Friday, November 14, 2014

Iceman: Slushcup Edition 2014 Pt. 2

Read Part 1 here.

I remember how nervous I had been at my first Iceman at 30 years of age, I can't imagine what the anticipation would be for someone who still shows how old they are by holding up their fingers.

As I watched Wave 4 ride off into the woods and soon after, Sage and Gage, I couldn't help but feel what a privilege it was to be able to share in their adventure.

The Sluschup course is comprised of mostly two track trails which allow for plenty of room for new and young riders to race at their own comfort level, unlike the Iceman, which is dotted with technical and frustratingly crowded single track sections that can fumble-up the most experienced racers. S(G)age immediately found their stride and were able to catch their wave. They maneuvered up the first climb, ticking off riders at a steady, strong pace.

Sage, on her own
Chad and I have always encouraged Sage to ride her own race. I suppose it wasn't all that surprising when she immediately peeled off from our little group and rode herself out of sight. I sped up to check on her, she assured me she was fine to ride by herself. I wished her luck before turning back for Gage, my riding partner for the remainder of the race.

Unlike Sage, who can be very chatty on the trail, Gage was stoic and silent. He kept his head up and eyes forward, holding a steady pace. I simply followed along.

Just 1.5 miles in, we came around the corner to find Sage standing on the side of the trail. The momma-bear in me became immediately worried and protective. Did she have a flat tire? Did her chain break? Did she fall and hurt herself?!?!?!

I quickly rode up to her and began fussing, "Are you okay! What's wrong!"

"I'm getting a drink."

What? She stopped for a drink? A drink?!? Thereisnostoppingforadrinkinracing. She had a huge lead and we caught up to her because of a drink? "That's what your hydrapak is for--so you don't have to stop. Keep going you crazy kid!" I laughed. "You're doing great!"

"Okay, Mommy!" Sage smiled. I was so relieved that she wasn't hurt. Phew! Sage rode off and Gage and I continued our race together. In silence. And then the rain turned from "light" to "driving" and while we had been cold, it was suddenly bone-chilling.

I've heard a lot of veteran Icemen say this was the worst conditions they've experienced: the cold, the rain, the mud, the failing bikes, the hypothermia . . . The Slushcuppers raced in the same conditions. Yes, it was only 8 miles. But for an 8 or 9 year old--that distance is as equally challenging as the 30+ miles are for an experienced rider. Most Slusher's bikes aren't set up with X1. For many of the Slushers, their bikes weigh almost as much as they do. They don't have insulated booties--their riding in sneakers. If your $3k+ bike was having a difficult time in these conditions, well, you can imagine how a kids bike would fare.

Gage, Team Troll, at the start of the race
I was constantly checking in with Gage. Are you thirsty? Hungry?  He simply kept nodding that he was fine and rolled along. About 5 miles in I could tell he was starting to struggle. While he insisted he was okay, sometimes moms know better. I made him drink some water and eat apple squeezie--for those that don't know, apple squeezies are apple sauce in the form of a large gu packet. I took off my rain coat and put it on him--not sure how much good it was going to do as it was soaking wet, but Gage said it helped--the one handful of words he spoke the entire race. Then we soldiered on.

At 6.5 miles the Slushcup and Iceman course merge. Gage and I had been riding over an hour already with several miles to go. Gage was doing great, but I could tell he needed something to build his confidence, keep him going. Fortunately, it wasn't long after that we heard some bongo drums.

"We're almost there Gage--you've got this! Peddle to the beat!"

The bongo drummer gave us a heads-up that the Slushcup course was to the left. While the wide trail went up hill then turned for a steep downhill (the Iceman), the Slushcup course had a narrow single track section in the opposite direction that cut through the woods and spit you out at the finish.

Gage and I emerged from the woods and rode down the finishing shoot to the cheers and applaud that is The Iceman Experience.

Sage and Gage's family were at the finish line to meet us with hugs and cheers.

"Mom! You told me it was 8 miles but it was 11!" Sage guffawed.

Sage missed the turn-off where the Sluschup and Iceman separate. Even with the extra miles, added single track and steep climbs, Sage wore a huge smile the rest of the weekend.

I'm so proud of both Sage and Gage. It was their first Slushcup in very challenging circumstances. They both worked past their discomfort and endured to the finish. What they accomplished is a hearty deposit in building their confidence and character that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Sage 1:24:51
Gage 1:31:28
Heather 1:31:29

Sage at the finish--mud and smiles!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Iceman: Slushcup Edition 2014, PT 1

Icemans of Past 2010 and 2012

This was my first year attending Iceman as a Slushcupper. I was worried that once we arrived at the expo that I would have regrets about not signing up for the whole shebang. Let me tell you, that was not the case. It was AWESOME!

The dreaded weather report of 34 degrees, rain and wind (arguable the worst conditions for a mountain bike race ever) was a blip in my radar--after all, I was only going to be out there for an hour. One can endure just about any kind of conditions for that long. Sleep and nutrition--other aspects that generally heighten my nerves were of no concern. I wasn't racing! There was, for once, no pressure. I was looking forward to a day of riding with awesome, inspiring kids followed by indulging in the spoils of one of the biggest parties in Northern Michigan.

Sage, Gage, myself, and a photobomber sizing up her competition at the Slushcup start line
My riding buddies of the day were my daughter Sage and a friend of ours, Gage. Sage has gained some mountain bike racing experience this summer having competed at Big M, then doing her first solo races at Skirts in the Dirt, and Pando Fall Challenge. I had never ridden with Gage before and was uncertain what his experience was to that point, but I knew his family rolled with Team Troll. I could tell both Sage and Gage were very nervous.

We were assigned Wave 4 (the last wave in the Slush Cup). As each wave proceeded to be ticked off and the crowd amassed forward, both Sage and Gage were inclined to stay put. Eventually it seemed like there was a good 20 foot gap between us and the rest of Wave 4. I casually mentioned moving to the front but S(G)age implored me to stay right where I was. The crowd was clearly increasing their apprehension. I think if S(G)age had their way, they would have had a Wave 5 created just for them.

My competitive nature was twitching to shove both kids to the front of the line. But, this was their race and I was just along for the ride ;) If we never, ever passed one person (Sage has been known to start last, catch someone, stop, let them get ahead again before starting to ride) then that's what we were going to do!

Before we knew it the race had started! And S(G)age each had one foot on the peddle and the other on the ground, letting the chaos at the start line clear while they stood motionless for the moment.

. . . But then we were off!

The End of Part 1.
I'll finish the rest tomorrow! This mom only has so much time to write in one day . . .

Our home at Iceman / Timber Ridge