Monday, December 16, 2013

Down 2 Earth Off Road Half Marathon - Amelia Earhart Park - Hialeah, FL

My first Half Marathon Ever
1st place Female, 2nd overall Men and Women

Our 13.1 miles turned out to be 15.5mi.
It was a long run by all means, especially for me, but surprisingly I felt very strong during the whole race. It took me 2 hours and 13 minutes to finish.
The trails were twisty, hilly, rooty and wet, but also so much fun to run on...

I was trying to make the long story short but I think it is better to explain how I really got here…
So we will have to rewind five years into the past when I set my eyes first time for an Half Marathon.

Back then I was a table tennis player with not much running experience and I picked myself like any new to the sport person would: 12 week program off the internet to get ready for a big Palm Beach Marathon that was going on in December. I had a plan and I followed it and I ran almost every day according to the recommendations. I was progressing and did build up to running 4-5 miles a day on the road when my knees simply gave up. The pains were getting sharper and more annoying every day. At some point I had them all taped up and still tried on running. With only a few weeks left to the event I called it quits. It was too much and too soon for my body and I realized I will not be anywhere near being ready on time.

After my first Xterra in 2008

Since then I went to my first Xterra triathlon the following March (Xterra Miami) which I completely loved and have been doing it ever since. Running off road I found is very kind on my legs and is so much more fun that I abandoned running on the streets for good.

Overtime my legs got stronger, my endurance improved and I can run when uninjured normal 6.2 miles which is the standard for an off-road triathlon race completely happily and pain free.

But 13.1 miles is still a far reach from six but I always knew at some point I was going to do it one way or another.

Was it finally the right time? Don’t know, but I set my mind on it and decided to try to get ready even if I was not going to race. I bumped up my long run mileage each week, from 5 to 6 to 7 with ending up doing three weeks before the race with a 8 mile run and two weeks back a 9.5 mile run. That’s it. This is the longest run I ever did and I was very proud of it. I was still hoping to do one more run and possibly get to 10.5 miles to feel more comfortable with the distance and know that I will have very little more to add to during the race and this would take all the “what if’s”  out of my head and make me feel better . But this didn’t work out and my bike training schedule got in the way and I missed my final long run…

Ready or not I showed up on the race site early morning.

Race site on race morning...

Being slightly late I had not much time to prepare or think much about what I’m about to attempt.
I just jogged from the parking lot to the race start for less than the minute, did some stretching, listened to race director Marlon and was about to get sent off.

Through the twisty single-track...

There was a nice group of guys and girls that I completely did not know. Some decked out in nice running gear while I was there kind of incognito nicely blending in. I had no clue what to expect. Some of the girls looked quite fast but how would I know.

I positioned myself in the crowd and just minutes later we were running. We started first on the gravel path next to the lake for less than a few hundred feet and quickly we were turned through the deep grass, mud holes and straight into the biking single track. I looked around and I was in the group of the few leading guys. For some reasons I didn’t see any girls near me, it was weird, why did they hang all in the back?

Just some quick minutes into the run I felt I was going maybe too hard, I was breathing faster, started to overheat and was wondering for how much longer I will be able to keep up with this pace. It was only the beginning of the first lap and we had four to go. Since I didn’t preview the course I wanted to make sure to stick with the guys for the first lap to make sure I don’t get lost in the trails and will know where to go, so I just hung in there. At some point two guys with Army shirts just went by me and I wondered if it was just the beginning of the passing trend to come. I was hoping it wasn’t. We were running on some nicely padded and flat and twisty single track but also the arrows often pointed us to the hilly parts of the course with monster climbs, roller coaster like sections and those wet and full of slimy roots and big mud puddles parts of the course. We got a bit of everything really and I remember thinking how much more difficult it has to be to run on this for that many miles than on the flat pavement. I had to relax my pace at some point and on mile three I got passed by an amazingly tall and fit lady. Later on I could see this cute runner in white and very girly outfit somewhere in the squiggly single track way behind me. I started to feel the pressure but at the same time the most important thing for me was to listen to my own body.

Through muddy paths and puddles...
First lap went by and I was just a few seconds back from first place. The heat and humidity definitely was getting to me no doubt and maneuvering through the wet and tricky terrain wasn’t easy. It took me some trial and error also to figure out my drinking pattern. Very early I discovered that I would not be able to use the water provided from water station since it was a few feet away from the trail and I was not going to run in a different direction to get water. Thankfully I had some Salomon flasks of different sizes ready and quickly discovered which one worked best for me. I ended up running with the smallest 50ml flask in my left hand while when needed having Clif Gel in my right hand. It worked really well and I kind of felt I wasn’t there completely on my own having something to hold on to. Of course I had there my amazingly supporting husband Pax who was extremely happy with how I was doing and at some point even gave me two thumbs up. Hmmm, I normally never get that. Apparently I was doing well. After the second lap I couldn’t see any longer lady in front of me. But amazingly I felt very much in the zone on my second and third lap and was happy and quite surprised with my decent pace. It was way better than I expected and especially felt good when I finally passed back one by one two army guys…

Somewhere in the mid of the third lap I finally saw once again the lady in front and it gave me hope that maybe I have a chance to get by her or at least hang on near for the rest of the race. I think I picked up my speed and remember approaching her and finally passing somewhere in very technical single track. And just a second later totally tripping over some root and falling right in front of her. I picked myself quickly and continued with my dirty now hands but still holding to the water flask.  I was getting away from her pretty quickly and remember looking down on my GPS and oh my, I crossed my “I have never been there” point; I was already on over 10 miles and kept on going. Funny since it was apparently the furthest quest for my running GPS also when the display said “battery low”; we were both in the unknown zone…

Up and down the bridge...

At this point I started getting discomfort in my left ankle but besides that I was still pretty good. I watched my every step much more carefully on the final lap, where not getting injured was my main priority, therefore I took the turns and descends and technical sections more carefully. Also the body is so tired at that point that your noodle like self doesn’t really feel like getting up those big climbs.  But I didn’t care, I was determined now to keep on going and finish my long dreamed about quest. The laps were long and extremely tiring, way longer than they should be. With my GPS showing me 3.5 miles per lap, in reality they were 3.88 miles long…

And finally at the finish!

So I was not even prepared as per my own feelings for a 13.1 run but what about running here for 15.52 miles…  In the final parts of the race I just kept thinking of moving legs one in front of the other, it seemed as this rhythm would continue as long as I didn’t allow it to change a bit. I knew that my body was in this constant, trance like almost motion and I didn’t want anything to disturb it. I also remember thinking after this magical ten mile mark that how weird was it that I didn’t even want to run in this race since I didn’t feel completely ready. But at the same time I thought of all those other moments that life takes us to and we are not really ready for them also, but somehow we manage. Like we are not ready to get married, or take a college exam, or go for your first job interview or have a baby. But the saying “if you wait for the right moment, you shell never begin” kept popping in my head. And this is my advice for anyone out there who wants to do something challenging in their life but doesn't feel ready. Just know that you will never be ready, and everything will not miraculously align itself perfectly for you to achieve what your mind is set for. You just need to give yourself a good amount of preparation and give it a go. You never know until you try. For certain I didn’t.

Best podium ever! We got here some amazing ladies from different parts of the globe!

So I am glad I listen to my husband and friends who thought that I can do it, while I was not that convinced.

We are full of surprises and deserve to be given a chance.

When I finally was running my final steps to the finish line I saw my husband, Marlon and the race crew.

I finished, I was happy and just moments later I was told I was the second person overall to finish the race with only one male runner finishing just shortly before me. I was stunned, happy, amazed, tired, glad…

Other ladies and racers were arriving one by one slowly with each passing minute. There was a lot of people still there on the course battling their bodies and minds and pushing their boundaries for a long time after we were done...

It was a good day in the park, beautiful sun was out and we tried to do a little biking afterwards to spin the legs out but my legs were done for the day. It was time to head home and rest…

Huge Thanks to Salomon for the Best Trail Running Shoes - Mantras

All in all I ran 15.5 miles and averaged what my husband's goal for me was - 7mph or 8:33 per mile.
Ha when I think about it, it is faster than my first Mountain Biking Race which I did in Oleta in 2008! ;-)
Pretty crazy if you ask me...

Big Thanks to Pax and my friends who knew and believed I can do it!
Race was nicely put together by Marlon from Down 2 Earth:

Marlon and I, the Race Director. Please note those COOL glasses. ;-)

I highly recommend it!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series #9 - Santos Trails - Ocala, FL

Amazing Race!

Super long, technical and challenging course.
Not a surprise it was a place to have a final race for a whole series...
Lots to talk about and remember, tons of fun!
I'm shocked how quickly the series went by, seems like in a blink of an eye.
Everything flies by like rushing little butterflies, we need to catch those moments when we can and enjoy to the fullest... I think I did just that.

3rd Place Women Pro/Expert
3rd Place Women Pro/Expert overall for Series

It was quite foggy and mysterious on the race morning...
The final race was fun and tough at the same time.

Trails were very technical, hilly, rocky and demanding. This challenging terrain was very correctly chosen for the series finale. It was a race of skill, endurance, power and will. You had to have a strong mind and body to overcome everything that this race was going to throw at you mentally and physically.

During the drive to the race site there was this incredible fog everywhere, and yes it also included the Santos trail system. Now we had an explanation why the top of the Magic Mountain climb was always slick. Even more however today during the race and rocks and roots on the rest of the course were slick, especially on the first lap...

I went with my husband for a little pre-ride and after a while we discovered we really didn’t have a good plan to exit the trail system and return to the start, the same applied however to the other tens of riders and most of them decided to track backwards the initial section. We decided to go forward and were only hoping there would be some nice cross over trail that will get us out of there on time. We had only 15 minutes to spare to my start and I definitely started to feel the pressure, but thankfully very soon there was an easy trail that took us straight to the trial head.

I went through my gear quickly and jetted to the start line. Because of the lateness I didn’t have much time to think or worry about the race itself which I think was good.

We went off on the grassy field around an invisible lake and after successful clipping in this time I was somewhere in the mid pack but had to battle riders in the corners again and again while getting smacked by the shrubbery.

In the zone...
My hope to get into the trails behind Carolyn and Kathy didn’t work out but it didn’t really matter after all. Just after less than two miles later I was able to make my pass and regain the position that I wanted.

I didn’t know however how much back I was at that time to the leading ladies.

The air today was filled not only with moisture but also with lots of energy and especially guys were triple charged during the race.

I would say there was this insane rage in them and it showed in the riding and behavior on the trails. It made it more difficult for the rest of the riders to stay calm and focused on the task on hand. The trail was still slick from the dew and air was so moist that the moment I would pull to the side to let someone go by my glasses would fog up. It was not making it any easier to maneuver through those already difficult trails.

I was very proud of myself while on the John Brown trail and numerous other trails, when not only I’m on the uphill going into  180 degree turn, heading downhill, maneuvering through the boulders and at the same time doing a track stand to let the guys go by. It was definitely good skill training and a real test. It makes me only wonder how fast I could have gone if I didn’t have to perform all those maneuvers over and over again.

Being yelled on to move to the side on the bottom of the climb was much uncalled for, since it meant that what I was doing didn’t matter. But it did matter to me. We all know you need speed and momentum to get to the top of the hill so being forced to hit your brakes and move to the side when only a foot away from the bottom of the climb was very uncool. To make it better no one made the climb either way, most likely I would have gone further on my own. There was a lot of bad out there that day but also there was a lot of good.

Got my Clif!

I still was doing what I love to do and trying my best despite the circumstances, the main goal was to be safe and ride within my limits. When I finally had some very polite riders approaching I was so grateful for that, after all we are all here for the love of the sport, not much more.

Right before the finish of the first little crazy lap I decided to grab my Clif gel, and exactly the moment I did so it happened everyone in the park that owned the camera including my husband was there to take a picture. Yay, so here we go, another picture of gel shoveled in my face and me trying to breathe through my teeth, since I’m still on the verge of getting rid of my cold from the previous race…

I went into the second lap way calmer, all the traffic and all the craziness seemed to disperse. I remember being somewhere half way through and asking myself if it is a good or bad thing. I’m all nice in my comfort zone but am I going fast enough? Am I too relaxed without having anyone push me? I tried not to drift away and stay focused as much as I could. After clearing some tougher sections I even was giving myself prompts to stay motivated and joked around up with some cheering groups. And there were many of those, very polite and encouraging volunteers and people with bells which reminded me of Xterra in Richmond which is totally nuts.

When finishing the second lap, this time around I ate my gel earlier but all the cameras were gone…   What a bummer.:)

Coming around for the third lap I felt good and really didn’t have any knowledge how far away my competition was. Maybe somewhere near the first mile mark on the final lap on the most bumpy and rocky part of the course my husband said “she is right there”, I had a quick time to ask him to “define right there” and he said “30 seconds”.  We were talking Kathy, since speedy Carolyn was way further ahead…

Rock garden...

Hmm, I wish I knew this before that I was that close but there was still plenty of time and lots of crazy terrain, so a lot could change either to my advantage or not. Maybe half way through the course I saw Kathy on the flowy switchbacks. It was fast and less demanding part of the course and by the time it was over I was entering the John Brown trail right behind her with having two riders in between us.

We stayed together and handled the terrain pretty much at the same speeds. Eventually one of the riders let me pass and later on another one. Time was ticking and after we were all alone to battle it out there was less than two miles to go. It was this impossible scenario where I didn’t ride fast enough to make a pass and Kathy wasn’t riding fast enough to get away. With the last tricky section approaching on the final mile I knew it was the only place where things could change. Unfortunately for me Kathy choose the same line through the rock garden and got stuck there, therefore I got also stuck right after her, even though I cleared it perfectly just on the previous laps. By the time we both got back on the bikes the same scenario repeated and we rushed in the same manner to the finish. It felt like we had exactly the same amount of energy left in our bodies and nothing was going to change that. I remember somewhere in the middle of this crazy chase I wanted to reach for the bottle and quench my thirst, but instead I just quickly glimpsed down on it and said “not this time, you have to wait”.

The Finish!

So I rode for the last three miles without the smallest sip and knew it was not the moment to make myself feel cozy and fuzzy but do whatever I need to do to keep my chances open.

We flew to the final sandy turn, final skinny single track and to the shoot with only seconds from each other.

Finishing in 3rd in the state final and so close from the 2nd place in my first season in the Expert Class was very rewarding.

Race Podium: Carolyn, Kathy, Me

 Video from race by Jane:
I also had time to do a 4th lap but this time running and with a nice company of my hubby Pax. He stayed on the bike however and climbed proudly every single hill... :-)

Run after race...
Run after race...

Also at the same time knowing that on the finish line I was only two seconds short from second place makes me wonder about all those little things I could have done differently during the race.

You strive for this perfect ride, perfect race, perfect lap, but like we know in life there is no such thing as perfection. There are always some mistakes and little stumbles that sneak on us when the least expected, and especially when you are in the middle of a very driven and challenging race.

Since it was my third series, you would think after a few years of racing on the same courses you will get tired and bored of it.

Happy to be done...

But totally the opposite thing happened. I enjoy racing on those tracks even more and more. Being able to hit the single track at a higher speed, bomb the descent, climb with almost an ease the previously not climbable hill, carve the turn and the berm at a good speed, tackle crazy rooty and rocky terrain like it’s not even there.

Well maybe it’s not all so great, but at least it starting to feel like it more and more and this also brings such a great enjoyment.

Just a few years back coming from a 37 pound Mongoose bike and being totally clueless on how to choose the right gear for the terrain while clothed in a “Nike” outfit and some running shoes.  Not having the slightest idea how to pace myself or how to survive the second lap.

Yea yea Scotty, whatever you say... I believe you. ;-)

Looking at the wire fenced uphill in Oleta with my jaw dropped and saying “No way anyone rides that!” It was all insane, difficult, impossible, super-human stuff.

Than moving on to my beloved Specialized Safire, later on S-Works Era, with now riding a Stumjumper and flying all those impossible trails with a smile on my face and great joy on the inside.

Cheering group...
But I always keep the history in the back of my mind and remind myself or am being reminded like this weekend by Phil saying “Beata just two seasons back you rode in the Base Class”. And I realize that, and trust me, I don’t take anything for granted for the smallest moment and appreciate everything I’m doing and I got.

If you asked me just those two years back I would not even dare to dream or think of what I’m doing now. I even don’t have an explanation for any of that besides the fact that great passion, drive, love and hard work definitely changes everything around you, while you just keep on going…

Than I eat you medal!!!
First I take a kiss...

It feels good and feels right and I enjoy every moment of doing so. Overcoming all those impossible scenarios and the most demanding tasks and obstacles are what drive me the most. I love to prove to myself that when I set my mind on something I can make it happen and what is the most important, have an awesome time doing it and getting there. After all it is this journey that matters…

I wanted to thank all my friends who know me, believe in me and cheer for me no matter what and how I do. All your support and kind thoughts are so very appreciated…

The award dinner after the race was put together well and reminded me very much what Xterra organizers do during the main big events. Having the camera crew follow us around the state and film our series and creating a beautiful story that we can share was and awesome idea.

Florida State Series Overall Podium: Carolyn, Kathy, Me and Jane...

Everyone including myself enjoyed very much the race recap on the big screen while enjoying a well deserved dinner. It was awesome to see people as they are and without the riding gear on. Funny, we all look so different without our bikes and helmets on!

The Berger family Terry, Dave and Austin from Goneriding are doing much more than setting up races that we can participate in. They give us new challenges, new hopes, new adventures and amazing friends and moments that we can share with them and our families and remember long after the racing is over…

Thank you for the beautiful journey…

My Mom, Dad, Sister which are back in Poland are following my every step and know exactly were I am, what I'm doing and what kind of weather I have during the race... My dad is the one that gives me strength, he is the most optimistic and believing person I have ever met. For him everything and anything is possible and no dream is big enough. I would not be the way I am without learning everything I know from him...

Also HUGE Thanks to my husband Pax for all the time, energy, sacrifice, strength, support and unstoppable drive.
Of course my life is easier, my bike is faster my body is stronger and my dreams are possible because of all my amazing Sponsors:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura USA, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, Selle Italia, KT tape and Louis Garneau!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Coconut Cup Series #3 / Specialized Florida State Championship make up race - Amelia Earhart Park - Hialeah, Florida

Women Cat 1 - Pro/Expert - 2nd place

Great, fun, muddy race in South Florida.

Nice Video of the Race  =

So here we are at our local race…

The weekend as per the weather forecast was supposed to be nearly perfect. However during our pre-ride we discovered that parts of the course was flooded and blocked off. To add to it I have been feeling somewhat sick for most of the week culminating just at the evening before the race. I felt awful, lost my voice completely, which I can imagine any husband would find quite appealing and have been kept up at night by the standard flu symptoms. When alarm went off at 6 am all I wanted to do was to crawl even deeper under my covers and stay there for the whole day. Last thing on my mind was getting up and driving to the race site, but I decided to go after making a pact with our beloved “Misty” cat that straight from the race and a nice shower we will all charge back to bed for a well-deserved nap. Misty agreed and it was the only thing that kept me going throughout the rest of the day.

After arriving to the race site we noticed that it rained even more, however the flooded parts of the course had been opened and will be used during the race.

Funny that on the second or third lap of my race I noticed that the muddy trail was named “Swamp Trail”, really, I never noticed that name before but it was definitely appropriate.

Lots of things changed in recent months in Amelia but mostly it was impossible to notice the hilly and heavy carpeted additions in the front of the park and also on the back sections. Some boulders and shipping containers were also implemented on the race track where we had to go under, over and through them. It made the race definitely more costly as far as energy goes and also more interesting in a way but what happened to be a big plus, crowd friendly. Therefore a great amount of people gathered at those sections and were able to cheer us all on.

Even though it was expected that there was going to be less of the competition during the Coconut Cup races I was still hoping for a better turnout in my class. Either way, more ladies to race is always better, but even with having myself and another rider I knew I would still be doing my best no matter what.

Also I knew my best today with being sick was not going to be the best thing out there, but I just really wanted to have great ride and just do what I can.

From the start we were taken right away through the pot holes and straight to the climbs. Shortly after we biked directly to the Swamp Trail… it was slippery there, extremely muddy and it was the most root infested part of the course. The rest of the trail system felt fast with slightly wet and muddy corners to watch out for.  After our first and quite fast lap it started to rain… Things changed quickly from bad to worst and the first thing that was off were the totally fogged up glasses. It was so hard to see anything and especially on the slow parts of the course, where I managed to almost run off the trail because of it.

The rain felt good however, and it gave a nice cooling effect. Next thing that come along with it was even more slippery roots, bigger potholes, looser corners and yes mud splattering all over our bikes, bodies and faces… You would think that this made me frustrated seeing my focused face, but really this is when I started to enjoy the race even more and if you could look in I was all smiles on the inside…

I think it was this extra element that after all made this race very different, more fun, enjoyable and challenging.

 So the second lap was way slower than the first by almost two minutes and this trend did carry across all racing classes. The numerous climbs and descents on the course were great to ride and at the same time very taxing. Like usual the passing scenarios were all interesting and different, from guys being super sweet, funny, jerky or just clumsy with occasional falls right in front of me which would not help with my race progress. For that reason I miss a lot riding in the ladies sport class which starts on the end and doesn’t have to go through all of it during their race.

During the third lap the rain left the building and it became slightly easier to ride, however with not much of a visible time split improvement.  I think I finished quite strong with only minute and a half to the leader Kathy.
Having people I don’ t even know giving me complements and telling me how good I’m riding makes me feel that I’m definitely doing what I am supposed to right now.

I have a good time and I’m constantly improving, I could not ask really for more.

Afterwards I decided to go for little run around the lake when the other classes were still racing.

I could glimpse on people riding the hills and see the race site from the opposite side of the lake. I was so close but so far away… It rained again, it was gloomy, and water droplets were landing all over my face and were saturating my clothing. I was tired, very grounded but there was something ethereal about my run. I felt very alive and very connected and it reminded me of myself way back in Poland where I was thriving on moments like this one. The ripples in the water, the music in my ears, the wind around me, ground under my feet, warm breath…

There is something very mysterious about our whole existence and there are those rare times where we can feel in every cell in our body and with all the senses we have the endless energy of the universe.

And this is when our love for life and the feelings that we crave for come together …

Picture thanks to Humberto Maquilion...

And like usual big Thanks to my husband Pax and all my amazing Sponsors:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura USA, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, Selle Italia, KT tape and Louis Garneau!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 8 - Caloosahatchee Regional Park - Alva, FL

3rd place Pro/Expert - Cat 1 Women

Caloosahatchee Regional Park is one of those places where I see a good amount of people loving to ride in but also good part not liking it so much, and I belong to the latter.

For some reason I never place good in this race and really it is one of those that if I could afford to skip the race that would be the one. There is nothing wrong with the park really but also nothing that makes me excited about it in any way too. The technical sections are somewhat tough and challenging and hilly, but most of the course is flat like the lake on a windless day. Mostly we are riding through the constant sandy flat switchbacks for miles at a time with no berms in them and being surrounded by grass or something that looks like dried up sugar cane. 

Worst part for me is what I call “deep dark forest”  were we are biking in creepy darkness, dead leafless shrubbery, sharp severed branches which are leaning towards the trail and are really low so you have to duck often and all of it is on a rooty and tight path. I feel I am out of my comfort zone there and totally stripped of speed. Not surprisingly I lost most of my time in this section during the race. So maybe it’s me, but I saw people coming out of this trail looking like the panther attacked them! And by the way there was a Black Panther statute right next to the new gooey and muddy section with three steep and sudden climbs that would cause lots of trouble during the race for many racers including myself…

So with part of me wishing that I stayed home, there was another aspect that made me happy that I made a trip. We had great group of friends pre-riding the course together and simply sharing the joy of riding a bike. There was myself, Pax, Wally, pixie Zee, Dave and his friend.

We had fun that day on the course and off with ending the day on the good note grabbing some beer and pizza at a local place.

Also the whole Bike Tech Teams showed up on the race site and the Team tent was buzzing full of riders ready for a great weekend. Some of them camped out in the park and made a nice bon fire which is really cool.

On the race morning I made it to the start line maybe two minutes before the start. The wait to only one bathroom in the park was substantial and I didn’t want to waste my time going there earlier on.

I rushed through my gear making sure everything is ready, helmet strapped, shoes tight, Garmin reset, Rammstein on and I guess I was ready. Whistle went off in no time and we were gone. Miracle, one of not that many times I clipped properly and was able to accelerate from the start, seconds later I was head to head with Carolyn and at some point I was in the lead. After the grassy turn I let Carolyn and Shelly go by since they have sickly fast first lap times and there was no reason for me to be in their way. I was really hoping I could keep up with them for the whole windy and whiny grass section but somewhat I kept falling behind. That meant more wind resistance for me and more work to be done. They were right there just a few bike lengths in front but still I was not on their wheel. When we dived in to the first technical part I had Kathy’s wheel disappear so close to mine. But with passing time the gap kept getting bigger. And even though I still could see the ladies when we got out on another grassy flat part I was now further back.


The moment we got to the 5 mile mark that goes deeper to the forest, where the panther statue resides the gap got even greater. I really didn’t enjoy this section, maybe besides of for the more technical and hilly parts which were all right. And then the rows of male riders showed up and now it was for the rest of the lap mission to figure out how to let them pass safely.  Most of the guys were super cooperative but two of them decided to besides me moving to the side, ram my back wheel and hit me on my bad shoulder and make me stop in front of leaning on a dead tree. They mumbled something about them being 30 seconds behind but I said “I would have let you by in civilized way if you allowed me to” and they biked away. I still see his outfit with big blue star and red stripes stuck in my head from this experience. At some point I just went to the side and stood with my bike in my hand waiting for a group of other guys to go by. I am really getting bummed about it. To be honest putting all little losses of time during a long 25 mile race together would add up to a significant time loss. But this would not really matter much since I was so far behind the leading girls.


I knew I was riding in 4th and was really focused on and chasing for 3rd but didn’t know how far in front the third rider was. I finished first long lap of 10 miles with quite a deficit and was able to speed up some on the second lap. I made the same mistakes on the slimy hills and lost some time there once again. At some point I asked my husband to give me a time split but instead he said “don’t worry, you are fine, take your time”.

This is not what I wanted to hear, I got upset and more upset with each time I would see him and he would refuse to give me a number. Am I really that far behind that he doesn’t want to tell me? I really needed to know, I didn’t care at that point if it was 5, 10 or 20 minutes I just wanted to know where I stand. To be honest it made me so mad that it fueled me to pick up my speed and bike way faster, especially on the final half of the 2.5 lap course. At some point I got the number out and he said “4 minutes” which didn’t sound to me too convincing and I knew there was something fishy about it but didn’t know what. But if it was the truth, 4 minutes is a lot but at the same time so many things can happen during the bike race that I was not going to slow down because of it and pushed even harder on the final miles.


When I crossed the finish line I still didn’t know what place I finished in. Well it was not rocket science since there was not that many of us girls in this class today but how could I have known that Shelly pulled from the race after the first lap? I didn’t. Therefore for most of my race and especially on the second and short third lap I was chasing a ghost. That was a bummer that no one told me what was going on while I was spilling my guts out there for almost two hours but at the same time it made for a nice and unexpected surprise to finish in 3rd. I would have preferred to catch up to Shelly and win this challenge in the proper head to head competition like we did in the last race but this was out of the control on my side.

I remember having times when I was thinking a lot about my cornering, about my cadence, my heart rate, when I was asking myself if I am giving all of what I got, if I am trying hard enough. Overall I think I did handle the course way better this time around and especially the open flat parts which would cause me a lot of trouble in the past years. So I was happy about that. Weird part about it that I felt like I knew I could have pushed more but at the same time the weirdness of the course or just my riding preference didn’t allowed me to do so and I felt I was halted back all the time by all those never ending turns of the Alva course.

What I also remember from the previous years was this burning sensation and such a difficulty with many climbs on the course, which this year really beside the new slimy ones on the back side felt completely fine. That’s a great feeling knowing that things are getting better little by little.

After the presentation and first podium finish in the main race (Yey) I went for a nice 6 mile run with my Salomon Mantra's and the company of a friend – Scott Huntley. This was a perfect ending to the day and I was happy to head home.

Also I had great pleasure meeting during the race the fastest rider out there Drew Edsall and also a sponsor of our Florida Series representing the best bike manufacturer on the planet Fred from Specialized.

I wanted to thank my friend Michaela which by the way destroyed the course and placed first in the Sport class for looking over my banged up shoulder during last week's race. Very appreciated!

And like usual big thanks to my husband Pax and all my amazing Sponsors:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura USA, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, Selle Italia, KT tape and Louis Garneau!