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the ICEMAN is as much an event as it is a race.  Preparing for it is like the excitement of a year-end race party while being anxious about more than 4, price 000 cyclists in a race.  For me, it was hard not to complain in October about being sick and not being able to train the way I knew I should, but there are so many guys who are fighting so much tougher illnesses and broken bones, I opted to just keep it to myself (and my loving wife who tolerates me).

Pre-riding the last third of the race has become a key part of this race preparation.  The race organizers seem to find pleasure in having a “pseudo” finish with a mile or two left or crazy choke points in the chute that make things interesting after having turned yourself inside out for a couple hours.  On Friday, I rode from Williamsburg road to the finish and found each of Anita’s Hill and Cassies Cliff to be manageable if I stayed off the oak leaves.  There was no traction in the oak leaves in the middle of the 20 percent grade at the top of Anita’s Hill (good lesson for Saturday).  My dad was helping me by dragging me around the county as I did the obligatory package pick up, pre-race prep and other things that make me hard to be around.  But all was good, an easy Friday Prep, the Fuel EX was running great, full suspension (which is not necessary for this race) was topped off and ocked out…I was ready for a fitful night’s sleep.

Listening to the radio on Saturday on the way to Kalkaska, the radio guy said there was 1 ½”  of snow on the ground in Acme, right in the 30 mile path of our ride between Kalkaska and Traverse City.  I recalled a previous ICEMAN where the trail conditions transitioned from an ice rink in Kalkaska to wheel grabbing mud in Timber Ridge, turned out that the finishing conditions were going to be replicated this year.

The race started well, I moved up from mid-front to front 10 after the first hard left turn which guides us out to the trail between the middle school and the Hockey Arena.  Wanting to keep my heart rate well below threshold for the first half of the race (with training well below what it should have been, I wanted to pace myself for the last half of the race) but still wanting to be in position to stay away from the guys who cannot handle the sand well in the first couple of hills, I stayed toward the front.

Guys who clearly were over-confident or under-experienced, went into the oak leaves to pass and were falling down regularly.  In the first 10 miles, I heard more than a half dozen guys go down behind me and maybe the same number fell in front of me.  I actually rode over the back tire of a guy who fell in front of me on some single track.  I was feeling good going into Williamsburg road hill, my dad with his customary goose call rooting me on and good friend Patrick and Cristen yelling at me to get my “fat ass up the hill”.  It made me laugh, and I felt good with about 17 k to go.

My goal was to average 20 minute 5 mile ‘sections’, the first was 18, the second well over 20 and the third was also over 20 minutes.  I was starting to feel the affects of not having put in big efforts in October.  After passing Williamsburg road, it was a different race.  Tactically, I had handled the race exactly how I wanted, and was taking advantage of the big descents that accompany the climbs.  I am not sure what happened during one of the descents, I suspect that I just kicked up a lot of mud into my drive train and I ended up losing access to my small ring and half of my middle ring, climbing became an impossible task.

Anyone who has ridden these hills knows that it is much easier on your legs to spin up in your granny gear than to run up off of your bike…your quads, calves and ham strings just scream when you are off the bike.  Spinning up was no longer an option for me, the chain just wrapped around the middle ring every time I tried to call for the small ring…SUCKED!

I was much more upset about the training that lead up to the race than the race itself, I feel like I handled the course well and, except for being at a full stop between 24 and 26 k (off the bike stopped!  Though I had heard of this, it had never happened to me before…miserable).  After the race, I found that my rear derailleur was bent, I have no idea how it happened, but it compounded the gritty drive train issues, for sure.  At the finish, there was nothing left of me—at all.  By the time I found my dad and my change of clothes, I was feeling sick to my stomach, something that took 45 minutes to go away.

The race was a very hard effort for me and I was very disappointed in my results, it turns out, however, that my results were on par with what they were last year.  I finished 30 out of 92 with a time just over 2:30 (10 minutes slower than last year.)

It is a great sport, I finish this ‘last race’ every year and by the time the beer is gone, I am looking forward to next year’s races and training over the winter.  Thanks as always to Team Active and WSI for sponsoring the team—it was great to see a bunch of TAR Teamies at the finish.  Have a good winter…see you at the end of winter party.

Jack Miner