Well. I did it.
But more importantly I lived to tell about it.
What? You don’t know what I’m talking about. A bike race of course. Not just any bike race though. This was a monumental event. For me anyway.
There’s a few reasons why it was monumental. First there the logistics of this particular event for me. Second comes the timing of such an event – in my life and in my schedule. Finally there’s the history of me in this event.
Hands up if you remember that I’m a university student (an old one, but still a student). Hands up if you fully comprehend what it means to be raising 3 children. Now think about squeezing several part time jobs into that picture. What I’m hinting at is that I fall into the category of poor people. Cash poor. Time poor. There’s lots of love in my family but the Hollywood script writers are on strike so it’s not the tear jerker of a happy ending you were hoping for. We’ll have to slave our behinds off to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in.
Let’s look at the timeline leading up to this event. Last week, Tuesday afternoon was a 3 hour PHY201 exam (Waves, Fluids and Optics if you must know), so that burned up Monday and Tuesday. Thursday afternoon was a 3 hour MTH312 exam (Numerical Analysis), so again Wednesday and Thursday were gone. Yesterday (Monday) was another 3 hour PHY202 exam (Thermodynamics and Electricity) so I really should have spent the weekend studying.
Anyway, Friday morning dawned to a journey. I did my 2 hours of purgatory at the supermarket putting bread on the shelves; then home to see my wife off to school (she’s in her last week of prac… a fully qualified high school English teacher by this Friday); then saw the kids off to school. A quick whip around the house to scoop up all my racing paraphernalia and jam it in the car and then I was away.
570km away. That’s 350 miles for the old folks and Americans. So 7 hours later I unpacked my bike and gear and set about warming up for a weekend of racing. When you’ve been folded up in the car for a 7 hour trip it takes a lot to pedal all the kinks out.
Now’s a good time to tell you about where this event falls in my life (other than slap bang in the middle of exam period). This is officially the 2007/08 track season. Way back in the dim distant past was a track carnival at this venue (and every year in between). During the 1987/88 track season… March 1988 to November 2007, while not 20 years ago, was 20 seasons ago. When I was 20 years old. And 20 years ago I raced here. It was an adventure getting to the event back then. It was fun racing the event. Until the inevitable happened (this is track racing after all).
This is 20 years later. And I’m 20 years smarter. But it was a nasty twist that relocated this event to this location in the racing calendar making it my first track race since my racing fizzled away to nothing in 1990 in the aftermath of the aforementioned inevitable mishap. Still it was with trepidation that I stood at the front gate of the Kendrick Tucker Velodrome. I was back to face my deepest fear. Another spinal injury a million miles from my family.
With 7 events (plus 3 finals if you’re good enough) over 2 days it was enlightening. I’ve been struggling to get my training intensity right to develop the type of characteristics I want on the bike. This weekend reminded me of several techniques I used years ago that had eluded me this time around. After 18 years out of track racing I relearned a huge amount this weekend.
Sadly, there’s no fairytale ending here. I was a little put out that at my first race meeting I had been put into B grade – flattering, but still…
I didn’t qualify for the final in my first race, but I did get to headbutt, shoulder, elbow and knee a world champion. To quote Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall) in Days of Thunder, “No, no, he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you… he *rubbed* you. And rubbin, son, is racin’.” Keirin racin’ that is. I cruised to an easy win in the heat of the second event and placed 8th from 24 in the final. The final race on Friday night was by far the fastest and I dropped out after 15 laps when the average speed so far was sitting on 51kph (32mph).
I packed up and drove out of town. There was still another day of racing to come but like I mentioned before, I’m poor. I needed to get beyond the suburbs so I could sleep in my car without worrying about being hassled. I awoke the next morning to a wonderful feeling of achievement… or not. My legs were incredibly sore – I like to think that it was because of last night’s workout rather than the weird angle they were bent at while I slept. I went for a gentle 30km ride to loosen up and everything felt great. Until 10 minutes after I stopped when my legs started to seize up again. I’m not as young as I once was. $4.50 entry to the local swimming pool got me access to a spa to massage the old bones, an Olympic swimming pool to cool off in and a shower to finish the job.
Saturday afternoon and night saw plenty more exciting racing. I was out of the placings in the first event and intentionally got eliminated early in the second to rest up a little. I cruised through the heat of the third event of the day placing 7th to make the final – I only discovered later that because this was the feature race of the carnival, the heats actually carried prize money as well. I literally cruised to the line in 7th, knowing the first 8 went into the final. I soft pedalled most of the last lap where I could have raced hard to the line and had a share of the $300 that was spread down to 4th. Damn. The final was a big fanfare with a Calcutta sweep being run and each rider doing a parade lap before the start. I had a good run through the race and found myself in the enviable position of 3rd wheel coming onto the bell. Sadly, my 18 year lay off didn’t give me the legs I needed to finish hard and I got swamped, ending up 11th.
No glory. No prize money. But most importantly, I survived unscathed. I had faced my anxiety and stared it down.
I packed the car and skipped out before the final race – a point score which didn’t suit my fitness or temperament anyway. I figured it was a good idea to get moving since it was mum’s 70th birthday party at lunch on Sunday. I arrived home about 6:30am Sunday. Had a shower and a 2 hour sleep, a nice lunch, another sleep in the afternoon, hit the books for a while Sunday night and demolished the exam yesterday afternoon.
Tomorrow is my last exam of the year and next weekend is another road trip for the racing… Friday night is 200km away and Saturday night is another 100km up the map. I’ve booked in to a nice clean motel right next door to the venue of Friday nights racing so I can have a decent sleep. Saturday night I’ll drive home after racing finishes.