Monday, May 20, 2013

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 :-)

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