Monday, September 22, 2014

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 2 - Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park Trails - Jacksonville, FL

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park Trails - Jacksonville, FL

Women Pro/Expert 4th

Not the best day out in the park or the greatest result. We raced on the slick, narrow and muddy trails after day and night of down pouring. Small crash on the pre ride made me sore for the following day and kept me from taking too many risks. Race turned out to be a training ride rather than a race but I was happy I didn't get hurt even more.

Almost everyone I talked to crashed numerous times during the race. So yes not the outcome I was looking for but I guess we have to take take good with the bad sometimes.

On to the Report:

Just like last week we are now on the drive back home.

Out the window there is a complete white out and it’s down pouring badly. One car flipped over on the side of the road and massive lightnings are striking everywhere. Not the best drive home for sure.

But it was not so much different actually on our way to Jacksonville also.

It was raining in and out and the moment we arrived in the park an awful front went by and started flooding the already wet trail system.

Ready or not I got out quickly on the course in the good company of friend Jim.

Besides us there were quite a few riders brave enough to bike through this tight and twisty trail system in this torrential rain.

I was wondering at first if I was going to be able to ride today but the moment we hit the trails even in the worst of conditions I started to enjoy the moment. Everything was narrow, twisty and covered with plenty of roots while from the above any little light was filtered through the dense foliage of this amazing tropical rainforest.

I thought for myself that no matter what happens the next day during the race I will be happy just with what I’m doing now, with that moment of just riding my bike in the completely new place, through the mud, through the wet roots systems and man-made bridges and all of it while being soaked by the rain.

It was just a good feeling to be out there…

We were doing great and we tackled everything with no issues on one of the trail connections we saw our friend Scott with his buddy also enjoying the ride. It had to be no earlier than 4.5 miles while on the most technical and demanding trail here where all of the sudden it seemed like some invisible monster just picked me up off my bike and threw me in the air and then slammed me hard into the ground. There was nothing there going on really besides a really densely muddy corner. My bar was completely twisted and I was laying there on the ground for a minute or so trying to figure out if I was Ok or not. I got slammed on my right arm, whole ribcage and felt an instant headache. I knew it could be nothing but also could be really bad. Thankfully after gathering myself with the help of riders that we had behind us I realized that nothing serious happened. But this definitely shook me up and I was little more careful on the final miles of the race course.

When we got out we were soaked head to toe and the outdoor shower while still wearing our full biking gear did wonders. I was cold now and thankfully my amazing friend Zee who drove all the way here to the park to see me and had plans for us and we all got out with a bunch of other biking fanatics to the local Greek restaurant. We had a great time and I was really grateful that I had this opportunity to stay with my friend overnight and get ready for tomorrows race.

However all of it was not so simple from the start. To be honest I didn’t even have this race on my schedule nor was considering driving up and competing here. After an idea planted by Zee and then some convincing from my husband we made this weekend happen. I knew by deciding to race I was not going to be in the form for sure since for the past few days I either worked 15 hour long days or pretty much did a triathlon for the whole Thursday, Friday and some of Saturday. So throwing the bike race in the middle of my triathlon training week was going to be not an easy a task.

It was raining whole Saturday into the night and we knew that trails were going to be really wet in the morning with no chances of drying out on time.

But Sunday morning was so beautiful, with gorgeous blue skies and even cooler feeling air. The park looked amazing in the full light and riding around during my warmup was great.

Just seconds away from the race start besides the beautiful lake filled with hundreds white herons there was the most gorgeous boardwalk that was leading to the beach. It was so relaxing to just listen to the ocean waves for a while and put everything in perspective.

But a race was about to start and I went to the start line. Big hug to my husband before I went off and I was now on my own.

We took off and I was sprinting on the grassy stretch in 3rd and getting into the narrow and dark single-track.

Quickly I realized I was not riding as fast as I would want to. The constant turning, wet roots in the corner and poor visibility at times because of all the shadows from the trees made me feel like I was not doing good enough right from the start. I had also the 4th rider right on my wheel. She was handling the course pretty well and no matter what the course threw at us she was always right on my wheel. The two girls in front however slowly started fading away and it was not a good sign.

Named after my friend - Thx Zee! ;-)

I was still in full racing mode and was doing my best considering all the circumstances. We fought a little for position on one long stretch of the double track and then everything that was already not so great started to get even worst. We got to the most technical section of the course named after my Zeelishes friend, Z-trail. The speed, at least mine come instantly to a halt, we were going in what seemed constant 180 degrees tight switchbacks with tons of roots and log overs which of course were all slimy from the rain. I had a train of people now on my tail. We paraded like this for a while but at some point I realized that the trail was not going to open up anytime soon and only way to let people go was to pull to the side and just let the whole group ride by me one by one, than watch them disappear. I felt here like a door man opening the door and directing everyone in the correct direction “This way ladies and gentlemen”. It was frustrating for sure but this part of the course was impossible as far as passing goes.

It was a start yet of what was going to come and there were more and more faster male riders which had to go by. I was still trying and my bike kept skidding left and right on all the wet roots. At some point once again a big crazy tree jumped out at me on the left and knocked me down. I hit the bar and lost the bar cap and gathered myself again. I knew the more I would try the more dangerous the course is going to get for me. Than we go to the sleek bridges that were crossing over a swampy water. After I cleared those the course took us to the final section of the Z-trail which was today, just like yesterday full of deep dark mud holes. We were sliding all over the thick muddy turns, roots while getting slammed in the face by giant palmetto leafs. I knew I was already a good chunk of time behind. When I did come out to the open and to the shoot I was probably some 30 seconds back. It was not much and there were so many people cheering me on and encouraging to keep on pushing and fighting and I thought I was going to give it another try. But at some point I realized how awful and dangerous the final sections of each lap was and I was not willing today unfortunately to take any chances. I had to actually make a conscious decision to just turn this race to a training ride and rather experience in order to avoid some serious injury that could possibly hold me back from what really matters to me the most at that time. And all it is right now is my race next month which I am keeping as a priority and if it requires me to hold back at one race and sacrifice it for a better good than let it be. When I accepted it I felt better already and was just hoping for the reminding of the race not to do anything goofy that I would really regret later.

And it is not my normal me, usually I give in every race everything I got no matter what are the circumstances, but today it was just not worth for me taking any risk. The second lap was partially relaxing when I didn’t have any pressure from the guys but it got a little hectic once again on the Z-trail where a few guys were trying to pass right before one of the bridges. One thing lead to the other and the rider in front of me slid off the bridge and ended up a few feet down in the swamps while his bike reminded laying up across the narrow wet bridge. Everyone now piled up in one space and seeing that he was fine we convinced him to gather himself up and to grab the bike so everyone can proceed. People in front of me walked and when I put my feet down on the wood I realized how slippery it was, it felt like ice!

I was glad I did come out once again from this section in one piece and was ready to go for my 3rd lap.

Like one of the riders today on the trails said, now I was riding to ride, to enjoy the day and be grateful for opportunity that we have to be on our bikes, be healthy and just enjoy this beautiful place and day.

So from being really frustrated on the first lap I transitioned to being completely at ease and relaxed on the final lap and enjoyed the chatter of other riders around me. You know you are not riding really fast when you catch yourself grasping full conversations and people behind you are talking about burgers, cats and beer. Why do they talk about the cats!?? No clue but I was obviously done racing.

Also never underestimate men with full head of grey hair sticking out of the helmet, yes seems like a lot of riders that often doesn’t get opportunity to pass me did just that today.

Oh well. I learned today that life is not all the time about the podiums and winning but rather about new lessons to be learned and new experiences.

I was happy to see all my friends to still keep encouraging me all the way to the finish when we all knew my race was long gone. I was glad to see also my husband in a calm and kind of happy spirit and I hoped that he understood the decision that I had to make today.

But after looking at the pictures that he took today looks like he was in a good spirit throughout otherwise this one juicy caterpillar would not get its photos session that it did.

So I’m grateful for this beautiful weekend with my husband and friends and for the experience and am looking forward to my next adventure.

And if anyone needs some convincing of having good and bad days here is a good quote to remember:

“It's not how many times you fall that matters, it's how many times you get back up.”

My AWESOME friend Zee and I after the race and great weekend together!

And for all you new riders out there that want to know what it feels like to get a medal for the first time - it feels kinda like this

Tonya Hutson with Encore Cycling getting her first medal on her 2nd Race - Great Job !!!

As always Thank You to my husband and all my sponsors the continuous support!

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

Nothing like a true kiss from a true friend!!!

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