Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Money Makin', MoneyMoney Makin'

Long story short, I made money at a bike race for the first time in my life! $24 worth of winnings put me $4 over what I paid to enter. Well, with cash like that you've got to take a photo appropriate to the event.

So the loooong story: how did I come across this cash? Like always, I wasn't really feeling it on the way down. From the races last week I knew I had it in me to win a race one of these days, but I was still nervous about what kind of races we'd be doing. I don't have a huge sprint, but I can keep trucking along, so I was hoping for a longer race. It turned out we were in for a Scratch and a Tempo, which I was worried about.

For those not familiar with track racing (these people have been rumored to exist), a Scratch is, for women, usually between about 5 and 10 laps. It's not a sprint, but not a very long race either. But it's straightforward: first across the finish line wins. A Tempo is a race where points are awarded for each lap. 2 points for the first, and 1 point for the second person over the line on each lap. These are a little trickier because everyone is going for the points each and every lap. You've got to either play it smart: if you can get off the front and leave the pack behind, great. But it takes a lot of strength to do that.

Back to the racing! The Scratch was announced as a 5 lap race. I was toward the front of the line and led the ladies out on the neutral lap. During the first lap I led at a decent pace, then a couple of girls passed me. I let them pull for a while and then got out ahead around the beginning of the fourth lap. Coming up on the third corner, I started to turn it on. I got up off the saddle and did a wobbly sprint after the fourth corner, just as the bell rang for the final lap. During that lap, I pushed it and didn't look back. After the second corner, I tried to slow my breathing down and kicked it up a notch going into the third corner because I was sure everyone was right behind me. In the homestretch I was sure someone was going to come up on me and steal the race away, but nobody ever came, and I crossed the finish line and heard my name announced. That marked my very first win (I believe) at the Kenosha Velodrome. As I slowed down I looked back and saw the rest of the field about a quarter lap behind me! I couldn't believe it. I probably should have checked to see where they were when I was racing, but I was instituting what I learned in softball: the moment the ball leaves your bat, you run like heck to first base. You don't watch to see if it goes out of bounds or wait to see if someone gets the easy catch.

At the start of the Tempo (5 laps) I was once again at the front of the pack for the neutral lap, putting me in a good position. When we took off on the first lap, two girls passed me and I tucked myself in behind them. I wanted to let them get tired for the first few points and then take up the rest. The two in front of me finished 1-2 and then pulled up track because they didn't want to pull for the next lap. Without thinking a whole lot, I shot along the first and second turns and went on to win that lap. On the third lap I was still leading and feeling pretty strong. On the third corner a girl tried to pass me up track, but I jumped when I saw her and fought for it. It paid off and I got the third lap's points, putting me in a very good spot. The girl who was contending with me was probably getting tired, and one of the other girls could take some points. I believe I got second place in the fourth lap (it was a close call). For the fifth lap, I slowed down because I wanted to save some energy for the consolation, and I knew I had the race wrapped up. Two girls got ahead of me while I was putzing along, and I was sorely tempted to kick it in just 'cause, but I held back.

The consolation race went better than planned. My legs were feeling the burn and I was doubting my ability to keep up with the pack, but it was only 20 laps, so I held together alright. Since Russell had placed in a 3's race (congrats), he couldn't do the consolation and I didn't have to put up with his encouragement and advice. He managed to sneak some in before the race, though. He recommended I stay up toward the front of the pack, but the neutral lap started out a little faster than I expected and I was toward the back of the pack for the whole race. I tell you, there were some sketchy riders. I was honestly a little afraid for my wellbeing. 'Afraid' makes it sound unfounded... let's say 'concerned'. I was concerned for my safety because of what I was seeing.

Anyhow, I managed to stick with the pack somehow. I would get dropped off the pack but then catch a ride when someone behind me would come ahead of me and bridge the gap. The pack was constantly slowing, too. Sometimes too much so for my liking. There were a few times where I would catch up with the pack just in time to be pinned on the inside by the people around me and have the pack slow considerably. Ugh.

There were some positives though. For all I talk about the injustices being done to me (oh woe!) I was doing some myself. I did some illegal passing on the inside, and faulted the blue line when the pack came down toward me. I also don't think I check enough before I move for forward positions. I'm going to try to get better at this, because it's important for everyone's safety. Wait, how is this a positive?... oh yeah, when I slipped and did an illegal pass toward the end of the race, I apologized and the guy said 'It's alright, go for it!' I had made a stupid move (not that it really interfered with him- it just simply wasn't legal), and I just wasn't expecting his response. Especially for that guy's sake, I want to be a safer rider.

Another positive was my teammate Jamie Pagel. Tired as we both were, he helped me stay with the pack during the consolation. When I was falling behind, he would try to come up and bridge the gap. Even just having a teammate out there was a help, too. It can be discouraging when you're tired and falling behind, but when you've got someone there to tell you to stop being a sissy and pedal, you take heart.

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