I was very intimidated having only raced a 250 meter track, or anywhere other than northbrook , once. 2 years ago I went up to Blaine in Minnesota and tried it out. I remember being absolutely terrified. The best way I can describe it is that it feels like a roller coaster. You have to keep your speed up so the centrifical force can keep you on the track. If you go too slow, you fall over and slide down--which I learned the hard way. Blaine is a wooden track made of special African wood and if you crash you end up with splinters.
The event was to take place on Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. On Friday during the day, they offered a clinic with Colby Pearce, a national champion and olympian. The morning was supposed to be a Madison clinic on the track. The Madison is a points race done with a partner. Only one partner is racing at a time, and while one partner is racing, the other is riding as slow as possible (remember you have to go fast enough to not fall over) around the top of the track. When it's time to switch, the resting rider slams down the track and the rider who is going out grabs their hand and slings them forward on their way out. Since it was pouring rain Friday morning, we ended up having the clinic inside.
Here's Colby demonstrating a Madison exchange with chairs. Not exactly the same as on the bike but for a beginner like me I think it was almost better to have some classroom time first.
The afternoon part of the clinic was on training for endurance events. Colby is the former National Track Endurance Coach, and I learned so much! There is talk of him coming to Chicago for a clinic and I'm really hoping that happens. There was just a lot of really basic stuff I didn't know and he patiently explained everything and didn't make me feel dumb for asking questions.
Regarding the actual event, I honestly did not know what to expect. I was told that there was a sprint omnium and an endurance omnium and I could race as many or as few races as I liked.
Since I didn't know what the events were I just signed up for everything. I think had I not been racing the Nature Valley Stage Race later in the week I probably would have raced everything just to try it out, but in the end I decided to race all the endurance events as well as the Kierin, the race where you start out following a motorcycle, which is a sprint event. Carrie Higgins, one of our country's best track racers raced all the events and won both the Sprint and the Endurance Omniums!
Here's the start of the women's Keirin final. You draw a number for a starting position and then you are started with a holder. You are started with a gun when the motorcycle comes around and you can ride anywhere you like as long as you don't pass the moto. They gradually go faster and faster until they pull off at two and a half laps to go and then it's an all out sprint to the finish.
It was fun hanging out with some other Chicago folks. Al Urbanski, Jason Garner, Jeff Whiteman and Franco all came up. Here's Jason and Jeff about to do an exchange in the "Madison Kilo" which is a time trial with exchanges.
Jason ended up winning second in the Sprint Omnium!!
I did all right but for the most part I was trying to learn and figure things out. I knew I was a little nervous and didn't quite have the technical skills so I would have to get away if I wanted any points. It worked in the first points race and I ended up in fourth place and getting some press!
It was a grueling event and by the time we did our final 60 lap points race on Sunday I was exhausted. I tried to motivate myself by realizing that we were all in the same boat--everyone had been there all weekend and was tired.
All in all it was a fantastic experience. I met some great women from across the US. I learned so much , got some confidence and feel like I would definitely like to do more and get better at this!