How to Iceman - A Few Tips for Your Best Race
Iceman is a big effin' deal. On Saturday, over 4,000 people will line up in Kalkaska, including former Olympians, national champions, and tons people who have less than 4% body fat. But, if we're honest, the number of elite riders is dwarfed by the vast majority of the field. Most of the racers will be like you and me; weekend warriors with full-time jobs and a commitment to show up to work on Monday no matter how well or how poorly we do. With these people in mind, here are a few tips for the weekend warriors who will be taking on their first Iceman.
This is What You Have, For Better or Worse
There's no such thing as cramming before a bike race. You're as fit as you're going to be for the race; doing an Out and Back on Wednesday isn't going to prepare you for Saturday. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) your fitness ain't going to change the week of the race. Keep your legs moving, taper a bit, and don't try to get 3-month's training between now and Saturday. You're better off getting in a few efforts in your legs, resting, and eating healthy. It is what it is, as the Laziest Philosopher Ever once said.
Not the Time to Experiment
The day before the race is not an ideal time to try anything new. Seriously. Don't try to go tubeless, don't adjust your seat height, don't fuss over getting new shoes. You'd be shocked at just how badly you can mess up your back, your knees, or your race by making last-minute equipment changes. In the words of Don Marsh, just run what you brung and make the most of it.
The same goes for food and beverage before and during the race. If you don't normally eat five plates of chicken alfredo the day before a race or big ride, the day before Iceman isn't the day to see how it goes. Nor is it the time to see how your stomach reacts to a new energy gel, bar, or drink. Iceman is a tough enough race as it is; you don't need to make it all the more challenging by riding with your cheeks clenched for 29 miles as you find out that your body really doesn't like Gu. Eat and drink what you always do before and during rides; go with what's worked in the past.
You'll Catch More Flies with Honey
First off, what a dumb expression, right? Who wants to catch flies? Anyway, I'm talking about how to interact with your fellow competitors. If you want an easier time passing, you're far more likely to get some cooperation by giving someone encouragement and asking politely than simply yelling "MOVE YOUR ASS!" to the person ahead of you in the conga-line. And be smart about when you ask. If you had three miles of two-track to make your move around someone and you ask the second you get into singletrack, sorry, but you messed up.
If someone wants to get by you, play the game. It's a long race. Let them by. Sit on their wheel. They're more likely to let you pass later in the race if you obliged them earlier. In bike racing, karma is very real. Be nice, be positive, and it'll be on your side.
It's a Head Game, Man
You can do a million pre-rides. You can study every Strava segment. You can watch onboard videos from last year's race. But when it really comes down to it, a lot of your race is going to come down to how you feel on race day. If you've been riding, eating right, and you've taken care of your bike, you're going to be fine. Just relax. The secret to a fast Iceman is as much in your head as it is in your legs. Be positive, even if your start is less than ideal. It's a 30-mile bike race, so don't get down if you crash, get dropped, or if you're hung up behind traffic. Fitness and a good attitude always shines through in the end.
It's a celebration of bikes, active lifestyles, and grown adults wearing Spandex in the woods. Don't make it anything more than that. Enjoy it, have some fun, and we'll see you at the finish.
Wes Sovis is best known for his work as Cody's brother. You can follow him on Instagram. But we don't recommend it.