2013 Pan American Track Championships
By Maddie Godby
My head was pounding, my lungs were searing with pain, and the lactate was pulsating throughout every muscle fiber in my body. As I gasped for breath, I slowly made my way off the track apron and into the infield where one of my coaches, Travis Smith, waited for me. He told me the time I had just ridden in the 500 meter time trial on the first day of competition but all I was cognizant of was his mouth moving because the numbers that Travis had just spoken were surely not my time. It was not possible, I thought. The national record set by Tammy Thomas, 11 years earlier, was 34.426 seconds. The fastest 500 m time I had ridden up to that point being 35.955 seconds, there was no way that I had just pulled out a time of 34.300 seconds. But after spinning out the pain in my legs on the rollers and taking a few moments to collect myself, I finally managed the courage to look at the thin piece of paper entitled “Official Results.” I had indeed just broken the national record by a tenth of a second, and on top of that was going to stand on the 3rd step of the podium. I could hardly believe it; I had achieved my first international podium. Not a bad way to start off a busy week of racing!
The 2013 Pan American Track Championships held in Mexico City were my first big international competition where I was riding internationally competitive times, so I was excited to see how all of the physical and technical progress I have been making in the past few months stacked up against other successful riders from around North and South America. I finished out the week with three more national records, held in the team sprint, start lap of the team sprint, and 200-meter time trial, learned a lot from going head to head with several 2012 Olympians during the mass start races, and overall shared many gut-wrenching laughs with my amazing teammates. Now I don’t want to write a boring race report that gives a play-by-play repeat of how each of my four races went, so here is a list of 10 things that I learned as a member of Team USA on and off the boards during our week spent in a very purple hotel in Mexico City.
- Be flexible. I cannot repeat this one enough. Things will not always go according to plan, so just be able to go with the flow.
- When it comes down to it, surviving on oatmeal is possible. I think I was up to 5 bowls a day at one point. But hey, it worked. Moral of the story: always bring some of your own food when traveling to an international race.
- Mexicans like techno music. And if a concert is located across the street, then you will be hearing the throbbing base until approximately 4 A.M. Which, incidentally, does not coincide well with an early morning session the next day.
- Look twice before crossing the street. If an approaching car looks like it’s not slowing down, then chances are it won’t.
- Always follow your instincts. When you start to think about racing (I’m only qualified to give advice for sprinters) oftentimes you are overthinking it, and you will miss an opportunity. Just let your legs do what they do best.
- If you want respect in Mexico, ask for the salsa with the hottest and spiciest peppers in it. Eat it all. Swallow. In plain view of others. Disclaimer- I personally did not try this one.
- When on the podium in a Spanish speaking country, just follow the cues of the other two riders. And always remember the cheek kiss when receiving your medal. This will eliminate any possible awkwardness of the culture gap.
- Always know the water situation. If it is not advised to ingest it, DON’T. If you do, make sure plenty of baby wipes and Imodium are present. Then be prepared for the resulting effects. Disclaimer- I personally did not participate in this one either.
- Trust in yourself. We show up to training everyday, usually twice a day, in order to put the work in, like depositing money in the bank. Come race day it is time to make a withdrawal. All of the compounded dedication, sweat, and sacrifice the previous months of training have entailed will cut a very large check if done correctly.
- 10. Coaches and teammates want to see you succeed and are invaluable fountains of wisdom. Each person brings a unique piece to the puzzle of team dynamics and when times get tough or you just need some advice, ask. This one is pretty obvious, but when the nerves hit and the pressure starts to build, usually others are going through or have gone through the same thing and are willing to help you out.
11. I know that most lists don’t go to a weird number like 11, but this one is possibly the most important so I couldn’t leave it out. Smile. Laugh. Have a good time. Everyone zips up a different color of skinsuit, but at the end of the day we are all at the race because we enjoy racing our bike. So yes, make sure you have your game face ready for when it’s necessary, but enjoy it because there’s nothing quite like going fast.
I want to send a huge thank you out to my wonderful coaches, Mark Tyson, Travis Smith, and Jamie Staff, who without their tireless support my results would not be possible! And to my teammates who kept me smiling throughout the week whenever I would start to get nervous, you guys really are the best.