Friday, February 2, 2018

6/3 Hour Green Gobbler - SEC#1, Conyers, Georgia

6 Hour Green Gobbler - SEC#1

2nd place finish, 4 seconds off winning the race. 

64.13 miles
5:21:02 moving time
4,478 ft elevation gain

2,536 kJ

Preview of the course I rode with my Removu gimbal and Gopro 6 can be seen Here

Take look at their new Handheld all in one Camera/Gimbal - Removu K1 - Here


First race of the Southeastern Endurance Cup by CHAIN BUSTER RACING.

Fantastic race, great venue and really nicely organized!

Everything was neat, to the point and very timely and that’s a sign of the organizers really trying hard and putting their hearts into putting on a great race.

And not only the race was run smoothly, starts were somewhat staged but also new owners of Chain Buster Racing are really good and kind people and it showed!

Please enjoy the story of my 6 hour journey on the bike and I will try not to bother you about the 18 hour journey in the car to get there and back! 

What a race and what a drama in the final minutes of the long day. Who would think a long 6-hour endurance race will come down to a sprint finish in the last half a mile on a gravel road.

That was exciting and frustrating at the same time but I will explain it more soon.

Racing out of Florida is an amazing, fun and always, really great experience, but getting out of state to get there is pretty tough. We had to break it up and leave straight from work on Thursday, drive up 5 hours and the following day another 4 hours to be able to pre-ride quickly the course.

Racing at the 1996 Olympic site has to be great and I was sure will be worth the drive. The course happened to be really fast and flowy and really fun. It was filled with some creek crossings, wooden cute bridges, big fast berms that would take you and your bike straight down and right away straight up. I did throw here and there quite a few “yeppers” even during the race! The elevation change was constant right from the start but really it was hard to feel that you were climbing for the most parts, it was just a very joyful ride, besides of course two major climbs where there was no doubt it was happening. This is where the race for the most part was won or lost but once again it was not exactly the case of my race since there are always exceptions to such rules.

The start/finish/transition location is a massive open field and that gave a lot of opportunity to check out where you are as far as standings in your class as well as to obtain all the drinks and nutrition that would be needed for this 9-mile-long lap which provided 700 feet of elevation gain. 

We had a pretty late 10 am start on Saturday morning and I will not complain here about it since I love to sleep in, yes not like, love…

The 6-hour racers were sent off first and 15 minutes later the 3-hour class. It was completely overcast and in the low 50s. I was super happy to freshly gear up with some new Castelli warm accessories, base layers and even fluffy super comfy socks! Last two cold races in Florida my feet were frozen for most of the ride therefore I knew something had to be done. I am happy to say that everything workout great for me and I stayed warm and cozy.

Right before start Steady Spin did an interview with me and other female racers and after that we were ready to go. 

Mass start on the grassy field, probably the less favorite for me part of the endurance racing. We started but my legs were not moving at all, I pedaled but I felt I was not getting too far. It took some time for my legs to warm again and start turning properly, I began making up the lost spots before we hit the single track.

I had some female racers in front but I was not that much concerned of that. First lap with everyone out there was little on the busy side but I was able to slowly keep on picking off riders and making my moves toward the front. Toward the end of the first lap I had two females still ahead riding pretty much wheel to wheel, I counted and I was around a minute back. On the second lap the gap did widen some more to the first rider up to 1:20 minutes but the second racer started to fall back and I was only picking my speed up. The second lap was pretty exciting for me since for the whole time I was chasing the second girl down and kept counting down the diminishing ground between both of us. On each climb I saw her and the gap kept getting smaller and smaller to 40, 30, 20 seconds, I was almost there. On the bottom of the most memorable for all of us open and quite vertical field, the grassy gas pipeline climb I came out right behind her, went by and after saying a quick Hi climbed away.

At that point I didn’t know how far ahead the first rider was, but I found out later that the gap grew to some 1:40 minutes and I had a new mission to foretake. Therefore, my whole 2nd lap was about tracking down and passing the second rider, now I made a priority for the 3rd lap to switch my focus on the first rider ahead and doing exactly the same. This lap was however the busiest of all with huge amount of slower riders ahead on the trail, most likely there were the riders from the 3 hour race that we were catching on to now. So gaining spots and time was pretty difficult at that point but not impossible. And as planned I started making up pretty quickly all the lost ground, making up time little by little and starting having a clear view of her on some of the climbs and turns above and taking note of the time gaps. All if it was taking place exactly at the same places that it did just on the previous lap with the other racer. On the second hardest climb of the 3rd lap I had her almost on top of it when I started the ascent. I was hoping to catch up on the next big climb the gas pipeline but once again she was already on top of it when I got there. I knew it was going to take little longer this time, I finished the 3rd lap still in 2nd place. Only difference was that in the grassy field just going into the 4th lap she was right there ahead of me only some 20 seconds in front.

In the matter of 2 minutes or so right in the first part of the single – track of lap 4 I was already on her wheel. We talked, I went around her and we had a very long nice ride together and we chatted away for quite some time. The pace was good but no one was making any moves or pushing really hard at that time. Now it was a matter of figuring out what is going to happen for next half of the race. Knowing what kind of rider she is and how she races I knew most likely she will enjoy sitting on my wheel for the remainder of the 3.5 laps and will try to take over the race with a sprint finish. I didn’t think she would be making any attacks since I would be able to follow and respond. So now it was a waiting game, we almost covered together most of the 4th lap wheel to wheel. I knew that at some point I will have to try to get away but I didn’t know yet where and how. Very soon we reached the final 2 miles of the lap with two major climbs coming up. I figured I will just climb as normal or even more conservative and watch, and will feel it out where we both stand as far as freshness right here. I went to the climb first, no rushing and just waiting to see what happens. I kept spinning my way up higher and higher but could not hear anyone behind me. I thought her bike must be very quiet since there was not the smallest sound behind me. I didn’t want to look back, I never looked back, I just kept biking and rode away. At some point little further down the single track I found myself being alone and finished the 4th lap with a lead.

I went into my 5th and 6th lap in first place. In the meantime, I felt strong, driven and determined, I was riding really well and had lots to give. I ended up growing gap to 2 and even at some point 3 minutes. Things were looking good, very good. My 6th lap was not that fast but still our time was only 19 seconds apart and I had a big lead going to the 7th lap. I was putting a good smooth pace but didn’t go crazy since I knew there should be enough to take me to the finish.

Also, since the beginning of the second half of the race a little drizzle showed up here and there, slowly transforming the ground and making it slightly stickier. It was funny since the two major climbs did not bother me that much for most of the race but after the 50 mile mark I had no desire to ever look up to see what is still ahead. I just kept my head low, admired the saturated with some light rain ground under my tires and some dried-out leaves being stuck to the ground and blending into it alongside the hundreds of different tire tracks. Both of the creek crossings here were a little rugged with sharp wet rocks and I wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything goofy here on the end of the race. Everything was going nice and smooth, each time I looked back just in case I had no one there. I never got any splits and was not really sure what was going on behind me. I did go one more time to the big climbs and still didn’t see anyone, after that just before the last part of the single-track was the additional longer but more gradual climb and also, I did reconfirm looking back that no one was chasing me here. I spilled out of the mountain to another small portion of the last single track and had my husband there waiting and cheering me on. He was still not aware that something was cooking in the air.

I went to last section of the single track, which was the narrowest of all the trails in the whole lap and most likely the slowest. I was pretty much coming out of the trail into the gravely downhill and I thought I heard a female voice and it sounded way to familiar for my taste. I looked back quickly and the only thing I saw was guy in yellow. When I started descending I heard out of the sudden my husband saying “she is right behind you”. By the time I realized what was happening and hit the bottom of this little descend and started riding on the half mile long gravely fire road below the race finish, this crazy freight train at ridiculous speeds went by me to my right leaving me in the dust. This fresh guy (team racer) in yellow went by me like I was standing still and had the female rider pretty much glued to his back tire, just sitting right on his wheel ducked down and was speeding away. They were to my far right and even if I wanted I could not have grabbed their wheels. I fought and powered on and was speeding on my last gear that I had and it was still not enough to keep up to the guy’s pace. I felt sick, sick in my stomach, shocked, surprised, speechless. I didn’t give up for a second but just felt my fantastic win and all the hard work is being stripped away from me in a such a horrible manner. The gravel road was long and culminated with a tiny loose rock climb out to the open field. Now I saw my opponent on the top of the climb, the guy that led her through the whole last lap was now in between us, and I started climbing really hard seeing that she was melting away there. When I got to the top we were both sprinting on the grass the last few hundred feet but she was just too far ahead and she just kept looking back and checking on me to make sure I don’t catch up and get much closer. It was completely a finish that you see in the Tour de France races all the time but never in mountain bike races. I was 4 seconds off first place on the finish line of the race that I in theory won but should had won in reality.

I was in complete shock and rode the whole last lap unaware that she was working with someone and pre-arranging the final straight away attack with him and was bridging the gap. I just wish I knew since I simply would have picked up my pace. But the only thing that hurt was that when I saw her and realized that she was catching me it was in that moment when it was too late to do anything about it. They came out of nowhere and it all happened so unexpectedly and so fast. That’s why the image of the freight train going by me on the flat dirt road will be burnt in my head for a long time now. I wish I had an opportunity to fight her in more of a fair game, female racer to female racer, head to head, tire to tire and there was no outside help involved. In that scenario I feel I would have won the race that I should have won.

Moral to the story however is to never take for granted any lead you might have. Never assume, never settle, never get too comfortable. I’m still speechless of what happened and how it happened and even though I really don’t like the way this race was won I cannot be fixated on that. I rather need to keep myself accountable for my own actions for not taking the win into my own hands and simply riding super strong into the finish, that way no one would have a chance to touch me and take it away. So, I’m here to blame and will have to find a way to just move on from it and learn from it. I would never make a pact with a male rider to reel me in and especially take me by the other female racer on the road for the win because I would want to do it by myself, completely on my own. This is the only way that would make me sleep at night, this is the type of person I am, maybe foolish, maybe na├»ve, maybe too innocent for the sport, but I don’t care, it’s me. I’m hurt but I will only get stronger from that.

I just wish everyone could see what I saw and feel what I felt when I was leading and pretty much winning the race. I am so very proud of my ride, race, effort. I was strong and I rode in a dominating fashion. I woke up completely sick with flu like symptoms while in the hotel in Georgia just a day before the race and I was able to still pull off such a good effort. Now all we had left is to jump into the car for a long, over 9-hour drive home and after that start working on my chicken soup and everything else I can come up with to get rid of my sickness, since I was totally sick now.

The long drive was however worth it. The bikes hung happily on my Kuat NV 2.0 black bike rack and didn’t mind it at all. I had a great time, fantastic race and saw great things already unfolding for me for the new season.

I am happy and I should be happy, I see myself getting stronger by the day and it showed. Myself and my Pax did an amazing as the team and everything as far as communication and all the nutrition needs were almost executed perfectly. I was all over my Clif gels and drinks the whole race in a very punctual matter and it definitely kept me focused and on the gas.

Small funny thing I remember from my 3rd lap is having a male rider behind me following my wheel and at one point he asked me "are you racing 3 or 6 hours?". I told him "6 hours" and he said "I'm surprised" and I asked "why?". He responded "well not that you are a female but because of your pace". It made me smile and I took it as a complement, I exactly know my limits and what kind of pace I can hold so I didn't have the concern that possibly he had that my pace was too fast for such a long race. But I found it quite cute and flattering... :-)

Overall it was a really good test to see where I stand on the beginning of my 2018 season and just at starting point of the process of building my strength. I will be back soon and even stronger.

Thanks goes as always to all my sponsors, my Pax and great race organizers who put on one fantastic event. Also, it was great to race a lot of kind and new racers and see a good number of female racers out there crushing it! Georgia mountains are beautiful and a wonderful blast to ride and hopefully I will be back there soon enough to enjoy them some more!

Special Thanks go to:

City Bikes, Castelli, Magura, Stan’s Notubes, Schwalbe, Trainer Road, ESI Grips, Clif, XpedoGarden of Life, Kuat Racks, Light & Motion, EVOC, Oakley, Pocketfinder, KMC Chains, Rotor Bike Components, K-Edge, Squirt Lube, SelleSMP.

See you all next time!