Monday, June 11, 2012

East Coast Xterra Championships in Richmond, Va

It was completely the most crazy, insane, difficult and fun race I ever did!

2nd in Age Group
14th Overall Woman
24th Overall Woman with Pro's

Registering with World Champ
Lesley Paterson

It was not an easy decision to go up to this race. After all I raced already pretty much nonstop since last October. Living in Florida and doing the whole mountain biking series means that you are racing the whole winter while the rest of the world is resting and getting ready for the next season. So starting from the biking season I went to the triathlon season and my body reminded me already quite a few times that it was time for break. I told myself Alabama Cross Triathlon would be my last race before taking the long deserving break and thankfully I did qualify there for Maui. But Richmond showed up on the calendar and “oh boy” this race I could just tell would be so much fun. I didn’t want to miss a chance to race in such a unique location and I decided to go.

Conrad Stoltz, Myself and Shonny

All those things together would mean that my husband and I just signed up for an “ultra endurance marathon” that would eat up all the energy we had. Starting with a full work week, late evening packing, waking up early, still exhausted from full week at work packed in the 3.5 days and driving up the whole day for 12.5 hours to the race site… To add up to it I started feeling under the weather and day after day it kept getting worst. Preriding the course was so much fun but starting to ride in full sun, 85 degree weather with no clouds in the sky and headache from sinuses didn’t make it easy. What made it easier was our friends that accompanied us on the bike, swim and run training.

We had an awesome ride and I fell in love with the trails here. They were very technical and I was very proud to say that I pretty much was able to clear almost everything. Swimming in the river with my friend Jason was so much fun and I felt like a little kid on an adventure when previewing the swim course. We would rest in the middle of the river on the rocks covered with some greenery and just talk. We spotted a car axle, a table, crutches and someone told us they saw a bike in the river… For most of the swim river was shallow and you could see how pathetic your attempt to go straight was when the current was telling you otherwise.

Into the race morning not to my surprise I found out how tired my legs and arms were and how sick I was. From all the possible moments it had to be this morning of the most difficult race that I ever attempted. It can be easily seen on this picture that I was not eager on the start line. It was the first race ever that I gave myself a possibility that I might not finish, because of my state and because of the predicted 94 degree weather (definitely not my first choice!). I was in peace with it and decided to give it a try.

The horn went off and men and women together started heading across the river to the first buoy. We were so close that I had people swimming right under my arms. After the first turn, to my surprise, instead of swimming, we ended up on the sand bar in the middle of the river where most of the racers were walking/jogging. It was a cool break from the swim since I really started to get tired. The next step was another zigzag across and then a swim against the river toward the island.

Short island run after which we did reenter the water again. This time we had to swim all the way across the river pretty much right under the bridge where the water got dark, deep and current was so strong that for a few moments my little, weak body started to give up and I began to feel hopeless. Current was pushing me so strongly to the right and I had to keep swimming on an angle to not miss the next buoy. This is when I got big gulp of river water and had to flip on my back to recover and pull myself together. After that it was home run and I zoomed down the river with the current to the final two buoys.
With the swim done we still had a very long run on the paved road to the transition area. In no time I was out on my bike and headed for the trails.
Road turned quickly to a loose gravel climb, which then lead us across the bridge to the rest of the trail system.

It then took us to the sweet and technical single track. The trails were fast and fun, covered with roots and big rocks, tough descencs and rock gardens which made the ride challenging. I was in the zone and with little time I was passing a good amount of riders. After a while I got to the two ladies that would be part of my ride for most of the two lap course. We kept going back and forth as it seems like we all had different strengths and depending on what part of the trails we were at different one would excel.


I remember getting to a huge climb that I knew I was approaching from the noise made by the spectators awaiting there for us. I was afraid that girls in front would not make the climb and I slowed down and waited for them to descend and get to the climb, not to my surprise they got off their bikes and started walking up the face of the rock.

I took a little more time and started zooming down, I knew I didn’t want to walk it and went full speed into the climb, I went up and after clearing the slick rock boulder I was able to continue.  Not all the way to the top however since girls were still there walking their bikes blocking my way. Best part of this was the crowd on this section shouting loud "Go Wronska", "You can make it", "This is how it's done!", "Yeahhh". It was hilarious, monivating and super fun! Next memorable section was a part filled with river rocks which you could tell once again that you were approaching from far away. There was even more fans there and the noise was intense. I took the same approach and allowed all the riders in front some distance since I noticed no one considered to ride this section. This was the second and most difficult rock garden, all covered in uneven wet rocks on a 90 degree turn. People seeing that I was going to attempt to ride it where shouting my name out loud once again. Every little rock I cleared the more screaming and shouting took place. It was awesome!

The atmosphere there was electric and moments like this make the race so much better. The further I got the more people I had to pass and on the second lap the story repeated itself. This time I made it to the top of the climb and managed even to make a pass on a staircase leading up (sweet!)… Besides being very hot and tired I managed to have a pretty good time on my ride and enjoyed it a lot.

The second lap was more challenging since the sport people were now also with us on the trails and that skinny technical course was now even more congested.

I had to literally scream on people encouraging them to keep on pushing and make the climbs to make sure I will not get stopped in the middle of the steep ascend. There were sections however that I was able to clear in practice like the super steep and long wooden ramp that kept on going up and turned to a rocky climb toward the end. But all the previous plans went into nowhere the moment every single person I had in front of me decided to dismount their bikes and just walk. Oh well. I remember crossing the aid station and there was a guy washing his car on the side, seeing our misery he decided to hose us down which was pretty cool. I finished the bike strong and headed for transition again. Ran to my spot, hung my bike, helmet and went after my shoes. And it happened to be, my sparkling new awesome mountain bike shoes (no tri specific) would not open, the circular dial just kept on spinning on my left shoe and my fingers which started to cramp right now where just sliding on it like it was butter. I tried other hand I tried to dry my hands off and still nothing. I was stuck, seriously stuck and thought how unfortunate it was after this long race now be trapped in my own shoe and not be able to continue. I tried forcing my foot out of the little opening there was with little success, I screamed in disbelieve, collapsed on the grass and kept fighting the shoe. Finally with all my strength I forced my foot out which resulted with my whole left leg going into spasm and left arm pain that I would feel for a big part of the run. But I was out! And in the middle of this madness I had a guy right in front of me telling me that he biked behind me for quite a while and that I was the “most pleasant” person he raced with today and that I represented my sponsors well. That was definitely great to hear. Amazing how many things can happen in so little time…

Off to the run I jetted out of the transition still so disturbed by the time loss of some 30/40 seconds fighting my shoe and I missed the first water station. Not good. Here I pretty much had to follow everyone since I had no opportunity to preview the first 1.5 miles of the city run. In the full sun with rays reflecting on me from the pavement I knew I would be put to the test. But my legs kept on turning and besides all the discomforts I was gaining ground on a lot of racers. I had to pass most of them on the bridge since I looked up towards the end of the crossing and there was no one in sight.

I saw an asphalt path to my right whining down under the bridge and quickly ran it down.  Still no one was there and when I was already all the way down I did hear a faint voice from above me yelling “this way”. I looked up and this was a girl that I just passed before, pretty much saving my race. I turned quickly and went back up. I Thanked her with a weak voice hoping she would hear me. It took me quite a while to get the lost ground on the few people I passed before and to catch up to her again on the stairs leading us to the “‘dry wall”. When going by her once again I said that I could not Thank her enough and did continue my run in the heat of the day.

Shortly I found myself under another bridge approaching the famous “Mayan Ruins”. The day before, we were flying up those steps with my husband and a friend, timing ourselves. Yesterday our times ranged from 13 to 18 seconds to the top, which turned for me today to crawling them up like a little baby and having nothing left on the end of the climb. It was brutal.

Reaching some single track was relieving but there was still a very long way to go with more gravel open to the elements running.

I didn’t want to push too hard since I felt I got so far already and now I really would love to finish this race. Strong or not strong, it didn’t matter that much, finishing it today would be a good enough achievement. The more technical running got the more I enjoyed it. Finally after the forest run I got into the very open section of the dry river crossing where I spotted my fellow racer Duffy (would notice this pink from a mile…). It was one of the most favorite parts of the run for me and I managed to catch up and hop on to the ladder climb.


After that we still had another pretty long technical and whiny trail to run before going to the foot bridge. I had very good speed and felt like another water station next to the bridge could go wonders for me but this was not happening. I flew on the bridge and on the ramp down and then on the last road stretch to the finish. It was beautiful to finally get there and cross the finish line. It was great to finish my long race journey with such an amazing race. To my surprise I happened to have another strong race and finished 2nd in my age group, ahead by 1.5 minutes by my competitor from Alabama that beat me there by 3.5 minutes. This was a strong and very satisfying victory for me and this placement did qualify me for Maui once again!

 And then the Podium...

All my friends and fellow racers had great finishes that day and this is good to know how competitive and strong our Florida circuit is.

All good things in life have their price however and mine was to pack my gear and head for Florida straight from the race site. My husband and I were very tired after an already way to long and to eventful week and we still had 14 hours of driving ahead in the middle of the night. The drive was long and very difficult, way worse than the race itself and we had tremendous troubles to even stay awake. We were up for 24 hours when we got home. We collapsed at 6 am for 6 hour sleep and went to work! I never have been so tired before and never hit such a big wall. I pushed myself over the limits and it took me many miserable days to start getting back to normal.  Being sick, overworked, over-raced, just plainly drenched by life, it’s something I would need to evaluate strongly when my next race approaches.  This was the most difficult part I had to go through from the moment I gave the “go ahead” to compete in this race.

The race however was simply awesome and I am very happy I was a part of it. It was an amazing experience, challenge and test of what I can handle and what I’m made of. Would I arrange all things prior and post the race differently next time, definitely yes. Would I compete in this race again, oh yes, can’t wait already!

I need to thank here my husband who made sure my bike is perfect as it can be and ready to go. He spent countless hours taking my Sonic apart piece by piece and making sure she is going to be best she can be on the race day. And she was and I’m very grateful for that! I also wanted to Thank Clifbar for the nutrition to keep me going in the race and KT Tape for keeping my knees pain-free for the whole race. Also as always for Squirt for keeping my chain dirt free and lubed for the whole race.

Some Extra Pictures from the Trip.

Dewet From Squirt Lube and Myself
Richmond character

Yep, lots of colorful personalities...

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