I’m so tired, but it’s only 8pm. 14 hours ago I entered the Izu Velodrome to start preparing for the days racing, complete with a full sprint tournament in the morning and a keirin tournament that afternoon/evening. I’ve been here since Monday night, and it wasn’t until I plugged my headphones into my iPhone that the nerves started. 12 hours later, I would be walking out of the velodrome with an incomplete feeling, a victory in the sprints, and a silver medal in the keirin. I pushed myself hard, I raced well, but as any athlete should feel, not satisfied until I bring it all home.
Walking into the velodrome, it was a bit warmer. Training in 9 degree C air the previous days left me glad I brought my DZnuts In Heat Embrocation along with. We had a toasty 16 degree C going throughout our morning, eventually warming to 20 degree C by the end of the day. Armed with a scarf, beanie, leg warmers, embrocation, base layer, long sleeve skin suit, long sleeve jersey, and my USA track suit, I started warming up, changed to race gear and rolled up to the line. I pulled out a PR race 200m of 11.610, at 17 degrees C, in a small gear. Who knew?
Before I knew it, I was standing on the podium as the Japan Track Cup I Women’s Sprint Champion. The rounds were fairly simple. I won each round in two rides, and felt on top of the world. Feeding off my warm up playlist, I imagined the LA Grand Prix, the energy, and kept it rolling. Between the rounds, I realized how lucky I was to have the training environment in LA that I do. Riding sprints against my coach and training partners has helped me grow as a match sprinter, which arguably has been my worst sprint even in the past. But I’m changing, my style of riding is changing, and I feel incredibly blessed to have the people I do helping me become the best athlete that I can be. Riding against boys is tough, especially experienced boys, but it’s amazing what I have learned in a short time.
The perk of winning is….Doping Control!!! This is test number three in less than three months! But I’m happy to do it. I had less than 2 hours before my keirin rounds were to start, had an awards ceremony, press interviews, lunch, gear changes, cool down/warm up, and I managed to get everything done, despite having no support. The Japanese riders were amazed that I came alone to the event, but alone is only the appearance. Despite the time changes, I’ve had support at all times throughout the racing tonight, support in helping choose gear selection, keeping my head on straight, and overall keeping the moral up. Having a familiar face in Canadian track sprinter, Joe Veloce, is great as well. Again, I’m incredibly lucky to have the support network that I do, and I wouldn’t be here without them.
I won my first keirin heat. It was a pretty low-key round. The four other girls in my heat did not race the sprints in the morning, so with fresh legs, I knew I had to be a little more aggressive and try to stay in control. There was no real movement, clean, and tight. The final on the other hand was crazy. I got the start position I wanted, rode it how I wanted, but with girls flying every single direction you can imagine…in and out of the lane, up and down the track, changing positions every corner…I caught myself in girls’ wheels at least three times, running into the back of another rider, never in the sprint lane myself…and not only did I get a “warning” for being in the sprint lane with someone else, but I preformed the bike throw of my life to make up more than half a wheel, and came in second by less than a tire width. The race I love the most, I had the worst result in. Now, I realize that I’m saying I came in 2nd at a UCI Class 1 Japan Track Cup…keirin country…where this sport lives, this event lives…but to me, this is my favorite race, and I want to win. No one is harder on themselves than me. Yes, I am incredibly proud of what I have accomplished, but until I find myself on the top step, I will not be satisfied.
Twelve hours later, we walked back up the hill, ate dinner, and now, I’m decompressing from a complete day at the track. An incredible day of racing. BUT, let’s not forget about the food! Too often am I finding myself questioning what exactly I am eating…most of it I’ve found out is ground up fish, and as a foreign country, we are denied orange juice at dinner (nobody really knows why). I believe when I get back to America I am going to take a solid break from miso soup, rice, sea weed, fish, ground beef, and cabbage. My first stop is probably going to be In and Out for some well done fries and a chocolate shake.
And I suppose I should tell the story about the banana…well, honestly I haven’t mentioned it to anyone, and I hid it pretty well. But being a one man American show, my bin is the messiest out of everyone’s. I prefer to be neat and organized, but with hundreds of race schedules, start lists, and round sheets floating around, wheels bags all over, towels, race wheels, training wheels…you get the idea…not to mention 4 layers of clothing…I’ve been a mess. It’s amazing I’ve managed to not lose anything. The only fruit I have gotten my hands on are bananas. From the local 7-eleven in the village, I bought a bunch of beautiful yellow bananas, only to find one attack to my butt and smeared across my wheel bag approximately 10 minutes before my keirin final. How did this happen? Well I decided to clean my bike with a silicon spray, which got all over the amazingly clean and smooth basketball court floor, which little did I know turns it into an ice skating rink for shoes, socks, anything to slide across. I slipped and the rest is history. There went my bananas, and there went my even more so disgusting 11 hour old skin suit, and straight up to the line I went.
I’ve never been so happy to get out of a chamois, but I’m also excited to get back in it tomorrow. Up next is Japan Track Cup II, with keirin in the afternoon for me. A day to sleep in and recover from today’s 12 hour program, and to stare at that photo finish picture and let the anger build up a little more. I’ve earned some valuable points towards next years world cup qualification, and I’ve also gained an experience of a lifetime. Again, I am amazed at the generosity of the Japanese people, and can not wait to come back again. Apart from eating fish eyeballs for breakfast, I’m completely in love with this country.
Until tomorrow. Sleep tight, America.