Monday, February 24, 2014

South Florida/Coconut Cup Series # 7, Halpatiokee Park - Stuart, Florida

Halpatiokee Park

South Florida Series Final - 2nd Women Pro/Expert
2nd Overall for the Coconut Cup Series

It was a Mud Fest all the way throughout the race with no way to escape it...
Day goal - Keep the tires down and finish in one piece.

I can say mission accomplished but all of it didn't come easy but rather with tons of grinding, pushing, sliding and fighting through truckloads of thick, dark and deep mud that filled miles at the time of very narrow, bumpy and root infested bike path.

Pictures and words can't even describe what we all had to go through. But those that raced this weekend in Stuart know exactly what I am talking about.

Congrats to everyone who finished today and raced throughout whole series!

And the race series finale is here.

After many months of racing in two Florida Championship series finally the end is within reach. Well with only one last thing to do correctly; somehow bike through all this pile of mud to get to officially finish the series.

Race start. Oh if we only knew what was out there!

It was a third year in a row where I did both the Florida State and South Florida Mtb series, and need to admit it is not easy to get out and race back to back weekends for six months straight. But somehow I managed and even got used to it. Not of course without endless support of my husband who treated the series as his own and I could have not done it without him.

And since I know how tough this is and how much rearranging of your private life it takes and how much consistency, hard work and commitment, I wanted to congratulate everyone who was brave enough to spend our entire winter in Florida on the race circuit.

The Coconut Cup Series is a little smaller however than the whole Florida State ones but they offer us riders opportunity to ride and race on our local bike tracks and at the same time bring attention to our local bike shops and contribute to the biking community. It’s a win win situation for everyone.

The beginning of a very long and bumpy ride...

During our short trip to Stuart to preview the course we found out quickly that the course was going to be more bumpy than usual because of the eroded trails. Some parts of the course were a little wet but we didn’t worry much about it and headed home. Thanks to our friend Scott who was still pre riding while we were almost pulling into our driveway we found out that it started down pouring over at the park.

This 30 minutes of pouring buckets changed everything for the following day. Riders who did some of the Coconut Races but didn’t compete for overall standings simply opted out to stay home and keep nice and dry while the rest of us who already committed and had only one final  race to do unfortunately had no choice but to race. So loving it or not we headed to the site to discover how flooded the park got. There was standing water everywhere and I didn’t even bother to check before the race condition of the trails.

Quick grass opening and back to the shrubbery

Knowing however that it was going to be most likely a ride to the finish type race where crossing the finish line without a crash would be a priority, lots of riders in different classes decided to vote down the laps including us.

Right from the start we were dodging potholes and riding on the wet grass when instantly before reaching the tight single track we headed through the mud. It was very narrow and slippery in the trails and it was impossible to ride here fast, forget the racing part. The palmetto palms seem like they took over even more terrain than the previous year and really besides the wetness it was impossible to ride here fast; unless you are a careless, fearless rider who doesn’t care about crashing and trashing your bike for no particular reason. The narrow corners were hiding giant 20 inch in diameter palmetto roots which were protruding into the trails with not much worrying.

To be honest, riding that way was not fun, racing even less pleasant. And trust me the park itself is a very beautiful place to visit, I appreciate the nature and wildlife here so much, it’s great to have a relaxing walk, ride, and picnic here with the family. But I would not say it is a mountain biking race course and there are plenty of other riders who also feel the same way.

Zipping through one of many muddy water crossings

So I biked through the bumps, slippery roots and boards, trail dipped us into the water flooded deep puddle crossings. Eventually however we got to the trails which become totally unrideable; they were simply covered with black, thick and standing almost what seemed like foot tall mud! It was insane, we were riding in it sluggishly, pushing what felt like monster gears and almost standing still and even I felt like I was going backwards. I didn’t’ want my bike to stop there, I was like “please don’t stop now” I don’t want to march in this deep mud… so I pushed through but it was quite a miserable and not so fun experience. I was so dirty by now however that when I saw the next flooded area I just went right through it because why really I would care…

I was glad to finish this first almost never ending lap and go by the shoot. But I have a whole 7.5 miles of this adventure waiting for me and repeat it all over again. On the second lap it seemed like the dryer parts of the course got even drier but the muddy parts got so much more destroyed by all the riders that they were becoming even more frustrating and impossible. My bike was simply sliding left and right while making this slimy mud noise and the grinding while coming out from the sections like this was simply awful.

Enjoying a tiny bit of dry land...

I felt bad for my bike but I had to finish. Going at such a slow speed gave me some time to admire the scenery however, the beautiful grasses, wildflowers and all the gorgeous lakes surrounding the trails. And because the sky now was blue and the sun was out, all the moisture made the air quite hot and humid.

When I approached the million palmetto roots crossings for the second time I had an undeceived split second which gave my bike just enough time to slip on one of the roots and timber me in a total slow motion into the palms and sticky-scratchy brushes. I watched myself slowly just lean to the right and lay sideways while still clipped in to my bike. I landed on my right wrist and it did hurt for an instant. To help things out I had a few male riders approaching so I had to get up and get myself together to let them go by. I could care less by now by all the time I lost. I pretty much let everyone who needed to go by since they actually were still competing for overall podium, while the fate in the women’s race had been already decided by points and all there was to be done is to somehow get to the finish.

 When I mounted my bike and started riding another batch of thick mud was there and another group of riders behind, this time I got stuck, had to put my foot down into this gook and let them go by.

Forest of sharp spikes on my glove...

When back once again on my bike I realized I had top of my right glove full of sharp spikes which of course I had no time to remove. After all I was still racing. Therefore for the reminding of the race where I still had a few miles to go I kept reminding myself not to wipe my face with my right hand! Otherwise I would end up with the poky prickles in on my face!

I was sad in a way that this time around I didn’t challenge myself as much as I did in the previous years on this course. I had great battles here with my friend Melissa two years back and the pushing all my buttons Jane a year ago. Each time I raced here I must say I was on the edge and pushing the limits.

But today was different and I got second and Kathy took the win and also the 1st place overall for the Coconut Cup Series and with it the championship jersey that I won two years in a row before.

Happy to make it back to the finish!

Oh well, on the good side we both came a long way; we battled each other in the base class two years back, sport class last season and this time are racing as Experts. It’s a lot if you ask me and I can only be proud of both of us and happy that we were able to get so far in so little time. I know how much hard work it takes to become a strong rider, how exhausting it is to compete for months in a row when other people are goofing around and just simply taking it easy and watching our efforts from the sidelines…

We raced on hot and sunny days, we raced in the worst muddy conditions, we raced in the known local parks with smooth terrain and in those more technical that we visit only once per year and need to figure out on the spot. We took on the challenge in whatever was thrown at us and I’m happy we can say there was nothing that could have stopped us in our tracks. The best part of the whole muddy race is I know by bike will be cleaned perfectly Thanks to ProGold Biking Wash. Just spray it on and wait 3 minutes and spray it off. That's All !!!

Today's Podium: Me and Kathy who were willing to pedal through a pile of mud!

That’s why I always will have great respect for those who work hard, commit and go forward with full force and passion into the future…

Kathy and Myself: Muddy but happy faces...

Congrats to all who dared and hung in there!

Mrs. B and Mr. P, or Mucha's on the scooter just a day before wedding anniversary!

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, 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 - Specialized, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, Huub and Rotor Bike Components!

Until next time!

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