Monday, April 28, 2014

XTERRA Ft. Yargo - Ft. Yargo State Park - Winder, Georgia

XTERRA Ft. Yargo

2nd Overall Woman.
Fastest bike split...

Equipment used: Specialized S-Works Epic WC from Bike Tech Miami , Louis Garneau custom Tri Kit, LG Course Helmet, LG T-Flex 2LS Shoes, LG TR-40 Bag, Magura MT8 Brakes, Syntace Duraflite Carbon handlebars, Syntace FlatForce Stem, Syntace P6 HiFlex Seatpost, Xpedo M-Force 8 Ti, NoTubes Race Gold's, Schwalbe Rocket Ron's and Racing Ralph's,  Huub Axena wetsuit, ESI Grips, Rotor crank, Rotor QX1 34t Chainring, KMC 11SL Chain, Salomon Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground, Suunto Ambit 2 S, Light and Motion Solite, Kuat NV Bike Rack, Clif Shot Gels and Garden of Life nutrition Every Day of my Life...

Early race morning. Calm before the storm...

We raced in a beautiful park, course was fast and hilly and really fun to ride on. Lake was big and cold and I wish it was a little more inviting for the swimmers. Run was long, had good amount of climbing and was quite fun and scenic. It included lots of fast descents.

Besides the swim part I had great time racing and only can wish we biked two bike loops instead of one...

"The B Team" finally is able to relax and enjoy surroundings...

I love riding my bike, I love racing my bike, I love when it involves traveling to different destinations where a new adventure awaits. It is always great to see new parks and racing on new courses and also to come back to places that were fun, challenging and worth a revisit.

I race a lot recently and maybe too much which creates lots of friction and chaos in a way in between working, training, traveling, recovering or simply being home.

The decision to come up for this race was not easy and I really waited to the last day to make up my mind. I needed rest probably the most especially that since I was still recovering from the flu and my husband was right in the middle of it. We were really not in place or mood for travel. But with no other events being close by and after Florida losing its Xterra Miami this year I would be completely short on the Xterra events for this season. And this is what I love doing the most! So ready or not we packed up and left for Georgia having one day less than two years back to accommodate everything we wanted to accomplish.

We traveled on Thursday, pre-rode the course on Friday while my husband was coughing and puffing and was making very weird noises during the whole weekend. I think the “lama” like sounds he produced become the theme of the trip and made everyone laugh… 

Race Course recorded with Suunto Ambit 2 S

Saturday there was an Xterra race planned and Sunday was a SERC Mtb Event. I wanted badly to race both the same way I did two years back but also I really dreamed about going to Oak Mountain in Alabama to pre-ride for the upcoming Xterra Southeast which will take place in just three weeks.
It was another not easy choice but I opted on racing Xterra only this weekend and headed to Alabama right after.

Ft. Yargo race for me is in this 50/50 zone. I like some aspects of it and dislike other ones. The park itself is beautiful and riding is very smooth and enjoyable however not very technical. The faster you go the more fun you will have and the constantly changing terrain with its rolling hills with time will get to you and your legs. It’s a workout for sure.

The race itself feels disproportional with the bike time being only 10 minutes longer than the run, while for most of the Xterra races the bike part takes up almost twice as much time as the run. Another problem was the swim. Even though the lake is huge and looks beautiful for the onlooker it is very unfriendly for the swimmer. Its clay brown water is very cold and very uninviting. I had a hard time here during my previous race and was not looking forward having to repeat this experience.
But being simply in the beautiful park with my husband, riding our bikes with friends, than meeting with other racers and Xterra Ambassadors for dinner was great.

One of many beautiful Dogwood trees.
The weather was beautiful; the dogwood trees were blooming and were covered with snow white flowers… The smell of the forest reminded me of my home in Poland where the scent of pine needles being kissed by the sun just fills out the air and is just so sentimental to me. I would love to have more time to enjoy and absorb this place even more.

This was also my first trip and will be first race on my new bike.

All the parts and components on it were hand-picked and simply fabulous and I can’t describe the pleasure of being able to ride on such a stunning bike. My 2014 Specialized S-Works Epic WC “Sonia” (sister of bad ass Mortal Kombat Sonya) just loved flying on the fast descents, getting air from the little bumps on the trail and digging into the corners. I love the sound the back wheel makes when you jet down full speed to a steep technical turn and the wheel just skids around fearlessly in a chaotic matter. Also I think you know that you are in love with your bike and people you are with share the feeling for their bikes when while you are walking to the hotel room and the sound of the hubs fills out the air and makes everyone look at each and smile. It’s like beautiful music to our ears… 

Transition set.

But still there was work to be done. Our preparations for the race went relatively smooth and now we just needed to get some rest before the morning start.

The race consisted of 0.5 mile swim, 10 mile bike and 4.7 mile run.

Temperatures on race morning were low but very comfortable at the same time. My transition set up went well and pretty quick and I was able to get out for a little warm up. While biking the cold air caused a stream of tears to just pour out of my eyes. A small jog and now all was left was to put my Axena wetsuit. I used to drag the wetsuit swims in the past and was miserable and uncomfortable and was fighting the fabric but now this is not the case at all. And actually the moment I put my suit on and start swimming I forget I’m wearing it since it feels almost as a second skin.

Angry swim start.

I was not happy now or was looking forward to the swim but the time was creeping on us and I needed to get into the water. The fog coming off the lake for the whole morning made it look beautiful and mysterious but also scary. I was not looking forward to this part at all. When I did get into the water and put my face down for just a minute long warm up I felt like my face was freezing. It felt so cold.

I got out and stood in the sun until I had to enter the water again for the race start. Without much warning we were off. I started out pretty easy and felt it was not all terribly bad and I was able to swim away some good few hundred feet. Now the vast of racers started to pull and kick around and I started getting quite uncomfortable. Out of the blue I was short of breath and quite distressed. My breathing was more like panting and it was impossible to swim this way free style, so I flipped on my back and it didn’t do me any good, than I tried breast stroke and free style again. Nothing worked and my lungs would not open up and relax. This is when I spotted the life guard on a kayak on the left of me and I waved my hand and swam over. I was really thinking that that’s it and this time around I’m done for good with the race and all this sacrifice and travel would go wasted. I watched the swimmers just going by me. But there was this very nice man in the kayak and I told him I could not breathe and he just said to me “take a deep breath”.  I listened and took two very slow and deep breaths one after the other and it felt so good, suddenly my lungs felt twice as big. I did thank him and let go of the kayak. At this point I didn’t know and haven’t decided yet if I will continue but wanted to give it a try. I put my face down and kept telling myself to stay relaxed, to keep on breathing. I tried to forget that everything around me now was cold, brown and very uninviting. I could not even see my own hand when it entered the water. I told myself I’m in my home pool and am just having an easy swim, I kept counting strokes “one, two, three, one two three”. It somehow worked and I got this way around the first buoy than the second (the furthest one) than the third and now I felt quite a relieved knowing it was home stretch and I will be able to finally get out of there and get on my bike.

During the swim I had to modify my breathing pattern slightly and was reaching for air more often that I normally would, but it didn’t matter as long as I was making progress and was getting to the shore.

And I did it; I made it back and am very happy that I didn’t give up. I walked over the muddy lake edge and rushed to the T1 while pulling the zip release string of my suit.

On the downhill.

By now I was a full five minutes back from the leading Woman Brook who did get out of the water in third place including men. It was some incredible time and now I knew I will have tons of work to do to try to reduce this huge deficit. There were also two or three other ladies that had better swims than me and I just couldn’t wait to start riding and get to my chase.

I got my gear on and was ready for the 10 mile bike loop. My body was soaked and it was very difficult to breathe with the sniffles because of the cold air and sickness. I didn’t waste time and I got to the first fun single track. Very quickly I realized that I will be catching up now to many people that were faster than me during the swim and that would mean plenty of waiting to try to pass.

Right from the start I did catch up to few riders and some were easier to pass then others. There were those three guys riding together and passing the third one was not a problem but the second and first become almost impossible. Each time I would announce that I wanted to pass on the left the guys would or stay in the middle and do nothing or at times actually move to the left exactly where I was going. At some point I become desperate and attempted another pass on the first guy and had to veer off the trail to try to go by and path suddenly turned to the right and I was stuck once again and even second rider went by me. I really tried so hard but they were just almost impossible. And when I repeated for the fifth time on your left one of the guys said to me “you are pain in the butt!” and my reply to it was “Thank you!” and finally I was able to make my pass. I was glad that this incident was over and now I was approaching the big power line climb. I was able to do everything as planned as far as drinking and nutrition goes. Then I loved the downhill sections and was able to keep on passing people and shortly after I was about to enter the famous Monster Mile Trail.

Coming out with "Speed of dust" of the Monster Mile Trail.
Unfortunately there were two riders right before me and besides my requests to let me go by they entered the trail. This was quite an important section since it was the most technically demanding trail and being here behind slower riders and not riding to my full potential meant not getting an edge over the competition during this very short bike ride. First was a girl that was  rolling smoothly and gently over the very steep at times hills. After her was Jeremy that I just met during this race and he was trying to convince her to let us go. But it was not happening and at some point she said she tried but really she was not able to do anything differently. So the mile went by and the next trail started and now we were on a skinny and quite demanding uphill, really one of the steepest ones out there today. This is when he desperately made a move and charged uphill somehow going by the girl on this skinny path. I was next in line and was waiting for my turn. It was a very bad place to attempt to pass but I could not wait any longer and after fighting a few beds of roots and pulling upwards on my bars I was forced to find some strength and accelerate by her some two thirds through the climb. It was exhausting but had to be done. After that I think I had a pretty awesome ride with nothing major happening. I think now finally a little away from all the traffic I started enjoying myself more and had some bonding time with my bike.

Always on the gas...
Powering up.

Half way through I had one rider pass me in the narrow single track. I went one trail by the other and realized how quickly the miles were disappearing. Shorty I did a few road crossings and was heading to the final two trails which were pretty demanding as far as additional climbing goes. I caught up here to a few other riders and was able to pass some of them and had to follow others to the T2 since path was so narrow again and it was too late to make a pass.

Beginning of the run before diving into single track.

When I started the bike leg of the race I was a whole five minutes behind Brook who was in the lead. Unfortunately I was able to gain only one minute on her and with the end of the bike I was still a full four minutes back. The other girls who were also ahead I was able to pass on the bike quite early on; one within first half a mile, another earlier mentioned girl on the Monster Mile and one more somewhere on the little metal bridge.

In transition I dropped off my bike and got to my new Salmon Sense Ultra Soft Ground shoes and this will be their debut in the race.

Flying on the downhill.

The run was not easy and it followed exactly the same path as the bike did through the wavy and hilly single-track. Than we got to the same power line climb, run on the steep and fast downhill’s and reached another longer climb. I was passing people at times but also I was being passed by some guys that I was able to overtake on the bike. One racer when going by me on the run said “you are no joke on the bike!” which I took as a nice complement. Throughout the run I wasn’t making up any time and actually was slightly slipping away and we still had quite a distance to go. The path with the bridge which will take us to the opposite side of the lake was amazingly long and this is when I was not only chasing but also I was being chased. Now two other girls were gaining time on me and I had to work really hard and really to fight for it to hold my position. The miles were disappearing slowly however the 40 second gap in between us was also diminishing. Finally I crossed the bridge, went on to the dirt path and ran into the final trail which led us upwards and around the whole Start/Finish area. Now my heart rate was sky high and my feet were moving faster than ever. I was not going to give up and let anyone catch me at that point. I flew over the roots, on the edge of the lake and up to the finish line. I finished 2nd in my Age Group and 2nd overall for Women. Brook won today’s race and had no problem keeping her time gap that she gained during her stellar swim.

Second part of Power-line surprise, another climb!
In summary I would say that besides my swim I was quite happy with my performance today. I did everything I could in my power to have as perfect race as I could. Unfortunately a lot of unplanned and unpredictable things do happen during events like this and we often have no control of how our body will react to the different circumstances, like cold water for example. To my defense a group of seasoned Xterra athletes agreed and confirmed the very unpleasing experience with not being able to breathe properly during the swim. So it felt good that it wasn’t only me, but of course I could only wish that it didn’t happen. Having however the best bike split for women and quite a decent run made me feel better and I decided to don’t overthink and drag the negatives and rather focus on positives and move on with a good attitude toward my next goal.

Up to the finish line!
Over the bridge and to last single track.

After the presentation and saying Good Bye to our friends we headed right away to Pelham Alabama to pre-ride the Southeast Championship course in Oak Mountain.

Ladies Overall Podium, myself and Brook.

I’m not going to even go there on how much fun we all had on those amazing trails. My new bike Sonia also just totally flew on everything without a second thought. I simply had a blast and just cannot wait to come back here in three weeks for the main race! So in one day we did an Xterra race in Georgia and bike ride in Alabama. The following day we headed on a little lengthy but not all so bad journey home.  It was nice to spend this weekend not only with my husband Pax but also friend Jonathan and we made sure to have great time no matter what was thrown at us. When we got home it was very late and it was time to unpack and get ready for an early rise and week at work. Like always during my work days I will be trying to recover and will be dreaming about and planning my next trip!

Happy group of Xterra Ambassadors and South East Athletes...
From the left: Jonathan, Adam, Jeremy, Marcus, Beata, Frank and James.

Funny thing is that my friend Jen told my husband that if I didn’t go to this race I would regret it later. And I think she was totally right. We left for it sick and exhausted but come back home feeling way better (but still super tired) and with a bag of new and fun memories.

Brook and I.

I am forever thankful that I can be involved in such a fun sport, travel around the country, connect with like-minded and amazing people and just live the life that I always dreamed of.

Thank you as always to all my amazing support who keeps on fueling my dreams and keeps propelling me forward!

As always thanks to...

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 and New for 2014 - Specialized, Salomon, Suunto, Louis Garneau, Selle Italia, KMC Chains, Huub and Rotor Bike Components!

Thanks for reading and until next time!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Down to Run - Half Marathon Trail Run

Down to Run 50k, 1/2 Marathon, 10k, 5k Trail Run Race at Jonathan Dickinson Park - Stuart, FL

6th Overall out of 144 Competitors
2nd Place Woman

Radar map over the park just before race start.

Results -

My race from my Suunto Ambit 2
DTR Half Marathon

Map of the 13.1 Run Course

Gear used:
Salomon Sense Pro shoes, Salomon hydration set with flask, Salomon Exo shirt and S-Lab Exo shorts, also Sunto Ambit 2 watch, Oakley Radar Edge glasses, Clif Gels and LG race belt.

After a successful performance in the South Beach Triathlon I went for a full week to work. Toward the end of the week however I started to feel under the weather and by the time my weekend was there to be taken and enjoyed I was completely sick.

It was down pouring...
I struggled with the flu for over a week and was just starting to feel little better. One thing lead to the other and my husband and my amazing friends did come up with a great idea of racing a run race. This is the perk of having highly competitive and outgoing friends; there is always somewhere to go and something to do, but most likely it will be a race to compete in.

So here we are, I’m still sick and I did entertain to do maybe a 10 k run for the sake of it but unfortunately it was already sold out. Lucky me and I got to enter the half marathon instead which still had a few spots open. Apparently it was going to be one big and competitive race with a trip to Brazil for the 50k overall winner. Early alarm was necessary since the race was planned to go off at 6:30 for the 50k and 7 am for the half. We woke up and got in the car for a 50 minute journey in the dark to Jonathan Dickinson Park.

Waiting for the bad front to subside, rain and lightning all over...
This park is huge and I only know a few trials from my previous biking here, but this time the road took us all the way to the other side which I never saw before.  Unfortunate for everyone during our drive we had monster triple and quadruple lightnings just flashing across the still dark sky. It started to rain when we arrived…

Everyone is preparing for the race start...

Besides the bad weather the place was packed with racers ready to go. After grabbing my race number now all we had to do was to wait under a roof for the rain and lightning to stop. It was down pouring pretty hard at some point and the whole terrain flooded quickly. The race was still a go but we were some 45 minutes behind schedule.

Eventually the front left us and we were ready to go off. There were rows of people on the start line and I could still feel a slight drizzle. And the race started. We went quickly around asphalt round about and right into the trails. It was perfectly overcast now and temperature was in high 70s or low 80s. I was maybe in top 6 after the start. We were running pretty fast from the beginning and weirdly I didn’t mind that at all and stayed with the guys in front. The grass was saturated with lots of standing water and mud pot holes.

And they are off!

Just a minute into the run I noticed that my friend Scott was pretty much right in front of me. We were maybe a half a mile into it on a wide saw palmetto double track. I felt surprisingly well for a sick person and really enjoyed my pace, oh if this could only last… I passed Scott and stayed ahead for a quite a while.

I still felt very strong. Pretty soon however I started hearing some footsteps behind me and it was some other guy that went by me. I think I was starting to get tired now. This weird sensation of coming down with a fever started overwhelming my body, I was feeling weaker, slower, hot, just like a sick person would feel when they are lying in bed and are not capable of much more at this moment. I really wished it was not going to last for too long and I will get a grasp and find myself again.

Little after that Scott did catch up with me and went by pretty quickly, what’s worst is there was a lady following him and after her another one.  That was not good, in a sudden I went from the lead to third place and it was just the beginning of the race, we were somewhere around mile 3 now.

The first girl dressed in a grey top looked really fast and the second in red with nice Salomon camelback looked very strong and had great pace. Now I wondered how many more is there behind and also how I’m going to hold on hopefully to stay in top three.  Now was the time also when we were  all approaching a tiny single-track which with time become like a mini obstacle course with wet roots and flooded muddy and grassy terrain. It felt more like adventure racing than trail running but I was doing everything I could and kept my eyes pealed on the red camelback. I would say those miles were the toughest and keeping the pace up while your body starts naturally to slow down was very difficult; therefore mile 3 to 5 I will remember as the most painful of all. But really it is not as simple as that and the whole race hurt, just different mile and different terrain attacked us in a different way.

Right before going to the wet wooden bridge section and completely wiping on the wet grass...

The race director had plenty of aid stations set up on the course and after skipping the first few I decided to refill my Salomon flask. It did cost me a few seconds but it was way worth it to have a little water with me just in case I was going to need it. This is when Scott and the 2nd girl got away a little further and I was hoping strongly that I will be able to get back closer. Now we were running through a wide grassy path with some big dips in it which had little wooden bridges to the sides of it and you have to know about them and go all the way to the left or right in order to avoid deep standing water in the middle. By the time I noticed the first bridge in the tall grass far to the left I was already in the hole and just simply waded quickly through it totally soaking my shoes. Now I had some extra weight to carry on my feet but thankfully just two minutes later I completely was no longer aware of it. After that we reached something that consisted as a wide double track just simply made of beach sand that led us to the more narrow trails which simply were monster sand dunes.

They continued to wave up and down at least with some 40-60 feet of sandy climbs. When I was on top of one I could see Scott far away on the one ahead. This gave me an opportunity to look around and try to assess quickly who is where. This section was very challenging and the rainy clouds left us at this time quite a while ago and the sun started peaking down and was adding to the misery and challenge. Somewhere around mile six we were on the loop on the end of the park and eventually we were going to turn to come back the same way we came.

This is the turn around loop at the 6.5 mile mark. Notice the deep soft and uneven sand...

However before that the trail turned once more to the open sandbox like road which become this wavy and sandy highway where the feet just were fighting to stay afloat. In succession we were climbing up and running down in this deep and uneven sand. This is when I realized that I started gaining distance on the girl in red. One hill after the other, each hurting more and more brought me closer and closer to her. At mile 6.6 I realized I was ready for my pass. I felt good knowing that I was full of doubt that I will be able to keep up with her but was fortunate enough and strong enough to be able to regain my position, well at least 2nd spot. It didn’t’ mean anything yet however since we were only half way through and a lot could still happen.

When I reached the wooden bridge section on the way back there was a lot of oncoming traffic since I think the 10k group was making their way out. Everyone was very kind and was cheering us on and at some point even saying “bring it home, you are in second!”. It was so nice to hear. We also had to share the skinny bridges now so timing was important here.

All the way throughout you could see bunch of happy racers!

Also in the same area I saw first time in the whole race my husband on his bike and he was ready to snap a picture. But the moment I went by him he started saying something and while still on my quest and progress forward I looked back and this is when suddenly I totally wiped out on the wet grass possibly hitting some root, I fell on my hand first, than elbow than hip, leg. I was sliding like I was on some kind of ice-skating ring. It all happened so quickly and before I knew I was up and running again and was trying to get off the mud off my hands. I found out later he was saying “Watch the root, lots of people are falling here” 

Somewhere in front was still my friend Scott and I almost got to pass him when he stopped because of leg cramps, but he kept going at a pretty fast pace.  I think he stopped quickly to grab water and this is when I passed him and this is where we went to another wide path fork.

I started to go left when Scott yelled “B are you going to the restroom?” and I yelled back “No, I’m not going to the restroom!”. I looked quickly around and realized I made a wrong turn and Scott just saved me here some time! I’m very grateful!

At some point we were head to head for quite a while under the power lines while the third place now girl was right behind on the chase.

Under power lines after I did catch up to Scott and made a pass on the 2nd girl who is right behind us...

I knew that going easier here will not be an option since throughout the whole race she had a solid and constant pace, I will have to keep my pace also up if I wanted to hold on to my position. I set myself a goal pace and max heart rate where I wanted to hang around approximately and tried not to drift away and let the pace slip. Having my beautiful Suunto Ambit 2 helped me tremendously with my pacing and planning out the race.

Each time I checked she was there and finally I reached again the grassy single track full of standing water. Now I had no one in front of me that I could see and I hoped dearly that there will be plenty of arrows and that I was not going to get lost in this humongous and so unknown to me park. I was alone for a good amount of time and went by another trail which spilled me onto a double track with an aid station and it made me feel better that I still was on a good track. I remembered most of the trails from running them opposite direction but it doesn’t take long to get lost in the park like this one.

Now I was at mile 9.45, 9.64 and couldn’t wait to reach mile 10. I was telling myself to stay strong and don’t think of the distance that was still left. I was distracting my mind with thoughts of the beautiful scenery around me and trying to forget how fatigued my body felt now. I was also shocked how good my feet felt and I was very glad with my shoe choice for this race, since my Salomon Sense Pro were just a perfect choice for this very long run and mixed terrain.

Power Girl!

I finally reached my long awaiting for mile 10 and somewhere around this time I spotted a runner with a bright yellow outfit far ahead. This confirmed me once more that I was heading in the right direction. With time I was getting closer and closer and near the final two miles I did catch up with a guy in the yellow shirt. I think he was happy I showed up there since now the favor got returned and he was pacing himself off of me. When I looked back just to check if anyone is near he asked me if I see anyone and he was happy when I said I couldn’t see anyone. Final miles were all in the open, almost blue sky and full sun beaming on us full strength. The air was very warm and humid from all the moisture evaporating. All I had to do now is to just keep my pace and bring it to the finish which thankfully I was able to see soon after. But just before that we went to some winy path full of taller palmettos and did catch up to another racer, Kenneth. He looked at me and said “really, really?!” and didn’t want me to go by and kind of elbowed me on the turn. I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not but I said “yeah, really, come on lets race!” and he sprinted out to the finish and also the guy in yellow got into the sprint. I let the guys go and battle it out and I found out shortly that they were actually running for overall Men’s podium. When they were crossing the finish line just few seconds of me ahead I was dodging the little kids of the guy with a beard. Fortunately for them and for me we all ended today on the podium. The guy in the yellow Zack finished 3rd in Overall men and I placed 2nd for Overall Women and 6th overall including men out of 125 racers. The lady in grey, Robin which passed me on mile three ended up 1st with minute and a half ahead of me. 

Finally, in the full sun and heat of the day I crossed the finish line!

Of course I was exhausted, soaked with sweat, dirty with mud all over my legs and very surprised at the same time. I think I did much better than I anticipated and would not imagine keeping that good of the pace on this demanding course while being still sick. I just had to thank my husband Pax for believing in me once again and Scott for letting me know of this fun event.

Yes, it did hurt.

After that there was some food and music and a small award ceremony. My most memorable runner of today’s race was the red camelback clad Natalia who I was chasing down for a good chunk of the race and who was following me after I made a pass on mile six.  To my huge surprise I saw her crossing the finish line some 44 minutes later. I was shocked that she didn’t make the deserved top three today and didn’t get on the podium. Very unfortunately for her she lost the sight of me when I was working hard on keeping my pace up and missed a turn and ended up running in the circles for a few extra miles in a company of other lost racers. This was sad since she is a great runner and definitely deserved to be rewarded. I’m sure however that her time will come in the next race she decides to challenge herself.

I'm just happy to be done and be able to enjoy nice and cold water...

Overall the race was very well put together by … from DTR and looks like amazing amount of people besides me had a good time today.

Scott and I. Finally relaxing and awaiting the award ceremony.
We were ready however to head home since we were completely exhausted, I know I was! But the day was still going to be much longer for me with some planned mountain biking in just a few hours and then a family dinner…

My Salomon Sense Pro's did tremendous job today!

Oh yes; it was a very long and very rewarding day at the same time. And getting finally to my bed like always felt amazingly good…

Ladies Overall Podium

Half Marathon            
Place  Name  Bib No  Age  Age Group Place  Chip Time  Total Pace
1  Bryan Sandala  83  33  1 Top Fin  1:42:49.3  7:51/M
2  Christian Gums  181  45  2 Top Fin  1:43:39.9  7:55/M
3  Robin Wecksler  205  45  1 Top Fin  1:48:23.0  8:16/M
4  Zack Kraev  209  44  3 Top Fin  1:49:31.5  8:22/M
5  Kenneth Russell  94  35  1 M 30-39  1:49:31.9  8:22/M
6  Beata Wronska  210  39  2 Top Fin  1:49:37.8  8:22/M       

66 Natalia Shelton 134 29 7 F 20-29 2:33:58.3 11:45/M

Until next time!

Monday, April 7, 2014

South Beach Triathlon - Lummus Park - Miami Beach, Florida

South Beach Triathlon

Great race, thousands of racers and spectators, beautiful location.

International Distance:
2nd Age Group, 11th Overall

Happy Muchas: Pax and Myself

So here I am getting ready for my second road triathlon in just three weeks. This time however it is a full Olympic distance or what it had been called for the past few years when the event was still under the Nautica name, International distance. But how did I end up here on the paved road again?! Not sure really, things just came out of nowhere and since I just learned how to ride a tri bike just two weeks back and I had an opportunity to borrow it one more time (Thank you Rachel!!!) than it just felt right to sign up and do it. Honestly I entertained all different options, like doing a shorter classic distance or even racing with my mountain bike to get a great workout and don’t have the stress of riding those skinny tires again. But for some reasons all other options didn’t feel right. The short distance was not that shorter than the full blown race, the fat tire division was meant for the “new to the sport” athlete whom I didn’t feel I would exactly fit the profile of; even though I was new to road triathlon but not the sport of triathlon itself. And the thought of being an annoyance to everyone who can ride faster on their road bikes and just has to go by me to be able to continue the race wasn’t cool. I didn’t feel like I wanted to be an obstacle to others and also I didn’t feel like having a bunch of people passing me when I know I can go faster with a proper bike. I think I would go nuts having people zoom by me one after another. So there was one option left for me to do the full distance and on a tri-bike. I knew I was putting myself into a disadvantage since I had close to none of the road racing and road riding experience but otherwise it wouldn’t be such a great challenge, would it? So one way or the other I ended up in South Beach…

All set for the race! Thx Clif for VIP passes!

And Wow, South Beach is quite an amazing place. It is very colorful, busy and crazy; especially for the person that is used to listening to the sounds of leaves being blown in the wind… Yes, big change.

Traffic and getting to the site and trying to find a parking lot was an adventure on its own. Biking to the race site and race meetings on those little busy streets was also interesting.

And as with just the beginning of spring in Florida it was the first day it actually got really hot. To my surprise all the Expo and meeting tents were set up right on the beach with this beautiful ocean backdrop. It was so pretty but so brutal, we were simply melting away like s’mores on the stick…

It was great to meet up at the Clif and Specialized tents and say hi to everyone.

Specialized booth at Expo with gorgeous turquoise water as a backdrop and also as beautiful Shiv!

Later on after we showered we went out for a nice Italian dinner with a bunch of friends to a local restaurant nearby. My husband was on the quest for this perfect risotto and I can only hope he found it. Looks like everyone had something delicious on the plate that night and it would be nice to come back there one day to try other delights. It was funny since I was accompanied by my husband and road triathletes like Cynthia and James but it was me and Edie (who does little bit of everything) that was going to do the race. I got some nice advice and was full of hope that I was ready for the race.

Clif booth at Expo with super friendly ladies and everything you might need for your race!

The hotel we stayed in was quite nice, small, clean with nice updated kitchen, kind of like a little modern apartment. As I was warned however this is South Beach and people come here to have a great time which equals often no sleep! Good for them, unfortunate for me however. I found out the moment I put my head down on the pillow that getting some rest before the race start will be impossible. Someone kept running up and down for most of the night slamming the door on the hallway loud every 13 seconds. The frequency did die back at some point but the slamming continued until 1:30 am and this is when I was finally able to fall asleep. Now I wonder if it would have been better if we just simply stayed home one hour away from the race site. Oh well.

On the race morning we woke up very early, somewhere around 4:30 am after maybe three hours of sleep.

Light & Motion in action, ready to set up this transition!
Still dark, almost ready to start walking to the swim start...

We ate quickly a muffin and had a little milk. And usually I love to have my morning tea and am used to sipping it throughout our drive to the race site. But this time we were only a few blocks away from transition and were going to just take our bikes there. Therefore I just had to gulp my tea and hope that I packed everything right. It was of course dark out but the streets were not empty and we saw few bikers also heading to transition. It didn’t take long to get there and temperatures outside at that time were just perfect with just a little wind. But the closer we got to the beach the windier it was. I learned quickly that most likely we were going to have another wavy and challenging swim. The transition was huge, like monster huge but it was very organized; therefore getting around and finding my spot was not a problem. We were not allowed to bring our transition bags to the bike racks for security reasons and were provided only two see through plastic bags. I kept going in and out grabbing my things and making sure I have everything set. It was interesting when I had a question about the transition and the girls right next to me informed me that there is a particular order which way bikes are facing for every number assigned, which was very new to me since in Xterra usually there is a system “first come first serve” and our bikes face wherever they want. Seconds after they looked at each other giving nice small smirks that just said “such a noob”. Sweet, I decided not to comment or bother. ..

Swim Start gathering... Sun is coming up slowly...

After that it was time to just wait. The whole early morning setup was forced by the rule that all the bikes had to be in the transition by 6 am even though Pro start was at 6:45 AM and my Age Group was planned to go off at 7:28 AM. That is a lot of waiting if you ask me but somehow I managed time wisely and very soon we found ourselves walking to the swim start. It was a long one mile walk in the dark while listening to the angry waves as a background and having flashy hotel lights by our sides.

Melissa and Myself, Xterra warriors and friends of many years. I think we are ready to go...

The sun started rising out of the water the moment we walked to the beach to watch the Pro start. There was a very strong field of much decorated racers.  It was a pleasure to watch them going off and fighting the waves.  And yes, the whole swim is going to be against the current, pretty!

After watching the Pros swim away I rushed to get in to my beautiful Axena wetsuit and get out to the water for a warm up.

What I liked was the way the start times and waves were organized.

The volunteers did carry white boards with race class written on them so we were organized by cap colors and had a person with a sign next to each class. Some classes had mass starts and some like mine a Time Trail start which was new for me but I really enjoyed it.  So no crowd next to me but instead we were staged side by side two ladies per start in our class and were sent out every five seconds. I grabbed my spot, got assigned a girl next to me and didn’t have much time to think about it or observe other starts and I was off. The waves were challenging and the water was shallow for a long time, therefore some jumping, dolphining, swimming, running and whatever else was required at the time had been implemented until of course I got to the deeper water and then what was left was to simply swim.  I felt well from the start, went around the first big buoy and was swimming away in hopes to see the next smaller buoy. It was an interesting experience since I was not alone in the water since there were swimmers everywhere, but at the same time it was not overcrowded and no one had to fight to just be able to swim straight. I enjoyed this swim format a lot. Soon I got into my groove and noticed that I was gaining on the swimmers ahead. Apparently I was doing pretty well; I was now approaching swimmers in all different cap colors from the groups that started ahead of me.

Thankfully I never saw anyone from my group which assured me that most likely the ladies where mostly behind me. The swim was long, very long however and I forgot already how amazingly long swim of one mile against the current can feel like. While at approach of the half way buoy I felt like it was just the right time to get out but we still had so far to go…

Water was deeper and less wavy in the first half a mile but the second half was quite a roller coaster. It became shallow and the waves were quite strong, I just felt like I was swimming in an elevator and was every two seconds 6 feet up than 10 feet up, 6 feet up and 10 feet up. I observed the hypnotizing dance of the yellow sand below us.  It became more crowded now and avoiding traffic in the water was the key. On one instance I did catch up to some guy that kept on swimming in zigzags and on his second turn he went in front of me cutting me totally off and the swimmer on the left of me. The guy on the left while shocked by being blocked simply decided to put his hand on me to rest and stopped us all from swimming. I pulled my face out of the water and said “Seriously!” and he apologized and we went about our swimming. Amazing that in all this wavy chaos and commotion we found a way to say something to each other…

Lots happened during those 34 minutes in the water but what is most important I was approaching now the final buoy and shortly will be heading to the shore. But just before that I got so excited to confirm that it was time finally to turn that I stuck out my head with mouth wide open and got delicious gulp of salty water and I was only hoping it would not give me a tummy ache later on in the race.

The waves now were pulling me back and pushing forward and it was easier to just follow the rhythm of the ocean rather than fight it.

I reached soft sand and rushed to the giant transition area with thousands of bikes waiting for the racers. The path that was leading to my bike was a little different than I was planning to take since traffic had been directed by the volunteers and everyone had to figure things out on the go. I almost overran my spot but thankfully grasped myself quickly and started gearing up for the ride.

Quick glimpse around and all the bikes that had been racked next to mine from my division were still there, that was a good sign. In a short while I was ready to go I think, it was not a time to question myself for sure. I was ready to take this “tiny pony” for a ride and tackle this very new to me terrain. I exited the transition after the long run with the bike and got to the mounting line. Right from the start there was good amount of people getting on their bikes. But all of it didn’t matter, nothing mattered anymore, not how many people there were around me, not how long of a ride I had ahead, not how many bridges there were that I never rode before or even that I’m totally not in my element ...

Looks like big chase group behind me, no worries I already went by them... :-)
I didn’t care or think twice that people had aero wheels, aero helmets, that they did it many more times that I did. I didn’t even think twice that I’m in some kind of disadvantage with no road experience and that I was rocking my mountain biking shoes, pedals, helmet and a borrowed bike…

I was ready to go and quite excited to see what will happen. The moment I reached the pedals the gas was on and there was no stopping me. I lost the fear of bumps, turns and didn’t worry how the bridge ride or passing will go. All I felt was a fire in my quads and hamstrings and kept on pushing and thinking how relaxed I was. When I looked down at the bike computer I saw 24.5 miles per hour while on the first causeway. The beautiful water view homes with giant yachts were filling out the scenery. There was a nice long stretch and my speed to my surprise stayed consistent and I felt pretty good.

Now I'm having fun, love being on the bike even if it's not mine.

On the first bridge (and there was 4 total that I will have to ride over twice in both directions) I had to figure out quickly my gearing and how I was going to approach it. It was not a problem at all and all my worries for past few days now looked so unnecessary. I picked the right gear and spun up as quick as I could passing quite a few riders, geared up while on top and was ready for my first fast decent. I was stressing about this part a lot wondering if I will go slower than others since I will have no confidence in my road bike handling and will lose valuable time. But to my surprise I found myself to be one of not that many who actually worked those cranks even on the downhill’s and was getting some serious speed. And I was not afraid; I was in the zone and was making even more passes. 

I crossed the Mc Arthur Causeway with two bridges, made a sharp turn to NE 2nd AVE, than to Julia Tutle Causeway with an additional two bridges. I felt pretty strong climbing and on the flats, now however the speed decreased a little and we had some gusty winds, which culminated on the final bridge. This is the only spot where I would not pedal back since gusts were pretty strong. Shortly after we ended up on the Alton Road and were about to circle around and head back to Julia Causeway, Federal and Mc Arthur Causeway in the opposite direction… But before I reached the turn I was keeping my eyes peeled not only to the course but also on the lookout for my husband. I knew he would bike over this direction and be somewhere around. I went by pretty much the hotel we stayed in and had so many riders around but just a few seconds later after the turn he was there and was cheering me on. Biking back was not so bad but often on the straight always we had wind against us. This was definitely more tiring. Also some sections of the road as mentioned during the race meeting were quite bumpy but nothing really that would scare off a mountain biker!

Somewhere half way through the bike course... Tiny Pony " borrowed Sedusa QR" is rocking the road.

Finally on the Julia Causeway I had first lady that I recall from the bike course that actually passed me, she was dressed in red and had a nice aero helmet. She seemed to be biking quite strong but not that long later I was able to pass her. We went back and forth twice this way and after all I was able to stay in front. But somewhere also there half way through the bike course I had this one guy dressed in black tri kit with some blue accents. He looked as a strong rider and passed me on one of the bridges but shortly I was able to catch up, than he passed me back as somehow refusing to be passed by a girl and we went like this for pretty much reminding of the race. At some point we have each other a look and smiled as almost like a pat on the back for good efforts. In the final miles he passed me once again with some other rider but at some point he just wondered in a big group and it did cost me some energy but I was able to pass him and the whole group that he was in. That was a lot of riders at one pass!

One of many bridges. Now it got super crowded since all classes were mixing now...

The two final bridge climbs started getting to me, it was not exhausting or an unbearable feeling I just felt I was definitely climbing slower than previous ascends. Thankfully we were almost done. On the last bridge I was super happy to see my husband once again, totally on the other side of South Beach. Oh he had to put some miles to keep up with me… I sent him a big smile and a kiss and jetted away.

There were lots of people on this bridge and it was difficult to pass, but after the decent I was able to go around most of the riders and this is when another construction section was waiting for us. Well I totally didn’t remember about it and in a sudden the road become super rugged and to add to it while on the final stretch to the transition there were completely invisible at our speeds, small and sharp speed bumps.  I was quickly awakened when first bump shot me up with my bike to the air and I was first time in my life gliding on a road bike! The remainder of the jumps I treated as a mountain biking ride and just stood up and let the bike take care of the rest and in just a few seconds I reached the dismount line.

I'm very happy for two reasons, 1st I see my husband, 2nd this is the last bridge and we are done. Well at least with that portion of the race...

Quick run to the bike rack and I was grabbing my run gear. My new Salmon Pro shoes, race belt, Salmon flask and Clif gel and I was off. Once again from what I could tell I didn’t see many bikes yet rucked up, that was good. The run started more conservative to me as in a last sprint tri and I felt pretty fine, not stellar but not terrible. Running on the sidewalk is not much fun for me but so many people where in the same boat right now that I was. Actually the run path of South Beach was quite pretty, wavy and had these amazing views of the ocean and whole Lummus Park which was full of not only racers, but also locals and visitors.

My new Salmon Sense Pro make this difficult moment much more enjoyable...

I never raced before in such a crowd and had to actually dodge people on the run course. We were running north to the turnaround point at some 1.5 miles, I was happy to reach this point but I knew at the same time that this was just the beginning. In a few very short moments I started seeing more ladies one after one running to the turn point, they were not that far back and maybe what felt like 20-30 seconds and looked quite strong. I thought “oh here we go” and wondered if now I will start getting passed.

But time went by and I was about to reach a transition at mile 3 and head this time all the way south and there was still no ladies in sight. But boardwalk was done now and we ended up on a wide and sandy path. This is where the guy that I went back and forth some dozen times on the bike did catch up with me. He met me on my right shoulder and said “are you going to pass me out of the corner again?”. I said “I don’t think so, not this time” and he said “I bet you will!”. lol But he was obviously a faster runner and took off with not much problem.

I'm here with my pace maker! It helped us both to get to the finish with a strong pace.

After that we were spilled on some quarter of the mile on beach with its soft sand and this is where I saw friends James and Cynthia standing on the side and cheering me on, James yelled “Go Beata”, while Cynthia yelled even louder “Come On Beata, this is your element, FIGHT!” Wow those were some powerful words and just a split second later I put a different gear on and my speed increased. I felt like I actually did have an advantage on this sand and was gaining a ground on lots of runners. Shortly after that we reached the South Pointe Park and I was running next to water on one side and restaurants on the other. I even had to duck a waiter twice who was crossing to serve people on the water side. It was another out and back and now I was pretty tired, wind was with me but also one lady that did catch up with me and seemed faster. I made my best to stay with her and we ran together to turn around point and were on the way back. This is where I saw my friend Melissa for first time in the race just a little in front of me. I stayed with the girl and at some point when battling the headwind and heat I went by her and I stayed there for a good while. But this maneuver was costly and she was able to pass me back and now I was just trying to just hold on. The sun was beaming on me very strongly now and I knew the finish was near but everything was so much more difficult right now. The little uphill in the cobblestone boardwalk was painful and now we reached the soft beach once again, but this time I felt just as fast here and was still passing a good amount or racers. I also saw glimpse of Melissa in front of me about to cross the finish line, I sprinted to the finish and I was done!

Finally! After crossing the Finish Line!

My name had been announced while I was crossing the finish. Yay! I did my first Olympic distance road triathlon and felt pretty good with how it went. After finding my husband in the crowd we headed to get some food in our bodies and refreshments and this is where I bumped into an amazing athlete Sara Haskins who won today’s race. I definitely got a little tear in my eye when I found out that I placed 2nd in my age group out of 35 ladies and 11th overall from 176 that competed in the International distance.

Myself and Sarah Haskins, today's winner.
I was trying to do my best on course during the whole race but apparently was not convinced that I was capable of pulling off a second place. It was really encouraging to learn that I can do well even on the road.

Also after all the two girls that were smirking behind my back ended up being one hour slower than me. Who would think? That could be a lesson for them to never underestimate your competition and secondly have a respect for everyone that participates as this is what we do in Off Road Triathlons.

And it was great to see quite a few of my local mountain bikers also taking part in this big event maybe in a little different way since Andy,  Mickey and her husband Tom chose to ride their mountain bikes in the fat tire division. Well until Tom realized that he got a flat and his spare tube had a sliced wall and he could not find anyone among almost three thousand races with extra mtb tube. Therefore he resorted to quite an innovative idea and took a credit card instead of bike from his transition and ran over to rent a Deco Bike. Yes he raced the whole race on a cruiser bike with basket still attached to it. Quite a way to compete you would think but it shows that the will to accomplish a goal is what matters the most…

Thank you to everyone who believed in me and supports me…

I couldn’t have done without you!

Until next time!