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|
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|
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 at the finish--mud and smiles!|