Monday, November 25, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 8 - Caloosahatchee Regional Park - Alva, FL

3rd place Pro/Expert - Cat 1 Women

Caloosahatchee Regional Park is one of those places where I see a good amount of people loving to ride in but also good part not liking it so much, and I belong to the latter.

For some reason I never place good in this race and really it is one of those that if I could afford to skip the race that would be the one. There is nothing wrong with the park really but also nothing that makes me excited about it in any way too. The technical sections are somewhat tough and challenging and hilly, but most of the course is flat like the lake on a windless day. Mostly we are riding through the constant sandy flat switchbacks for miles at a time with no berms in them and being surrounded by grass or something that looks like dried up sugar cane. 

Worst part for me is what I call “deep dark forest”  were we are biking in creepy darkness, dead leafless shrubbery, sharp severed branches which are leaning towards the trail and are really low so you have to duck often and all of it is on a rooty and tight path. I feel I am out of my comfort zone there and totally stripped of speed. Not surprisingly I lost most of my time in this section during the race. So maybe it’s me, but I saw people coming out of this trail looking like the panther attacked them! And by the way there was a Black Panther statute right next to the new gooey and muddy section with three steep and sudden climbs that would cause lots of trouble during the race for many racers including myself…

So with part of me wishing that I stayed home, there was another aspect that made me happy that I made a trip. We had great group of friends pre-riding the course together and simply sharing the joy of riding a bike. There was myself, Pax, Wally, pixie Zee, Dave and his friend.

We had fun that day on the course and off with ending the day on the good note grabbing some beer and pizza at a local place.

Also the whole Bike Tech Teams showed up on the race site and the Team tent was buzzing full of riders ready for a great weekend. Some of them camped out in the park and made a nice bon fire which is really cool.

On the race morning I made it to the start line maybe two minutes before the start. The wait to only one bathroom in the park was substantial and I didn’t want to waste my time going there earlier on.

I rushed through my gear making sure everything is ready, helmet strapped, shoes tight, Garmin reset, Rammstein on and I guess I was ready. Whistle went off in no time and we were gone. Miracle, one of not that many times I clipped properly and was able to accelerate from the start, seconds later I was head to head with Carolyn and at some point I was in the lead. After the grassy turn I let Carolyn and Shelly go by since they have sickly fast first lap times and there was no reason for me to be in their way. I was really hoping I could keep up with them for the whole windy and whiny grass section but somewhat I kept falling behind. That meant more wind resistance for me and more work to be done. They were right there just a few bike lengths in front but still I was not on their wheel. When we dived in to the first technical part I had Kathy’s wheel disappear so close to mine. But with passing time the gap kept getting bigger. And even though I still could see the ladies when we got out on another grassy flat part I was now further back.


The moment we got to the 5 mile mark that goes deeper to the forest, where the panther statue resides the gap got even greater. I really didn’t enjoy this section, maybe besides of for the more technical and hilly parts which were all right. And then the rows of male riders showed up and now it was for the rest of the lap mission to figure out how to let them pass safely.  Most of the guys were super cooperative but two of them decided to besides me moving to the side, ram my back wheel and hit me on my bad shoulder and make me stop in front of leaning on a dead tree. They mumbled something about them being 30 seconds behind but I said “I would have let you by in civilized way if you allowed me to” and they biked away. I still see his outfit with big blue star and red stripes stuck in my head from this experience. At some point I just went to the side and stood with my bike in my hand waiting for a group of other guys to go by. I am really getting bummed about it. To be honest putting all little losses of time during a long 25 mile race together would add up to a significant time loss. But this would not really matter much since I was so far behind the leading girls.


I knew I was riding in 4th and was really focused on and chasing for 3rd but didn’t know how far in front the third rider was. I finished first long lap of 10 miles with quite a deficit and was able to speed up some on the second lap. I made the same mistakes on the slimy hills and lost some time there once again. At some point I asked my husband to give me a time split but instead he said “don’t worry, you are fine, take your time”.

This is not what I wanted to hear, I got upset and more upset with each time I would see him and he would refuse to give me a number. Am I really that far behind that he doesn’t want to tell me? I really needed to know, I didn’t care at that point if it was 5, 10 or 20 minutes I just wanted to know where I stand. To be honest it made me so mad that it fueled me to pick up my speed and bike way faster, especially on the final half of the 2.5 lap course. At some point I got the number out and he said “4 minutes” which didn’t sound to me too convincing and I knew there was something fishy about it but didn’t know what. But if it was the truth, 4 minutes is a lot but at the same time so many things can happen during the bike race that I was not going to slow down because of it and pushed even harder on the final miles.


When I crossed the finish line I still didn’t know what place I finished in. Well it was not rocket science since there was not that many of us girls in this class today but how could I have known that Shelly pulled from the race after the first lap? I didn’t. Therefore for most of my race and especially on the second and short third lap I was chasing a ghost. That was a bummer that no one told me what was going on while I was spilling my guts out there for almost two hours but at the same time it made for a nice and unexpected surprise to finish in 3rd. I would have preferred to catch up to Shelly and win this challenge in the proper head to head competition like we did in the last race but this was out of the control on my side.

I remember having times when I was thinking a lot about my cornering, about my cadence, my heart rate, when I was asking myself if I am giving all of what I got, if I am trying hard enough. Overall I think I did handle the course way better this time around and especially the open flat parts which would cause me a lot of trouble in the past years. So I was happy about that. Weird part about it that I felt like I knew I could have pushed more but at the same time the weirdness of the course or just my riding preference didn’t allowed me to do so and I felt I was halted back all the time by all those never ending turns of the Alva course.

What I also remember from the previous years was this burning sensation and such a difficulty with many climbs on the course, which this year really beside the new slimy ones on the back side felt completely fine. That’s a great feeling knowing that things are getting better little by little.

After the presentation and first podium finish in the main race (Yey) I went for a nice 6 mile run with my Salomon Mantra's and the company of a friend – Scott Huntley. This was a perfect ending to the day and I was happy to head home.

Also I had great pleasure meeting during the race the fastest rider out there Drew Edsall and also a sponsor of our Florida Series representing the best bike manufacturer on the planet Fred from Specialized.

I wanted to thank my friend Michaela which by the way destroyed the course and placed first in the Sport class for looking over my banged up shoulder during last week's race. Very appreciated!

And like usual big thanks to my husband Pax and all my amazing Sponsors:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura USA, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, Selle Italia, KT tape and Louis Garneau!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series #7 - Loyce E Harpe Park - Lakeland, FL

3rd Place Open Women Short Track
4th place Pro/Expert - Cat 1 Women

It was a tough two days I must say...

Never got to a race before on that tired of legs. Pulled off a miracle on the short track though.

There was no gas at all during the main race, only pain. I did what I could. Only the third lap felt right, still not stellar but better. Unfortunately for the nature lover in me I got attacked by two small trees, one clipped me on the left shoulder sending me to the one on the right where I jammed my right shoulder full speed. It hurt so bad my scream echoed in the whole forest.

But here is my full story…

Besides the fact that I was looking forward to racing in Lakeland very much so, because of my adoration for the trail system here, which I find fun, challenging and also quite pretty at times, I was not ready.

My long week spiraled out of the control and I found myself heading to the race site with cramps in the left hamstring that will last for the whole weekend and totally spent and sore legs. Considering the fact that we were going to have a Short Track race on Saturday and the main race on Sunday made things even worse.

When we arrived in the park it was greyish out and it was drizzling, it didn’t look like lots of people were eager to ride. With time passing by very quickly and the course being a little damp and my body feeling not so hot we didn’t do much of pre-riding. Also the course was somewhat flipped this year and was missing some “fingers” or for the ones who don’t know the park that well, the most technical parts of the trail… ;-) Some fingers were still in but were run in the opposite direction. This part of the course requires some leg power and a strong mind and a bag of skills. I was happy having my Cupcake girl super Zee joining us during the practice, always great company.

After checking out both parts of the course, main and short track we allowed ourselves some time to kick back and absorb the day. I was not in the racing mode and was sitting there just almost numb on the inside. I knew this weekend was not going to be the way I wanted it to be, but I was about to put out there what I can and still try my best.

The short track with all the guys and girls bunched up together on the start line somehow worked out pretty well and with few guys zooming by like shooting stars left and right next to my wheels it happened to be intense but a safe start.

An instant after the first open road and entry to the single-track there was a mass of people doing a track stand and trying to get to the trail. We were all on the same boat and shortly a nice long train of riders formed and we proceeded in a very easy pace through the 0.4 of the mile in the flat and winy trail.  The moment trail opened up however and spilled us back on the open road the whole race energy changed and everyone dispersed and charged. It was intense, super hard all-out effort, now everyone was racing full speed and we had a long time to go. With a loop being little under a mile time was going by quickly however and before you know it you were back on the road making a total U turn to the grass, through the shoot, back to the road and back to the trail and we kept going.

At some point I think on the 4th lap I had Holly tracking me down, knowing that she is a road racer and a little power horse I knew it was going to be an interesting challenge. We went three times on the road in the same section head to head super hard fighting for position to get first to the turn and through the shoot.  With being ready to pass out at any time really I took on the challenge and quite enjoyed it and pushed even harder. On the 5th lap she was able to cut me on the left and be first in the turn, I made through the shoot and was able to regain my lead and follow with it throughout the final lap. Carolyn and Kathy were most of this sprint effort ahead and I knew I was not getting any closer to them today. I was happy. I think I surprised myself and was not completely sure where this energy did come from. I claimed 3rd in open women as a job well done.

Ladies in the white wave had a similar scenario with Zee and Simone having almost head to head sprints all along looking really mean and bad and super serious.

Before the main race on Sunday, I was calm, composed, with a relaxed mind but also so awfully fatigued body. No matter what I tried to do to try to recover before the race, it was not going to work and all damage had been already done. So I got what I got and did line up with it on the start line.

When the whistle went off I knew I messed up again, just like most of my recent starts I didn’t clip in properly and every second wasted doing other things than smashing pedals on the start was getting me further and further behind the ladies. I really need to refresh my starts! The ladies took off in the supersonic speeds tucked all together in the fast train while I was battling the headwind on my own. It was a lost battle. It didn’t take really any time for me to start feeling the burn in my legs. Yep this sensation was about to stay with me for most of the race. I was very disappointed and sad. Each pedal stroke created this - known to us bikers - amazing burn in the quads, that kept just repeating and repeating, and my bike felt like it was standing still, even when I was in reality pulling some decent speeds.

I just remember biking on my first lap and chasing and then chasing some more and not getting anywhere. I was just shaking my head but kept on trying. The worst parts for me where the ones that normally would be the most enjoyable sections of the trail system; let’s say like Fingers, with all the techy, power and skill needed parts which really required a fresh set of legs. This is where it stung the most and I was moving upwards like molasses instead of charging like I should. I had a battle with myself listening to the good and bad voice in my head, one telling me to back off and just treat it as training, while other encouraging me to keep on trying. I was torn at times but my personality overridden it once more and I was going to give what I got. Two laps of the same scenario went by, I was aching to enjoy it but it was so tough to do so, well until the final lap. Something changed, but I really don’t know what, the pain subsided,

I got some miraculous second wind or just some extra energy which I would not expect on the final lap and my speed started to pick up. Was it the Clif Shot I take after each lap? Not sure, but whatever it was it felt good. Being told that I had Shelly, which took off from the start like a greyhound hungry for victory was only 35 seconds ahead changed a lot also. It was all I needed to hear. I transformed once more to this driven and inspired racer and kept reducing the gap as much as I could and finally made my pass with less than three miles to go. It was after coming out of the fingers on the wide and open dirt road which led us to the narrow but fast single-track. Lots of small trees and sudden turns were in this section and I was coming in hot into some close standing trees and it happened.

The left tree clipped me on the left shoulder sending me to the one on the right where I jammed my right shoulder full speed. It hurt so bad my scream echoed in the whole forest. I screamed a few more times while already on the bike and rushing toward the finish. The final stretch of the course after leaving the beautiful trails was brutal and I was welcomed with an amazingly strong headwind and experiencing even more agony…

I got to the finish in the 4th position and first thing I rushed for was a nice bag of ice that would go straight on my poor shoulder.

Considering all the circumstances I am still very happy with how I rode on the third lap of my race, well besides the tree collision, and also with how I performed during the short track.

I find this park quite beautiful and awesome to ride in and I can only wish I could have ridden a little faster and fresher this weekend.

My arm hurts now and looks like a mini unicorn, none of which is good. Can't really lift anything or move it much. Simple things like dispensing soap or getting pepper out of the pepper shaker are tough, so I am learning new skills of doing some little things with my left hand. It’s quite enlightening to see how we depend on a single arm. But seriously let’s hope a few days of rest will take care of it and I will be back to normal.

Like always I had great time, my husband was my personal paparazzi chasing me all over the forest until the finish line, where he admitted he couldn’t keep up with me and that was the reason we didn’t get the finish picture… :)

But really it was awesome to hang with all you guys and girls out there and just simply get out and bike!!!

Like always thanks to my support:

Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura USA, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, Selle Italia, and KT tape.

Also I like to welcome my newest sponsor for 2014 and my dream of creating my own kits for racing finally is coming true– Please welcome to my Team…
Louis Garneau

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Selling my 2009 Specialized S-Works ERA Full Suspension Mountain Bike - Under 20 LBS without pedals...

Up for Sale is my 2009 Specialized Era S-works Medium Full Suspension under 20lbs w/o pedals.
 Front brain and rear brain were completely rebuilt 6 months ago from Specialized.
 It is setup with a 1x9 with a 34t Q-ring and chain guide.
 Will also include the 3x front chainring with 2x (RaceFace 32/24/Bash) and also the original 3x setup as well.
 11-34 XTR cassette
 Handlebars -- Syntace 600mm Carbon
 Stem - 90mm Syntace
 Front and Rear Shifters -- XTR
 Front and rear Derailleur - XTR
 Brakes -- Avid Juicy Ultimates Mag
 Grips -- ESI White -- will give you some extras
 Seatpost -- Sworks
 Saddle -- Selle Italia SLR
 Wheels - Different than what shows in picture - Original Roval SL with Specialized Fast Trak rear and WTB Exiwolf Front with Avid HSX rotors 140+160. Will give you extra set of RR Tires as well.
 Local Pickup or $125 shipping
 Questions feel free to ask...

Email me at if interested or wanted more information.
Thanks for looking...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 6 - San Felasco Trails - Alachua, FL

Pax and I before the race...

Once again Women Pro/Expert - 4th place.
This time after a great race in the nice and cool weather on the flowy, hilly San Felasco Trails...

It has been so warm, humid and sunny for such a long time in the south part of Florida that while packing for the trip to Alachua it didn’t even cross my mind to bring one sweater or sport jacket with me. Just shorts and shirts always was all around standard and amazingly only little over three and a half hours later I realized that I could make really good use of some warmer clothing…

And up we go...
While driving we went through some stormy clouds and Terri from GoneRiding confirmed that it rained overnight in the area. When we arrived in San Felasco Hammock Park we saw some standing potholes and moist ground. Path that leads to the trails was almost never ending and very bumpy and a few bike racks and bikes did come off the cars; as we witnessed ourselves.

Flat grassland and some small tree patches filled out the scenery. It was nice and cool and quickly we headed to the trails to find out what is awaiting for us here.

For quite a while however it had been one of those parks which somehow always got missed and therefore I never raced here before. Just knowing from what others said that it is the “roadie’s course”, and well I am definitely not a roadie, I wasn’t sure if it was best place for me to come up to and race.

Face of pain on the climb...
Right from the start it was this never ending, maybe quarter of a mile (well at least if felt like that much) grassy double track which after a quick moment turned upwards. It was nothing sudden but this small gradual climb was a leg buster. And before your legs were done screaming we were making a quick left turn to the single track, filled with moist leaf matter and slick roots. Trail was twisting and wining up and down until it spilled us out on another grassy, gradual and exposed climb. This one also hurt and it did last for a very long time. Finally the trail turned left once more where a whole two miles of very similar single track was waiting for us. After that you get out of the trail in the same grassy area and you head this time to the right for an additional 3 miles of rolling, swooshing, and root infested riding. Last mile was a mix of grass and switchbacks in the flat section near the start line. There was really nothing big, technical, man-made or in any way memorable on the course. There was however constant work that had to be put in form of maneuvering through the never ending tricky turns, hidden roots, hug begging trees and constant gradual elevation changes. There were 500 ft. of elevation gain per 7.5 mile lap which doesn’t go unnoticed for someone who rides and trains mostly in the flats.

The race morning was cold, hitting 50s as the low overnight and getting up to 70s during the race, therefore double shirt during warm-up was a must. Even though it was a beautiful, windy and sunny all the grass was soaked in the dew and the trails were damp and slippery at times. For some reasons (I guess the fall arrived here) everything was brown, very brown, it was dark under tree cover and it made it very difficult to distinguish between dead leaf matter and wet hidden tree roots. Therefore it took little bit of trust and luck, especially on the twisty and tricky descents.

Happy to be in the forest trail...

There were a few moments where my front wheel just simply slipped away on the roots and thankfully each time it was not bad enough to bring the bike down, and I was able to recover it.
Race itself was fast paced but didn’t feel short because of the length of the laps and the elevation.

I didn’t have a great start, but quickly after takeoff I tucked myself in the ladies-train and stayed close. I wondered if we were going to separate greatly on the first climb, but this really didn’t happen.  This part stung however and we were only some 30-40 seconds into the race. Not loving the sensations I found some extra strength and went around one rider when still having the leaders in sight. I followed and stayed as close as I could. When we were spilled on the grassy climb again I was just some 40 feet behind.  In the single track I could see the ladies in front of the winy trail, but it seemed as they continued to keep getting away. I guess it had to be a point when I didn’t see them much anymore and once again I was on my own.

Single track...

Having the first guys approaching was the sign that I am going to have now more riders in between the lead group and staying connected will be more difficult. And it was. In order to let the guys by I needed to slow down slightly and move to the side each time, it is a costly maneuver and will eventually accumulate to a significant time loss.

The riders were super nice however and would let me know most of the time that they need to pass and how many riders are there, and it helped big time.
It’s so important to communicate on the trails; it saves everyone time and makes things way safer.

Please remember guys, us girls don’t have our little mirrors (or rear-view mirrors) with us to see how many dudes need to pass; you got to let us know!

FOR GUYS: If you don't see this mirror on my bike or other one in my hand during the race, that means I can't see you and you have to let me know how many riders (including yourself) is about to pass!!! Thanks a TON!

Each time I crossed the shoot I could hear a group of cheering ladies who were awesome and kept my spirits high. It was super kind and much appreciated, even when I had no time to really respond or look the side while captured by the race spirit…

Coming out of the single track, yes it is gradual uphill...

I think after the first two laps I was somewhere around two minutes back behind 3rd place. Like usual I enjoyed the most my second lap but it happened to be my slowest. I cranked it up for the last lap and almost matched my first lap split but that was not enough to get any closer however and actually my time slipped away even further somehow.  All of it didn’t come without a good amount of pain, burn in the quads and distress when trying to eat or drink while gasping for air. Not easy stuff. But I made it through and this time I did cut my deficit to the leaders in half when comparing to other races.

After all I enjoyed riding and racing in this park and don’t regret for a second our trip there.

Up the grassy hill...

By the way after the race I went for the run and boy, those trails are really awesome for trail running, I really had a super peaceful and enjoyable time out there.

Through the plains...

Also I was amused and happy to see an incredible amount of ladies in different riding classes. Cat 3 race was so packed that it caused a small pileup on the start, which I saw exiting very gracefully my dear friend Zee and still finishing third in her class.
There are a lot of reasons to get out to be one of the first ones out of the start, but hard evidence shows that it’s not how you start but how you finish matters and often you have riders pulling through from the back of the field for the ultimate victory.

The finish...

Getting better in anything and getting satisfying results is a process, long, gradual process just like those never ending slopes on Alachua trails. It hurts for a while and then it gets little better. It’s a never ending journey. Nothing happens overnight, well unless you get lucky and win lottery; but still it will not make you better in anything. Otherwise you have to listen to your heart and ask it what it wants from life right now.

Race is over...

Life is full of chapters, everything changes, but right now if you get up in the morning and your gut tells you to sign yourself up, grab your bike and go to the race, then you simply must do it. Don’t let anything stop you from what matters to you the most at that moment. Life is about moments. Enjoy this process as much as you can; it might takes, months, years, sometimes lifetime to get there where you want to be. As long as you are moving forward and following what feels right, you are on the good way. Just never give up…

Like always thanks to my support:
Bike Tech Miami, Syntace, Magura USA, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, Selle Italia, and KT tape.

Representing Bike Tech

Little consolation for getting 4th and missing medal... :-)

Thank you to my husband Pax for all the beautiful pictures and most amazing support!!!