Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Last Unicorn at the Omnium

This last weekend I competed in the Victorian Men's Omnium Championship at the DISC velodrome. The Omnium is supposed to be a test of the best all around racer with five events ranging from a flying 200m flat out sprint to an individual pursuit.

The events scheduled for my masters athlete age group were:
  • 500m time trial
  • flying 200m
  • 5km scratch race
  • 2km individual pursuit
  • 5km points race
The final points race was run as a second scratch race due to the low number of participants in our age group.

I'll cut to the chase, I finished last. Last in my age group, last in every event. I feel like I ought to feel bad about this but the truth is that I don't. I enjoyed the day immensely. I learned a lot about racing at championships and I had the help,advice, friendship and support of a whole lot of great people.

My 500m time trial was ok but slower than everyone else. Starts were hand-held as there were not enough officials to operate the start gates. Starting without a gate was a bit of a new experience but not too hard to get my head around. The trick was to not push backward at all as is possible with a gate. I felt strong and took a fairly good line but finished with that feeling that I would go faster if I just had another crack at it. Time 41.350 seconds.

Flying 200m - Photo Leanne Cole

The Flying 200m is all over way too quickly. Nice entry, nice line, not enough speed. Again, I have to learn to do my best effort at the first attempt. Time 13.590 seconds.

Scratch race 20 laps, finished last. I rode as near to a perfect race as I could. I grabbed a good wheel at the start and clung to it for all I was worth. I had a rider spend around 5 laps trying his best to take that wheel from me but I withstood the pressure. I did NO work. This is a big deal for me because I very often end up bridging gaps or chasing, only to have nothing left when things get serious. So it was that I ended up near the front with a lap to go and no serious damage. I just wasn't fast enough, getting passed on the run to the line.

2km Individual Pursuit. This was the reason I was here. I really wanted a good crack at the pursuit before the Victorian titles in late February and this was the chance. Before the day I had thought that a 2:44 time would be something to aim for. I broke the start, badly, was recalled and had to start again. The second time I got away cleanly but really overcooked my second lap. By lap four I was already suffering badly and slowing down. At lap seven the wheels really fell off and I dropped into the 21 second area. In the end I finished with 2:44.842. At the upper end of what I thought was a good target but a big personal best and a time I can clearly improve on with a well paced ride. Position - last.

2km Individual Pursuit - Photo Leanne Cole

The final scratch race was pretty much a repeat of the first but I didn't have quite such a good wheel to follow. Yet again when the sprint was on, I had nothing to give. Position last.

So, with a perfect score as far as my position in the racing went, what was I doing here? Why bother? It occurred to me more than once during the day that I could expend considerably less energy and emotion for the same results.

The answer lay inside me and inside those around me. I did it because I love it. The test of pushing myself to the limit, finding what I'm capable of draws me in. More than this, being surrounded by others doing the same thing builds a bond that's more than competitiveness. It's a fellowship of explorers, people who understand exactly what territory I'm exploring. Finally, I had a small group of friends, coaches, coach's coaches, and interested parties who gave me encouragement, advice and helped me crack a smile when my legs felt like overcooked spaghetti.

All of this melted into a lovely, and magical day of riding where I set a PB and learned fron the many new experiences. Thanks to everyone who supported me, encouraged me, yelled at me and whupped my arse. I'll be back again and I won't come last.


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Deciding What Not To Do

In my last post, I promised to talk about choices. Recently someone suggested I talk about whether or not I'm doing the ACE this year. For those of you uninitiated into the wonderful world of Audax, the ACE is the Alpine Classic Extreme. The Alpine Classic on steroids.

The simple answer is no. The complicated answer is that I'm not doing it because it will interfere with my track racing. Am I insane???? I'm giving up doing something that I'm fairly good at (riding up big hills for a long time) in order to do something that I frankly stink at. The reasoning of course is complicated. I've been riding Audax for more than 30 years, whereas my track racing career really isn't even a year old, so how good should I really expect to be at it? Secondly, if I'm going to go off riding 1200 kilometres, how many fast twitch muscle fibres can I honestly expect my legs to recruit? Thirdly, comes my experience of Perth-Albany-Perth last year. It was a truly wonderful ride with great people and fabulous scenery. It just wasn't a challenge. I just went and did it. My bum hurt, my legs hurt, I was tired and I kept on pedalling. Maybe the hunger will come back soon. Lastly, I really love racing fast on the track.

If I'm ever going to give it a real crack, I'd better concentrate, hard.

So, it's no ACE for me, no ACC, not even hill repeats on the one in twenty. Just working hard at going fast, racing as much as I can manage and trying hard to only make the same mistakes around 43 times. I'm finding it a steep learning curve but so much fun. Yes, I'll miss all the fun and hubub in and around Bright, but most of all I'll miss that burn of pushing the last big climb out to the best I can do. So have fun with all that pain guys, I'll be thinking of you enviously. Maybe I'll be back next year.

In the pursuit of all of this I think that I recently became one of the first Australians to complete a 1200km brevet and compete in a flying 200m in a state championship within 3 months. More on that another day.