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.

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