Grab a snack and maybe a water bottle. This is a long one.
Day One – Team Sprint
My first race day was the women’s team sprint. Last year I was part of a national record team, that took 4th place, just missing the podium, and this year, I wanted revenge and to bring home a medal. As we went up to the line, somehow, my strap had twisted itself around and ended up backwards, leaving the extra length sticking out into my frame on my right foot with a threat of getting caught in my chain, but as the beeps had already begun, I had no time to reconfigure, and lined up anyways. As we sat on the line, the officials had us roll off, because there was a problem on the other side of the track. As a blessing in disguise, I rolled down to the rail on the inside of the track, and the coach helped me solve the Rubik’s cube my strap had become. We lined up again, the countdown began, and we were off. Alissa started with a time of 20.0, which was 7th fastest amongst the 9 teams. I left a two bike length gap between us and as we came through turns three and four, and started building it up and hit it hard as soon as she pulled off. I accelerated and rode the fastest second lap I had ever in my life, and actually, it is the fastest second lap a female has ever ridden in American history. With the 4th fastest second lap, by only a few hundredths of a second, we ended up in 6th place with a time of 34.6, three-tenths off the national record, and not in medal contention. Unfortunately, we also missed the US International Elite Team Sprint time standard, meaning, no team sprint has qualified to participate in the 2014/2015 World Cup campaign, which also eliminates any chance of qualifying a team for the Rio 2016 Games, if no athletes are sent.
PRs were not celebrated, and we left unhappy. We hadn’t produced one of the 8 medals the staff was looking for, and we returned to the hotel. We regained forces together and talked about the positives of the day. Alissa had set a new PR in the standing lap, she rode it technically smooth and pulled up perfect. I accelerated at the right time, timed the transition perfect, and rode the fastest second lap in American history by somewhere around three tenths. It might not have been all we wanted it to be, but we did what we could at the time.
Day Two – 500m
500s over the past year have been a love/hate relationship. TT bars or drop bars. Big gear or small gear. Who knows? I opted to go for it, using TT bars, and a medium gear. My start wasn’t great. I faltered a bit. I was using a pair of bars I hadn’t used since May, and hadn’t done starts on in a really long time. The gear was something I hadn’t ridden in a 500 in over 1.5 years, and the combination of all of this together made me giggle a little inside. I was towards the last half of the start list, lined up during the hot evening session, and rode as well as I could. I crossed the line with a time of 34.794, which was about .7 seconds faster than any 500m I had ridden. A HUGE PR for me, which had me sitting in 3rd place. As the riders continued to go, I was still sitting in 3rd with the final two riders going. I glimmer of hope was fluttering in my heart, thinking I might have a chance to come away with the first medal for USA. But that was quickly shot down as the final two riders took the top two places, resulting in a 5th place finish for me. Last year I took 6th in a way less competitive field, and I was proud to get a top 5 result. I used the same gear last year, as well as aero bars. It must have been that fast rear disc of Andy Lakatosh I was using ;). But again, no medal, and I went back to the hotel not feeling good about my performance. This was the second huge result of the event, and I should have been nothing but excited about what I’d accomplished.
Day Three – 200m/Sprints
I woke up this morning with pain in my legs. The 500m took a bit out of me, but regardless, I was ready to try to get the flying 200m national record, and qualifying for the match sprint tournament. I had only done one flying effort on this track, seeing as we had 1.5 hours on the track, the night after we arrived to get familiar and comfortable with it. But a track is a track, and I had done a flying 200m without anything on a track before. I did my usual line up, and rolled up the track to begin. I ramped the gear up, dropped in out of corner 4, and was a bit out of control with my speed. I can’t say I was comfortable, but regardless, I flew down the back straight like a ball of controlled chaos and crossed the line with a time of 10.957, less than .015 off the US national record. It was enough to qualify me 5th in the sprint tournament, in a stacked field of 25 riders. I won my first heat easily. As I got prepared for my second round, Travis was walking me through a few steps via text messages on the phone. I was up against a 3x Olympian from Venezuela. With more than 12 years, probably more like 15-20 years of experience in sprinting, I knew this was going to be a tough tactical ride. I rolled into the last lap too slow, and gave her the advantage of getting her wheel in front of mine, and coming down the home straight, I couldn’t hold the pace, and she beat me out. I was then into the rep rounds, against a Colombian and Lisandra Guerra from Cuba. We had a fast ride, but I ended up in 2nd, and my dreams of sprint medal were then ended.
Of course I’m disappointed. With such a huge PR in my flying 200m, by over three-tenths, and being the second US female to ever break the 11 second 200m mark, I was ecstatic. I was able to text back with Travis in the US, and go over my rides, and talk about what went wrong, what I did right, and what to improve on. One simple mistake cost me my second round ride that put me into the rep. And pure power took me out of the competition. The Venezuelan I lost to in the second round ended up taking bronze, and the Cuban I lost to in the rep round ended up winning gold.
My amazing training partner, Alissa Maglaty, was a true teammate. She stayed at the track all day, an extra couple hours, just so I had someone there to cheer me on through my second round and rep ride. It was great to have her support, and share in the excitement of setting new PRs and racing the best we could.
Day Five – Keirin
There’s not much good that came out of the keirin. The day of rest between events gave my back just enough time to tighten up, regardless of stretching and massage. Warming up I was tight, my legs had no kick to them, I had no pop in my jumps, but I lined up ready to give it everything I had, as it was the last race at this years Pan Ams, and my last chance to bring home a medal. In my first round, I ended up last in the line up on the motor. As it pulled off, I accelerated with the goal of taking the front, but I couldn’t match the power of the rider from Venezuela, the same girl I lost the second round of the sprint competition too. With half a lap to go, I was sitting on her hip, and was swarmed and overtaken by almost every girl in the heat. In the repechage, I took the motor straight from the gun, and with the goal of staying there, I rode with everything I had and ended up taking third, as two riders overtook me coming out of corner 4, and I was eliminated from the competition.
After taking 4th in the keirin last year, I was in disbelief. This was my last event, and given that my Pan Am champs was complete, it wasn’t the way I wanted to go out. It didn’t matter that I was the only sprinter to race all four sprint events, that I was .015 off the national record in the flying 200m, I had ridden the fastest second lap of a team sprint ever in american female history, or that I’ve been doing everything for the past year with a fracture in my L5. Again, I didn’t produce a medal.
A Change of Perspective
I spent a lot of time dwelling on things that didn’t go right this week. But, it’s time to put all the positives together, and make a good experience out of this. So, using the coaching techniques of Travis Smith, who’s been trying to keep my head on straight and my mind looking forward for the past 9 months…
Team Sprint – 3 positives
1 – Good rush, good acceleration. Perfect timing, perfect gap.
2 – Huge PR in second lap, fastest in American Female History at 14.6!
3 – clean start, relaxed when things went wrong
500m – 3 positives
1 – New PR of 34.7 (.7 faster than last year, same gear, same bars)
2 – Held black line, didn’t hit any sponges (that’s huge) 😉
3 – 5th place, top 5, better result than last year with better competition
200m/Match Sprints – 3 positives
1 – New PR of 10.957
2 – Second fastest american female of all time, .015 off national record, second american female under 11 seconds
3 – controlled races, raced smart, and recognize my mistakes. Rode against the eventual gold and bronze medalist.
Keirin – 3 positives
1 – Rode aggressive and didn’t get scared by yelling, bullying south americans
2 – Took the motor from 5th position at the start and rode all out in the rep
3 – Still thinking about this one….
I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I went to Pan Ams with a desire to prove I belong, but as the week went on, it became clear that I was falling short of the expectations. It is very true, that you are only as good as your last result. I’ve been going on and on, racing from last November in LA, to Japan in January, to Texas and Russia in May, to a month in TTown in June, to nationals in August, and finally, pan ams this September. I’ve met every requirement asked of me, and I’ve raced my ass off. So yes, I get a few weeks off, but after that, I’m not quite sure. In nine days, USA Cycling will announce the selection for this years world cup legs, and we will go from there.
Last year I wrote a blog post about some similar feelings in Head Held High. I wrote about how I had done everything I possibly could, but I didn’t make the funding level I needed. That I had made so many improvements, won races, etc, but that wasn’t the end of the road. I was going to continue to fight, continue to push myself, and continue down the road to my Olympic dream. And this year I did just that. I raced all over the world, I raced big UCI events and won them. I made time standard. I won two national championships. And I endured one of the most painful injuries I have ever had, and pushed through it for 6 months before we even knew what it was. I overcame the continued let down of not being good enough, and jumping through hoops. And I kept pushing….
But before I keep going, I’m going to enjoy being back home, working in my garden, taking the puppies to the dog park, cooking, baking, and doing nothing productive. To think about everything I have already overcome, and the amount of work I have put into this. Some people might think that I sit on my ass and do nothing, that what happened at one single event, in two races, is what they should base my whole season from. But those people don’t see the hours I put into training, lifting, massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, and everything else that comes with this sport. They don’t see the sweat and tears and disappointment and more importantly, they don’t pay attention to the small victories.
But for those of you who have been present for everything, who have believed in me, and reminded me of why I do this, I thank you. Moving back to LA was the best choice I could have made last October. I’ve been working with an incredible coach, an incredible training group, and I’ve traveled and raced, and made so many improvements. I’ve met so many incredible people who would do anything to see me succeed, and so many people who have picked me up when everything seemed to be getting turned upside down. Pan Ams may not have been all I wanted it to be, but given the year I’ve had, everything that has happened…I would call it a success at the fact that I was even there.
The 2014/2015 World Cup Qualifying has ended. Thank you for everything.