Thursday, August 2, 2012

2012 Epic Family Race-cation: Nationals (Part 4)

We finally made it! After 6 months of preparation, Sun Valley, Idaho was supposed to be the high point of our Epic Family Race-cation, and in some ways it was. In others, not so much. In fact, this is probably one of the most difficult posts I've done because of the extreme roller coaster of emotions that Nationals brings up.

Me with Todd Wells

One of the really neat things that happened in Sun Valley was meeting Todd Wells at the local bike shop our first morning there. It was really funny, because my friend Adam Cohen had met him the day before and Todd remembered that he was from Florida, and when he heard that I was from Florida too, he was surprised that he came across two of us and that we were friends who raced against each other. Todd was really nice and told us about racing at Santos (my home trails). He said he liked the trails but the animals kept startling him. My mom thought this was funny because she's been known to post "critter counts" after training rides at Santos, and has had all kinds of close encounters.

I'm in an Adam sandwich.
During the day, my family did some pre-riding and in the evening, we went to the Welcome Dinner downtown in Ketchum. We had a good time hanging out with the Yackles and at the end, some of my friends from CycleYouth camp came over to our table to show off their 4th of July hats (formerly table center pieces). I thought they were cool, so I, um, recycled a center piece myself and we took pictures. 

Mom's start
The next morning, my parents had their races. Mom went off first with the Cat 3 women and rode a 20-mile course with 8.5 miles and 3200 feet of climbing. Her goal was just to finish the course (she hates climbing). She not only finished but came in 5th place and earned a spot on the podium.

Mom's podium
My dad started a couple of hours behind my mom in the Cat 2 Men's 40-44 class. They did the same course as the Cat 3 racers. He had a great jump off the line and a huge lead hitting the climb. Unfortunately, climbing is a weakness for all of us living in Florida and he couldn't hold off the stronger guys on the way up. His downhill was really fast, but he wasn't able to make up enough time to finish on the podium. He had a great sprint to the finish and ended up in 13th place.

Adam Cohen lining up
On Friday, the pro U23 and Junior XC1 classes raced in the morning. It was really exciting to watch! In the afternoon, the 14 year old and under classes raced. My friend Adam raced in the 13-14 year-old class which started before mine. It was a huge class with close to 50 racers in it!

Adam had a super good start off the line. (We Floridians may not be the best climbers, but we can kill it on the start!) He came around the first corner in 3rd place after starting on the second row.

Adam took a sweet inside line across the grass.

The course was shorter than we are used to, at less than 2 miles, but it had one 1/2 mile climb that was brutal. Adam's group had to ride it 6 times and mine had to do it 5 times. Photos can't do justice to the 20% grade and loose gravel that made it so hard. My dad coached Adam up the climb.

In the end, Adam finished with a strong 11th place against some really good kids and we were all very excited for him.

Adam and his dad after the race.
My dad created a video for Adam's race and you can see it below.

At last it was time for me to race. I started lining up about 1/2 way through Adam's race in order to get a good position. I knew I would also be starting on the second row based on call-ups, but I wanted to be in the best starting spot possible.

Adam wishes me luck

Even though my class wasn't as large as Adam's, it was still pretty big, with over 30 kids. When call-ups were done and we were allowed to move forward, I kind of got jostled and lost the spot I really wanted, although I still started on the second row.

After watching the start of Adam's race, I had really wanted to take the same inside line he'd used through the grass, but after getting shoved to the middle, my best option was to take it wide. Also, after seeing how differently kids started out west compared to in Florida, I had decided not to go all-out on the start, because the climb would kill me if I used up all my energy before I got there. So, I settled for getting into the top 5 heading around the rock garden and figured I'd make up ground on the descents and flats, which are my strengths.

Well, as expected, I got passed on the climb, but I did make up some time on the descents and more on the flats. At one point, I actually caught and passed Colton, who was running in 4th, but he took it back on the climb.

At the end of 5 grueling laps, I crossed the line in 5th place. I was so excited to have made the podium at Nationals. It wasn't the first place I wanted, but I knew I had something of a disadvantage to the kids who train on this type of course all the time, so any podium finish was awesome!

Me crossing the line
Getting congratulations after the finish by Jake and Adam

 Of course, my dad made an epic video to document the occasion.

Now, this should be the place where my awesome "official" podium picture goes, but due to circumstances I had no control over, that picture never happened the way we expected and the reason for it has made me think about not participating in future USAC Nationals events. In fact, my mom really wanted to take out space on my blog to verbally crucify the person responsible, but since we've all had almost a month to reflect on things, she decided it would be petty, and that instead we would end things as they should be.....with my well-earned 5th place finish at Nationals, complete with celebratory ice cream, official race medal (donated by Mom), and podium picture.

Besides, I have more important things to focus on right now, like finishing the US Cup East/SERC series and the US Cup East Triple Crown events this weekend.