Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Camp 2013: Part I

How my Love Affair with Track Racing Began

On a long coffee ride in my early cycling days, one of my riding buddies mentioned that I was built like a track racer.  I looked at him with a puzzled look and just filed that tidbit away.  Back then, I think I would have been mortified if he had told me "You have a big butt." Now that I know it's a compliment in trackie language, I would smile and say "Thanks." Track riders tend to be "bootyful" and some of the men look more like linebackers. That comment didn't get me into track, but it made me a bit curious.

 2013 Marymoor Gran Prix Women's Scratch Race, Photo by Dennis Crane

In 2007, I got my first track bike and Dino took me down to get certified at the beginner's sessions at Hellyer Velodrome in San Jose.  I was instantly hooked!  We raced a good amount, despite the track being so far away and I was able to get my upgrade so I could start racing the big mass start events. I loved the fast learning curve of doing lots of events over a single session. I loved the camaraderie of the infield.  People helped other people get better to make faster, safer races for everyone and it helped pass the time hanging out between races.  I love the naked sensation of the fixed gear, floating up and down the track at speed. No gears, no brakes, no computer or other things to get in the way. Just me and the bike! 

West Coast Velodrome Challenges

The next year, we signed up for the Hellyer Velodrome Challenge and I got my first taste of high level women's racing with big fields. I didn't get great results but I was in the field. When I first started racing, I struggled with my body image and felt really insecure and scared. I was also racing with women who were the best in North America and some from other countries. Out of all of the cycling disciplines, track is the most like performance art. Everyone sees everything! So then it started clicking, if I can race with these women, who cares about what I look like? The nervousness was still there, but it was getting better. I forgot who first said it to me, but I repeated the mantra "It's just another bike race" when I lined up with national champions and pro riders.

2013 Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge Women's Keirin, Photo by Dancing Light Photo Studios

The next year we made it up to the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge, where we were convinced to go up to Seattle for another high profile track race in Seattle the next year to complete what was starting to be called the "Summer Camp" series of West Coast velodrome challenges.  We made good friends with racers from all over the country and world. I felt like I had found my people!  We set up camp together in the infield, stayed in each other's houses, borrowed each others rollers and called each other "track family."  The competition is fierce, but so are the friendships.  Plus, there was a lot of silliness too. 

It is like camping out for the weekend as you can see. Part of what creates the bonds are are the 12 hour days at the track together living in an EZ up. This one was special this year thanks to the Portland Sizzle Pie crew, complete with bike box walls and bike bag curtains. It was a hot year.  Next year, we are talking about using trash bags as changing skirts just to add to the homeless camp effect.

What I didn't realize when I started racing track is that you have to have good endurance.  You might do up to five races in one day, warming up and cooling down in between. You spend a lot of time on rollers. Luckily, my husband Dino made my roller boards more stylish.

This Year

Our annual trek on to the West Coast Summer Camp track races almost didn't happen this year because of life and finances getting in the way. We also haven't even been able to get to our local track which is over two hours away. I didn't even want to think about how much I would miss this trip since it has been the driving force in our cycling lives for the last five+ years.  I'm sure that my roadie friends get tired of me blabbing on and on about track since most of my conversations tend to drift in that direction.  Yes, I'm obsessed. I thought about these races all winter doing painful intervals on my rollers. They motivate me even though I'm happy just to hang in there.Why do I love this race series so much? To put it simply, great people and great racing!

Despite our worries, it must have been in the cards for us to go this year. Everything miraculously lined up for us to go, and yes, we had some angels in the wings.   It turned out to be one of the most memorable and amazing race experiences of my life.