My time in Delhi went in waves. When I first arrived I was so tired that all I could think of was staying awake and everything around me went unnoticed. As I recovered from the jet lag I began to see just how many athletes were around me and I could feel the excitement of the racing starting. At first it just seemed really cool, and then it turned into nerves.
I kept catching myself thinking about how great it would be to win a medal at a games, and how good that would feel. I had to constantly remind myself only to think about the things I needed to do that would get to a medal: a good strong start, getting on top of my gear, fighting right until the end.
The morning of my first race (500m time trial) I was so nervous I was cranky. I could hardly sit with the team for breakfast because they were driving me nuts!
But like magic, almost as soon as I walked into the velodrome, I relaxed. I knew what to do. It was just like any other race. I had my race routine written out like I always do so I knew exactly what do and when to do it. I listened to my music as I warmed up, I pinned my numbers, went through the race in my head, and went up to the start line where I got my nerves back just in time.
My 500m time trial was a bit disappointing for me. Not that I got fourth, which is a hard place to finish, but more that I didn’t have my best race for me. My start was a bit off and I was never able to get to my usual max speed. I was reminded that I hadn’t peaked for this event. All the hard training from September was still in my legs. I need that training for the upcoming world cups, but right then, in the moment, I wished I had faster legs.
The next day I had the team sprint with Tara, which is a two lap race. I would lead the first lap, pull up, and Tara would do another lap on her own. Tara was also racing the points race which was right in between the team sprint heats. On our first ride we were against India and they had a false start. But there was no gun so we didn’t realize it until we had finished our race! About 7 minutes later we were back in the gate to try again. I had done a full lap at max effort and my legs were still tired (I was very grateful however, for the training I had done at home with short rest between standing starts!) and Tara had done two laps and was really feeling it. We went again and qualified in 3rd. Australia was in first and Scotland in 2nd and would battle for gold in the final. Even without the false start, both of those countries were stronger than us on that day. Tara and I were in the bronze medal ride against India and it was up to us to fight for bronze!
In the mean time however, Tara had a points race! She had about 25 minutes until the start of the points race where she did a bit of recovery and warm up for a completely different style of race. And she totally rocked it! In a field where most countries had 3 riders, Tara was the sole Canadian and she pulled off 3rd place. It was very impressive.
Ten minutes later we were at the line again for the bronze medal final of the team sprint. Tara was hurting, sweat still dripping from the points race. I was not worried about her, Tara always, always fights to the end and I knew she would do everything she could. I was thinking about doing my best start so we could beat the Indians!
But another false start! This time we figured it out right away and only did ½ a lap before easing up.
OK, here we go again. One last try. This one is for the medal! Tara and I are both tired now but we get back into the gate ready to go. I do my lap and pull up for Tara to do hers. I am a bit nervous but I am just willing Tara to go in my head. And she does it! We win bronze!
Adding to the excitement was having PCL representatives in the crowd. PCL has been sponsoring me for years and have given me both financial support and emotional support for believing in my potential when I was so young. Unfortunately no one from PCL had ever seen me compete! It really was special to share the moment with them, and they cheered really loud! After I won my medal I was able to go see them in the stands and watch some more racing with them.
To be honest my form wasn’t the best at this race. And those of you who know track racing well might know that I didn’t post my fastest times. But for me this competition was about taking in the experience and learning. And doing the best I could with the legs that I had. I feel that it was a very positive step forward towards the Olympics and I am ready to get back into training so that I can race confidently at the first world cups, which are the first opportunity to get Olympic Qualifying points. I am so grateful I got to experience a Games and experience an Athlete’s Village.
Thank you all for the tremendous support! It is very special to share all of this with you.
A few notes:
I never actually got to leave the village and see India, but I did get to see the Indian people and they were the most friendly and willing to help that I’ve ever seen.
Driving to the track I saw so much poverty that the Athlete Village, despite the harsh media, seemed completely luxurious.
I love that the Para athletes raced at the same time as us and not in a separate games afterwards. That is how it should always be.