2017 MACHO MTB Race

It’s often times a misnomer when people say racing bikes is fun.

I absolutely love being on a bike! Racing…

I’m currently in my 3rd season of MTB racing and one of the things that has carried over from my lifetime of being an athlete is preparation. The thing with MTB racing is that preparation is only a piece of the puzzle. What I have learned is that you have to be diligent at controlling what you can control. Your fitness is on you, your nutrition is on you, did you pre-ride the course? That’s on you! Game plan, mental space, enough rest, following your rituals…that’s all on you. You show up race day with those things in order and the preparation part is done…now it’s time to show up and show out!

In all honestly I am just starting to uncover the mental side of racing. I prepare very well from a physical standpoint for races. Mentally not so much…I often times have thoughts of can I hold that pace, should I shoot for the hole shot, will I blow myself up, should I conserve, should I go all out??? On and on and on I go essentially psyching myself out of having any shot at putting together a good race.

Going into race #3, I was sitting on two top 5 finishes. First race I had a bad crash at the start and entered the single track at the back of the pack. Second race I was sitting in 3rd place with roughly 2 miles to go and break my seat. I call it character building LOL. Preparation was there, it just wasn’t my time yet. One of my teammates told me it’s gods way of keeping me hungry. Well I’m definitely still starving!!! Let’s get into this race report.

Fortunately my preparation was on point. Pre-ride Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday had me and baby gurl dialed in. We were going to run 24 psi F & R tire pressure with 105 psi in the front fork 2 clicks open F & R on the Brain.

Race Day arrives and I get there around 9:15 am. With a start time of 11:00 I had enough time to hangout with the squad, get myself ready and get a proper warm-up in. Heavy jacket 7/8 laps around the field and I’m up on the start line already in a sweat. Jacket off it’s go time.

Macho 3

Cat 2 40+/Fat Bike was the last group to go off. I get on the front line and give myself one last little pep talk before the gun goes off!

Countdown is done, siren goes off and 10 seconds into the race we are into the first turn of the glider field. I’m sitting in third and see my teammate Eric push through on the left side. I follow and pull behind him into 2nd. I eventually pull around him and pull the train for the back stretch of the field before we make the final left. At the left turn Eric and another rider (Doug) pass me on the outside and continue to push the pace. I jump on Doug’s wheel and follow suit. Sweeping right quickly followed by a hard right and we are into the single track! The hard effort was well worth it as we had already opened up a gap on the rest of the field.

Macho 10

For the next 3 miles the three of us pushed the pace trying to extend the gap on the rest of the field. Eric did a masterful job pulling hard enough to make it a three man race. Unfortunately that was only until we get into the tech section of Snake Pit. Now yes it’s a section that everyone doesn’t always clear but dude was literally standing in the middle of the tech section with his bike blocking the entire trail. So much so that there is a legit pause in the action for a good 2 seconds. I know proper race etiquette and all but at this point I’m in a full body bath of Hurt Locker and there is a pack of hungry wolves fast approaching. I yell out run past him. We are off the bikes and running past this guy just as the pack makes contact. The only good part of this is that he didn’t move for them either. I’ll just say whoever that was is lucky it was a long island race…That could have gotten ugly quick!

We continue to push the pace and at the very top of Snake Pit entering Ewok Forrest Eric tells me to take it. I hesitate for a second and then go. I literally bury myself to create a little breathing room before we get into Loco. It’s me and Eric sitting 1 and 2 with no sign of Doug.

Macho 4

I’m hurting bad and knowing how much I was suffering, I could only imagine what every other racer was feeling. So much so that in the middle of a suffer fest I felt a slight smirk on my face. WTF??? Am I enjoying this suffering???

Hurt Locker

I exit Loco and let it rip through the hole and up the fence line. As I enter the field I lost sight of Eric and all I could think of was getting back into the woods and trying to add onto my lead knowing how strong Eric would be on the back half of this race.

I’m full on the gas passing the back half of the group that started in front of us so I knew we were running at a good clip. I knew this trail like the back of my hand so my goal was to remain fast and smooth and stay on the bike. Stillwell can bite you on almost every turn so there was never a moment of relaxing. Eric catches sight of me right before we drop into the Yellow trail which would take us to the bottom of the Sandman climb. I continue to press and keep the gap at bay. I had every intention of soloing this and had no interest in a potential sprint finish with Eric. HR is at 175, I’m foaming at the mouth and not willing to back off one second.

I get to Snake Pit and rip through it clean, at the top of the climb all I could think of was just getting in and out of Loco clean. I drop into Loco, clear the dusty, sandy, loose switchback and don’t see anyone behind me. Is this really about to happen? A couple racers from the group in front of us let me pass…On the last climb out and there is a contingent of supporters at the top. Shout to the crew at the top of Loco…you have no idea how bad I was hurting but you guys made it all worth it.

Macho 5

Loco is done. Let’s hit this hole one last time…

Macho 9

I’m on the fence line and I glance down at my Garmin and see I could possibly break the 1 hour mark. Legs were on fire, my heart was in my throat but I told myself that I had a little bit left and there is no reason to not collapse at the finish line. Fck it..I’m out of the seat like a mad man on a one way mission to cramp city. Last turn and I couldn’t even think of faking the I’m good face. I was nowhere close to good…I was 99.9% destroyed and was aiming for the full 100%.

Macho 8

Pain face engage…it was finally over! I crossed the finish line and immediately found a clear space in the field and was one with the grass. I couldn’t even un-clip on one side. Dead AF!

I somehow finished first in the Cat 2 overall standings while finishing under the 1 hour mark.

MACO Results

The best part of this was seeing Brands Factory Racing sweep the Cat 2 overall podium and have 7 of the top 10 overall spots.

Macho 7

Needless to say it was a very good day for the BFR squad!

Macho 2

Photo Credit to Dwayne Burgess & the Race Awesome Team

Special thanks to Corey Roberts, his wife and the entire Race Awesome staff for putting together a really good event. Great course, great volunteers, great photos and video and most of all flawless and super fast race results.

I’ll always be a team first guy and I am truly thankful for having teammates to continue to assist me develop into a racer. So thanks to the whole Brands Factory Racing Team. With that being said I have to give a special thanks to Eric Bosch. Not only did you bury yourself at the start which greatly benefited me but you pulled a good portion of the first lap which allowed me to dig deep while being less stressed since I was just reacting to what was going on in front of me.

Thanks to Brands, ESI Grips, Honey Stinger, NXT Level Apparel, Swiftwick, Handup Gloves, Carborocket and everyone else who supports my journey.

So do I like racing? I love racing. I haven’t always had the results that I’ve wanted but this one reminds me why I live this lifestyle. It’s validation for all of the early morning and late evenings. I train the way that I do because it feels oh so good when you reach your goals.

I hadn’t had a dream of winning a Cat 2 race. My goals and aspirations in my first Cat 2 season were simply to step foot on a podium. I guess the bar has now been raised! I now am one that can honestly say that it HURT so GOOD.

I love this sport!

Macho 6

This is in no way the finish line. Let’s continue to push our limits and see what the next step is. This day was a great day for me. It took a little while for it to sink in. I enjoyed the rest of the weekend and already thinking about getting back to work. On to the next one!

My Journey, My Life,

Jon Merritt

 

2 thoughts on “2017 MACHO MTB Race

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