Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 6 - Haile's Trails - Newberry, Fl

Specialized Florida State Championship Series
Haile's Trails

2nd Place Pro/Expert

Link to all my photos from this race on Flickr

I had an amazing race just a few days after XTERRA Worlds in Maui.

Only 1 second off first place. It was tough and demanding course with tons of climbing and technical single track that worked well to my abilities. I could not be more happy with my performance and challenge that I got from my competitors. It was pretty amazing weekend.

On to the Story:

Just six days ago I was competing in the toughest race I ever did in my life on the most beautiful island of Maui. I pushed my body over its limits in this excruciating journey to an 8th place finish in the XTERRA World Championship after 3:47 painful hours. Therefore, waking up just a few days later after 20 hours of traveling and not sleeping and all the insane adjustments to the six hours’ time change and unpacking and somehow trying to gather myself together and recover here I was packing now a smaller bag and was getting ready for my next adventure.

I felt very weak and tired for only two days this week that I spend home, therefore I was not sure how my body and mind was going to handle the rigors of mountain bike racing. But I talk a lot about living life to the fullest so here we go, just go all out, give your shot and have no regrets.

Ready or not we drove up to Haile’s trails. This is one of my favorite courses, the trails here are very challenging and technical and there is plenty of climbing for an average Floridian.

Was I ready for more climbing after fighting through 5k of the upward facing goodness in Maui? Hmm, maybe not so much but on the other side 1800 feet of our 3 lap course would cover just a fraction to what I had to do just a week before. We got out with Pax on the course and oh it was chilly, dry and fresh.

I was looking forward to checking out the course since we didn’t race here for two years now. Also I didn’t know how my body was going to response to the demanding riding so soon. I felt pretty good however to my surprise and was only kind of disappointed with the initial 2 miles of the course which reminded me of the Hard Rock trails. Basically we were riding bikes on a motorbike course, which was steep, loose and really wore out. It felt like Maui all over just slightly more rough and bumpy, minus of course a few thousand climbing feet. ;-)

The last 4 miles reminded me of the course that I enjoyed from our races here in the past. Lots of fun trails seemed to be gone forever however. I was not very excited after the first loop but when I practiced a little more the beginning part of the race course I started adjusting to it a little better, mostly mentally. I think I was ready for whatever Sunday morning was going to bring.

We had an early and wonderful dinner and headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

Overnight the temperatures plummeted even more and we had a 38F low overnight. When we were loading our bikes on the Kuat rack it was only 40F. Sure It was cold and for most of the Floridians it’s a frigid weather, for me it was a nice change and it felt pretty good while hanging in the sun.

The start approached quickly on us and we had a great turnout of the Expert ladies.

We were off on a long and bumpy grassy stretch. After a turn I was in second and Shelly did come out around and put herself in the lead into the first climb. We had a series of pretty tough and technical climbs and we stuck nicely together through them. I was closely on the wheel of the second rider all the time and maybe around one mile in on a technical upward turn the girl before stumbled and that gave me an opportunity to go around and put myself in 2nd place. We still had some demanding riding to do, steep and scary at first looking descents and leg and lung burning climbs. I remember looking up on one of the climbs somewhere around mile 3 of the first lap and seeing the leading woman Shelly ahead.


And even though I was so close for the initial miles there was no signs of her after that. I felt good riding now my race and battling on my own terms this rough terrain. It is amazing how my new Specialized S-Works HT that I got from Mack Cycles handled this rugged and uneven course, laid with rocks, drops and loose and riveted descents.

In a way I though this is how World Cup racers feel on their light and fast racing machines and there is usually not a thing that they cannot handle. So yeah, my new S-Works WC Stumpjumper made me feel like probably Maja Wloszczowska feels like in her race. I named my beautiful bike Sub Zero for many different reasons but mostly of how fast and light she is and she definitely earned her name in her first mtb race. I felt in charge and in control at all times no matter what was thrown at me and she was just amazing on all the climbs. It was a painful but also joyful ride.

After crossing the shoot of the first lap I was some 45 seconds back to first place and 30 seconds ahead of 3rd place. Going to the second lap I felt pretty good but knew that all the steep climbing was going to be even more demanding now. To my surprise I was able to handle everything without major issues. At one point on one steep and long climb I had a rider next to me and I saw a whole row of other racers higher on the top walking their bikes up. I got distracted in a way and the guy next to me got off the bike and somehow I lost my traction and was forced to run my bike for some 10 seconds but thankfully I got back on quickly and was able to continue.

Rest of the yucky climbs I made all the way to the top and even the steepest one which gave me trouble on my pre-ride. I cheered myself on at that point since I was happy I was able to push thought it and not give up. Somewhere near the middle of the lap I was following the wheel of the rider in front. Little did I know that a small fork section was approaching and the rider turned to the right and just seconds later we ended up with other riders with me at a dead end and had to regroup and run the bike back to the split and get to the correct single track trail.


That cost me some 10 seconds, and even though a few seconds in over 1.5 hours race doesn’t seem that much I assure you it is plenty and I will talk about it in just a minute.

Once in a while we would get some crazy glimpse of the rock quarry and the lake far below. The views were spectacular and often the cliffs were just 10-15 away from us to the side and it was thrilling to ride full speed there through technical terrain. I felt more fatigued now in my body but somehow I managed to get exactly the same split time for my second lap.


Now I was a full minute behind first pace and some 1:45 ahead of 3rd. It was a solid 2nd but still I was eager to find out what I can do with the final lap. It was an obvious fact that the last lap was going to hurt the most but also was the most important. After the initial miles I started picking up the speed, I heard here and there 40s back, 30s back, the gap later on got reduced to 20seconds. I was pushing and definitely getting closer. Thankfully this lap went very smooth and I didn’t make any mistakes and cleared perfectly all the hills. This is where the race gets really exciting.

People cheered for me and yelled and gave me splits. Besides my apparent exhaustion by now it was exhilarating to have a super exiting fight to the finish. On the final miles eventually I spotted Shelly in front. We still had maybe half a mile of easier and winy single track to go by. I was on the gas now and I laid it all out there. I was getting closer we were just 10 seconds or less apart. Every minute I could see her clearer and clearer and shortly we got spilled on the last grassy stretch. I was right behind now sprinting while people were yelling, “Come on”, “You can catch her”.

Shelly looked back and saw that I was approaching, in split second she was now up on her pedals and sprinting for this finish shoot. Oh man, we rode into the shoot and crossed the finish line just one second apart. What an awesome and insanely excited race. I loved riding fast and chasing badass Shelly down and I think she enjoyed also being challenged and pushed and and the fact that she had to really work for her well-deserved win. I think we both had fun, this is what bike racing is about, to push your own limits and have a blast while doing it. I think we totally accomplished it today!

After all my laps were very consistent, like usual: 32:20, 32:20 and 31: 20 min laps. My final lap somehow happened to be the fastest lap on the course today even though I felt the most tired. It was pretty cool, since I never got to accomplish that before. And like my friend Jen mentioned to me I didn’t even have to switch to my running shoes after this 1.5 hours of bike riding, that was definitely nice change and a huge bonus!

So the 10 second wrong turn mistake, a 10 second on the climb blunder boiled out to the 1 second that was keeping me from a first place finish. It’s amazing how the smallest decision, gear choice on the climb, or one missed shift or someone else’s mistake all adds up on the end to the final result.  And those unimportant and first looking missed seconds often would be deciding factors of the podium placing when the riding is over. And I think those little things become so very important that they make our racing even so much more interesting and exciting, where in all the chaos and unpredictability of mountain bike racing we are still in search of perfection.

Overall it was short but a really nice weekend, I had a really good race besides still being in the recovery state and mostly I was happy to be back home and felt so welcomed by our amazing bike community. Thank you everyone who was out there motivating me to keep on turning those cranks and contributed to make this race so much more special. It was great to see you all!!!
Shelly and I after the Race...

Congrats to all the amazing racers today who had well sized “kahunas” on them to participate and compete in this demanding race. Congrats to all the strong ladies out there, very proud of all the girl power that I saw today on the course.

Since my XTERRA season is over for now I will be able to immerse myself a little more in our fun and competitive bike racing. Looking forward already to our next challenge!

And like always I’m the most grateful to Pax for everything he does for me and his endless dedication to my racing adventure…

HUGE thank you to all my amazing 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!

Until next time…

Please enjoy some more picture that my husband took during this race.

If you like to have Pax take pictures like this of you at your next race please message him or I on Facebook.

Link to all my photos from this race on Flickr 

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