By Nitzel Hagan -- OBRA Masters State Track Championship (W35+) -- 08/21/16
Three years ago, my family and I came to visit Portland, Oregon and the ‘Gorge’. While we were there, we came to see the Alpenrose Velodrome. It was on our list as one of the many things to do, and visit while we were enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Though I had the itch to ride the track, the weather had a different plan for us that day. It was cold and lightly raining, and you throw safety out of the window if one decides to ride a Velodrome that is wet. The steep banking of the Alpenrose, one of the steepest in the country at 43 degrees, gave me a shot of adrenaline down to my toes by just taking it all in. I promised myself that one day I would return and own this track.
That day came.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Alpenrose Velodrome.
Alpenrose Velodrome is a one of a kind outdoor track. It is not your typical round flat-banked track. Everyone says that it is one of the most exciting tracks in the United States. At 268.43 meters around with a 16.6 meter radius and a 43 degree bank, Alpenrose is also one of the steepest velodromes in the country. The steep banks make races on the velodrome interesting to watch and just plain exhilarating to ride and race!
Two weeks before the race, I practiced riding the track 2-3 times. I was fully aware what I was getting myself into, but with some knowledge from Hellyer Velodrome (San Jose, CA), and some track riding in the Philippines over a decade ago, I decided to give it a go. I had nothing to lose.
The OBRA Masters Track Championships is a 2-day event, covering different types of races on the track. The first day was a TT, a scratch race, and a points race. The weather was super HOT! 95-100 degrees with no shade anywhere around Alpenrose for the riders made for a another big test off the track: staying cool and hydrated. JLVelo puts out a super-rad skin suit that I employed for both days on the track! It is very light, very breathable, and doesn’t trap the heat. Fluid Hydration is a product that I have been a dedicated fan of for years. Whether I am training on the bike, racing in any genre, or at the gym in the off-season, Fluid offers all the products that an athlete would ever need to survive and flourish in activity, event, or race.
Having so much fun while being terrified to the bone is such an overwhelming feeling! The more I challenged myself, and let loose the thoughts of trepidation and hinderance, the level of fun skyrocketed. I raced with some women who had been racing the track for years, and had acquired so much knowledge about the sport. It was a day of learning; watching when I had to, asking questions when needed (and that was about every five minutes!), and working on techniques and skills specifically for track racing.
I placed 1st with the TT, 2nd in the points race, and 3rd in the scratch race. Leaving the Alpenrose at the end of the first day, I was exhausted…physically. Mentally, I was wired as if I inhaled five double-espresso shots from Starbucks! The amount of information through doing (racing) and listening was maxed out. I spent the rest of the night before sleep overtook me digesting, processing, and analyzing the past few weeks of track training, including the days races and experiences.
The second day of racing had me up early and full of thoughts, plots, and strategies that I was excited to explore! It was another hot day, but with my JLVelo skin suit on protecting my outside, and my inside saturated with Fluid Hydration, I was focused and excited. The first day of races had me a little hesitant using the walls on the banks to my advantage. They were steep, and easily provide hesitation to climb them. Today was different. One of my goals/strategies for the day was to utilize the walls to maximize my ‘get-up-and-go’ out of the steep turns into the straights. My coach had been training me to use my skills for races like these, so I knew that I had the power to hold it. Using my power of patience for my races to start was also a test!
Today’s races were: Match sprints and Keirin.
Then my time came. As I was holding the railing for the finals of the sprints, I knew I already won; I already had it all played out in my head. It was just a matter of crossing the line; when to burn a match and do it gracefully. I got up on the wall that day with determination and confidence. As they rang the bell for the last lap, I dove from the steepest turn that took me flying all the way to finish. The sensation was a combination of terror and elation! I didn’t hesitate for a second. I left it all out on the track. I knew I had it, and it was the euphoria of success that gave me a feeling of intense satisfaction; that things can happen the way I want.
The next, and last, race of the Championships was the Keirin, though I was still feeling high from my win earlier. I knew that I can win the Keirin, and I did! It was nuts! Track racers are fast and daring, brave and a little crazy thrown in there too. But that day, I was one of them! I realized and saw that day what the track cycling community truly is: committed and loyal. They take care of each other, and they are willing to guide you when you’re feeling lost.
And they are seriously FUN!
Cheers to the new Masters Track State Champion from JLVelo Cycling Team p/b The Freewheel!