The track in Manchester is steeped in history. The greatest riders in the world train there, and records are consistently set on the boards. So, it's no surprise that when I get the chance to race it, I take full advantage. For the past three years, I've been lucky enough to race the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester. The schedule is simple- a 500 and a pursuit. I was traveling 15 hours to race 14 laps, but it's totally worth it. Going into it, I was a little apprehensive and unsure of my preparedness. We'd only trained on the track a few times, in terrible weather, and I'd been slow each day. No gate training, no full race efforts. I really wasn't sure I should even be going, but my coach reassured me of my strength and fitness, and that after a little taper, I'd be rolling. Well, he was right.
Beijing went well, but it was only "A" work, not the "A+" I wanted, and this was my first opportunity to prove myself. First up was the 500. Not my best or favorite event, but I'd done a lot of work in the gym, and my starts were looking really good (With only a holder, no gate). I got balled up coming out of the gate, which only made me mad. Ended up rolling the same time I did in China, which I'll definitely take after a sub-par start. Picked up a bronze for that one.
The next day was the pursuit which is my favorite event. Really, I'm not sure why I like this event so much, it's so painful. One of our coaches said "If you like the feeling of concrete setting in your legs, then track racing is for you." Well, I guess I like concrete, because I love the pursuit. There was an uneven number of riders, and I somehow managed to get picked as the lucky single rider. (This isn't very good for me because I do better when I can chase someone.) I'd decided on a fairly aggressive schedule, much faster than my previous best. I got a good warm up in on the rollers, and was feeling awesome going to the line. Got in the gate, the clock counted down, and I was off. I had a great start, got on it quickly and settled into a rhythm. Not gonna lie, I was rollin! Maybe it was the double discs I was rocking, or all the training in the lab I'd done with my coach screaming at me to go harder, but I felt fantastic. Then I got to lap 8 and the concrete started to set. I was deep in the pain cave with a flashlight without a battery.
When I pursuit, my vision starts to blur. I don't see anything but the black line, and the shape of my coach walking the line for me. (He doesn't yell time splits, he walks forward or back if I'm ahead or behind schedule.) I started faster than scheduled, and was now even on time. It was all I could do to hold on. I ended up a little off schedule, but still a best time- over a second faster, so I was stoked. And I had a $1 bet that I could ride faster than in Beijing, so now I'm a dollar richer, and picked up a silver.
Immediately after the pursuits, we had the Team Sprint. Our coach entered us the day before "Just for fun" because the event is now open to women, and we were the only women's team in the event. I was riding third wheel, so all I had to do was hold on and finish. Our "training" for the sprint consisted of watching two YouTube videos. Great, nothing gets you prepared to race like YouTube! We actually did well, and almost beat Canada, a team of all men that trains for the event. With some real training, we can beat 'em.
It was definitely a good start to the track season, and nice to prove to myself that I can ride fast again. And racing on my favorite track is always a blast, especially when shiny necklaces make their way into your race bag afterwards.