Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday Night Fright

Track Tuesday started out the regular way. I felt nervous, didn't want to race and was lethargic and whining a lot. My knee had a bit of a sharp pain under the kneecap while walking, but on the bike it felt fine, so I grudgingly signed up to race. The night's races played to my strengths: there was a Danish an a Miss-n-out.

In a Danish, the first person to cross the finish line on the first lap gets first and stops racing. The first person to cross the line on the second lap gets second and stops racing, and so on. During the Danish, there would be little time for tactics and the strongest/fastest person would have the upper hand.

In a Miss-n-out, the last person to cross the line each lap gets pulled from the race, until there are only three left. Then a neutral lap is (usually) called, and then the three sprint one lap for the first three places. During the Miss-n-out, you've got to have a good position, and it's a fast race. It's dangerous to draft too much, because you can get stuck being the last person to cross the line. If you stay in, you have to be able to keep up a good pace for a long while.

First up was the Danish. I wasn't feeling good, and every time I burped I tasted pepperjack cheese from my lunchtime sandwich. Yech. I felt a little weak with nerves, but during the neutral lap, I came around and was ready for the jump when the whistle blew to start the race. I got out ahead of everyone and hovered above the sprinter's lane before dropping into it in the first turn. I was going hard, but saving a little. After the second turn I watched the shadows- as I expected I saw the girls shifting up the track, moving to try to pass me on my right. I turned up the speed a little bit, accelerating through turns three and four, and then let loose in the homestretch. I was seated and concentrating on smooth and powerful. (I think I need to strengthen my core to help me out with a smoother stroke. It couldn't hurt, anyhow.) Either that or my gearing is a little high, but I think I would spin out with less. But anyhow, the girls were right behind me through most of the lap, but my teammates told me that I started to pull away from them on the homestretch. Win #1 of the night- would I be able to pull off the second race?

So I was off to a good start. I was feeling better and more confident, which is pretty important to me. I wish it wasn't as important, but, as evidenced in the SS State Championship race, having my head in the right place is so key. I get discouraged way too easily, and my performance suffers!

I had a while 'til my next race and was watching a Cat 3 race while sitting and relaxing, when all of a sudden things went wrong. The field was like 6 across, with the guys at the top of the track being maybe two yards behind the guy at the bottom. I think the guy on the bottom in the sprinter's lane moved up for someone else to take the lead. He moved up maybe a foot above the red line (sprinter's line?) and as he was going up everyone got compressed. There was yelling from the top to get down on the track. I saw everyone getting impossibly scrunched and they couldn't slow down fast enough at the top. It was clear someone was going to get pinched. When they did go into the fence at the top of the track, they went down immediately and it was like a cartoon fight where there's just a cloud of dust and an arm here and there. It was a wad of shiny bike parts flashing as they flipped and the two riders going every which way. When it was over Ed (White of Half Acre Cycling) lay face down on the track and Perkins (Jeff Perkins of Chicago's Cuttin' Crew) picked himself up and went over to check on Ed and immediately yelled for an ambulance, then ran down the bank of the track (the crash happened just coming out of turn two), slipping on his cleats.

Everyone was silent. I saw Ed lying facedown, so still, and started crying. Now, I don't really know Ed. He takes awesome track photos that he lets people use and I've talked to him only once. From what I've seen, he's a really nice guy. That doesn't really warrant sobbing over the man, and I'm not trying to bring more drama to the situation, but it was terrible to see someone in that position. The ambulance came and got him, and then Perkins, who reportedly had some scrapes and a pretty swollen looking hand. If you want to know about Ed, he'll tell you himself:

From what I've heard (gossipgossip!) they're both out of the hospital and doing well, thank God. But this blog is not about gossip, it's about ME, right?

Racing resumed as soon as the blood had been washed off of the track and the water had dried. By my second race, the Miss-n-out, things seemed almost back to normal. The announcer said "We're going to be going all the way down on the women," meaning there would be no neutral lap before the sprint at the end. However, it could also be taken sexually, right? I mean, just saying.

So during the neutral lap at the beginning, the announcer kept commentating and said "Katy Steudel of Team Pegasus smoked the field during the last race," and the girls behind me laughed and shouted "Did you hear that? You smoked us!" and I, not knowing how to respond to that, said "Did you hear what he said at the beginning about going all the way down on the women?" Bless their pure hearts, they said "Yeah, there's not going to be any neutral lap". I said "Yeah, I understand that, but it could also be taken sexually... you know..." and they were like, "Oh. Right. Guess our minds aren't in the gutter!" I mumbled something lamely about how hanging out with the guys on the team was wearing off on me, and then luckily the race was upon us.

I see these girls I race against as equals, and so I forgot that our ages aren't equal. Later I realized I was talking to a bunch of girls- one just got her driver's license, one's 12 and another is just starting to apply to colleges. The situation was funny, but I felt just a little inappropriate.

Back to the Miss-n-out: it was going fine until I rubbed tires with one of the other girls. I had an inch of overlap on her rear wheel when she started to come up track to let someone else lead. Visions of a crash flew through my mind as we kept rubbing wheels. After a second, I realized we weren't in a tangled heap on the track, and worked on getting disengaged. It was like in mountain biking when you see an obstacle you don't want to hit: if you focus on it too long, you'll start heading toward it. We stayed engaged because I was focusing on it, but when I shook it out of my head, I was able to move away from her and get steady again. But sweet Jesus, was I ever scared. I've never had a bad brush like that. Luckily (kind of) I was paralyzed and she kept her cool- there was no jerking and it was handled smoothly.

After that, I kept racing but had forgotten to keep from being the last one. I spooked when another girl's handlebars came close to mine, and I got stuck in a bad position for that lap and got taken out at third. When I came off the track, I was upset. The crash from before, the scare from my race and then, when I was coming off the track, the frustration at myself for losing my head and losing the race. I would have had a good chance if I wouldn't have gotten spooked.

I decided to skip the last race because I was afraid I'd be a danger to others. In closing, it was sure a hell of a night. I'd like to wish Perkins and Ed a speedy, speedy recovery. Ed's practically a Kenosha staple, and we don't get to see the Cuttin' Crew very often- I hope this hasn't scared them off. I'd like to say more than that, but that's about all there is to say. Please know there are a lot of people sincerely rooting for a quick and thorough recovery.

No comments: