What does the term “Icy Ike Bike & Hike” conjure up in your mind? This is Kansas, after all, and we’ve all been witness both extreme January ice storms as well as those rare days with no wind while watching the temps inch up into the 70s. Luckily yesterday was not one of those days, and so the name conjured up by Blue Hills Adventures race director Clay Myers-Bowman and his family over a recent dinner lived up to its namesake. And then some.
The day didn’t get off to a good start. First, I couldn’t put my bike rack on the car because I lost my keys in the snow earlier in the week while teaching the kids about proper snowman construction techniques. No problem, we’ll use Steve’s rack – stuff the bike in the car and go. I made it to the gas station before I realized that I forgot my wallet. Quick loop back to house, then turn around and dash to Steve’s house. He was in an equal state of un-preparedness, fumbling around the house trying to find his gear.
Nonetheless we managed to get the car packed and hit the road. As Steve reads off the gear list (that thing I tried to unsuccessfully tried to print off the internet last night) I realized that I was missing several key items. Even though this was supposed to be a 1 1/2 to 2-hour race suitable for first-timers, the slightest chance of severe weather necessitated a “better-safe-than-sorry” gear list, several items of which I was missing. First aid kit? No problem, I have a few band-aids in the car. Waterproof map case? This old zip lock will suffice. Waterproof pants? These nylon pants were just, uh, Scotch-Guarded..right. It was like a team challenge – how do we complete the required gear list out of nothing more than the items in this car? Done. Or not done – once on the highway Steve realizes that he forgot his helmet. We aren’t sufficiently adept at whittling to carve one from the plastic in the dashboard so once again I whip the car around, we swing by Steve’s house for his helmet and few key items, and quickly get back on the road.
The time is now 10:34 am, we’re just leaving the KC metro area, and the pre-race meeting is scheduled to start in 60 minutes at a race that is 70 miles away. Somehow we manage make it to Eisenhower State Park and run into the shelter just as Clay is ready to start the pre-race meeting. We check-in, rush through gear check, deposit our bikes onto the grass outside, and try to figure out what we need while keeping half an ear open to listen to the race rules during the pre-race meeting. In other words, we had none of the usual decompression time to prepare for the race, formulate a plan, warm up the legs with a little jog, or just relax; the race would begin with a run…in five minutes.
Five minutes later the teams were lined up at the starting line for our first leg – a run. Clay passed out our first “team challenge”, which turned out to be a list of items that we would be required to collect during the race and turned in at the finish line. The listed included a leaf, something red, a piece of bark, a piece of litter, something with a hole in it, a receipt, two feet of toilet paper (NOT to be retrieved from the porta-john next to the transition area), and a rock. Easy enough, right?
A minute later Clay blew the horn and off we went. Our initial instructions were to run to the gift shop, a small cabin with a green roof, and retrieve our first map and instructions. We took off with three lead teams and tried to keep up as one team took a quick lead on everyone else. Not having warmed up and starting with a sprint on cold legs isn’t the best way to start a day fo racing and the legs complained for the first couple hundred yards. The 25 mph wind gusts in your face don’t help much either, nor do the occasional patches of ice that you had to negotiate. About a half-mile down the road