Monday, November 24, 2014

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 8 - Caloosahatchee Regional Park - Alva, FL

Women Pro/Expert 2nd place

Orange grove in Alva...

Original pictures at the race -

Oh it was another very exciting weekend!

Tough race, rough conditions and really insane effort. Crashes were inevitable since the trails were slick.

On the final miles I ended up riding with a ripped off saddle…

If someone asked me if I could skip one race in the series which one would it be, it would be this one.
This is my least favorite track I guess for many different reasons. But when you look at the beautiful pictures from above, the park looks pretty neat.

View from above captured by drone

I never found a flow or never had a good race as many times as I raced here already. I didn’t want to give myself any false expectations that this time would be any different.

Down into the woods

I knew I was set up for yet another difficult challenge. To make things worst it rained toward end of the day and overnight, making conditions really rough for all of us. I knew the track will be simply slick, sketchy and quite dangerous. My short warm up confirmed it and slimy mud was everywhere besides the most sunny and exposed spots. I asked my husband to change my back tire just minutes before the race start.

Also it was pretty hot for this time of the year and really humid. I tried not to tangle my mind around all the negatives and just see what the day will bring to us next.

The gun went off. We sprinted on the long grassy stretch, I was now in 2nd right behind Shelly but the 3rd rider Josselyn just zoomed by me on my left with her “Mini Turbo Boost” and ended up in front of me going to the two humps and first single track. Very quickly I found myself feeling pretty good and ready for a pass. After a half a mile I was able to sprint on the side and regain my 2nd spot. The riding felt pretty good so far and I was making really nice progress in such a short amount of time from the start.

On the hump

Little more than two miles in I passed two male riders and was going through some slick dark corners. Out of nowhere my bike wiped out in one of them and I was lying flat on my left side. The mud was pitch black and of pudding like consistency. I grabbed my bike and mounted as quickly as I could, but just seconds later I realized my bar was substantially twisted and there was no way I would be riding the whole 20 miles of this insane terrain that way. So I had to stop, get off the bike and start fixing my bar. By this time the two riders I passed went by me. I got back on and all seemed good, thankfully guys were so nice and gave me the right of way and easy passes. Thx! We joked to be more careful from now on…

Thankfully my gap was big enough to still keep my position. But later on in the worst sections of the entire course I was no longer alone. Now for the remainder of the lap I had the 3rd girl on my tail and noticed the 4th further back at some point also. We were now first in front of a bunch of guys in the slow, rooty, twisty and wet sections which with time can become very annoying.

Later we rode the steep, narrow at times and sudden uphills and downhills. Those sections of the course are very taxing and challenging everyone’s skills, especially when the roots, sharp rocks and even the cement blocks are greased up. We got spilled on some grassy flowy trails and back to another series of challenging hills. Lots of other riders were now in our company therefore it added to the chaos. Eventually we got spilled once again to the grassy section, this is when I got passed. Two riders also went by us but just seconds later I saw one guy tumbling to the side and crashing flat on the grass. Not sure what happened really but the other guy and now girl in front started getting away. In a matter of seconds I was at her wheel now and we rode this way for the last, long windy path to the finish of the 10 mile long first lap.

One of million turns

Finally the trail ended and opened up to a bumpy and wide grassy area with some 30 meters before the lap end. This is when I decided to speed up and we were both standing up powering and racing for the shoot. I made a pass and kept ahead through the scoring section and we were spilled back again on the long grassy road and sprinting once again. After everything settled we were heading to the humps of the second lap.

I kept my position and went into this lap in 2nd. I managed once again on the first miles get ahead and put a little gap. Later on however I could see the 3rd rider just a little back while coasting some berm turns.

Thankfully this time around I didn’t make foolish mistakes on the low wooden bridges like I did on the first lap. Smallest mistake that cost me valuable seconds when I went on the wrong side following a rider in front. That changed my 10 second lead to less than 5. So it was good I rode clear now of those mistakes. But there was still a lot of trail to cover. We went through the slowest sections, fast sections and I kept my position and with time found myself alone. I covered another section of the fast open trail and dived into the dark and steep hills once again. They were slightly more challenging the second time around and when I was approaching one of the steepest ones out there I had fast riders close behind me. Knowing that on the first lap I was able to ride up ¾ the way and had my tire spinning in one spot afterwards I decided to ride it little more than half way and dismount.

Infamous uphill

In a split second I decided to do that I had this gut feeling that somehow I’m going to be regretting my choice very soon. I don’t know where those “I can feel something wrong will happen in very near future” feelings come from, but sometimes they just do. The problem is it happens so quickly that by the time you realize this feeling the decision taken had been already followed by action, therefore there is no turning back. All I see and hear is a noise of all the onlookers cheering us on. I’m getting off and pulling my bike to the side of myself as quickly as I can as guys riding really fast are approaching. Before anyone realized what happened I hear the loud cracking sound and pop and saw my saddle flying high up into the air away from the trail. My bike got hit full speed and nothing could have been done now about it. I was looking for traction under my feet since the shoes where sliding on the steep, sandy and moist concrete hill. I looked quick at my bike while running up and saw that my saddle was GONE.

I was less than 3 miles from the finish in one of the most challenging hills. I heard the voice of my husband yelling “keep going!!!” I tried to mount my bike but I was pretty afraid, there was a seat post left and some sharp edges of the carbon, everything was a blur.  There were more people that wanted to pass and the trail was really tight and narrow and still had more hills. I let people go by. Later on after an off camber concrete block downhill I tried to sit on whatever was left there. I slowly felt around and could feel some surface to sit on, thankfully the carbon rails were still there. I found myself riding or standing up or putting just a little weight on whatever was left of my saddle, sitting in what felt like a hole in very weird position. But at least there was something to put some weight on. I was afraid that all my hard work will go to nothing now since I lost so much time and would not be as efficient on the remainder of the course. 

After the race with an unfortunate broken the most beautiful Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow saddle :(

But I managed, my shorts kept getting caught on the sticking carbon pieces but I fought with it and kept on going. I was not going to give up now when I was so close. I entered finally the last single track below and then a long open section. I still had a lead and was on my own. It was exciting to ride back in that matter and also very challenging. It felt good knowing that I will be able to finish besides everything that happened today. Finally I rode in happily to the finish. I placed second after a hard battle and really all out almost 1:40 hour long and 20 mile long effort. I was some 1.5 minutes ahead the 3rd place. It was first time ever in this park that I didn’t feel disappointed. It was a nice change and quite a relief. In the first place we had today like always very fast Shelly who flew today on her home course to her victory.

I look happy here :-)
What an exciting day.

My Pax in action snapping pictures. Photo courtesy of

Shortly after awards we drove 2 hours home and my husband Pax after unpacking the bikes drove away for few hours in the office. To make our dreams come true and live life the way we want to we are always on the go and in a hurry, days seem to never be long enough. Often 15 hour long work days can be draining and really depressing and seem like there is nothing to look forward to in life. But what drives us both through these times is the next trail, the next weekend, the next adventure that is waiting for us…

Shelly and I at her little bike chain jewelry stand...

Amazing that riding a bike can have so much power. But it does.

Life is much better with a purpose no matter how insignificant it might seem to others that don’t understand; not easier, but better…

Like always thank you to my amazing support who is contributing so greatly to my amazing journey!

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

Original pictures at the race -

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