Monday, November 12, 2007

The Iceman Cometh Challenge

This past weekend, Doug, Brent, and I from the Peninsula store took a road trip up to Traverse City, Michigan for the 18th Annual Iceman Cometh Challenge mountain bike race. This is a 27-mile race, beginning in the nearby town of Kalkaska, and ending in Traverse City. The local communities do a great job of welcoming us racers, as I'm sure it provides a boost in business in what would otherwise be a slow time in-between the summer and winter tourist seasons.

The race course is a mixture of singletrack, double-track, dirt and gravel roads, and cross-country ski trails. The morning started out at a chilly 26 degrees with a thick layer of frost, but this burned off nicely as the sun came up, and by the time of our race starts, we enjoyed clear and sunny skies with temps in the upper 40's.

Brent entered in the singlespeed division, so had the earliest start time of the three of us at 9:50am. I didn't have long to wait after that, starting at 10:20, and Doug's wave started at 10:50. While Doug and I were waiting and watching Brent's start, we ran into Bill Rehor, a long-time Michigan resident and our sales representative for Shimano, Haro, Bell, Giro, and Blackburn. Bell wasn't participating in the race, however, as later he had to go work at a sale event at a local sporting goods store.

I had two main goals for this year's race: place better than last year, and win the friendly competition between Brent and me. He beat me last year by only 28 seconds, which I blamed mainly on my having to stop mid-race to remove my windbreaker, and a dumb crash where I caught my handlebar on the fence about 100 feet before the finish line. So, my strategy this year was to pick the right clothing at the start, and ride strong and steady.

My clothing choices worked out perfectly; I was never too hot or too cold during the race. On top, I wore a long-sleeve base layer, then my Century Cycles Retro Wool Jersey. Down below, my Endura Hummvee Knickers did the trick. On my feet, a pair of Lake Winter Cycling Boots and Dirt Rag Wool Socks kept my little piggies from going to the market.

Towards the end of the race, I was still feeling pretty fresh and strong, and so was afraid that maybe I had not pushed myself hard enough. But as soon as I exited the finish chute and started to recover and catch my breath, my windpipe felt like it was on fire, and I felt like I was going to pass out, or puke, or both. So I guess I did not leave too much unused effort out on the course. I came in with a time of 2:10:46, placing 17th out of 130+ in my category, which I was extremely pleased with.

Doug kicked butt, placing 11th in his category, and Brent ended up with a respectable time of about 2 hours and 19 minutes. The full results should be posted at in the next couple of days. The results have been posted on the Traverse City Record-Eagle site; they also have this article about this year's event.

Brian Matter took the title for the Pro Men, and once again, Kelli Emmett of the Giant Mountain Bike Team won the Pro Women race!

After the race, we tracked down Kelly O'Brien, another Michigan local and our sales representative for Thule, Powerbar, and Descente. Kelly raced (where he said he noticed Doug passing him), and then set up a tent and barbeque near the finish line, where he shared a few hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and frosty beverages with us. Thanks, Kelly!

The highlight of the day was watching the SnoCone event, a short fun race for the kids; every participant gets a number plate and a medal. It seemed like the younger they were, the less fear they had. Right before the finish line, there was a steep, banked horseshoe-bend turn covered with loose sand, which even took out a few of the pro riders. It was a hoot to see some of those kids on 12-inch wheeled bikes come around that turn, with a look of steely resolve in their eyes, and just nail it perfectly! Then their feet would pedal furiously using their single gear to cover that last few dozen hards to the finish line.

That evening, we went into town for dinner, and later at one of the local microbreweries, ran into Chip Ellison, our Pearl Izumi sales rep. He had a good race as well, finishing in about 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Before heading home on Sunday, we took a detour to enjoy the amazing scenery and a 1.5-mile hike out at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You can see more pictures from the trip at

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