Trans Iowa v14

Post T.I.v13: The event was brutally tough and was deemed another classic Trans Iowa with only six finishers. Dan Hughes triumphantly declared himself the “Triple Crown” holder since he had been victorious in Gravel Worlds, the Dirty Kanza 200, and now in Trans Iowa. (NOTE- That is something Dan came up with. It wasn’t anything I or any other promoter put out there.) The typical thank you’s and comments regarding the event were experienced, but perhaps to a lesser degree. Not sure why that was. I did not see anything negative reported, nor did I get any complaints.


The T.I.v14 logo signifying the end was based upon a cemetery gate idea

The running of another Trans Iowa was not a given afterward. In fact, I wasn’t motivated at all to even think about doing another. The circumnavigation of Des Moines and the route running by covered bridges during v13 marked off the last of my goals for doing Trans Iowa. That the event was a “classic” Trans Iowa just further reinforced that my time putting on this event was over. However; there was the nagging issue of how to say “goodbye”. I enlisted the help of a few close confidants and received good advice. This is what led to the announcement of T.I.v14, what would be the final Trans Iowa. (A separate Trans Iowa Retrospective containing the reasons for making v14 the end and more can be found on its own page HERE)

The Changes: After running 13 of these, the process was finely honed, but another incident of cheating which was discovered post-T.I.v13, and which actually occurred during T.I.v12, radically changed the last Trans Iowa. Apparently folks were getting the cues on Friday at the Pre-Race Meat-Up and were transferring them into GPS devices so they would not have to read cue sheets for the first leg. So, to avoid an unlevel playing field in this regard, I announced that cues were not going to be handed out until minutes prior to the start on Saturday morning on the start line. This would prevent the downloading of cues into GPS devices, but it would require a lot of changes in logistics.

The Run Up: Trans Iowa v14 was announced September 5th, a bit later than usual, but I didn’t want to go forward with it until I figured out how I was going to announce that this would be the last one. That was decided upon by my talks with Mike Baggio, Matt Gersib, and Jeremy Fry who all agreed announcing it at the Pre-Race Meat-Up was the thing to do. I spoke with my wife who heartily agreed that it should end, so the stage was set for the last time for many things to happen.

The Grinnell Steakhouse agreed to let me use their meeting room again for the April 27th Pre-Race Meat-Up in an e-mail on 10/31/17. Due to the aforementioned cue sheet cheating scandal discovered after T.I.v13, the cues would not be handed out at the Meat-Up, but waivers still had to be signed and numbers would be handed out at the meeting. It would also be where I announced the news that TIv14 would be the last Trans Iowa, or so I thought. Eventually I changed my mind and that was to get moved to when we handed out the cues the morning of. The thinking then was that by announcing something at the Pre-Race we would be unwittingly inviting a horde to see the last TI off. I figured we didn’t need that hassle.

“Thanks for all you do for Trans Iowa. I can honestly say, I am equal parts excited and terrified.” : a T.I.v14 rookie

Registration was announced October the 3rd and was much like the previous year in format. There would be a lottery for Vets and Finishers if more than 55 slots were filled and, of course, the expected lottery for 40 Rookie spots. Things kicked off with only 12 Winners/Plus six riders getting in during the second week of October and then the Vets/Finishers registration started. The Vets/Finishers left ten spots on the table, so that meant that 50 spots were up for grabs by the Rookies. In the end, 84 cards passed inspection. While the penmanship was good on many cards the interesting thing was how many people failed to fill out cards correctly. The live Periscope drawing for the 50 spots was held on October 31st, and then registration was over. Results of the registration were that we had the largest Women’s field signed up ever and the largest SS/Fixed field ever, and that due to how many women entered that category. Together this made it so the potential field for TIv14 would have, by far, the most women ever. Strange days after we had trouble early on even getting a few women to enter in any given year!


The t-shirt design for the volunteers

Recon: Generally I like to do recon in October but that didn’t happen in part due to not getting a full course reconned and in part due to my usual partner in recon, Jeremy Fry, being entered into TIv14, so he couldn’t recon the event with me. I ended up getting my friend Tony McGrane to drive it with me and we got the full course driven in a day in early November. The Level B roads were all  driveable, but we did have a minor check when we found a bridge out. That was in the last leg of the course and we easily rerouted on the fly.

Final recon would also be without the “usual crew” of Wally & George, who had helped with this for several years. Changes in their personal lives prevented them from participating as they used to. Life changes and that was understood. So it was that Tony volunteered to run the course alone on April 4th 2018. The recon went smoothly though, and cues only needed minor corrections. Cue sheet production was handled once again by Mike Johnson and he and I stuffed the cues in an afternoon a couple of weeks prior to Trans Iowa.

Weather: The wild card of any Trans Iowa, the weather for Spring swung from “almost Spring-like” to Winter and back again. By the 10th of April we still hadn’t seen the 50’s yet. It snowed twice two weeks before Trans Iowa, but then the climate shifted into Spring. By the time T.I.v14 happened it was very dry, nice, and the weekend looked to be a stunner, much like it had for T.I.v12. The wind would be contrary all weekend, shifting around to always be a headwind, but the breezes were to be light. Cold was predicted, but in the end, it got very cold! Perhaps colder than any other Trans Iowa.

The Event: With only a few people in the know it was hard to have some conversations about the event, but things went fairly smoothly. The Grinnell Steakhouse dropped the ball with service at the Meat-Up, however, which was untypical of them. But with this being the final go-round, it wouldn’t have any future impact.

Riders didn’t start dropping out until March and we ended up having about five drop the week of the event, which always made me a bit upset. In the end, we had one no-show and started 95 folks, the largest Women’s field ever, and the most women over all for Trans Iowa. In a surprise, Sarah Cooper had to drop out at the last minute and told me a rumor was running rampant about this being the last Trans Iowa. This news and a feeling I felt that telling the riders that this would be the last TI would be a bad idea prevented me from saying anything in the end. I figured had I said something before the event, I would be handing them a reason to make poor decisions, so I didn’t announce it during TI. I scheduled a blog post for the afternoon when T.I.v14 was over announcing “The End“.


This image, by Jon Duke, shows the deep, loose gravel that characterized most of T.I.v14

So it was that even my good friend Matt Gersib, who was going to drive me around the course during the event, was flummoxed when I didn’t say anything at the start line about it being the last TI. The event started out fine with the usual hoopla at 4;00am and everything went as usual to start out with. A concern came up when I received notice about someones dog being loose and running with the riders. The dog’s owner seemed miffed that TI had “lured her dog away” but in the end this turned out to be nothing but a side show. The real concern was when Kate Ankofski went down on loose gravel on a descent and suffered a minor concussion around late morning. My stellar volunteers, John and Celeste Mathias, took over and made sure Kate got the attention she needed. Props also to Warren Weibe and Keisuke Inoue who stopped to render aid at the crash site.


The DQ’ed riders start out on their way back to Grinnell late Saturday. Volunteer Tony McGrane (L) assists one of them here.

Unfortunately a very tough navigational challenge prompted a few riders to make the unfortunate call to cut the course. We ended up having to catch them on the road and inform them that they were DQ’ed, which went about as well as you could ever hope. That was probably the second biggest downer of T.I.v14 for me.

Then there was the news that two riders missed the Checkpoint #2 cutoff by minutes. One of them a Women’s Open contender, apparently took it pretty hard. That always gets to me, but the cut offs are rigid, so what are you gonna do?

Otherwise this Trans Iowa was marked by lots of Sun, some wind, and TONS of fresh gravel, which slowed down the progress of the riders. Winner Luke Wilson did not come in until 8:50am, which was the second slowest winners time, T.I.v13 being the slowest one. We had Mark Johnson win the SS/Fixed category, and Janna Vavra, fittingly, won the last ever Open Women’s title. T.I.v14 saw 19 finishers overall. That is one more than average, and so that was a fitting way to end it.

News of the last TI shocked a few, but really, it went over without much hoopla at all. I suppose that’s fitting for an event that always touted itself as “flying under the radar”.

Post T.I.v14: Since there will be no more Trans Iowas, the usual “post Trans Iowa” paragraph that I add to a following Trans Iowa page will appear here.

Immediately afterward the event was praised and the usual compliments came in. then right away the news that Trans Iowa was done spread and the expected comments were made. A few, from folks bitter about never having gotten the chance to do a Trans Iowa, were kind of amusing to me in an odd way. Having no real experience in a Trans Iowa kind of colors opinions, at least that is my observation over the years. People who have done a Trans Iowa seem to not think about Trans Iowa in the terms non-experienced folk have thought about it, which only stands to reason.

I did get the expected offer to “take the event over”, but in the end, after several e-mails, I was able to express my feelings that it would be best to have an event on the calendar “like” a TI, but not call it that. This is what is happening now. Honestly, it was a huge relief when that got worked out.

But beyond this, the ending of Trans Iowa has been a blessing and not as “earth shattering” as I thought it might be. I have moved on without any big “let downs” and that is unusual post Trans Iowa.

Thanks for reading these pages and thank you if you had anything at all to do with the history of Trans Iowa.


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