What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Race Your First Iceman)

Whether someone talked you into it or you set the race as a fitness goal to build towards all summer long, it’s finally here. The Iceman Cometh has cameth. Er, arrived. If this is your first Iceman rodeo, it can seem super overwhelming and daunting. We wanted to help the newbies prepare for their first Iceman with some tips and tricks that we’ve learned over the years to help you and your buds have a fun time. After all, at the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of people wearing their spandex and riding bikes in freezing temps; here’s how to make sure your day in the woods with 4,500 new friends goes smoothly and safely.

Go to the Iceman Expo to Get Your Packet

On Friday, go to the expo to get your packet. Trust us. Picking your number plate up the day of the race is just another task added to an already hectic and rushed morning. Be sure to double-check that you get the right number plate – it’s not impossible to be given someone else’s on accident. It’s happened to me. The volunteers are working feverishly all day long, so a mistake is totally understandable; help them help you, man.

The other sweet thing about the SRAM Expo is all the vendors. If you forgot your gloves, your helmet, or maybe you want to upgrade to a new rocket ship the day before the race, the Expo will have it. And it’ll be cheap. Most vendors blow out their inventory at the Expo – I’m talking as much as 50% off clothes and gear. I once saw Kathleen Kerr leave the Expo with over 20 pairs of SockGuy socks for like $1.53 or something like that.

We’ll have a blog on the Expo itself next week. That’s how big of a deal it is.

Pack, Plan, and Prepare

Crucial to a positive Iceman experience are the 3 Ps; something I just made up. Before you go to bed, you should have everything you’re going to wear for the race laid out on the floor. You should also have everything you’ll need to eat and drink before and during the race, plus dry clothes for after. Again, avoiding stress the morning of the race is going to make your race so much more fun, and there’s nothing more annoying than showing up to Kalkaska missing your right mitten and racing in jeans because you left your bibs at home.

You should also know, by heart, which wave you’re in and when that wave takes off. You can check this info on the back of your number plate or on your Ice Society page. You need to get to Kalkaska with enough time to warm up and get into your wave without being rushed. If you want to be in the front row of your wave, you need to get lined up at least 30 minutes early – even earlier if you’re in the early waves. If you’re less concerned about getting in the front row, take the extra time to warm up and be ready to pass people early and often if you start at the back.

If you’re not on the front row and want to have a fast time, don’t panic! One of my best Iceman races ever had me starting on the back row of wave 2. Your fitness will show, for better or worse, no matter where you’re lined up.

#PROTIP: Plan your bowel movements to take place well before you arrive in Kalkaska. The porta-john seats are super cold in the morning. 

Race with Your Brain. And Your Legs.

Don’t forget, the race is about 30 miles long. Every year, I pass a ton of people who have completely blown up, with snot and spit hanging down their faces and staring 1,000 yards into another dimension of pain, and they’re only at Williamsburg Road. That’s a tough place to blow up, since the longest, most challenging hills are yet to come, and these riders are already buckled. It’s easy to get carried away by adrenaline and excitement at the start of the race, but it’s crucial to know your fitness. You should constantly be asking yourself, “Can I do this effort all the way to the finish?” If you quickly answer yes, go faster. If it’s a hard no, ease up. The ideal answer to this question? “Maybe?”

The race can get a little backed up in the singletrack sections, but don’t freak out. Every wave is going to deal with a brief slow-down in the tight stuff. You need to be ready to pass the second the course opens up. And if someone wants to go around you, let them. Then hop on their wheel and save your energy. You’re going to have a much faster race by cooperating with the riders around you versus if you piss them off. Play the game and you’ll all go faster.

This is a pretty simple overview, I know. But hopefully, it drives home the point of planning ahead, being prepared, and minimizing your stress before the race. Having your head in the right place before the gun goes off means you’re starting with a figurative head start.

See you all at the finish, and bring your I.D. so you can celebrate with some Bell’s.

kolo t.c. is an amateur blog about even more amateurish bike racing. Follow us on Insta, FB, and join our Strava Club. If you really like clicking on things, click on the DONATE button for our friends at the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association.


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