Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Iceman Cometh

The twenty-first running of the Iceman Cometh Challenge was a departure from the "Niceman" we here in the Great Lakes Region have enjoyed the last few years. Northern Michigan treated us to 19o temperatures at the start of the race. On top of the frigid temps, we had a fresh two inches of white fluffy snow to deal with. For those who are not familiar with the race; it is a 29 mile point-to-point race held every year on the first Saturday in November. It rips through the Pere Marquette State Forest between Kalkaska and Traverse City in northern Lower Michigan. The Iceman has come to be one of the largest mountain bike races in the country; it draws close to four thousand cyclists including a large group of top level professionals.

The start found me cold and nervous (but mostly COLD). My previous years’ time put me in wave eleven, thirty-seven min. till the start of the race. This was a new format for 2010 in an effort to make the race smoother and less congested--- it almost worked. With my hands frozen hard as stone and my choice of gloves weighing heavily on my mind, we were off. Three miles into the race, it was one other rider and me leaving the rest of the group well-behind. I can only refer to this other rider as Bradley from Chicago. We worked together for about the first fifteen miles to leapfrog rider after rider after rider…. well, you get the point. The course, although flat, fast and wide was reduced to a single ribbon of dirt cut through the snow. This created conditions that were sketchy at best. The passing was fast and furious and the crashes were many. Extremely slick sections of single track with ice on anything in the shade made for one of the more demanding races I’ve had.

Bradley and I began to reach the rolling hills that carry you in to the Grand Traverse Bay area. His pace up the hills on his cross bike began to put me into difficulty. I wisely let him go. I managed to keep upright and struggled my way through the next seven to eight miles. All the while I passed group after group of riders. I had recovered nicely after letting Bradley go and was feeling strong. Chasing a goal of a sub-two-hour ride, I upped my pace.

With about five miles to go I started to pass a string of ten to twelve racers. I was flying by on the left up a mild hill, picking them off one after another. As I neared the front of the group, there, setting the pace was none other than Bradley from Chicago. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I gave him a big "COME ON BRADLEY!!!" Needless to say he was unable to

muster any response and I left him and the rest of the group behind. From here on out the traffic seemed to dissipate. I suffered up the last few climbs and snaked my way through the single track into the finish at Timber Ridge campground.

This marked the fifth time I’ve finished the Iceman and a new P.R. beating last year’s time by over thirteen minutes. I ended up eleventh in my class with a time of 2:03.34. I was hoping for a time of less than two hours, but considering the conditions I’m pretty happy, any other year I would have come in way below two hours. I owe a large part of my results to the great teammates of the Great Lakes Chapter of Team TOM’S Shoes, and especially Wade and Doug. Thanks guys. For those of you that haven’t run this race it’s definitely worth checking out. Maybe next year I’ll see a few more of you there. Oh yeah, if you want in you’d better be ready to register the day it opens (usually March) it fills up in a few hours.

Happy trails,