shorts and my leg warmers, so it looked like I was wearing stockings!  I hope the photographer Photoshopped my clothes back together!

THE FINAL SPRINT ANALYSIS
Here is a screenshot of the final sprint from my Strava page.  Thank you Strava for exaggerating the power of my uphill sprint! :)
Below is a screenshot from my Polar ProTrainer 5 software.  The spreadsheet below shows second by second data for speed, cadence, heart rate and elevation.  The sprint started at 1:15:22 and ended at 1:15:32.  Apparently, I accelerated from 26.5 mph to 28 mph in the uphill sprint.  I reached a top speed of 29.7 mph and progressively lost speed as I approached the finish line.  I crossed the finish line at 29.3 mph.
POLAR CS600X HEART RATE ANALYSIS
I'm not the type to hide my data, especially since these numbers vary from person to person, so here it is!  This is what each colored bar represents:
  • RED:  Pure anaerobic- Sprints and hard accelerations
  • GOLD:  Lactic Threshold- Long, sustained accelerations or quick changes in power/ effort (climbs)
  • GREEN:  VO2max- The highest intensity that my aerobic system can operate before switching to the anaerobic system.
  • BLUE:  Submaximal Aerobic- An intensity that can be sustained for hours because it is dominantly aerobic.  Low intensity.
Heart rate zone summary
Heart rate zone summary:  This chart shows how long I remained in each zone out of a total duration of 42 minutes 21 seconds (100%).  For 33 seconds (1.3%), I was able to reach an intensity well below my VO2max.  I likely reached this zone between corner two and three because this long section of road was mostly downhill, so I was able to coast more often, especially within the pack.  For 17 minutes and 57 seconds (42.4%), I was working close to my VO2max.  In training, I can hold a steady state VO2max effort for about 1.5 hours without losing power.  In order to reach this zone during the race, I tried to underestimate how hard I needed to pedal to maintain my speed.  Anytime the pace lifted, I tried to accelerate as slowly as possible to remain in the aerobic zone.  For 19 minutes and 46 seconds (46.7%), I was working at or close to my lactic threshold.  This likely occurred in the climbs and the accelerations after each corner.  I was in the pure anaerobic zone for 4 minutes and 5 seconds or 9.6 percent of the time.  I hit this zone when I attempted a breakaway 20 minutes into the race and in the last minute of the race leading to the final sprint.
Heart rate zone distribution
Heart rate zone distribution:  The chart above shows what energy system was dominantly used during the race.  My goal was to use my aerobic system more than my anaerobic system by trying to race less aggressively and conserve energy.  Although most of my time was spent right at the threshold between my aerobic and anaerobic system, this chart shows that I spent four percent more time aerobic than at or above my lactic threshold.
Curve view (HR, cadence, speed, elevation, temperature):  Anytime the red line (heart rate) was in the yellow zone, you could pretty much guarantee that I was suffering a lot.  In the final sprint, my entire body was screaming!

THE EQUIPMENT
I've been holding off on a nice set of wheels because my friends and I have always wanted to compete at a "disadvantage."  This mainly meant no high-end wheels.  Although after today, I'm seriously considering to get a nice set of wheels.  Maybe the new Karbon Speed XA.  Shhh! :)
Bike:  2011 Kestrel Talon Road Bike
Computer:  Polar CS600X w/ speed, cadence and heart rate
Saddle:  Selle SMP Evolution
Pedals:  Look Keo 2 Max
Tires: Continental GP4000S
Tubes:  Michelin AirComp Ultra Light
Front Wheel:  Forte Titan ($64)
Rear Wheel:  Shimano RS80 C24

THE PODIUM PICTURE
You can tell how new the riders are to podium finishes by the number of shots it takes to get the right picture. :)
Looks like we're doing the wave?
Something's still off...
Nice!
First place prize money.
I'm not going to spend it for good luck!
FROM DNF'S TO TOP FINISHES
This season has been a complete 360 with regards to performance.  Last year, I was always in fear of getting dropped and pulled out of the races.  I remember racing this same course a year ago- it took everything I had to keep up with the peloton.  It marked the first time I finished with the pack.  It felt like a huge accomplishment just to have my name on the list without the letters "DNF" next to it.  Prior to this personal achievement, I was pulled out of every race that I signed up for because I wasn't able to keep up (about seven races).  The thought of giving up crossed my mind many times, but I always fought through it.  I still remember those feelings as if it were yesterday, and I'm glad I was able to overcome those barriers because today's victory was well worth the struggle!

SPONSORS
Big thanks to WeightVest.comPolar USA and De Soto Sport for taking the chance to sponsor me.  The Polar CS600X has been very useful in training specific energy systems more accurately.  Although I never got a chance to test the De Soto Sport leg coolers since the temperatures were too low, I wore the head beanie during the race and loved it!  Since I wore it dry, it kept my head warm all day.  It gripped my head really well and also helped hold my prescription glasses and helmet in place during the race.

Special thanks to WeightVest.com because they supported me during the time where I consistently got dropped and pulled out of every race.  It would be an understatement to say that their 150 lbs weighted vest contributed hugely to my progress.  My cycling technique, posture, explosiveness and overall power on the bike wouldn't have been the same without their support.