Riding For A Reason: Turning Training Into Something More with Less Cancer and Norte

eric norteFor many of us, it’s been months since we’ve last raced a bike. It could be another month or two until it’s safe for us all to get back on course and take a shot at a podium. But leave it to cyclists to make the most of their downtime by mixing training with some really great causes. Continue reading “Riding For A Reason: Turning Training Into Something More with Less Cancer and Norte”

Heart & Heat of Summer

     We’re getting in the heart and the heat of summer! As the weather improves and the miles rack up, we’re deep in the woods looking at ways to create a unique, challenging course that will keep you on your toes.

     So, how does a course come together? One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle comes from working with Northern Michigan Mountain Biking Association and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to learn more about logging plans. Each year, the DNR harvests timber from state land, and there are times that their planes involves sections of the Iceman course.

     We try to forecast those plans and establish new ways around logging forests, or anticipate clean-up efforts in the event that the logging in finished before race day. One of the important elements of refreshing logged sections of trails is to keep them open not just for the first Saturday in November, but to ensure marked and unmarked trails remain accessible year-round for riders.

    There is one section scheduled to log this year, but no date has been set to work on the Make It Stick area we’ve used the past few editions. On the bright side, we can open up the ‘old’ route in no time, and that flexibility gives us time to work on Make It Stick if logging operations are finished with a few weeks before November 7.

     We are also looking at last year’s wave times, average speeds, and other information to inform where and how we can reduce back-ups and open racing. After a tough 30th edition made even more difficult with rain, snow, and mud, 2020 was always planned to be a world apart. Instead of one for the climbers, we’re working on a route suited to the rouleurs, the strong riders who put out a lot of power on the flats and can really put the hurt on other riders when the race hits the Vasa.

     At this stage in the season, we have a few ideas in mind and have given the proposed, top secret route to just a few locals who will be riding the course to establish some baseline times and give their impressions. With group riding slowly coming back, we will also be able to get a better idea of how the new course breaks up slightly larger groups of, say, ten to fifteen.

    Once the DNR is open and taking permits, we’ll finalize the route and create some high-quality maps to submit for their approval as a part of our event permit. Once those receive the green light, we’ve got a course!

    Want to be ready? Get riding. Plan on faster, flatter, and a shorter course that puts the emphasis on horsepower over climbing.

Another week closer to November! Are you getting ready?

With a long three-day weekend,plenty of Iceman athletes were in the woods to enjoy some sun, warm temperatures, and a nice reprieve from being indoors. Spring is slowly turning into something like summer, and that means plenty of chances to rack up long days in the saddle and explore new places to ride. 

It’s also brought some changes to how we ride and who we ride with. Last week, northern Michigan and all of the Upper Peninsula were given the green light to slowly re-open, and that prompted the League of Michigan Bicyclists to update their guidelines. In these areas,they advise:

– Group rides should be 10 people or less

– Practice social distancing when stopped; give at least 30 feet (10 yards) of space when riding in a line

– Don’t share water bottles or snacks – bring your own

– No snot rockets! If you have to blow your nose, use a disposable tissue and throw it in the trash

– Ride two abreast only with other members of your household

– Wear a mask whenever there’s a chance you’ll come into close contact with others, because masks are the best way to protect them if you have the

If you do choose to ride with a few friends, consider keeping it the same crew to prevent further spreading. 

So, what sort of training should you be focused on? With so many races kicked back to August or September, many riders have essentially restarted their base mile phase, opting for longer,less intense rides to rebuild a solid aerobic base. The key is to work backward from your first event and incorporate something like three weeks of base, a rest week, three weeks of longer tempo intervals (think 10-15 minutes at this point in the season), and then shorter, race-intensity efforts leading into the target event. 

It’s also not a bad idea to use the first race or two of the year as a way to experiment with how hard or much you ride going into a race, making small tweaks to your nutrition, and even with how aggressive you are early on in the race, just to see where you’re at physically. “Training through” some events can have a big impact on your overall fitness and set you up to hit your bigger targets in prime conditions. 

Of course, some folks are already firing on all cylinders. If that’s where you find yourself heading into June,work in some race-type efforts a day or two per week to stay sharp. Focus on certain Strava segments that might give you something to really work for a mimic that race-intensity that is so hard to duplicate out of competition. In Traverse City, we’ve seen riders hitting the Speed of Light route, an 11 mile lap on the Vasa Pathway, at full tilt, mimicking a 35-40 minute race effort on their own, using Strava Live Segments to chase their best time or even the KOM. 

Whatever you’re doing on the bike right now, the most important thing is to enjoy it. Go fast, go slow, ride long, ride short. We’re incredibly lucky to have a tool that keeps us fit and healthy at a time when health is newly appreciated. Make sure you make the right decision on riding solo or group rides based on local guidelines and what’s safest for you. As long as you’re pedaling, you’ll be happy you’re out there!

Checking In – Pros & Locals

Without spring races, it’s been a prolonged season of base miles. So, when is it time to sharpen things up?

With many races now scheduled for August, we’ve finally got a target to work backward from. A lot of our Iceman riders put their training on a bit of a pause the past month or two, pulling back from their normal efforts and going for big, fun rides when the weather allowed or, every now and again, getting their competitive blood flowing virtually on Zwift. 

We checked in with some locals and pros on how the pause changed their training, and how they’re looking to restart. TC rider and single track legend Dan Ellis, for one, let himself come off the gas and simply enjoyed as many miles as possible with his son, Grady. Grady is making the jump from Slush Cup to the full dance this fall, and has been chomping at the bit to get riding as the weather improves. “I think being able to just spend time with him in the woods has been really good for us. I don’t need to worry about fitness now, and that will sort of come as we get closer to normal, safe riding conditions,” Dan explained. 

For pros like last year’s winner,Alexey Vermeulen, there’s a bit of a different perspective. Alexey races for a living, and that means he needs to be in race-ready shape whenever someone says, “Go!”. He’s been balancing big base mile rides, Zwift races, and plenty of quality time with his dog, Willy, in his backpack. “Since corona has taken hold, my coach and I have taken a more flexible view on training which has allowed more adventure rides and Strava hunts,” he let us know. He’s looking to make his first start of the season at the rescheduled Dirty Kanza, currently slated for September 12. 

As spring weather finally arrives,it’s going to be easier to get back to more normality on the bike, offering a chance to check out our favorite trails and explore some new stuff, too. We’ve already been out in the Pere Marquette Forest looking at your course for 2020,and in just a few rides have unearthed a few neat ideas that may or may not seethe light of day. The intel we can share is that while 2019 was all about the climbers, this one is for the rouleurs. Less climbing, more speed, and one of the fastest finishes yet! 

When Does The ‘New’ Season Start For You?

With fat bike races wrapping up and some big gravel events just around the corner, March seems like the perfect start line for cyclists in the Midwest. That’s why we are showing off a fresh website,opening registration, and hitting the road to get the world ready for another year of bikes, buds, and beer in the months leading up to the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge.

The site upgrade is designed to make your iceman.com experience easier to navigate, offer more information, and make race day less stressful by putting everything you need to know in a tidy digital package. You’ll find information about the SRAM Ice Cycle Expo, the start line in Kalkaska, and how to get that beer once you’re in the BISSELL Celebration Zone after the race.

Our new website is just one of many tweaks we’re working on to make 2020 the best edition of the race yet. We’ve made some big changes to the traffic and parking plans at the Kalkaska Airport, plus already have tweaks in the works to the course, the finish venue, waves, and more. You’ll probably notice that much of the information on the site is from last year. Much of what you see still applies to this year, but we’ll make changes to the site as the information changes. As always, you’ll get even more Iceman goodness delivered to your door around Labor Day with this year’s edition of the Glacier Gazette.

Online registration for 2019 racers opens Friday, March 6; for the rest of the world, they’ll have access to open spots on Monday, March 9. Of course, everyone is welcome to celebrate the start of the new season over a pint of Two-Hearted on Friday at 7 Monks in Traverse City(2-6 pm), or the Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo (2-5:30 pm). Swing by and kick off your weekend while you kick off your season.

Need a little motivation this spring? Make sure you’re following us on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram, and join our Strava Club and see how you stack up against your pals.

Famous Last Words

Three decades ago, 39 mountain bikers with nothing better to do on a Saturday morning gathered in Kalkaska. It was frigid; winter had swept in early, and for the first edition of the race, it piled up. That year, Steve Brown had put together something that was certainly competitive in spirit, while also offering a sense of adventure. It was an event that posed a rather simple question: what if?

What if we sent riders from Kalkaska to Traverse City? What if more showed up a year later, and even more the year after that? What if Iceman brought in riders from across northern Michigan, across the state, across the Midwest? What if we finished here; what if we started over there? What if we had beer at the finish venue? What if that microbrew festival turned into nearly a decade of Bell’s Brewery, and our very own ale?

Over two years ago, just before Christmas, Steve Brown gave me a book called Tai-Pan. It was about an ambitious trader in Hong Kong that built the largest, most ambitious trading company in the Far East called “The Noble House”. Just one book in an epic saga, it’s the story not of one person, but of an enterprise bigger than a single person, and about the commitment to carrying on the standards, the morals, and the idea for generation after generation. Before I was too far into the book, I started to get the idea. 

Last year, I showed up to the start line knowing that it could be the last time I race. It was quite the feeling; I’d been sick for two weeks leading up to it, but instead of being disappointed, it let me just relax and soak it all in. The nerves, the last-minute decision on what bike to ride, the long, agonizing wait for the Pro 2:30 start. Every second meant something, and that odd perspective stuck with me. What could possibly attract thousands of mountain bikers from around the country to travel to Traverse City, in terrible weather, to race bikes?

When you take that step back, what you see is that because of what Steve and Connie Brown have poured into this race, and the incredible people that they’ve tied in to make it happen, Iceman truly is more than a race. Competition is just one small ingredient of a recipe that combines tradition, hardship, passion, failure, resilience, success, and a quiet sort of relief that comes not at the finish so much as it does at the start. We have all faced challenges and sacrifices just to show up; we’ve put in the miles, we’ve traveled the hours, we’ve made it all come together for one special day in November. 

Looking at the race now, I don’t see a race by which my friends will judge my fitness or ability. I see riders that wake up at 3:45 am to ride their trainers in the basement before work so they can train and still make it to Junior’s soccer game that evening. I see a guy who lost 55 pounds riding bikes not to win his age group, but to just finish 30 miles of everything the Pere Marquette can muster. I see a woman who requested to move back fifteen waves to ride with her sister so they could motivate each other, no matter the weather. I see a dad who, though he could probably win his age group, enter the Pro race so that he won’t miss his son take on the Slush Cup. 

I’ve got two simple requests for you tomorrow. First, please appreciate those banners. Seriously. As a racer, I used to think they just appeared, already draped over the hard fencing and magically removed Saturday night. They’re not. Dozens of volunteers spend countless hours setting up the start and finish venue, and they do so in the rain, in the snow, and in the cold. Those venues aren’t just parts of the racecourse, they’re the stage for the biggest show in mountain biking. Behind every banner and sign is a volunteer and a sponsor; without them, this show wouldn’t go on. 

Finally, look out for each other. To preserve our natural spaces, to promote our sport, and to ensure that events like the Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge have a future for the next thirty years, it’s going to take every single one of us. If we do nothing else with this race, I hope we continue to grow the sense of community that is fostered by joining a local club or team, becoming a member of your local trail association, and by participating in and supporting events that have a larger purpose. 

Now go lose sleep about which tires you’ve picked out for tomorrow, and we’ll see you in Kalkaska!