This is my fairy tale and dream come true. My first track event and I won the women’s 2K pursuit ages 55 – 59 in the U.S. National Masters Track Championships. This year the National Masters (defined as 30+) Track championships were held at the Hellyer Velodrome in San Jose, CA. The gold medal is awesome and I get to wear the national championship jersey in races for one year.
On the podium
How in the world did Hermes and I get ourselves into this? It started with the Beat the Clock "Day at the Track" event on August 16. We had such a blast riding TT road bikes on the track, with I finished first in the road bike category for the events that I did (2K, 3K and 4K pursuits). I looked at some track pursuit times for both the district and national races and realized that I could at least be competitive. Since the race was local, it was an easy decision to enter. The tougher challenge was to find track bikes, practice on the track with real track bikes, train for National Championships and be race ready in 11 days.
It was Hermes’ job to pull it all together. We shared our plans with our coaches and they were fully supportive and helped us with a “fast track” training plan and equipment. Buying equipment was not feasible. One of the great things about the racing community is the camaraderie and shared goals that motivate one another to compete. Within 24 hours, we had two riders who loaned us track bikes in our size so that we could begin training immediately. The next weekend before the race, we were at the velodrome to take a beginner clinic. We felt very comfortable riding on the track with track bikes. We tweaked our training and went to the track the Saturday before the race with our coach for a practice session to check gearing and to practice starts.
We signed up for two events – the 500 meter time trial and the 2K pursuit. Both events are raced on the track in heats with one rider starting at opposite ends of the track and chasing each other. The 500 meters is a full out sprint from a standing start. We used a 51/15 gear. The technical aspect is the ability to accelerate from a standing start and immediately negotiate the curve while standing and sprinting after the first curve. Then you drop to the aerobars and keep accelerating. The 2K pursuit is a sprint at the start and then settle in at an all out maximum effort for 3 minutes. On the track, the 2K pursuit is considered an endurance event.
A kind and generous friend from Five Rings Cycling Center where we train loaned me his gorgeous Cervelo P3C track bike – with a few adjustments it was a pretty good fit. Hermes had a Felt track bike. Track bikes are fixed gear with no brakes or free wheel.
Velodiva's Track Bike
This event falls under the UCI rules and every bike had to go through UCI inspection for each event. The officials had their UCI jig setup and a scale at the home and back stretch with a commissioner checking bikes. I heard this was the first time that they did this at the track nationals. Well, there was some chaos as racers found their bikes to be too light or seat setback / aerobar setup out of spec. I saw a couple of guys tape allen wrenches to their top tube to meet the weight requirements. Under a strict reading of the rules, the inspector could have rejected that solution because you cannot add weight that can be removed while riding.
Hermes going through UCI inspection
My goal for the 2K was sub-three minutes, so I was happy with my 2:59.65. I used a 51 x 15 which felt right but it is clear by my splits that I need to really work on the start. First lap was 35:04, with subsequent lap times of 27:53, 28.66, 29.53, 29.34 and 29.32. My pursuit person faded after 3 laps and I easily passed her on the 5th lap.
I also did the 500 m the day before for practice and placed 4th (out of 5) with a dismal time of 50:13. (My 500 meter split in the 2K was 49:02 – a bit better). The winner was Allyson Vought with a time of 44.08. That said, it was a "PR" given that I never did or practiced a 500 m before – and I did get a medal and a place on the podium. Doing that event was also a good way to get my nervousness under control, and I was able to put those disappointing results out of my mind for the next day's 2K.
Velodiva in action
Hermes’ narrative of his events:
My goal for the 500 meters and 2K pursuit was to beat someone. Hopefully, it would a man in my age group. The 55 –59 age group is one of the toughest and is populated by former National Champions and State Champions and generally very experienced track racers. I was pleased with my 500 meter result. - 46.12 seconds beating another racer by 1.56 seconds. This was great experience and the first 500 meter track race of my life was age 59 in the US Nationals and I beat one guy. Life is good.
In the 2K pursuit, the goal and situation was the same. However, now I am an experienced track racer. I line up on the home stretch with my competition on the back stretch. As the 5 beeps count down, on the long tone, I am off. Immediately, there is a double gun shot signaling a false start (the other guy). The announcer says it would be great if the riders do a U turn on the track to speed things up. A U turn on the track. Hey, I just learned how to get on and off of this bike 7 days ago. I am going around. I did not see how a U turn was possible and even if it was, not by me. I came around and got back into position. This time, we had good start. My tactical plan was simple. Accelerate up to speed like I did in the 500 meters and then settle in for the first lap. On lap 2, I eased off every so slightly. On lap 3,4,5, and 6, I stepped on the gas increased speed each time. Laps 5 and 6, I was still accelerating and bleeding from the eyeballs. When I heard the bell on the final lap, I gave it everything I had. My time was 3:03.34. I beat my man by 2.74 seconds. Also, beat another guy by 3.31 seconds. I am really happy with my result for my first two track races. It was a great experience and shows it is never too late to try something new.
Hermes in action
What's next? The Worlds in Sydney next year. I mean how can you top winning the Nationals as your first race?