We awoke Saturday morning to snow flurries in Traverse City. Not just flying through the air, but actually sticking to the ground. Lovely. Actually, I think that is part of the lure of the Iceman Cometh race. You sign up in March for a November race, show up and ride. It's always going to be a surprise.
Matt Longest and I, along with our spectating wives, boarded the 8am shuttle bus at Rasho Road. We actually had to wait around as they scrambled to get our bikes on a second box truck as the first filled up quickly. Had we missed this shuttle, we had better drive directly to Kalkaska ourselves so we didn't miss our starting waves, so things were a little touch and go for awhile. This was not the case last year, barely anyone was on the bus.
Matt checking tire pressure in Rasho Road field.
Waiting for the shuttle bus.
Excited. Nervous. Waiting.
Once in Kalkaska, it was the usual hectic chaos that is Iceman. Bikes and spandex as far as the eye can see. People completely overdressed. And since anyone can pretty much race Iceman, there are plenty of characters to watch as your teeth chatter away waiting in line for an open porta-john.
Me acting like a retard, jumping around in the parking lot trying to stay
warm and embarrass my wife all at the same time. I succeeded at both.
We finally found Brent and Cindy. Brent was a nut-job...freaking out from the excitement. Cindy said he was literally pacing around in the parking lot back and forth before they left their hotel. We stood around waiting for wave 22 to assemble. Here are some funny things Brent did/said as we waited to start the race:
- after putting on a skull cap for warmth, Cindy had to remind him to wear a helmet. He forgot he took it off and was going to set off racing without it.
- while queueing for our wave, I got us about 3 riders deep from the front. Brent says: "sir, what are we doing at front of this wave?" Tony: "Its where we need to be."
- he then wanted to talk strategy. I told him to go hard at the start, try to stay with the lead pack for as long as possible. It will hurt, but you will settle in soon enough. He said "i think i want to start gradually so i dont burn out too quick." I don't think I even answered his comment.
- Tony: "Brent, this is everything you've worked for all summer long right here. Make it happen." His response: "Tony, my butthole is puckering."
HA HA...Dear God, let's get this race going before my friend has a meltdown!!
Brent and I at the start.
Wave 22 start.
With the sound of a airhorn, wave 22 was off. I hung with the first 15 riders or so for the first mile until things settled down a bit. The pain from the frigid sub 30's temps piercing the vents in my helmet was almost too much to bear. "Just one more mile," I kept telling myself. Only then would I heat up a little and not feel the pain.
The pavement turns to dirt just 1.5 miles or so from the start. I had no idea where Brent was. I was intent on not letting him pass me. He did though, as I took a wrong line and got jammed up in some sand on the first (very) small incline. I hopped back on Blue Bomber, just in time to be only one rider behind Brent. Brent (and our line of racers) got held up by a slower rider in front. Brent was hesitant to pass, so I shouted "Brent! Take him!" He whooshed off into the weeds passing him and rest of us followed suit. I would soon pass Brent never to be seen again until the finish line.
I felt "normal" as any other race for the first 8 miles. "Normal" meaning, out of breath, deep, agonizing pain in my legs and lungs. Usually wondering what the hell I was doing out there. That is followed by the next few miles peeling off quickly and my attitude changing to the realization that this was my last race of the season. "Push, dammit, push!"
I was feeling good and confident, passing a lot more riders than I had last year. I felt really fast on the two track which was nice and dry for most of the race, and felt "average" on the single track.
Near mile 11 I started getting cramps in my hips. I have never had that before. Weird. They quickly dissipated as I stood and stretched a bit.
Last year, I only made it to Williamsburg Road (17 miles) before my bike suffered a few race-ending fails: rear shifter busted, snapped chain, complete with broken chain tool. Done.
I don't remember the hill where all this occured, I must have been more able to scale up it this year, but I definately saw the stump where my race ended and I layed the bike down in disgust. As I rode past the stump, all I could do was give it a dirty look. "Not today Mr. Stump. Enjoy your life in solitude, I'm racing today." I crested Williamsburg Road without ever flinching and never looked back. At this point I tried downing a cup of Heed while blasting past the aid station, but I dumped half of it all over the front of me, then choked on the rest that went in my mouth. Wow, that was definitely worth it.
As we neared Timber Ridge, maybe 8 miles or so out, snow started showing in the trees and on the ground. The trails were getting slick like grease, and gumming up drivetrains. I had never seen so many broken chains as I had that day. Every time I opened up my headshock I felt like I was losing so much speed, so I left it locked out for probably 75% of the race. It makes it terribly hard to see where you are navigating with no front shock, but it was the only way to keep up my confidence and speed. One tip: while bombing down rutted, gored out single track...just hold on for dear life and hopefully the bike gods will look out for you and guide you to safety. Today they were on my side. Rubber side down all day.
Mile 22: more prevalent cramps start in and I'm losing power. Left calf. Stretch. Then right hamstring. Stretch. Left tricep. Now the arms? What the hell is going on? Then my left quad and hamstring. Everytime I stood up to stretch or power away at the pedals, other muscles would revolt to the action. I really began to think "what am I going to do if I have to wad myself up into a ball in the woods as others ride by? I'm not going to DNF again."
I had to do the unthinkable in order to survive. Start walking hills. I had to walk at least 4 of them. The last two I dismounted at the base without even trying. Cramps were getting worse. It was so painful. My goal time of 2:45 had come and gone when I saw the 1K to go banner. The cheers from the crowd began getting louder. I could see colors through the woods. By now all I could see was the trail and the rear tire of the guy in front of me, everything else was a blur. I heard a "Go Wheelmen!" at one point, not sure who that was. I rounded the final turn and sprinted for the finish, challenging the guy to my right who was ahead by 1 full bike length, barely beating him to the timing ramps. I wasnt actually sure I had finished, for I never looked up to see the finish banner. There was just a guy waving his arms down, saying "slow, slow". I guess that was it. Likaboom, I was done.
Place: 2512 out of 3906 racers
Place in age division: 60 out of 86
I peeled off to the left of where all the riders were collecting and found a split rail fence to prop myself up against. Cramps were terrible, I could barely stand. Just then I look up...Brent! He finished only 1 minute behind me. Freaking awesome!
The change of clothes felt fantastic. It snowed some more. What more appropriate Bells brew to have than a Winter White, while hanging out with great friends!
I had given it my all, for what training I was able to fit in these last few crazy months. I was happy to finish. Not the time I was hoping for, but I put everything out there that day, and I guess that is all I could ask for. I've learned a lot in my first full racing season, I hope to build off my experiences this last year and continue to improve my skills.
Cranking away around the last turn towards the finish.
Me and Matt chilling (literally) post-race with beers.