As I lay here in my...awesome dorm room, thinking about the past 2.5 weeks I have just had, I'm proud, astonished, stressed and starving. I'm not entirely sure how some collegiate cyclists do it. As far as I go, missing two weeks of school has put me so far behind. I've missed entire exams worth of information, making the first up this week and taking exam number two next week. But the trick is to stay on top of it. However you can, whatever way you can, in any way you can.
With that said, let us begin to recap my last great adventure.
We left Durango Tuesday afternoon, on September 21st. We rolled into the small, three-terminal Durango airport with our sweet Fort Lewis College cycling truck and a 15-pack van. As we all pile out, we grab our bags and a bike box, walk in, get our tickets and do the whole airport thing. And then we were off to Indy, for Collegiate Track Nationals.
We had a day on the track before racing started, and what do you know...IT RAINED! We had a total of about 15 minutes on the track, just enough for the ladies team pursuit to get out and ride around together. After I had spent half my summer on the track in Colorado Springs, the fort Lewis team had about two weekends, equaling about four days on the track. So, given the amount of time we had together, 15 minutes was about the longest duration.
Then, it began. First up on Thursday was the 500m time trial. How should I explain this ride...slamming my knee on my TT bars, running over a few sponges, you know...the usual. NOT. It was good and fast. Times in the top five were incredibly close. I finished fourth overall, which was a good improvement from my time and the seventh place finish from 2009.
Friday was the busiest and most intense day: women’s team pursuit, collegiate sprint and points race. Our team pursuit, to say the least, was...a mess. After two false starts we were allowed a third by the gracious hearts of the USA Cycling officials. I became the first rider on the third attempt, getting our team off the line and racing. We finished third, after falling completely apart, and coming back together to finish with three riders.
Next up, in the collegiate sprint, I was the first rider, and the only girl, meaning I pulled the first two laps in our sprint. After the first two laps, it was up to the boys to finish it off. We finished fifth as a team.
Then there was the points race - the ridiculous, horrible points race. Last year I pulled a second place, from nowhere. This year...well. I won the first two sprints for full points and then I managed to get myself lapped. I finished the race, scoring points for the team, but I can definitely tell you that sprint training does not help you in a 60-lap points race. I was disappointed. I was shooting for a good place in the individual omnium, and a 19th place in the points race didn't help me with much.
Saturday was the best. Match sprints. I was excited. I was hoping to come off the bad points race the night before, redeem myself and make my team proud. And I think I did. I qualified first in the 200m with the fastest time. And then it was going through the rounds. Round 1=win. Round 2=win. Then the semis and finals were in the afternoon.
After coming back, my semifinal ended with three rides. But I won. Again. I was shocked. I was going to the match sprint final, for a chance to win my first individual national championship. I was so happy to have been there. I was so happy to have made it that far. And then we rode. And unfortunately, in the two rides, I wasn't able to come around my match, and I had to settle for second place. Last year, I didn't make it past the second round, after having to win the rep from the first round. The fact that I was the fastest qualifier, I had made it to the final, it means a lot.
This second place had launched me from seventh to fourth in the individual omnium. Combined with my fourth place finish in the 500m and my horrible points race, I finished one place higher in the omnium than I did last year. Fort Lewis College as a team finished in third overall in the D1 team omnium.
Then it was done, we packed up the bikes, loaded the vans and shipped out. The team headed back to Durango, and I to Los Angeles for Elite Track Nationals.
This was my first Elite Track Nationals, my first time at the ADT Center and I was ecstatic about it. I would be racing in the scratch race, keirin, match sprints, team sprint and Madison. In a short summary, since this is already incredibly long: 11th in the scratch race, eighth in the keirin, 10th in the match sprint, sixth in the team sprint and an unfortunate DNF in the Madison.
I got sick. It sounds like a bad excuse, but I really did get quite sick. Saturday morning, the morning of the 200m qualifier, I threw up, was feeling horrible and had no interest in riding my bike. It was awful. I did the qualifier, didn't qualify for a match and called it quits for the day.
Sunday was the team sprint and Madison. Maddie and I went as hard and as fast as we could. Next year we will come back with the punch. In the Madison, things were going good. I was starting to get the hang of things and then my partner Megan slid off the track on one of the bankings. This was the first-ever US women’s Madison national championship and I am very proud to have been part of it. I made some mistakes in the race, I will admit, but for the most part it was an incredible experience.
The keirin is by far my most favorite event and after four rides I learned quite a bit. Even at the elite level, it makes you realize how much work you have left, how much more you have to learn and what you can possibly become.
All in all, both collegiate and elite nationals came out well. Collegiate more than elites, but in some circumstances, you have to work with what you have, and in this case I did. You give it your all; you go as hard and as fast as you can. And you come home with more than medals: experiences, lessons, friendships and dreams.