Sunday, October 27, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 5 - Markham Park - Sunrise, Florida

Markham Race.
Short track - 2nd overall
XC Women Pro/Expert - 4th

Family cheering and supporting me during the race...

This is the race that I was looking forward to. It’s my home course; it is pretty much right now my favorite park to ride in that is in relatively close proximity to home. Also last time I raced the series here was a whole two years ago. That’s a long time…

I missed last year’s race for my Xterra World Championship race in Maui and this year not being there but being here gave me some mixed feelings. I was happy but at the same time I felt I was missing something too. We just can’t be in two different places at the same time, unfortunately…

Another reason for making racing in this park special maybe not for best of the reasons is that almost exactly four years ago right in this park on the same course, on my husband’s birthday during a training ride I broke both of my arms. This crash and injury took me away from biking for almost a full year and I never knew during this time if I will ever be able to bike again...

But here I am, a little wiser, even more excited than in the past, much stronger and ready for this great race.

When I saw the course setup I was lost for words.  I didn’t feel it, nor understand it, it had no flow to it and felt like stop and go on the loop.

The trails that I knew were running in the opposite direction and were only partially included, so every corner, every rock every root was in a different place now, to make it more interesting there were new fresh connecting paths carved out that would take you suddenly from one trail to the other in the most unexpected places. I wondered sometimes if I was still in the same park. I would say here goes this one time a year possible home advantage for South Florida racers while other courses remain mostly the same for each race. That was a bummer and after riding it just partially for the second time I felt slightly better about it but still not too happy.

On the good note I had a great time being able to pre-ride the course with a bunch of friends including some fast ladies like Stefi, Candace, Josselyn, also my husband Pax, Wally and Dave and this was probably the highlight of the day.

Either way I had a short track race starting very soon and had to get ready. Yellow wave went off second and we were set for some 24-25 minutes of suffering on the not technical one mile loop around the lake. First part was relatively wide and good for passing while second half was in the smooth single-track. I was expecting it to be way more brutal than it actually was, this was based on what I experienced here two years ago on the same course. I felt better today and was able to stay around other ladies for the whole time. I was in 2nd position for most of the race and finished as such only 10 seconds behind the leader.


Since it is a local park I had my aunt, her husband and kiddos Natie and Matthew visit me during the race. Mathew, 10 years of age after seeing my short track race decided to give it a try in the Kids Race the next morning.:)

I watched and encouraged him all the way during the Sunday’s race to the finish and can only hope he will take his first race away as a positive experience.

During my XC race on Sunday I felt weird. I knew that I could and should go faster but it was just not happening. I couldn’t make sense out of it. Was it the course setup? Maybe my sore legs from running for two days prior to this race that I was excited to finally do after long months of foot pain that kept my running very scarce?

Maybe it was me trying to race with a water bottle for the first time in the short race instead of camelback? I don’t know, but the moment we got to the single-track it only took one mile for my bike to wash out from under me on the freshly carved soft corner and fall flat on my hip. Apparently right there I lost my cadence sensor. Just minutes after that I made wrong turn and almost ran into the yellow tape. I did it three more times later on in the race. It’s was so awkward, not only you are running some part of the trail in the opposite direction and you are looking on already distorted image of the trail you think you knew when suddenly there is a right turn, while at the same time there is new less visible left turn.  I would automatically go to the right and run to the tape again and again, I never did that before in all those years now of me racing bikes. I could not believe it. Whoever set this course up did set me for some frustrating adventure today. I felt and knew that girls just kept getting away further and further. Well since it was my first time with the bottle I missed the handoff on the aid station, therefore I didn’t have a fresh bottle for the whole second lap; simply I had nothing to drink! Than the passing of faster guys kept on going and at times I had to do a truck stand on the narrow edge of the trails high in the sky just to let them by. At one sections I let the three riders go and the moment I resumed my biking I heard this awful, loud, buzz or helicopter like noise. I looked everywhere around and I become obvious that it was coming out from my bike. I didn’t see anything wrong and I stopped, moved all cables around, spun the wheels and for some reasons the noise went away. After I finished I realized what I missed because the other part of the cadence sensor was all displaced and almost stuck in my spokes. 

Little later on I almost blew my back tire for the first time also, by hitting a root sticking out in the middle of the turn and looking like a giant frog (I call them dogs).

Not knowing why I felt rested, way to rested on my second lap. I wanted to go faster but I couldn’t.

Third lap was full of all the same, but this time I avoided the tapes and wrong turns. Oh yeah, third time is the charm. My speed didn’t improve however and I just tried to enjoy the park as much as I could. Most of the guys passing were super sweet and cooperative and were giving me lots of compliments and were not forcing their way by. I had a good time toward the end riding with single speed buds right behind me who inspired me to push a little bit harder and have a nice and fast last section of the course.

On the finish line I was way behind the top three girls and way ahead of fifth, so not much could have been different here. Being a little closer to the front would be very welcoming, but it was not the day to do so.


What I enjoyed today was camaraderie, so many amazing people with so much passion for what we do. And it’s not all about winning and snapping all the medals, it is so much more to it. Not everyone can win everything all the time; there are always only a few lucky ones that get to do that. It doesn’t mean that the rest should go home with their head down. I would say it should be way opposite, everyone who raced, finished and had a great time today is victorious in a way. And only us mountain bikers and racers understand how difficult it is what we do and how much work and skill and bravery it takes to be a great mountain biker.
Not that many people get to do what we do, where we are allowed to enjoy life and play tough in the dirt like we never want to grow up.

And we probably don’t want to and will not and that’s all good news...

Always big thanks to Bike Tech USA and rest of my amazing support, and especially my husband Pax who goes way beyond anyone could ask for just to make sure I have great time and great race! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 4 - Alafia River State Park - Lithia, FL

Alafia River State Park is simply beautiful...

What's more the biking trail system is quite amazing and I would say my most favorite of them all. It's flowy, it's technical, it's challenging, and it’s fun and very inspiring with its beauty...

It's difficult to get enough of it, well unless you race it and race it hard, than everything is being left right on the path...

I placed 5th today after a pretty good race of 9 - Pro, Former Pro and Expert Women...

This is the first part of the single track of the course on the race morning...
The scenery only gets better!

This is the third time for me racing in Alafia, each time the course was very different in length and difficulty. Also what was changed each time is the class that I was racing in.

Scott and Me...

Just two years ago I decided to put a stop to spending long beautiful Sunday days at work when other ladies were traveling the state and were racing their bikes like there is no tomorrow and  having a great time. I got tired of everyone else living life that I wanted to have, so I told my husband that’s it, we will need to just work around it and make it happen for me. So we did, we signed me up for the whole Florida State Series and I was about to see and learn finally myself what is out there and to put myself to the test. I fell in love with this park in an instant, but back than as a Cat 3 really starter upper I was quite intimidated by some sections of the course. I raced hard and after a tough battle I managed barley to squeeze on the side of the podium placing 5th. I was happy and unhappy at the same time. I couldn’t understand than how the girls that went faster than me did that, since I gave it all. I didn’t know if I was capable of riding any faster and what it would take to do so. So much to learn…

Bebes train coming out of the single-track...
After racing the rest of the series and getting more experience I become more comfortable and become eligible to move up to the next class. I was very unsure back than of my own decision to move up since I knew there was a new set of faster girls and new ocean of challenges waiting for me. I figured I might never see a podium again but I wanted to try. Of course not without hard work and hours put into training with a huge surprise for me I found out the following season that podium was there for me to stay, and it was not the grassy spot this time around. When I finally raced in Alafia once again I had a stellar race. I felt fast and strong, and even with not being the best sprinter I managed to pick girls one by one along the way. With only third of the last lap to go I still had one of the girls ahead, the moment I saw her I knew she was mine. I loved the fact that my husband didn’t know of my pass and expected me to finish second, but I flew like I had set of wings and just gave everything I had and made a pass and never looked back. I managed to make almost a full minute or more on her and take the victory. It was a super tough race but I loved every second of it…

The history did repeat itself once again I decided to move up one more class after winning most of the Cat 2 races in the series and becoming pretty much a series champion by actual race points considered.

Ready for my pass!

And here I am not that much later standing on the start line with the Pro/Expert/Cat 1, either way you name it lets call it the fastest set of ladies you will find in the sunshine state. I knew that you just don’t enter expert class with riders who spent a lifetime mastering the sport and just hop on the podium. I knew I signed up for long, tough and humbling but also learning adventure…
I have huge respect for everyone that I stand next to on the start line nowadays, since I know now what it takes to get here.

Our trip to the park was pretty quick and very peaceful. I learned over the years to appreciate my surroundings more and more and I enjoyed some scenic and untouched and very Florida like views from the passenger’s window. If not my husband reminding me where we were actually going I would be stopping and just snapping pictures with my camera, since it’s something that I just love to do, besides my biking…:)

When we got to the park, it was hot, way warmer than we expected. Riding those trails which seem like never ending roller coasters is not easy when the temps are that high... We enjoyed the ride however very much and were very happy with some improvements and new small sections added to the trails.

I wished I could have ridden more but I felt quite tired, from all the work and training and still I needed some energy left for the next day’s race.

Love those bridges over beautiful swampy waters...

Some clouds rolled in later on in the day, but instead of bringing some cooler air and relief they poured some rain on the course instead.

On the race morning, it was foggy at spots, even hotter than the previous day and very humid. The grass and leaves were wet, roots were slick and air was saturated.

We were soaked before the race even started. I positioned myself to the left of the field and whistle sent us off. I didn’t feel I had bad start and seemed like I was somewhere in the mid of everyone, however very quickly we approached the balustrades for the first turn and I found myself trapped there and rest of the girls went by. Not best case scenario and I didn’t really expect it to happen but it did. Either way I knew most of the ladies were going to just jet fly the first lap and I could only hope for holding on as close and as long as I could. Not only I didn’t feel as fresh as I would want to be for this type of race, my legs screamed quite early letting me know they were not or nowhere near the hundred percent that this race would require. After a while I realized I was doomed once again do race my own race and I settled in my pace.

The Finish!

Thankfully pretty soon however I was able to make a pass on one of the ladies, but rest of the field seemed to be getting away from me more and more with each passing mile. I also knew that shortly there will be another factor of bunch of fast guys ready to pass that is going to slow down my movement but thankfully this time not to halt like in the previous race. Most of the riders were super polite and worked with me nicely the best way to move on with the race, well besides only one rider who just announced “race leader coming through” and apparently was expecting that everyone will get off their bikes and stop racing on the really “no pass zone” section called The Magic Island; which is just a giant mountain in the middle of the forest with a snail like trailing path on the edge of the swamps with just enough space for one bike. We were thankfully already before the last descent before coming out of the section and I told him he needs to wait a second, when he said “NO” and thankfully found an alternative line on a 180 degree turn and he jetted away. Can’t imagine what would happen if we met just seconds before where there was really nowhere to go and not only he could have jeopardize my ride and my safety but also everyone else behind.

That's a strongly packed podium...

Oh well. I finished the first lap in 8th and I think I enjoyed most of my ride during the second lap. I was very deeply settled in my zone well until I was told that I had two ladies in front just 25 seconds away. This changed a lot, and fueled my spirit and sent me on a quest on getting to them as close and as quick as I could. I felt good again, I felt I was racing and I was in the game that I needed to stay inspired. I saw the first girl and made my pass; she told me the other girl was just ahead. Maybe what felt like a few minutes later I saw the next rider. I settled on her wheel and approached a few times for the pass but it was obvious that she was not going to make it easy for me. I decided to stay with her through the magic hill and try to make my move after that on the root infested single-track. This didn’t work and I stayed with her to the next big opening and finally was able to make my move. It was perfect this time, it did suck some energy out of me to put down the hammer and go by and get away but I was worth it and I was ahead and on my own. Now all I had to do was to keep building my distance and keep getting away… 

After the race...

Toward the end of the lap there was another girl on the side of the trail, not sure what happened there but she said she was OK. And through the shoot once again for the third lap we go. I was able to push even harder this time but like we know with time the obstacles start getting bigger and tougher the longer you are in the race. I felt strong and carried away through this very tiring and challenging course for what I consider a strong finish. I definitely wish I could have done even better, but under all circumstances I feel happy about my race.  Assuming rest of the super strong field is primarily focused on strictly bike training and racing while I need to manage my time much more carefully and set aside almost half of my training time to Xterra which takes me out running and swimming on top of my biking; I’m not going to complain. I take the fifth place finish proudly with me home…

If the next class wasn’t starting their race and my husband wanted to ride I would have gladly got out for the next lap, more relaxing this time. Yes I was tired, but this trail system is just so awesomely sweet I didn’t want to stop biking…

Instead I changed to my Salomon trail shoes and went for easy jog through this beautiful forest. Really it was a different type of experience. This time around instead of all the noise, cheering, squiring brakes and spinning wheels there was a complete silence. It was like some enchanted magical forest from a fairy tale… Huge and majestic oaks covered with moss kept the understory in the deep shade allowing only some streaks of light to get through. Tree roots were running through the path and were sinking in the bright green, still and mysterious water. Little trickles of the tiny streams could be heard only at times or the chirp of the bird or some acorn falling.
It was difficult to turn around and head back…
Brave Cupcake Pixies showing off their battle marks!
Video from race by Jane:

The moment we started to drive away from the park all I could think of was when I’m going to come back here again…

Always humongous thanks to my amazing support!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Now that I just received a new Cycleops Powerbeam Pro Trainer I needed to find a way to utilize it to the fullest. I originally was just using the Joule 3.0 that came with it but then looked into the Virtual Training software and that looks nice for the road biker with the videos and everything but I ride off-road and prefer to have specific workouts that can improve myself rather than just riding a road course. My good friend Scott turned me to that he has been using and loves it. I downloaded the software and signed up for a 30 day risk free account and was hooked the first time I used it. I was able to select specific workout programs from Sufferfest to Cyclocore to just plain interval or endurance workouts. What is great is you select the type of Plan you want to follow and it will choose a predetermined workout for the next weeks until you have completed the plan. It is like you have your own coach telling you what to do and when to do it and at what intensity. Also most of the workouts have integrated messages in the workout to prepare you what will happen or what cadence that they want you at. You can even integrate videos into the workout from Sufferfest etc.  It is unbelievable.

All I want you to do is check out their website and experience it for yourself. I have some $10 off coupon codes for the first 10 people to send me an email at that wants to sign up.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 3 - Hardrock Cycle Park - Ocala, FL

You can call it "Hell on Earth" with all the heat and monster loose climbs we all encountered on this tough course. But somehow the pain was tolerable, distance manageable, and I was in agreement with my 4th place finish among exceptionally fast Pro/Expert Ladies.

On Saturday my husband and I arrived at the Hardrock Cycle Park in Ocala. It will be first race for me this FSC season and also fist time for me and most of the riders on this unknown terrain; except maybe a few seasoned bikers who raced here before over a decade ago.

Just to make things clear, it is no longer a mountain biking park but a motorcycle and jeep paradise. The moment we pulled to the overcrowded, dusty and hot parking lot it was obvious things were going to be tough out there.

In an instant the monster dirt bike hills stood up in front of us like some type of fata morgana.

The place was packed, busy, noisy, dry dust and fumes of motorcycles gas filled the air. Mountain bikers in line like a marching ant colony kept going up and down on the exposed dirt track with monster jumps in it. What we saw there however was just scraping the surface.

I become amazed of how many people showed up to the race, they were present in hundreds. I guess I didn’t race with a Florida crowd for a while now. Crazy how many people here love, live and race bikes. All different levels and ages, focused and ready with only one goal in mind, to put themselves to the challenge and have an awesome race… Seeing lots of people that I didn’t see for a while was nice and refreshing. Very different of an environment from my triathlon race scene, I would say little more serious and intense. But I liked it.

Here is the cute hotel we stayed at.

From the start line you have only thirty meters of sandy and grassy terrain before you hit the first climb. From there on you are rolling up and down, loose and gravely quarry mountains until you get to what seems like freshly cut or trimmed single track. It was soft and mushy feeling; therefore it was not fast, consisted of small obstacles in forms of roots and rots and a few rocks here and there. Nothing major however and mostly flat. It started to get more technical with passing miles until we started to reach bigger and steeper hills and downs along the way. Some of them required great finesse and a strong mind, where often you have to stay committed in order to make it through. There were a few tough, very tough climbs which most of the racers would not be able to bike up or at least not at all times. They were steep, tall and loose at the same time. When your front wheel starts coming up it’s not the best feeling out there one could have. And then there was a drop, first one steep and narrow, pretty well padded and had a sudden ninety degree right turn on the bottom. Second one which was toward the end of the little under five mile loop had three arrows pointing down a sign that read; “Stop. Decide. Ride or Walk”.

The hill was looooong, with only a narrow path that was smooth enough for biking it safely down, rest consisted of deep clumps of rocks and dry clay. I saw riders’ bikes sliding left and right underneath them from both of the brakes being almost locked up. When you let go however you start accelerating with small chances of being able to slow down again. The catch on the bottom was another ninety degree turn to the left this time and we saw a guy going straight through to the trees instead, since he could not control his speed. After little more of single track, the race course takes out on the big jump area where we are biking exposed to the sun and dirt on the monster hill area. I think it is here where a number of racers, including myself reached speeds of 30 mph and above which was quite cool.

But to be honest I didn’t like the course after I rode it. I found it to be difficult in the energy management aspect and not really flowy. It required a lot of strength and force that I would not say that I am overflowing with in my little body.

On the race morning I was nervous, but only before the race begun. The anticipation of the surly upcoming and long lasting pain is not something that our body takes easily. It knows and it is not happy about it. But we are so stubborn that we override often our own needs in order to accomplish something that we see importance in. Standing on the start line with ladies that I could easily call mountain biking legends was awesome, but at that time I was too stressed to really fully absorb it. It did hit me during the race however when one of them Shelly gave me a complement on my riding and also after wards when I exchanged a few kind words with Carolyn.

I still so clearly remember the moment I saw them both for the first time. It was right after my first bike race ever in Oleta Park in Miami in 2008. I watched the Expert girls flying down the famous Area 51 jump section while looking superhuman to me. I loved what I saw and I could not even entertain the thought that one day I could actually stay on the same line among them and race together… I have a great respect for them for loving the sport so much and to be such great ambassadors of it to the new female riders for such a long time...

And the whistle sounded, and we all jetted to the first climb. I stayed with the lead group as long as I could until I couldn’t see them anymore. They were fast. When I reached the soft flat part of the course something that seemed like 40 male riders wanted to pass at the same time. I got annoyed and was forced to pull to the side while groups of a few dozen riders were zooming by. I was frazzled; I couldn’t ride my own race. But I kept going. I got defeated by only the steepest climbs and only by one lengthy decent. The biggest and longest descend today happened to be slimy wet, it must have drizzled overnight and the soft sand turned to a few top inches of slippery slime. Two guys in front of me started hitting their brakes so hard that I was forced to do same with mine, which caused my wheel to wash out and made me fall in place where no one really would like to fall at all.

During the first lap one of the riders from my class decided to quit the race. On the second lap the well-respected pro girl also quit. Another girl didn’t even start. I must admit that I become more in peace and confident with each passing lap. I think I enjoyed the most the second and third laps. Since however most of the classes were ending their race on lap three only experts were left on the course and they were all men besides some of us girls. This made the fourth lap quite abandoned in feeling, therefore little difficult to ride motivation wise. I was quite amazed and happy with my very consistent lap times, which were 29, 29, 28, 29 but really all were within seconds apart. I think it is a good sign.

My husband, who was all set and ready to take some new awesome pictures of my torture mecca, totally busted his tire after getting big air on one of the super jumps. Therefore he spent my first two laps working on his bike and never got it fixed. I really wanted him to get some of this action on the camera, but it was not the day for it. So the pictures we have are those from the top of the mountain of the front of the exposed track.

In essence, in between all this pain, heat, dust, wind in the hair and misery I tried to have a good time also and enjoy the moment. I cracked a few jokes here and there for spectators waiting around for riders to go by. It’s what it is all about, having a great time, celebrating life and pushing the envelope at the same time.

Numerous riders stated that it was the toughest or one of the toughest races in their entire life. And I do agree that it was very difficult; but at the same time between my triathlon racing, mountain bike endurance races and shorter XC races as the one today it’s difficult to say and pick the real winner.

I pretty much know that it is this type of suffering that always is there but somehow so very different each time it happens…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oatmeal Cookies with Organic Coconut Oil and Flax Seed

Oatmeal Cookies with Organic Coconut Oil and Flax Seed

Here is also a great link that tells you the Health Benefits of Flax Seeds

One evening my husband and I stopped by our friend’s house Jen who is an amazing mountain biker and adventure racer. We sat at the counter and there were those amazing looking cookies just staring at us. Jen offered us to try some since her finance Tom just made them. They were just so incredibly good, after finishing one I had to reach for the next one. I am not a cookie or any sweats really craving person but those cookies were delicious and had this amazing coconut flavor and aroma.

It didn’t take long for me to really want to have a basic recipe for them and I was advised not to be afraid to experiment with them and tweak things here and there.

I consider myself a pretty good cook since I grew up in Poland after all and my father just makes the best meals on the planet and I watched him cook since I was a child. So I naturally always knew how to make the most complicated and great meals. We never baked however or maybe not often enough; therefore I never had the smallest clue how to bake anything! I was sure you need some chemistry class for it, well which I took in my college (not for the baking cookies reason) but still I wasn’t sure if I can make a cookie on my own.

But I tried and right away I changed things little bit around to my liking and as my friend Mona said the cookies I made did come out to be more of the breakfast cookie and less of the desert ones. This is just exactly what I wanted. I wanted healthy, nutrition dense snack that I could take with me for my trainings and events. We travel a lot and there is just nothing more comforting than having within your reach homemade cookies packed with healthy energy and at the same time being so amazingly tasty and satisfying.

Until today each time I make a new batch, they always come out a little bit different but so adequately delicious.

Anything you can think of can go into them and please do not be scared to experiment like I am.

You can add coconut chunks, raisins, cranberries, bananas, graded apple, chopped apricot, nuts, chocolate chips, chia or flax seeds. There is pretty much no limit what you can add to them.
Fact is that no matter which way I decide to make them, they are going with me to work, to the car when I’m driving to training or to the plane when I travel for a race. And yes my husband loves them as much as I do.

Garden of Life ready for the baking to begin...

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

(When you use Gluten Free flower cookies will be Gluten free since Oatmeal are naturally free of gluten)

•             1-cups Wheat Flour or Gluten Free Baking Flower 
•             2 large Eggs
•             1 tsp Cinnamon
•             1/2 tsp Sea Salt
•             1 tsp Baking Soda
•             1 tsp Vanilla
•             1 cup Brown Sugar
•             ¾ cup Garden of Life Organic Coconut Oil
•             2 tbs Softened Butter
•             3 cups Oats
•             1 Graded Apple or 1 apple sauce
•             1 cup Raisins
•             ¼ cup Garden of Life graded Flax Seed and Chia Seed
•             ½ cup Unsweetened Coconut Chunks


Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Mixing the sugar and oil first...
Beat butter and sugars together until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. In a separate bowl, blend flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. 

Raisins, Flax and Chia Seed in flower blend, I also added this time for fun handful of dark chocolate...
Stir flour blend into wet ingredients. Add oats and raisins and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased cookie sheet. 

All ingredients mixed together and ready to go on the baking sheet and to the oven...

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool one minute then transfer to wire rack. This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

And our Cookies are ready to be served...