I hail from Michigan, and it's rare that I get back that way, but when I do...
Just 12 hours after raking in their Halloween loot, I had the kids on a plane headed to the Mitten State. The flights to Michigan take us over Lake Michigan. On a clear day, the views are beautiful and familiar and I can oft follow our path from the coast. (It's not uncommon to fly over my little home town of Rockford). The lake was barely visible, yet the beaches were still almost glowing; once we were over land, it was socked in, so I was forced to watch a shark movie over the shoulder of the guy sitting in front of me.
Michigan was my home for over 30 years, yet it doesn't seem like it's mine anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love it there, and it's special to me, but it's missing that, something. We arrive my sisters house with no drama. Besides her and her family are so wonderful and accommodating, I lived there for a bit before I moved to Ann Arbor and I always feel welcome.
I had a great sleep, woke at my leisure, and built my bike over a cup of coffee.
Drama, dudes, and drive
Traveling with a bike isn't new to me. I was racing my Cannondale F-si hardtail and apart from addressing the cockpit and derailleur, it's an easy fit into its travel bag. The re-build was going smoothly. I was expecting a brother and his family any second, and only had a seatpost to set, and I was done and ready for a quick rip.
The F-si has a "unique" wedge system instead of a traditional seat collar to fix the seatpost into the frame; and it was missing! It didn't fall down the seat tube, and after a presumably thorough search on the travel bag, it wasn't to be found. The ensuing panic was overwhelming and I was imagining what my options were to still race. WTF?! If it wasn't with me, the most possible place it could be, is on my garage floor, 3000km's away, between my work stand, and the open space where I packed my bike a couple days earlier.
My brother arrived at the apex of my worry. He knows nothing about the bike industry, and his first words out of his mouth were "why would they make something like this". (he's bike shop management material).
One last search of the travel bag, and the wedge was found in a deep dark corner - crisis averted, but I felt like I was going to puke.
Alas, I was free to properly greet my niece and nephew, and to get the show on the road, with a drive north, and a brother rolling shotgun.
The band is back together
It's been a while since my siblings and I were in the same room, and considering no one died for it to happen, we were all planning to make the most of the long weekend.
Adding to the excitement, my brother Michael and his wife Tammy were also racing! Mike, this being his first ever mountain bike race, was in for a treat. The weather was shaping up to be perfect (around 3c and no precipitation), and the course turned out to be PERFECT! Tammy has raced before and is an Iceman vet.
The 5000 racers go off every three minutes, in waves based on previous Iceman results, and there are about a hundred or so racers in each wave. I was starting at 9am, in wave 6. It was brisk, grey, and windy at the start line in Kalkaska MI., but I was confident in my clothing selection:
- Light base layer on top
- Knee and arm warmers
- ATHX jersey and bibs
(it proved to be perfect!)
Mike and Tammy were starting about an hour and a bit after me, and they arrived during my warm-up so I got to wish them luck. My brothers Kelly and Gary were there too and got me to the start - the four of them were there to see me off.
I started second row, and tried to let the keeners go off the front, knowing there would be shuffling of positions for the first 20mins of racing. That proved true and then the poorly planned starts of several racers around me, saw them start to implode. My start was perfect. I came through halfway at just over an hour. I knew the second half was faster, and was becoming more and more confident I was going to make the goal of a sub two hour race.
The course was buff; super tacky in the turns, and the abundant sandy crossings were well packed and rutted.
There is a few dirt road sections where it was easy to feed AND pass. I was passing so many people, I could only assume I was rolling through the back markers of the waves that started before me.
The days big todo came when I noticed my seatpost was falling into the frame, and I wasn't carrying a multi-tool. My cautious torquing of the stupid set wedge, proved to be a half turn too light. I could spin my saddle with my thighs, and tried not to stop and raise it, but it was likely slowing me more than it would if I stopped to do it. Sadly, I hopped off on the biggest climb of the day thinking I could run it, and raise my saddle at the same time. I gained a couple of places, and succeeded in getting the post where it needed to be (it didn't last long).
Finish and family
Iceman is known for their deceptive finish lines. I rolled into the campground finish venue, and hit the numerous banner strewn sponsor signs along what appears to be be a finish shoot. A sandy 180°; over and through several bridges; a long straightaway; all with fans lining the course ramping the energy to 11 as if it were a finish!...... and then you hit the "1K to go".
My saddle was crazy low, forcing my knees up around my ears, and making my back scream! I caught a glimpse of my Garmin after exiting the campground, and baring catastrophe, I was going to make it sub-2 hours. Cresting the last little kicker, "Ice Breaker", it was back to the campground, and the actual finish shoot.
The finish venue was hectic. Thousands of spectators and racers, food trucks and vendors, and my family! What a treat to be greeted with familiar smiles. I maned the post next to a bonfire, and made short work of some tasty mac-n-cheese while I waited for Kelly and Gary who saw Mike and Tammy off and where holding my bag of warm clothes.
First timer and a cagy vet
Cell service was dodgy at best, and our "borrowed" wifi password proved to be even less trustworthy, making it hard to track M and T. We made a guess at a finish time from our last reliable tracker update and my brothers and I had the race course on lockdown. Nothin'!
It would be disappointing to have missed them finish, yet that's what we did. I could blame our math (or the beer), but come to find out, it was all Michael - he CRUSHED it! 2:40.36
He met us at the finish shoot looking fresh, just in time to see Tammy cross the line: she has a great story about an overly cautious competitor who wouldn't let people pass because they "were going to make me crash, AGAIN".
It'll be hard for me to not want to race Iceman '19 after such a great experience.
I'm in the middle of a couple build weeks, as it's full gas Cape Epic! This past weekend had me getting out of bed, long before my family, in order to get in the ride time.
Updates will be coming more often with all that's going on with the Epic. Look for another Spinathon for the Stollery Foundation coming some time in January or February.
As always, thanks for following along!