QUALS ARE THIS WEEKEND and everyone is buzzing with anticipation, nerves, excitement and a little bit of fear. We have been working hard for months, and all will be put to the test at 10:50am on Saturday.
Quals is a nerve-wracking event, to say the least. All eyes are on you as you take the track, and although all it takes it four short laps and some clean exchanges, something we've all done zillions of times, the pressure is on as the fate of the rest of our team's Little 500 season rests on your shoulders.
On race day, a botched exchange may cost you to lose a pack or drop a few seconds behind, but there are countless other chances to make up for that one mistake. During Quals, it's do or die.
I'm scaring myself as I type this...YIKES QUALS!!
Last night our team was given the opportunity to do a practice Quals run. This was our only chance to get a preview for what Saturday would feel like; the track was all ours, the lines were drawn in the cinder, and Jordan Bailey announced from the press box.
We had spent most of track practice yesterday doing exchanges and almost-full-speed Quals runs, and were feeling good and ready to go.
Kelsey nervously chattered away about anything and everything, Mary did some pre-race jumping and stretching, and I tried to magically speed up the digestion of the Jimmy Johns sub that was sitting freshly in my stomach. Finally it was our turn, so we took the track.
I started us off with the pace lap, and all I could think was "Holy crap, am I going the right speed? Why am I going so slow? What am I supposed to do???" I had to remind myself that it was just another lap on the very familiar track, and everything would be fine. I rounded turn 3 and started to pick up my pace, and as I crossed the start line, the stopwatch started.
My mind was blank as my legs pounded out the quarter mile. Next thing I knew, it was time to exchange. Mary was set up just as she always was in practice, and I was going to bring the bike into her, as per the usual.
That's where things started to get messy.
For some reason, our exchange failed. I came in hot and a little too far outside, and we just didn't click. Mary went down pretty hard, but gathered herself back up like a champ and hopped on the bike to ride her lap.
Okay, good, we got the bad exchange out of the way, we can still recover this.
Mary sped through her lap, and brought and exchange in to Kelsey. Unlike the millions of beautiful exchanges before, this one didn't click either. Mary and Kelsey both took dives to the ground, and our bike flew through the air past them.
We were done.
A few minutes at the First Aid station, some deep breaths and a few bandaids later, we exited the track, Quals run unfinished, and took a seat in the bleachers to recap what had happened. After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that mulling over the video footage of our falls, breaking down every second of what had just happened, and replaying it over and over in our minds was not going to get us anywhere.
We all know how to do exchanges. We all know how to ride our bikes fast. Everything will work out. Thank goodness we had last night's practice run to get all of our mistakes out of the way. We have two more days at the track to fine-tune out performance before it's show time.
I'm 100% confident in our abilities, and can't wait to see how everything and everyone turns out on Saturday! It's an exciting day for EVERYONE, and hopefully we'll have the Hoosier victory over Kentucky on Friday night fueling us toward a victory of our own (knock on wood)!
See you at 10:50am at the track!!