9/29/08

Getting dirty!



My first mountain bike race. Well, it was Karel's race and I was there to support him and take pics. This was Karel's 2nd mountain bike race and I couldn't wait to see him in action.

The morning started around 5:30am when Karel got up and prepared the coffee. I stayed in bed until 6am and then I was up ready to pack for the morning. The race was about an hour away at Fort Clinch park which is in Fernandina beach. I was looking forward to going to a new place, watching Karel and of course going to the ocean. I packed our cooler of water bottles, fruit, nuts and two PB&J sandwiches and after preparing my coffee and a little oatmeal we were out the door at 7am.
When we arrived at the park I was super excited that we were just a boardwalk away from the ocean. As Karel was getting himself ready to warm-up I headed to the beach with my radio for a nice morning run. With the ocean to my left I fumbled my way through the sand for 20 min. What a great workout! I can't think of the last time I trained on the sand for a run but it was really enjoyable to be so close to the water. As anyone knows, I am a fish in the inside and I just love the water.
I headed back to the park on the pavement and finished my 42 min run inside the park. Another one of my loves is being outside and before the race even started, I knew I would enjoy the day.

Karel's race started about 30 min behind schedule but at 10am they were off. There was 1 guy from Karel's Linder team and 2 guys from the Trek store who raced that morning. Karel raced in the XC 2, 30-39 category which is just a step above the Pro mountain biker category (I think).

I wasn't quite sure where to go to watch the race but I saw a friend from Clearwater that I use to ride with and she told me where to go to see Karel a few times during his race. Karel's race was 3 loops of a 7 mile course. Seeing that only about 1.5 miles of each loop is on the pavement there was no time to relax during this race. From what I saw in the race, the pavement was not a place for the riders to relax. If anything, they were pushing almost all out on the pavement to either pass someone, catch up or try to get ahead.

I found a great spot in the forest and when I saw cheered on Karel as he was finishing his first loop, he noticed me and said "I'm 2nd". Honestly, I wasn't even expecting him to say anything to me because the course was challenging and I really had no idea what to expect from this race. When I saw Karel for the 2nd time I continued to cheer and I made my way to another spot in the trees. I just don't understand how these guys (and girls) do it but I did get a little hint of excitement that I would really enjoy taking up mountain biking and of course, doing an Xterra race.

When I saw Karel coming in the middle of his 2nd loop he told me to see where the person behind him was in relation to him. All in a few seconds, Karel and I were having a conversation as he was battling his way through the dirt, trees and bushes. Karel told me that the guys in his category were in the 300's so I knew who to look for. After many cycling races, Karel and I have learned how to have mini-conversations as he is racing. I am pretty good at taking a few sentences of race reports and yelling them out in a few seconds as he is racing.
I waited until I saw the 4 guys chasing Karel down and they were only 30 seconds behind him. At this point, Karel was almost finishing up his 2nd loop so I made my way back to the race start. It took me a good 15 min to walk back to the start so I ended up seeing Karel as he was making his way up to the start/finish to begin his last loop. I told him that they guys behind him were 30 sec. away and the guy infront of him (the leader) was a good minute....and still looking really strong. Of course, with the time gaps being right as they entered the woods, Karel had made up a lot of time in the woods for his 2nd loop.
Knowing that there were a few guys still chasing down Karel he really picked up the pace on the 3rd loop. Unfortunatnly, with the fear that guys were chasing him down comes risky moves to keep his position.
When I saw the 1st place guy finish the race I hoped that Karel would be the next 300 guy coming through the finish. Of course, I would be happy with any place and I never go into a race thinking that Karel is going to place X-place. But, getting a top 3 finish is always good :) I just love seeing him out there and of course, taking pictures :)
To my surprise, Karel finished 2nd and the 3rd place guy was well behind Karel. As I continued to take pictures of Karel I had to cringe a bit when I saw Karel completely covered in dirt.
Karel fell 2 times during the last loop and lost at least 2 minutes in that loop. For the first fall he was down for about 30 sec. to put his chain back on his bike. It was the 2nd fall that really knocked Karel down and he had a hard time getting back his rhythm after being down for about a minute. Luckily, all in one piece, Karel landed a spot on the podium and he has a pretty medal, a hurt wrist, very sore ribs and a few scraps to show for his great effort...in his 2nd mountain bike race!

To finish off the morning we headed to the beach for a dip in the ocean. After playing in the ocean for a little bit we collected shells which were all over the sand. At the beach, I took some time to really think about my life and how I want to continue living my life.

Taking a moment to enjoy the little things is something I try to do everyday. I am a very open and honest person and you will always know what I am thinking and feeling. That is probably one of the main reasons why I aspire to be a writer...hinding my thoughts and feelings is very, very, very hard for me.
Aside from calling my parents daily, telling Karel I love him every night before I go to bed and appreciating everything that comes my way, I continue to work hard on not complaining and not getting stressed out. I think everyone has something they need to work on..no one is perfect and we should never judge someone for having imperfections. Most people in my life, who I am in close contact with on a daily basis, know my personality and that I am very opinionated and I always have something to say. But with the help of Karel and supportive parents and friends, I have also learned that it is a lot easier to enjoy life rather than to worry about things or get stressed. Thankfully, I have enjoyable events in my life to remind me why I love waking up every morning and to not dread the day.