Monday, May 19, 2014

Xterra SE Regional Championship - Pelham, Alabama

Xterra SE Regional Championship - Pelham, Alabama

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, Oakley Radar Sunglasses with G30 lenses and Garden of Life nutrition Every Day of my Life...

Fun and Crazy Xterra Athletes!

Wow. What a race and in such adverse conditions.
From the hail cold rain to the dark and wet single track to the sunny run finish.
I pushed so hard I spent 20 minutes after the race in the medical tent. It was all worth it.
I got 2nd place in age group and 6th overall and Fastest Bike split of all age groupers by over 3 minutes and even beat 3 pros.

And I received a qualifying spot to the Xterra World Championships in Maui. Yay.

I was happy to start our drive to Oak Mountain on Wednesday morning, even though we were already after a few long days at work and pretty tired. This is one of my favorite trips in the season and I always make sure to make everything just right to enjoy it.

Native cross vine...

To do so we decided to book a beautiful cabin right in the park way in advance and invited a bunch of friends to stay with us. We definitely had our weekend cut out to be fun and interesting with a few personalities under the roof. From dolphin fast Misty “Rybka” (which in Polish means little fishy) to our future Pro racer Grayson and fellow South Floridian Jonathan and myself and my husband we had a full house. It was a good change from our normal rather peaceful and quiet approach to the Alabama visit.

But besides the company it was all about the race and the race was all about the terrain, competition and also the weather. It was quite tough to figure out what we were going to get during the actual race since there were mixed weather predictions and really Mother Nature was playing some games with us this whole weekend.

During our 11 hour drive from home and rather lengthy stop for lunch we knew were running slightly late to what we wanted to be but we stayed optimistic. But when we finally left the state of Florida and crossed the Alabama border with all the Peanut shops scattered all over we knew things were going to change. The sky got dark; angry almost dark blue and purple clouds seemed to touch the pine trees on the sides of the highway. And the rain started and it down poured for three hours straight almost until we got to the cabin. But at least our bikes where nice and cozy in Kuat NV Bike Rack! Unfortunately when we got there it was already dark and damp in the park. I knew I was not getting today my mini 15 min spin out from the travel ride and we just headed as quickly as we could to bed. The cabin was quiet and felt quite empty but it was all going to change the following morning.


Super Girls!!!

The skies cleared and the sun started drying up the park. The air was cold however and we had to layer up to come out on the deck and have morning tea. After a nice breakfast prepared in the cabin’s spacious kitchen we were awaiting for our roommate Misty to arrive. She made it to Oak Mountain in very good time and the three of us were able to head out to pre ride the bike course. It was a joy ride and we didn't rush it at all and enjoyed the park as much as we could. The roots were still slick and some sections were still a little wet therefore there was not much of a very aggressive ride. Super-fast or just fast worked for me and I just loved jetting down the single track of this beautiful course. My Pax was riding his hoodie wrapped around his neck and at speed looked like Superman on the bike. It cracked us up and inspired us to snap the Super Girls picture right next to the boulder that tumbled down just recently off the massive mountain just by the side of the 3 mile jeep road climb that was part of the race course.

On the blood rock section we stopped for few minutes and I was able to get lower than in previous years but still didn't attempt to ride it down fully. Right about now the rest of our roommates got also on the course and was getting their practice in. We loved the rest of the ride with the rather lengthy Rattlesnake Ridge trail and we headed to the cabin. Plan for tonight was to get together with all other Xterra racers and have a nice dinner from the grill at the cabin. It was so brrr cold outside however, I think in the 50s that after throwing the chicken on the grill everyone just conglomerated inside. We had an awesome meal and great evening together.

Since everyone was tired from their travel and practice we went to bed at a decent time. The next morning was just the most perfect day you can imagine, with this gorgeous blue sky, crisp cool air, little breeze that would carry the amazing flowering honeysuckle vine smell all over the forest. Now the trails were just perfect and we only wished it would be like this for the following morning. Since everyone has their pre-race rituals we did some things together like go for a little swim in the lake and some separated like for a bike and run practice. The plan was to have another simple meal at the cabin and settle early for race morning.

Since there is practically no phone reception in the cabin and no internet no one really knew the weather pattern for the race. I would not expect that in the million years by how gorgeous our Friday was that Saturday morning would wake us up with a grey sky, very cold air and a light drizzle.

For past few days with the weather playing tricks on us, that made us wonder if it was going to be sunny or rainy and the lake temperature kept hovering near wetsuit legal and not legal digits. No one knew which way we were going to race so we practiced small swims in both.
Under the Xterra banner swim continues...

After a very quick and racer specific breakfast we headed to transition. Some of us decided to drive and some of us biked as a warm-up. It was definitely wet by now. I had my race kit on, than a t-shirt, sweatshirt and a rain jacket. Now we are talking about some serious layering, but it could have been 85 degrees out too like in many past years, but you just never know what you are going to get.

So we got the 54 degree wet morning and my gear I was setting up was getting just simply wet before the race even started. Water felt much cooler than the past two days and I enjoyed having my fast Axena wetsuit on with this 68 degree water.

Swim start.
The pros were going first and the cannon blasted them off just two minutes before our start that left a thick white smoke in the air. I positioned myself to the side to avoid the traffic and the cannon blasted off for the second time. The splashing and pulling started and I got completely canned all around by the other swimmers, I thought to myself I should had started even further away but thankfully this madness never lasts for that long. Little wrist kick here and bump on my both sides and I was feeling more freedom. Now after getting some breather from that I started sighting and searching on what was going on around. I was lucky to find a swimmer that I could follow for a little bit to the first buoy. This is when I got a nice juicy punch to my head and right eye, but just under the strength of it making me feel woozy so I shook it off quick. Like usual there was a full row of the racers going for the next buoy and the water opened up more once again for the long stretch to the Xterra banner waiting for us at the shore. I was able to find another swimmer to follow and stayed with him almost to the lake shore. We ran out and around the banner and jumped back to the water. Things looked a little different now and there were not that many people around me to really make something work. One person further in front was unreachable and I was stuck to do the first long section to the first buoy completely by myself, the same happened with the second buoy and the last long home stretch. I was not happy about it but there was nothing I could have done here. I was pushing hard and toward the end and some swimmer trying to draft off of me. Seconds later I was out running to T1. It wasn’t' raining now but it was cold and I was happy to grab my bike Sonia and get on the trails.

Finishing the swim leg.

Out of the water.
So many bikers were all over the paved road aiming for same narrow single track, getting in first was priority. After I got my gloves on I approached the trails. Right from the first very enjoyable trail there were riders that I had to pass. Also almost instantly I got a reminder how wet all the roots were when my front tire just skidded a few inches to the side when I hit the root on the less favorite angle. It was all about making wise choices here while riding fast. I had to improvise at times and modify my normal lines from the dry course that we all were expecting. I loved the ride, I remembered from the last wet race how careful you have to be on those trails and I made sure to pay attention to all the details. I was somewhere near the Chimneys Trail where sudden, piercing like hail, big and cold rain drops just started bombarding the forest. Rain or no rain I knew I will be keeping my Oakley Radars peeled on on my face. In an instant we were soaked; the trails were full of mud and standing water and my body was shivering. For few minutes I was so amazingly cold and could only hope that I will warm up somehow shortly. But after a while the rain felt good actually and I turned it to a positive and talked to myself how good it was going to be since after all I was a mountain biker and I was going to handle adverse conditions well and possibly enjoy them. And I did, I was very optimistic since and treated the ride as a big adventure and a challenge and didn't let it to slow me down in any way.

Trey from Xterra crew took this nice pic!

While approaching the cabins area and going through the Rock Garden trail which as the name states has tons of little rocks scattered all over the narrow path it suddenly got insanely dark. It was so dark and we were also under a dense spring tree cover that I felt like I was doing a night ride, I thought "where is my L&M Seca 200 Light!". I could not see anything and all the roots and rocks just blended in with the ground and it was amazingly difficult to have good speed now on the course. When I got on the flatter and faster part of the trail system still it was impossible to see, the wet wooden bridges were shaving off the speed and all the wet rocks and stream crossings. On one of my favorite fast single track sections I was stuck behind three riders with a girl leading the pack and keeping everyone back. It took some time and convincing to finally have her work with us and let the faster riders go by. Now I was racing again and soon was spilled on the bottom of our long 3 mile climb. I failed to grab water from the only aid station at this spot and hoped that what I had with me on the bike would be enough.

Fast downhill after Blood Rock.
Got to eat!

The jeep road was covered with slimy boulders and was challenging at times. This is where I caught up many other riders and after I passed the famous boulder from our pre-ride area and a bridge with a nice waterfall like overlook I noticed Misty. She had this cutest super flowery and colorful outfit on but by now it was all covered with mud and completely lacked of color besides brown. We said "hi" to each other and I kept going. Few more riders and few more climbs and I reached the top of the climb. Now I was in company of the guy and a girl for the next few hilly and open miles which culminated with an ultra-fast descent that was preparing us for the Blood Rock section.

Coming out of the trail after Blood Rock.

On the open jeep road I reached some serious speeds without still maxing out my awesome Rotor Qrings. The pre-blood rock little trail was sketchy however and it was important to stay put there. At the blood rock approach I had two riders on my wheel and I was a little afraid they would possibly interfere with my riding the most grainy section and I sped up slightly to make sure I can ride on my own there. Some cheering people were scattered all over this sections and I got nice props for clearing the first part. I approached the next boulder drops one by one but things started feeling more screechy now and opted on dismounting my bike early and run the rest. Thankfully the guys behind were still further back and were also running the bikes by now but when I was mounting the bike and ready to tackle the next very fast and bumpy and rocky section the guy was pretty much just by my side. I asked him quickly if he wanted to go first and he said to me to go ahead, to be honest I was glad I was going first still since I could ride at my own pace and fly like an eagle and had nothing to worry about besides being safe and fast at the same time. My Magura MT8 brakes worked like a charm in those conditions and were there for me to rip my tires in the ground when needed! I just love this feel and sound!

Finishing the bike with a splash!
The guys were there but not directly on my tail and actually the person riding behind me on this trail approached me after the race and told me happily that I rode it super smooth and he had a good time following my tracks. The long and jittery decent turned my forearms to be cramped and stiff and when I got a chance I tried to stretch them out. Later on I approached another rider close to the road crossing and was stuck there for a little while until we got on the road. I made my pass and was heading into the next single track, now we had more climbing to do and the most fast and fun descending. I think somewhere here I clipped a small tree slightly with my beautiful Syntace Duraflite bar with ESI grips on it, but when I checked everything was nicely intact. After race I realized it was my wrist that took a bite and tiny chunk of skin was missing on it. I was in love once again and didn't care that much of the wetness since most of the rocks were gone now and we just had occasional roots. Whoever was still behind me was definitely dropped in this section since I simply had too much fun. Shortly toward the end I was getting close to the steep and rocky double drop with two arrows pointing down as a warning. I was not sure of what I was going to do since everything still was wet but by a quick split second decision I aligned myself with the bike and rode it down with some onlookers cheering me on and saying "great job". I was happy I had my Schwalbe Rocket Ron's and Racing Ralph's on that I put on specifically for this race since they gripped beautifully on this sketchy and wet terrain! More bumpy step downs, rock gardens on the edge of the stream and I was on the side of the road about to go into the two final trails. My husband was there and yelled "keep pushing and you have some women ahead".

Out of T2 onto the painful pavement...
In the winy facing little uphill single track which pretty much was near the parking lot at the end of our run and edge of the lake this is where I got close to the ladies. It took me a long while to make a pass and first slower one would be holding back the second girl and myself and after we were able to pass her one by one finally I had my work cut out for me to make a pass now on the leading girl. Little later I learned that she was in a 2nd overall position for all the age group women and with making my pass I was getting her spot. She was a very good rider but I still could have rode faster. Now it was onto the last lengthy almost 3 miles of Rattlesnake and was approaching a few guys that I will also need to pass. It was another adventure on its own but I was able to get ahead and just look forward finishing my ride strong. The final two miles were dragging in a way and I kept looking now impatiently in the display on my bike on how much longer I had to go. Now there was just mile left of the single track and I was going to get spilled on the wide, fast and hilly Lake trail loop. Just before that I had another rider in front that I had to make my way around. Everything looked promising now as far as the trail ending and the fast section approaching and I was happy to jet down and fly full speed on the flowy bike return. I biked down, into the left turn, up the hill and into the sharp right turn still full speed and I did this awesome back tire burn out and my whole bike end just whipped around the corner. Ah things we do to make ourselves feel good! I loved it and aimed now for the little creek crossing which was the last section of the bike before we did hit the asphalt.

Nice single-track on other side of the lake...

When I glazed to the left I saw already Pro Men running their first lap. Final road and I was off the bike turning to transition. I got my shoes on and I was off. Now it was sunny out and starting the run on the uphill paved road didn't make things easy on me. I happened to have today the fastest bike split of all age group women and faster than 3 Pro Women and was heading out now to the run in 2nd overall position. It felt good, I was happy and proud of myself but yet so fatigued and with still a long road ahead. On the downhill on the road before getting to the double track with lots of small hills in it I stumbled upon one runner who actually was going to spend the rest of the race by my side. But here there were so many other people approaching now, not sure where they all came from but all this hard work on the bike and all the passed by me racers were going by me one by one. And the count started when the first lady went by me like I was standing still and then the next one; one by one I was losing my overall spot because of my run. It was not fun and even less fun because I was so extremely tired now, my legs were awfully heavy and I was not looking forward to those two long full loops around the lake. I got to first water station and trashed my cup on the sunny dam and blazed by my fellow racer and today's run partner, seconds later he caught up with me on the first hill, and we suffered together.

Almost end of the lap...
When on the opposite side of the lake I had Emma Garrard on her 2nd lap running by and saying "Hi Beata" I replied "Great Job Emma" and she was gone. We had some tree jumping, steep downs and steep and muddy ups, some off camber rooty sections and completely filled with mud and dirt water with a little trench to go through. It was exhausting and I was incapable to keep my heart rate (I knew that thx to my Suunto watch) where I would want it to be. It was tough, now I was done drinking my little Salomon flask and was looking forward to the next water station after the bridge. When I got there the water was handed off to the guy in front but when I asked for water I was told there is no water I have only Gatorade and I was handed off a cup full of Gatorade that I had to trash instantly. To my surprise the person handing off the water was my AG friend Melanie that I saw in transition earlier and I was shocked to see her handing off water while she supposed to race! I was all sweeten up from my Clif gel and really needed plain water. Bummer, things happen, no one’s fault but I was forced to head into lap two totally thirsty now and not very happy. My fellow running friend was trying to keep our spirits and speed up but our legs were going nowhere and we got passed by the guy who we passed previously.

He told me when you get to the dam hit it again like you did before. We tried and pushed each other during this tough run. All I could think of now was 1 being over but really 1 getting to the next water station. I was so terribly thirsty. After the dam I got finally a nice cup full fresh cold water and I sped up again. Now my heart rate went even higher and I knew I was not going to be able to maintain it for long, I didn't feel well and I started to feel lightheaded. I wanted to get to the finish. The climbs and muddy crossings were brutal for the second time around and my friend now was getting away from me slightly, but when we got on the last asphalt stretch I was able to get closer to him. I was very happy with my shoe choice for this race, as Salomon Sense Pros worked wonderfully on the pavement with extra cushioning but also were grippy and agile and light on the technical stuff. And they were amazingly kind to my hurting for past few weeks foot. Now the last little run on the edge of the lake and I was flying to the finish shoot, and just a little before it a group of little kids was aligned with their little hands sticking out and I clapped every single one of them for their little support!

The Finish

I sprinted to the finish and the moment I crossed the finish like I just bended down for second and simply my legs just collapsed from under me. I was done, I sat there and got help from Xterra crew power woman Kalei who gave me a hand and I tried to walk everything off. But something was not right and I could not catch a breath, I felt like my lungs were constricting on me and I had only 10% of air available to what I needed. I tried not to overreact but I walked over the Medical Tent and was looked into and helped there by the amazing crew. One kind guy John stood out (a dirt biker in heart) and was taking care of me during this difficult experience. I was very lightheaded, was breathing fast and my hands were tingling. I had everything checked and I was thankfully fine I just needed to calm myself down and relax. I pushed so much that my body went through a lot of stress and it was really taking a long time to get back and recover. After some twenty minutes in the tent I was good to go and almost instantly went to the podium announcements.

Myself with firefighter John who loves dirt bikes and knows how to care for exhausted Xterra athletes.

My race mates and cabin mates did awesome and super-fast Grayson placed 2nd overall for amateur men and won his age group.  Jonathan placed 8th in his age group and fell in love with his first Xterra SE. Misty after her stellar swim and half of the bike course got two flats and unfortunately was not able to finish the race. It was sad since she really had big plans for this year as far as getting a Maui slot.

As far as Pros Emma Garrard placed second and Flora Duffy won the race. For men it was a Josiah Middaugh and the second fell to well-deserved local Craig Evans who was working hard a few years to make it that far.

Emma and I after the race

After all I got second place in my age group after Brook Pace who is a swimmer and was leading the whole race from the start. Even though I had the fastest bike split from all the age group women and I managed to out bike even three pro women I placed 6th overall for all age group ladies.

I had the fastest swim and run in the history of my racing and first time the fastest bike in a full big Xterra race but still there were plenty of fast ladies on this course today.

The Poduim: Myself, Brook and Jeanine

After the podium, a nice big lunch in the cabin, little power nap I went with my husband for little cute boat ride on the Tranquility Lake. I could do this every single day of my life and don't be bored. Paddle on the little kayak in the middle of the forest, be surrounded by trees, beautiful flowers and smells and enjoy the day to the happy chirps of the wild birds and chasing around squirrels and cute deer walking by. It was refreshing and I can only wish it would last for longer. Getting back to nature and simplicity takes out only the best of people and gives the most joy. I want to spend the whole summer in a place like that and just ride my bike every single morning and take beautiful walks on the gorgeous quiet paths. Life at its greatest I would say.

Kayaking on the lake... It was so peaceful...

Not only me but also my husband had a big day today, chasing me all over this humongous forest. This time he hardly used his bike however and was all over the place popping out and photographing and cheering racers. To his excuse however of not riding a bike it was really raining cats and dogs today.

I can’t even describe how soaked and muddy I got, my pretty LG outfit was so filled with dirt through that after coming to the cabin and washing it some ten times the dirt still didn’t go away. There will be more washing on the way... During the race I tried to use my handkerchief which was just full of dirt and I would only smear more dirt all over my face while trying to use it. The fresh water from the bottle had this nice and grainy taste! The Huub towel that I put in my transition I had to wring and whole new stream of water (that should be named) came out of it. There was definitely a mud fest to try to clean all this gear after getting home!

And let’s don’t even go to my new and beautiful bike Sonia who got a taste of some serious racing this weekend. She was just covered with clay, mud and pine needles but besides the dirty look she flew on those bumpy trails absorbing all the bumps like there was no tomorrow. But thanks to my husband’s love for my bike she was taken apart just 1 hour after the race to all the little pieces and cleaned so thoughtfully. Thanks to Pro Gold and their amazing cleaning supplies it was a breeze. Now she is just waiting for me ready for our next adventure!

After all the mud racing, traveling and cleaning my shoe sprouted!

The Xterra crew had something planned for everyone for the evening today and we all headed to Margarita Grill for chatty dinner and get together to talk about and share everyone’s accomplishments. It was great to hang with Xterra ambassador Frank and meet finally in in person the whole Xterra crew and an Xterra legend Casey Fannin and his awesome wife Andrea who placed 2nd after having a great Sprint race on their beloved Alabama course.

Someone got a Maui Slot!

Simply we have tons of great memories to bring home. Off Road Triathlon is such an adventurous, diverse and amazing sport that attracts this special kind of good people that it is impossible not to fall in love and just enjoy it.

Thanks to my husband Pax for amazing pictures and endless care!

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, Oakley, Huub and Rotor Bike Components!

Thanks for reading and until next time!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Florida Cup Mountain Bike Championship - Loyce E Harpe Park - Lakeland, FL

Florida Cup Mountain Bike Championship

Women Pro/Expert - 2nd place

It is always fun to race in Lakeland even after it did downpour on the park for two days straight prior to the race and during the pre-ride. Trails were slick and soft but still very rideable.

Shelly and I after the start
The three lap course was just enough to tired us out and separate the field.

Well-deserved win for Shelly who is one of strongest riders the state had to date.

I had long lasting head to head friendly battle for the second place with Amy who is a seasoned, strong and skilled rider. It was a pleasure to race in such a good company.

It was also a first Mountain Bike Race on my new bike with all the amazing components on it and I think I can safely say my Sonia did an awesome job!

Congratulations to everyone who did come out and raced with us! 

But here is the full story: This will be the third week in a row of me racing. You would ask if I am getting a little tired by now. Oh yeah, I’m tired, but we concluded (me and my husband) to go for one more race.

Hopefully I will be able to relax a little pretty soon but for now I had the next challenge ahead of me.

I have my "I am working hard" face on!

Thankfully Lakeland is just a short three hour drive (oh yeah, by now we are seasoned travelers and a few hours in a car will not scare us away!).  Plus, I really like a lot riding on those trails, they are fast, interesting, with sudden here and there more demanding hilly sections. Those parts are really fun and not to be taken for granted, they are high up, narrow and are filled with tons of surprises with sudden rock gardens, roots, step-ups, drops and turns. It is truly biking on the edge and often you hope you will not end up in the phosphorescent green swampy water.

Only issue was the weather. The front that was going through the area was pretty bad and would not leave the race site for two long days of downpours… But as I remember the trails here were pretty sandy and figured would absorb the rain pretty well, assuming it was going to eventually stop.

Weather gurus stated that Sunday will be sunny and beautiful so we packed our bags relying on that and hoping they were going to be right.

Into small dip, still in pain.

Half way through our drive the sky turned grey and it started to rain. Thankfully by the time we got to the park there was a little window of no rain and we got out quickly on a small preview of the course. The trails were wet but intact, just some wet roots and standing water paddles were scattered throughout the course. For everything we remember the race setup seemed faster than to what we had at the previous race. Middle part of the track was flat and very unmemorable but the beginning and the end sections were fun. And exactly when we were approaching the final mile and the most demanding section it started to rain. It didn’t take long for the trails suddenly to turn to slippery pile of whitish clay and climbing here and tackling the roots and rock gardens was more challenging now. Determined however to see the whole setup we finished the whole 6.5 miles and rushed now in the full rain to the bike wash. Oh the mud and sand was just everywhere from our clothing to bikes and later the whole car.

After a warm shower and getting into some fresh dry clothes we went for a nice dinner.

In the morning as the weather man predicted the sky was almost perfectly blue, it was a little cooler which is always good, but quite muggy from all the moisture.

It only looks like I'm relaxed and alone. Trust me I'm not, this is my "cool "face while I'm being chased!

The turnout of racers was not what I expected but I found out that I was going to have some serious racing company. It was not anymore about the number but the quality of riders and we definitely had that today.

And here is Amy, always on my wheel!
I approached the race start with zero stress and a positive attitude. After the gun went off we sprinted through the gate and tried to get the best position before heading into the trails. Shelly as always had an amazing start and was able to get ahead right in time to lead to the trail system. I was able to get right behind her and Amy was right after. Shelly from the start was so fast that it was very difficult to stay close and keep an eye on her. I had her in sight but she was getting away pretty quickly. Those first miles are always tough and instantly you feel it in your legs and you breathe as deep and hard as you possibly can. It’s a test of fitness, strong mind and tolerance for suffering. We were zigzagging now in the fast trails and Amy was right on my wheel. I loved the more technical parts of the course and they were mostly run in this race the opposite way. And even though they were the energy suckers it was still a pleasure to ride them. No matter how fast I flew through the technical or how hard I pushed on the straight away Amy was always on my tail. At some point when riding on the narrow single track on the edge of the water we did come out quickly to the open and Amy with few riders was let’s say some 15 seconds back with some other riders.

Makes you wonder if I can hide here form her. :-)

There were no markings and next single track was approaching quickly on the left, it was a narrow, twisty and lasted for a little while. While ducking the small trees I noticed a whole train of riders going on the side of me on the open fire road just outside of where I was riding. When I got out of there I barely managed to keep my position and the whole gap between us was completely gone now. So it was both of us again.

We concluded the first lap in this matter, just until Amy was able to sprint out to the shoot for a quarter mile dirt road stretch, I bet thankfully to those road conditioned legs.  I went through the shoot just a few seconds back and sprinted for the next lap and was trying to get into the trails first once again.

It didn’t work and I was at this time on the wheel, tracking the progress and hanging there until I got my first opportunity on the first grassy opening. I have to say Amy is an amazing person to have by my side and really a “good game” and very kind competitor and when I announced that I will be passing she let me go by with no hesitance. Now we were flying fast in the open and were reaching the too steep to get on wall ride and first fun and hilly section. No matter what we were inseparable, no matter what the course would throw at us, or on the melancholic dark, muddy, flat and not memorable mid-section, to the steep climbs, wet root beds and slippery and exhausting Baby Beast trail with tough and steep climb, or whoever was passing us, we somehow were always together. This time I made sure I didn’t miss the open dirt road and said to Amy few times “it is here yet, or here, or here?”  But I rode it perfectly this time but on the final lap I saw a whole group of riders making the same mistake as I did on my first lap.

Nope, still there! It's our painful, almost never-ending battle!
Also somewhere there when maneuvering in between small tight turns in between small trees with water on my left there was a bird “Limpkin” right on my path and he was massive and at some point I screamed “out of my way LIMPKIN!” and he was just running on my path, flapping his wings and screaming loud “AHH, AHH”. Thankfully he left the trail unharmed and when on the next lap I still could hear him in the same spot, but now he was off the trail and on the edge of the water. It was funny because right after yelling at the bird the trail opened up and there was some cheer group standing by and they just gave me this look “Who the heck was she yelling at?!”.

Here is my little and LOUD Screaming and path crossing LIMPKIN. Isn't he cute?

And once again after the final climb section trail spilled us on the orange deep clay and slimy road shoulder and into the shoot one after the other. We both got a fresh bottle handoff and we were off. I was leading through the shoot this time and the moment I started the third lap I was on the gas. This was a time to put an extra gear on and see what happens. Right from the start I started creating a small gap which with time grew slightly bigger. Now the balance between riding fast, pushing, not making mistakes or trashing the bike on the slimy sections was the key. It’s all about the good decisions and often also good luck.
I might be getting some distance now...

I felt awesome on the trespasses up on the hills and was full of doubt on the boring flat sections which didn’t feel fast at all and I would hate to get caught on something that uninteresting and uninspiring as tiny wet roots and swooshy and soft single track. But after that I still had all the technical and slippery trails and was just set to ride them smoothly and don’t get stuck and don’t make any mistakes. After all the hills and climbing up to the top of the final trail I was happy to slide my bike down to the final little grassy trail which spilled me to the red clay road. This is when I decided to grab a small sip from my bottle for the final stretch to the finish and got into the clay just the moment I was putting the bottle away. Not fast enough I ended up riding in some deep goo one handed and was putting the bottle in the bottle cage totally sideways and just gave up and let it drop.

The race is over!

Thankfully right in same spot was Christie Burnett taking photos and I asked her to hold on to my bottle if she could. And I pushed on the final section to the finish and didn’t see Amy in site. To my surprise I was able to gain on her two full minutes on this final lap and Shelly who was leading the whole race and was not visible to us for most of it finished long ahead with a nice four minute gap.

Today's Ladies Podium: Myself, Shelly and Amy. We all worked really hard today!

It was a good race and sure I didn’t get a State Championship title but Shelly that did definitely did deserve it. I can’t even describe the honor to race someone that was a Pro racer and one of the strongest riders in the state when I was completely green and just was getting into the sport and had no clue at all about what I was doing. All I knew was how outstanding those women were, strong and badass and how much I loved to ride my bike and how much I wanted to be good in it. Now standing not only on the start line but also on the podium with such great riders is a treat and great complement to the fact that anything in life is possible as long as you put your heart and soul into it.

Sending "Hello" to KMC!
Of course my life is easier, my bike is faster and my body is stronger thanks to all my amazing support:

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, KMC Chains, Huub and Rotor Bike Components!