Sunday, August 9, 2009

A full weekend before Saturday was over

I've successfully survived a full day of track racing. And whatever amount of tan that lost as a result of my limited training over the past couple of weeks, Saturday definitely made up for. It all started on Friday night, after a nice nap in the back of Austin Byrd's father's car on the way down.

I got set up with a place to stay about 800 meters from the track itself. Those that live there call it "The Stone House." If you can imagine, it's a two story farmhouse, made of stone. The current residents include two sometimes trackies and former Penn State ECCCer's, as well as two girls living their for the summer and training at the track, one from South Africa and the other from New Zealand.

So the first leg of the trip was the watching, learning, and having fun portion. After getting there, Andy, who lives in the house, volunteered/was assigned to babysit me, which he did handily all night. We made dinner, then headed to the track to watch the Friday night pro racing. I got a free pass by holding the Echappe Equiptment sign while he took the wheels in as a vendor (he works part time with Gabe it seems; Echappe is everywhere these days).

We were at the track until almost midnight, and it was good fun. I'm not sure if it was the big lights and slightly zaney announcer, or the world class talent, but it was certainly more exciting than the typical night at Kissena, much as I love the place. We sat up in the stands for a while, then headed down to the center of the field to mix and mingle as things were winding down. Andy knew pretty much everyone, and was the unoffical social chair, promoting the party that was going on afterwards. As a result, I got to meet almost everyone there, a few of them twice.

After the track, there was the party. During the road season, I think that we underestimate the value of partying the night before an ECCC race (just to be clear, I say this in jest). I made a ton of new friends, including one of the girls that I would end up racing against the next day. After an hour or two of more talking than drinking (some of you are disappointed, I know), I called it a night, and still got back to the house for a good 6 hours of sleep (only once disrupted by barfing sounds coming from the bathroom as the rest of the gang filed in around 5 AM).

On Saturday, I woke up, had my traditional pre-race big bowl of oatmeal, and headed to the track. I was pretty early, so after registering, I was able to get a good warm up and release some of the butterflies in my stomach, having never raced on so steep of a banked track. I also got used to my bike, as I had never ridden it before. I borrowed it from Kissena for the occasion, and it was not the one that I usually use, but it ended up being a little bit better, in my opinion, than the one that I've been using. I think that I'm better suited for a 52cm with a really high seat than a 54, since my torso is so short.

After my warm up, things started getting exciting. Andy showed up with the wheels, and a set of rollers, both of which I desperately needed. After Fitchburg, I've decided that it's never worth it to do a TT with crappy wheels and a regular helmet. My schedule for the day ended up looking like this: Flying 200m, 500m TT, match sprints, 16-lap points race, Olympic sprint. This meant that the first two times that I was on the track were time trials, so I sprung for Zipp 808's courtesy of Echappe for those two events. And then Austin (my ride, remember?) was nice enough to lend me his sperm helmet. I was rather amused that the retail value of my getup went from about $400 to about $3,000 in a matter of minutes, but it was worth the fraction of that that I paid to look good. Thanks Gabe and Andy.

The flying 200 was, okay. I did it in 16:00 flat. To be fair, the first time I did it a month ago, it was something in the 18 second range, so I'm getting better. But I still wasn't high enough up on the track or going fast enough when I hit the 200m line. I think I could get it to 15:00 or under with just a little technique work. Anyway, that put me at the bottom for the sprints, but that's another story.

The 500 was better. It's weird, because I was talking to one of the other girls, from Temple, who had never done this before, and all she could talk about was being held at the start. I don't know why I never have had a problem with that--it seems almost natural to me. Anyway, I still didn't get the best start. I probably lost a good second and a half to two, though it was better than in the charriot race last Wednesday at Kissena. But once I got going I thought I did pretty well. I still was a little shakey, I remember coming around turns 3 and 4 swerving over the red line a little bit. I could have held it a little more steady, but still I think I really like that event. I ended up getting 3rd in the women's combined (collegiate and USCF). I think it was 2nd for the collegiate points, which was the best I finished all day.

The sprints came next, which were more of a joke. As last place going into them, I had to race against 1st in the flying 200, which ended up being this out-of-competition racer who I had observed to okay in the pro field the night before. AND I picked 1st position, meaning I was obligated to lead for the first half-lap. She ended up jumping from behind me before we were even around the first lap and beading me by about 75m. The repechage was a little better. it was 3-up (the three collegiate women, if that says anything), and I tried to do the same thing that was done to me the first time. I was behind the other two. I surprised them, but didn't have enough to hold off Jessica from Penn State (the one I met at the party the night before). So I got 5th after she passed me coming into turn 3. But 5th is better than 6th, right? And it was a rush to be in the front for a while. To be honest, I didn't know that I had enough to race against any of the other 3 girls, so I thought it was worth it to go early, have fun surprising them, then take the 5th and sit and watch the semis and the final. It also gave me some time to run home to the Stone House, as I had forgotten my phone there.

Next was the points race, which was easily the worst event. Beyond my lack of training, I'm admittedly just not quite comfortable riding in a pack on a track bike yet. My mind is my biggest weakness in racing, and something that I really need to work on for next season. I didn't defend my territory and most of the girls take positions from me without putting up much of a fight. HOWEVER, doing that race did restore my confidence in racing a little bit. I was more comfortable in the pack as the laps went on because I could tell that the girls that were riding with me knew what they were doing, unlike some of the races at Kissena. I'm looking forward to taking some time off, then really focusing my training for next year...I think I would also be a little more confident if I felt fit, which I haven't since about May.

Anyway, after the points race, I took a quick cool down on the rollers (which are actually easier on a track bike, I've decided I'm a fan), and started to strip. Jess then came up, mid-change, and asked if I wanted to do the Olympic sprint--basically a two-person time trial, one lap per person--with the girl from Temple. The legs were pretty shot, but for the sake of sportsmanship and a little bit of fun and bonding, I said yes. So I put my jersey and shoes back on and hopped on my bike. I got position 1, so I only had to do one lap (sans TT equiptment, unfortunately, as Andy already went home), had a good time with Calyn (name spelling will be updated when the results come out), and called it a day.

24 hours later (and almost 13 hours of sleep), I think I learned a lot, and now I've definitely got the track bug. Kind of because it's a lot of fun, and mostly because the people are great. I was only staying in the Stone House for 24 hours, but I felt totally at home 5 minutes after I walked in the door. I barely showed up with a bike, and was completely hooked up with equiptment, advice, and support from the minute I arrived at the track on Saturday.

I'm a little bummed that I have to fly out of Newark the day of the Kissena collegiate races, but I could do the team sprint on Friday night...anyone???