Monday, May 20, 2013

SERC # 5 / US Cup East - Conyers, Ga

My first Cat 1 Race! Rode in the Pro/Expert division on the truly historic course which was the Home of the Mountain Biking Olympics in 1996.

I got 6th today and qualified for the Mountain Biking Nationals that will take place in Pennsylvania this summer and that was my only goal after a really good performance in Xterra Southeast Championships yesterday in Pelham, Al, where they have the Bump and Grind race in 2 weeks.

Some of my friends had their Eggbeater 11's seize up in the weather but my new Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals were light and worked flawlessly. Wish I can say the same for my brake pads though :)

Now for the Write-Up:

Products used: 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper 29'er HT that Arnie helped me out with from Bike Tech with a 1x10 setup. S-works Prevail Helmet, S-works shoes, Schwalbe Racing Ralphs 2.1, 2.35 with Stan's Race Gold wheelset, Syntace handlebars and stem, ESI Grips, Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals, Clif Shot Gels and Garden of Life every day of my life now - Thanks...

I barley finished my Xterra Southeast Championship event, jumped on the box, got my medal, showered under the cold watered bike hose and jumped to the car for a 3 hour trip to Georgia.

Great Picture from
I was already pretty hungry and tired and Pax and I changed to our bike kits and pre-rode the historic 1996 Olympic mountain bike course.  The loop was 6.75 miles long and included the famous granite rock section, which was very demanding and bumpy and really unlike anything else I ever saw, quite pretty and weird at the same time.  But for sure difficult to ride on and most likely even more so to race on at full speed.  After a whole loop of amazingly fun and fast riding on this massive roller coaster like track we were definitely done for the day. Solid meal culminated the day and we had a long sleepless night ahead of us.  So after some 1 to 2 hours of rest we got up and headed to the race site. Nothing was however left from what the track was the day before, the nice and beautifully packed trails changed to slimy mud slides and the grass was fully saturated with water. It kept on raining and lightning until the start and long into the race. So this is how my first Pro/Expert experience was going to be like. I experienced so much of wet trails the day before in Alabama that I could care less what was waiting for us today on the course. The gun went off and we were going. I had to be somewhere in the mid pack and had girls left and right and rain was just pouring on us and water was splashing around the tires while we were hammering the start on the grass. I got up to speed, moved to the outside and just seconds later was head to head with Jen and Duffy, I looked at them with this surprised but happy grim at my face and waited for them to attack. I was just by a wheels length in the lead but didn’t feel there was a need for me to pursue it since I didn’t plan to be the first one to go to the trails. I backed off a little and this is when we all got to the first and the smallest uphill you can think of that leads us to the trail system…  Momentarily I felt it, this instant burn, sting, emptiness overwhelmed my legs, we were some 35 seconds into the race and legs were gone, so totally gone!  I felt like I halted from 20 mph to 2 mph in an instant, I had girls going left and right by me. I looked around in disbelieve, hmm this is how racing after racing feels like; it doesn’t feel good for sure. 

Thanks for the Clif Gel Pax...

Big High Five from Jen who finished
 just before me
Few girls went by and I just pushed as much as I could and made sure I’m not last. Things got better however in the trails and somewhat I was able to recover, I knew however that I’m riding on an empty tank and kept my expectations reasonable. Mostly today it was about the experience, being part of it, doing my best and finishing my first expert race. The rain kept on pouring and trails were so wet and slimy… My glasses fogged up so badly that whole left lens was totally opaque and right one had speckles of rain, mud and still clear spots on them. I couldn’t see anything, no roots, no rocks, barley seeing the trail… It was difficult to go at full appropriate speed for those conditions. I felt like I wasted a lot of valuable time by just trying to see the course, I finally decided to rip my glasses off some 2/3 into the first lap. Without glasses the face did get slapped by some leafy branches and mud was now collecting and hitting me straight in my eyes, but at least I could see where I was going.  I was biting down on my glasses and then I finally dropped them off in the transition I was able to focus only purely on racing.

Me and Jen representing Bike Tech
somewhere under the mud

This time around rain had to pick up even more and every single trail changed into a stream with mini standing pools of water. Now all the obstacles were under the running water that often we had to bike against. It was a challenge, but it felt good at the same time, I felt like I was riding better this lap. Two steep climbs that we had to go up on were very painful and almost never ending. This is where all the energy was being lost. I got passed at point by one of the girls but I worked my way to get my position back and never let her back close to me. This lap was the most critical because it seems like everyone started to experience some kind of bike mechanical problems. At a point I noticed Jen on the trails in front of me struggling on the uphill, apparently her pedal stopped spinning. Later on I saw many other riders having trouble and even some walking their bikes. I noticed myself my shifter would not let me go to the sometimes 3 biggest cogs and I was stunned when I was trying to make a climb and was sure I was on the biggest cog while I was pushing so hard and almost not making it to the top, because the gear would not change.  This definitely didn’t help me on the final lap where I had to get up those giant hills once again. It was a struggle and I was quite glad that course had been shortened for this race from 6.75 to 4.5 miles. We didn’t race much but we raced in the brutal conditions and for me it was the first true race in such a complete mud slide and to be honest I enjoyed every minute of it. It was an amazing experience and such a challenge, and not only during this race itself but throughout the whole week, since this week was a monster. I covered 3 races in 8 days, not mentioning all the travel and work in between.

Me, Duffy and Jen with Huge smiles after the race.
I will be going home happy for a well-deserved rest. Placing 6th today in those extreme conditions with not much energy left in me I will note in my book as a success. This would not happen, like usual, if not for the unconditional support of my husband who was by my side for this whole week’s long experience. Not mentioning that my bike was completely torn down to the pieces, washed, lubed, put back together just to be thrown to the muddy race once again. I felt bad for my bike to have to go through something as drastic on almost a daily bases and mentioned it to my husband, to which he responded (to my bike), "Sollie, this is life of a Pro, get used to it". :-)

Well we are not there yet, but feels good to think and feel that way once in a while...

And of course big thank you to all my sponsors for the amazing support!

Some nice pictures from H & H Multimedia...

Xterra South East Championship - Pelham, AL

Distance: 1 mile swim, 20 miles bike, 6.2 miles run

Products used: 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper 29'er HT from Bike Tech with a 1x10 setup, Schwalbe Racing Ralphs 2.1, 2.35 with Stan's Race Gold wheelset, Syntace handlebars and stem, ESI Grips, Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedalsFastskin Goggles from Speedo, Clif Shot Gels and Garden of Life every day of my life now - Thanks...

Awesome race, awesome result!

2nd in my age group and 6th overall in women, 17th including Pros…
4th best bike split, with first two ladies holding biking Pro license... :-)

Garmin Data from Race

After finishing Xterra Key Biscayne on Sunday, we had 2 massive days at work and packed bags for a long drive back to Alabama. It is amazing that a year went by that quick. I was happy to go back there since I only had great memories and really love the park and the race course. The drive was long but we already knew what to expect, beautiful highway flowers kept me occupied, and thankfully we had a nice relaxing pit stop at FSU where my husband and I met with a friend and they had a moment to throw around a javelin for a while and just enjoy themselves.

Pax having fun

Pretty good throw

After a few more hours and we arrived in the park… Change of time and even a longer day we still didn’t get a chance to get out and bike a small part of the single track as we planned. So we pulled to the lake and just biked around for some five minutes to get the blood going again. It got completely dark and we headed for the cabin. Exhausted, we had a meal and went to bed. There was a great amount of racers from Florida coming up also for the race and even though we planned to pre-ride the course together we went to bed completely not realizing that the phone connection was almost non-existent in the park and we had only an approximate time scheduled for the ride. In the morning after a nice homemade breakfast cooked at the cabin we saw a message that the boys from Florida were going to start riding earlier. But the time we got the message it was already an hour later than they wanted to ride. By the time we got to the lake obviously they were gone and there was a girl that we noticed putting her bike together.

Me and my husband headed for the trails to just minutes later catch up with the same girl we saw in the parking lot. We started chatting and quickly our duo ride changed to a trio and stayed that way throughout the whole ride. As we learned Margo is a kick ass Xterra athlete and tri coach and we were very glad to have met her. We had a great time and I forgot how fun the riding here in Alabama is. I bombed the trails almost as fast as I could to wait for the chatters on the flats… I definitely enjoyed myself and also enjoyed the company. The trail system was in an awesome condition and even though it was not completely marked on the last 3 miles of the course, eventually we found our way around and figured out the rest.  We also scouted the run course and got a few minute swim. Water was cold, way colder to what we had in the previous year. There was a great chance age groupers were going to be wearing a wetsuit.

We finally had a chance to catch up with the boys Scott and Steven at the cabin and spent a relaxing evening talking bikes and races and just simply having a good time.

The next morning we did bits and pieces of things. My team mate Jen arrived at the park and we biked a few miles of the course with her, we did some running with the boys and one swim loop.

It was super hilarious to catch Dan Hugo on our run out of the trails and his friends getting ready for a swim while already fully armored in speedos.  At that point it was pretty warm and everyone running was pretty much shirtless, well except James and it was just the most stupid and ridiculous thing to do to introduce ourselves and snap a group picture!

This evening was all business however and everyone headed to sleep quite early. Despite the tries the night before the race is never the one when you will just wake up and be refreshed. To many things are still running through your head for a big part of the night, wondering if everything is in place and what tomorrow will bring.

Well, I forgot to mention that the evening at the cabin would not end in nice outdoor quality time and grilling since it started to rain. Later on that changed to thunderstorm with quite a massive precipitation.

When we woke up and looked out the window in the early morning, everything was wet, and it kept on raining. It was not going to be the typical South East Championships.

Marcus, Me and Frank
I ate a bit and we headed to transition. Putting a towel down onto the wet parking lot was not an ideal way of setting up my spot but we were all on the same boat. It was gloomy, cool and moist. All the ground was slippery and we knew that the trail would be on the edge of being dangerous and I was warned by other races (Marcus and Frank) to watch out for wet bridges which turn to an ice ring in conditions like that.

The trail system is so fast, but no one really raced here before on the wet course and the amount of roots and rocks at speeds was definitely a concern and I have to admit I was slightly intimidated by the fact. Also it was my first truly full distance race with my new bike and I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle it.

When putting my swim cap and goggles on just before the short warm up it started to rain even more. My husband was just hiding under the tree and let me go.

First lap swim so far so good...
After having the pros start just one foot ahead of me I positioned myself and waited for the signal.
Little later we were off. I would say happily the first swim lap was quite uneventful for me besides the blow to my cheek just maybe five strokes into the start. After that I was quite left alone and not bothered. I somewhat wished I had someone to possibly follow but at the same time I enjoyed my peace of mind and lonely kind of swim. There were more swimmers on both of the buoys but nothing that would be memorable I would say. After the run back to the water for the second lap I remember my husband yelling “Come on Beata” and I was back in the water. This time around things were quite different and I had good amount of swimmers all around me. I had someone in front that I decided to follow but with time I noticed that he had tendency to zigzag and at some point I decided to just keep going on my own and when he is there he is there but when he is not I will just stick to my line. Both buoys on this lap were pretty filled with racers and the big thick line of swimmers formed. I was somewhere in between and was just trying to avoid getting hit again. I happened to be side by side with the same guy I followed before and someone else on my left. There was nowhere to go really and I just focused on the big red Xterra banner on the shore and on what I have to do next.

Heading for T1

I finally got out of the water and ran to T1 and got my gear on and headed on the trails. Just seconds later while riding the asphalt leading us to the trails I had teammate Jen bike by me…. I stayed with her until the trail entry and she manages to cut by two other races in front. The trails we encountered were wet and slimy on instant. First uphill and a root garden and I was sliding sideways.

Not even a few minutes later on a very nice and fast single track, when I was speeding down I had to run over one of the slippery roots because my bike slid to the side on the instance and my both pedals unclipped at the same time and I was gliding in the air forward and toward the tree to the right of the path. And while this slow motion occurrence takes place many things rushes quickly through your mind, I knew I was most likely going to crash. Weird thing happened however and while my body still gliding in the air and slowly started falling back down by some weird forces my both shoes managed to clip themselves back in, I landed on the saddle and managed to regain control of the handlebar. Yes, it was so weird and even though I see the whole think still happening in this extended and almost frozen in time motion, actually the whole thing probably lasted for less than a second. I was very happy nothing bad happened. And shortly after I saw riders going down or being already on the ground from the slippery bridges or roots… All of it definitely made me think twice about every smallest obstacle that I was approaching but at the same time didn’t stop me from going fast, maybe just a notch slower at times and being more cautious. I still have a vivid picture of the beautiful winy, amazingly fast and fun trails; however dark and damp this time around.  It probably took me to until the cabins and rock garden area when I finally started catching up to people.

Heading to T2
I managed to get by a few riders on the wide double track right before entering the next part of the trails. Thereafter single track changed into a grueling 3.5 mile climb, I remember seeing my husband there on the side cheering me on. I don’t remember a lot of races in this section but I definitely did pass whoever was there and at some point I did catch up finally to Margo, who was way ahead because of her awesome swim. We were somewhere half way through the climbs maybe and I tried to encourage her to follow me but I could hear her wheel behind mine only for a short while. And the climbing kept on going and going, with few leg and lung burners in between. It felt awesome to hit the top finally and do the series of fast ups and downs where I got to pass some other riders. After that was a super-fast section that seemed as it was lasting forever and I wondered at some point if I didn’t go too far, this is the place when you reach your top speed and keep on going.

Just one small creek crossing ahead...
Thankfully a minute later I saw an arrow that would drip us down into Blood Rock. Since the trail is amazingly rocky and wet there were not many racers that biked blood rock today. Most of us just grabbed the bike and walked the last and steepest section. The trail that followed it was so fast and bumpy that very shortly my both arms almost started to cramp up and I had a moment were I was thinking I was going to lose control of my bike. Thankfully this didn’t happen and shortly I was on a little smoother terrain, than a road crossing and little more climbing on a nice single track. Now I had an army of racers in front and would be in need of passing any second. To my bad luck the trail very quickly turned downwards and this was an amazingly fast section and unfortunately three riders in front of me didn’t go as fast as I would want to. I was stuck and those minutes seemed like they lasted forever and my attempts to convince the riders were good for nothing and there was no place for me to go by without cooperation from them.

Follow me guys...
A big chunk of the speedy trial was gone and nothing I could have done about it, we reached a small rock garden and I manage there to pass two of the guys. One was still going strong and we did the double drop one by one close to each other and shortly and finally I was able to make a pass. But the number of racers in front just kept on growing and the trails were getting now smoother and faster since we entered the rattlesnake trail. I dealt with most passes with no issues, but one particular got stuck in my head. I caught up to one guy that was really in no rush whatsoever, and I yelled to him that I will be passing and he instead of letting me go started pedaling faster. I said to him “you don’t have to speed up, you have to just let me go” and he replied “sorry I was eating my gel” and I guess he assumed that my place was definitely behind him. I found it so funny, seems like guys just assume that girls are slower and they should stay at their pace. I yelled to him back “I know what you were doing, it makes no difference, I still need to pass”. After he realized I biked faster than him he finally let me go. I was in my little flying zone once again, but everything stayed quite slippery and in one big ninety degree and muddy corner my both wheels lost grip. I was completely sliding sideways falling into my right, I definitely got scared, but instead of going further toward the ground my bike managed to get the grip back. I was sure I was going to hit the ground this time, but once again I saved it somehow. I yelled to the guy on the back asking if he saw it, I said “did you see it? It was awesome!” Shortly after we did come out to the lake trail which was even smoother and faster and this was the home stretch.

I flew on this section, I did hit the creek, got on the road and I was back in T2.
While putting away my muddy bike and grabbing the racing belt I started to head in the wrong direction, someone corrected me and I turned so quick that my shoes slid and it almost caused me to crash, the ground was so slippery.  The run was not fun however; it did hit me from the start. I remember Jen’s husband Tom yelling to me encouraging, but my legs were so heavy, I felt I was barley moving. With my foot hurting, the long and tiring bike course and not being conditioned for running because of foot injury the first lap felt miserable. I had pretty much every single person that I passed on the bike now catch up to me and just run by me like I was standing still. Even being in the single track didn’t help much; still I had no speed or energy in me. When I finished the whole loop around and went on the asphalt for the second time around I wanted so badly to see my husband, but he was not there. I was still not fast but it was a little bit better this time around and I was able to pick up some more speed when in the trails. In the single track there was a man that I remember from the first lap and he asked me if I was now on my second loop. I said yes and he said that I was most likely 7th overall, I just looked at him and said “really?” It sounded pretty good to me and also I didn’t remember of being ever passed by anyone in my age group or on the bike or on the run. Only think that I knew was that one girl from my age group, Melanie Etherton, last year’s ITU Cross Triathlon winner was ahead of me throughout the whole race, and at that point I didn’t know by how much any longer.

Knowing that I’m almost done helped with keeping a decent speed, but not enough to pass really anyone in a way that it would affect the race result. I pushed, ran this roller coaster trail on the opposite side of the lake; saw James one more time on the dam handing out water. Got exhausted on the muddy crossings and finally went to the final single track which spilled me onto the asphalt. This is when I saw my husband. He didn’t know obviously anyone’s positions at that point, since he missed most of the run. He was convinced however that he saw two ladies from my age group just minute or so ahead of me! He said “Beata you are in 4th”, I was not happy to hear that, but I knew there was something not right with that statement. Since I was just less than half a mile away from the finish there was no way I could make up so much time but I made sure to just keep my pace and get to the finish as soon as possible. At some point he said “Beata one girl is walking, she is so tired, she is right there!” My foot however started hurting more and more with every step, and besides it being already sore for the whole second lap, now from running on the pavement, each step started to change to cramping, sharp pain. Thankfully the course turned one last time into a tiny path on the edge of the lake, over the roots and next to picnic tables and toward the finish. The dirt was way kinder to my foot! We had people yelling loud encouraging me and the male racer next to me to finish strong. I sprinted and made sure I was not overtaken, just for the fun of it!

Yey, the finish!

I felt good about this race, but after crossing the finish line I was still not sure how I placed because of the confusion my husband created. When I sat exhausted on the chair I felt gloomy knowing that I didn’t do as good as I wanted to, but at the same time I did challenge my husband telling him there was no way for anyone to place before me. The funny part of it was that the girl that was apparently in front of me walking, had another lap to go…  Not that I’m happy for her but happy I was right and my result was as good or even better than I expected.

Sollie got pretty dirty today
I had a decent swim, an awesome bike besides the conditions and very long and slow run…

So I got only in front of me Melanie as I expected, who had only 50 seconds on me on the bike and rest of the time on the run. Apparently her run improved greatly since we raced last year here together, and mine declined, which I hope I can say was … to my food injury. Overall I had an awesome race, great result, 2nd place in Age Group, 6th overall for all Women and 17th overall including Pro Women. Seems like I had 4th best bike split and just seconds away with it from some Pro racers. I could not be happier. And not always it is all about racing. I was very looking forward to my Alabama trip, I am always happy to come back to Pelham, there is something peaceful and beautiful about this place and this is mine and my husband’s one of the most favorite places to come up to for some very earthy and peaceful time surrounded by beautiful nature…

Me and Emma Garrard

Top girls :-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Xterra Key Biscyne

Key Biscayne Xterra

Fast paced race in a super cool venue...
Lots of speedy ladies showed up today!

1st in my age group and 4th Female Overall - Finishing time, 01:33:50.
You don't see times like this to often! :-) Normally it would be just a warm up!

Products used: Fastskin Goggles from Speedo, 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper 29'er HT that Arnie helped me out with from Bike Tech with a 1x10 setup and a 34t Q-ring from Rotor. S-works Prevail Helmet, S-works shoes, Specialized Renegade Tires with Stan's Race Gold wheelset, Syntace handlebars and stem, ESI Grips, Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti pedals, Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes and Clif Shot Gels. Garden of Life every day of my life now - Thanks...

Have to be prepared on the course with my Clif Gels

Waiting for the start with Jen

Crazy that almost two months already went by since the last Xterra! Sad part is that because of my foot injury that was bothering me since I had to miss a pretty nice race in Fort Yargo, Georgia.

However resting my foot and what I mean, like completely resting it and not running at all for weeks helped tons and I could not have made a better decision on that part. I knew however that my run would not be stellar and I could care less as long as I can compete and finish the race. Nothing is worse that an injury setting you back and stopping you from what you want and love to do.
I had big hopes that my foot will hold up for this race.

We had good pre-ride the day before with my local race girls Jen, Melissa, visiting for the race May-li and my husband Pax. The problem only was that the course was not set up at all.

So we had to improvise in some way and go just by the Google Earth map provided which was the approximate of what was going to take place tomorrow. Either way we had good time and scouted as much of the course as we could.

Course Layout

The morning of the race when I headed to bike around after setting up my transition, there still was no markings on the course. We all knew we were set for an adventure without a clear view of what to expect.

Who is ready to swim?
After a long while we finally started to walk to where the swim start should be, but the start itself was already at least 30 minutes behind schedule. Water was nowhere near the calm that we saw yesterday and had now a strong chop, current and it was still dark…  I was some shoulders deep when the whistle blew and we were off. Instead of a big bright buoy which supposedly had some kind of mishap (?) we had a guy in a dark outfit sitting on a paddleboard. It was not a problem at the time since he was just some 30 yards away and we made a quick first turn around him. It was not an easy one however, since some 80 people cramped up in this one point and water was all bubbly white and people were pushing down on my legs and I remember that I could not even put my hands down since there were everyone’s legs in front of me and I was just desperately scraping on them trying to get some forward movement. And the moment I felt like I’m going to start swimming some guy on the right of me decided that my head was an awesome let’s say stress reliever and just kept pounding on it again and again with his arm! I moved away as quick as I could and I was only glad my goggles were still on.

OK, getting a little nervous

Things started finally to loosen up and all would be good if everyone wouldn’t have started to swim in what seems like different directions. I did hang to the side not wanting to be hit any longer but from now on it was less and less apparent where I was supposed to go. The absence of a bright buoy was definitely not helping here, the waves were persisting and I wasn’t sure which group of people was correct on where we were supposed to go. We were spread so wide and the difference was getting bigger and bigger and at some point I just stopped swimming and stuck my head up as high as I could to figure out where the next guy on the board is and all I got is a mouth full of the next wave pouring through and still no clear answer. I found the feet of one swimmer after a while and was happy I could finally hang with someone just to see him only seconds later flip on his back and kick me in my left wrist! Ouch! That was it, this was not going to work for me and I was on my own once again. I saw finally the two blue finishing flags but they were on the complete diagonal angle from me. There were people going to the left and some to the right. I followed right and when getting closer and closer and finding someone else to accompany my swim next to me I realized that it had to be too good to be true and there was no way we will get to the finish on this angle. Well I looked up once again and was trying to see what the majority of people were doing and this is where I noticed a guy lifting his paddle board up vertically so we can see it, way far to the left! Oh yeah, I knew it was too easy, so I made a sharp left turn and had to swim out against the current, go around the guy and after that I was finally able to head to the shore.

Almost there

In the home stretch

When I arrived at transition it was like a little ghost town, all my girlfriends were gone already and my mishap definitely did cost me some time. I transitioned quickly and started to bike out…
This is not a biker’s dream course for sure; we had a whole whooping 5 miles on the bike trails, with rest being grass on the side of the street or the parking lot and some dirt double track!

Let the fun begin

Peek a boo, can you smell the flowers?

And we all know that, biking on the grass is not easy! It is tolerable for few hundred feet but definitely big NO for a few miles!  It didn’t bother me that much however from the start before heading to the trails. When in the trail system once again I felt like saying “wow, biking after swimming is so different and so much more tiring than in a normal bike race!”  You don’t feel as fast and sharp. It’s like I am a gummy bear on the tricycle feeling.  When on the bottom of the first climb I heard a familiar voice yelling from the top “Hey Hey”... I guessed it was Jen and I saw her some seconds later all the way on the top. She already finished this section and was heading for the trails… it was good to finally see some female riders and I knew now I was not that terribly far behind. I was making nice progress with each passing minute, nothing drastic but one by one I was pealing the riders from the front off my path… Sad part was I was still behind and the precious single track miles were going by so quick…

Should have carved that more

Few memorable moments were also not all the best ones. For once on the bottom of the first trail there was a giant muddy puddle and camera guy and guy on the motorcycle positioned themselves nicely on the nice dry small track right next to it. It was my line, and they assumed I will just zoom through the middle of it to give them a good photo! It didn’t’ happen and I yelled for them to move, one guy with the camera rushed to the side but the guy on the motorcycle just stood and it forced me to turn straight to the a huge mud pile that I could not clear completely as it was so deep. I had to unclip and put my foot down and pull my bike out of it… Not a good start for sure. Later on I had I girl rider which was in in front of the guy in front of me, she wiped out on the turn. Picked herself up in the middle of the trail and assumed we enjoyed her pace… Not so much. Took me a minute to convince the guy in front to pass her, since it was painful to watch her spinning out her crank in some million granny rpms to climb a small hill... Finally I was able to pass them both.  Not much later I had group of guys on the cool section with the climb, fast downhill, little lip jump and sweet berm right behind unfortunately not enjoying this section as I would. They just snail-cruised the berm in awfully slow-speed; slowing me down now even more…

Seconds later however we got out of the trail system on the double track and then I was able to take off.

I always wanted to learn to fly
Riding was good and I was getting toward the end of the fast trail system and there were still no signs of the girls. Maybe sometime on the one before the last trail finally I caught up in the tall grass and twisty path to May-Li who had big lead on me from her great swim. I approached quickly and was able to pass with no issues and great cooperation from her side! Now I got a last bumpy, rocky section after the wooden staircase (which was not included in the race) and a massive climb to get out of the last part of the trail system. And this is when after climbing to the top and making a left turn on a long and fast double track that was heading to the parking lot where I saw Melissa right in front of me.  She had definitely an amazing bike split today and she was still fully on the gas. I cruised close behind to end up on her wheel the moment we hit the asphalt. We were now both very tired. Also here we met up with Scott who also had a solid bike split and we ended up all together suffering through what seemed like never ending zigzags on the grassy parking lot. The sun was already very strong and there was no tree cover, and we were forced by yellow tape to keep biking left, make a U turn and go right and repeat it again and again going back and forth through the huge grassy field. This part was exhausting and when we got out on the road finally we were so tried we decided to stay together. So the three of us were zooming now together, covering the last parts of the bike course. Asphalt privilege ended very shortly and we were forced back to the grass. I stayed in the safe trio for a while but at some point I decided to just take off. It was not easy to do, it was definitely easier to hang there, but it wasn’t supposed to be easy. So I pushed and was on my own in the bumpy grass, sun and wind… last turn to the dirt double track and just a short minute later I was in transition. There was someone on my wheel but I didn’t know who. Moved through T2 swiftly and headed out for the run. This was going to be the most mysterious and scary part of the course since no one really knew for sure which way the run was going.

A nice walk in the park
The run was the part that happened to be stuck the most in my memory from this race. It was so long and so brutal comparing to the rest that it’s difficult to don’t say it was the most difficult part of the race. The 10 miles of the biking went by in the blink of the eye; however the 5 grassy miles were so exhausting that most of us had nothing left for the run. The first steps on the soft and sandy beach shore confirmed how painful the next 40 minutes of my life were going to be. Every foot plant was getting heavier and heavier just minutes after the start, feet were sinking in the beach’s quicksand and I had to go left and right looking for the most favorable landing spots. My face felt now on fire, sun laid it’s full set of rays right on it and I felt like I was burning out! Just 30 meters further there was some rocky mangrove stream coming out and pouring to the ocean. I didn’t expect it and didn’t know how deep it was and just collapsed in it in my first or second step. When I got out my shoes weighted now some 5 pounds each! I have 4 miles to go this way, and keep continuing on the soft sand and this was just the beginning. At this moment I felt like my face got some overheating, Goose bumps filled, and dry reaction. I questioned now if I think I can do it, I questioned if I will be able to keep going or my body will just give up.  It was a tremendously difficult time and I can only imagine that we were all going through it no matter of the group, age, gender, or fitness level. We all were in pain and had decisions to make and had to convince our bodies to keep on going. Relief did finally come when the flags (our markers) armed toward double track on the Nature Trail that had some nice light tree cover. It helped greatly to be able to get away from the sun rays and this sand, but trail ended very quickly and we were back on the beach! It was a battle, where a few people that did still run good pace, but most of us just suffered and just were happy to move forward. This is when finally Scott caught up with me and asked me about my foot. I definitely felt the pain with every step it was not terrible to the point that I would stop running.

This sun is killing

Shortly we got to the end of the beach and had a quite massive water crossing, that was partially not walkable and we had no other option but to swim it. Some people just didn’t care and walked as far as they could with this feeling of defeat.

I looked for a rope and there was none so I swam, my shoes floated behind me and I just kept on swimming. It was tiring and nothing got easier after that. Now we got some trail running, with tree roots, rocks, overthrown trees lying in the water when we are going over them on the ocean edge in some knee high deep water. And there was more sand, more beaches and finally we climbed out to the top and to the packed dirt path. This is when I started to feel stronger. Then there was asphalt, back to the trails and back to big water crossing and back to the beach… We just did big triangle and were going back same way as we started what it seemed, but I really didn’t know for sure until I really got there.

Hi Pax

When I was still swimming through the water section I looked back and I was a little further than half way I noticed May-li entering the water. She was right there, right behind me, so close and we still had a long way to go. I didn’t see Melissa anywhere however and saw only her husband Kenny entering the crossing for the first time around. When I climbed out of the water I felt drained of energy once again and ended up on the sand once more… I wondered how long it will take May-li to just catch up and go by me. But at the same time I refused to give up and felt like putting up a fight. I imagined myself flying through the last sections of the run through the hard packed path. And it happened; I had good speed and knew I was almost there. Final beach short section and only the last gravel path was left. Now I was flying even faster, I had my husband cheering me on and the camera guys on a motor-bike right in front of my face. It definitely added to the drama of the race. There was no stopping me now and I looked back and didn’t see anyone near, I felt like however like doing my best for my own sake and kept pushing toward the end. Just 10 seconds ahead I had Scott approaching the finish line and my husband was encouraging me to try to catch him before it. All of it made my finish more interesting and more fun but at the same time even more exhausting. I’m glad I didn’t collapse right before the finish lane! I crossed, and I was so surprised, how challenging and draining this short race was. When shortly, after May-li and Melissa crossed the finish, I could see on their faces the same drainage that this race put on me…

All my friends, me, Jen, May-Li, and Melissa

Race was only 1:33 min long for me, but felt twice as long on every part of it.

Jen and I and Bike Tech

We were all glad that now we have additional to the Xterra Miami race venue in South Florida that we can enjoy.

Pax and I after the race

Me and Sollie after the race

Scared away the competition

Here is a video from the paparazzi.