Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another win in FSC #3 - Haile's Trail - Gainesville

It will be my second time racing on the Haile’s Trails. I found this park very interesting and very challenging a few months back. I knew already what to expect and the only thing that I could hope for would be that the race will take place in the same direction as it was the last time during the SERC series.

When we arrived in the park in was pretty obvious that everyone was riding in the opposite direction!

Oh my. Since this place is famous for its steep climbs and fast descents now everything was going to be flipped upside down for me. Every climb will be now a decent and every decent will become a steep climb.

We pre-rode the course which I found more challenging this way around and got ready for the Time-Trial that took place on Saturday prior to the full cross country race that takes place on Sunday.

It was hot! Everyone was sweating buckets just waiting for their turn. Imagine now hundreds of riders being sent on the 5 mile course in one minute increments. This part was the worst!

The nerves, the heat and everything that you don’t want to have anything to do with gets to you.

And then finally you are off. Quick 22 minutes and you are back at the finish line. Oh yeah I forgot to mention exhausted like a dog for sprinting all out while by yourself on this tough course. I passed out pretty much for some 5 minutes on the grass and didn’t talk to anyone. I found out I got 3rd. It was not a bad result since I do not consider myself much of a sprinter. Happy and ready for a well-deserved rest we headed to the hotel.

On the race morning the ground was a little sticky from the morning dew and my tires did build up a mountain of mud on them and my husband was trying to remove some of it with very little luck.

All the girls lined up on the start line and the gun went off. I knew it would be quite important to have a good start but the moment we stood up for the sprint my foot just dangled in the air. My shoe failed to clip and all I could see were girls disappearing in front of my eyes. Got into my pedal and started catching up but before I picked speed up there were still girls zooming left and right on the sides of me. Luckily I was able to pick up some decent speed, get back to the main field and still make a pass on a few girls before turning into the single track. I think I was fifth at that time and it was the position where I was comfortable with having only in front of me who I didn’t mind of being there for that part of the race.

With passing time I was able to pick girls off one by one. Some I passed on climbs that they couldn’t make, some on the long quarry ascents that seemed to be never ending when you were so tired.

Lap by lap I found myself closer and closer to the front. Shortly I had only the leader June in front of me and I was able to catch her on a steep climb. I made my pass and she nicely said to me “good work, you are looking strong”. I thanked her and went to the technical decent and to the final hilly part of the 3rd lap. I had my moments there and even fell down backwards on one of the steep climbs! For most of the race I had a really great ride, conquered the course almost without a flaw. When approaching the last mile of the toughest part of the course my husband yelled to me that there is one more girl in front of me. But luckily he lost track and was just learning that there was no one there. I smirked a smile and said to myself in my head “it is just me; we are going for the win again”. All I had to do now is to keep my pace, fight the hills hard and hold on for the finish! I got one minute on June and 2 minutes on Candace in 3rd. I was a full mile per hour faster now on this course than a few months back. And no matter how bad my start was I was still able to come on top. It just tells you how long those races are and how many things can change throughout the course of the race. It is a constant battle that we choose to fight.

End Results

Podium Picture

Sunday, September 16, 2012

FSC # 2 - Fernandina Beach, FL

 1st place out of 13 Sport Ladies!!!

Such a brutal race took place today in such a wonderful and serine in the contrary place.

Ft Clinch Park is located on the beautiful Amelia Island where giant sand dunes, old oak trees covered in moss and Giant Swallowtail butterflies fill out scenery, not forgetting a historic fort on the other side of the park. It is gorgeous here, sunny, hot and we can hear the monster waves crashing from the race start line. Everyone knew however that all smooth and rolling trails covered with some pine needles that were hiding sugar sand underneath were going to make this race as brutal as it gets. It happened to be almost a survival game with long 7 mile laps that we had to repeat three times in a row.

We had a rolling start and strong and amazing girls showed up today on this start line and everyone was hungry for a win. First half mile on the pavement was very painful and everyone seemed to try to get in the tight single track first. I was lucky enough to get in with a fifth position, right behind the girls that I knew I wanted to be right there with. It worked out well and we stayed all together for most of the first lap. It was hard however. I imagined already not getting anywhere near podium for that day and I was in acceptance of it. Everyone was riding strong consistently and pushing and not giving anyone a break. It was a battle. Just seconds before entering the first lap check point I had two girls go by me putting me in sixth position. It didn’t last long since just seconds later I stood up and I passed them back. I was back in forth and still had a long way to go. With time, I managed to catch the wheels of the third place rider; I made a smooth pass and finally after this long awaiting misery was in the top three. I was exactly where I wanted to be. With little time I realized the second girl, Candance was some 20 seconds in front, which was great news. I could just hear my husband screaming through the trees, 15 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds. And shortly I jumped on her wheel and stayed there. Still I wasn’t sure where the first rider was. Luckily the trail ended and we had some quarter mile or more of the pavement. I went out right behind and sped up, went to the side of the second girl and did acknowledge her. She didn’t seem to have an interest to fight for her position and I sped away having first rider, June just some forty feet ahead. It gave me motivation to push even more and I was gaining distance very quickly on her. I imagined it would be great to manage to make a pass right before going back to the twisty single track. And I did it, just with inches to spare before the turn I went right by her. Oh this felt good. I was in the lead now and I had still whole lap and a half to hold it. Once again I heard my husband encouraging me to keep on pushing and make as much distance as I could. I started hearing now 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds. I was gaining and gaining, but I knew that I did not have a comfort of giving myself any break or making any mistake. I rode still like I was on the chase to the finish. Covered with sweat, dirt and goose bumps from the heat, exhaustion and excitement finally I crossed the finish line with my traditional fist pump. Race director announced my name and my victory.

I was very happy and felt very accomplished. My husband was also proud as hell of me. I did come to this race pretty sore and tired from my current triathlon training and would not expect to perform as well as I did. Well oh maybe yes I was wishing and hoping for a great placing but in those races you just never know. That was just an incredibly important and fulfilling day. My first win in the sport division! It all culminated with me diving in straight to the ocean still in my race kit. I submerged in those big waves like a little kid and finally was able to relax. After that I went to the podium and received my gold, and shared podium with my bellowed bike “Sonic” that deserved to be there as much as I did. Afterwards I still managed to get out for some trail running and jumped into the ocean one more time before we headed home…

Sunday, September 9, 2012

FSC # 1 - Tallahassee, FL

Finally we took our first trip to Tallahassee ever.

Long awaiting goal of racing whole Florida State Series starting with the inaugurating race all the way in the Florida capital finally is coming true.

Oh it is far, but we got there surprisingly quick. I will not mention however here how quick… :)
When we arrived in the park in the late Friday afternoon we saw through the window Fast Freddy with other Rose Bandit pre-riding the course. They were covered head to toe in mud. It rained before and parts of the trail were soaking wet. We got on the bikes pretty quickly and went to check out the course.

The trails here are fun, fast and super interesting. Small stream crossing, some little uphill, few different forks where you can make your call which way is faster and better for your racing abilities and cool two pump trucks toward the end of the course. The jumps however were soaked and all it was is just piles of clay and mud.  We were able to see most of the trail however and were done for the day.

The following morning shortly after our arrival the park sky just opened up and it started down pouring so badly the park was completely flooded. Race director decided to cancel the Time Trial bonus race that was supposed to take place today and asked riders to stay off the course. That meant no more practice for us.

On the race morning I and my team decided to show up early so we can preview the course before the race start. Surprisingly most of the water drained and there were only some muddy spots. We all wished however it was completely dry since this course is just asking to be flied on! It is just super fast!

It was eleven of us on the start line and I remember just feeling nauseous. It was after all the first race for the season and all in the new Sport class. Start line was however on a nice grassy downslope and the moment the gun went off I flew like there is no tomorrow and it was pretty obvious that instantly I was in the lead. Sped through the grass into the forest and I was able to enjoy my lead on the single track for some 1.5-2 maybe miles. There was a little steam crossing which was fine during the practice when the speeds are little slower but now in the race I went to it so fast and it was so deep that it almost stopped me still. I created a giant splash (I called it a tidal wave) that I was very proud of and just wished that my husband could see it, since he was still toward the start line packing his gear after taking pictures of us most likely. Luckily however there was someone with a camera right there in the happening spot and later on we were able to locate those pictures!

The girl right behind me Candice yelled to me in the laughing tone, thx Beata now my whole butt is wet thx to you. I laughed to her back saying I’m soaked myself and the race went on.

Than we had some climbs and some muddy spots, I must had been little too careful and hit my brakes too hard since I had two girls pass me on my right there in one spot, It was June and Candice. Also Zee and an awesome rider from Jacksonville got me at some point and I was riding now in the fourth position.

I could see everyone when we were biking through the technical single track with all those forks. We stayed all together and I failed to follow my preplanned path and just followed the leaders.

It was not until the second lap on the second part of the course with twisty single track when Zee made a mistake and got stuck on the top of the steep climb. This is when I made my pass and never looked back.

I felt more rested now than on the first lap and was only wondering how far the leaders were ahead. I kept a very good pace for the reminding of the race and there was a one fun part where bunch of people were yelling and encouraging riders to ride the wall! I did it for fun on the second lap but didn’t want to play with it on the third. I felt very strong and thought I handled the course in pretty good way. I was happy. Ultimately I was 2 minutes behind the leaders on the end of the race. So I got my first podium in the Sport class and it was definitely a great ending to my first attempt.

After the presentation I went on a nice trail run through the forest to close our very fulfilling trip.

Oh I did not mention our Pizza out night with my husband to pretty cool Momo’s pizza place that seems to cater to FSU students. They played there some crazy disco/techno from the 80s and it allowed us to laugh a little and step back in time and relax before the race. Because of this place now I have this crazy song that I made my whole FSC series song that I play for myself before each race!

It’s called “Mortal Combat” and it just takes my stress away very quickly. :)



1 Mile Open Water Race in the Atlantic Ocean

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

Pompano Beach Piranhas organized an amazing open water race. I stumbled across it and right away new it was something I need to do for myself to fight my demons. I always had fear of open water and now when living in Florida it become worst because of what we do have here in those waters of Atlantic Ocean compared to what I had in the Baltic Sea back in Poland. Over there worst case scenario was stepping on little flounder that is hiding in the sand, here for change oh well, we all know what swims here…
Either way I did sign up for a race however feeling little apprehensive. I went to the race site with my husband Pax on the beautiful Saturday morning right before a sunrise. The moment we arrived to the beach and I saw the venue and tents set up and Pompano pier and music playing and beautiful sun rising above the water I was happy that I woke up so early for this experience. All the swim teams arranged their spaces and everyone was energized. I felt nervous. I got my standard cotton mouth feeling and my heart was pounding long time before the race started. I am not a swimmer. I love to swim but I am mostly and pool swimmer and it was a day when I had to go there quietly like a little warrior and prove to myself that I can do it.
This was the weekend also of Tropical storm Isaac that just went by and it left water very murky and angry looking. It was not a typical Florida beautiful blue ocean look and feel, it was rather looking like a brownish lake and it definitely wasn’t going to help me feeling at ease. I went in for a warm up and could not really see anything in the dark water. The buoys were some 40 feet out from the shore and I had no courage to even check how are the views were from there. Well until I had a young girl and a young boy approaching me with a high concern or the swimming in the ocean. Those little guys were about to do their first open water race of 500 meters. On instant I had to be become stronger than I felt, and not just for me but for them. They had the same fears that I had and I did assure them that everything is going to be fine and decided to lead them to the first buoy to see what we can find there. I started first and they followed, in a matter of seconds we were there and to our surprise we still could see through the murky water bottom and even I was able to stand there. We turned back and swam to the shore. It was better than we expected and now I knew I most likely will be able to see bottom of the ocean for most of my one mile swim. Oh this 750 meter buoy was far, so far but I was ready.
This was not however mountain bike race or a triathlon, but a swim race and I just felt on the start line little like fish out of the water. I realized those swimmers were going to smoke me. But I also talked to few nice ladies before the start and I realized I was not going to be last.
And there we went, everyone crashed into the water at the same time. In no time I got hit on the head and my goggles had been moved on my face and water got in. I moved them quickly back but there was some water still there that I will be swimming with for a whole mile. First buoy was a pileup also but very unexpectedly I stayed completely calm. After that we had 750 meters going straight parallel to the beach. Right away I found some feet and felt not so bad. Wavy sand close below me gave me sense of security. I was still surrounded by lots of people and I felt safe. After a while there was a 500 m buoy and 750 m buoy. From all this swimming I was not sure any longer which one I was approaching. I told myself it is probably the closer one to don’t disappoint myself, however after a while I noticed that everyone in front of me was turning, great news, meant it was a last buoy and we were on the way back. After the turn however everyone seemed to disperse. I lost the guy that I followed. I had no one near me or behind me and after a long while I was able to spot still far away group on the front. I was alone, water was dark and we were going now closer to the shore. Waves started pounding on me little more and I started getting very tired since now I was going against the current and when I looked down on the bottom of the ocean it seemed as I hardly was moving, but I was trying so hard. Now I could only hope to pace myself appropriately so I can just finish the race. In the mean time I started getting closer and closer but still group was out of my reach. One time something dark felt like went over me, I looked quickly back over my shoulder. I thought of the worst, I thought of some “big fish” being right next to me. But I just saw nothing and most likely it was just big wave that went over and created this shadow that you could take for something else.
Since then I started to focus on the final buoy that I finally could see. I made my final turn and headed to the shore. Some thirty feed of soft sand divided me now only from the finish and I still remember how tiring every step felt after this long swim. But I was done. And girl running right in front of me happened to be in the same group as I was.
I finished in pretty decent time in my swim book of 31:16 min and it gave me 5th place in my age group. Only 17 seconds away from 4th. Top three girls had however untouchable for me times and I can only admire their swim capabilities.
Overall I am very glad I decided not to sleep in that day and see beautiful sunrise, challenge myself, overcome my fears, meet great bunch of people and have really good time on the beautiful beach. Another good day in our days of adventure book…