Iceman Cometh is a huge, if not the biggest, mountain bike race in the US. It takes place in northern Michigan, and goes from Kalkaska to Traverse City. It is 30 miles, and follows a combination of dirt roads, double track, and single track. It's been on my "must do" list for a while, pretty much ever since I raced my mountain bike in 2007. With it being 30 miles long, it was something that I would need to work up to doing. Also, since mountain biking is really Ryan's strength, I wouldn't do it without him. It's one thing to drive up to SE MI and do my girls Tree Farm Relay that is 10 miles of trails with a bunch of hanging out, but Iceman is three times as long, and it isn't really very easy for us to get to now that we are in KY. It sells out crazy fast, so you have to be decided before registration opens, or else spend a fortune on a bib transfer as the race draws nearer. Ryan had never seemed really interested in doing the race. In 2010, when I sprained my ankle and had to stop training for the Detroit Marathon, we opted to Crystal Mountain and Ryan raced in the Peak to Peak race. It is sort of a warm up race for the Iceman. It was a different style of racing than what Ryan loves. He really enjoys very tight technical turns, and this race was steep and fast. There were guys that did this ride with fully rigid frames that were lighter and faster than his full suspension bike. I thought he did great, but he did not. It took some of the allure of Iceman away for him. I had always just been threatened by the distance. However, Kent, Ryan's road cycling partner in crime, won a mountain bike in a contest a year or so ago, and despite struggling with it (see video here), really wanted to do it. We have lots of friends that do this race every year and do really well. I knew Ryan would want to do it if Kent was doing it, and that was my ticket to get to do it. You can actually read my post about the whole decision and registration process here.
So, here we are. The race has been on the calendar since March. I crashed spectacularly on the road in May. I recovered and did several races over the summer, including the Tree Farm Relay mountain bike race after the crash. I raced back to back half marathons in Oct. I'm training for a third half marathon (this weekend), and trying to fit my mountain bike training in. We did the Black Mountain Madness ride, and I have been riding my mountain bike on the hills of the IMKY course. With fall upon us, it is too dark for me to ride after Ryan gets home from work, and it is too far for me to drive to trails while Soren is at school. Also, I don't have anyone who can go with me, and I just don't feel comfortable on the trails by myself here yet. I'm fine going to Maybury or Tree Farm on my own, but that is because I know I can't get lost and there aren't any sketchy parts. The trails here make me nervous because they aren't well marked and there are steep drop offs. Also, most people said that the trail portion isn't terribly technical, and road fitness would be helpful. I missed a bit of riding on account of the late addition of the Detroit Half, but I prepared as best as I could. Besides, I am NEVER prepared properly for cycling events. I plan to be on the "underprepared" side. I just like running too much to devote the time to cycling that I should. I had two of my team TUTU ladies bail on this ride for being underprepared. They did it last year, and had a rough time of it. I knew it was going to be hard, but I knew I had the fitness ad the willpower to do it.
Since the race is so far away from KY, it meant we had to miss Halloween. This was a bit of a bummer. I love Halloween, but we did take the kids to two trick or treating events earlier. Also, my parents would be staying with them and getting to enjoy the fun. The weather was horrible in KY for Halloween, so they actually moved trick or treating to Friday, which in a way, made me feel less bad about leaving on the 31st. Part of me felt like we should have gotten up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning and made the drive all the way up, but since we didn't miss anything by leaving Thursday, it was fine the way we did it. We drove up through Canton, MI, and stayed with Ryan's parents. We only stayed the night, and then got up in the morning, made a quick stop into Town and Country in Northville for some last minute items, and then were on our way up north! The weather was less than promising. It had been raining or misting almost all day, and the weather wasn't looking great for the race either. Cold and raining. Ugh. Not really what I wanted for my first Iceman. On our way to the expo, in Traverse City, we drove through Kalkaska, and there was this banner hanging over the road. I got super excited as we drove under it. Ryan was excited too because he was glad I took the picture. Usually I take too many pictures, but it was OK to stick my arms out the sunroof trying to capture this.
We arrived at the expo shortly after. Kent arrived just a few minutes before we did, and we met up inside. It was a huge expo. We got our number plates and then bought jerseys.
We talked with a lot of friends that were there. Since it was our first time doing this event, we were in the "unseeded" category of waves. That meant that it was pretty well sure that we wouldn't be winning any awards this year, no matter how prepared or unprepared we felt. Since there were 5300 riders, there would be a lot of waves. We knew a couple people starting in Wave 1 and earlier waves. We had to wait a while to start, which meant that we would be just starting at the back. Ryan started at 10:06am, in Wave 23, and I was at 11:00am, in Wave 41, and Kent was right in the middle of us. Everyone was telling us how there would be backups in the singletrack areas and that we may even need to wait for sections. This was going to be an experience for sure. We browsed the expo a little bit longer and Ryan and I found the photo booth section. Here is our serious picture:
Here is our fun picture. I actually joked with the guys that I wanted the tutu for the ride tomorrow, since it would act as a mud flap. I had sort of wished I had brought one of my own, but none of my other tutu girls were racing.
We checked into our hotel next. It would be a cool place to stay in the summer. It had its own beach on Traverse Bay. We would stay here again for sure.
Plus, they didn't mind that we brought our bikes inside. They even left their hose set up outside for rinsing them and opted to have breakfast available early for all of us in town for the race.
We had a little trouble figuring out our prerace dinner. We found what we thought would be a cool Italian place, but once we got there, it was a bit pricey, and not exactly what Ryan and I were looking for. Kent was starving, but we got back in the car and drove a few minutes away to Olive Garden. I feel bad eating there without the kids because it is their favorite, and Ryan and I could take or leave it. We found a table in the bar area so that we could be seated immediately, and had a good meal that served its purpose. Probably the best thing is that the weather was looking marginally better for the morning. The chance of rain was dropping. We turned in pretty early, but since we didn't start super early, we didn't need to get up too crazy early.
The next morning, we woke up at 6:30, and got breakfast at the hotel. Everyone was asking us if we were starting really early since we were there. Um, no, Kent and I were just in charge of when we were leaving, and neither of us can be too early to a race. Here is Kent in his throwaway coat purchased at Goodwill for $10.
With the race being a point to point, the logistics weren't as simple. We needed to load all three bikes into/onto our car and follow Kent over to the parking area for the finish, at Rasho farm. Here is what the back of our truck looked like before Kent's 29in front wheel was put in the back. Two bikes were on the roof. Mine got to ride inside because it was the smallest and fit the easiest. We each had a bike bag and hydration pack, plus the two dry clothes bags to be checked; one for Kent and one that Ryan and I shared. Additionally, we had a pump and a park tool set.
Then, Kent got into our truck and we headed over to the start area. Thankfully, it wasn't raining. We had dry clothes bags for the finish area that we dropped off at the start, and then got ready to ride. We took a few pictures while we were all at the truck, but it was a short ride from there to get to the start. Ryan before his start:
Ryan headed off first. Kent and I finished up a few minutes later. I wished we had been ready to go just a few minutes earlier, because right as we rolled over there, Ryan's wave went off. We had just missed him. Kent got lined up and was gone next.
Kent giving me the thumbs up!
While I was waiting on my own, I met up with Michelle, who was there to support her husband. He started close to Ryan, so she had time to wait with me before I started. I also met up with Kari, who is the wife of one my Aquaphor teammates. We had met earlier at the Triceratops Tri and she zipped me into my wetsuit that day. I literally ran into her. Like, when I was walking to find Michelle, our bikes clipped each other in the tent. That's how I found her! I also found Janelle, who was on Ryan's tree farm team. I gave her a big hug and wished her luck. She started in the wave ahead of me.
Then, it was my turn. I got to the front of my wave, just because it sounded like the really fast people should have already started, unless it was their first time. It was Kari's first iceman too. I really didn't need to be up front though. The first section of the race was on road/dirt road and very wide, so there was plenty of room to pass. I wish I could really remember exactly how the course went, in terms of where the climbs were, where it was two track, and where it was single track, but I remembered that I am glad that I know how to mountain bike. I also felt like the training I did with the mountain bike on the road bike was paying off for the climbs. There were lots of short sandy steep climbs. There were a few people that would fly by me on the flats on their 29ers that were not able to climb up the steep stuff. I actually went back and forth with Kari a couple times because of this and other backups that we would encounter. I took the single track sections a bit conservatively on the downhills, just because I didn't want to crash. I didn't have a chance to preride any of the sections to know what to expect. Also, no one starting in my wave or behind me was going to be winning any awards this year, so everyone should just chill. For the most part, everyone was. There were a few guys bombing through bushes here and there to cut corners to pass, but for the majority of the race, there weren't really any problems. I did get stuck at one point when a lady in front of me tipped over, and I stopped. Then, there was such a huge backup behind me that I couldn't jump back in. I was running alongside the trail trying to find a break in the "train". I made a horrible failed attempt at a flying mount, and ended up back in the bushes, but no crashes. I also had a really loud guy behind me for a while. As much as I wanted to be faster than him, I was really happy when he finally did pass me because I just could not tolerate his commentary on EVERYTHING. He was just so loud! He wasn't offensive, just annoying. There was one road with several large puddles in it. Everyone would be spread out, and then need to funnel in to go around (turns out Eric went through one earlier in the day and it caused a bunch of bike problems because it was about a foot and a half deep and he got all kinds of crud in his drivetrain). The first one, I went around just fine, but it was either the second or third puddle when I lost a wheel into the drink. I was very close to a tree on the right, and grabbed it, while my bike dropped a bit to the left into the water. I wasn't hurt, didn't fall or get wet, but I did feel bad because I created a big traffic jam. I got about halfway through and then I started feeling tired. It wasn't too shocking, because I had been regularly riding only about 17 miles. The climbs were challenging, but the flats seemed challenging too! My Garmin isn't too terribly accurate in trees with lots of turns, so I couldn't really use it for distance so much. They did have km markers counting down. My math always gets a bit rusty when under exertion, so I was watching them, but not converting all of them to miles. I remembered when I got to the 15k to go sign, I was so happy because it was 9.3 miles! Some of the people around me were even more bewildered by them, and asking all kinds of questions akin to the adult version of "are we there yet?" Kari and I had a bit more back and forth. I was ahead before the last aid station. I stopped. Like complete stop, got off my bike, to refill my camelback and just take a little breather. I ate my last gu, had a glass of heed, and saw Kari go by. I tried to catch back up with her and couldn't. I was struggling with some of the climbs (and had been). They were so hard to bike up, but they were almost harder to walk up! The thing about walking up is that my heart rate seemed to go down a bit, but on the bike, it was just taking everything I could to bike up them, and then I would just feel like stopping at the top. Sometimes I could get a little bit of active recovery on a downhill on the other side, but some of them were short, or they dumped us out on the road where everyone was going fast. It was all pretty sandy, but the rain had packed it down somewhat, but unless I was going downhill, there was pretty much no coasting. This was such a hard race! Wow! With 5k to go, I told myself that I wasn't doing any walking the bike up climbs. Well, that didn't really work. I did try them all, but I did have to hop off. Then, with 3k to go, I really meant it. It was 1.8 miles. I could do it. I watched a video of this section at the hotel, and I knew that you would go through this tunnel and it was not the end. There was still another k to go or so before the finish. It was kind of a mean tease. A guy near me had not watched the video and was really bummed out that it was not the end. I finally made it to the "fly over" section which if you were going really fast, you could get a little air off of, but I just rode over it normal. I was so happy to be done! My official time was 3:21:52. It was a bit slower than I had hoped, but it was still an accomplishment to just finish.
Adam, from Level Multisport (and Ryan's tree farm team), found me before I was even done with the finisher's chute. He had been tracking Ryan on his phone, and showed me his times as I walked through the finisher's area. It was a long walk, and my bike felt heavy. There was a bike check area where you could leave your bike before picking up your warm clothes bag so you didn't have to worry about it. I grabbed a cookie from Meijer on my way in. It was sort of a mess, though, finding a spot for my bike, and I was so spent that I could barely lift it to find a spot. As I came out, it was just a huge mess of people everywhere. I didn't know where Ryan or Kent were, but I was glad Adam told me they finished. I was exhausted and a bit bewildered at this point, since I didn't know where Adam had gone, or where anyone else was yet. I found somewhere to sit down, and got out my phone. First thing I noticed was that Erin had texted me, she BQed at Indy!!! I texted her back with a quick congrats, but also said I couldn't chat because I was cold and needed to find Ryan and my warm clothes. I called Ryan, but he didn't answer! Neither did Kent! AHHH!!! I texted Mindy, and thankfully, she texted me right back. She was thankfully standing right under a sign that was easy to spot from where I was, so I found her and Eric.
She did great, and got 4th in her (our) AG! Eric was 3rd in his too! One of her friends gave me a sweatshirt to wear while I tried to track down Ryan. I texted him, and he was with Kent taking their bikes to the van. He had taken his things out of the gear bag and put the bag back into the gear check under my number, so I could grab it myself. Mindy was about to receive her award, so we headed over towards that area. After she received her award, I grabbed my gear and headed to the showers. The men had shower trucks, but the women were able to use the shower building. It was warm inside and the wait was short. The water was surprisingly warm and I felt a million times better after having a shower and putting on dry clothes. Taking a tip from Mindy, I did not get my hair wet since neither of us thought to bring our hair dryer (Mindy said she saw a lady that did, and it was a genius idea). By the time I was done, Ryan and Kent were back, and had met up with Mindy, Eric, Adam, and a few others. I didn't see Kari after the race, or Janelle. Mindy told me Janelle wasn't feeling well after her race, and I think was in medical. She had flipped over on a crash, and had an upset stomach. She still finished very well for her first Iceman. Ryan and I,
Kent, Ryan, and I
We hung out for a little bit. They had a lot of food available for purchase there, but since we love the town of Traverse City, we had planned to go out for a nice dinner there after we got all the bikes and vehicles back to the hotel. I grabbed my bike from the bike check and we took a bus back to the van at Rasho Farm, and then drove back to Kalkaska to pick up the truck, and then back to Traverse City.
I was exhausted and starving afterwards. It really took a lot out of me. It was so fun though! We had dinner in downtown Traverse City at North Peak, a microbrewery. We had to wait a bit for a table, and it took everything I had in me to NOT lay down on this coffee table/bench they had in their waiting area. I was feeling really rough. Right as I was about to go to the bar to order a Coke or something with sugar in it, we were finally seated. After a Cherry Coke and dinner, I felt human again. The online results had just come and, and I didn't do stellar in my age group. I didn't think I would, plus I have a super tough AG. Ryan and Kent recognized many friends from the Wolverine Sports Club and Racing Greyhounds that they rode with on road rides in top slots. We need to get a few more Iceman races under our belts and get better starting positions (and 29ers) before we will anywhere near contention for awards. However, finishing in itself is an achievement. I would love to do this race again. Hopefully we can continue to get registered as well as line up childcare for this race. I would love to come back with the kids and have them do the Snow Cone race. Soren would eat it up! Plus, I know I will be able to finish before it starts now, since it is at 3pm.
They had some great race photos posted. Once I decide which ones I want and get them ordered, I will post an action shot. Also, Eric actually filmed his entire race. So, if you want to spend 2 hours watching what the first wave looks like, you can find it here.
Now I am home and recovering, and looking forward to the LSC Half on Sunday. Whew, what a season. My legs don't feel terrible, but I can tell I haven't spend enough time on trails. My upper body seemed thrashed. I ran yesterday, and while I was slow, I don't really have any lingering problems aside from just fatigue. Hopefully I can rest up and have a great half marathon this weekend.