One month ago, I put together a team pursuit team of 3 tough and eager women with the plans of racing them at U.S. Elite Track Nationals. My #1 goal with this project was to introduce a few girls, who I feel have great potential in the event, to the track in a fun, supportive environment and give them the chance to see if they would fall in love with this event as I did over 3 years ago and want to pursue it. They have worked their tails off and they are ready to rock it tomorrow in qualifying and then hopefully finals. With the awesome assistance of my track coach, Bert Glennon, Joy Duerksen McCulloch, Amber Gaffney and Tara McCormick (ok- i needed one seasoned track rider in the mix) are focused and filled with anticipation for their team pursuit debut. I was able to catch up with Joy and talk about these last 4 weeks of her life on the track as she is relaxing today with her feet up (I hope) and mind strong from her home in Yucaipa, California.
1. When I asked you to be a part of this team pursuit team to race National Championships in one month and you have never stepped foot on a velodrome, what did you first think? Your very first reactionary thought? Did you think i was NUTZO? Were you scared, excited, thrilled, freaked out?
Ignorant! I had NO CLUE what I agreed to! I thought, well it’s just riding a bike, right? Wrong! To honest I really didn’t know what I had gotten involved with until I clipped in for the first time on the track. Once I realized the task ahead of us, I felt like a 10th grader on MTV Made trying to fulfill my dream. 4 week, 7 training sessions until the National Championships…I instantly thought how lucky and honored we were to have Dotsie, Bert, KB and Jack willing to teach us and coach us. I also thought that if I let one negative thought take root in my head, it would be a lost cause.
2. What were the first feelings or sensations you felt on the track that very first day of practice?
WEEEEEEE! I was lucky enough to have a one-on-one lesson with Jack Lindquist for my first velodrome experience. The track was empty and silent, the only thing I could hear was the wind as we picked up speed! I am sure I was only going 14MPH but it felt like flying! The feeling was similar to the first time descending a gnarly single track that you don’t know where the next rock drop or switchback will be. I had to remind myself to BREATH! And to pedal…
3. What is the major difference between the road and the track?
Pedalling. There is so much pedaling on the track! On the road there are so many variables as to how the event or training will pan out due to the environment and other players. I really like the track because it is predictable. It reminds me of playing basketball in college. Maybe it has something to do with the wood floor, but in the Team Pursuit, it’s like running a play. Very predictable, set in stone, with very few variables. It takes a lot of the guess work out of riding so I can simply focus on turning the pedals around. Another difference is that on the track, we haven’t focused on our fitness per se. We have spend the bulk of our time on technique and the mechanics of the event. When training on the road, the bulk of the effort is spend on fitness and we tend to ignore or back-burner technique.
4. Have you learned anything new about yourself that has not been revealed to you before after spending time on the track this month?
This is the biggest thing! As a coach and an athlete, I have learned invaluable lessons over the past month on the track. As a coach, I have gathered invaluable tactics from our coaches that I hope to use in my coaching.
I have never been in the position to have up to 4 coaches watching my every move. By training in this setting, we get immediate feedback on form and other aspects of riding that as the athlete, we can’t see. I know this has helped with our huge learning curve! I have learned to be patient with myself. I have learned to listen and absorb positive feedback and put it into action. I have learned that failing and messing up is an integral component to our success. Bert Glennon has stressed that the harder we try and over think a portion of the event, the worse it will be. I have learned that my biggest drawback as a cyclist is my confidence. Once a mind-virus has been planted, they are next to impossible to get rid of. If I keep a positive outlook, focus on the process and stay relaxed, awesome things can happen!
5. What do you love most about the track and this event?
The speed! We get to cover 3k in under 4 minutes! That’s amazing! I really like the purity of the event and that I know exactly what to expect. The two terms that have stuck with me since my first day on the track are “invigorating and exhilarating.” The challenge of the new skills, elements of fear and excitement, I haven’t felt these in quite awhile. It’s like my cycling fire has been lit again.
6. What are your personal mantras for tomorrow’s competition?
“We’re all in this together…” bad High School Musical reference, but in reality, the 3 of us really are in it together. We have spent hours together on the track and Tara and Amber have my back 100%, as do Dotsie and Bert our coaches. There is no option for failure!
I will be saying “GO, GO, GO!!” in my head to avoid the slight hesitations when I feel comfortable on the track. I always need to feel pressure under those pedals!
And to enjoy the process. The journey to this point has been amazing and extremely valuable, I don’t want to cloud all of that out with stress.
7. I have watched you suffer and be more overstimulated in the fishbowl that is the track environment than anyone i have ever witnessed on the track before besides myself. I saw that intensity and fear in the whites of your eyeballs as you came off the track after our first effort yesterday, as the traffic on the track was a zoo. How can you best describe that feeling of overstimulation that you felt in our final prep day before the race tomorrow.
Ha! That was insane! It was like you stabbed me with an epi-pen and said GO!! I was spun out until 10pm! 7 minutes on the track felt like an eternity. I was shaking, sweaty-palmed and teeth clattering like the squirrel on Hoodwinked. My eyes were pinned open, and I had no idea what had just happened with my legs, but from my belly-button up I was a hot-mess! But more importantly, I felt extremely alive!! Once I got my bearings and settled my breathing, the next effort came together really well!