Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Iceman 2008

As usual, another phenomenal Iceman weekend in the books! I was concerned that this year was going to be more low key due to the large number of people that decided to stay home for various reasons. I learned, however, that the Michigan mtbing scene is truly close knit and, while those who couldn't make it were sorely missed, we could throw a rager with just two of us in a room!

I took Friday off and drove up early to meet Macromius for a pre-ride of the last few miles of the course. We met up a little after 4 and did a little out and back. I'm always astounded at how easy those last 4 miles are when you haven't slogged through the first 23...

This year's finish shoot was similar to last year. Shorter than years past, but with some good twists and turns, leading to an uphill sprint underneath the bridge. I could see some exciting finishes in the future!

After the ride we headed to the highschool to pick up our packets. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had forgotten that I ordered an Iceman shirt, and they are orange this year, my favorite color! We spent some time hanging out and talking with friends, then headed to dinner. D, Allie, Payneful, Laurie, Mike and I met up at Red Mesa for food and drink. Ward and a buddy were there as well so we hung out for a couple more drinks and stories, but someone couldn't keep their eyes off the bottles...

The rain and snow that had been forcasted were seemingly holding off. Though it sprinkled a bit the night before and the ground was wet the next morning, there was nothing falling from the sky at the start. I was pretty well prepared with the right gear. We dressed and left for the start. After what seemed like an eternity for Mike to get his s**t together, we were spinning around the block and then lining up at the start. This year they broke the singlespeed class in two. 39 and under and 40+. They also stuck the Tandems and Ladies with the 40+ SSers. The icing on the cake, however, was that they sent us off in front of the expert women. So, the only traffic to negotiate was going to be the Clydes and the slower expert men. Also new rare was the size of our wave. Only 45 riders! Mike and I managed to start on the front row, and Iceman first for me.

They gave the "Go!" and it was like we were shot out of a gun! The start was unusually soft and sandy. I was bouncing off shoulders and handlebars and narrowly avoided going down in the sand. Around the first turn I was sitting 5th. Then across the road onto the two track and guys starting going around me like I was sitting still, including Mike. He said his goal was sub 2 hours, and to beat me.

Given that my training has consisted of one 30 minute cross race each week for the last couple months I had no right hoping for a sub 2 hour time, but that was my goal none-the-less. Knowing the brutality of the hills in the last several miles to come, I decided to ride within myself for the first half then see what was left. The rain leading up to race day did wonders to make this yet another extremely fast Iceman course. Despite going up another gear to 58 gear inches this year I've got to go higher. I tend to be more concerned with being able to make the climbs in the last half of the race at the expense of speed on the flats in the first half.

I passed numerous clydes, 65 by my best estimation of the results, as well as several expert men. Despite all the clydes the climbs were relatively open and passable compared to years past. Unfortunately I was passed by several more SSers as well. I would hang on their wheel for a while, and usually even gap them on the climbs, only to lose them eventually on the flats. But I was feeling pretty good and the miles passed pretty quickly. The ride across Williamsburg Rd. afforded the the usual lift. I made sure to keep eating and tried to keep my power up. Pretty soon I was down to the same final 4 miles that had been so easy the day before. Its in this 24th mile where I usually start to cramp up pretty bad, but this time I felt no twinges. With 3 to go I had to tackle "Ice Breaker" hill. This hill is so brutal not only becuase of its length, but also becuase just as its starting to wear you down it gets steeper. Much steeper. Ahead of me there were about 8-10 riders pushing their bikes up the hill. I was contemplating riding as far as I could and then walking the steepest part, but then my pride took over. I kept the cadence up as much as I could and then when the trail turned up again I stood and grunted and got all over my bike until I crested the top. I'm sure it looked a little over dramatic but I haven't walked that hill since my first Iceman (ironically on a geared bike) and I wasn't about to do it again!

Between 3 and 2 to go I was passed by a tandem just before heading into one of the last sections of singletrack. Once on the trail they hung up on a tree and I dismounted and ran around them as they tried to get back on track. While remounting my right calf went into full cramp! But I was able to get clipped back into my eggbeaters and stretch it out and push on. From here on it was just a matter of trying to pin it as hard as I could to the end. I had hoped to catch sight of Mike somewhere in the last 4 miles and this was my last chance. I did manage to catch one last clydesdale at the line, and I was finally done. Mike was there waiting for me, still in the chute. In the end he nipped my by just over 30 seconds and one place. We finished 17th and 18th respectively. Overall I'm very happy with the result, although I'm disappointed to once again miss my goal of sub 2 hours by just over a minute. Next year with some training and a few more gear inches 2 hours doesn't stand a chance!

Perhaps I'll cover the post race festivities in a part 2. But here are some of the pics...


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