The first thing that strikes you from talking to the Merrell employees who have gone through the Iceman Cometh race before is their almost evangelical enthusiasm for it. Sarah Pratt, a Sales Coordinator for the company is the most effusive: “The course is great and easy to follow and the way the race is executed is flawless,” she enthuses.
She’s not alone. Mike Gannon, a Merrell Designer has been racing in the event for years. “Its become a tradition”, he explains. “It’s something I look forward to every year and that keeps me motivated to train throughout the summer.” Tom Stolz, Merrell’s Sales Director keeps his praise simple: “It’s a ton of fun!”
It’s even proving a hit with Gannon’s family, with the shorter children’s race seeing his 10 year old son following in his tire-tracks. “He didn’t win, but he did pretty well and I was proud of him even just for finishing. I never got into baseball or traditional school sports so love that we have something we can do together.”
Ask them of their enduring memories of the race and you get some interesting anecdotes from the track. Despite his obvious love of the race (he keeps coming back year after year, after all), Gannon speaks of a “mental breakdown” when he reached the top of a really steep hill close to the finishing line. Remembering how in the past, the organizers had arranged for competitors to climb the hill twice, he chose to take an unplanned break: “My legs would instantly cramp up if I got off my bike to push it up a hill, so in that moment of despair I just got off my bike and laid down right there in the snow. I probably only laid there for a minute or two, but it felt like 15 before I was able to talk myself into getting back on my bike to finish the race. And the crazy thing was, when I did get back going again I found that the course designers had changed it up for this year, and all that was left was a nice, flat, windy kilometer or two to the finish line!”
Everyone agrees that reaching the finish line is a real thrill though: not just for the sense of achievement and imminent party, but for the buzzing atmosphere as you approach the end: “Usually it’s the toughest part, because your body is cold, tired and aches to be done, but at five miles out you begin to see more fans and hear the cheering crowds and it’s so exhilarating,” explains Pratt. Stolz backs this up, adding in some other highlights: “Highs are the thrill of the massive start, the fast rolling sections of the ski trail, coming through the finish with a mob of spectators and most importantly the after party.”
The legendary after-party is an obvious selling point, but it’s perhaps telling how little it comes up: you get the impression that the challenge of the race, the atmosphere and amazing scenery would be enough to draw any of them to town, even without the promise of an unforgettable après-race. “The feeling when you cross the finish line after biking in the cold and sometimes snowy weather is amazing! The sense of accomplishment is almost overwhelming,” enthuses Pratt – and it’s hard not to want to hit the slopes after hearing that.
The Iceman Cometh race is hosted on the first Saturday of November every year. For more information, visit the official website.