Iceman Race Report-Postpartum Division
The rain came down in slush-drops. And there I was sitting in the front seat of our car breastfeeding my six-week-old next to a truck full of middle-aged men. This was my Iceman pregame. I work at the Gaslight Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, and for weeks up until Iceman I had to listen to people get psyched up about their training for the race. I kept fairly quiet, secretly holding my spot in the race, meanwhile struggling to get past my huge belly to pick up the hex wrench I had just dropped on the floor. I had found out I was pregnant in January, so I held back from mountain bike racing for the year. Iceman was my only chance to get in at least one race for the Founders team for the year.
1. Baby must be born on time. Due date was September 28. Much later, and I would not have enough recovery time.
2. No C-Section. Again, not enough recovery time if this is what happened.
3. Recovery must go well. I kept running (a generous term for my brisk waddle) up to the last weeks of pregnancy in hopes this would help.
4. When baby is born, it must take a bottle.
5. My husband must be okay with it. I knew this was already okay, as Kyle has supported me through almost every race I’ve been in since we’ve been together.
I was extremely lucky, and our boy, Jules Escher, was born with no complications on September 20 at 3:26 in the morning. Recovery also went well. Two weeks later I was running. Three weeks later I was biking. Four weeks later I was doing single-track. I knew I was ready when a friend I biked with said, “You should do Iceman!” I said with confidence in my new nursing sports bra, “I am!”
The start of the race was miserable. Not only the feeding and pumping in the car, but the rain-snow mix, the Stan’s leaking out from my tires, the cog on the back of my single speed that I had last-minute put on, and the zombie-like feeling that comes from the lack of sleep newborns bring with them. Still, I headed to the start if the race with a plastered “this is X-TREME!” smile, in a wave that was much faster then what I deserved six-weeks postpartum.
We were off. As the start of Iceman is on pavement, it only took a few minutes for me to be at the back of the wave with the other guy on a single speed. Then the mud hit about 1 mile in. It was like oatmeal; a never-ending track filled with oatmeal. There was no break. And the slush-rain kept pouring down. It was only a few miles into the race and it started, the grinding of gravel-laden gears and the dropped derailleurs. The cassettes were no longer visible on people’s bikes. Jane, a teammate, said she was one of the many who ended up riding single speed because of the terrorizing mud. At this point, I realized my single speed wasn’t a half bad idea.
Shortly after the sounds of clanking gears the silence started too. People were already drenched, hypothermic and miserable. I saw many friends on the side of hills not even having enough energy to curse. They wouldn’t talk. Iceman generally is a positive race, with people saying “Great Job” and “Go get it!” This year it was a mix of grunts, sighs and spitting of dirt. At one point, the rain stopped for a minute and I exclaimed, “This is a nice change!” with as positive of a tone as I could. No reply, just pissed faces.
As I was approaching Williamsburg Road where my dad was going to be I kept thinking, “I’m a mom now. I have to do the responsible thing. Should I bail, or should I keep going?” But I kept thinking two things. A. This is your only race for the year and B. You just endured three days of labor, what’s three hours? So I went up the hill, gave my biggest smile and kept going.
My pants were now so soaked that I was getting comments from time to time that my pants were falling down. I kept going. I told myself, “Once you see that 10k remains you are golden. Just make it to 10k.” I made it to 10k. It wasn’t as good of a feeling as I hoped for, but I kept going. I had to get back to my baby. Coming into the last 3k the trail was pretty much unrideable, as it was single track they just put in for the race, so it did not fair well with the thousands of riders on it that day. I kept going. Finally the finish. The fans cheered and I saw Kyle with Jules tucked away in his carrier with his red hat peaking over the top.
I crossed the finish line. I had done it. I took a picture with my boys and realized I had just completed the Iceman with my slowest time ever. I think the rest of the team may be able to say the same (even though several took podium places). But I think we’d all say that with the shittier the race, the better the beer tastes in the end. Especially if you haven’t been able to drink for several months.