Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shelby County 2012 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships / XTERRA Southeast Championships


I placed 4th in my Age Group and 20th Overall in Women. Not bad for my first full Olympic Distance Cross Triathlon (Xterra).
That means I did qualify for my dream race Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hi!!!
Here we come Maui and the World's in Xterra...


    Finishing times:
                                                 swim    bike         run             total

    Beata Wronska #139            :31:38  01:32:11  00:52:15     2:56:04
   
                 


The opportunity to race in World Championships doesn’t come around often; therefore ready or not we packed the car and drove once again to the beautiful Oak Mountain Park in Alabama.


I was looking forward to this trip knowing I will stay in a beautiful cabin located right in the heart of the park with my husband and friend. Going to a big event like this for the first time doesn’t give you any understanding of how to set your expectations. So all I wanted from it was to have a great race and do my best and for everything to go smooth and according to plan. Having two South Florida fellow racers Melissa and Duffy gave me the opportunity to measure my progress through them, since we know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
I was very looking forward to the bike part of the race as I knew my biking was quite strong. Run I predicted would be somewhat good but I also knew that the swim would be the most difficult leg of the race.
I never experience yet in the race a good swim or even a decent swim. Whatever happened there in the water in the past always put me in the disadvantage with having to work my way up slowly on the bike and on the run. Mostly it was because of my fears for open water swimming and that was what always did ruin my races.





But finally it was all about to change!
In the days before I kept wondering how would I position myself on the start line knowing I was not the strongest swimmer. This morning however I walked over to the edge of the lake and I had no doubt where I was supposed to be. I heard the announcement “ten seconds to start” and I ducked down and was ready to go. There was no one doubt or one fear in me this time, I was ready to get out there and swim.
 

The horn went off and I was surrounded by the angry white bubbling water with hands and feet kicking and flying around. I was calm at this time and told myself “it doesn’t bother me, it is all good”. Some thirty meters in to the swim however I started getting this overwhelming feeling that I experienced in the previous races and this feeling destroyed my previous swims. I was short of breath and started to feel tense and I told myself “oh no, please not again!”. Normally I would stick my head out in front or flip on my back and my body would tense up and breathing would get even more labored. I knew it did nothing good to me in the past and for a split second I had a complete visual of me doing it again. But I told myself “No! Not this time!”. I forced myself to keep my head under water and just to blow bubbles slowly and continuously out of my mouth. It worked, my body relaxed, my breathing was slowing down and I was able to continue my swim with no further disturbances. I was so happy I could finally, for the first time ever focus on swimming and racing and throw away all the fears. It felt good, all I had to do next is to assess my location and focus on the buoy on the horizon and look for fast feet, or at least some feet in front of me. I found them and was able to draft for a little while but shortly I realized however that I could go even faster and went around the swimmer right before reaching the first buoy. Everything went well after that and the first lap was done. I did run around the flags and jumped in for the second lap but this jump did make me feel a little woozy and I hoped that I did not overdo it and that I will recover from it quickly. I did and kept a good pace on the second lap. Towards the last stretch to the finish there was this long awesome line of girls swimming and everyone was in this cool one big draft heading to the shore.





I made it, got out and started running just to find out that my fellow racer Duffy was just a few feet ahead of me and my other friend Melissa which is a great swimmer was right there with me pretty much stepping on my heels. I was so amazingly surprised that I put a big smile on my face. It was not only from knowing that I had to have a great swim but that my best friends were all together!
T1 had to be quite equal for three of us since we got out on the bikes all in a line again one by one and headed to the single-track.



After one mile swim the trail did not feel the same as on the pre-ride. My legs felt very heavy and very slow and I knew I will not enjoy the ride at least on this section as I would want to. I was right behind Melissa and Duffy was right in front of her. I knew Duffy will bike away in a quick moment and I might not see her again. It was all OK; I knew that as long as I stay with Melissa I would be in a good position since she is very strong and solid overall. The more time went by the more girls we would catch up to and manage to pass. It became part of this ride to get to the next person in front and then to the next one. At some points I was right at Melissa’s wheel and at some points I was losing sight of her especially on the downhills. But things were about to change the moment we got to the brutal four mile long climb with sections where things got very steep and rocky and you were putting out all you got just to get to the top. I had great speed going up and my legs felt way better now but not fresh however. I had good speed and looking down at my bike computer I noticed I was going some 14 mph on the easier uphills. I told myself “awesome, you are doing great Bebes” and I kept on going. Quickly I caught up with Melissa and just told her that this is where the “fun” begins. I don’t think she shared my enthusiasm at this point… It was a very brutal part of the bike leg and not everyone was eager to joke around. I went by and continued to chase down more girls on the steep climbs. I saw a whole tail of riders in front and it seemed like I spotted Duffy’s helmet on top of one of the gnarly climb. But told myself “it’s probably someone else” and didn’t give it much more thought.

I kept cranking up and figured I still have a few more painful climbs ahead to notice to my surprise a big board announcing that you’ve reached the peak of the mountain! Nice, now all I had ahead is the part when you can fly quite fast down and would reach few more smaller inclines on the wide double track. I geared up and started flying. I managed to get to another group of girls and pass full speed a Canadian and some USA racers. I gained more speed and saw on the last incline my friend Duffy just meters away. I saw her looking back knowing someone was approaching her and I said “Hi Dufster!”, she was very surprised to see me and I went right by her. It didn’t last for long however since just 40 seconds later it seems we reached the beginning of another downhill. This was a bad part with giant moving boulders covering a 50 meter stretch of the double track. I didn’t like this part and picked a good line with a good speed, but in the split second I heard a set of fast wheels just jetting on me full speed and heard voice yelling “let me go”. Duffy was flying down full speed and her front wheel was already covering half of my back wheel and she was trying to get on my line. All I could see in my head was the possible disaster to happen if we crashed at that moment. I learned my lesson in the past when I broke both arms and I was not to take things for granted. So I moved slightly but the terrain was so uneven and covered with boulders that there was no way I was getting back to my lane. So I was stuck on the bad side of the downhill with even bigger rocks that I had to battle. The section ended quickly enough however for me to make up my time, get some good speed and catch two more girls before entering the famous Blood Rock section.




Going there I knew I didn’t want to have anyone in front to block me from what I had planned. I had a good distance from a girl in front and in back and I was able to clear the first few stair like rocky drops before dismounting and running down the rest of this section. I looked back and saw a Canadian girl that I just past ride the whole Blood Rock. That was very impressive and I let her by since she did carry speed from the decent. Rest of the ride was high speed and very technical but after crossing the road trail turned to a smoother single track which was quite enjoyable and stayed this way to the finish. I later found out that on the final section Duffy allowed herself to fly superfast and launched herself from a drop and flew over the handlebars. Thankfully she was fine and was able to continue the race.


In T2 I was only 7 seconds behind her and 5 seconds ahead of Melissa which must have flew on the downhills as well. So once again I was happy to have all my friends right with me the moment we headed out for the run which happened to be the least pleasant part of the race. It was getting hot out now, the legs were even slower and heavier and the sun started beaming on us at full strength. We crossed some asphalt and gravel sections and headed into the forest. The tree cover helped with feeling more comfortable and my legs step by step started to get more and more refreshed. I felt my left calf cramping for some quarter mile and I was very worried about it but with time the pain went away. I managed to pass Duffy and had a clear view of Melissa once again. All I wanted now is to just hang on; knowing that even with finishing at the exact run time than her I would be in good shape. All three of us were tired and the whole run course was in the survival mode and it was all about who can endure more pain and more torture. Even if I wanted I could not speed up and I’m sure it applied for all of us. There was only one pace, the pace that would take us to the finish and it was a very long run ahead going twice around the lake.



With time I gained ground on Melissa and I was able to pass her, since than I never looked back. I just grinned my teeth, tried to keep my pace and think of nothing else. It was tough, very tough. The bridge crossing exposed to the full sun was even more brutal on the second lap. Now my face was all burning from the heat, my whole body was in overheating zone and I wandered for how much longer I will be able to endure it. I had one moment on the second lap telling myself “Beata you are almost about to finish a World Championship race…” the moment I processed it chills covered my whole body. I told myself don’t even go there, just focus on the run, focus on the terrain and your own body.









I ran the last section strong knowing I was almost done. I had my husband right next to me telling me how proud he was of me. That was great to hear, but I had no energy in me to even respond. I jumped into the last single track right before the finish line to hear Dewit from Squirt yell to me “Go Beata”. I got my last wind and sprinted to the finish, raised my hands up and felt so relieved knowing that it is finally over.











I crossed the finish line, saw a little patch of shade and collapsed on the ground. I could not move for a minute or two, I was hot and exhausted. Someone reached out to me and helped me to get up and showed me directions the mist tent.




 
Oh the mist tent! This was the best thing that could wait for me at the finish line. My hot body now was drenched with super cold water pouring over me from all directions. I started cooling off and feeling better instantly and this is where all the emotions started to kick in. Tears now just started to pure out and mixed with the sweat and the water droplets. I just stood there and cried. I don’t even know why I cried, I was overwhelmed with all the feelings that are part of competing in an off-road triathlon event. Pain, exhaustion, euphoria, happiness, gratitude. I could not ask for more. I had my husband with me, my friends and I was fine and I was done. Everything I did today was very good and I didn’t even know how I placed in the race, all I knew was that I was satisfied with what I did and that was for me the most important of all. A little later when relaxing and sharing race stories with a friend my husband walked over to me after looking at the finish board and gave me this look. He looked at me and told me “you did it, you got a spot for Maui” and this is when the second wave of tears came in…





This day was so wonderful for me that it almost was too good to be true.
All my years of training and dreaming consolidated themselves to this very moment when everything I wanted was right there for me…

I could not be happier…

Besides all the racing, it is almost impossible to put in words all the experiences from such an eventful trip.








Starting with bull frogs on the edge of the lake giving us an awesome hip hop concert every night, to a beautiful calm view from the cabin located in the middle of the forest. A sweet ride on a metal boat that was leeking water while cruising the tiny lake with a bunch of friends. Grilling at night on the water’s edge. Swinging on the porch while drinking a cold beer and exchanging stories. Hanging with the Specialized crew that consist of hilarious guys that were working on my bike and were making sure she is race ready (Thank you Jeff!) and my bike being in between bikes of top world athletes like Conrad and Shonny could not ever be described clearly enough.
video




From all the ceremonies and meetings we had to attend to all those people we met on and off the trails. Sitting at the table next to a world champ, his wife and his crew at the after party, I could go on forever.







But mostly having great times with my husband Pax, friends Melissa, Duffy and her husband Michael made this whole experience so much worthwhile.




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