Iceman Etiquette

Growing up, my dad would always leave my brother and I on the start line with two pieces of advice. As we fiddled with our gloves and gave our tires a final pinch, he’d slap us on the shoulder and say, “Hey, remember; it’s a race. But don’t take any chances”. Being punk kids, we’d nod and sort of shoo him away, rippling with pre-race nerves and a teenager’s embarrassment of having our dad hanging around on the start line.

Now, in my old age, I get what we he meant. This isn’t a spin in the County; this is the biggest race of the year for thousands of riders, and if you’re lining up, you’re there to try. Try to win, try to place, try to finish, try to have fun. The goals might be different, but there’s an effort that goes into getting from Kalkaska to Traverse City, and you owe it to everyone else on the course to respect that. There’s nothing for you to do but empty the tank and see what happens.

Of course, that sort of respect pairs with some basic etiquette that most mountain bikers are all too happy to practice. Cycling is a sport that lives and breathes because of countless unwritten rules and learn nuances. There are things you do, and there are plenty of things you don’t. It’s now, just as the jitters start to multiple and the nerves tighten up that it’s worth taking a deep breath and a step back to remember a few of those more concrete practices that are going to keep this race fun for everybody.

On Your Left. With 5,000 people in the woods, we can promise you two things. First, you’re going to pass a few people. Second, a few people are going to pass you. Knowing that, make an effort to overtake slower riders carefully and respectfully, and help those passing you by moving over whenever and wherever the course allows. Announce your approach, verbally indicate which side you’d like to pass on, and wait for the slower rider to verbally call you through. If you’re in a bunch, communicate how many riders might be passing with you. If everyone talks, stays calm, and does their level best to cooperate, then both the faster and slower riders are going to have a faster time in the long run. Do you know the best $8 you can spend this week at your local bike shop? It’s $8 on a nice, loud bell. Seriously.

Walk It Out (or Over). Some of the hills out there are brutal. Loose sand, big bunches, and the grind of a tough day in the saddle can turn these short, sharp inclines into formidable ascents. If you do need to walk, it’s cool. Once you’ve got your feet on the ground, make an effort to move as far to one side of the trail as you can to allow other riders with momentum to keep riding. Most walkers tend to move to the right, but use your best judgement about where to go to keep both yourself and other athletes safe.

Play Fair. We’ve got 55 waves slated for Saturday, and you’ve found a happy home in one of them. Start in that wave; as you know, starting early will get you DQ’d. Starting in a later wave is still not great as your time starts when your wave does. We understand things happen just know that you timing starts when your wave crosses the start line not your bike. Additionally, don’t try to line up in an earlier wave and then linger in the chute, assuring yourself a front row spot. There was a rash of this in 2018, and I’ve been deputized to put an end to it. If you’re caught, you won’t just get held back for your wave, you’ll be held back with me listening to stories about how fast I used to be. That’s a miserable way to spend a morning, just ask Steve Brown. Remember, riding with someone else’s number plate puts our medical and search and rescue team in a bad position. Doing so gets you banned for life, so don’t even try it.

Drop Out, Shout Out. Look, sometimes it just isn’t your day. If you do drop out of the race for a non-medical emergency, let us know. There’s a phone number on the back of your number plate to communicate your DNF. We can help you get to the finish by car, or you can make your way to the nearest aid station for extraction. You may have to wait a little while, but there will be snacks and a blanket for you, so it isn’t all bad.

Perspective. Look, we all want to do well, but remember why we’re all out here. For 99% of us, this is a hobby. That first place check spends quick, but how you act, how you treat your fellow racers, and how you represent your family, club, and community doesn’t go away. I couldn’t tell you what place I finished in a particular year, but I will never forget how I raced and the friends I spent an hour and forty minutes in the wood with. For the next year, you’ll remember what and how it all happened, not the digits on the results sheet.

Have fun, go fast, and most important of all, look out for each other.

Your Best Race Day: 7 Tips for Iceman Success

Your Best Race Day: 7 Tips for Iceman Success

Your Best Race Day: 7 Tips for Iceman Success

By the Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center Physical Therapy Team in Traverse City, MI

 1. Train Adequately in a Realistic Setting

As the weather changes and available daylight wanes with each passing day, it’s very tempting to hop on your indoor trainer. However, even if you have a solid indoor setup that can seemingly mimic hilly conditions, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an indoor environment that can truly simulate the Iceman course. We suggest logging in as many trail miles as possible – though not just on any trail.

“This race is full gas from start to finish,” cautions Johanna Schmidt, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center who has completed Iceman six times. “You’re breathing hard the entire time so you’re not really prepping yourself properly on a single track.”

The avid cyclist – who also co-founded the youth-focused, cycling advocacy organization Norte with her husband Ty – recommends familiarizing yourself with the actual Iceman trail itself if you’re local. Still, the most optimal training can happen right in your own backyard. Schmidt says she owes her best race results (placing 6th) to combining both road racing and mountain bike training, including multiple treks up Wayne Street, a hilly road running alongside Ashton Park in Traverse City.

 2. Train on Your Race-Day Bike

Just as important as replicating your environment is training consistently on the same bike you’ll be racing with next month. This will allow you to be comfortable and familiar with the fit, the gearing, and the control of your equipment. Another bonus? Training on your race-day bike may alert you to aches and pains, such as knee pain, that the bike itself may be causing. These physical warnings can signal a few needed tweaks, such as adjusting your saddle height. And if your own adjustments aren’t hacking it, you still have time to seek help from a professional bike fitter in your area who can better pinpoint any biomechanical issues.

 3. Get a Tune-up

Perform a proper tune-up of your bike before the event. This includes checking the condition of the brakes, chain, and derailleurs. If you’re new to racing or just not mechanically inclined, it’s a good idea to have a professional do it.

4. Pace Yourself

It’s always critical to pace yourself according to your ability and the quality of your training. If you are new to racing or you are pretty certain you are not going to win the race or be in contention, then it’s probably not a good idea to start at the front of the line. “If you’re a first-timer or you’re not racing to win, seek out a group toward the back whose pace is more in line with your own,” says Physical Therapist Josh Thorington, PT, DPT, Manager of Rehab Services at Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center. “It will help you manage the race better. Plus, you don’t want to have to drop out of the race because you’re too tired from pushing yourself too hard at the start.” Regardless of your ability, remember that Iceman is a long race: don’t use all of your energy to the point that you can’t finish.

5. Dress Strategically on Race Day

It’s northern Michigan and you just never know what you’re going to encounter. Our advice? It’s easier to shed layers than it is to add them. Dress in clothing that you can easily peel off or slide down. Think vests that keep your chest warm but your arms cool, arm warmers (which you can slide down once you’re warmed up), and even clothing you don’t mind losing permanently should you need to lose a layer en route. Schmidt recommends underdressing, a tactic that has personally worked for her. “People tend to overdress,” she shares. “But when you’re overheated, it can be difficult to go fast. Even if it’s 40 degrees, a mile or two in, you’re already sweating.” In addition to a vest and arm warmers, Schmidt wears a jacket at the start line and gives it to a loved one right before start time. “Or bring something you don’t care to ever see again and discard it before you get going.”

6. Manage Injuries Now

As we mentioned above, pain can stem from something as simple as crank length. However, if you injure yourself or you’re experiencing pain such as a sore back or aching joints and muscles both on and off your bike, it’s important to manage your injury now. The rehab Team at Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center can evaluate you to determine the exact issue and provide interventions that will get you back in shape for race day. “Our goal is not only to get you back to racing pain free but to keep you racing pain free by creating a program that is tailored specific to you,” says Thorington.

 7. And Finally…

Don’t forget your helmet!

Get access to our enhanced rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, to help you get back to your everyday amazing! Find a Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center location near you.

About Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center

Specialized, coordinated care is what you can expect through Mary Free Bed at Munson Medical Center. This unique collaboration gives our region’s athletes access to one of the largest and most comprehensive rehabilitation hospitals in the United States. Learn more here.