I hate it; I love it; I hate it; I love it. Alright, I am a bit ambivalent on the Iceman Cometh Challenge. I hated the idea of it at first. 4000 people on one trail left me wondering what kind of abomination we had wrought. The thought of the race when I thought it was 3000 people back at the time of signing up in February was enough to make me reluctant. NOW 4000???
Well, my theory going into the season was this: train like I'm gonna race and if I do well, great. If not, at least enjoy the fitness level. Then I joined the PrecisionMTB.com race team and I was committed to racing. So, I figured I would apply that to Iceman. I made the commitment so I might as well go for it.
Prior to the race I started reading about all the logjams that could occur on the trail and I figured: screw it!! Go out and race and be ready to deal with everyone else that might get in my way. If things went badly, just treat it like a 27 mile weekend ride; keep the cranks going and look for the beer at the end. What's not to like?
The start was one of the best I experienced in terms of anxiety level. No teammates in my wave or my class but I started in the same wave as a couple of guys I ride with frequently: Jim Senska and Jeremy Hansen. This helped since familiar faces in a wave of humanity always help settle me down.
My ride was pretty uneventful-- no major crashes, no discourteous riders, just good fun.
Well, uneventful until the cramps set in about 20 miles into it. I was able to manage them so that I did not lock up the quads, so that was a blessing. This was the first race I used electrolyte supplements to manage my electrolytes. I was a bit conservative in using them and I think I would have been fine if I had followed the exact directions. The directions indicate that you should take them every 45 minutes of hard exercise. I took some right before the start, but then abstained until about 90 minutes into the race when I started to feel the cramps come on. My mistake, but I felt better about having slight cramp issues than I did about really upping my usage on this supplement.
During the race, Jeremy and I rode together. About 5 miles in, I pulled away from Jeremy and was pretty much riding by myself-- no one else was around to ride tempo with me. Jeremy eventually caught up to me at about mile 15. He was stronger at that point and I tried to latch on to the back of his wheel. I stayed with him for about a half a mile, but no dice. He had a great tempo and I was struggling. We talked for awhile, but I eventually let him go.
One funny event: me and a number of singlespeeders were walking up a hill (don't ask me which one; I was in the pain cave and they all looked the same to me). I was walking along and a guy in my class was off his bike and running up the hill, passing me. I mocked disapproval, telling him it was cheating to pass while walking. He replied, "I'm not walking." Touche. He was running and he went right by me. Rats!! But it was worth the laugh.
Also worth a grin was the aid station dude handing out bananas dressed as a banana.
Coming to the finish was fun. I passed a guy in my class with about 500 meters to go. The crowd was HUGE. It really took me by surprise. I was dazed and confused when I got off the bike. I really felt out of it. Luckily, I ran into a teammate, Jeff Jager. He was nice enough to buy me a water (thanks, Jeff).
All in all, it was a great weekend. Seeing all the teammates and other friends and familiar riders was a blast. Jeff Carek threw a nice party afterward with good beer and awesome chili.
The final verdict: I like Iceman. If for no other reason, I liked it because it is a great measuring stick. Looking at the race results, one can measure oneself against some of the best racers in the country. The prospect of doing the course x minutes faster next time would place me right there in my class and only y minutes behind the pros. That'll motivate me to spend more time on the trainer this winter.
Gotta go; I gotta go train.
John "Do you have the keys to unlock this quad?" Gonway