Monday, December 22, 2014

What does a Christmas Tree and a Fast Bike have in common?

What does a Christmas Tree and a Fast Bike have in common?

They both light up for the holidays!!!

Well at least in my house...

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Best Christmas Tree Ever !

Thank you to my supporters during the 2014 Season!

Big Thanks goes to: Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT Tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Mack Cycles, Oakley, Pocketfinder, Hawk Racing, Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains and Rotor Bike Components

Monday, December 15, 2014

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

Florida State Championship Series # 9
Final Race

2nd Place Women Pro/Expert
3rd Overall for Whole Series

(Missed 2nd overall just by 1min 20secs on my make-up race that didn't go as planned.
Also I missed 2 races for XTERRA World Championship in Maui therefore didn't have as many as my competition to drop. Still happy)

Full report...

What an amazing race.

It was such a beautiful weekend…

More than refreshing cold but also gorgeously sunny and there is just no other more vast and forestry terrain with challenging trails anywhere in Florida.

Pre riding this sweet course with my Pax and my big hero Shelly was a special experience.

Happy couple

I maybe said it before but at the same time it always seems like it’s never enough. I love when you see the right person doing the right thing. Someone who lays a lifetime of passion for riding right in front of you and floats through the trails with a joy and finesse that makes it look flawlessly easy and leaves you speechless. This beautiful harmony and connection of one with their bike and the trail is what turns something that it is so difficult and takes many years to master into an art and almost poetry.

This is where everything that we do comes together and it just makes sense and brings so much joy.
Competing with one possessing such talent is not intimidating as it would seem but rather an honor and privilege.

I’m very grateful with the opportunity that was given to me and with how far I have been able to take my passion so far... But let's race, shall we?

The course is tough this year as it is every time we race here but this time it runs in the opposite direction. Already in the first two miles it leads up to the most technical part of the whole course.

Therefore even with being quite familiar with the trail system we all knew it was going to be a long day with plenty of testing moments.

I had an idea where I wanted to be from the start, but like all things in life nothing exactly always happens as we plan it. In reality however the best is to be able to think on the go and play the best game with the cards that were dealt on that day.

The morning was cold, we were parked in the shade in 34 degree weather. Our bikes sat nicely on the beautiful Kuat Rack and we were just layering things up for the small warm-up.

Whole forest was still sleepy and if felt a little moist and frosty but the trails were really in more than perfect conditions for this final race.

It was good to see some of my supporters like KMC Chains and Pro Gold Lubricants make it to the site and be part of the event.

The moment I went to the starting line and stood there in the sun I felt good and ready to go. Even though it might be maybe the only peaceful moment in the whole event, when you just stand there and know you have two minutes to go. But at the same time it is now when the pressure accumulates and you can hear your own heart pounding in all the noisy music and announcing going on around you.

My good friend who just got into the biking recently and is doing really awesome and I’m very proud of her mentioned to me something about it while standing on the start line of her own race.  She said that even though she loves mountain biking it might not be for her since the nerves are just overwhelming before the race start. And I do completely understand here what she is talking about. Most of us experience some type of anxiety  at that moment and all I can say is that she is not alone and it is not detrimental in any way if she is meant for the sport or not. I would say that having this stomach filled with butterflies feeling and really high heart rate shows us that our body is ready to go and that we actually care and are excited about what is about to come next.

I will bring up here an example of the best Off Road Triathlete in history: the famous Conrad Stoltz aka “The Caveman” who spoke one day on this topic. He mentioned that after competing in the sport for so many years he is stripped of those feelings on the race start and actually is missing it in a way. So to bring it back and reproduce what made him feel so thrilled and nervous at the same time many years back, he signed up for a dirt bike race and felt just like that when he was waiting for his race to begin. He didn’t want to shut down the feeling but rather embrace and enjoy them. So all I can say is to keep on racing and enjoying the experiences that brings us back for more and don’t let it slow us down, because the moment the gun goes off all of it dissipates into the air.

The proof for me is that my friend who was so nervous at first ended up winning her novice class!
And for me, well the gun finally went off and every worry in the world was gone. Everything become very simple and oriented on the next step and focused on the task at hand.

We sprinted around the lake and I settled into 3rd position. For a few seconds I wondered if I should try to go around since our strongest rider was sitting now in 2nd letting another rider lead. I felt I had more to give and can speculate only now if I have made this move that I was leaning to but hesitated, if the race would unfold differently for me, at least in those beginning parts.

Into first single-track

We got into the sticks and in a sharp right turn the 4th rider sneaked on the inside and made an unexpected pass. I also saw our Shelly make her move as she jumped around the 1st rider like she was standing still and got her 1st spot to keep. I ended up sitting where I didn’t want to be but also I didn’t want to worry about it much since the race was going to be very long. I stayed behind through the lap and lost some time but nothing significant since I had an eye on the girls when going around the scoring section. I was some 10 seconds back. Not sure how this happened but on the second lap I lost a little more time but toward the end of it I started making up all my loses and was coming out of the shoot of the final lap just a few seconds back.

After the first fast section and the beginning of a little flowy trail I was sitting on the wheel and quickly worked out my first pass. Now being in 3rd I had another rider just in front of my wheel but unfortunately when I tried a few times to go around I was told that “it is not happening”. Oh well, I was not asking for permission, I knew that I will need to figure it out one way or the other. When we got to the Tom Brown trail unfortunately I lost my position again due to the 180 turn with hidden inside line that I didn’t know of. It didn’t make me happy but I was right there and watched the girls struggle with this demanding terrain. It was not easy for anyone but besides us racing now for a very long time I was very focused on what had to happen next.

Finally we did come out of Tom Brown and jetted on a short straight away to the Bunny Trail. It is so smooth, swooshy and has really nice speed and flow to it. But because of it being so flat and having this only one flowing path it is quite impossible to pass here especially without cooperation. Like usual on the final lap I feel more energetic now and if I could I would pass right away but I knew it would not be easy. So the three of us paraded this section one after one, we had also a tail of guys with us who realized what was happening  and decided to stay back, since they were all together just like we were.

Almost out of "Sink Hole" Trail
We were all in line now and the pace was fine but not really super-fast. I guess the girls didn’t realized that they gave me a nice opportunity to sit there and get even more rest. I was fine with that. I knew however that very shortly the moment this kind to us and pleasant trail ends and we get spilled onto the only long, flat double track and guys finally will be jetting by us and we will be sprinting for position.

I was looking forward to that and waiting for the trail to end. The final seconds, tape ahead, sharp right turn and you just hear gears clicking everywhere. Guys are flying fast on the right, girls are getting up to speed, I’m right there with them. Now men are gone and I’m standing, powering by the 3rd girl, I made a pass, with momentum I’m catching up to 2nd. We are still on the double track but there is an evident smooth path and the rest is covered with autumn leafs, I was on the brown leaf cover now and we were head to head looking at each other, no one was going to give up here.

Sadly even though it was pretty wide here the other rider made sure I will not get a chance to go by. I settled on the tail and after few seconds of regrouping started getting up to speed once again and this time I was aiming for the left corner where our double track would end and take us to the single track. I was full speed once again and aimed through the berries to get to the trail first through this corner, well I was cut short once again and therefore stuck for another lengthy and technical trail. This time the trail was narrow, had never ending small hills and turns and was led with numerous boulders that we had to squeeze our bike between. Definitely not the best place to make a pass but I was slowly running out of time. After all, we were past the second half of the final lap… I didn’t feel desperate in any way however, but rather kept my calm and somehow knew that things will work themselves out. I had to stop the possibility of losing a race to someone who at this point into the event is no longer faster than me but simply stays in my way and preventing me from riding faster. This did angry me in a way and I had a very strong feeling that I should not allowed something like this to continue.

Through the enchanted forest. Of course filling up on my Clif gel while enjoying the scenery!

Therefore I had to do everything I could in my power to turn the situation around and make sure the right happens and the faster rider wins the race.

My pre-planned opportunities were gone however and the only next thing that could save me would have to be not only a surprise to my opponent but also to me. The obvious was too obvious and would be cut short and trust me I watch every little corner, clearing like a hawk, but still was not getting anywhere. The Magic Mountain trail was about to end, we were just some hundred feet of the final climb. I’m on the tail, another climb, downhill, turn, roots to go over and another longer climb with a 180 degree turn. The speed amazingly slow and turn was so sharp that you had to go very wide. It was a split second call “fudge it” I went on the inside and as narrow as I could and still remember being brushed by the berry bushes and branches but my wheel was now ahead with a clean pass and I just positioned myself where I wanted to be in a whole race, ahead.

Race podium

It was to a great surprise to my opponent which was expressed verbally, but I could care less now after what I had to go through. I dipped down to a small rocky passage and went to the Magic Mountain climb, someone was cheering us on. I felt instant freedom and power. I climbed up and descended into the turn. For a split second my mind wondered that now there is a very fast trail to tackle that leads us after that to very slow and rocky section and the race will be over and that now I am in charge on what happens next. I didn’t question myself however after that, instead I felt like I grew wings and biked faster, more happily and with more energy than I ever did.

I flew the flowy downhill sections and was just diminishing the gentle uphills and got to the rocks “the sink hole” in a big lead already and peace of mind. I worked it and refused to slow down no matter how far back my competition now was sitting. I wanted to do everything right and have a perfect finish. I tackled rock gardens flawlessly and in a great spirit. The guys that caught up with me decided to stay with me to the end and said I had huge gap. I sprinted through the sandy final stretch and came out into the grass, flew down and around the tree and got to the finishing shoot with so much energy that I was sad in a way to stop. My husband of course was waiting there for me on the exit and I was glad I could bring him a satisfying result that he wanted for me and expected.

Third lap happened once again to be my fastest lap and it seems to be nowadays my style of racing and I’m pretty comfortable with that. It does create a little more challenge and unexpected elements but also makes racing a little more exciting.

Sub Zero rode as beautify today as she looks...

Last season which was my first year in the Expert class right after the start the girls in front would just get a 5 minute gap and I would not be able to ever make up for this loss. This type of racing was not as exciting since each race would not bring that much of promise. This time around however we are all head to head from the start, battling throughout and toward the finish or even at some races from the start I’m making my pass and staying ahead.

Pax about to make Sub Zero as clean as she didn't race today! ;-)

I would compare this series to my other and most favorite year where I raced Cat 2 and it was the most fun and competitive class with just so many amazing riders in it. I had blast. So only thing I can wish for the current state of racing is that we stay as competitive and close but also that more talented women joins the class to make it as challenging as racing Expert should be. Florida has more than plenty of amazing women that know how to rock their bikes, now we just need them back on the trails behind the starting line.

So I finished 2nd in the race and 3rd overall for the series and I am happy that something that was my long time wish a few years back now become my every day adventure.

Always happy to be on my bike and to compete.

Allison and I = Dream Crushers

The award ceremony and the dinner with overall awards for the series was as usual a very nice and refreshing ending to another successful series. It’s always a little weird to see riders out of their riding gear without helmets on and bikes by their side, especially when you are having trouble recognizing each other…

Overall Ladies Pro/Expert Podium

When I looked up the stage from our dinner table I thought to myself as I did so many times before. Without Goneriding, the Berger family passion for sport and continuous dedication to promote bike riding on the East Coast and Florida we all would not be here…

I’m always grateful for all they do for all of us, changing the lives of so many in ways that one cannot even imagine…

With Austin "Trouble" from Gone Riding...

For some reasons, this year everything just come and went so quickly. I jumped into bike racing not really ready since I was mentally and physically fully submerged in my main preparations for the World Championship in Maui for XTERRA. Somehow because of it I feel I didn’t submerge myself the way I would have loved to but still had a fabulous time. It happened so quickly and I should be sad on one side that racing was done, but on the other angle I was ready for a break for the longest time now. I was going nonstop now for three years pretty much racing everything I could manage with still training and working full time. It was an extreme challenge and a test of my commitment, my husband’s patience, how much I can squeeze in one day and how far I can push my body before it breaks down on me. I hit the wall before I got to Maui unfortunately and was finishing this amazing season pretty burnt out, ready to just sit down and with persisting injuries in my leg. Everything around me told be enough was enough.

I’m in my recovery and recharging mode now. And even though my mind is more and more ready and future plans are evolving for the upcoming 2015 season. I know that letting the body heal is the most important thing now I should be focusing on.

Thanks you goes to my husband Pax for his deepest believe in me and continuous dedication that goes beyond what “Thank you” can do…

The support and kindness I received throughout a year is immeasurable and greatly appreciated.
I’m happy and honored to have so many incredible, dear to me companies sharing my journey.

Thank you goes to:
Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT Tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Mack Cycles, Oakley, Pocketfinder, Hawk Racing, Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains and Rotor Bike Components

I’m looking forward what the New Year will bring me and I am full of hopes of at least another memorable and amazing season…

Until next time…

Friday, November 28, 2014

Morning ride with Louis Garneau

Morning ride with Louis Garneau

It was cool, windy and really mostly beautiful day for a nice ride with a group of fast riders.
Such an honor to ride with Louis Garneau himself and Garneau Florida.
We put some serious miles in and I did everything I could to hang for as long as possible on my mountain bike. I'm sure it would be an even better experience on a road bike but unfortunately I do not have one... Thank you for welcoming me and treating me as I belonged. Especially Thanks to Andrea from Canada for pulling me in and keeping me company on this adventure!
And of course a huge Thank You to LG for supporting me in my colorful 2014 season.

Louis Garneau, Garneau Florida and I at the beautiful Deerfield Beach

Initial miles of our ride. Still hanging in there...

Louis enjoying the ride and acknowledging my Pax

All in line with breathtaking backdrop of the ocean...

While we biked we had my Pax in our "Team Car" following us and taking pictures. We always made sure to wave and send a smile. Thank you mucha for being there, chasing us around, making us feel so important and for all the beautiful pictures!

And we did another morning ride...


Monday, November 24, 2014

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

Women Pro/Expert 2nd place

Orange grove in Alva...

Original pictures at the race -

Oh it was another very exciting weekend!

Tough race, rough conditions and really insane effort. Crashes were inevitable since the trails were slick.

On the final miles I ended up riding with a ripped off saddle…

If someone asked me if I could skip one race in the series which one would it be, it would be this one.
This is my least favorite track I guess for many different reasons. But when you look at the beautiful pictures from above, the park looks pretty neat.

View from above captured by drone

I never found a flow or never had a good race as many times as I raced here already. I didn’t want to give myself any false expectations that this time would be any different.

Down into the woods

I knew I was set up for yet another difficult challenge. To make things worst it rained toward end of the day and overnight, making conditions really rough for all of us. I knew the track will be simply slick, sketchy and quite dangerous. My short warm up confirmed it and slimy mud was everywhere besides the most sunny and exposed spots. I asked my husband to change my back tire just minutes before the race start.

Also it was pretty hot for this time of the year and really humid. I tried not to tangle my mind around all the negatives and just see what the day will bring to us next.

The gun went off. We sprinted on the long grassy stretch, I was now in 2nd right behind Shelly but the 3rd rider Josselyn just zoomed by me on my left with her “Mini Turbo Boost” and ended up in front of me going to the two humps and first single track. Very quickly I found myself feeling pretty good and ready for a pass. After a half a mile I was able to sprint on the side and regain my 2nd spot. The riding felt pretty good so far and I was making really nice progress in such a short amount of time from the start.

On the hump

Little more than two miles in I passed two male riders and was going through some slick dark corners. Out of nowhere my bike wiped out in one of them and I was lying flat on my left side. The mud was pitch black and of pudding like consistency. I grabbed my bike and mounted as quickly as I could, but just seconds later I realized my bar was substantially twisted and there was no way I would be riding the whole 20 miles of this insane terrain that way. So I had to stop, get off the bike and start fixing my bar. By this time the two riders I passed went by me. I got back on and all seemed good, thankfully guys were so nice and gave me the right of way and easy passes. Thx! We joked to be more careful from now on…

Thankfully my gap was big enough to still keep my position. But later on in the worst sections of the entire course I was no longer alone. Now for the remainder of the lap I had the 3rd girl on my tail and noticed the 4th further back at some point also. We were now first in front of a bunch of guys in the slow, rooty, twisty and wet sections which with time can become very annoying.

Later we rode the steep, narrow at times and sudden uphills and downhills. Those sections of the course are very taxing and challenging everyone’s skills, especially when the roots, sharp rocks and even the cement blocks are greased up. We got spilled on some grassy flowy trails and back to another series of challenging hills. Lots of other riders were now in our company therefore it added to the chaos. Eventually we got spilled once again to the grassy section, this is when I got passed. Two riders also went by us but just seconds later I saw one guy tumbling to the side and crashing flat on the grass. Not sure what happened really but the other guy and now girl in front started getting away. In a matter of seconds I was at her wheel now and we rode this way for the last, long windy path to the finish of the 10 mile long first lap.

One of million turns

Finally the trail ended and opened up to a bumpy and wide grassy area with some 30 meters before the lap end. This is when I decided to speed up and we were both standing up powering and racing for the shoot. I made a pass and kept ahead through the scoring section and we were spilled back again on the long grassy road and sprinting once again. After everything settled we were heading to the humps of the second lap.

I kept my position and went into this lap in 2nd. I managed once again on the first miles get ahead and put a little gap. Later on however I could see the 3rd rider just a little back while coasting some berm turns.

Thankfully this time around I didn’t make foolish mistakes on the low wooden bridges like I did on the first lap. Smallest mistake that cost me valuable seconds when I went on the wrong side following a rider in front. That changed my 10 second lead to less than 5. So it was good I rode clear now of those mistakes. But there was still a lot of trail to cover. We went through the slowest sections, fast sections and I kept my position and with time found myself alone. I covered another section of the fast open trail and dived into the dark and steep hills once again. They were slightly more challenging the second time around and when I was approaching one of the steepest ones out there I had fast riders close behind me. Knowing that on the first lap I was able to ride up ¾ the way and had my tire spinning in one spot afterwards I decided to ride it little more than half way and dismount.

Infamous uphill

In a split second I decided to do that I had this gut feeling that somehow I’m going to be regretting my choice very soon. I don’t know where those “I can feel something wrong will happen in very near future” feelings come from, but sometimes they just do. The problem is it happens so quickly that by the time you realize this feeling the decision taken had been already followed by action, therefore there is no turning back. All I see and hear is a noise of all the onlookers cheering us on. I’m getting off and pulling my bike to the side of myself as quickly as I can as guys riding really fast are approaching. Before anyone realized what happened I hear the loud cracking sound and pop and saw my saddle flying high up into the air away from the trail. My bike got hit full speed and nothing could have been done now about it. I was looking for traction under my feet since the shoes where sliding on the steep, sandy and moist concrete hill. I looked quick at my bike while running up and saw that my saddle was GONE.

I was less than 3 miles from the finish in one of the most challenging hills. I heard the voice of my husband yelling “keep going!!!” I tried to mount my bike but I was pretty afraid, there was a seat post left and some sharp edges of the carbon, everything was a blur.  There were more people that wanted to pass and the trail was really tight and narrow and still had more hills. I let people go by. Later on after an off camber concrete block downhill I tried to sit on whatever was left there. I slowly felt around and could feel some surface to sit on, thankfully the carbon rails were still there. I found myself riding or standing up or putting just a little weight on whatever was left of my saddle, sitting in what felt like a hole in very weird position. But at least there was something to put some weight on. I was afraid that all my hard work will go to nothing now since I lost so much time and would not be as efficient on the remainder of the course. 

After the race with an unfortunate broken the most beautiful Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow saddle :(

But I managed, my shorts kept getting caught on the sticking carbon pieces but I fought with it and kept on going. I was not going to give up now when I was so close. I entered finally the last single track below and then a long open section. I still had a lead and was on my own. It was exciting to ride back in that matter and also very challenging. It felt good knowing that I will be able to finish besides everything that happened today. Finally I rode in happily to the finish. I placed second after a hard battle and really all out almost 1:40 hour long and 20 mile long effort. I was some 1.5 minutes ahead the 3rd place. It was first time ever in this park that I didn’t feel disappointed. It was a nice change and quite a relief. In the first place we had today like always very fast Shelly who flew today on her home course to her victory.

I look happy here :-)
What an exciting day.

My Pax in action snapping pictures. Photo courtesy of

Shortly after awards we drove 2 hours home and my husband Pax after unpacking the bikes drove away for few hours in the office. To make our dreams come true and live life the way we want to we are always on the go and in a hurry, days seem to never be long enough. Often 15 hour long work days can be draining and really depressing and seem like there is nothing to look forward to in life. But what drives us both through these times is the next trail, the next weekend, the next adventure that is waiting for us…

Shelly and I at her little bike chain jewelry stand...

Amazing that riding a bike can have so much power. But it does.

Life is much better with a purpose no matter how insignificant it might seem to others that don’t understand; not easier, but better…

Like always thank you to my amazing support who is contributing so greatly to my amazing journey!

HUGE thank you to all my amazing support:
Big Thanks goes to: Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT Tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Mack Cycles, Oakley, Pocketfinder, Hawk Racing, Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains and Rotor Bike Components

Original pictures at the race -

Monday, November 17, 2014

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

FSC # 7 Lakeland

Short Track 1st Place
Women Pro/Expert 3rd Place

This race week can be marked as action packed as it can get.

It started with the insane and excruciating Short Track on Saturday which brought more excitement that one could ask for. To full blown fast and technical and also quite charged Cross Country Race on Sunday. I'm still trying to recover and wrap my head around some things that went on this weekend...

Normally I would jump into writing this report a little bit earlier when all the pictures are still vivid in my head and the feelings and details didn’t have a chance to vanish for good. However this time I had to wait and let my emotions settle for a bit.

After a 2.5 hour trip to the park we quickly were surrounded by the race buzz and I was invited by Shelly (Thank you!) for a very memorable pre-ride.

It was definitely an honor and a great feeling to ride the course with the best female riders Florida has. So Shelly, Carolyn, Belinda and myself paraded in full speed at this fast and really fun race course.

This was a ride to remember and the skills of those talented riders are hard to match.

I also pre-rode with my Pax the short track race course. It was pretty hot by now since it was already 3 in the afternoon and I was ready for our short track start.

The wait however was excessively long and the female riders had a disadvantage of the race beginning with a mass start in a company of hundreds of guys. I positioned myself in the front and soon after the whistle went off and I learned the hard way my first lesson.

I was getting up to a nice speed on the sandy dirt road with all other riders while one rider from behind hit my right elbow and bar and sent me swinging for traction, by the time I did regain the control same thing happened again and I was hit by another rider. This time I was pushed harder and was working on keeping my bike under control swinging left and right while other ladies from around me started to go by. When I got back to speed again we reached the entry to the short single track with a very narrow path and a little hill covered in tons of berry bushes. This is where all the madness happened and all the riders were yelling and getting off their bikes, running over the hill and even falling and being scratched up by the shrubs.

Thankfully moments later we were back on the bikes and now more organized and proceeded with the race. It was a short 1 mile loop, mostly flat, on the dirt road, small single track, and dirt road again with a strong wind, some street and really bumpy grassy stretch to the finishing shoot. The following lap started with under the ruins pass and soft (left over from cyclocross race) sand box and we were back onto the dirt road. We had 5 of these laps and they were all out efforts. After the second lap I was sitting in the 2nd positon and at some point I decided to make a move and pass for 1st. We were all going as hard as we could and exhausting ourselves equally. It did hurt. I kept my lead and had the second rider on my tail for all this time. We went through the final single track, which spilled us to the dirt road against the wind, I had no one in front therefore I had to do all the work. Unfortunately for me the second rider was sitting right on my back wheel getting a nice draft. Now we got spilled to the asphalt for a few seconds and I was about to go on the left of a road sign and onto the grass for the final 200 meters or so to the finish. Everyone was full speed now and going over 20 mph and in about one second I’m about to hit the grass and I know we will be sprinting for the finish. But what happened instead it’s still hard for me to forget and get over.

All of the sudden I felt at full speed a hard hit into the back and side of my bike and body and instantly I found myself being pushed back on the asphalt, flying in the air and trying to maneuver around somehow the road sign to the right and road to the left. All of it while my bike just swings left and right and I’m riding it only on the front wheel and having everything sloooowww doowwnnn and was just wondering how I’m going to fall and get out of it in one piece. This is most likely the last thing anyone would want to be doing right before the finish line in a 20 minute long all out suffering race. In those few split seconds in the air and having all the weirdest thoughts I felt how unfair it was that all my hard work now not only was for nothing but also I wondered what was going to happen to me next. All I can say is I was in shock cruising like this in the air and lots of riders afterward told me they saw me and my bike just flying. There was no saving this fall but luckily to me the bike was now speeding to the left and tumbling viciously on the street again and again while I was falling to the right and falling on my right side on the grass. I landed on my right leg, hip and shoulder, therefore those parts got really sore thereafter. I feel so grateful and lucky that my body did hold up and I didn't break anything, it could have been so much worst.

When I got up all in shock the 2nd rider was gone and I grabbed my bike from the street which had a totally bent bar which was locked up on the top tube. There was no fixing anything now so I picked my bike up and started running. I was out of breath and all shook up and almost started running the wrong direction to the finish line. When I approached the tents and was running my bike holding it with the twisted headset people were asking me if I was OK. I appreciated all the concern but I was just so angry and shocked. I could not believe that I got hit at full speed in a wide open space. I feel brakes were invented for a reason and should be used when necessary. But this is as far as I’m going to go with my comments.

Only thing I want to say to everyone racing out there is “As fun, exciting and meaningful bike racing may seem to us in my opinion nothing is more important than our health and safety”. And I don’t wish anyone ever would be put in the situation like this by any other rider.

So distressed, beat and frustrated I went to the hotel room awaiting still a full blown Cross Country race the following morning.

I spent a beautiful evening with my husband Pax and we tried to forget about the incident and move on, but it was so difficult to do. I ended up having a pretty sleepless night.

The next morning I was pretty tired and sore from the wreck but I was ready to tackle one of my favorite courses no matter what.

I love the challenge and try not to find too many reasons to excuse myself from a fair fight.
The start of the XC race was positioned far back before the shoot right before the bumpiest section on the grass, the one I had to run yesterday.

We were off and after an initial few seconds I was able to go by some riders and put myself in second.

We went through the shoot, under the ruins, through the sandy uphill and were on the long side of the hill which was leading us to the single track. Laps now were over 6.5 miles long and consisted of fast and flat sections and also very technical and therefore little slower passages. I managed to speed up, go around the first rider and was now in the lead. We got to the single track and I was sitting in front for a little while and maybe a few minutes later strong Shelly jumped out of nowhere on my left and made a sickly fast pass and jumped over the roots in between trees and was now our leader.

I stuck with her for a while but it did not last. Now I had two other riders on my wheel for most of the lap and I was dictating the pace. Toward the end of the lap when I was approaching the sketchiest section of the course, the First Finger I let Josselyn go by me. Now I was in 3rd and had 4th rider literary scrubbing my wheel while hanging there up on the narrow and steep ridge. When we finally got out from this section to the flat dirt road I got passed. I stayed with her for a while but later on I ended up riding my own race.

Not sure how to explain that but I felt less energetic than usual. I wasn’t sure how much time I was back now but after reaching the first lap shoot I had two girls in my eyesight, they were not far off. My second lap felt awful however and my body was hardly responsive. I just remember the pain in my right leg and just not feeling like I was having a great day. That was a very unexciting lap but I was happy to see my Pax and Mickey popping in at all different parts of the course and snapping really cool pictures of our journey.

By the end of the 2nd lap, which was my slowest I lost some additional seconds, but still nothing major. I didn’t feel too well still going up the sandy hill for the 3rd time and on the windy side of the hill. This is where a whole class of guys approached and started making a pass. It was some loss of time having all of them trying to go first into the single track. There was now just one rider of the group behind me and when we got out into the open sandy downhill he was ready for a pass. I let him go by and just seconds later when speeding on a narrow and open path he simply ran out of gears! I told him to gear up but he said “it’s all I got” ha, let’s figure the singlespeed!

So I had to make my pass now and go by him. Seconds later we had a wall ride and another singletrack now I let him go by again. There was a lot going on in this lap but I started to feel more refreshed now and was picking up my speed. Sometime later I realized I was just 10 seconds off Josselyn in front. It took very little time to catch up and I was speeding out now in a wide open bumpy section to hopefully get in the next trail first. It didn’t happen however and I had to sit on the wheel for some time but when the trail opened again I was able to nicely and with polite cooperation from the 3rd rider go by. I was speeding now and had less than 2 miles to go. 2nd place rider was some 30 seconds ahead and after clearing the rest of the technical sections of the course and some riding with the company of some other male riders we were spilled once again on the windy dirt road. This is when I saw 2nd place just a little ahead down the road. If I only had a little more time…

Now I was riding well and feeling better, too bad the race was about to end. I crossed the finish line in 3rd, 20 seconds off the 2nd, making up 30 seconds on 4th and was 1.5 minutes behind fast, as usual, Shelly.

After all it was good day in the park considering it was really rough and testing weekend. Also when I looked up our average speeds it confirmed what I felt during the race; we were riding sickly fast! And that's awesome to be able to say that for all of us ladies out there!

It was a lot of riding, waiting and racing. But the unnecessary stress and commotion took a little more out of me that I would wish for. I hope all future races are going to be the way we all perceive bike racing should be; full of friendship, healthy rivalry and fun. This is why we get up early in the morning and put our pampered and beautiful bikes on the racks and get them out on the trails. All for appreciation of good comradery and promise of new adventures.

Huge thanks to my husband Pax for all the support this weekend, mental strength and the sweetest and coolest pictures that captured the beauty of the park and essence of our race.

 Here is sample video of 1st Finger Trail that was part of our XC the Race Course... :-)

HUGE thank you to all my amazing support:

Big Thanks goes to: Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT Tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Mack Cycles, Oakley, Pocketfinder, Hawk Racing, Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains and Rotor Bike Components!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 6 - Haile's Trails - Newberry, Fl

Specialized Florida State Championship Series
Haile's Trails

2nd Place Pro/Expert

Link to all my photos from this race on Flickr

I had an amazing race just a few days after XTERRA Worlds in Maui.

Only 1 second off first place. It was tough and demanding course with tons of climbing and technical single track that worked well to my abilities. I could not be more happy with my performance and challenge that I got from my competitors. It was pretty amazing weekend.

On to the Story:

Just six days ago I was competing in the toughest race I ever did in my life on the most beautiful island of Maui. I pushed my body over its limits in this excruciating journey to an 8th place finish in the XTERRA World Championship after 3:47 painful hours. Therefore, waking up just a few days later after 20 hours of traveling and not sleeping and all the insane adjustments to the six hours’ time change and unpacking and somehow trying to gather myself together and recover here I was packing now a smaller bag and was getting ready for my next adventure.

I felt very weak and tired for only two days this week that I spend home, therefore I was not sure how my body and mind was going to handle the rigors of mountain bike racing. But I talk a lot about living life to the fullest so here we go, just go all out, give your shot and have no regrets.

Ready or not we drove up to Haile’s trails. This is one of my favorite courses, the trails here are very challenging and technical and there is plenty of climbing for an average Floridian.

Was I ready for more climbing after fighting through 5k of the upward facing goodness in Maui? Hmm, maybe not so much but on the other side 1800 feet of our 3 lap course would cover just a fraction to what I had to do just a week before. We got out with Pax on the course and oh it was chilly, dry and fresh.

I was looking forward to checking out the course since we didn’t race here for two years now. Also I didn’t know how my body was going to response to the demanding riding so soon. I felt pretty good however to my surprise and was only kind of disappointed with the initial 2 miles of the course which reminded me of the Hard Rock trails. Basically we were riding bikes on a motorbike course, which was steep, loose and really wore out. It felt like Maui all over just slightly more rough and bumpy, minus of course a few thousand climbing feet. ;-)

The last 4 miles reminded me of the course that I enjoyed from our races here in the past. Lots of fun trails seemed to be gone forever however. I was not very excited after the first loop but when I practiced a little more the beginning part of the race course I started adjusting to it a little better, mostly mentally. I think I was ready for whatever Sunday morning was going to bring.

We had an early and wonderful dinner and headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

Overnight the temperatures plummeted even more and we had a 38F low overnight. When we were loading our bikes on the Kuat rack it was only 40F. Sure It was cold and for most of the Floridians it’s a frigid weather, for me it was a nice change and it felt pretty good while hanging in the sun.

The start approached quickly on us and we had a great turnout of the Expert ladies.

We were off on a long and bumpy grassy stretch. After a turn I was in second and Shelly did come out around and put herself in the lead into the first climb. We had a series of pretty tough and technical climbs and we stuck nicely together through them. I was closely on the wheel of the second rider all the time and maybe around one mile in on a technical upward turn the girl before stumbled and that gave me an opportunity to go around and put myself in 2nd place. We still had some demanding riding to do, steep and scary at first looking descents and leg and lung burning climbs. I remember looking up on one of the climbs somewhere around mile 3 of the first lap and seeing the leading woman Shelly ahead.


And even though I was so close for the initial miles there was no signs of her after that. I felt good riding now my race and battling on my own terms this rough terrain. It is amazing how my new Specialized S-Works HT that I got from Mack Cycles handled this rugged and uneven course, laid with rocks, drops and loose and riveted descents.

In a way I though this is how World Cup racers feel on their light and fast racing machines and there is usually not a thing that they cannot handle. So yeah, my new S-Works WC Stumpjumper made me feel like probably Maja Wloszczowska feels like in her race. I named my beautiful bike Sub Zero for many different reasons but mostly of how fast and light she is and she definitely earned her name in her first mtb race. I felt in charge and in control at all times no matter what was thrown at me and she was just amazing on all the climbs. It was a painful but also joyful ride.

After crossing the shoot of the first lap I was some 45 seconds back to first place and 30 seconds ahead of 3rd place. Going to the second lap I felt pretty good but knew that all the steep climbing was going to be even more demanding now. To my surprise I was able to handle everything without major issues. At one point on one steep and long climb I had a rider next to me and I saw a whole row of other racers higher on the top walking their bikes up. I got distracted in a way and the guy next to me got off the bike and somehow I lost my traction and was forced to run my bike for some 10 seconds but thankfully I got back on quickly and was able to continue.

Rest of the yucky climbs I made all the way to the top and even the steepest one which gave me trouble on my pre-ride. I cheered myself on at that point since I was happy I was able to push thought it and not give up. Somewhere near the middle of the lap I was following the wheel of the rider in front. Little did I know that a small fork section was approaching and the rider turned to the right and just seconds later we ended up with other riders with me at a dead end and had to regroup and run the bike back to the split and get to the correct single track trail.


That cost me some 10 seconds, and even though a few seconds in over 1.5 hours race doesn’t seem that much I assure you it is plenty and I will talk about it in just a minute.

Once in a while we would get some crazy glimpse of the rock quarry and the lake far below. The views were spectacular and often the cliffs were just 10-15 away from us to the side and it was thrilling to ride full speed there through technical terrain. I felt more fatigued now in my body but somehow I managed to get exactly the same split time for my second lap.


Now I was a full minute behind first pace and some 1:45 ahead of 3rd. It was a solid 2nd but still I was eager to find out what I can do with the final lap. It was an obvious fact that the last lap was going to hurt the most but also was the most important. After the initial miles I started picking up the speed, I heard here and there 40s back, 30s back, the gap later on got reduced to 20seconds. I was pushing and definitely getting closer. Thankfully this lap went very smooth and I didn’t make any mistakes and cleared perfectly all the hills. This is where the race gets really exciting.

People cheered for me and yelled and gave me splits. Besides my apparent exhaustion by now it was exhilarating to have a super exiting fight to the finish. On the final miles eventually I spotted Shelly in front. We still had maybe half a mile of easier and winy single track to go by. I was on the gas now and I laid it all out there. I was getting closer we were just 10 seconds or less apart. Every minute I could see her clearer and clearer and shortly we got spilled on the last grassy stretch. I was right behind now sprinting while people were yelling, “Come on”, “You can catch her”.

Shelly looked back and saw that I was approaching, in split second she was now up on her pedals and sprinting for this finish shoot. Oh man, we rode into the shoot and crossed the finish line just one second apart. What an awesome and insanely excited race. I loved riding fast and chasing badass Shelly down and I think she enjoyed also being challenged and pushed and and the fact that she had to really work for her well-deserved win. I think we both had fun, this is what bike racing is about, to push your own limits and have a blast while doing it. I think we totally accomplished it today!

After all my laps were very consistent, like usual: 32:20, 32:20 and 31: 20 min laps. My final lap somehow happened to be the fastest lap on the course today even though I felt the most tired. It was pretty cool, since I never got to accomplish that before. And like my friend Jen mentioned to me I didn’t even have to switch to my running shoes after this 1.5 hours of bike riding, that was definitely nice change and a huge bonus!

So the 10 second wrong turn mistake, a 10 second on the climb blunder boiled out to the 1 second that was keeping me from a first place finish. It’s amazing how the smallest decision, gear choice on the climb, or one missed shift or someone else’s mistake all adds up on the end to the final result.  And those unimportant and first looking missed seconds often would be deciding factors of the podium placing when the riding is over. And I think those little things become so very important that they make our racing even so much more interesting and exciting, where in all the chaos and unpredictability of mountain bike racing we are still in search of perfection.

Overall it was short but a really nice weekend, I had a really good race besides still being in the recovery state and mostly I was happy to be back home and felt so welcomed by our amazing bike community. Thank you everyone who was out there motivating me to keep on turning those cranks and contributed to make this race so much more special. It was great to see you all!!!
Shelly and I after the Race...

Congrats to all the amazing racers today who had well sized “kahunas” on them to participate and compete in this demanding race. Congrats to all the strong ladies out there, very proud of all the girl power that I saw today on the course.

Since my XTERRA season is over for now I will be able to immerse myself a little more in our fun and competitive bike racing. Looking forward already to our next challenge!

And like always I’m the most grateful to Pax for everything he does for me and his endless dedication to my racing adventure…

HUGE thank you to all my amazing support:

Big Thanks goes to: Syntace, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Trainer Road, Garden of Life, Pro Gold Lubricants, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, KT Tape, Cycleops and New for 2014 - Mack Cycles, Oakley, Pocketfinder, Hawk Racing, Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains and Rotor Bike Components!

Until next time…

Please enjoy some more picture that my husband took during this race.

If you like to have Pax take pictures like this of you at your next race please message him or I on Facebook.

Link to all my photos from this race on Flickr