I was better trained this year for Iceman than I have been since I worked with Lucas in 2012. A summer of Nachos and gravel roads gave me the confidence to make a run at a 2:10-20 time. I got some new shoes (Fasterkaat from 45North, fantastic stuff), a kick a$$ bike, and one of the top support crews on race day. Plus, I could TASTE the Bell's Oracle at the end when I rolled up to the start. However, like the old Yiddish saying goes (that one is for Ray and David), When Man Plans, God Laughs.
I was in Wave 5 (an Iceman Gift from my 2:06 in 2011) with Mick and Huy. I saw them in the corral up at the front and waved. I was staying in the middle. Newbies! They could sprint at 25MPH all the way to the single track (about 1.5 miles) and burn their matches early. I was going to chill in the middle, keep my HR in Zone 3 (for you, Lucas) and save my matches for the final 6K (which Jay and I pre-rode Friday afternoon) when the climbing starts. I looked forward to laughing at their broken, skinny carcasses as I hurried past them and drank all their beer.
Like I said, when man plans, God laughs. As soon as we hit the Kaliseum (this is a real thing) the sand started gumming up my brakes. When we hit the trail it was like riding through a Peanut Butter Cup, only you couldn't eat it. Still, I rode for the Oracle. I got muddy. I got sandy. I saw way more broken bikes in the first few miles than I had ever seen.
I freaking crushed the new logging road section, rolling by single speeders and fat bikes like I was 36 again. I drank water and congratulated myself on the brilliant decision to take all 5 Sport Legs pills, I was feeling no pain. God began giggling at Mile 10.
It was a light chuckle at first, the guy in front of me grabbed a handful of front brake on the single track right after the log road on a downhill when the mud got slick. Rookie move (must have been a Strava call up). He went head first over the bike and busted up his arm. I stopped (like a gentleman). Pulled his bike off the trail, assessed the damage to his arm (busted elbow, probably) calmed him down and whipped out my phone to call the new Injury Number. I was already picturing my Humanitarian Medal Ceremony in my head. No Cell Service. What did I expect, I WAS IN THE FREAKING WOODS. The guy got up and started walking out, left his bike right there and started walking like Forrest Gump. I wished him well and kept on down the trail. 7 minutes added to my time, no biggie.
About 5 minutes later I went to shift gears before a climb. I went all the way up because I could see a line of people walking the hill. Then, God really started laughing. My chain got sucked behind the cassette and between the chain stay and the crank. the back wheel stopped turning and went down in a heap.
The EXACT SAME THING happened to me last year right before Williamsburg Road. I ran a mile, found a mechanic and he took the crank out of the BB and got it right again, but the chain would slip and stick again anytime I tried to shift. So I ran the last 9 miles with my bike on my shoulder (LIKE A BOSS). This year I had 22 more to go. And no mechanic in sight. So I cried a little bit (not out loud, I too much of a man, I have a beard) and started jogging. I saw Jay and he said "Massive Chain Suck!" I thought he was talking about my predicament, but really he was talking about his bike (that's his story to tell). I saw his brother Dan, I saw Matt and a few others I knew. I ran on for another mile and a half until I got to Steve's Secret and saw some other bikers hanging around some army guys. I found a guy with a walkie-talkie and said the words that cut me to my core: "I'm number 956 and I need a ride back to Timber Ridge."
2 hours, three pick up trucks and a recruiting pitch from the Michigan Volunteer Defense Force (its a real thing) later I got back to timber ridge, found my support crew and finally changed into warm, dry clothes. I went through the 7 Stages of Bike Grief along the way so I was happy when I got there. $40 in Bell's Beer with no lunch meant that Jay, Huy and I could the hell out of the later Wave finishers. I went hoarse, did $1 bill hand ups to the Pros (Georgia Gould can ride a bike, but can't take a $1 hand up) and then made it home in time for dinner. I don't remember a lot of what happened after that, but only because my Spartans pooped themselves and I had to drown my sorrows with MORE BEER.
Anyone want to buy my Niner?
It was absolutely incredible!! Terrible conditions but I had a blast. My freshly upgraded 26er with 1x10 and new wheels and tires handled great. Lots of slop left me stopping to put dropped chains back on.
I started in wave 30, so I had to deal with 3000+ riders in front of me. Traction was non existent on the climbs and very difficult in the single track sections. I'm not a mountain biker at all and found it to be a bit ridiculous. Several times had to unclip and walk due to traffic jams. The logging roads were some of the worst sections. I struggled all day and was fatigued in my upper body half way through.
Finished in around 4 hours... Not my finest but my goal was to cross the start and finish and drink hella amounts of bells beer. It rained most of the day, which had me soaked.
Unlike Matt Ronan I didn’t have any fun all day. I was excited to be in Wave 5 and I think the excitement lead to little sleep the prior two nights so I was a little tired this morning and since it was cold and raining I over dressed for the second year in a row (I’m learning). The start was fast and I felt decent for the first 8-10 miles but the course conditions took its toll (constant Mud) and soon I was overheated and fatigued (unusually so) but I kept trudging on even though it seriously crossed my mind several times to drop out. After 10 miles or so I lost contact with Huy and settled into a pace I could keep without getting sick (too hot). I thought about calling it a day at the Williamsburg Road crossing but decided to keep riding at a pace I could sustain so I could at least finish this epic event. Somewhere right after Anita’s Hill I caught Huy and we rode together until about 2k to go and I pulled ahead a little bit and finished in 2:33 which was somewhat disappointing for me even for the conditions which from what I heard the veterans say it was by far the worst course conditions for Iceman in the 25 years of the event.
I’m now home trying to figure out what part of my bike I won’t have to totally dissemble to clean the sand and mud out of it.
1. If conditions are less than ideal use a hydration pack (I only drank a couple ounces today from my water bottle which lead to leg cramps)
2.Don’t use a dry condition rear tire (Thunder Burt) in heavy mud conditions (I didn’t think it was even possible to have so much mud given theirs so much sand)
I look forward to better conditions for next year’s Iceman and a great 2015 racing season.
Lesson learned, don't ride a CX bike in those conditions! It was awful.
THAT was a mountain bike race! I couldn't believe the race conditions and that was just for wave #2..... it could have only gotten worse with each passing wave. Much worse from what I've heard and read.
This is my first race report so I'll try and just hit the high points (or low points, as the case may be):
Arrived at the start 20 minutes before my wave was scheduled to roll and there were already 100's of people lined-up in waves 1, 2, &3 -- that's not how I remembered waves 6 & 9 starting the past 2 years. So I slotted in towards the back of wave 2. Got REALLY cold waiting so early for the release ...
The guys in the pack were fast through the roads and single track, which was nice, so I settled in about mid-pack until we hit about the second section of slower singletrack. As we slowed down my lenses started to fog and combined with the dirt and mud on the lenses started to lose clear view of the singletrack. I missed a tricky combination of left turn and sharp bumps and went over the handlebars for the first time.... had to let what seemed like 30 people pass on the singletrack before jumping back in line. It took two acrobatic incidents over the bars before I got smart and took off the glasses.
The mud and rain caused some chain suck, and the chain "seized" a couple times, but never actually came off the rings. The dirt and stones in the calipers were a different story, though -- the loud grinding between the disc and pads (or stones, or whatever) was constant after the first section of singletrack and throughout the rest of the race. I even stopped to re-set the rear wheel in the dropouts mid-race (thinking the wheel had loosened and mis-aligned during the race) but there was so much dirt and tiny rocks packed in the rear caliper the rear re-alignment didn't help at all. On inspection after the race one of the rear pads had been completely wiped-out and the disc was seriously dragging against all the crud packed into the caliper. It wasn't until after I water-jetted all the rocks out of the caliper that the wheel finally spun freely.
The race was tough enough that I ended up walking a couple long hills towards the end of the race. There were a surprisingly large number of other people walking the hills this race, too. In the previous 3 races I'd never walked a single hill -- I had RUN one short hill two years ago cyclocross-style, but this race was something else, entirely......
I hung around the finish for a little while and I think every racer that finished looked a bit shell-shocked. Thankfully this was not a typical Iceman Race.
1. Racing Ralph front/ThunderBurt rear was definitely under-tired. Not sure anything would have been enough for the amazingly bad conditions, but the next tire step more aggressive like Rocket Ron front/Racing Ralph rear may have been more appropriate for the conditions. Previous Iceman races w/rain before the race drained really well in the famously sandy soil of Kalkaska/Traverse City but not this time. The constant rain the night before and during the race must have made a significant difference.
2. Anti-fog the inside of the lenses instead of just Rain-x.
3. What does anyone do about sand & gravel in brake calipers?
Iceman is really a pretty well-run race and a lot of fun. The "celebration zone" at the finish is great place to hang out for racers and wives/friends helping out. I think this year was one of the few times the weather truly worked against the event.