Monday, December 9, 2013

Specialized Florida State Championship Series #9 - Santos Trails - Ocala, FL

Amazing Race!

Super long, technical and challenging course.
Not a surprise it was a place to have a final race for a whole series...
Lots to talk about and remember, tons of fun!
I'm shocked how quickly the series went by, seems like in a blink of an eye.
Everything flies by like rushing little butterflies, we need to catch those moments when we can and enjoy to the fullest... I think I did just that.

3rd Place Women Pro/Expert
3rd Place Women Pro/Expert overall for Series

It was quite foggy and mysterious on the race morning...
The final race was fun and tough at the same time.

Trails were very technical, hilly, rocky and demanding. This challenging terrain was very correctly chosen for the series finale. It was a race of skill, endurance, power and will. You had to have a strong mind and body to overcome everything that this race was going to throw at you mentally and physically.

During the drive to the race site there was this incredible fog everywhere, and yes it also included the Santos trail system. Now we had an explanation why the top of the Magic Mountain climb was always slick. Even more however today during the race and rocks and roots on the rest of the course were slick, especially on the first lap...

I went with my husband for a little pre-ride and after a while we discovered we really didn’t have a good plan to exit the trail system and return to the start, the same applied however to the other tens of riders and most of them decided to track backwards the initial section. We decided to go forward and were only hoping there would be some nice cross over trail that will get us out of there on time. We had only 15 minutes to spare to my start and I definitely started to feel the pressure, but thankfully very soon there was an easy trail that took us straight to the trial head.

I went through my gear quickly and jetted to the start line. Because of the lateness I didn’t have much time to think or worry about the race itself which I think was good.

We went off on the grassy field around an invisible lake and after successful clipping in this time I was somewhere in the mid pack but had to battle riders in the corners again and again while getting smacked by the shrubbery.

In the zone...
My hope to get into the trails behind Carolyn and Kathy didn’t work out but it didn’t really matter after all. Just after less than two miles later I was able to make my pass and regain the position that I wanted.

I didn’t know however how much back I was at that time to the leading ladies.

The air today was filled not only with moisture but also with lots of energy and especially guys were triple charged during the race.

I would say there was this insane rage in them and it showed in the riding and behavior on the trails. It made it more difficult for the rest of the riders to stay calm and focused on the task on hand. The trail was still slick from the dew and air was so moist that the moment I would pull to the side to let someone go by my glasses would fog up. It was not making it any easier to maneuver through those already difficult trails.

I was very proud of myself while on the John Brown trail and numerous other trails, when not only I’m on the uphill going into  180 degree turn, heading downhill, maneuvering through the boulders and at the same time doing a track stand to let the guys go by. It was definitely good skill training and a real test. It makes me only wonder how fast I could have gone if I didn’t have to perform all those maneuvers over and over again.

Being yelled on to move to the side on the bottom of the climb was much uncalled for, since it meant that what I was doing didn’t matter. But it did matter to me. We all know you need speed and momentum to get to the top of the hill so being forced to hit your brakes and move to the side when only a foot away from the bottom of the climb was very uncool. To make it better no one made the climb either way, most likely I would have gone further on my own. There was a lot of bad out there that day but also there was a lot of good.

Got my Clif!

I still was doing what I love to do and trying my best despite the circumstances, the main goal was to be safe and ride within my limits. When I finally had some very polite riders approaching I was so grateful for that, after all we are all here for the love of the sport, not much more.

Right before the finish of the first little crazy lap I decided to grab my Clif gel, and exactly the moment I did so it happened everyone in the park that owned the camera including my husband was there to take a picture. Yay, so here we go, another picture of gel shoveled in my face and me trying to breathe through my teeth, since I’m still on the verge of getting rid of my cold from the previous race…

I went into the second lap way calmer, all the traffic and all the craziness seemed to disperse. I remember being somewhere half way through and asking myself if it is a good or bad thing. I’m all nice in my comfort zone but am I going fast enough? Am I too relaxed without having anyone push me? I tried not to drift away and stay focused as much as I could. After clearing some tougher sections I even was giving myself prompts to stay motivated and joked around up with some cheering groups. And there were many of those, very polite and encouraging volunteers and people with bells which reminded me of Xterra in Richmond which is totally nuts.

When finishing the second lap, this time around I ate my gel earlier but all the cameras were gone…   What a bummer.:)

Coming around for the third lap I felt good and really didn’t have any knowledge how far away my competition was. Maybe somewhere near the first mile mark on the final lap on the most bumpy and rocky part of the course my husband said “she is right there”, I had a quick time to ask him to “define right there” and he said “30 seconds”.  We were talking Kathy, since speedy Carolyn was way further ahead…

Rock garden...

Hmm, I wish I knew this before that I was that close but there was still plenty of time and lots of crazy terrain, so a lot could change either to my advantage or not. Maybe half way through the course I saw Kathy on the flowy switchbacks. It was fast and less demanding part of the course and by the time it was over I was entering the John Brown trail right behind her with having two riders in between us.

We stayed together and handled the terrain pretty much at the same speeds. Eventually one of the riders let me pass and later on another one. Time was ticking and after we were all alone to battle it out there was less than two miles to go. It was this impossible scenario where I didn’t ride fast enough to make a pass and Kathy wasn’t riding fast enough to get away. With the last tricky section approaching on the final mile I knew it was the only place where things could change. Unfortunately for me Kathy choose the same line through the rock garden and got stuck there, therefore I got also stuck right after her, even though I cleared it perfectly just on the previous laps. By the time we both got back on the bikes the same scenario repeated and we rushed in the same manner to the finish. It felt like we had exactly the same amount of energy left in our bodies and nothing was going to change that. I remember somewhere in the middle of this crazy chase I wanted to reach for the bottle and quench my thirst, but instead I just quickly glimpsed down on it and said “not this time, you have to wait”.

The Finish!

So I rode for the last three miles without the smallest sip and knew it was not the moment to make myself feel cozy and fuzzy but do whatever I need to do to keep my chances open.

We flew to the final sandy turn, final skinny single track and to the shoot with only seconds from each other.

Finishing in 3rd in the state final and so close from the 2nd place in my first season in the Expert Class was very rewarding.

Race Podium: Carolyn, Kathy, Me

 Video from race by Jane:
I also had time to do a 4th lap but this time running and with a nice company of my hubby Pax. He stayed on the bike however and climbed proudly every single hill... :-)

Run after race...
Run after race...

Also at the same time knowing that on the finish line I was only two seconds short from second place makes me wonder about all those little things I could have done differently during the race.

You strive for this perfect ride, perfect race, perfect lap, but like we know in life there is no such thing as perfection. There are always some mistakes and little stumbles that sneak on us when the least expected, and especially when you are in the middle of a very driven and challenging race.

Since it was my third series, you would think after a few years of racing on the same courses you will get tired and bored of it.

Happy to be done...

But totally the opposite thing happened. I enjoy racing on those tracks even more and more. Being able to hit the single track at a higher speed, bomb the descent, climb with almost an ease the previously not climbable hill, carve the turn and the berm at a good speed, tackle crazy rooty and rocky terrain like it’s not even there.

Well maybe it’s not all so great, but at least it starting to feel like it more and more and this also brings such a great enjoyment.

Just a few years back coming from a 37 pound Mongoose bike and being totally clueless on how to choose the right gear for the terrain while clothed in a “Nike” outfit and some running shoes.  Not having the slightest idea how to pace myself or how to survive the second lap.

Yea yea Scotty, whatever you say... I believe you. ;-)

Looking at the wire fenced uphill in Oleta with my jaw dropped and saying “No way anyone rides that!” It was all insane, difficult, impossible, super-human stuff.

Than moving on to my beloved Specialized Safire, later on S-Works Era, with now riding a Stumjumper and flying all those impossible trails with a smile on my face and great joy on the inside.

Cheering group...
But I always keep the history in the back of my mind and remind myself or am being reminded like this weekend by Phil saying “Beata just two seasons back you rode in the Base Class”. And I realize that, and trust me, I don’t take anything for granted for the smallest moment and appreciate everything I’m doing and I got.

If you asked me just those two years back I would not even dare to dream or think of what I’m doing now. I even don’t have an explanation for any of that besides the fact that great passion, drive, love and hard work definitely changes everything around you, while you just keep on going…

Than I eat you medal!!!
First I take a kiss...

It feels good and feels right and I enjoy every moment of doing so. Overcoming all those impossible scenarios and the most demanding tasks and obstacles are what drive me the most. I love to prove to myself that when I set my mind on something I can make it happen and what is the most important, have an awesome time doing it and getting there. After all it is this journey that matters…

I wanted to thank all my friends who know me, believe in me and cheer for me no matter what and how I do. All your support and kind thoughts are so very appreciated…

The award dinner after the race was put together well and reminded me very much what Xterra organizers do during the main big events. Having the camera crew follow us around the state and film our series and creating a beautiful story that we can share was and awesome idea.

Florida State Series Overall Podium: Carolyn, Kathy, Me and Jane...

Everyone including myself enjoyed very much the race recap on the big screen while enjoying a well deserved dinner. It was awesome to see people as they are and without the riding gear on. Funny, we all look so different without our bikes and helmets on!

The Berger family Terry, Dave and Austin from Goneriding are doing much more than setting up races that we can participate in. They give us new challenges, new hopes, new adventures and amazing friends and moments that we can share with them and our families and remember long after the racing is over…

Thank you for the beautiful journey…

My Mom, Dad, Sister which are back in Poland are following my every step and know exactly were I am, what I'm doing and what kind of weather I have during the race... My dad is the one that gives me strength, he is the most optimistic and believing person I have ever met. For him everything and anything is possible and no dream is big enough. I would not be the way I am without learning everything I know from him...

Also HUGE Thanks to my husband Pax for all the time, energy, sacrifice, strength, support and unstoppable drive.
Of course my life is easier, my bike is faster my body is stronger and my dreams are possible because of 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!

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