Trans Iowa V2

The Changes: After Trans Iowa (V1), it was decided that we were going to make some definite changes to the event. First of all, we were going to need some volunteers. Jeff decided it would make more sense for him to help run the event than be in it. I also decided that something would have to be done about the finish line and the end of the event. More “eyes” were needed that weren’t so tired!

Finally, it was almost universally agreed that something needed to be tweaked to keep it from becoming a road race on gravel. It was painfully obvious that cyclo-cross bikes were the rig of domination at Trans Iowa. This was okay, but racing tactics like drafting, teams, and support needed to be addressed.

So, the finish line deal, which miraculously turned out okay, was actually a point of contention between the Decorah Time Trials folks and us. In essence, DTT director, Rich Gosen was not pleased by how we were so negligent in our accounting of the racers and was pretty upset for having his folks be part of our nonsense. Suggestions were made, but in our view it became clear that we needed to separate the two events from each other. Instead of a mutual finishline, or (as we had hoped for awhile) using part of the Time Trial course in Trans Iowa, it ended up that we simply were holding the event on the same weekend. Still, it was hoped that we would share awards ceremonies with each other.

Instead we had decided to have some “course observers” in place near the end of the event to tally riders as they passed by. This was done in deferance to Rich, who insisted we needed to be more accountable with regards to folks out on course. By doing this we hoped to have a better handle of who was up the road at least 3-5 hours before the participants might finish. Another idea implemented due to Rich’s influence was the “DNF” line, which was essentially my cell phone number. We insisted folks report in as they dropped out, so we could have a better handle on who was out on course and who was not. Jeff’s folks were in again for doing work at the Algona Checkpoint. They would tally those riders leaving and those dropping there in Algona. There were some changes in store for that as well.

In Trans Iowa (V1), we allowed support crews to attend to riders. This was done in various ways, but some “teams” had folks running to get food for folks, mechanic work on bikes was performed by non-event participants, and clothing changes with massages were happening. (Some particular folks would later vehemently deny such things were going on, by the way) Either way, it was decided based upon these eye witness accounts and from later racer reports filed on the web, to make the “self supported” part of Trans Iowa more “self supported”. In a first of many borrowed ideas from the Dirty Kanza 200, we decided to use drop bags that would be available at the halfway point. (Algona) This was the only form of support that would be allowed at Algona for V2.

In another move, influenced by Mike Curiak, we decided to add more B Level Maintenance roads. The “B” roads in Trans Iowa (V1) were in there totally by accident. ( With the exception of the bridle path through Pilot Knob State Park. ) That wasn’t a thought going in, and Jeff and I only “discovered” what they could mean to Trans Iowa after the running of the first event was accomplished. Mike had insisted this would be a great idea for the fledgling event as well. The pathway through Pilot Knob was not handled well in the first Trans Iowa either, so we had a better plan for marking the entrance and exit to that for V2.

Of course, the route was totally different with only Algona, the road to Pilot Knob and the horse path through it, and Decorah being the only things held over from the first Trans Iowa.

The “time cutoffs” instigated at the start of Trans Iowa (V1) were not very well recieved afterwards and racer comments influenced us to announce these well ahead of time. The start time was changed, another suggestion by Mike Curiak, to 4am in the morning. This allowed us to increase the mileage to approximately 340 miles. Otherwise only minor tweaks were made beyond what I have already mentioned here.

Jeff and I were concious of a greater demand on the event for participation, so previously to registration, it was announced that the field limit was going to be increased to 70. Of course this increased our insurance costs as well. We ended up having online registration again, and the fee was set at $40.00, which barely covered the costs of insuring the event. Everything else was out of Jeff and my pockets.

The following is a transcript of the race report as it appeared after T.I.V2 on the main site.

Trans Iowa V2 Race: Mud, Guts, and Rain

The annual running of Trans Iowa on the weekend of April 29-30th was marked by rain, mud, and gritty performances by several of the racers. The event which started in the early morning hours in Hawarden, Iowa began with a slight drizzle coming down and high hopes for the riders to reach the finish town of Decorah, Iowa. There was, however; a wrench in the works that became the undoing of everyone’s best laid plans. That being a soaking rain that started a day and a half before the event start.

The riders were to cover a course that measured 340 miles and do it in 35 hours or less. A half way checkpoint was established in Algona, Iowa at the 154mile mark. Here riders were to access the drop bags sent ahead from the start. The rest of the course was unsupported, and the riders were self navigating by the use of cue sheets prepared by the race organizers. The route itself was unknown to the riders until the pre race meeting the night before the event.

The race started off at 4 am. Within a few miles, a lead group of about eight riders broke away from the main field. After the 21 mile mark, the lead group had about a four minute gap on the rest of the field, but was slowed down by the first encounter with a “B” level maintenance road, which for all intents and purposes is nothing but a dirt pathway. The soaking rains had turned this section of road into an unrideable sea of muck. The riders were forced off their mounts and were reduced to walking the entire mile. This slowed them down enough that the average speed for the lead group was dangerously close to being outside the time limit for getting to the check point town of Algona by six in the evening. To make matters worse the gravel roads, which most of the race was routed on, were also soft and slow, which made progress even tougher. With 30 miles of the course covered and more “B” road encounters, only about eleven riders were inside the time limit to reach Algona. It was at about this time that the rains came back with a vengeance, which only added to the misery. At the 62 mile mark, the “B” level maintenance roads, which were a main feature of the opening salvos of the event, had taken their toll on the field. No one was within the specified time limits any longer. The race organizers allowed anyone that wished, to race to Algona for their pride and honor. No one arrived there, as all the competitors called it quits by seven o’clock that evening.

The competitors in this edition of Trans Iowa put in a gritty performance, but the conditions prevailed upon them and due to the format of the event, the entire field was outside the time limit. This caused the event to end in Algona, where an impromptu raffle was set up by the event organizers to distribute the prizing for the event. The competitors were gracious, complimentary, and very wet! In the end it was a bittersweet way to leave the event.

The following is the race recap I posted on my blog ( )immediately after the event. It gives a slightly more detailed account than the website synopsis.

Here it is! The story of this year’s Trans Iowa V2 race. Get your favorite beverage handy! This is going to be a loooong post!

To say that this year’s event was going to be affected by the weather was just a mild understatement! It was dominated by the weather. To understand exactly what happened, we need to examine the situation from earlier in the month. When April started, we were getting several storms with heavier amounts of rain dropped over southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. This ended up causing widespread flooding across the state of Iowa. The week to ten day period previous to Trans Iowa looked promising for the event; however, because we enjoyed summer-like temperatures and dry days. This served to get the surface dry, but the water tables had not had time to drain down properly. At least they were not ready for what happened this weekend!

A high pressure system parked itself above the eastern U.S. and blocked the passage of weather systems for a few days. It coincided with Trans Iowa weekend, which turned out to be all of our undoings. The skies opened up over the course on Thursday night. The rain continued unabated throughout the weekend from there. By the time of the race start, the ground, which still hadn’t fully recovered from the rains earlier in the month, were totally saturated with water. Rain was forming in pools, rivulets, and lakes all over northern Iowa.

This had a very negative effect on the “B” roads especially. The “B” roads are, in reality, just dirt. There often is no drainage systems in place and in a couple of instances, no ditches to gather rain water. Iowa dirt forms some of the stickiest, thickest, pastiest stuff I’ve ever seen. It gets stuck onto any metal or rubber surfaces and holds on for dear life! This made these sections of the course that I had intended to be hindrances to the “speedier” bikes into unrideable quagmires. In fact, you couldn’t even walk in them! The mud litterally would suck the shoes off your feet!

Not only was this a race killer, but the gravel itself was so engorged with water, that it became much like riding on a beach. The rolling resistance was unreal. Western Iowa has the distinction of having a high amount of glacial till type gravel. High in granite and quartz content, it’s ground up consistency being most like sand. In the eastern part of the state, we have mostly limestone gravel roads, which are more like concrete when wet. In fact, our gravel out here gets faster in many cases when it has been rained on! Unfortunately, the riders got no where near the eastern part of the state!

What this all meant was that the riders could not meet the minimum speed requirements to allow them to make it to Algona Checkpoint before six in the evening on Saturday. This was the reason the event was over yesterday. We made every effort to get the competitors something for their efforts by raffling off any of the prizes donated to us by our generous sponsors to the remaining folks that showed up in Algona to retrieve their drop bags. Everyone was very complimentary towards the event, and Jeff and I. We say “Thank You!” and we were proud to be associated with such fine atheletes. Everyone seemed to be very understanding of the plight that we were all being subjected to. That just shows me again how cool the endurance racing crowd is. I was again impressed.

The pre race meeting: Once again, the Pizza Ranch in Hawarden made out like bandits- as well they should have- by hosting our humble little pre-race meeting. I was glad to see that the racers and their supporters took advantage of the food on offer and spent their hard earned dollars there. The folks that live and work in Hawarden are some very fine people and they deserved our support for hosting this event’s start. I heard similar goodwill stories from the folks staying at the various host family houses and from the folks down at the new Super 8 motel. Makes me feel proud to be an Iowan, it does! (sniff!) Ah- I digress! Anyway, a special thanks to David Nice from Colorado for lending us a hand in getting the drop bags readied before the meeting. Thanks! After everyone ate, we had a quick Q and A session, and then we called everyone up for the bags. We were a bit surprised by the 19 no shows! I knew the weather would be a detriment to people showing up, but I didn’t think that many would drop out! After the end of the meeting, everyone scurried off to their beds for whatever shut eye they could muster before the early morning start.

The Race Start: Jeff and I tossed and turned all night with the jitters. We weren’t helped out by the fact that our host home had the “World’s Loudest Toilet” in the bathroom downstairs where we slept. That thing sounded like it was powered by a jet engine! Anyway, we popped out of the sack at 2:30 am, got our clothes on and bolted for the nearest convenience store so that Jeff could procure his requisite “black goodness” fix before our 3am arrival at the West Sioux High School parking lot. I haven’t been so wide awake in a high school parking lot at that time of the morning since…….well….. Another story for another time! At any rate, Jeff and I were ready to go. The racers started showing up shortly afterward. The lights were kindled on their helmets and handlebars, and we lined up to head out at 4am. sharp. As I tooted the horn to signify the start of the race, I noticed that Aerosmith’s song Back in the Saddle Again was blaring out of my radios speakers. How fitting! The winds that had been forcast were nothing but breezes and we had a fine mist spewing in our faces, but it seemed fine to us. Spirits were pretty high, and hope was still in good supply.

The Early Stages Until Morning: The roll out was three miles on pavement before I pulled the van off and the racers made the left hand turn onto the first gravel section. The event soon saw a small lead group go off the front containing about eight riders. In the darkness, it was quite impossible to tell who they were, but they had several minutes advantage on the main field by the 20 mile mark. The conditions were steady, and the pace that the leaders were setting was a bit torrid for a 340 mile event. It was my opinion at the time that this lead group would either disintegrate or be absorbed again by the main field later in the event. However; I hadn’t seen what effect the “B” road sectors were going to have. I would change my opinion!

Attack of the Killer Bees!: I was pleased with the way the event was unfolding until I saw how long it took for the race leaders to traverse that first section of “B” road. These guys were reletively fresh and excellent riders, yet they had been slowed tremendously by the first mile of “B” road. I chalked it up to having it be so dark when they hit that muddy mess. There was another “B” road section at about dawn. I thought that this would prove to be a better guage of things to come. I was aware that there was worse to come, and the racers weren’t. I was hoping the onset of dawn would help them out by allowing them to pick better lines through the “B” roads. My concerns were growing as each minute passed with no riders in sight. Finally, I saw a few guys coming up the road, but the time that had passed by was putting a finish in Algona by 6pm. in jeapordy. The lead group was about eight or nine riders strong. They still had several minutes lead on another slightly larger group. It didn’t really matter though, because only the lead group had any prayer of getting to the check point in time to continue onwards to Decorah. The race was over for the other 37 riders and we were only 45 miles into the event!

The Final Cut: The end came quickly for the rest of the field. At the town of Paulina, Iowa, many riders realized that it was already over for them and they packed it in. Probably a wise choice, because the next twelve miles to Sutherland, Iowa proved to be the undoing of everyone else in the event! That twelve miles had 4.5 miles of “B” road that must have been walking speed only as it took our lead group just over two hours to cover that distance. Hope was gone. The event was, for all intents and purposes, over at this point. No one was going to make that nearly 100 miles that were left to get into Algona by six in the evening. Not with the extreme effort that had been put out already. Several of the lead group decided to try to race for Algona anyway. We agreed that we would bestow prizing upon anyone that could roll into Algona by using the course laid out on their bike.

Crazy Canadians! While Jeff and I watched the lead group plow it’s way through the last “B” road sector, we noticed that there were two extra fellows tagging along in the back. They turned out to be none other than Dallas Sigurdur and Lindsey Gauld who were the Canadian counterparts to Paddy Hummeny, who had been grinding along in the front for most of the event. An amazing bridge up! Lindsey and Dallas had been no where to be seen just ten miles back and here they were! Paddy was suffering badly from a respitory ailment that he had been battling for a week, so he pulled the plug, along with three others from the lead group, in Sutherland. Dallas and Lindsey kept grinding, and soon, they were the only two left standing. At the 119 mile mark, in Mallard, Iowa, they finally pulled out. It was about seven in the evening, and no one was going to get to Algona. The Crazy Canadians gave it their all, but the course and the forces of nature conspired to beat all challengers this year!

Thoughts and Musings: I suppose that some folks would tend to look at this and think that it is all a failure. Well, that would be a tragic miscalculation on their part. If anything, this years event was a resounding success. Jeff and I made some tweaks to the event since last year, and they worked out beautifully. The participants in the event seemed to understand fully the reasons for the way things turned out and accepted that gracefully. I met several new people and got to experience several new things. I think several of the event participants would agree. Will there be another Trans Iowa- a Trans Iowa V3? Hmm……..yet to be determined! Give us a rest and Jeff and I will decide later. Whatever the outcome, I have had a great time doing the previous two Trans Iowas, and I have learned alot!

Look for picture and the stories to go with them in the days ahead!

Just a note upon re-reading the last paragraph here: I would have to be honest and say that in reality I was fearful that the event was in fact a total failure, and all due to my planning so many B road sections into the first half of the course. I took it pretty hard and it influenced the direction of Trans Iowa for the following years to come to a huge degree.


2 Responses to “Trans Iowa V2”

  1. AntiEpic Gravel Grinder | ROUTINE LEG WORKS Says:

    […] wasn’t bad, but it was dry.  Rumors were that this could be a 3 mile hike a bike section (insert TIv2 flashback).    I did opted to walk one section as the loose dirt, tire selection, and gearing would have […]

  2. Trans Iowa Revisited | ROUTINE LEG WORKS Says:

    […] Back in 2006, my passion for riding gravel began.  In all actuality it should have ended also.  I am one of the few who can say “I remember TIv2!”  Here is my Trans Iowa post from my blog at the time.  And here is my back story. The official Trans Iowa History has some good reading from TIv2. […]

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