Thursday, November 12, 2015

Iceman 2015. Bad Dad hammers

Race Report!

Iceman. On my bike, 2 places feel like "home". Potowatami and Iceman. Sure, I have the great privilege of living in a place where people come to vacation -- on their mountain bikes -- but the tall maples, oaks, pines, black dirt, and crisp Midwestern air will always be home.   Iceman is where I got the bug for racing...the big events that bring together all kinds of likeminded, slightly insane people.  Iceman started the journey, has brought me my best friends, and has changed the path of my life in only positive ways.  Not bad for a short little race in crap weather.  As long as I can, I will be coming back.  2015 was looking to be a lot different than 2014...a full drivetrain and brake rebuild was unlikely to be required after this one.   

Iceman Start - like being home
Poto -- there are few better places to fall in love with knobbies

I lined up in 2015 with not much to prove, other than I can have a blast going as fast as I can for something around 2 hours. Go hard, don't crash, thank everyone I could see on the side of the trail, and finish with a smile. Easy goals.

As usual (not always) 900ft started in an earlier wave (but only 5 waves ahead this time), myself along with Dead Blow and Der Roadie were together. Fast Lady, Bike Boy and Captian Sloe were spread out over the next 10 waves.  I was hoping to ride with Der Roadie and Dead Blow a bit, but Iceman does not lend itself to riding with friends.

L to R, Der Roadie, Me, Deadblow at the start  Photo from Madame LaFrench

Start to Dockery (or thereabouts)

Iceman start is a road sprint, with a sharp left hand turn followed by a fast narrowing onto single track. This is very very jittery. Mountain bikers have no idea how to ride in a pack, and even less how to ride on a pace line. This happens at the Whiskey and at Leadville, but both those races don't really have bottlenecks early, so there's less of a mad sprint for the hole shot. They are also a little more self selecting, as 50- and 100- miles at altitude will thin the field a bit. Iceman is dead flat for about 1.5 miles. The goal here is to go out pretty hard, find the wheels and sit 4th or 5th. There are stronger people in the wave, and I planned to take advantage.

At one point Der Roadie said "this is the easy part!". I replied "yeah...just trying to find people who look like they won't crash". Harder than it sounds. As we made the big left hander, I was sitting 10th or so in a line on the right side of the road, behind a woman who kept grabbing her brakes, a guy who kept trying to move up between two pace lines that had formed, and to my left a guy who kept moving up and half-wheeling the pace line to the outside, then dropping back 1/2 a length or more.

I kept waiting for the wheels to touch and peoples race days to end before their tires saw dirt.

Through the miracle of bike racing dynamics and I think Der Roadie letting me in, a gap developed in the left, I jumped in and had a smooth cruise to the right turn hole shot.

Unfortunately, now I was up with the road bikers who heard this was a "road race on dirt" and didn't know how to navigate the sandy 2-track and quick turns. The goal here is to stay upright, keep an escape route open, and position for the 3 or 4 sand hills that are more like cyclocross obstacles than climbs.

My Shadetree setup saved me multiple times. Joey has me on the biggest volume tires that fit my rig, and a new XT 1x11 drivetrain. Pushed outside the 2-track into the grass?  No problem. Bad line in a crowd onto the sand?  No worries. Bad line onto the steepest part of the hill?  Click click with the right thumb, flawless shifting, stand up for 4 turns and leave a whole lot of people with grinding gears and washed out 2.1 tires behind to untangle themselves from each other.

I'm not sure where I lost Der Roadie, but later he told me he had mechanical issues early...fortunately did not end his day.

Pacelineing...until trouble

Popping over Nettie's hill I found 3 guys working a nice pace line. The trail made it hard to rotate in a disciplined way, but we switched off wherever possible. It was great to have this little group and we made great time through the first aid station, and into what we used to call "big ring jam".  I kind wished I had a few more teeth on the ring in this section, as I was spinning pretty fast in the top gear to keep up with the pace line, but fortunately there were enough sandy bits and turns to slow folks down to make it less of a problem.

Then I noticed my brakes and gears were not where I left them. Dammit!  My handle bars were slightly loose and rotating!  I pushed them back into place, and felt a "click" as the stem settled into the grooves on protective material. I was hoping it was a one-timer but I was 99% certain I was going to need to stop. Sure enough, at the next sharp climb my pulling on the bars rotated them back. I was about 1/2 way at this stage.  Some moron must have built the bike up while talking on the phone and drinking a beer Friday.  Oh, that was me?  never mind then.

I resolved to stop at the next intersection with a course volunteer and tighten the bars. I knew I could go for a bit, but no way I could go another hour like this. To my extraordinary luck, the place I pulled over had a guy with a full toolset. Official neutral support!!  Super lucky for me, as it saved me getting the bag open, finding the tool, etc. unfortunately, I was not carrying any "volunteer tips" like I usually do, and I forgot to get his name. But I'll say mr neutral support at about 22K -- you are the MAN!

Yeah Neutral Support past where Williamsburg party used to be...

For the next 2-3 miles I passed people. I had lost my group, and there was lot of traffic. Not enough to bottleneck, but enough that I needed to focus on when to pass and when to wait. I misjudged the skills of one guy in front of me, and hit him pretty hard as he missed his line on one of the "cross obstacle" hills. No damage, but a bit of a bummer to have to put my foot down and run for a bit.

By the time I got to Williamsburg road, I was clear, and riding pretty much alone. Completely strange. 4000 people in this race 1000 had started before me. The race is infamous for its traffic and bottlenecks...and I was pretty much alone.

I kept it pegged and started glancing at the garmin. Hmmm...2:00 ain't happening but 2:15 is a real possibility....maybe even 2:10. I did know this. I was going to get to Mt Gary right on schedule.

Riding through the 2nd aid there was a bit of traffic, which quickly dissipated. I played leap frog with a guy in an Audi kit. He seemed to have more power on the long flats, I would catch and pass him on the punchy climbs or in the space immediately following as he puffed over them a bit.

I cleaned Anita's -- 2nd time ever! -- and glanced at the Garmin. I was starting to feel the effort of pushing hard (zone 4 mostly for you data geeks) for the past hour and 45 minutes. I set my finish goal at 2:10. I might just pull that off.  Passing though the 3rd aid I downed the last of my first bottle (really didn't need that 2nd one) and a bit of GU. Traffic was thick again. I was spending a good amount of energy not hitting people.  The way the course works there would be traffic all the way to the line.

Mt Gary and the Finish

I crossed Lands End road and got a smile on my face. 3 turns and about 90 seconds away was the top of Mt Gary!  Of course none of them saw me, despite my identifying sticker. No worries though, by subtly steering my bike right at them, the gang figured out I was there.

Up the woodchips and into the barriers through the single track. Then one more hard effort up the Icebreaker. I crossed the final timing mat at 2:08. 3 minutes. Time for a finish kick!  Stand up, and gears...and no kick. Nothing. I was moving, but a finish sprint this was not.  I tried cramps...not a lot of pain, just no more power to be had.  I made the big right hand turn to see the finish banner and made the line in 2:13. That's a PR, and that felt good.

Just a little confused at the finish
900Ft was hanging out at the finish line and called out as I crossed.  Somewhat thankfully, he had not had time to change yet.  I found some Drunkcyclists (always nice to have friends anywhere you go...just look for the colors!) and shared a few shots of Fireball provided for just such a purpose by Der Roadie.  

I even got to hug Steve Brown, which I think he found disturbing.  This is serious business after all.

Another great day on the bike, courtesy of Steve Brown (who takes way too much crap for the amazing race he puts on every year), great friends, (even a new one named Carl courtesy of DC and Dirty) and the beauty that is Northern Michigan.  The only sadness is that it takes another whole year for Iceman to roll around again.  

I can't wait.

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