When making plans, think big.
When making progress, think small.
We talk a lot about progress goals for the win around here, even with some of our most experienced athletes. Bev closed out a dream season in fine style at USA Masters Track Nationals last week, here’s her report and notes. Enjoy!
2019 Master’s Track Nats – L A
Third year in a row heading down to Carson for track (Worlds 2017-18, Nats 2019). (Carson Velo Center – indoor, wood track, 250m, 45 degree banking).
Brought road and track bikes, stationary trainer, stayed at Carson Motel 6 with Marissa Axell (her first track nats).
Finally the youngest in my field 55-59, small but strong groups this year, not very many women in general.
Raced Tue 5k scratch, Wed 10k Pts, Thurs 500tt, Friday 2k Pursuit.
Arrived Monday afternoon, unloaded the car at the track, checked into hotel (nice quite room with view of the garden and pool – 118). Headed back to Vello Center for a shakeout ride on the track – this always terrifies me the first few laps until you start trusting your tires to not blow off the rims or slide down the 45 degree banking. Rode ~20 minutes in easy gear then put on the 94.5” for the scratch and pts race setup. Another 10 minutes to get comfortable with it and test out the new “fixey” chain keeper gizmos I got from La Dolce Velo to keep my wheel from pulling out. Seemed to work fine. Trying to put my mind at rest before the scratch.
Tuesday Scratch race – 5:30pm. (94.5” gear, good choice)
Combined groups W55+, super nervous about this race since I thought it may be my best chance for a win, but also due to my crash at worlds last year in the scratch race. Did NOT want to go down again! Wore knee and arm warmers, long gloves for skin protection just in case. I had considered several possible strategies in my mind beforehand but was totally unprepared for how the race actually played out. Right at the gun Mindee Stevenson attacked hard with Annette Williams right on her wheel. Whoa! Almost got away before we even got going. I had to do a big effort to catch up, then they did a surprise pull straight up the track just as I caught them forcing me up to the rail. Half a lap later, Mindee attacked again. Annette in close pursuit. I chased. They immediately pulled sharply up track again forcing the whole group to the rail. I think that happened 4 times and my nerves were getting frayed. The 4th time she did this I was boxed in at the rail (2 stories high). They were getting a gap and I had to go now! I dove downtrack in the corner and overshot the sprinters lane a bit. When I came back up another gal was coming into the lane from above and we kind of got stuck together for a while. It was very close but we managed to not panic and eventually pulled away from each other. Two laps later there was a crash with one rider down. She stayed down for a bunch of laps and we found out later she had broken her hip. With 2.5 laps to go I found myself on the front and tried to get off with no success so went for it but didn’t fully commit. Was leading until ~half lap to go when Annette put it in overdrive and left us in the dust. I held on for second, a couple bike lengths in front of Mindee, with a solid gap back to the rest of the field. Glad to be done with all my skin intact. Another silver medal, another loss to Annette (arrrrrgh!!! She’s basically undefeated the past 5 years, and I have a huge stack of silver medals…it gets old)
Wed Pts Race – 40 laps sprints every 10, double pts last lap. Points go 5,3,2,1. (94.5 gear, pretty good choice, need better sprinter legs).
After the scratch race I didn’t know what to expect but was more ready for shenanigans (turns out Mindee and Annette had some sort of beef going on and were trying to kill each other, nice).
The first and second sprints went basically as expected – Annette stays in perfect position, then attacks at the perfect time to win the sprint. Mindee is a sprinter so she takes second. I go hard but only get third. Everyone else is behind us. So half way through its 10, 6, 4 and I need to find a better way to go. I attacked early for the third sprint, but couldn’t hold it and got 3rd again – but then they announced I was in second place. Huh? How? Seemed like a mistake of some sort. The board showed AW – 15, BC – 7, MS – 6, don’t know the rest. One sprint to go with double points – now or never…
I had decided the night before that I’d race more aggressively and “Do Something” this race – not just sit in and try to points. So, with 5 laps to go I attacked off the front and went for it. Annabelle was my eyes and as I rode past her she gave me the GOOOO! motion. Each lap seemed like a mile but she kept waving that arm in a big circle to keep it going. With 2 to go she started yelling loud – I knew they were coming. One to go, both legs started falling off. Shit!!! Hold on dang it. I heard my name being yelled all the way around the track. I wanted it really badly. I did it! I won the double point lap – giving me 17… did I win?? My tired brain told me I did. I was ecstatic. But no, Annette got second for 6 points – 21 total. Another silver for me.
We went directly from our bikes to the podium and I was still out of breath the whole time and riding the adrenalin wave. Turned out Mindee got relegated for sprinting underneath Annette that 3rd sprint, so that’s how I got in second. I was a little bummed with the silver, but really, really happy with myself for making a risky move that paid off in the end, earning me praise from Larry Nolan, Mark Rodamaker (very rare!) and even people I didn’t know who came up and congratulated me on the race and nearly beating AW. They said it was very exciting.
Thursday – 500 tt. 96” gear, sprint bars, 2 disks. Gear felt good, not too hard.
Didn’t sleep well the night before, then drank a big can of Starbucks energy coffee that morning. Ended up getting so jacked up I couldn’t focus or relax at all. Start was ok, AB said it was the best she’s seen me do, but never really felt like I was putting out any power and knew I wasn’t going very fast. Time was not near my best at 42.7 and ended up in 5th. Meh. Disappointing. (yes, Annette won)
Friday – 2k Individual Pursuit. 96”, aerobars, 2 disks. Last chance to get rid of the monkey.
Didn’t sleep very well again, but did not drink a large energy drink! Had 2 bottles of electrolyte instead and tried to stay calm and focused. I was going against Mindee, who I knew had ridden a 2:39 before and had skipped the 500 the day before (and hadn’t done a solo kilo effort) so would be more rested than me. Pursuit is one of those races where you can’t do anything about the other person, just ride your own race. Pacing is important (even splits are desired, negative splits would be awesome). I always do the opposite – too fast at the start and too slow at the finish. AB knows this. I gave her my desired (hoped for) splits – 24 seconds start lap, 20.1 seconds the next 7 laps – if achieved it would be a 2:44 and a big new PR for me.
I really tried to not go out too hard and to float the second and third laps. I had some success at this. My start was solid and I definitely didn’t push too hard coming around with a 26! (oh oh). The next few laps I was ~19 seconds. Mindee was ahead of me through 3 laps and it probably didn’t look good for me…then I caught up…and went ahead – whaat?! Unusual. I started pulling away. Now it did look good for me. Then the fade. With 3 laps to go she started catching up. Oh no. Annabelle started lying to me about my split times. I knew she was. It’s weird how far it feels when you want something very badly, but you’re dying. Marissa told me to say to myself “Gold – Medal, Gold – Metal” with every pedal stroke. It was ringing in my ears. With one to go I could feel AB pushing me with her willpower. I had bad tunnel vision could barely see. I think I’d stopped breathing at some point. Finally, I cross the line. I had no idea if I was ahead or behind Mindee, just that I gave it my all. I was literally shocked as I rode around the track and they flashed my name on the Jumbotron that I’d actually won. So Stoked. So relieved. Not a PR but a solid 2:48 after a big week.
It wasn’t until later looking at the results page that I found out I’d won by a miniscule 0.12 seconds. OMG. She was super gracious and we gave each other a big hug. I’ve never had such a close pursuit race before. I’ve been training my butt off for five years through a bunch of injuries to finally win a Nationals race again. The last time was the Team Pursuit in 2014. Feels like a life time ago. Very happy to finally reach the top step and put on the coveted Stars and Stripes for my Coach John who’s stayed with me through thick and thin. Thank YOU!!!!
We celebrated that night with AB and Jean, and I drove home on Saturday. A super successful week for all the Hellyer racers and especially Annabelle’s riders who cleaned up the medals – thanks for all your help and advice AB!