Monday, 21 April 2008

Pursuing the Breeze

Thursday is the Big Day – my main event. The women are again on first, and once again, running sheets are late, and the whole thing a tad disorganised. Fortunately I am on a few heats down, so have time to ask someone who knows, to double check and be seated trackside ready to go with plenty of time to spare. The seedings are simply stupid, with nearly every heat in my age group seeing a person lapped, and lappings consistently occurring in all age categories. The impact this has for both competitors is enormous and a gross error on the part of the organisers. It’s almost as if they have seeded us for match sprints, with the slowest against the fastest. I make a complaint to one of the CA Masters Commission reps.

I am nervous, very nervous, warming up, walking up to the track, sitting and waiting for my turn. The commissaire takes my bike from Mdm Hr, and I walk behind the gate and sit. When the bike is locked in, I get on, and as I click in my cleats I know the clock starts running. I am still nervous, but it doesn’t bother me – I am not my nervousness. 10 seconds to go and I settle into the drops, and the nerves fall away to a silence. Nothing but the final beeps now and then I go, pushing against the gear to get the bike rolling, not too hard through the bend, easy through the straight. Mdm Hr gives me my first lap time – I see a 25 and think: good (It was actually a 26, not so good!). I settle in for the second lap: 20 seconds. Good.

I feel calm, settled, almost peaceful after the pre-race nerves. Lap 3 and I realise I feel a deliciously fresh cooling breeze against my skin. How nice is that breeze? Lap 4, no time given, a minor glitch, no drama. I enjoy the breeze and the rhythm of my breathing and of the cranks turning over. I feel a part of the bike, and enjoy it. My pacing feels steady and even – there are no changes to my rhythm. I tell myself Lap 5 I will start to lift, but when I look again it’s Lap 6. What happened to Lap 5?? I just lost a lap! Bugger! I have one less lap to play with. Pick it up now I say. And as I come into corner 1 of Lap 6, I am two pedal strokes into lifting when I suddenly glance over my right shoulder to see the black suit of NZ’s Fiona Southern. I had heard nothing, absolutely nothing. So far my race had been very quiet apart from my breathing and the wind cooling my ears. So I hold, not panicking, concentrating on not losing any momentum, but not accelerating just yet. I wait until she is 2 bike lengths in front then I have something to chase. And I start to chase. Laps 6 and 7 still on the pace but my breathing begins to labour, and I am beginning to hurt. I am happy with that – 2 laps to go I can make it hurt some more. And I do. Fiona glides away from me easily (she is faster than me and medalled at last year’s Nationals) and I keep pressure on myself til I push the bike over the timing strip.

I look at my time and am a little disappointed – 2 seconds slower than States. I was hoping to PB, and I felt good, calm, in control during the ride. Later going over the lap splits, I see my first lap was a second too slow, I lost a second on Lap 5, and the final lap was a second slower. 3 seconds lost over 3 laps – there was my PB buried in those times, particularly Lap 1 and Lap5. I wasn’t worried about it. My ride felt good – mentally I was in a very good place: “Old Hat” is an expression they use training horses Make something old hat, so that that it becomes normalised, familiar and habituated. The horse then thinks “O, that old thing”, is no longer fazed by it. This was my first Old Hat IP. Now I just need to get faster.

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