Back home again and have been for a while. Actually can’t believe it’s been a week since my first real race day.
So much for keeping an up to date blog of all the Masters track Championships last week. The drive down was a bit hectic and long, the first days were easy but still packed with activity like settling in to the hotel, getting food supplies and other things we were missing or forgot to bring, discovering the best and fastest ways to get to the track. Adapting to every ones own schedules and time tables and life patterns was another challenge for the first part of the week and continued through out the week.
Then of course we needed to fit in race times and make allowances for when there was open track time to warm up prior to races. Lastly, we had other racers and friends that were doing events before or after our own and we all wanted to support each other as much as possible and still save time for ourselves.
This was a lot different than last years USA Masters, where I drove to CO alone and stayed alone in a hotel for the week. I still was interested in the other racers last year but had more flexibility. I can’t say either one was bad, both good experiences, just very different.
Here’s what I can remember from last week after Thursday night. I wasn’t at the track for the Thursday night events because I needed to be up early on Friday for warm ups for my Sprint day. Chris and I got to the track early on Friday and I got my warm ups in. I felt good after an easy rest day on Thursday and based on my warm up 200 speeds, I felt confident that I could do a very good qualifying time. I was sent out about mid way through the group of 12 racers with the 13th a no show. The effort felt strong but the time was somewhat slower than I hoped, 13.355. Not as good as Blaine but good enough for the 4th fastest time in my age group. It was .004 slower than 3rd qualifier but .842 slower than the fastest qualifier at 12. 513. Only 8 qualified for continuing on. Most everyone felt the track was slower that day, the wind was up and the track surface is a lot more aggressive than the beautiful, smooth Blaine track.
All the time Chris Ferris was with me advising and helping me plan my strategy for the up coming sprint rounds. This was super helpful. It seems like most of my competitors have been racing for decades while I have about 4 years of race experience. (Why didn’t I ever find this adventure earlier?) They have all this experience in these conditions that was neutralized to some extent by Chris’ advice.
Next up, 1/8th finals. I was matched with the 5th place guy who wasn’t much slower than me. First round he got a gap on me and bested me by about 6 inches at the line. Next round was one of my favorites and best. I was in position 1 and kept him on my hip for 2 laps riding him up to the rail most of the time. When I finally jumped coming out of 4 with 1 to go I gapped him and won by a good margin. The third race wasn’t quite as exciting but I gapped him again and won 2 out of 3. On to 1/4 finals. My next competitor was the 3rd fastest qualifier. Another exciting race with me starting from position one, lowest on the track. Chris gave me a monster push to get me out front and I kept my competitor up high again trying to fake him out a bit on the main straight with 2 to go and then with some shoulder contact with one to go. (the handler for the other guy was complaining that he couldn’t match Chris’ push to get me started) I did get a jump and beat him to the line. One more race to get to the semi’s. We were off again with another massive push from Chris (my competitor had another handler try and over do Chris without success) figuring that it was best for me to be ahead and control from the front again. It’s a bit of a blur but I think with 1 to go coming out of 2, he dropped and tried to go under me. I was slow to react and he did go under and gap me and I couldn’t catch him. Dam, another race coming up. As we rolled to slow off the track I heard the officials announce he was relegated for passing under me on the apron. It happened so fast I didn’t realize how low he got. By a tires width I must have beat him down to shut the door and he went around me lower than he legally could. Anti climatic end with 2 back to back wins.
Time to leave the track for a short time to get a very late lunch, go back to the hotel and catch a very short rest/nap and then start all over. Back to the track, warm up session and get ready for some even harder rides. My next up was the top qualifier for the semi final. The top qualifier was faster and more experienced but I gave it 2 good shots, first round a shorter sprint, second round I tried to jump in turn two on 2 to go, got a gap but he closed it and passed me leaving me with a bronze medal. No National Champ jersey but a very satisfying result for me, on the podium for the second year in a row out of 2 attempts and especially good because the sprints are my main focus for the last 2 years.
We stayed for the podium ceremony and then got out as soon as possible to get Chris some food and back to the hotel, his sprint rounds were happening the next day, Saturday, and it would be another long day. Plus I had a Points race scheduled for Saturday evening as my second event.
This is where controlling the schedule and rest time is critical. Chris sacrificed himself all day Friday to help make my prime event a success and with his support, it was a success. It was now my turn to do any thing I could to help make his sprint day go well. Friday was a hot day so we both were pretty well wasted by the time we got to bed which wasn’t until after midnight for the 2 or 3rd time during the week. We set our alarms and hoped the short rest would be sufficient. As happens sometimes, fate controls events and at about 3 A.M. the smoke alarm went off in our hotel room. CRAPPP!!! I jumped out of bed and went straight for the detector, knowing how inconsistent they can be. I just about destroyed it by the time I realized the noise was from a siren mounted in the ceiling away from the detector. By now Dan was up, Chris had his head buried under pillows and we were beginning to wonder what caused the alarm. No smoke in our room or the hall. Eventually, the alarm stopped and we could try to get back to bed but sleep was not easy to find again. Not knowing what set it off, I wondered as I tried to sleep, should I really go to sleep and if I did, what would I grab and run with should the place break out in a fire.
Overcome eventually with sleep, the next thing I heard was our alarms announcing a very short end to a restless night.
We did hear later that some of the bike racers smoked up some food they were cooking and instead of opening a window, they opened the hall door, filled the hall with smoke and set off the alarm. Dam bike racers!