Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Iceman race report-fat bike edition

I'm not sure what Iceman number this was for me but I think I've raced it every year since I've started riding a bike. My first year was in the beginner class. I had only been riding for two months and the longest distance I had ridden was 14 miles. "The course is totally flat, you'll be fine" my then-boyfriend-now-husband told me. What he failed to mention was that he had a mechanical the year before so he didn't know what the second half of the course was like. If I wasn't ready to collapse at the end of the race I probably would have punched him :-)

Since then I've raced sport, expert, pro and single speed. This was the first year with a fat bike class...naturally I had to race it. Duh. Total no-brainer. Even better was the fact that my Wausau 24 teammate April and her husband Tom were bringing the Salsa Beargrease XX1 demo bike for me to race. Once I found out that I could race on it I really couldn't think about anything else for the rest of the week.

I was so excited all week but also nervous and really tired from super early 5 a.m. mornings at work. Ugh. On Friday Jill (my road trip buddy and event coordinator for Grand Rapids Bicycles) picked me up at 6:45 a.m. My eyes were so tired I felt like I had to hold them open but I rallied and once we packed up the van we headed straight to Traverse City coffee!
We had typical Michigan November weather on the way up but I've learned a long time ago not to stress about the weather.
Once we got to Grand Traverse Resort we unloaded the van and checked out the expo. I was instantly much more awake. The cool thing about Iceman is you see almost anyone you have EVER raced with. Plus a lot of my sponsors (current and new) were there so it was cool to check out the new product coming out next year.

After lots and lots of talking the bike arrived!  While Efred (from Salsa) worked on transferring over my bike measurements I manned the Salsa booth.

PS. Talking about bikes that I love was not hard for me!
Finally the expo started to wind down. It was time to load up the van and leave. Both Jill and I were completely exhausted as we had been at the expo for about 12 hours. I slept really, really well for the night before a race. Maybe that's the secret....reach complete exhaustion!?!?

Before I knew it our alarms were going off and we were loading up our fat bikes and coffee in the van. Scott was going to drive us to Kalkaska (race start) and then try to go to some of the road crossings to cheer us on.
I am not going to lie. I was really nervous. I knew that there were some fast women in the fat bike class and I also knew that there are many different variables that can come into play when there are 5,000 people racing. Not only do we have to pick the right lines, but we have to hope that the ten people in front of us pick the right lines, and that the ten people in front of them do...and so on.

The moment we arrived my pre-race nerves mostly disappeared. I should have been warming up but instead I was staring in awe at the bike Salsa was letting me race.
Wave after wave went off with lots of cheers. Before long I saw more fatties rolling around. We were taking off in Wave 28 (the coolest wave) and I knew that we would have our work cut out for us with a couple thousand racers in front of us.

Two fatties hanging out before the race :-)
I had been mentally preparing for the start all week as my goal was to be the first female into the woods.The first mile was paved and completely flat...I lined up behind a few really fast friends and willed myself to hang onto their wheels!
Finally the promoter started counting down...it was time for the inaugural fat bike wave to take off!!!
The start was fast but not an all-out sprint. I was able to hang with the lead guys until we hit the woods! Yes!!!! At that point we started catching the wave in front of us and I lost contact with a few of the guys in front of me during passes. I knew I was the first female but to tell you the truth at that point I stopped worrying where everyone else was and just rode my own race.

I had only ridden the Carbon Beargrease once before but it was just as great as I remembered it. It's like having a secret weapon. Once you start pedaling the bike just shoots forwards. The best part was that I could literally ride any part of the Iceman course. The sand pits and leaves were no longer an issue. For the first time ever I didn't have to worry about the good and bad lines.

This was my first time racing with XX1 components and what can I say? I'm hooked on that as well. The shifting was phenomenal and I never felt like I was spun out or couldn't clean a climb. It was by far the most fun I've ever had racing the Iceman and from this point on I will only race a fat bike there.

I love climbing on this bike!
The hardest part of the race (for me) was the constant sprinting that I had to do to pass people. I would go from being at a complete stop in singletrack to going all out the moment the trail opened up. It was like a giant, intense interval session. I think my coach would be very happy with the effort that I put out because I was drooling and snotting all over the place. By the end of the race my legs were about to go out on me....

The final miles at the Iceman was a blast because there were sooooo many people cheering! I loved it. I crossed the line as the first place female and 8th out of the guys. A great day for sure!
Here I am completely happy and trying to figure out a way I could keep the bike without anyone noticing :-)
Our fat bike female podium! I was surrounded by a great group of fast ladies!
The thing that I love about Iceman is the general atmosphere. Yes the race is a ton of fun, but equally fun is being able to hang out all day with so many other bike racers. It was such a great weekend!

Me and my Minnesota BFF...we will be racing Wausau together again next year!
In the past I would always get the post-race season blues after Iceman. It usually represented the end of the season for me and I knew that I wouldn't see a lot of my fellow bike racing friends until the following Spring. That's not the case this year. We have a ton of events coming up (I will post them shortly), some great rides, AND the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series is right around the corner.

Bring on the winter season :-)

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