Trans Iowa V10
“ TI is some other far away mythical place for me, and I’m fascinated by accounts of those of went there and survived to tell about it.” from a comment left on T.I. Vet Steve Wagner’s blog post T.I.V9
Post T.I.V9: A long time ago- maybe it was T.I.V6? I can’t remember anymore, but I had secretly set a goal of doing 10 Trans Iowa events, then I was going to quit. Will I? Don’t know the answer yet…. The point is that as T.I.V7, T.I.V8, then V9 rolled by, I always had it in my head that I was shooting to get to 10. Then I would make a decision one way or the other. So I never really had that debate after T.I.V9, and I was planning a T.I.V10, actually for years, before T.I.V9 was even started. Eventually I had told some close confidants about my plan to stop after T.I.V10, and early on, the deal was going to simply be a posting of cues for the cross state version and just let everyone have at it. Then I thought about doing a big shindig, making a statement about quitting T.I., but I figured that would draw a lot more attention than I had intended, so I scuttled that plan right away.
No, I think the end plan was to just run a normal T.I. event, then afterward never speak of it again. Just let it go and walk away….
But of course there are many things that modify my thoughts on that. My wife hinted that maybe my son would like to help out someday. My friends that were telling me it should never die, or folks that were saying it was a great event and it had heavily influenced them in some way or another. So…….who knows….
The thing is that all I was immediately worried about was pulling off one more successful Trans Iowa event, which would be made even more difficult after having to follow what is arguably the best Trans Iowa ever in T.I.V9.
The Changes: As the years have gone on, the changes needed have become less. The formula for two checkpoints, one being remote, and Grinnell, The Grinnell Steakhouse, and the Barn were all on the menu again.
The Route: Well, I looked at some maps, and conferred with my defacto co-director Jeremy Fry, who has helped immensely over the past two T.I. events, and thoughts were to do a more east-west loop running through a few of the past notable sections from T.I.V5-9. Maybe there would be some new territory thrown in as well. I had even thought about throwing in a section of T.I.V4, which passed through LaPorte City and Traer before heading back north to Decorah. Eventually it ended up being an amalgamation of several past Trans Iowas but staying in similar territory as all those old routes. Not to say that there weren’t new roads. Especially toward the end. I did figure in one B Road for every year of Trans Iowa totaling 10.
The usual deal- Finishers first, then Vets, then Rookies. The Rookie class filled their allotment within 14 hours or so. It was ridiculous. The roster featured many of the “usual” suspects with the glaring omissions of John Gorilla, Tim Ek, and a few others. We had a UK fellow and two Germans sign on for international flavor. The Open Men’s category was ginormous! 94 entries in all. We had a roster of 11 women, and the single speed class was under 20, which was a bit surprising. The “Industry Cup” class was the biggest ever at eight. Add in two Volunteer Exemptions and we had the largest field sign on since T.I.V3 at 130 folks. A new record. Interestingly, and also a new record, there were no drops from the roster until March 2nd!
Sponsors: We had Oakley, Ergon, WTB, Hammer Nutrition, The Slender Fungus Cycling Association, Pedal Online, Wheel Werks, and Lederman Bonding who fronted most of the cash for the t-shirts and hats given away in the race packets.
Special T-Shirts & Hats: Part of the celebration for getting to “number 10” was to be a gift from Trans Iowa to the riders. After Trans Iowa V9, Josh Lederman kept insisting that he wanted to sponsor Trans Iowa. On several occasions he reminded me of this, and so I presented my idea of perhaps a jersey and cap. It turned out both would be prohibitively expensive, so I backed it down to a t-shirt, which I designed, and a hat with the logo Jeff Kerkove originally designed. Kind of tying together the past with the present.
Recon: The recon was easily the simplest and quickest recon for any Trans Iowa, and that’s saying something since T.I.V9’s recon was pretty seamless. Jeremy Fry and I knocked it out in two drives. Done and done! We even had to do a major re-route on our first attempt due to a closed road or two.
The Spring recon was pushed back due to poor weather and conditions to two weeks before T.I.V10. That put me in a little bit of a bind time-wise to get the cues done, but again- since everything was down to certain processes that have been refined over several years, it wasn’t that big a deal this time. Recon before the Pre-Race was accomplished with no issues.
Media: We had two in-race reporters. One was Chris Schotz who was writing for Silent Sports and the other was Mark Elsasser who was writing for CX Mag. There was also Brad Lamson who was with Hammer Nutrition who wrote up a short article for that companies newsletter. Finally, we once again did a cooperative effort with Mountain Bike Radio for the call-ins and my live commentary for Trans Iowa Radio.
The Event: Stuffing bags was put off so that the Slender Fungus and one of my volunteers for CP#1, Brent Irish could help out. That was accomplished the afternoon of the Pre-Race. The SFCA also helped run the Pre-Race along with Wally Kilburg, George Keslin, and Brent Irish who checked in riders. All riders but 3 came and most checked in by 5:30pm making for an early Pre-Race Meeting which got adjourned before 7:00pm!!
Race Day: Starting in downtown Grinnell Iowa in front of the local bicycle shop, Bikes To You, the racers left the starting line in a controlled roll out at 4am with lights blazing. In the darkness of Iowa, on gravel roads with pitches that sometimes reached 18%, the riders made their way guided by cue sheets to the first checkpoint in Lynville about 54 miles as the course ran. If the riders made it without any issues on time, they received another set of directions which took them 123 miles further to a remote checkpoint in the Iowa countryside. 99 riders made the time limit to get their chance to move on to checkpoint #2.
After sunrise an East wind came up and strengthened throughout the morning hours to reach speeds of 25-35mph with higher gusts. The riders faced this wind the entire distance to Checkpoint #2 and it definitely took a toll. Only 62 riders reached Checkpoint #2 in the allotted time, which was 12 hours after Checkpoint #1’s time cut-off. The wind combined with the relentless steep hills made for a high attrition rate.
Saturday at sunset the wind was still beating down the riders and as nightfall took the riders into total darkness, only 42 remained to face some of the highest winds of the event, intense lightning, and rain that hit just after midnight. Riders scurried for cover in abandoned farm houses, sheds, and barns while the squall line passed overhead. Then they each crawled back onto their bicycles to try to reach the finish line, which was a restored barn near Grinnell.
Attrition took its toll once more as riders called in to quit one by one. Finally, a lone rider came around the corner to the barn and it was Greg Gleason, who managed to escape the bad weather and scored a Trans Iowa win in his first try. Greg came in at 26 hr, 22min for the 336 mile course. Oregon’s Paul LaCava came in second place with a time of 27hr, 48min, while third place was grabbed by Chris Schotz with a time of 27hr,50 min. In all, only 19 riders would get to the finish line before the 2pm Sunday afternoon cut-off time.
It was generally thought that this was the toughest Trans Iowa of the ten. Attrition was the highest since the first one in terms of DNF’s/total riders. Winds were raging from the East from shortly after the event started until the end. This in combination with a mostly Eastward course Saturday combined with many steep hills to decimate the field. Riders were recording great times to CP#1, with 99 of 106 making it, but only 62 reached CP#2, and by nightfall only 42 of those remained in the event. By sunrise Sunday there were 33 riding, but another Eastward section, combined with rain overnight and cold temperatures made for many riders that went into hypothermia like symptoms. Only 19 ended up finishing and six of those with less than an hour before the 2pm deadline.
Post Event: The feedback was swift and tremendous. Trans Iowa V10 went super-smoothly barring the weather and a midnight re-route of the course around a closed bridge that was discovered during my drive ahead of the riders. This made for a generally good response for the event and many clamored for a V11 right away afterward. That is a question that hasn’t been answered yet.
Conclusions: Trans Iowa has been refined down to a finer art, but again this time there were improvements and things to learn. The Slender Fungus were essential to several things during the event. Having that level of volunteer help enhanced the operation of Trans Iowa for sure. The re-routing process would need to be better communicated somehow in case of emergency. The re-route process would also need refining to go along with that. The number plate issue was better, but would still need to be looked at to promote better compliance.