30 miles of dirt, hills, and sand. Temperatures below freezing. And most challenging of all? Really, really cold toilet seats in the port ‘o’ potties at the start line Kalkaska. See, if you’re new to mountain bike racing and to the Iceman Cometh, the most challenging aspects of the race aren’t necessarily what you’d think they’d be. We put together some tips that you might not have thought of that will help you have the best possible time at Michigan mountain biking’s big dance.
Don’t Mess with Your Food
The day of the race isn’t the time to try a new energy bar or gel, or even a new mix for your water bottle. New food and drinks can wreak havoc on your stomach, robbing you of energy or sending you searching for a big tree just off the trail to hide behind somewhere between Kalkaska and Timber. It’s also not the time to gorge yourself on chicken alfredo the night before the race if you never eat pasta. You’re already asking your body to push itself to the maximum; it’s not the time to throw your stomach curveballs with new snacks and drinks. Stick to what’s worked for you on your training rides and you’ll be in great shape and not worried about emergency bowel movements in front of a few thousand of your buddies who will never, never let you live such an incident down.
Don’t Mess with Your Equipment
You’ve been putting off going #SOPRO and slamming your stem for a few months – finally doing it the night before the race is a really bad idea. Even infinitesimal changes to your seat positioning, or getting new shoes, or altering your handlebar height can have massive and unanticipated consequences on your back, knees, and upper body. Don’t risk it.
Along those same lines, the night before the race isn’t the best time to change tires, your chain, or any other parts on your bike. Maybe your tubeless tires don’t set up, the chain is too small and you don’t realize it; there are just too many things that could go wrong with trying out new parts on the day of the race. In the words of the seemingly immortal and youthful Don Marsh, “Run what you brung, son.”
Get There Early
The move of the start of the race to the Kalkaska Airport is going to be absolutely magical. More parking and parking closer to the start line is going to make life easier and less stressful for everyone. But if you’re planning on getting to the start 20 minutes before your start time, you best think again. You need to give yourself plenty of time to get dressed, pump up your tires, pee, put your shoes and booties on, pee, eat a snack and take few selfies with your friends, pee again, warm-up, pee, and then get to the line to find your wave.
Can you fit that all into your routine in 20 minutes? Unlikely. Give yourself at least an hour before your start just to make sure you’re ready to rock. And pee. Like fifteen times. You’re hydrated. It’s cool and expected.
Chill and Enjoy It
Fun is fast, friends. Keep a positive attitude throughout the race and those good vibes will carry you a heckuva lot faster than if you’re on edge the whole way to Timber. Best case scenario, you win your age group and you go to work on Monday. Worst case scenario? You go to work on Monday. Push yourself to your limits and know that even if you get last place, you whooped the pants off everyone who stayed at home on the couch.
If you need help the day of the race, ask someone at the start line in spandex. What’s so cool about Iceman is that everyone understands that we’re all in this together. Our community looks out for each other, pushes each other, and doesn’t hesitate to lend a hand, an extra snack, a water bottle, or just a few words of encouragement before a big morning on two wheels. Even if you’re new to biking and this is your first race, you’re one of us. Welcome to the club. Now, I’ll race you to Timber.