September 20, 2012 (Dieppe, NB) – I flew into Dieppe, New Brunswick last Monday night on my own to attend my very first Canadian Track National Championships. I say “on my own” because I raced a tandem bike at the Para-Track Nationals last year in Bromont with Brian Cowie. I had never done any racing on the track at all and it was my first time piloting a tandem on a track as well.
It was quite the experience. I learnt a ton in a very short time. It was racing “blind” (you gotta laugh at Brian) we had very little practice because of the rain and we just went out and did our thing. The best part is Brian and I won the gold in the 4km pursuit. First track Nationals and my first National championship. I enjoyed that quite a bit and have to thank Brian for asking me to be his partner as I might not have given the track a chance at all.
I loved the speed and I really loved trying to muscle the bike around in the corners with 400lbs of man and bike twisting the bike apart. I got the taste of it there with him and I have been working the track into my training little by little ever since. The tandem stuff is incredible but I thought maybe I should give this a shot on my own. The Paracycling head coach Eric Van Den Eynde planted that seed in me as well.
I was strong on the tandem and he told me I could be strong on my own and to give it a shot. He also made me believe I could do some great things if I was a bit more specific with my training. That meant getting to the track more often and working on my leg speed. His belief and the success with Brian led me to last month’s Ontario track provincials and then to the recent Track Nationals.
I grabbed a book in the Dieppe airport called….Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. The front cover states – What really separates world class performers from everyone else? I have only read a few chapters but I’m amazed at what it has to say. One key is to work hard. Hard work trumps all – I have heard that one before. Another is to specialize and be specific in your focus. Another thing that really jumped out – you don’t need high intelligence and great memory to perform well. This is something I needed to hear J.
The key was that most who have had incredible success are hard workers and these people focus their energy and hard work on a specific task. They aren’t great at everything, to perform well they just need to specialized at what they do.
Racing on the track is very specialized. To have success you need to focus on a particular event.
I found this out very quick in the sprint competition as I signed up for every event there was. I’m an all-rounder on the road so why couldn’t I do it all on the track? On the road I’m even considered a sprinter. On the track I am not a sprinter. I found out very quickly that my training wasn’t specific enough to be competitive in that area. I needed to have a full 20 second burst that combined some crazy torque to get on top of the gear and then amazing leg speed to hit top speeds in excess of 60km an hour.
I found that I could hang with these specialists but that was about it. I was fast but not that fast. I just didn’t have the leg speed to contend and even after qualifying for the sprint tournament and surprising the team Ontario coaches it didn’t take long before I lost my first two sprints.
I had won the Ontario Provincial sprint title but was done in the first round at Nationals. That was ok because my real focus was the individual pursuit. I really thought I could be competitive at this event. My 5-min power is a big strength of mine and on the track being 195lbs doesn’t hurt you as much as it does out on the road.
The individual pursuit was part of the Omnium so signed up for that as well – six events and you get points in each event trying to win the overall. The events are the Flying Lap, Points race, Elimination race, 4km pursuit, Scratch race and then the Kilo. This event favours “all-rounders” and not specialists. You needed to be solid at a few different styles to do well and this suited me better than going up against a guy who can hold 200 RPM.
I won the silver in the pursuit and a bronze in the Scratch race. At the end of the week I had fought enough in each event to win the bronze medal in the Ominium. A bronze in the overall was truly special and I couldn’t have done it without all the help and support of everyone around me. It was a crazy experience as there were a few events I had never even tried before.
The coaches with team Ontario were fantastic with me and I loved being a part of the group all week. There is no way I could have earned that bronze without their help and being part of the team. Not only did I make some new friends I learnt a bit more about myself as a racer and also as a coach. Watching all of the different provincial teams and all the different coaches and coaching styles was fascinating. There were a few things I really soaked up and I came away with a better sense of what it means to coach, and of course, I really got a good feel for the things I enjoyed and the things I could do without.
For any of you out there who haven’t experienced the track I have to say you really should check it out. If speed is what you are looking for the track is where it’s at. Training with Rob Good at the Forest City velodrome is a blast and with the Milton 2015 velodrome on its way I really think track cycling is going to be the next big thing.
For an aging elite amateur roadie like myself the track just might be the only shot I have to ever go to the Olympics one day. The PanAm Games are on the horizion as well and as you can see I’m looking to get an early head start on the competition.
Thanks again for reading.