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2012 Iceman Cometh Challenge

This past weekend was the 2012 Iceman Cometh Challenge, a mountain bike race which runs from Kalkaska to Traverse City; a distance of just over 30 miles. I really like this race, so once again Danielle and I made the trek up north and I set out on a cold morning with about 4000 other people to see how quickly I could complete the ride.

The morning started out dark and cold, with my brushing 1/4″ of snow off the car before meeting Jeremy before dark at the Rasho Road parking area so he could get a ride to Kalkaska and have his truck waiting for him near the finish. The sun rose as we drove in a line of bike-laden cars to Kalkaska, got ready in the Kaliseum parking lot, I made my way to the start line, then at 9:33am it was my time to race.

As usual I started out slow, not pushing myself as hard as I should have for a good race pace, but I was having fun. I pushed more as the kilometer markers ticked down, and the closer we got to the finish line at Timber Ridge the more snow appeared on the ground, the wetter and greasier the trails became, and the faster I felt like I was riding. Faster everywhere except for on some new single track that was built in weeks before the race, designed specifically to avoid some logging-damaged sand roads.

Early on a woman swerved harshly in front of me, and later on I choose a line to pass which lead around a curve into deep sand and walked my first hill of the year. I also walked the notorious Anita’s Hill near the end, and once I got near the top I was glad I did. I was walking up it at the same speed as many were riding it, and the trail near the top was quite chewed up. By walking what’s essentially a rooty stairway at the right side I stayed out of people’s way and had a slight change of pace. The only other walking point was early on where someone fell over in front of me while in some sand, forcing me to stop, so I opted to walk up the next hill instead of trying to get going in soft sand.

A few miles in there was a bit of excitement as a panicked deer ran between some riders about 30′ in front of me and another ran parallel to us for a few hundred feet. I yelled at it, scared that it’d try to cut between us as well and hit someone. Fortunately it veered off the other direction and there were no problems. At another point someone riding along called out a notorious root located around a sharp corner, which was quite welcome as being parallel with the trail and around a blind corner it could easily cause a crash. By giving a heads up riders can keep an eye out for it and allow the notoriously heavy Iceman traffic to keep moving.

Before too long I was crossing the finish line and it all was over, a quite uneventful race. I ended up finishing with an official time of 2:26:42, putting me at 16th of 61 in the Men 34 category and 1269th out of 3881 finishers (3498 men). This is about eight minutes slower than last year’s time, but with a much more difficult trail (due to the extra single track and weather) I’m content with the time. I was definitely not nearly as worn out after this year’s race as I was last year, though. While I was tired of riding in wet conditions I could easily have done another 20-30 miles at a smilar pace.

While the weather was cool and damp which led to some greasy trails, spinning rear wheels on uphills, and drivetrain issues for many, the moisture kept much of the sand well-packed and allowed for some parts of the trail to be very fast. As I approached Traverse City there was quite a bit of snow hanging on the trees, leading some parts of the trail to feel like riding through a snowy, wintery tunnels. It was incredibly beautiful and a wonderful feeling.

If any of you are interested in more detailed results my plate number was 1266 and detailed results can be found here. I also have a copy of my Garmin data from the race on Strava and visible here on Garmin Connect and here on Strava.

The photo above (from HaysPhotography) shows me about 1:23 into the race, about a mile east of Williamsburg Road, which is a very popular spectator location and generally considered to be the point after which the difficult climbing in the race begins. Danielle drove to Williamsburg Road to see me pass, and it was quite a nice treat to see her along the side, cheering me on. Here is another photo of me, this one taken by Jack Kunnenn somewhere near the finish line, but as I didn’t pay for it I won’t be hosting a copy myself. There’ll likely be other photos online later, but for now that was all I could find.

Also, here is a video of this year’s course from someone who started ten waves (almost half an hour) in front of me and finished in just about two hours, so by the end of the video he is almost an hour ahead of me.

Now it’s time to clean off my bike. As can be seen here my drivetrain has a nice, thin layer of crud packed into it. Similar dirt caused drivetrain issues for many others, but thankfully my cobbled together 1×9 setup held up nicely with only a bit of noise when in the largest cog on the cassette.

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