Trans Iowa V12
“….still reeling from what happened that day……it was the most epic 50 miles of my life……felt like I rode 100 when we got done….thanks for everything you do- Andrew Christman”
Post T.I.v11: The most unusual Trans Iowa in years, and perhaps since V2, was T.I.v11. Considering that we had four straight, finish-able years since T.I.v6, it almost seemed unreal that T.I.v11 was unconquerable. But that’s the weather for ya. It was bound to happen again some year. Despite the shortest running since V2, and the shortest ever since the loop format was introduced, riders were very complimentary and volunteers were re-upping for a possible v12 right away after v11. Everyone was flabbergasted by the sharp downturn in the weather on the very day T.I.v11 was to start, and all were up for another chance at this……..next year.
It was hard for me to process the event since it was so different than previous years. However; I don’t think there was ever a moment during V11 or immediately afterward that I thought I would stop doing Trans Iowa with that event. How could I end it that way? It just seemed natural to have another go at it, so a v12 was never in doubt early on.
The Changes: First and foremost, it was obvious that the Rookie registration process needed to be refined. Having folks standing at the door 15 deep at Europa Cycle & Ski, waiting till we opened the doors so they could drop off multiple cards for several riders, having messed up overnight deliveries, and having people drive or ride bicycles hundreds of miles just to drop off a silly post card was dangerous, unnecessary, and caused much confusion and upset folks. The registration would be streamlined to have folks send a card in by a predetermined date, then afterward there would be a lottery drawing from a Rookie pool of cards with one entry allowed for each person. One card per person. Random drawing from a basket. Simple.
TI is definitely all about the journey, ’cause the reward at the end is sleep deprivation, soreness, and deep hunger. And maybe some sort of brain damage that makes you want to do it again every year.- Dennis Grelk T.I.v7 winner
Secondly, and not so much a change, but more of doing the unexpected, I decided to scrap the entire v11 course that was unused. There was maybe a thought of using some of the very end backward going out of Grinnell for v12, but everyone expected me to use the rest of v11, and I wasn’t about to do that. Besides, I never was fully stoked on that course anyway. That said, possibilities for future T.I. routes might be there. Finally, I never really did ever release the final bits of the V2 course either, nor did I ever do that in V4 or V6, so it was consistent with the past as well.
Another big change came when I found out that due to some personal, family related issues, the barn which we had used as a finish line for Trans Iowa several times would not be a sure thing for v12. Instead of waiting on that to possibly clear up, I decided to nix the barn, which had become an icon of the event, and end the event again within Grinnell. It hadn’t been done that way since v8, and I was thinking it was high time we got back to featuring the host city again with a finish in town. The potential finish line was pegged as Arbor Lake Park pending approval by the powers that be in Grinnell.
The event was announced on August 1st, 2015 and with that announcement the Rookie Lottery was explained. There would only be one card per person, only sendable by USPS, and could only be a certain specified size or smaller. The process was lauded by all who gave feedback on it and it was put into action on October 10th with a three week period for Rookies to send in cards.
Registration: The registration for Finishers/Winners was the same as with v11, and that started on October 17th and ran through the 24th. Then the Veterans had a week to send in cards from the 24th through the 31st, after which all registrations were closed and completed when the Rookie drawing took place on that same day, the 31st of October.
The process was marked by order and absolutely zero chaos, which was a welcome thing after v10 and v11’s craziness. There were, unfortunately, several cards from Rookies that were rejected for poor penmanship, missing information, or pinged back e-mails. That said, there were good cards received and more than enough to hold a lottery drawing with.
Recon: The recon of Trans Iowa has been honed to perfection, and Jeremy and I even had mock cues to work from. We only ran into a few minor issues, but got the entire course knocked out in a single drive. Of course, it helped that the Northernmost part of the course came within ten miles of my house! That’s the closest I’ve ever run Trans Iowa to Waterloo. In fact, Checkpoint #2 was set at a Level B which I ride often. There was a bit of change due to a bridge or two we found out, but overall, we got what we were looking for, a course that was different and got progressively harder as the event would wear on. Several weeks later I revised a couple of sections that I would have to re-check in the early Spring. Final recon with Wally and George happened one week out from the event on a hot, dry, and very dusty day. More like the DK200 than Trans Iowa! It all went without a hitch, we had a blast, and the course was good to go. Wally confirmed my feelings as he stated that the back third of the course looked to be really hard.
The Run-up: The last two years of Trans Iowa saw little attrition to the roster. In fact, for V10 and V11, the roster did not start shrinking until March, which was odd. I thought after V11 it might be the “new normal”, but this year things were more ordinary as drops started happening in January, which is more typical. By April 1st we were down to 105 starters, so no new record for field size would be set this time. This lowered dramatically so that by April 11th we were down to 92 starters and one volunteer exemption. By the 20th, it had dropped down to 88 riders. The Rookie field was down to 20 starters by this time. It looked as though we would have the lowest number of starters since increasing the field limit to 120 for T.I.v9. The lowest since T.I.v8 which had 67 take the start out of a possible 100. The Grinnell Steakhouse did not require the usual meal survey, so I just sent out a general e-mail in March. I liked that much better than doing all the tracking down of riders that had not answered the survey.
Two weeks from the event, there were a few key folks that stepped up to offer assistance. Matt Gersib, who was tabbed as the ride-along partner for me during the event, offered to drive me in his Subaru. Then Tony McGrane, who was going to be an on-course volunteer, offered to drive all the stuff down to Grinnell in his covered pick-up truck, warding off any possible damage from the elements. Finally, a co-worker at Europa Cycle & Ski, Andy Tetmeyer, offered a family RV to stay in which Bikes To You Owner, Craig Cooper said we could park behind the bike shop the night before the event. In a surprise to me, out of left field, Trans Iowa multiple finisher, Mike Johnson, offered to do all the printing for cue sheets, which he did. All I had to do was show up for a cue sheet bagging party with Mike, Jeremy, and Dave the Wednesday before the event. Awesome help and much appreciated!
Roster drop outs continued right up to the very end. We had two no-shows, so a total of 83 ended up taking the start of T.I.v12.
Sponsorship: Once again, WTB stepped up big time with sponsorship which included a set of tires for every finisher, and they even sent out Will Ritchie with two sets of tires that were unavailable to anyone else at the time, the brand new Riddler gravel tires. An “anonymous sponsor” pitched in for hats for the volunteers, stickers, and a new banner for V12. We also were going to get t-shirts for the volunteers from one of the volunteers themselves, Dave Roll. Amazing!!
“Awful at times with moments of blinding, life affirming magic.”- Matt Wills on what Trans Iowa is to him.
Further prizing was provided from another Trans Iowa vet, Joe Stiller, who runs a company mostly concerned with bike packing called BarYak. He sent along two prototype cue sheet holders to be raffled off to riders at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Mike Johnson 3-D printed up a bunch of T.I.v12 trinkets in the shape of the State of Iowa as bag stuffers. We had some left over bar tape to give away from T.I.v11 that was donated by Pedal of Littleton. Dave Roll came up with those shirts printed with my image on them which caused quite a stir. These were given out to volunteers. Finally, I gave away several t-shirts to clear out my basement from the leftovers of T.I.v10 and v11.
The event ended up being one of the years when the weather, roads, and talent at the event added up to a lot of finishers. There was a record number of finishers with 47 out of the 83 starting. The weather was warm, sunny, and there was a helping tail wind for the first 160 miles which propelled many on to the fastest times in T.I. history. In fact, the “24 hour barrier” was threatened with Greg Gleason and Walter Zitz sharing the win at 24hrs 1 min. Only a botched final turn kept them from probably coming in at under 24 hours!
We had a father-son pairing finish in Travis Brunner, (1st place SS/Fixed), and father Allen Brunner finish. We had three Womens Open finishers, and would have had four if Crystal Wintle could have come in before the time cut on Sunday, but she along with Jon Vandis and Scott McConnell finished after 2pm.
The finish line at Arbor Lake Park worked out well. The event didn’t attract any undue attention there, and people were coming and going without issues.
It was the longest finished Trans Iowa at just over 340 miles due to the re-route of a bridge before CP#2 which I found was out just before the event on Friday. We had the most finishers ever, and it was the fastest completed Trans Iowa ever at 24hrs 1min.