Not a very original title but appropriate. There will probably be a lot of blogs out there with similar titles after more than 2500 racers took part in the annual Iceman Cometh race yesterday.
The race course probably had the best trail conditions ever. The snow and rain the week prior to the race meant the predominately sandy course was well packed. The race has always been referred to as a road race on dirt since the course is not very technical and is mostly dirt roads and wide snowmobile and XC ski trails.
Early in the morning the temperature was 26 degrees but the sun was up with no wind so it felt fairly warm compared to previous years when the wind would be blowing. We got to the start area in enough time that I could warm up some on the bike and check out the first few mile or so of trail.
I lined up about a quarter of the way back in my wave, Expert men 45-54. We also started with the Expert women so there were a total of over 160 racers waiting to go in our wave. Since I was on a single speed I expected to get shelled out the back early on the flat sections. The fastest guys would be able to motor aways from me.
Once our race started I managed to stay about in the same position where I lined up, passing a few and getting passed. As we spread out I was surprised that I was keeping up with most of the geared riders around me on the flats and sometimes passing them. Every once in a while I would look bike and I would have a pace line behind me. I was expecting them to be leading the line, not me.
On the shorter or less steep hills I would be passing people since I had no choice but to charge the hills or turn the pedals over in the big gear I was using. Occasionally I was barely moving by the time I got to the top but was the usually able to rapidly accelerate. There were about five times the hills became too much for me to climb and I was forced to get off and run (or walk) up them while those with gears would crawl by on their bikes.
Many times I was able to pass by just pointing the big 29" wheels off to the side of the trail or the deeper sand and just roll on by. It was exactly one year ago in last year's race that I had a chance to try the big wheel bikes for the first time. It convinced me that bigger was better in mountain biking, especially for Michigan trails. All year I have raced the Cannondale F29 in a geared version. My new Cannondale F29 1FG single speed performed flawlessly in the race. It was everything I hoped for in a SS bike.
My end results did not get me under 2 hours but close, I ended up with a 2:01:41 which was good for 41st out of 126 finishers. I cut off 29 places and 15 minutes from last year which saw almost the same number of finishers. I have to remember though that the course was about 5-6 minutes faster this year. But considering I was on a SS I am satisfied. And if I had raced in the single speed class I would have finished 24th out of 104.
On a downer note I aggravated my Achilles tendon injury that I picked up last week. After riding last Sunday I noticed that my right Achilles was very sore, to the point where it hurt to walk. I could see and feel the swelling so I tried icing it during the week and it seemed to help some but it was still painful to walk, especially down stairs. I could feel it when riding yesterday but it wasn't going to keep me from racing. After the race I could tell it had swelled up again. I guess the only thing now is to give it some time off.
I went back to the finish later in the day to check out the pro finish. Local racer Mike Simonson could not repeat as the winner but he did finish a close second. Kelli Emmet won the women's pro class for the third year in a row. National mountain biking legend Ned Overend finished 6th in the Men's pro class. Not bad for a 52 year old guy.
The Friday before the race is the big vendor expo and for the third year in a row I had the Hammer Nutrition tent there. And as in the past years the tent was slammed with people asking questions and buying product. I am grateful for the help I got from Robin, Shari, and Joel, my Cannondale Midwest team mates who helped cover the tent during its busiest times. It was a long day, starting with setting up the booth at 8:00 am and tearing it down about 9:00 pm. Most of that time I was on my feet so my legs were very tired that night.
Speaking of our team, we normally reserve a few condos at the Grand Traverse Resort for the weekend and have a team dinner on Friday night. I guess when Robin and Shari checked in they found that neither of the condos had an oven, an essential tool for the dinner. Shari managed to get our lodging changed to a house overlooking the golf course that had 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, a jacuzzi tub and a pool table in the basement. We have decided to try for this place every year from now on. The extra space was very welcome. Overall the entire weekend went very well; from a persona, team, and Hammer Nutrition view. Thanks to everyone involved in making it happen.
Look for an update soon with news of the 2008 season plans.