After track nationals, I came home, hung my jersey up at my parents’ house, and took three weeks off the bike. When I started back up in late October/early November, it wasn’t what you might think. I was only riding three or four times a week and the other days I was doing a combination of gym, hiking, and core work. Only recently have I quit the gym and started riding every day.
Since we’re talking about the off season, I had to include this picture:
This is the time of year when one of these comes in handy. For some reason, I only get cravings for bad food when I’m not training very much. Underneath the leftover Halloween candy, you’ll find at least one jar of Nutella and some cookies. Combination to the lock box? Only Dan knows that.
In early November, right when I was starting to get back on the bike, USAC contacted me about getting back out to LA to do a team pursuit camp. That’s how I ended up here today, watching the GoPro footage of a practice 3k flying TP:
That’s Ben Sharp there on the right who “had a full head of hair four years ago, and this is what London did to [him]”.
I can’t begin to describe how much I’ve learned this week. I wish I’d known even a quarter this much before I did the TP at nationals! There are two coaches here, Ben Sharp and Neil Henderson, for the five of us, so we’re getting quality instruction.
The first two days of camp, we did a lot of flying team pursuits of various lengths. We practiced enough for me to be able to say I’m comfortable flying around the track in aero bars behind teammates. But today, when Ben pulled up an excel spreadsheet and started analyzing data in terms of deltas and slopes, centers of mass, and accelerations, that’s when I knew this event was made for me.
One of the cool things I’ve learned this week is to watch Ben while he’s standing on the apron. The apron is the dark blue part (see above). It isn’t banked and you don’t race on it. I’ve only gotten to this point because the rest is starting to come naturally. This is called “walking the line” for a coach. Ben explained: we can’t rely on verbal communication in international events because of the cheering of the crowd, so one step = 0.1 seconds. If we’re 0.4 seconds “ahead of schedule”, he takes 4 steps ahead of the start/finish line. And he resets every lap. So if we are going faster then the the schedule but we’ve slowed down since the last lap, Ben will be standing behind the start/finish line. “Schedule” is just jargon for “the predetermined laps times you need to do in order to achieve the desired final time.”
There’s so much more to say, but not enough time to say it! Maybe next time. Thank god I came out to Cali for this week. Otherwise my parents probably wouldn’t be able to get through our entry way any more.
My first sighting of the track at the Home Depot Center in L.A. As soon as you get there, I guess you’re supposed to claim a spot with your stuff or a sign or something. Here’s our professional sign:
And then if you’re really pro you bring your rollers and a bike lock and leave your rollers locked to the fence until the end of the week. Track racing involves a lot of gear changing…
and standing around. Sometimes people occasionally ride their rollers at 50 watts.
My first days on the track had a some ups and downs. Nicola asked me to write about my experiences because of the unusual situation I’m in: I’m new to the track, I’ve never done a team pursuit before, yet I flew out here to win the team pursuit national championship. I’m just going to copy and paste here:
Today I had team pursuit practice with my Exergy TWENTY12 teammates, Lauren Tamayo, London Silver Medalist, and Carrie Higgins, reigning Omnium National Champion. My boyfriend and I flew to L.A. from Atlanta yesterday so I could have a couple days to get a feel for the track. My track career thus far has consisted of an individual pursuit at 2006 collegiate track nationals, a handful of weekday races in T-town in 2007, and six nights of racing at Dick Lane Velodrome (famous for the tree in the infield) last month. I’d never even laid eyes on a 250 before today, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. As they say, 90% of success is showing up. After that, at least 5% has to be pretending like you know what you’re doing. I’d watched the London Team Pursuits on TV. How hard could it be?
Thirty minutes after hopping on my first 250, I found myself going all-out on Lauren’s wheel in my aerobars anticipating her exchange, and I felt completely out of control. What did I get myself into? But there were no breaks, there wasn’t time to look back, and there wasn’t time to learn slowly. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope I didn’t crash everyone. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more nerve-wracking, someone turned the indoor lights off! Heart attack! After practicing exchanges, the lights came back on and we went on to some standing starts. I learned how to breathe with the beeps of the start clock, push my hips back, and anticipate the starting beep. I was learning from the best, and feeling confident.
I thought my second day of practice would be easier since I was now infinity times more experienced at team pursuiting than I was before yesterday. I was so wrong. The track was more crowded, which made me nervous. I instinctually maneuver my way around people on the road, through the grass, and over cobbles. You’d think a bike is a bike no matter where it is, but it’s not. It’s easy for me to spot newbies on the road. I couldn’t tell you what exactly I was doing wrong, but I’m sure my newbie signals were broadcasting loud and clear to everyone else on the track.
So today was just the same as yesterday but with more people until someone suggested we do a trial run in our TT helmets. We started two separate flying six laps, and I embarrassingly flaked out on both. We were going much faster than yesterday, I was having trouble seeing with the TT helmet on, and I was one hundred percent convinced we were going to plow someone over. A gap would open between myself and Lauren, and I was petrified Carrie would pull off, swing up track, and swing down into me. It was stressful. This was our last practice session and I needed to get it down right.
Lauren and I went back out again, this time without TT helmets, and did two more flying six laps without any hitches. Our times were good, which was comforting.
Tomorrow is the individual pursuit, so I’ll focus on that for now.
Today went well! I have a very specific warm up for prologues, so I figured I’d do something similar for the pursuit. I did the first part on the track and was planning on doing the second part on the rollers while the first heats went off, but I didn’t anticipate the wave of nerves that came over me! My heart rate was skyrocketing, so instead of finishing my warm up I decided the best thing I could do was to sit down and take some deep breaths. Regretting that coffee I drank this morning! I ended up doing a 3:53 which was good enough to put me in the final for 3rd place against my teammate, Cari Higgens!
The final was so-so. I went two seconds slower than in the qualifying round, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it. The scratch race final was in twenty minutes and I needed to change my bars, pin my second number on, and recheck my bike with the official (all without the help of my boyfriend/mechanic/psychologist who was in the process of doing his own scratch race final). My bike was too light when Nicola and I went to weigh-in, so we had to tape a stem underneath my seat to meet the 6.8kg requirement.
Everyone got in position for the scratch race start. I thought all my mechanical were behind me, until we left the rail and immediately my bars moved in my hands. Had I really forgotten to tighten my stem bolts? I raised my hand in the air as if expecting the team car to pull up behind me. I did a couple laps on the apron until I finally figured out where to go and what to do. I made it to the pit, some friends tightened the bolts, and I was back on the track.
I ended up lapping the field with Lauren Hall, someone who I’ve raced a lot on the road. I wasn’t quite sure what to do tactically, so I tried to go with my instincts. She ended up beating me in the bunch sprint, so I had to settle for a silver metal. Creeping closer and closer to a jersey!
The next day…
Dan and I both won the Team Pursuit. Our morning ride wasn’t very smooth, but we still qualified for the gold medal finals with a 3:41. Ben Sharp and Neil Henderson both advised me to put on a bigger gear, saying it would help me stay on Lauren’s wheel. I did, and it seemed to work! I still don’t know how exactly that helped, but it worked!
The next day I had the 25k points race. It was 100 laps (since each lap is 250 meters), with a points sprint every ten laps. At the halfway point I had zero points, and my teammate, Cari, was doing really well. I assumed my race was over, and decided I’d do my best to help her. I followed a move with Beth Newell, and we ended up lapping the field. I made her do most of the work, but she was strong enough to do it on her own. When we caught the field, I kept being aggressive. I ended up off the front again in another group which I then attacked and soloed from. When I crossed the finish line, I thought to myself “there I go again treating a points race like a scratch race. The first person across the line doesn’t always win.” it wasn’t until after a couple cool down laps that they announced my name. Cari and I had tied in points, but I must have won more sprints. Wow. This is the beginning of something good.