This weekend was the Iceman Cometh Challenge, an annual race that runs from downtown Kalkaska to Timber Ridge in Traverse City, and the first one in which I participated. I’m content with my time of 2:36:01, which included one intentional stop to use the forest as my urinal, and a few unintentional stops due to the trail being too congested to ride.
Just as I was told, the route is mostly fast two track with some good sized hills with a bit of single track sprinkled in. Due to the sheer number of people racing (3700 or so), their varying ability levels, and the flow of traffic there were a number of places where the route bottlenecked bad enough that one had to stop and wait for a few moments. With most of these places being on narrow uphills I found myself walking a handful of times, and even waiting for 15-20 seconds while one blockage cleared. The tight bits of single track were also ridden at a slow group ride pace. All of this made my time slower than I would have liked, but it also provided some forced resting and really is just part of the Iceman experience. I was told it would happen, so I wasn’t particularly frustrated by it.
With my start time of 10:28am (wave 28) being just below freezing (22°F – 28°F depending on the temperature device), the trail started becoming muddy about half-way through the course, right around the time that the hills started. Thankfully much of this was gritty northern Michigan sand mud that wasn’t too slimy, although the newly cut (so new it seemed to be just for the race) pieces of single track were nearly as bad as the Tree Farm Relay. However, due to the congestion there was no fast riding in them.
If you’d like to see some film of the trail check out this video shot using a GoPro camera mounted on the fork of Jeremiah Bishop‘s bike. It shows more of the fast two track sections and few of the climbs, but it does give a feel for the trail. (Hopefully the complete footage will make its way online eventually.)
Due to the size of the race riders are asked to park at one of the local schools, to which school buses and box trucks (for carrying bikes) make regular shuttle runs. While it’s possible to park along the road leading to the finish venue it’s absurdly crowded and difficult. As we’d planned Danielle parked at one of the schools, so after catching my breath post-race and eating some fruit leather I rode the ~3.5 miles from Timber Ridge to the car. It was then easy to change in the parking lot, store my bike in the car, and catch a bus back to the finish line for some food, beer, and meeting up with friends. After the day was done we then hopped on a return bus to the elementary school to get the car.
I intend to register for the race again next year, and hopefully the conditions will be either the same, or perhaps a bit warmer and without as much mud (or any rain). I love riding in freezing temperatures with a light bit of snow on the ground, so this didn’t disappoint, but I sure wouldn’t mind being able to wear shorts. The event itself is also quite well put on, with a nice expo at registration packet pickup the night before, well organized starting, a well marked course, and an outstanding finish venue with lots of reasonably priced local food, $4 pints of Michigan beer (Bell’s, Kuhnhenn, Shorts, and Right Brain), a changing area, free cookies / HEED / water, and plenty of good viewing of riders approaching the finish line.
The only difference next year might be that we’ll stay some place other than the Motel 6. It was cheap, reasonably comfortable, very well located, and the rooms were clean, but it could have used to have been a bit quieter and with Michigan-type humidity in the rooms. We both would wake up periodically from noises in the hall and other rooms, feeling a bit dehydrated from the furnace that just heated air and pumped it through a slightly rattle-y vent into the room.
If you’d like some more info about the race, here you go:
· 2010 Iceman Cometh Challenge Results
· Cycling Dirt Coverage
· Iceman Cometh Challenge (Main Site)