I sat in my chair staring at my bike going back and forth between using a bigger gear, what that would mean, and using the same gear…but maybe it’s too small…but the other one might be too big…and I need to talk to the officials because that ride needed to be reviewed…but I only have a short time before my ride and I need to change my gear….but I can’t use the one in between because my chain is too short…why is my chain too short? Why didn’t I bring more links? Where the hell did they go? Then I picked up my phone, and immediately calmed down, I had everything I needed right at my fingertips, just a text message away. I might have showed up at the race with no support, alone, and the only American and blonde for that matter, but I already had all the tools I needed. With anyone I needed on the receiving end, most of the time I just needed a little reinforcement that what I intended to do was a good idea. I would ask about gear choices…saying, “I’m thinking about using this gear, what do you think?”, and more often than not, I had already changed it, or kept it the same, and the response was exactly what I had done. I had one more ride, or I should say, hopefully only one ride. One last ride for the entire weekend, this entire trip. One last ride to hopefully crown me the undefeated Japan Track Cup I and II Sprint Champion.
That morning, I was woken by my alarm for the first time since I got here. Typically I had been waking up at 4:00-4:30 automatically. But after a full keirin and sprint tournament, and another keirin the next day, my legs and body were screaming for rest. This morning was different from the last. I was more alert, and ready to go. The haze from the keirin yesterday had lifted and I was ready to move on from my bronze medal performance. This time it was all about the 200m. I knew the number I wanted to hit, I knew my legs were tired, so I opted for a little less than what I would consider perfect. I was the last seed up, watching the Japanese national team girls set times comparable to what I had done on Friday. But this time, I was in a much bigger gear, and I was going for it. As I was pushed up on the track, my legs felt good. I didn’t feel the steep transition, I didn’t feel the hurt of standing up on a big gear. Instead I felt like I was floating, throughout the entire effort. As usual, my mind gets distracted. I saw the photographers, I saw the sponges, I saw the big screen board showing my splits…when I crossed the line I turned around and saw the time. 11.464. The smile on my face is comparable to the one I had when I won my first elite national championship. Enough to put me in 1st position, and enough to set a new all time sea level PR. That energy carried all the way through straight to the gold medal final, where I was sitting in my chair, calling my nerves and dealing with the pressure of preparing my own equipment while my competitors had a support staff bigger than their athletes.
I reset, walked to the line, found a holder, and did what I came here to do. Unlike the Track Cup II keirin, I was ready this time, I was focused, and I had more adrenaline running through my fingertips than I knew what to do with. Before I knew it, the power was on, and I was hitting it as hard as I could down the back straight. Coming out of corner 4 I looked under my arm and didn’t see anyone, and it was then that I knew it was all over. I had done it.
Two golds, one silver, and one bronze. Four top three podium finishes, in four events, in three days of racing. Hundreds of UCI points earned towards next years world cup qualifications. An incredible amount of experience gained. It’s all over now. It’s time to head back home. As for Japan, I will be back, you can be sure of that. I will miss the music playing toilets, the group shower sessions, the baby fish for breakfast, and let’s not forget the mysterious gelatin substance present at every meal. I got to experience the keirin school, tour its campus, live near a village for a whole week, and train and race at one of the most beautiful velodromes I’ve ever been too. Most of all, I will miss the people. Never before have I been treated with such respect in a foreign country, and been given help in every direction needed. Regardless of our inability to fully understand each other, I have made friends for a lifetime.
Like I said, it’s time to go home. Time to celebrate another success. And celebrate with those who deserve it the most. I can’t wait to see my puppy, my little San Pedro family, and find a place for my new shiny Japan Track Cup Trophies.
Until next time. Thanks for reading.