First Iceman Race? Do’s and Don’ts for a Great Experience 

The 26th annual Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge is sure to be a test of wills for the thousands of riders set to take on the 30-mile course from Kalkaska to Traverse City on Saturday, Nov. 7.

If this is your first time competing in the popular bike race, Event Director Steve Brown gave us his top tips for having the race – and time – of your life.

Don’t pack light. “I would say pack everything you’ve got, every piece of cycling apparel that you’ve got,” Brown said. It could be cold and nasty or warm and sunny – you just never know. It could be both in the course of one race! Brown advises packing many layers that you don’t mind getting dirty and that you can strip off and discard on the side of the race trail. Race organizers collect tossed layers and donate them to Goodwill, which Brown pointed out could be the perfect place to pick up some apparel for the race. “Wear apparel you know suits the conditions, but if you have something that you really treasure, I would say don’t wear that because it’s going to get dirty,” Brown said.

Do share your race with others. Your friends and family can track your race progress on the Iceman website. Just tell them to click on “Ice Society” at the top of the page, search for your name, and then subscribe to receive text alerts about your journey. They can also watch a live webcast to possibly catch a glimpse of you!

Don’t radically change your nutrition. Brown said there’s no need to do a big “carbo-loading” meal the night before race day anymore. Just eat what you normally would the night before and the morning of the race. He recommended getting breakfast in about three hours before race time. Stock up on your favorite endurance gels or gummies and bring them with you. You can also purchase products at the race expo.

Do take the bus! Ride a free shuttle bus to Kalkaska the morning of the race and have your bike transported to the start line. This way, your vehicle will already be at the finish line and you won’t have to fight traffic to make it to the after party at Timber Ridge resort! Brown pointed out this move is also better for the planet and support’s the races overall goal to be a more sustainable event. Find out more about where to park and how the shuttles work here.

Don’t go out too fast. This is the hardest advice to take, but as any race-weary rider can tell you, it’s so worth repeating. Better to finish than lose your steam halfway through because you were trying to push your pace at a level that was unsustainable for you. “Just ease into it and then slowly ramp it up from there and start to push yourself,” Brown explained. Plus, there are more hills in the last third of the race course, so save yourself to conquer those.

Do locate restrooms ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than needing to go with no porta-potty in sight. Familiarize yourself with the race course map so you’ll know where you can safely take care of business – no bushes, people!

Don’t be stinky (or cold) after the race. You’re tired, you’re sweaty, and you might be shivering after your ride. No need to feel this way for very long and Brown said it’s best if you don’t. “Get out of your racing clothes as quickly as you can,” he said. Showers are available for men and women with separate facilities at the finish line – use them.

Do take part in pre- and post-race festivities. Make sure to hit up the race expo on Friday, Nov. 6 at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. After the race, 50 kegs of Bell’s beer will be waiting for you at the Timber Ridge Resort finish line after party – make sure to toast your success responsibly. Cheers!

If you’re riding in this year’s Iceman Cometh Challenge or if you’re there to cheer on a friend or loved one, tell us your favorite tips for having a great race or spectator experience in the comments.  

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Photo credit: Frank Batterman

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