Trans Iowa V3
The Changes: Trans Iowa V2 was the end of an era and a “watershed” (please excuse the pun) in terms of how the event would be run in the future. Here are the changes that occurred and they were major changes indeed!
First off, the biggest change we decided to make was to end the point to point nature of the event and run T.I.V3 as a giant loop. This was done in part because of logistics for racers and for us, the organizers. The idea itself, once again, was an influence of the Dirty Kanza 200. That event, which I attended, was such an impressive event from a logistics standpoint that I insisted that Jeff agree we change Trans Iowa to mimic it. Jeff agreed to my ideas, so the planning of “one big assed loop”, as Jeff put it on the T.I.V3 site, commenced. No longer would racers have to back track to get their vehicles from the end of the event. No longer would support people need to drive the length of the state twice. No longer would I have to make multiple 10 hour round trip drives just to recon a new course.
It was decided that the loop would begin and end in Decorah, again in conjunction with the Decorah Time Trials, but separate from it with the only thing commonly held between the two being the venue where we did the pre-race and post race festivities- T-Bock’s bar and grill.
Another big change was the implementation of a new checkpoint. This would now be a changing feature from year to year, but for V3 it was decided to have the one and only checkpoint in Brandon, Iowa.
A new call for volunteers went out, as the need shown from V1 wasn’t forgotten. In the end about seven folks stepped up to lend a hand along with three photographers that roamed the course catching photos of the riders.
In addition to all of this, a freelance writer named Zach Dundas, who was writing a book about “underground/independent/grassroots sporting events” rang me up and wanted to tag along to do research about Trans Iowa for his book. (The Renegade Sportsman was published in 2010) The book features several events and a long chapter on Trans Iowa V3. (Read a review I wrote on the book here)
Finally, the last major change was that over the course of late 2006 and early 2007, Jeff Kerkove was moving on from the shop in Cedar Falls to go to work in the cycling industry. Ironically for a sponsor of T.I.V1- Ergon. This left me to cover the majority of the legwork for T.I.V3 alone.
Some other changes were implemented due to the debacle of T.I.V2, (My view), and they included giving the participants more time to complete the course, along with fewer B road sections. The B roads that were in the event were spread out and not compacted together as they were in V2. Mileage was reduced from the high planned for V2 to 320-ish. In all, these changes reflected the desire on my part to make T.I. something “do-able” as opposed to an event where only 9 guys had finished in two years.
Other changes included the elimination of any support outside of what riders could procure for themselves out on course. Now there were no support folks, no drop bags. We still encouraged riders to have a “bail out” plan, which we suggested should be a person that could come and fetch you as a rider if you DNF’ed.
The start time was kept at 4am., forcing riders to use their lighting systems right out of the gate, just as in V2. Plans were laid to lead out the event on Quarry Hill Road, which is a very long, steep grade that would help string out the group quickly. The finish line ws up another steep grade on the south end of Decorah with the finish line set up at a cemetery. This was done with tongue firmly pressed in cheek, make no mistake!
When it came time to register the roster, we decided against online registration, which had proven troublesome for V2. In that episode, “The Rogue Seven”, as they came to be known, got in early due to an error by the hosting company. (In actuality, more than seven got in, but Rogue Seven stuck.) Jeff was of a mind to let everyone that wanted in, but I wasn’t too keen on having more than 75 in the field. This became a point of contention for a bit. Finally, Jeff and I decided that we would allow any and all to send in a post card. From this pool we would select 100 riders. Since it was going to be a random drawing, some folks were sending us upwards of 100 post cards each to help “guarantee” their entry into T.I.V3. Secretly, Jeff and I agreed that we would let in everybody up to 120 people, seeing as how V2 had 19 no shows and several drops before the day of the event. We ended up getting 128 unique entrants, so we decided to allow all 128 in.
We also dropped any fee to get in. T.I.V3 was free. This was done to alleviate our burden to insure the event, which was getting more expensive to do, and would have driven up entry fees to over $100.00 each. So we flew even more under the radar. Sponsors included Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, Templeton Rye, and several alchoholic preems and gifts from event participants.
By the end of the wait for T.I.V3, several things occurred that were quite stressful. The course recon and drafts for the cue sheets were all handled by me. Jeff got the drafts and there were several confusing points which resulted in more than a few major mistakes on the final printed cue sheets. I realized this, and within five days of the event, I had to redo 100 sets of cue sheets on my own. So besides working an 8 hour shift at the bike shop, I had to come home and do 6-8 hours for three straight days to get the cue sheets fixed. I printed the new sets off my home computer, collated all of them, and employed my wife, and two small children to help stuff the race bags before getting up to Decorah for the pre-race on Friday night. I set up the pre-race room all by my self, tables, getting the bags set in order, and bringing the prizing up. Besides this, I had to meet with Zach, brief him, and lay out plans for his “tag along”. Then on Friday night, at the pre-race, over 30 guys no-showed, reducing the starting grid to 64. I wasn’t very happy, and the event hadn’t even started yet! To top it all off, Jeff was gone to Colorado to start his new job, and besides the volunteers at Brandon and the finish line, I was on my own…..again. Just about like V1.
Trans Iowa V3 was such a stressful event for me that I held off commenting about it for awhile. I seriously was considering killing the event in the days following it. Here’s a recap that I posted about a week afterward.
The Story From The “Dirty Blue Box”
I wasn’t going to write up a take at first, but then I realized that I’d seen a part of the event alot of you didn’t get to see. So, here’s the take from the seat of the “Dirty Blue Box” as I like to call my beat up 90 Honda Civic wagon. I’m not going to give a mile by mile rendering here, just the highlights.
The first thing that struck me was how late guys were getting to the start line. I mean, I understand not wanting to sweat it waiting for the lead out car to pull away, but riding up with less than 30 seconds to go? Wow! I pulled off to the side at the end of the neutral lead out and I see over my left shoulder Ira Ryan, Brian Hannon, and Chris Plesko dart away and gap off the chasers. (Chris on a single speed!) I ran up the road to monitor a paved section along with another (last minute) volunteer. I had Zach Dundas along with me. He was there researching material for his upcoming book on underground/DIY type sporting events. As we stood in awe of the starry vault above, we could hear voices. It was Ira and Brian chatting. They were about a quarter mile away, but in the stillness of the night, we could hear them quite plainly. By this time they had a minute or two on the chasers. A gap that would increase for most of the day.
Zach and I leap frogged from point to point along the route until we reached Postville at about 52 miles into it. We came up on Ira and Brian idling into town and chatting. When they saw me roll by, they got back on the gas, (perhaps thinking we weren’t far from the chase group), and they didn’t stop to resupply there. Next convenience store was 50 miles away. The chase group, which was being driven by the Nowak brothers and Douglas Peitz of Team Polska, was about a half an hour behind. Zach bailed for awhile, so I continued on alone towards Independance.
Along the way, I was concerned that Ira and Brian would get to the checkpoint before my volunteers! They had built up quite an advantage and at one point, according to my calculations, had been holding an 18mph average over very hilly, rolling terrain. I was a bit relieved when I saw the average speed come down a bit, and at a point south and west of Stanley, Iowa, I determined that they had slowed down enough that we were going to be fine at the checkpoint. By this time a stiff North West wind had arisen and probably helped slow everyone down, especially on the westward bits of the course. I reconnected with Zach in Independance and then drove forwards on the course to the checkpoint in Brandon, Iowa. It wasn’t long before Ira and Brian rolled in. Ira said Brian was doing great and he was suffering a bit, but I thought that it seemed that Brian was worked over pretty well judging from his constant back stretching and the look on his face. Later on I found out Ira was correct and Brian had been pulling him most of the last half of the opening section of the event.
Ira and Brian were resting and taking it easy. No wonder at the infernal pace that they had set out at! We were all curious as to how far the chasers were back. Ira and Brian headed up the street towards food when around the corner, here they came! Team Polska and one more in tow. They dropped two others not long before and two more dropped off the chase group not long after Postville. The Polska boys were seeing an advantage lying before them for the taking, so they didn’t waste any time at the check point. Ira and Brian were not leading for the first time. But that didn’t last long!
Ira and Brian came wheeling down the street shortly after Team Polska left the check point. Ira asked if they had left and upon hearing our answer, Ira said, “F*#king Polish bastards!” and swung off down the bike path leading away from the check point.
Now Ira and Brian were behind for maybe ten miles and re-assumed their former positions as the leaders. The situation on the road stabilized at a gap of about a half an hour to 45 minutes from Ryan/Hannon to the Polska boys. In between were Aaron Milberger and Joe Kucharski (on a single speed Gary Fisher Rig) . At about ten minutes to six, we came upon Brian Hannon going backwards on the course. I thought maybe he was confused on directions, but to all our dismay it turned out he had knee pain and was pulling the plug. He had put in a grueling, fast paced ride that was unbelievable. We asked him if he needed a lift and he refused several times saying he was okay to soft pedal back to Traer and get a ride. Sadly we departed from that point knowing that Brian was probably the strongest rider in the feild, but wouldn’t see the thing through.
Obviously, Ira was soloing from that point. He carried on at a bit more reasonable pace, but still quite fast. Everyone was feeling the effects of the earlier fast pace, Polska lost one rider at Dike and another in Janesville leaving only Marcin from the original 8 strong chase group. Marcin was in fourth behind Ira, Aaron, and Joe. He was feeling it though, and turned up the wick a bit. By the time he reached Hawkeye, Iowa, he was in second place about ten minutes down on Ira! After 300 miles of chasing, Marcin finally made contact with Ira. Ira told me Marcin was better on the descents, but that he couldn’t follow on the climbs. Marcin told me one of his knees was giving him fits and he couldn’t climb any more. Ira gapped him off and finished ten minutes up at 25 hours flat. An amazing ride by both Marcin and Ira which made for some drama at the end.
As with T.I.V2, I did a “Trans Iowa Radio” audioblog. For V2 it was on a service called “Audioblogger”, which is now defunct. I was doing fake commercials and hamming it up pretty good on V2. For V3 I did the audio again, but it was on Ride424.com’s feed, so I was a bit more serious with my reports. Apparently I had an international audience!
We had 24 finishers. A record that still stands. The winner was Ira Ryan, again, in 25 hours flat. Second place went to a valiant Marcin Nowak. The last finisher finished 15 minutes before the final cutoff. It was a glorious turn around for an event that was borderline ridiculous to attempt.
Zach Dundas was a Godsend in the end. I really appreciated his being with me, especially during the night time hours on Saturday/Sunday morning. A funny little story here:
Zach and I were camped out in front of a Lutheran Church in Hawkeye, Iowa waiting for the leaders to come through. It was a long wait, as Ira and Marcin were slowing down the pace a bit now. During our wait, the bars closed uptown. Not long afterward, a big Chevy 4X4 stopped at a house just a half a block from us with country and western music blaring at an insane volume. Out staggered a female who walked into the residence, leaving the door of the truck wide open, the music turned up, and the truck still running.
After about five minutes, Zach was convinced that the police were showing up and a group of neighbors would surround the residence to demand peace. I explained to Zach that there probably was only a Deputy Sheriff available on a very limited basis and that the neighbors, while assuredly awake, would never confront the perpetrator, but would in good Lutheran fashion rather spread gossip and malice over doughnuts and coffee the following day. Too funny!
At Janesville, on Saturday night, Ira Ryan informed me of a flooded road he had to traverse. This was my first inkling that something was amiss with the roads. Apparently, there was a flooded out section of road between Dike and Janesville. I found out later that there was another section of flooded gravel between Janesville and Sumner. This was not planned, and I had no contingency plan for flooded roads. Another thing to consider for T.I.V4!
There also was some confusion over a turn after Janesville. I got several calls asking for clarification, while others saw no problem at that point. Mental fatigue and a desire not to screw up were partly to blame here, but the directions were a bit misleading. In hindsight, getting the cues as close to correct as I did was a minor miracle, so I didn’t take criticism to heart regarding these complaints.
In the end, I was up for 40 hours straight, I nearly crashed several times on the drive home, and was unable to respond to my wife’s need to go to the emergency room that night. She had to drive herself. Not good.
It was a long time before even the slightest desire to run another Trans Iowa would come into my mind again.