Monday, August 10, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. A-Hole

Elite level track racing is a funny thing. The margins of victory are so slim, the consequences of mistakes are so final, it's important to get everything just right. Your equipment has to be perfect, your fitness and strength have to be perfect, your warmup has to be perfect, and most importantly, your head must be in exactly the right place to ensure that your split-second decisions are perfect. If one of these things is the slightest bit off, your weekend goes from standing on top of a podium to watching the finals for gold from the stands. The recent Velodrome Challenge races in Portland and Seattle were great examples of this. Portland is my hometown. My all-time favorite place. I live and train in Colorado Springs, but if you handed me a blank plane ticket to go anywhere in the world, I would walk toward whatever gate said PDX. My friends are there, my family is there, my team is there, everyone I grew up racing with is there. As a result, when I step off a plane in the Great Northwest, I have a lot going on.

This is great for a vacation, but a tough environment to focus in.

So when racing started with the kierin on Saturday, my bike was ready, the legs were there, but my head wasn't in the right place. Throughout the sprints and the kierin, I would look back after every round and think, "why did I do that?" I'd go into sprint rounds with a huge speed advantage and come away with nothing because of a rookie mistake. I'd roll up to the line thinking "the crowds are huge today" instead of blocking out the world and reacting to the rider next to me.

So Portland was a bit of a bust. 5th in the sprints, 8th in the kierin, 2nd in the team sprint. Overall not a terrible set of results, but for a defending champion starting with a stars and stripes jersey it's not what I was looking for. So instead of obsessing over how bad things were I took a few days off to relax with Jenny in the city (much needed), got her to the airport and back to the Springs and started fresh for Seattle.

Seattle was exactly what I needed. I isolated myself, followed my own routine and didn't think about anything but winning the sprints and how I could do it. By race day I was so worked up I could barely speak. I qualified first, and each round went exactly as it should. The crowds were smaller than Portland's but the addition of a beer garden made the track seem twice as loud, and every move seem twice as dramatic. The gold final was between myself and a Mansker. He was the one sprinter who I felt like I was fairly evenly matched with on speed, so I didn't give myself any room for error. The race started clean, I kept control and by the final corner, I came around with enough speed to sit up and enjoy the win.

Now we're back in the Springs and back to training. Nervous days now. Budgets are hammered out, proposals have been sent, now it's just a teeth-grinding wait. My next season of travel hangs on some important decisions being made in air-conditioned buildings, and I want to hear results NOW NOW NOW. But that's not the way it goes.

1 comment:

chino said...

ohhh grasshopper you learn the valuable lesson of focus. well done. Chino