They say records are made to be broken. Well, I’ve added another one to the list. Of course, my records aren’t that hard to beat!
Whenever I want to test myself, I head out to Cleveland Park and do laps with the goal of going as fast as I can for one hour. For months I was never able to break the 20 mph average for one hour. Then the day came (the day I got my new Mavic wheels), when I managed to barely pass the 20 mph barrier.
Then on a Monday night in August, I upped the goal to 20.3 mph. I remember commenting at that time, “I think I'm going to have to set a new goal. It would be something to aim for to hit 20.5. That doesn't sound like much until you go out there and try to do it!” Well, last night I did it.
Actually, I hadn’t tried again since that Monday. On Saturday I got advice on my form and had my saddle height adjusted. I figured it was time to go out and give it a try to see if the changes would make any difference.
I immediately felt a difference in the way I was seated in the saddle. While before my pedal stroke would cause me to shift ever so slightly in the saddle, this time I was firmly planted. It was much easier to relax my upper body and use my legs to drive the pedals.
Some things I was already doing well – keeping my back straight, shoulders loose, and my arms inside and angled at the elbows. The biggest change for me was the angle of my ankles. I have always pointed my toes so that I was kind of paddling the bike – as I came down I would kind of push the pedal like a canoeist strokes the water back.
I was told I should try to bring my foot parallel to the ground and use the calf and hamstring muscles to put the power in the bottom part of the stroke. I tried it and I could definitely sense I was getting more power. The only thing is I had to keep concentrating not to revert back to my old way.
The first lap was a warm up and then the second was a hot lap. I finished that lap with an average of 23 mph with a time of 6:33. The key to a high speed lap on the course is to get speed on Woodland Way and Woodland Circle. On that lap I hit 20 mph on the climb.
Of course, I can’t maintain that for an hour! Laps 2 – 4 saw my time increase from 7:18 to 7:40. At that point I was starting to burn a little. I had decided to ride looking for the pain and then concentrate on riding through it.
On laps 5 and 6 I started coming back into form. The pain was that fun kind that tells you your muscles are working. I also was trying to work on my breathing to make sure I was pulling in plenty of oxygen. No diaphragm pain tonight no matter how hard I pushed!
Then on lap 7 I got behind two guys that were moving along at a good clip. I hooked on and then the guy directly in front of me pulled off. I was left behind a fellow wearing a Carolina Triathlon - Ryobi team kit. It was a little faded, so I figured he had worn it before! I had gone around him earlier in the ride while he was doing a slow ride. Now, I had caught him again and he wasn’t going slowly.
Up Woodland Way – we were going around 15 to 16 mph. Then we hit the gentler slope at the top. Ryobi dude shifted and moved up to 20 mph. I followed. Then we both shifted to our smallest rear ring and descended up to 34 mph.
Then it was time to climb Woodland Circle. I wondered how he would approach this climb – but not for long. He took off and I tried to match him up the climb. On a section where I typically congratulate myself for hitting 19 mph, we were sprinting topping out at 28 mph!
Right as we neared the top, I could tell I was about to lose him. Thankfully, I had only dropped back about a yard by the time we turned the corner. He slowed and I cheated to pull up on his wheel before he could look back and see he had almost put me in big hurt!
He looked back and gave me a grin. I like to think he was a little surprised I was still there. We continued at a normal speed around to McDaniel Avenue. At that point, he slowed enough to allow me to pull up beside him. “I’m going straight up here,” he said pointing at the intersection of Richland and McDaniel. I replied, “Thanks for the pull.”
A little more than a lap later, I hit the hour mark. I looked down to read an average speed of 20.6 - so much for my 20.5 mph goal. I guess I’ll have to start pushing for 21 mph. I bet if I could follow that guy again, I could do it!