Not long ago, I asked the question - when do training races become racing races? Well now, in retrospect, I can say it happened in May when my mindset shifted and created a new sense of confidence and ability to hang with the lead group. Suddenly I found myself part of the pack nearing the finish, and although I botched it with 500m to go - I think it's safe to say I finally had arrived.
Flash forward to last weekend. All of my mental and physical preparation were ready to be put to the test. At first I panicked when I placed lower than anticipated in the standing start one lap time trial. But over the past three years I have learned that in track, you roll with the punches. One races performance has no bearing on the next. I used that TT as a reminder to stay humble, yet a motivator to show my ability. And great things happen when you can block out external emotions and live in the moment. Fueled by the fact that I love to race my bike and have learned a lot over the years, I was ready and eager to give it another try.
I think the best example of doing this from the weekend is the Keirin. I have been relegated from Keirin's every time I fly somewhere to race them. First it was the Independence Grand Prix in Colorado Springs. I didn't take the motor fast enough. Then I pulled my rear wheel on the restart and they booted me out. Fair enough. Then it was the race in Trexlertown, PA - in what turned out to be the only race I competed in for the trip thanks to the rain. I advanced on the apron to claim the motor, which according to ms. Lackintosh was hers. BANG BANG! Relegated. In every other Keirin I've done - from the AVC in Alpenrose, to the AVC in San Jose - I've made the finals and then strolled in last place each time. I've even opted out of the FSA GP Keirin - saying it was to save my legs for the points race. But in reality? They scare the shit out of me because I've failed at them so many times.
Then there was this weekend. I mentioned my failures on our ride from the airport to the velodrome to Miranda and Christine. We all laughed at my trials and tribulations. But yet when I strolled up to the line for our Keirin heat, and selected the lucky number one position for the start - I didn't blink an eye. I knew what I had to do. I got on the motor, (and that reminds me - I need to work on my standing starts!) and relaxed as the pace increased. The motor swung off, I was still relaxed, swung up track, expecting a move. Nothing happened. Then with one to go, I gave it some gas and no one immediately followed and I handily won the heat. Whoa?! Was that me? Holy Moly! It's ON for the finals. :)
This time I pulled the upper most position - 8. I seeded in about 5th position, no one contesting a better spot. Things were mellow - no bumping or grinding. The speed increased, Cari in front. I was behind Collen, I think. The motor pulled, a slight lull in action, then Cari hits it, trying the long sprint approach. Collen and I started to weave through traffic. With 1/2 lap to go, we passed Cari and I find myself trying to contest Collen, nipping at her heels, and then the race is over. 2nd place?! Wow - something is definitely different. When I called my mom later that night I told her how I placed in the Keirin and she laughed out loud. We both couldn't believe it! And I received the exact same laugh from Ryan when I told him. Just goes to show you can never give up - you've got to keep trying. Even if a race isn't your thing, and you've failed at it more times than you'd care to remember and the officials are on to you... one day those experiences are going to add up and you'll know just what to do - since you know what not to do.