Sunday, March 24, 2013

Xterra Miami - 1st in Age Group and 2nd Overall Female...

Xterra Miami - 1st in Age Group and 2nd Overall Female...


I always wait with anticipation for this event. This is my most favorite local race I can think of and probably one of the most fun races in the country.  Since triathlon season ended with the World Championships in Maui in October we all had quite a few months of rest or at least change of scenery. And it’s not like I really needed a change since it is kind of tough to get tired of triathlons since they are never boring! Of course I’m talking here of the off road tri’s aka Xterra’s. So almost 5 months of not racing definitely makes you wonder how this first race is going to be like. What changed since…?

I gave myself a very overreaching prediction where I wanted to improve by a whole 25-30 minutes. I knew that was a lot to ask for but also I felt it was quite reasonably possible.
As always I didn’t feel as prepared as I would like to be. Weirdly those few months went by very very fast! And while you think you still have plenty of time left the day just comes at you and you show up on the start line with whatever you got at the moment.

I was very happy to notice that something changed. I was missing one thing that did accompany me last year at the same race while attempting my first full distance race; this time around I had no fear, not at all. After going all the places that we traveled with my husband the previous season and raced on all those different terrains and swam in all kinds of water out there, first time ever I stood on the start line with no fear in me. It felt so much better, so much lighter, nerves did not exist. I was just there because I wanted to be there and just experience this day with all my friends and competitors. I was happy to have my friends Melissa Scott and Jennifer Moos with me on the edge of the water waiting for the gun to go off. But also my friend Leigh Svetlik decided to race today and is new to the sport with only few weeks experience with mountain biking.

We all were going to have a very challenging day ahead.

Temperatures in South Florida out of nowhere changed from mid 70s in all previous days and weeks to a high of 89 degrees on race day. I was not looking forward to the heat and discomfort; however the nice and unusual for Florida wind and cloud cover made the day more tolerable.

I was so relaxed today that I didn’t even realize that the start countdown was going on… :)

Such a change from previous year, when I was shivering like a leaf full of fears…

I looked around and everyone suddenly become very serious and was ducking down when I was still fixing my goggles… Maybe next time I will be more focused. But I’m happy to see myself at such an ease.

And we were off. Start of the swim was not that turbulent and everything was going pretty smooth until maybe two thirds of the distance to the first red buoy where things very quickly started to get a little congested. I remember looking to the right and there was person swimming toward me on an angle and a second later the same thing happened on the left. Obviously everyone was condensing in an attempt of a perfect entry for the turn, I happened to get completely cut off by two swimmers which created a total upside down “V” over my head. And this is when it happened. This terrible feeling that somehow always finds its way back; even if it was going to stay with me for a mere few seconds. You are kicking but really you are not, and pain in the stomach reminds you of one that you get when you are being dropped from the heights in some theme park (hate this feeling!).  It happened and I said “really, it is really happening again!?”, but thankfully I was able to pull my mind from this bad place and focused on my swim pretty quickly. Somehow however this contributed to me overshooting the buoy, by some few good meters. I looked up and was surprised to be way beyond it. I corrected it quickly and headed back and toward the second yellow buoy. For some reasons swimming this way was easier, more pleasant and more relaxed. Water was shallower, less people around to bother you and this is when I could really focus on swimming the way I should. I noticed a big group of swimmers far ahead, I was definitely nowhere near them. When I approached the beach it seem like I was slightly farther to the right making my beach run a little longer than it should be. I jumped back and started my second lap. This time the swim was a little better but for some reasons still not as good as I would want it to be. When I turned on the red buoy for the second time around I started to swim really well. I started reducing the gap on the group and even was able to catch a few swimmers. I kind of wished the swim was longer since I made up a lot of time on my second lap and from almost being one minute back from my girlfriends I was back to only 9 and 20 seconds on each.

I ran out of the water and started pealing my wetsuit off and removing the goggles. Transition by surprise had to be one of the best I ever had and when I was jumping on my bike I had Melissa right in front of me chewing on her glove attempting to put it on. I also worked on my gloves for a while and finally was done on the long stretch of flat ground before reaching the technical single track.

And we are in, now I’m in my zone. I started my bike part of the race in a great speed and handled the advanced trails with finesse and pleasure. I love riding here! Course is so bumpy, rocky, technical, covered with tree roots and man-made ramps. Just so much fun!

Not long until I was almost on Melissa’s wheel. It took me just seconds to speed up and make a pass and I was off. Whole course felt like was mine; I didn’t have too many riders to deal with and therefore was able to ride at my own pace. I had only few good riders here and there and mostly just an enjoyable ride. First lap went by pretty quick and it would be similar on the second one however at that time there were quite a few sprint distance racers on the course. Thankfully they didn’t cause much of disturbance in my race, that was however not true for other riders. I was for a while behind a group of guys and at some point I noticed two of them down on the left side of the dragon’s tail trail. I wasn’t sure what happened. One of them was my friend James who already had incredible plans for this upcoming season. From going to Maui, to ITU Worlds in Europe, to racing with us in majors around the country... I yelled to him if he was fine while carving the turn and he replied with this low doubting voice “noooo”. Apparently there was a bike of some novice girl that was crossing over the whole trail, him going full speed all he could do is hit his brakes and flew over his handlebars and over the girl’s bike. The landing left him with a broken collar bone and just like that in a split second goes ones season or at least a big chunk of it. It is very sad thing to happen.

Later on, on the Christmas tree trail when my mind starts to wonder I heard a loud voice from behind the trees “Hi B!”. It was Leigh progressing with her bike section and I was very happy to see her going strong. I had her in my mind quite often really during this race and kept wondering how she was doing…

This course is very rough and very technical but I was handling everything with no issues at all and enjoyed it as much as possible. On the last stretch of the bike course I reached for my last gel strapped to my bike. I looked at it and I had this weird feeling that I was going to regret it later. For some unknown reasons from all my amazing, tasteful, my favorite and well tested Clif gels that I have so many of at home, my husband decided to put some new one with new flavor which he found I don’t even know where. Right away the unusual taste was repelling but I finished the whole packet. After arrival at transition I had another great T time and went off for the run. But the moment I stood on my foot my leg almost collapsed from under me just after I grabbed my belt with number on it. I headed toward the first water crossing and my legs felt very heavy and noodle like. This is quite a normal feeling for me on the beginning of the run so besides being super tired, heavy, hot I figured everything will get better shortly. I approached the water crossing and had to flounder around pulling on the mangrove roots hanging from above to propel myself forward…

The crossing was quite time consuming and tiring. The cabin loop run was still slow and in no time I was on the second, this time very deep water and lengthy crossing. There was a rope to hold on to and it kept sinking while wind made the water choppy and it was kind of difficult to make this part look pretty. Swimming with shoes on is not easy and it took me almost half of the distance to figure out some decent working system. Thankfully I made it across.

When I got out of the water my legs were still not ready to run. Then I entered my favorite part of the course the “Gilligan’s Island” trail, which is a mountain biking black diamond on the normal days, but today become part of our run course. It is a super trail, bunch of manmade bridges and obstacles. Constant up and downs and twisty like a snake. Also it is so beautiful there, you are surrounded by tall ferns and run in what seems to be at times deep, squiggly tunnels and you are just seem to be totally lost in the awesome jungle. Today I didn’t fly however there; I just jogged waiting for faster legs to kick in. I had a racer following my track but when we got back to the open he just zoomed by me. My stomach started to hurt me little earlier pretty badly but now become unstandable. I had not only double stitches on both sides, I had awfully hurting all cramped up stomach, heavy still legs, injured heel and I was really hot.  I must say it was the worst run I ever had and it shows clearly on the results.

The good moment didn’t want to kick in well until somewhere around the last mile. Don’t know what happened but somehow my legs started to get refreshed and the aches in the belly seemed to disappear. I finally started to run; this is how I supposed to feel for the whole race. I crossed the last stream and went to the beach. Beach run felt fast and smooth, just moments later I was crossing the finish line with a smile on my face… Oh such a journey. Not only what I was able to accomplish today, but what I was able to achieve since I started racing those incredible triathlons…

Whole five years ago when I did here first ever sprint triathlon with half the distance of what I did today I had finishing time of 2:25 hours, while today I finished in 2:30 hours. Back than when I looked at ladies going twice as fast as me I thought of them as they were not human. It is so unbelievably weird, amazing and awesome to be able today to do twice the distance in almost the same time. It is incredible how much stubborn and loving sport mind and body can accomplish. Also last year my finishing time was longer by a whole 30 minutes. I give myself credit for 20-25 minutes of improvement however the rest contributing to the different slightly only layout of the course. But still, that’s a lot to ask for and it happened. It happened also on a worst run I could possibly have. Finishing second overall in all the women and having only Jen, a Pro mountain biker in front who won this race 5 consecutive years since I started and has been unbeatable, is very rewarding.

While relaxing and chatting after the race not that much later I saw Leigh approaching the finish line.She was just like me in my first race. She covered her face and just simply started to cry…

She hugged her husband and me some million times and was so amazingly happy, moved, accomplished. She gave me also teary eyes… I was happy I was able to contribute to her not only competing in her first triathlon but finishing it, as those were the goals for the day!
Somehow my husband missed my finish since he was so busy following me everywhere around the course and cheering me like usual on, which always helps. Melissa had some fun on her finish and was sprinting for it with a male racer with a big smile on her face… Day ended with a nice meal prepared by race crew and small award ceremony.

As far as equipment goes my bike was as fast and light as physically possible and worked like a charm and I was very grateful for that. All of it thanks to my husband who consistently is working on my bike and is improving it. Also huge thank you to my sponsors, who contribute greatly to making my bike just better and better every time I ride (Syntace, Notubes, ESI grips, Selle Italia, Squirt lube). I sported today my super-fast speedo goggles and cap which were awesome. Of course I ate a whole stack of Clif gels which always gives me the right amount of energy that I need. And I wanted so badly to use my new ultra-fast Salomon Sense Ultra shoes but the option was just not possible with my foot being all in pain (bruised heel) and course being covered in million moving sharp rocks. I used however my well tested and bellowed Salomon Speedcross 3 in which running feels like being on the cloud.  Garden of life supplements and protein shakes also keep making me stronger which shows clearly in my race results but also with how I feel. Also my completely awesome Syntace handle bar took all my hand pain away and I can race now to the full potential! Transitions were much quicker with my new bike shoes from Gaerne as well. KT Tape is always with me, either you see it or not! Bike Tech is always awesome with anything I need. Thanks Arnie and Mike... Can't wait for the new outfits !!!

Thank you so much everyone, since I couldn’t have done it without you!