Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 US Cup East/SERC #6/GSC #3--Jackson, Georgia (5/26-27/12)

This weekend's race at Dauset Trails in Jackson, Georgia was an emotional roller-coaster for me. Last year, a crash right in front of me at the starting line put me behind right from the whistle, and then a fall on some rocks into a creek when I was working to catch back up just ruined my whole race. So this year, I had a score to settle with the course, and I was on a mission to finally beat John Michael.
Pierce, me, and John Michael
We got up to Dauset on Saturday afternoon and pre-rode the course. To our surprise, it was a totally different set-up from last year. The trail with the creek that I crashed on last year wasn't even part of the course this year.  One section, called Huff and Puff, we rode in reverse last year and we were told to be thankful. This year, we found out just how it got its name when we had to ride it in the usual direction.

Saturday was very hot and in the late afternoon, I competed in an individual time trial event to earn bonus points for the Georgia State Championship series. I wasn't planning on doing the whole Georgia series because of conflicting races, but just in case we made it to enough to qualify for overall awards, I did the time trial. It was great too, because I finally beat John Michael by 17 seconds!! This had me excited and looking forward to racing against him on Sunday.

Because this race was another combined US Cup/SERC/GSC race, the field was pretty big. I got out in front this time at the start (big improvement from last year's start) and I was feeling pretty good.

By the time we got to the steepest part of the gravel road climb before hitting the woods, John Michael, Pierce and I had put some distance between us and the rest of the pack. Then out of nowhere, John and Pierce stood up and blew past me. I stood up then also to catch Pierce's wheel as we made the sharp left turn into the single-track. I knew I wanted to eventually get around those guys, but this first downhill section was really fast and was part of the parade lap that ended with us going through the finish line, so I knew if I just stayed with them I'd have a chance to pass when everyone slowed down there.

Well, it wasn't but a few seconds before my first big break came. Like I said, this section of downhill was fast and we were flying through there. John Michael's wheel slid out on a turn and he went down hard on his knee. Pierce and I went around him and John was finally able to get going on the bike again after everyone had passed.

I ended up getting around Pierce at the finish line area and took the lead. Then I knew I just had to ride fast, make no mistakes and do a better job getting through traffic than everybody else and I would have the race won.

Unfortunately, I only got 2 out of 3 of those goals right. I was definitely riding fast and aggressive, and I was definitely getting through traffic better than everybody else. However, I also crashed several times. On the last one, I got a flat and didn't have any CO2 with me to re-inflate it. I blew a lead of at least a minute because I didn't have supplies. I was so frustrated!! Walking my bike back out of the woods and getting passed by the guys I was in front of was one of the most humiliating feelings ever. I know mechanicals happen, but why did it have to happen when I was leading?

Marco--2nd place
So how did the race end? Obviously, I got my first-ever DNF. Pierce went on to get his first win and if I hadn't been so miserable myself, I would've been happy for him. He's a nice guy. Marco Newman came in second and John Michael worked his way back from dead last to third place.

On the ride home, we reviewed the video footage from the race--all 25 minutes of it--(yes, that's sarcasm) to try to determine what I did wrong and what I could learn from my mistakes. After we were done talking about it, my dad started playing an interview that a friend of ours, pro rider Drew Edsall, had done at the Transylvania Epic this weekend. Some of his answers really seemed helpful in my case. Here's what we came up with:  1) Protect the bike, 2) Protect the lead, 3) Be prepared. Thanks Drew (and Dad)!!

Next weekend, my dad and I are taking a guys only road trip to Birmingham, Alabama for Bump 'N' Grind. I can't wait! It will be my first Cat 2 race and I'm looking forward to being able to compete against some new and different riders. I'm not so sure I'm looking forward to riding Blood Rock though, but I guess I'll see when we get there.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 Hammerhead 100/50/25--Ocala, Florida (5/12/12)

This has been a busy week cycling-wise. Although I took a couple of days off after the race at Ducktown, things started picking up mid-week. Wednesday was National Ride Your Bike to School Day and even though I ride my bike to school every day, there are only a few other kids who do also. My dad was trying to get the principal of my school to get actively involved in it, so that maybe more kids would get their bikes out of the garage, but she never got back to him and nothing much happened with that (unfortunately). Even so, my dad surprised me at school one day the week before and we made a short documentary about letting kids ride their bikes to school.


Wednesday afternoon, I took a ride around some of the trails that would be included in the Hammerhead race on Saturday. It was brutal. We hadn't had a lot of rain in a while and the trails were slick from leaves and pine needles. I slid out and slammed my shoulder into a tree--twice! Ouch! Needless to say, I didn't have much of a positive attitude about how the actual race would go after that.

Climbing 'The Wall'
On Thursday afternoon, I went to Brick City Bicycles after school to work for a couple of hours before going on the group ride that evening. It was probably one of the most exciting group rides I've been on. I was able to hang with the 'A' group for about 24 of the 32 miles, averaging around 21mph. I've never hung on to them that long and I think I could've done better but I blew myself up running the pace-line too long.

Friday after school, it was back to the trails to pre-ride with my friend, Bryce, who was planning to do the 25-mile solo race. I took him out on the most technical sections of the course: the blues on the 49th Avenue Trails, Nayl's Trails, and Ern-n-Burn. He loved Ern-n-Burn because it was a lot like a BMX track. We had a good ride and practiced a couple of especially difficult parts to make sure we knew how to ride them in the morning. After the pre-ride with Bryce, I had a much better attitude toward the course and I was feeling good about lining up to race the next day.

Last year, I competed in the 25-mile solo race and finished 33rd out of 66 riders, but this year I decided to do the 50-mile co-ed team with our friend, Jane. We thought we had a pretty good chance of making the podium, or even winning.

I lined up at the front of a pack of more than 100 people for the mass start. Dave Berger led us out on the motorcycle and gradually sped up as we got farther down the road. I had a good start and even rode Bob McCarty's wheel for a short time. I got right next to him at one point and wanted to turn my head and say hi so it would be in my video that I passed Bob, but it was too crowded and I decided it was too dangerous to play around at that time, which was probably a good decision, but I still kind of wish I had that footage--haha. (If you don't know who Bob McCarty is, I can describe him in one word--AWESOME!!!)

I was really having a good time running with the faster guys near the front of the pack and managed to stay there until I got involved in a big crash in the section before Ern-n-Burn, called Beyond. My leg got squished pretty badly and it hurt like crazy. Fortunately, my bike was ok, and I was able to get back up and keep riding, but it definitely messed up my flow after that.

By the time I got out of Nayl's and back to the 49th Avenue Trailhead, I was getting very tired. I had gone out really hard for this race, but maintaining that for almost 2 hours was getting tough at the end.

I did manage to finish my leg of the race in under 2 hours (1:51 according to my Garmin), which put us in 3rd place when Jane went out to do her lap. She was about 10 minutes behind Sarah, who was running in second after her partner, Regan Woodall (pro/expert rider) put up a really fast time. Jane raced a great lap, managed to pass Sarah with about 4 miles to go, and moved us up to 2nd. It was awesome!

We had a great time, and I'm glad I did the race with Jane as my partner.  Jane even let me keep the trophy. It's my first big one and I can't wait to display it!

Next week, the Mace family is taking a break from racing and doing a charity ride here at home. I hope to see the whole cycling community come out to support the 5th Annual Frank Pollack Memorial Ride Benefiting Hospice of Marion County. This ride is very special to us because Hospice took good care of my Grammy before she passed away in February.

Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 US Cup East/SERC #5--Ducktown, Tennessee (5/6/12)

This week's trip took us to the site of one of my very best races, SERC #5 at Tanasi Trails in Ducktown, Tennessee. Last year, I raced here for the first time and my goal then was just to finish the race with a respectable time, because I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to do the 2 mile climb compared to kids who bike in the mountains all the time. I surprised everybody when I won the race (my very first Juniors 11-14 win) by a bike length in an exciting sprint to the finish. That was the first time I realized that maybe I really could do "mountain" biking and even beat some of the older kids. From that point on, I started getting up on the podium more often.

Me chilling after the pre-ride on Saturday
This year my goals were a little different. First of all, I wanted a repeat win. Second, I made a side-bet with my dad to see if I could beat his lap time from last year (when he won in Cat 3), or beat his slowest lap time this year (he rides in Cat 2 now). I'll let you know how I made out at the end of my post. :-)

Well, this week, I got another good start off the line and went into the first section of single-track in the lead, with Pierce behind me and his brother, Noah, in third. We were making good time and started picking off the guys in the Grandmaster class, who started ahead of us, almost right away.
After about a mile of climbing, we came out onto a double-track section and Pierce decided that it would be a good time to attack and pass me. At first, I thought, 'No way am I letting him pass me!' But after I settled back down, I realized that it was okay and I just needed to stick to his wheel and take the lead back before we hit the next section of single-track. And that's just what I did.

I'm not sure exactly where I dropped him, but once I realized that I was alone, I started to take it easy and rest. In fact, I didn't realize just how much I was resting until I thought I heard another racer behind me and I started to worry that Pierce had caught up. It turned out not to be him, but it woke me up and got me to re-focus on racing. It also reminded me that I was supposed to be beating my dad's time too, so I stepped on the gas again.

Eli--Base 30-39 Class 4th Place Finisher
Pretty soon, I had made it through all of the Grandmasters, and was passing the guys in the 30-39 class. Once I caught up to Eli and Chris (2 racers from Ocala), I set a new goal to catch the kids in the Junior Sport (Cat 2) class who had started first, about 10 minutes ahead of me.

Chris--Base 30-39 Class 2nd Place Finisher

Well, I ran out of trail before I could close the gap on the lead Sport guys, but I did manage to pass a couple of the guys at the back of the group and finish with the 2nd fastest Cat 3 time in the whole White Wave.

Pierce finished in second place, and his brother Noah finished in third for his first podium this season. Anthony came in fourth place for his first podium, and my friend Zach also got his first podium with a fifth place finish.
And what about the side bet with my dad? Well, despite slacking off a bit in the middle of the race, I did manage to beat his race time from last year (by 3 minutes). Even better, I actually beat his fastest lap time this year too (and he even made the podium for 3rd)! I'm thinking that there should definitely be a DQ Blizzard in my near future.

During the awards, my mom heard Pierce's dad say that Pierce beat his lap time too. How cool is that?

Check out the video from this week's race. It's a pretty good one, especially the footage of blazing down the gravel road and Thunder Rock Express. Hope you enjoy it!

Next weekend, Mom and I are doing some endurance racing at the HammerHead, while my dad lets his bad knee heal. I hope we see a lot of you there!!