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!

No comments:

Post a Comment