On November 5th, over 4,500 racers will brave freezing temperatures, the possibility of snow, and 27 miles of sandy, tough terrain. Of those 4,500, some will be world-class athletes straight from the national circuit or from the UCI World Cup that finished last month. Others will be
avid racers, first-timers, and people just out to challenge themselves.
While perusing the internet last winter, I came across a Twitter account called @MyRoadToIceman. After chatting with the guy, I learned the man behind the name was Chuck Nagy, a 42 year old Toledo native planning to race the Iceman this fall. You will not mistake Chuck for Todd Wells at the race next week. He’s a larger guy, and he took up cycling with the simple goal of changing his life. He’s been training all year for the Iceman, losing over 40 pounds in the process and trying to get rid of his diabetes as well. On his blog, he’s documented the highs and lows, the successes and the setbacks, and a lot of cool stories along the way.
On race day, he will not be jockeying for a podium spot in his age category. He will not bull his way around other riders and cuss when he doesn’t finish in less than two hours. Chuck is going to be rolling in well after most of the field is already washed up and two bottles into the Bell’s Brewery offerings. But very few racers will have worked harder and achieved more in the months leading up to the race, and for Chuck, being at the Iceman and finishing it is a huge victory by itself.
I took a few minutes to chat with Chuck about his journey to conquer the Iceman.
GTMTBA: How did you hear about the Iceman? Is this your first Iceman?
Chuck: I stumbled upon an article about it a few days before the 2010 Iceman. I had just started cycling and I opened my big mouth and committed to riding in it. This is my first Iceman and second official organized ride.
GTMTBA: What have you heard about the race in particular that drew you to sign up, and what have you heard about Northern Michigan that makes it an attractive place to ride a bike?
Chuck: As a child and through my late teens we went “Up North” at least once a month. I always loved it and I still do. Last year, we vacationed in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan really does have it all.
GTMTBA: Over 4,500 people will race on November 5th. Why are you putting yourself through the torture? What is your goal for this season?
Chuck: I am really surprised that people aren’t shocked by this answer when I give it. My goal is to reach the “starting line”. The funny thing about this whole deal is that I am not really a competitive person. I just kind of said that I was going to do this and “bam!”, it was on. I have worked really hard for this. I have lost 40 pounds while training. At this time last year I could barely ride 10 miles. I had really hoped to lose 100 pounds over the course of this year, but I had a lot to learn and have put in a ton of hard work. I’m simultaneously training and trying to give type 2 diabetes the knock-out punch.
The training has been hard but in a fun way. The hardest thing has been overcoming the negativity that surrounds me regarding cycling. There were a few people that I thought were friends that are resentful that I ride a bike. How stupid is that? I try to use it as fuel for my fire. It may sound cliché, but it has helped. I have made so many great friends through cycling, and they have more than made up for those that I have left behind. Even my friends that I know only online and will meet for the first time at Iceman, have been so positive and supportive that they overcome the naysayers. I try to surround myself with only “yeasayers” now.
GTMTBA: Why do you think this race gets so much publicity and draws so many people, in spite of an average course and the crazy cold weather?
Chuck: Well I would probably have to say that the draw is due in part to the crazy weather and the amount of mountain biking history involved. The race goes back 21 years. 21 years ago, I don’t even think that I knew what a mountain bike was.
GTMTBA: Guys like Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Jeremiah Bishop and a whole lot of other pros have come to the Iceman. How much fun is it watching the pros and getting to see how they ride, what they ride, etc.?
Chuck: I don’t really think that is going to have much of an effect on me at this time. Those guys are aerobic animals, but I draw inspiration from average people more so than the pros. Don’t get me wrong, I will probably be green with envy at their times and think that their bikes are sweet, but it’s all about the common people for me this year. I would like to shake a few hands though.
GTMTBA: Are you afraid? Nervous? Excited?
Chuck: I was terrified until about a half hour ago. Steve Brown put at ease a bit. Now I am excited and terrified.
GTMTBA: Anything you’d like to add?
Chuck: Yes. I need to thank everyone who has been supportive in one way or another, either online or in person. My family deserves a huge thank you for allowing me to put cycling first. My friend, Mark Hendershot, for being there whenever I had questions and for always being 100 percent supportive, and his amazing wife Roberta as well. I’d also like to thank the “real racers” who have stood behind me and kept track of my progress and always had kind words for me when I was doubtful of myself. Mountain bikers are a cool breed. I am fortunate to have gotten into it!