domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2011

Black Belts

I was slumped down on the kitchen floor and leaning against the dishwasher; I had my knees hugged to my chest and my feet pigeon-toed in. The Trader Joe’s shopping bag lay limp on the tile – I had momentarily forgotten the post-travel grocery mission in favor of conversation. I peered at the tips of my Vans and held the phone to my ear.
                “It’s tough, you know? I know it’s bike racing, but sometimes I still need wrap my head around this whole thing,” I said.
                My father cleared his throat. “You work very hard, and these are World Cups. Lots of competition, seasoned riders,” he said.
                “Gah. I completely agree. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to kick ass.”
                “You know, there are no two-year black belts.”

My elbow skimmed the rail at the top of the track. For a split second the stadium was illuminated in white; a crack of thunder reverberated though the bleachers and over the boards on which we rolled. A light tropical rain flicked my glasses as Liz and I wound up and dove to the pole lane in a team sprint formation.
                Yeah. Feeling good. Just another training day in Colombia.
                I was immediately enamored with the track. Technically the Cali velodrome is indoor, but to explain it properly: it’s 250 meters of outdoor and covered tropical hardwood – an open-air venue, if you will. It meets the basic UCI and Olympic-caliber track requirements. However, being always open, the track has a tendency to take on water as well as host moths and beetles the size of small dogs. It’s less of a nuisance than one would think; I prefer to consider it as “keeping things lively” – something for which South America in general has a certain propensity. 

                We had touched down in Cali a few days before – it was now Tuesday and we were doing our final race prep for our first event, the team sprint. Things were going fine, all factors considered. I was feeling a little apprehensive about this particular race – it occurred to me that I hadn’t done a real team sprint race since Nationals at the beginning of October; it was now December.
So what? I’m here and I’m feeling good, feeling strong. Ready to race? Hell yeah, ready to murder some bitches.

We shoved off the line and immediately my front wheel bobbled. Not good, not good, not good. Panic! I heaved myself forward with each pedal stroke, but already I was watching my team sprint partner pull away from me.
                At turn two she was two bike lengths ahead. Crap. Turn three, turn four, she was still out of range as she pulled up and I swung through.
                Ding, ding!
                We hadn’t predicted much better than tenth for our team sprint, but more could have been expected for our execution. That was terrible. Period.
I was certain that there was nothing worse than completely flubbing a ride in front all of Colombia. I tried to take the next couple days to focus on what I considered the “real” racing: the sprints and the keirin. In the 200-meter I rode almost the same time in Cali as I did in Astana; it wasn’t enough to make the tournament. Tactically, my keirins were improving: I narrowly missed qualifying through the second round by riding from the front. It was difficult to decide if I should feel frustrated with the misses or happy with the progress.
Dude, I could write the book on mixed emotions right now.  What do I do with all of this?

I uncurled my legs and readjusted my seat bones as I cradled my cell. “What? What’s that mean?”
                “There are no two year black belts,” my father said again. “In martial arts, belts tell a fighter’s skill level. Black belts take a while to earn, and there are levels.”
                “How many levels?”
                “Sometimes six, sometimes twelve, depending on the fighting style. But anyway – my point is that anyone who gets a ‘black belt’ in as little as two years didn’t really earn it. There’s a difference between a black belt and someone whose belt happens to be black, you see? Stuff takes time.”
                “Got it. I’m going to be a black belt. Bike-wise, that is.”
                “That’s it. Proud of you.”
                “Thanks, Dad. Love you, too.”


miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2011

All Saints Day

Author’s Note: This incident happened a few months ago, but I feel that it’s still relevant and worth sharing. Like the rest of my posts, this one was crafted according to detailed notes. Please enjoy.

This is madness. I’m at least half blind and it feels like there’s a fork in my hamstrings. This is not good. Fridays are generally welcomed by the average American. It’s the end of the work week, an open door to the weekend, and usually a casual, relaxed weekday. Fridays in Dana Land are met each week with a strange mix of anticipation and dread – and this one was no exception. The end of Team USA’s work week is graced by three different workouts, and I had just finished my last set of the day’s third session: lactic 500-meter repeats; it put the aaaaack in lactic. Pain was radiating up from my legs, through my ass and abs and out across my shoulders. My left eye was involuntarily clenched shut and my arms were seizing in spirals of acidic agony. I slumped over my bike as I rolled around the track apron. I would have thrown up, but my stomach was empty; the last meal I had eaten was at 10 a.m. and it was now 3:30 p.m. I could die right now. I could flop down and pass out and that would be fine. Dear God, just make the pain stop. Why do I do this?
                He was there when my vision cleared: a man in white painter’s pants and a white t-shirt standing at the top of the bleachers, smiling and waving. I glanced and waved back with my still-tingling arm. What the hell?

Ben is a barrel-chested man of medium height in his late fifties to early sixties – no one is quite sure of his age. His shining hazel eyes are encircled by a round, leather-tanned face that nearly always wears a smile; his long salt-n-pepper hair hangs past his shoulders in unkempt strings. He likes to dress in white. And he loves track cycling, as well as the athletes that race and train for it.
                On this particular day Ben had been in the stands watching our team work out. We had all seen him around the track from time to time, but none of us really knew much about him. Today he would have seen every painful pedal stroke, had he not slipped out for a few moments. He arrived back at the track with two platters of Subway sandwiches – along with ten Bank of America envelopes, each with a twenty-dollar bill inside; one for every rider at training.
                We ate and were merry for the fact that someone cared enough to do this for us. I looked down at the envelope in my hand. Twenty bucks. I’m going to go to Sprouts and buy as many mangoes as I can. Or maybe I’ll save it for when I need it. Something.  
It didn't really matter after such a hellish workout. The mere gesture was cool by itself. Who would do this for a bunch of rag-tag American cyclists?

I saw Ben as I made my way to the door after the post-training festivities. I smiled and gave him a real wave, along with a handshake and a formal introduction.
                “That was so wonderful, what you did for us today. Really, we can’t thank you enough,” I said.
                “It was my pleasure. You guys train so hard, it’s beautiful to watch. So inspiring,” he replied. “We should help you any way possible. And I have the means. It’s just right.”
                “Well, it was awesome. It means so much to us as athletes to know that people care about us. I dunno, maybe sometimes we forget.” People like this made training worth every ounce of lactic acid. I looked straight at him and grinned. “I’m going to call you Saint Ben. Because you are!”
                Ben laughed and shook his Wild Man of Borneo locks. “Okay.”
                Yeah, I know why I do this.


martes, 22 de noviembre de 2011

Back to School

I breathed in the scent of drywall and polished hardwood as I walked into the empty gymnasium; each footstep made its own resounding echo across the basketball court and out to the bleachers. “The Den of the Lobos” was painted in black and orange along each white wall, accompanied by banners and plaques displaying the school’s sports records.
                It was the first time I had set foot in a high school since graduating from own in 2008. I was preparing to present to all of the sports teams of Los Amigos High School on my experience as an elite athlete – I had to take a moment to get my bearings as to what it was like to be in a high school again. The gym in particular here in was very similar to the one I had used myself three years ago in Pennsylvania. Everything looked smaller and older and more worn than I remembered.

This plan to present had been hatched just a few days before I left for Kazakhstan. My friend and housemate, Lori, is a physical education teacher at Los Amigos; Lori herself is an Olympian who went to Barcelona in’92 for team handball. We had gotten to talking about the plight of athletics in public schools – and how that tends to carry over into other areas. She told me how sports aren’t available at the middle school level for Los Amigos.
“The kids aren’t encouraged to do sports” she explained. “And once they can play in high school, it’s difficult to keep that fire to play alive. No one tells them what they can achieve, that they can achieve.” Lori stressed the trickle down from athletics to academics, and how students’ ability to focus on sports tends to go hand in hand with focusing on school. Those that see the value in both with excel in both.
My aim was to impress upon these kids, by way of example, not just how awesome sports can be (everybody knows that, right?) but how important it is set goals.

The kids began to file in – over 200 of them – and take their seats on the floor. I had made sure to wear my garb from the PanAmerican Games – it’s the only stuff I own with the Olympic rings on it, and I figured it would make a statement. I sat on the floor among the students as Lori welcomed them in and introduced the “special guest.” I popped up when she said my name and pointed in my direction. I probably would have felt more impressive if I wasn’t about a foot shorter than everyone else in the audience.
                We kicked off with a video called Dare to Dream which Lori got a while back as courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Cue dramatic soundtrack and inspiring sports cinematography.  We used about three minutes of this to set the mood. Bingo.
                I introduced myself and briefly explained track cycling. It’s Nascar for bikes except we don’t have brakes. We chase motorcycles and beat the crap out of each other as well as ourselves. I then proceeded to share my own story: how I got started; my journey over the past four years; recent competitions; a typical training day.
                My God, there are a lot of kids here. I’ll be lucky if what I’m saying gets through to half of them.
                The natural flow of the presentation went nicely into a question-and-answer session.  Thank goodness; oddly enough, I hate talking about myself and was starting to get uncomfortable. Cool. Let’s see who’s been paying attention and who’s still curious. Hands crept up and bunches of questions bubbled out.
                “What do you do to prepare for a competition? How do you get ready?”
                Well, I try to keep calm and relaxed for as long as possible. Then, once at the line, I get really intense and ready to commit murders. “I’m a big fan of visualization. Study videos, get a mental plan of how you’re going to execute during race time or game time. Once you have a plan, just relax, maybe zone out to your ipod, and keep focused on what you’re going to do.”
                “How did you manage to go to school and do cycling full-time?”
                Dude, it was hard. It was 5 a.m.-to-11 p.m., two-workouts-and-eight-hours-of-classes kind of hard. Days-in-the-hurt-box, no-sleep kind of hard. But it was worth it. “It was all about time management. You work it out in your schedule, on a spreadsheet, how you’re going to fit in both. There’s not as much social time as you might want, but that’s part of the deal. And it’s important, that whole ‘school’ thing. No matter what happens, a degree is something that no one can take from you once you have it.”
                “How do you stay motivated through all your training?”
                Blind faith, sir, blind faith. I have to keep believing that if I put in the work now that I’m going to get where I want to be – whether that’s right now or four or five years from now.  “It’s one part faith and one part toughness. You have to know that your training is going to pay off. That payoff is largely dependent on how you train. For every one day of practice that you feel good – fast, strong, fresh, whatever – there are going to be ten more practices where you just feel like crap. They hurt, but you need to get through them. You have to know that it’s those days, the hurt days, that make you accomplished. They make you better.”

About fifty kids lingered after I finished my presentation – the soccer, water polo, cross country, and track teams hung out and continued to ask me questions. I took photos, signed notebooks, and gave out hugs and high-fives.
                Sweet, I made an impression! About fifty kids’ worth, actually. I should go back to school more often.


sábado, 12 de noviembre de 2011

Borat Was Wrong

In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen released the mockumentary and comedic sensation that was Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The satirical story follows a Kazakh journalist along his journey through America. A master of stereotypical characters, Cohen enlightened the American public to the socioeconomic plight of Kazakhstan through his (in)famous role.
                I was a junior in high school that year – and hoping to have a better grip on my future by the time the following year rolled around. College sounded like a good idea; the tricky part was nailing down where to go and what to go for. I had good grades, hometown friends, track and field, and no immediate plans. Fabulous. Too bad I wasted eight bucks on that damn movie. It wasn’t even that funny and I could have used that cash for other things – like lip gloss or something.
                Four years later, I found myself in Astana, Kazakhstan for my first-ever UCI World Cup. I never thought I would find myself here, of all places – and as a member of the US national team, with an Olympic goal, for all reasons.  
                Holy hell.

First of all, Borat was wrong, at least in part. The capital city of Astana is exceptionally nice – almost too nice. Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and designated the small city as the new capital in 1995. Development began and the capital was officially moved from Almaty to Astana in 1997. The result was an ultra-modern city so new that there appears to be very little remnants of true Kazakh culture. High-tech office buildings, hotels, apartment complexes, and shopping malls make up most of the cityscape; it’s unclear as to whether there are even enough people in the area to fill up this created space. 

                This is Kazakhstan’s huge stores of oil money at work. The locals that mill about the city are polite, pretty, and well dressed; a sizeable chunk of the population knows English. The young ones seemed friendly. However, we were cautioned that the older population still harbors icky feelings towards Americans from the Cold War – and we were therefore advised to pretend to be Canadians or Brits when out and about. Awesome.
                Our four-star hotel , the Dumont, had 15 stories and was occupied by most of the teams in town for the World Cup – only a handful of teams were in the Radisson across town. It was like a dorm, or quite possibly the world’s largest international locker room, but classy – complete with high ceilings and granite walls and floors. I was out of my element in that regard, sure enough, but the poor hotel staff was probably worse off. Cram 100-plus track cyclists into one building and see what happens.
                Actually, what happens is just a lot of odd meals, bike traffic, and roller noise – at least until after racing. Then a bit of beer happens. Enough said.

It’s 80 degrees in here and yet there’s still a cold spot in turn one. What the hell? Focus. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is going fast.
                I made my way up from the blue line and to the rail, just like always. The track felt almost exactly like the home track in Los Angeles – the difference was it was only six months old and looked clean enough to eat off of. We had been in town for a week, mostly getting over the 23 hours of travel required to get there. I was now beginning the wind-up for my 200-meter qualifier, and my biggest concern was simply that I would have enough legs just to keep me from looking like a goober on the world stage.
                First lap, second lap, it’s just like home, it’s just like home. Pressure on the pedals. Goose it here. Omigod, stand! Stand now!
                Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!
                I rolled a personal best for a sea level track, but it wasn’t fast enough to make the tournament. I was a little dismayed, but not surprised. After all, this was a World Cup. Plus, it was Baby’s First World Cup; I was just happy to be there at that point – we all have to start somewhere, right?

I swallowed hard as I waited in the buffet line. It was 6:30 p.m., a.k.a feeding time, on Friday night and a handful of Brits had just walked into the dining room.
                Oh God. That’s him.
                Chris Hoy filed in line directly behind me – I was now in fact standing next to track cycling royalty. I let out a whoosh of air.
                Don’t panic. He’s just a bike racer, just like you. Don’t panic. Actually, he’s shorter in person than I thought. Don’t panic.
                We shuffled down the row of food, bypassing the buttered vegetables and mystery meat. Hoy leaned over for the tongs, looked at me, and said “Nice that the food’s actually hot today, eh?”
                Yes, you are. Very. Um . . . what? Shut up, brain, shut up.“Hm. Um. Er. Uh, yeah, totally!” I stammered.
Good work. A moment of silence, please, for our dear friend, Conversation. I scuttled to the Team USA table before I could blurt out anything else.  

Sitting up squarely on my seat, I leaned over to Jamie and blinked. “Any last nuggets of advice?”
                “Get second or third. Be patient. And do not panic.”
                Hm. I wish I had thought of that. We were lined up for the keirin repechage – Sandie Claire of France, Daniela Larreal of Venezuela, the Ukrainian, the Korean, and I comprised heat four. 
                 Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s a keirin and you’re riding a big gear. Don’t panic, just race. I tipped down into my bars and got set.
                I settled into fourth position and waited, controlling my speed and making space behind the Ukrainian. Five laps, four laps, three laps to go. The motor swung off on the back. With two laps to go I rose from seat and made as if to sprint, hoping to spook the three riders in front into action. Panic, panic, panic. For God’s sake, will you people go already?
Oh, they went – fast. I was trailing the Venezuelan, the Frenchwoman and the Ukrainian going into the bell lap. I swept up the Venezuelan in between turns three and four, but couldn’t catch the other two before hitting the line. It was hard not to feel a bit disappointed – I am a bike racer, after all, and this was my favorite type of bike race. But this was the international stage, and this was a World Cup for a reason.
I’ll take that for Baby’s First World Cup. Eat your heart out, Borat. Kazakhstan rocks. 


miércoles, 26 de octubre de 2011

I Came To Dance

There was a Cuban on my left and a Colombian on my right. The unusual precariousness of my situation had officially sunk in as I tried to put on my harshest, scariest face.
“Just stick with the plan and you’ll be fine,” Jamie said.
I blinked and gave him a curt nod. “Okay. Got it.”
As I sat at the line, I attempted to do two things: A) come to terms with the fact that I was indeed in the keirin final at the Pan American Games; and B) convince myself that I would be okay. I’m here. I can do this. Probably. Maybe. Well, yes, I suppose. Definitely.
                The plan itself was simple: be at least in fourth position with two laps to go. Trust the gut and see what happens. Genius.
                “Big push,” I said. I leaned over and plunked my hands into the drops. After shaking my ponytail from my face and giving a quick snort, I sank back on my seat bones and prepared for the gun.
                “Turn three . . . turn four.”
                Bang! Game on.

Bike racing is like dancing. One can’t learn to dance if she doesn’t get out on the floor – and when one does get out on the floor, there’s the worry of looking silly as a first-timer. Last week the Pan American Games was, in my eyes, my first real international competition. True, I had the PanAm track championships and the Colorado Springs Grand Prix under my belt. However, at the former I did a two-lap time trial; the latter happened in my own back yard. Somehow that’s like one going to a sock hop when she wants to be break dancing. It doesn’t feel quite right or the same.
                I touched down in Mexico knowing exactly what I was doing there: the sprints and the keirin. We had had trials at the beginning of August and I had earned both spots based on times. I’m all for quantitative data, but I don’t consider myself a time trialist – I just like to race my bike. I was happy to see my USA team mates Liz Carlson and Maddie Godby prepared to kill the team sprint. I’d take the races

                The PanAm Games had a less business-like feel than the previous races. Instead of the standard hotel-track-hotel game plan, we lived as if on a college campus – minus the classes. After team processing in Houston (team processing: i.e. get lots of free USA swag) we came to Guadalajara for one of the largest-scale competitions in the world – for the United States, it’s second in prestige only to the Olympics. It’s kind of a big deal. 

Having the chance to mingle with other athletes, from both our own country and others, reinforced that idea of prestige but also made it more fun and relaxing at the same time. The dining hall and international zone were the Spanglish social zones; the dorms, sorted by country, were the team solidarity headquarters. It was certainly a strange paradox, to say the least.
                With so much going on, it was easy to get distracted – but there’s also a fine line between focused and stressed. It was important to switch on the race brain once I got to the track – especially since the USA team had a good chance to do well. I had to remember the mission and what I had come to do personally and for the team.
                You can't dance unless you get on the floor, and I came to dance. It might have been my first Games, but I was still there to race.

Seven riders launched from the line at the sound of the gun. I knew a handful of these riders from the sprints a couple days before – the Cuban especially, since it was she whom I had had to race in the first round; I managed 6th overall and wanted better.
                We rode two wide for the first three laps, everyone jockeying for the best position as the motor gained speed. The Cuban crashed going into lap four after getting too snuggly with the Mexican – a lucky break for me, as it shook the lineup and I was able to move out of  sixth position and closer to the front.
                As the motor swung off at the two-and-a-half mark, the pace immediately quickened. Thank God I slapped on the 100-inch gear for this. I was sitting in fourth and had to act. Soon.
                Ding, ding!
                Three riders were doing battle at the front and caused the rest of the group to swing up, opening a hole below. I took a huge breath dove down to the left.
                I hope I don’t get relegated for this.
                As I hit the pole lane I hammered the pedals as hard as I could, swallowing up the Colombian and Brazilian after the pursuit line.
                Turn three. The Mexican closed the door before I could get beneath.
Turn four. I chased the Venezuelan and the Mexican as fast as my legs could turn. I hit the white line with the two in front, all else behind.
Bronze! I just won bronze! Who would have thought?
We stood on the podium with our medals and turned to face the flags as they sank from the ceiling. They might have been playing Venezuela’s anthem, but my eyes were watching my flag.
                I was so happy I felt like dancing. I cried a little bit, but I also could have danced. Tango, two-step, freestyle, anything. I had done what I had come to do.


jueves, 13 de octubre de 2011

Like Wonder Woman But Different

When I was six years old, I sat with my classmates in a circle as we talked about what we wanted to be when we grew up. My friends wanted to be teachers, nurses, ballerinas. I wanted to be a Power Ranger. I wanted the tight suit and slick helmet, the super powers, the lightning-fast karate moves. I wanted to use my giant, ultra-cool robot to make intergalactic bad guys beg for mercy. Yep, that would be pretty awesome.
                Now fast-forward about fifteen years: being a cyclist seems to be the closest one could possibly get to being a superhero. I wear a Lycra red, white, and blue skinsuit stamped with “USA” on the chest and legs. By the power of fast-twitch muscle fibers, I zip around a banked track at crazy-high speeds – just because I can.
                The 2011 Elite Track Nationals were held in Los Angeles not quite two weeks ago, and it was then that it occurred to me how super track cyclists can be.

The stadium was packed fuller than I had ever seen it. It was Saturday night of Nationals and I was prepping for the second gold medal ride of the sprint tournament. I had won the women’s keirin the night before and was hoping for a repeat in the sprints as well. The evening’s events had been tailored towards the audience’s entertainment as well as the racers’ performance; some kids racing had been mixed into the program between the elite races, so there were more young faces in the stands and on the infield than usual.
                The kids racing were some that I had worked with on and off during my time in L.A. I realized as I sat on the infield that most of them had never actually seen me kitted up and in race mode. Naturally, that wasn’t exactly the biggest concern of mine at the moment, but it was there.
                As I sat on the line for the second ride of the round, I went through my mental plan, reviewing my strategy. It went as most sprints go for the first two laps: the riders maneuver around and goad each other into position for the final sprint. I had my opponent, training partner Cristin Walker, on my hip and exactly where I wanted her into one lap to go.
                That’s when I heard it. Coming out of turn four into the final lap, I heard the kids on the infield chanting my name. In any other race situation, any noises from the stands just sounds like white noise; this was quite clear.
                Crap. I better not mess this up.
                Ding, ding!
                Cristin began to initiate the sprint and it was on. I shot to the pole lane and barreled along the black line as fast as my legs would churn. The video later would show me bursting across the line first to win the title in two rides. I wasn’t thinking of that at the time, but rather that now I could finally use the rest room.

Jodi is ten years old, has long golden hair and almond-shaped brown eyes set in a perfectly round face. She’s so small that she has her own tiny track bike that she brings to each kiddie training session; the bike has “JoJo Monkey” emblazoned along the top tube. Her jersey bunches around her shoulders and her shorts hang loosely at her knees. She says she wants to be a professional cyclist when she grows up.
                I saw Jodi running at me as I walked down from the podium – she had raced earlier that evening as well, and had her own medal to show for it. She wrapped her arms around me in the tightest ten-year-old’s bear hug I’ve ever received.
                “You were so awesome!” she yelled up at me.
                “You were, too! You looked great out there,” I said.
                “Really. Anyone ever tell you that you look good with a medal on? Because it’s true.”
                “Thanks!” She gave me one last squeeze and scurried off, locks flying and medal swinging.

I’m not exactly Wonder Woman. I don’t have a cool cape, I can’t actually fly, and I have no hope of filling her Wonder Bra. But if I can inspire kids to start riding bikes – and keep riding them – my mission has been accomplished.


miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2011

Rainbows and Butterflies

Judging by the size of things, I knew this was going to be different than most race weekends. And when I say by the size of things, I mean the size of my bum and thighs compared to those of the international racers. My glorious golden engine paled in comparison.

Oh, and the rainbows. There were lots of rainbows, all of which were manifested on cuffs and armbands of skinsuits reserved for world champions. The riders that wore them were plunked in Colorado Springs for the 2011 Winslow BMW Grand Prix of Sprinting.

This was as close to a World Cup race as I had ever come in terms of competition. In fact, a team mate so accurately described it as “a World Cup race without the World Cup pressure.” It was true. The PanAm championships were close, but I did one race against the clock. It’s a bit different to be racing a keirin with a slew of seasoned international riders. Australia, Canada, Colombia, Holland, and Trinidad were all there in force.

That’s when the butterflies came. It had been a while since they had last appeared. But upon preparing for the keirin qualifier on Saturday, the butterflies surged through my stomach and into my throat on a wave that was one part anxiety and one part anticipation.

For the past two months I had been bouncing around the domestic track racing circuit – a handful of races on the west coast, a couple on the east coast, with a whole lot of training in between. This circuit had gotten dangerously close to being comfortable; by this point in the summer season most of the American racers know one another and their particular racing styles. Throw some world champions and other international riders into the mix and you have a whole different race – the riders are brand-new to the locals and well-seasoned in their racing capabilities.

Not to mention that several teams were sharing space at the U.S. Olympic Training Center just down the road from the track. The campus is like a college campus without the classes: dorms, dining hall, gyms and training areas, offices. It’s funny to sit down in the cafeteria with an Aussie or Canadian or Dutchwoman for lunch and know that you will be slaughtering each other on the track that same evening. But such is sport – nice that it’s all in fun and that we don’t actually kill anyone.  

To summarize the racing, I managed a 3rd place in the team sprint and a 5th place in the keirin; the sprints could have gone better, but I was happy with the overall results. However, it’s not necessarily the placements that are important, but rather the processes that went into them. I went into this with eyes wide open, embracing the learning opportunity. My abilities for planning and executing tactics in were tested. For example, I chose to attack from the back in the keirin final as opposed to my usual habit of immediately riding from the front. I used it as a chance to test new moves; after all, I was racing the world’s best – I didn’t have much to lose.

Equally important was not letting the butterflies drive the bike. The sequence is simple: see rainbows, get butterflies. If one is expected to successfully race on the international stage, one must overcome this tendency quickly. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and what better place for me than for this event?

I still have my eyes wide open – and I’m grinning.