Monday, November 17, 2014

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 7 - Loyce E Harpe Park - Lakeland, FL

FSC # 7 Lakeland

Short Track 1st Place
Women Pro/Expert 3rd Place

This race week can be marked as action packed as it can get.

It started with the insane and excruciating Short Track on Saturday which brought more excitement that one could ask for. To full blown fast and technical and also quite charged Cross Country Race on Sunday. I'm still trying to recover and wrap my head around some things that went on this weekend...

Normally I would jump into writing this report a little bit earlier when all the pictures are still vivid in my head and the feelings and details didn’t have a chance to vanish for good. However this time I had to wait and let my emotions settle for a bit.

After a 2.5 hour trip to the park we quickly were surrounded by the race buzz and I was invited by Shelly (Thank you!) for a very memorable pre-ride.

It was definitely an honor and a great feeling to ride the course with the best female riders Florida has. So Shelly, Carolyn, Belinda and myself paraded in full speed at this fast and really fun race course.

This was a ride to remember and the skills of those talented riders are hard to match.

I also pre-rode with my Pax the short track race course. It was pretty hot by now since it was already 3 in the afternoon and I was ready for our short track start.

The wait however was excessively long and the female riders had a disadvantage of the race beginning with a mass start in a company of hundreds of guys. I positioned myself in the front and soon after the whistle went off and I learned the hard way my first lesson.

I was getting up to a nice speed on the sandy dirt road with all other riders while one rider from behind hit my right elbow and bar and sent me swinging for traction, by the time I did regain the control same thing happened again and I was hit by another rider. This time I was pushed harder and was working on keeping my bike under control swinging left and right while other ladies from around me started to go by. When I got back to speed again we reached the entry to the short single track with a very narrow path and a little hill covered in tons of berry bushes. This is where all the madness happened and all the riders were yelling and getting off their bikes, running over the hill and even falling and being scratched up by the shrubs.

Thankfully moments later we were back on the bikes and now more organized and proceeded with the race. It was a short 1 mile loop, mostly flat, on the dirt road, small single track, and dirt road again with a strong wind, some street and really bumpy grassy stretch to the finishing shoot. The following lap started with under the ruins pass and soft (left over from cyclocross race) sand box and we were back onto the dirt road. We had 5 of these laps and they were all out efforts. After the second lap I was sitting in the 2nd positon and at some point I decided to make a move and pass for 1st. We were all going as hard as we could and exhausting ourselves equally. It did hurt. I kept my lead and had the second rider on my tail for all this time. We went through the final single track, which spilled us to the dirt road against the wind, I had no one in front therefore I had to do all the work. Unfortunately for me the second rider was sitting right on my back wheel getting a nice draft. Now we got spilled to the asphalt for a few seconds and I was about to go on the left of a road sign and onto the grass for the final 200 meters or so to the finish. Everyone was full speed now and going over 20 mph and in about one second I’m about to hit the grass and I know we will be sprinting for the finish. But what happened instead it’s still hard for me to forget and get over.

All of the sudden I felt at full speed a hard hit into the back and side of my bike and body and instantly I found myself being pushed back on the asphalt, flying in the air and trying to maneuver around somehow the road sign to the right and road to the left. All of it while my bike just swings left and right and I’m riding it only on the front wheel and having everything sloooowww doowwnnn and was just wondering how I’m going to fall and get out of it in one piece. This is most likely the last thing anyone would want to be doing right before the finish line in a 20 minute long all out suffering race. In those few split seconds in the air and having all the weirdest thoughts I felt how unfair it was that all my hard work now not only was for nothing but also I wondered what was going to happen to me next. All I can say is I was in shock cruising like this in the air and lots of riders afterward told me they saw me and my bike just flying. There was no saving this fall but luckily to me the bike was now speeding to the left and tumbling viciously on the street again and again while I was falling to the right and falling on my right side on the grass. I landed on my right leg, hip and shoulder, therefore those parts got really sore thereafter. I feel so grateful and lucky that my body did hold up and I didn't break anything, it could have been so much worst.

When I got up all in shock the 2nd rider was gone and I grabbed my bike from the street which had a totally bent bar which was locked up on the top tube. There was no fixing anything now so I picked my bike up and started running. I was out of breath and all shook up and almost started running the wrong direction to the finish line. When I approached the tents and was running my bike holding it with the twisted headset people were asking me if I was OK. I appreciated all the concern but I was just so angry and shocked. I could not believe that I got hit at full speed in a wide open space. I feel brakes were invented for a reason and should be used when necessary. But this is as far as I’m going to go with my comments.

Only thing I want to say to everyone racing out there is “As fun, exciting and meaningful bike racing may seem to us in my opinion nothing is more important than our health and safety”. And I don’t wish anyone ever would be put in the situation like this by any other rider.

So distressed, beat and frustrated I went to the hotel room awaiting still a full blown Cross Country race the following morning.

I spent a beautiful evening with my husband Pax and we tried to forget about the incident and move on, but it was so difficult to do. I ended up having a pretty sleepless night.

The next morning I was pretty tired and sore from the wreck but I was ready to tackle one of my favorite courses no matter what.

I love the challenge and try not to find too many reasons to excuse myself from a fair fight.
The start of the XC race was positioned far back before the shoot right before the bumpiest section on the grass, the one I had to run yesterday.

We were off and after an initial few seconds I was able to go by some riders and put myself in second.

We went through the shoot, under the ruins, through the sandy uphill and were on the long side of the hill which was leading us to the single track. Laps now were over 6.5 miles long and consisted of fast and flat sections and also very technical and therefore little slower passages. I managed to speed up, go around the first rider and was now in the lead. We got to the single track and I was sitting in front for a little while and maybe a few minutes later strong Shelly jumped out of nowhere on my left and made a sickly fast pass and jumped over the roots in between trees and was now our leader.

I stuck with her for a while but it did not last. Now I had two other riders on my wheel for most of the lap and I was dictating the pace. Toward the end of the lap when I was approaching the sketchiest section of the course, the First Finger I let Josselyn go by me. Now I was in 3rd and had 4th rider literary scrubbing my wheel while hanging there up on the narrow and steep ridge. When we finally got out from this section to the flat dirt road I got passed. I stayed with her for a while but later on I ended up riding my own race.

Not sure how to explain that but I felt less energetic than usual. I wasn’t sure how much time I was back now but after reaching the first lap shoot I had two girls in my eyesight, they were not far off. My second lap felt awful however and my body was hardly responsive. I just remember the pain in my right leg and just not feeling like I was having a great day. That was a very unexciting lap but I was happy to see my Pax and Mickey popping in at all different parts of the course and snapping really cool pictures of our journey.

By the end of the 2nd lap, which was my slowest I lost some additional seconds, but still nothing major. I didn’t feel too well still going up the sandy hill for the 3rd time and on the windy side of the hill. This is where a whole class of guys approached and started making a pass. It was some loss of time having all of them trying to go first into the single track. There was now just one rider of the group behind me and when we got out into the open sandy downhill he was ready for a pass. I let him go by and just seconds later when speeding on a narrow and open path he simply ran out of gears! I told him to gear up but he said “it’s all I got” ha, let’s figure the singlespeed!

So I had to make my pass now and go by him. Seconds later we had a wall ride and another singletrack now I let him go by again. There was a lot going on in this lap but I started to feel more refreshed now and was picking up my speed. Sometime later I realized I was just 10 seconds off Josselyn in front. It took very little time to catch up and I was speeding out now in a wide open bumpy section to hopefully get in the next trail first. It didn’t happen however and I had to sit on the wheel for some time but when the trail opened again I was able to nicely and with polite cooperation from the 3rd rider go by. I was speeding now and had less than 2 miles to go. 2nd place rider was some 30 seconds ahead and after clearing the rest of the technical sections of the course and some riding with the company of some other male riders we were spilled once again on the windy dirt road. This is when I saw 2nd place just a little ahead down the road. If I only had a little more time…

Now I was riding well and feeling better, too bad the race was about to end. I crossed the finish line in 3rd, 20 seconds off the 2nd, making up 30 seconds on 4th and was 1.5 minutes behind fast, as usual, Shelly.

After all it was good day in the park considering it was really rough and testing weekend. Also when I looked up our average speeds it confirmed what I felt during the race; we were riding sickly fast! And that's awesome to be able to say that for all of us ladies out there!

It was a lot of riding, waiting and racing. But the unnecessary stress and commotion took a little more out of me that I would wish for. I hope all future races are going to be the way we all perceive bike racing should be; full of friendship, healthy rivalry and fun. This is why we get up early in the morning and put our pampered and beautiful bikes on the racks and get them out on the trails. All for appreciation of good comradery and promise of new adventures.

Huge thanks to my husband Pax for all the support this weekend, mental strength and the sweetest and coolest pictures that captured the beauty of the park and essence of our race.

 Here is sample video of 1st Finger Trail that was part of our XC the Race Course... :-)

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!

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