Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: SERC/US Cup East #6/GSC #4--Jackson, Georgia (5/29/11)

Memorial Day weekend was one of those weekends I wish I could rewind and do over. In fact, I really didn't want to post anything about it at all because some of it was pretty awful, but my mom said I have a responsibility to share the good, the bad, and the ugly, because maybe somebody else could also learn from my mistakes. So here it is:

The Good

Bryce was out in front
The best part of the weekend was being able to see friends that I haven't seen in a while. My friend Bryce and his family came up to Jackson for the race. I haven't seen Bryce since the first SERC race in Gainesville and I was glad he came up and was planning to race in the 9-11 class. He took off from the start like lightning and raced very hard. I wanted to win the race, but I wanted to cheer for him, too, because he was doing such a great job. I really think this was the best and most fun kids' race since the Florida series and I look forward to battling it out with him again!

You can see all the kids' race action in the video from this weekend.

This weekend, Kyley also came up with her family and actually spent the holiday camping with us. She raced in the girls' class and got her first win. Trent's sister, Lily, was a very close second. Way to go, Kyley and Lily!!

In addition to Kyley and Bryce, Vince also came up to do his first SERC race in the Junior 11-14 class. It was almost like going to a Florida race, there were so many people from Florida at the trail.
The Bad
Ok. So this is the part I didn"t want to talk about--the Juniors 11-14 race.

As you know, at the last SERC race, I got my first win in the Juniors. My parents were very proud of me and I was feeling pretty good about it. When we lined up for the start of this race, I really, really wanted to do well enough to get a podium, because I didn't want anybody to think that I just got lucky to win last time.

I had a great spot staked out at the start, right behind my mom, who was going to go off in the group before us. As the different classes were going off, the boys kept pushing everyone forward and I got pushed out of my spot and in front of my mom. When it was time for the women to start, a lot of the boys were in front and we were told to move to make room for the women. Well, I moved over to the side and the other boys filled in the line behind the women and I ended up in the second row. This did NOT make me happy, but I didn't let it worry me too much, because Dustin was also in the back and I know how good HE is.

Anyway, the whistle blew and we took off. Unfortunately for me, a boy right in front of me crashed at the start and I ended up riding right over his bike and losing a lot of time. I caught up to the pack by the time we reached the woods, but I was still in the middle of the group. Then IT happened. I took a short line across some rocks in a creek in order to pass kids in front of me and ended up falling on the rocks. Boy, did it hurt!! Dustin's dad and uncle helped me up, picked my bike up, and made sure I was ok. I told them I had to keep racing, and I got back on my bike.


Vince & Trent

The Ugly
Here's where it gets ugly (and embarrassing). 

I didn't just get back on my bike and keep racing. I got on my bike and had something my mom calls a "meltdown"-- I cried really hard--for about 30 minutes (according to the helmet cam) and just quit racing. I finished the course in dead last  and Bryce told my mom that they could hear me yelling all the way down Pine Mountain. {edit: When the results came out it turned out I finished ahead of one boy} When I finally made it back to the finish, several adults congratulated me for completing the race after the fall, but I felt like a complete failure and the worst mountain bike racer EVER.

Hopefully, I won't ever find myself in a situation like this again. If I do, I hope I will be smarter and not give up so easily (or cry so loudly).
Fortunately, I've got two more weeks to get things back into gear before my next race in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

4th Annual Frank Polack Memorial Bike Ride Benefiting Hospice of Marion County (5/21/11)

If you follow my blog, you know that this weekend is a race-free weekend. However, that doesn't mean that it is a ride-free weekend.

Getting everyone together at the start

Today, Dad, Mom, and I came out to ride with a couple hundred other people to help raise money for Hospice of Marion County. There were 3 different routes and lengths of rides that people could choose from--30, 62, and 80 miles. We chose to do the 30 mile route, so my dad could take pictures for the MTBMike.com facebook page, and so my mom and I didn't fall over from exhaustion.

Our local bike shop, Ocala Bicycle Center, had a lot of people turn up, so everyone with an OBC jersey got together for a group picture before the ride. My mom and I share a jersey, so she wasn't able to be in the group picture. Poor Mom!

Can you spot me in this picture? ^^

 Everybody riding started at the same time in one gigantic group. At different points in the ride, the 62 and 80 mile riders went a separate way to ride their own course. It was fun and I got to do a lot of sprinting once the group spread out some.

For the longer rides there were up to 4 SAG stops. There was only one on our ride, and it was a couple of miles past the half way point. SAG stops are basically rest areas, like you have on the highway, where riders can get something to eat and drink, and use the restroom.

SAG stop number 1

At the SAG stop we were at, there were 2 horses that we were allowed to pet. One of them was a real poser and would hold his head up and look right at the camera whenever someone was taking a picture. I think his name was Zodiak.

Once we were rested, we got back on our bikes and rode the rest of the way back to the Hospice Center. It was a much faster ride back because my dad rode out in front and let my mom and me draft him. We were flying past a lot of other people and ended up being one of the first groups back to the start. That was a good thing, too, because we were able to take advantage of the massage therapists that had set up tables inside and were giving free massages. Too bad we can't have massages after EVERY ride!!

Overall, it was a great event and the money raised is going to a good cause. I hope next year even more people will participate in the Frank Polack Memorial Ride.

Dad and I both wore our helmet cams during the ride, so expect to see a video coming soon on MTBMike.com and youtube.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SERC/US Cup East #5--Ducktown, Tennessee (5/15/11) AKA "My Best Race Ever!" (Part 2)

3 to 5 year olds line up to race
Race day started out like any other. I rode a couple of warm-up laps around the kids' course and lined up when it was time for the race to start. Anthony only got to the trailhead that morning, so he didn't have a chance to pre-ride the course. I told him he had time to do a lap since it was a really short, one minute long course. He took off to do it.....and never came back!!!

Ok, he did eventually come back, but not until almost an hour later. It turns out, he missed the turn to the left and ended up riding way up the adult course and got lost. His dad had to ride out to find him. Fortunately, he did. Anthony didn't look too upset when he got back, until he saw his mom, who was VERY worried about him. Then, he cried (probably because he knew he was in big trouble). Anyway, Anthony missed the 9-11 race, even though Dave let the younger kids and the girls go before us, but at least he came back safe. The video of the kids' races is below.

After the kids' races were done, the yellow wave went off (pro, expert, & sport riders) and at 11:30, it was finally time for the white wave (base riders). The Junior 11-14 class had 8 riders start the race. Going into the single-track, I was in 4th place. One kid got stopped on a section of big roots and I got around him. Then, the boy who was in the lead had some sort of mechanical problem, and before we got to the top of the 2 mile climb, I was in second place. I wanted to pass the guy in front and move into first, but we seemed to be pretty evenly matched and I never managed to do it. He was better at the downhills and would pull away from me in those sections. I was better at the climbs and would catch right back up.

In the end, it came down to a sprint to the finish. I managed to beat him to the line by a bike length for my very first win in the Junior class. My dad was so excited he forgot to take pictures of the finish, even though he had a camera in his hand. We made a video of the race with the footage from the helmet cam, but the best part (the end) came out all messed up, which was really disappointing, especially to my mom who didn't get to see it in person.

My first time to stand on the top step in the Juniors class.

Mom was very proud of me
This weekend, we get a break from racing and get to do some other fun stuff. The weekend after that is a long weekend for Memorial Day, and we'll be camping and racing in Jackson, Georgia.

Monday, May 16, 2011

SERC/US Cup East #5--Ducktown, Tennessee (5/15/11) AKA "My Best Race Ever!!" (Part 1)

Last weekend the Mace family traveled to Ducktown, Tennesee for the 5th race of the SERC/US Cup East series. (It's hard to believe we're already half way done.) We knew from friends who had raced there before that the course was going to be a tough one, so we tried to do a little extra preparation the week before.

During the week, I got to go on my first 28-mile group road ride with people from Ocala Bicycle Center. It was a little bit harder than I thought it was going to be, because it made me nervous riding right on someone's wheel, but my dad, and our friend Jane coached me through it and said I did pretty well for my first time. I'm hoping that my dad is right when he says that doing the road rides will make me stronger on the mountain bike and I'm planning to keep doing at least one a week from now on.

Before the dam opened

We got to the trail in Ducktown on Saturday for a pre-ride. The park was really cool, with the Ocoee River running right along the side of it. When we got there, the river was really low and people were walking around in it and sitting on some of rocks in the middle.

After the dam opened

While we were unloading our bikes, a siren went off and an announcement was made that the water level would be rising fast and everyone should get to safety. A minute or so later, a huge rush of water came down the river. One of the giant rocks that stuck up in the middle (and was about as big as the goneriding trailer) was all of a sudden under water. It was amazing!! What started out as a trickle of water in a creek bed turned into a raging river in just a few moments.
Then, about 5 minutes later, the first of the white water rafts came by and the river stayed busy with kayaks and rafts all day. We talked about going rafting after our pre-ride, especially since it was my brother's 13th birthday and he really wanted to, but you had to be 12 to go,and I'm not even officially 11 yet, so we weren't able to do it this time. Bummer! :-(
The reason why you have to be 12 to raft here
Now back to mountain biking....

The mountain bike course turned out to be every bit as hard as we were told it would be. Right from the start, it went uphill (and it was steep too). It continued to go up for about a mile before there was a tiny little break and then it went uphill again for another mile. Just when I thought I was going to die, we made a sharp left turn and it was all downhill for a little while; but not a gradual downhill, a really fast, rocky, rooty downhill. After that, it was about 4 miles of ups and downs (mostly ups) until we got to a gravel road. Then it was super fast downhill on the gravel road for quite a while, before we got to the Thunder Rock Express, which is a steep, difficult downhill single-track. When we came out of Thunder Rock, there was about a mile and a half of riding along an asphalt road (again, more uphill), over a bridge, and to the finish line. I guess it was a good thing I did some road riding during the week.

This race had so many interesting things to share that I'm going to have to break in up into two different posts. Check out part 2 for the scoop on the actual races.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hammer Head 100/50/25--Ocala, Florida (5/7/11)

On Saturday, my mom, our friend Dave, and I competed in our first endurance race, the Hammer Head. Dad did it last year, so this was his second time. The Hammer Head had three different distances that you could pick to ride--25, 50 and 100 miles. Plus, there were team options for a 100 mile team and a 50 mile co-ed team. Mom, Dave and I chose to do the 25 mile solo race. Well, actually, my mom wanted to do the 50 mile co-ed race with me, but I thought she'd be too slow and I wanted to do the race by myself. That might not have been the best idea. (I'll tell you why later in my post.)
Wow, look at that really cool jersey in the front left of the picture! :-)

The start of the race was crazy! I'd never seen anything like it. Dave Berger (from goneriding.com) led the start on his motorcycle and everyone followed him down the limerock road. There were a couple hundred people at the start and it took a while for everyone to get moving.
Once everyone got going, it was about 3/4 of a mile to the beginning of the single-track and that's where things really went nuts. The people at the very front of the pack got in with no problem, but then it started to back up and came to almost a complete stop. To see what I mean, take a look at the video below.

 Once we got into the trail things started to smooth out. Faster riders passed slower ones and everyone got more spread out. I traded spots a few times with Vince, a friend that I raced against in the Florida State series, but when I pulled over to let some faster riders by in Nayl's, I got a bunch of leaves and branches caught in my derailleur. I pulled them out, but my bike wasn't working quite right after that, and Vince caught me and passed me for the last time.  
We finished in 32nd and 33rd place, which was pretty cool since we were 2 of only 3 kids riding.

Our friend Dave came in right behind me in 34th place out of the 66 people doing the 25 mile race. Not too bad for a first endurance race.

Remember when I said it might not have been the best idea to tell my mom I wouldn't do the co-ed race with her because she was too slow? Well, she was fast enough to take 3rd place out of 12 riders in the women's class. Boy, was she happy (but she's never going to let me forget it now either)!!

Jane Hodess--1st, Pam Swails--2nd, Jennifer Mace--3rd
My dad did really well too. He rode the 50 mile solo race against a lot of pro and expert level riders and finished 9th out of 87.

The Hammer Head was a great event and we all had a lot of fun on the course and at the trailhead.
Next weekend, we take another road trip. This time we'll be in Ducktown, Tennessee for SERC/US Cup East #5. Wish us luck!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SERC/US Cup East #4/GSC #3--Winder, Georga (5/1/11)

This weekend's race was huge for me, because it was a combination SERC/GSC race and whatever points I earned went toward 2 different series, so I wanted to really place well. Our friends, Dave, Stephanie, and Kyley, came up for the race too. (If you remember from a couple of my other posts, Kyley raced with me in the 12 Minutes of Santos race and then did her first solo race at SERC #1. Her uncle, Dave, raced in the Base 30-39.)

Anyway, my mom, dad, me, Dave, and Kyley pre-rode the course on Saturday. We took our time, because Kyley is just starting to ride the harder trails, but she did great. Some of the climbs were kind of long, but the downhills were very fast and a lot of fun. My mom said she liked this course the best of the ones she's raced on so far. I liked it a lot too. There were some really cool down & ups (we call them whoop-de-doos), a creek crossing, and a few bridges to make it interesting. Plus, there was a lake where I could do one of my other favorite things--fishing.

Saturday night, we went to watch a road bike race in Athens. Holy cow, were those guys (and girls) fast!!! The announcer kept saying the men were going around the corner at 40 miles per hour, and every time they passed us they were nothing but colorful blurs.We heard that there were some wrecks, but we didn't see them. All we saw were some racers with bloody legs and elbows at the end of the race. And people think mountain biking is dangerous....!

Race day was beautiful on Sunday. The kids' races started at 8:30 with my group, the 9-11 year old boys. The course was part of the adult trail and it was one of the more challenging ones we've ridden in this series.

Paul and Anthony got out to early leads, but I managed to chase them down and bring home another win.

Kyley raced in the girls class against Trent's sister, Lily, and a few other girls. Lily came in first and Kyley came in second, so that was fun to watch. Trent's mom sent me out to coach Lily to keep going, but I cheered for both of them to keep it fair.

Click on the video below to see footage of the kids races.

I also raced in the Juniors 11-14 class. We had 12 riders this week, and even though there was a Junior Sport class for the SERC, where the super-fast kids like Dustin ride, in the Georgia series there isn't one, so I had to race against those same type of super-fast kids (including Dustin). I raced hard and did pretty well with a sixth place finish. I thought I had 5th and a chance for a podium, so I was disappointed to find out I missed it by one spot. Trent came in behind me in 7th. So far this series, I beat him twice and he beat me twice.
To see footage of the actual 10 mile course, go to MTBMike.com and watch my dad's video of his race. 

This coming Saturday is the Hammer Head 100/50/25 endurance race. I'm planning on doing the 25 mile race and so is my mom. Dad is thinking about doing the 50 mile race. It should be a great time!