Monday, December 22, 2014

What does a Christmas Tree and a Fast Bike have in common?

What does a Christmas Tree and a Fast Bike have in common?

They both light up for the holidays!!!

Well at least in my house...

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Best Christmas Tree Ever !

Thank you to my supporters during the 2014 Season!

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Specialized Florida State Championship Series # 9 - Santos Trails - Ocala, FL

Florida State Championship Series # 9
Final Race

2nd Place Women Pro/Expert
3rd Overall for Whole Series

(Missed 2nd overall just by 1min 20secs on my make-up race that didn't go as planned.
Also I missed 2 races for XTERRA World Championship in Maui therefore didn't have as many as my competition to drop. Still happy)

Full report...

What an amazing race.

It was such a beautiful weekend…

More than refreshing cold but also gorgeously sunny and there is just no other more vast and forestry terrain with challenging trails anywhere in Florida.

Pre riding this sweet course with my Pax and my big hero Shelly was a special experience.

Happy couple

I maybe said it before but at the same time it always seems like it’s never enough. I love when you see the right person doing the right thing. Someone who lays a lifetime of passion for riding right in front of you and floats through the trails with a joy and finesse that makes it look flawlessly easy and leaves you speechless. This beautiful harmony and connection of one with their bike and the trail is what turns something that it is so difficult and takes many years to master into an art and almost poetry.

This is where everything that we do comes together and it just makes sense and brings so much joy.
Competing with one possessing such talent is not intimidating as it would seem but rather an honor and privilege.

I’m very grateful with the opportunity that was given to me and with how far I have been able to take my passion so far... But let's race, shall we?

The course is tough this year as it is every time we race here but this time it runs in the opposite direction. Already in the first two miles it leads up to the most technical part of the whole course.

Therefore even with being quite familiar with the trail system we all knew it was going to be a long day with plenty of testing moments.

I had an idea where I wanted to be from the start, but like all things in life nothing exactly always happens as we plan it. In reality however the best is to be able to think on the go and play the best game with the cards that were dealt on that day.

The morning was cold, we were parked in the shade in 34 degree weather. Our bikes sat nicely on the beautiful Kuat Rack and we were just layering things up for the small warm-up.

Whole forest was still sleepy and if felt a little moist and frosty but the trails were really in more than perfect conditions for this final race.

It was good to see some of my supporters like KMC Chains and Pro Gold Lubricants make it to the site and be part of the event.

The moment I went to the starting line and stood there in the sun I felt good and ready to go. Even though it might be maybe the only peaceful moment in the whole event, when you just stand there and know you have two minutes to go. But at the same time it is now when the pressure accumulates and you can hear your own heart pounding in all the noisy music and announcing going on around you.

My good friend who just got into the biking recently and is doing really awesome and I’m very proud of her mentioned to me something about it while standing on the start line of her own race.  She said that even though she loves mountain biking it might not be for her since the nerves are just overwhelming before the race start. And I do completely understand here what she is talking about. Most of us experience some type of anxiety  at that moment and all I can say is that she is not alone and it is not detrimental in any way if she is meant for the sport or not. I would say that having this stomach filled with butterflies feeling and really high heart rate shows us that our body is ready to go and that we actually care and are excited about what is about to come next.

I will bring up here an example of the best Off Road Triathlete in history: the famous Conrad Stoltz aka “The Caveman” who spoke one day on this topic. He mentioned that after competing in the sport for so many years he is stripped of those feelings on the race start and actually is missing it in a way. So to bring it back and reproduce what made him feel so thrilled and nervous at the same time many years back, he signed up for a dirt bike race and felt just like that when he was waiting for his race to begin. He didn’t want to shut down the feeling but rather embrace and enjoy them. So all I can say is to keep on racing and enjoying the experiences that brings us back for more and don’t let it slow us down, because the moment the gun goes off all of it dissipates into the air.

The proof for me is that my friend who was so nervous at first ended up winning her novice class!
And for me, well the gun finally went off and every worry in the world was gone. Everything become very simple and oriented on the next step and focused on the task at hand.

We sprinted around the lake and I settled into 3rd position. For a few seconds I wondered if I should try to go around since our strongest rider was sitting now in 2nd letting another rider lead. I felt I had more to give and can speculate only now if I have made this move that I was leaning to but hesitated, if the race would unfold differently for me, at least in those beginning parts.

Into first single-track

We got into the sticks and in a sharp right turn the 4th rider sneaked on the inside and made an unexpected pass. I also saw our Shelly make her move as she jumped around the 1st rider like she was standing still and got her 1st spot to keep. I ended up sitting where I didn’t want to be but also I didn’t want to worry about it much since the race was going to be very long. I stayed behind through the lap and lost some time but nothing significant since I had an eye on the girls when going around the scoring section. I was some 10 seconds back. Not sure how this happened but on the second lap I lost a little more time but toward the end of it I started making up all my loses and was coming out of the shoot of the final lap just a few seconds back.

After the first fast section and the beginning of a little flowy trail I was sitting on the wheel and quickly worked out my first pass. Now being in 3rd I had another rider just in front of my wheel but unfortunately when I tried a few times to go around I was told that “it is not happening”. Oh well, I was not asking for permission, I knew that I will need to figure it out one way or the other. When we got to the Tom Brown trail unfortunately I lost my position again due to the 180 turn with hidden inside line that I didn’t know of. It didn’t make me happy but I was right there and watched the girls struggle with this demanding terrain. It was not easy for anyone but besides us racing now for a very long time I was very focused on what had to happen next.

Finally we did come out of Tom Brown and jetted on a short straight away to the Bunny Trail. It is so smooth, swooshy and has really nice speed and flow to it. But because of it being so flat and having this only one flowing path it is quite impossible to pass here especially without cooperation. Like usual on the final lap I feel more energetic now and if I could I would pass right away but I knew it would not be easy. So the three of us paraded this section one after one, we had also a tail of guys with us who realized what was happening  and decided to stay back, since they were all together just like we were.

Almost out of "Sink Hole" Trail
We were all in line now and the pace was fine but not really super-fast. I guess the girls didn’t realized that they gave me a nice opportunity to sit there and get even more rest. I was fine with that. I knew however that very shortly the moment this kind to us and pleasant trail ends and we get spilled onto the only long, flat double track and guys finally will be jetting by us and we will be sprinting for position.

I was looking forward to that and waiting for the trail to end. The final seconds, tape ahead, sharp right turn and you just hear gears clicking everywhere. Guys are flying fast on the right, girls are getting up to speed, I’m right there with them. Now men are gone and I’m standing, powering by the 3rd girl, I made a pass, with momentum I’m catching up to 2nd. We are still on the double track but there is an evident smooth path and the rest is covered with autumn leafs, I was on the brown leaf cover now and we were head to head looking at each other, no one was going to give up here.

Sadly even though it was pretty wide here the other rider made sure I will not get a chance to go by. I settled on the tail and after few seconds of regrouping started getting up to speed once again and this time I was aiming for the left corner where our double track would end and take us to the single track. I was full speed once again and aimed through the berries to get to the trail first through this corner, well I was cut short once again and therefore stuck for another lengthy and technical trail. This time the trail was narrow, had never ending small hills and turns and was led with numerous boulders that we had to squeeze our bike between. Definitely not the best place to make a pass but I was slowly running out of time. After all, we were past the second half of the final lap… I didn’t feel desperate in any way however, but rather kept my calm and somehow knew that things will work themselves out. I had to stop the possibility of losing a race to someone who at this point into the event is no longer faster than me but simply stays in my way and preventing me from riding faster. This did angry me in a way and I had a very strong feeling that I should not allowed something like this to continue.

Through the enchanted forest. Of course filling up on my Clif gel while enjoying the scenery!

Therefore I had to do everything I could in my power to turn the situation around and make sure the right happens and the faster rider wins the race.

My pre-planned opportunities were gone however and the only next thing that could save me would have to be not only a surprise to my opponent but also to me. The obvious was too obvious and would be cut short and trust me I watch every little corner, clearing like a hawk, but still was not getting anywhere. The Magic Mountain trail was about to end, we were just some hundred feet of the final climb. I’m on the tail, another climb, downhill, turn, roots to go over and another longer climb with a 180 degree turn. The speed amazingly slow and turn was so sharp that you had to go very wide. It was a split second call “fudge it” I went on the inside and as narrow as I could and still remember being brushed by the berry bushes and branches but my wheel was now ahead with a clean pass and I just positioned myself where I wanted to be in a whole race, ahead.

Race podium

It was to a great surprise to my opponent which was expressed verbally, but I could care less now after what I had to go through. I dipped down to a small rocky passage and went to the Magic Mountain climb, someone was cheering us on. I felt instant freedom and power. I climbed up and descended into the turn. For a split second my mind wondered that now there is a very fast trail to tackle that leads us after that to very slow and rocky section and the race will be over and that now I am in charge on what happens next. I didn’t question myself however after that, instead I felt like I grew wings and biked faster, more happily and with more energy than I ever did.

I flew the flowy downhill sections and was just diminishing the gentle uphills and got to the rocks “the sink hole” in a big lead already and peace of mind. I worked it and refused to slow down no matter how far back my competition now was sitting. I wanted to do everything right and have a perfect finish. I tackled rock gardens flawlessly and in a great spirit. The guys that caught up with me decided to stay with me to the end and said I had huge gap. I sprinted through the sandy final stretch and came out into the grass, flew down and around the tree and got to the finishing shoot with so much energy that I was sad in a way to stop. My husband of course was waiting there for me on the exit and I was glad I could bring him a satisfying result that he wanted for me and expected.

Third lap happened once again to be my fastest lap and it seems to be nowadays my style of racing and I’m pretty comfortable with that. It does create a little more challenge and unexpected elements but also makes racing a little more exciting.

Sub Zero rode as beautify today as she looks...

Last season which was my first year in the Expert class right after the start the girls in front would just get a 5 minute gap and I would not be able to ever make up for this loss. This type of racing was not as exciting since each race would not bring that much of promise. This time around however we are all head to head from the start, battling throughout and toward the finish or even at some races from the start I’m making my pass and staying ahead.

Pax about to make Sub Zero as clean as she didn't race today! ;-)

I would compare this series to my other and most favorite year where I raced Cat 2 and it was the most fun and competitive class with just so many amazing riders in it. I had blast. So only thing I can wish for the current state of racing is that we stay as competitive and close but also that more talented women joins the class to make it as challenging as racing Expert should be. Florida has more than plenty of amazing women that know how to rock their bikes, now we just need them back on the trails behind the starting line.

So I finished 2nd in the race and 3rd overall for the series and I am happy that something that was my long time wish a few years back now become my every day adventure.

Always happy to be on my bike and to compete.

Allison and I = Dream Crushers

The award ceremony and the dinner with overall awards for the series was as usual a very nice and refreshing ending to another successful series. It’s always a little weird to see riders out of their riding gear without helmets on and bikes by their side, especially when you are having trouble recognizing each other…

Overall Ladies Pro/Expert Podium

When I looked up the stage from our dinner table I thought to myself as I did so many times before. Without Goneriding, the Berger family passion for sport and continuous dedication to promote bike riding on the East Coast and Florida we all would not be here…

I’m always grateful for all they do for all of us, changing the lives of so many in ways that one cannot even imagine…

With Austin "Trouble" from Gone Riding...

For some reasons, this year everything just come and went so quickly. I jumped into bike racing not really ready since I was mentally and physically fully submerged in my main preparations for the World Championship in Maui for XTERRA. Somehow because of it I feel I didn’t submerge myself the way I would have loved to but still had a fabulous time. It happened so quickly and I should be sad on one side that racing was done, but on the other angle I was ready for a break for the longest time now. I was going nonstop now for three years pretty much racing everything I could manage with still training and working full time. It was an extreme challenge and a test of my commitment, my husband’s patience, how much I can squeeze in one day and how far I can push my body before it breaks down on me. I hit the wall before I got to Maui unfortunately and was finishing this amazing season pretty burnt out, ready to just sit down and with persisting injuries in my leg. Everything around me told be enough was enough.

I’m in my recovery and recharging mode now. And even though my mind is more and more ready and future plans are evolving for the upcoming 2015 season. I know that letting the body heal is the most important thing now I should be focusing on.

Thanks you goes to my husband Pax for his deepest believe in me and continuous dedication that goes beyond what “Thank you” can do…

The support and kindness I received throughout a year is immeasurable and greatly appreciated.
I’m happy and honored to have so many incredible, dear to me companies sharing my journey.

Thank you 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

I’m looking forward what the New Year will bring me and I am full of hopes of at least another memorable and amazing season…

Until next time…