I’ve failed in years past writing my TransIowa reports. I’ve attempted to capture every detail, every last errant rock on the roadway. This year’s ride was simple, keep moving forward. The drudgery of the rain set the tone. As Tim Ek said “You don’t decide, TransIowa decides”. Decide it did.
I’ve never been more confident, more excited for TransIowa than this year. Mark Stevenson (Guitar Ted) noted it the minute I met him at the hotel door. I was excited about connecting with the friends and acquaintances that I’ve met riding in these peculiar events. I was excited to get out on the bike, pedal out some miles, and test myself, and my strategies.
Confidence can be dangerous. When channeled inappropriately it often leads to massive failure, much like my failed attempt at TransIowa V4. After V4 I made some changes to my approach for V5. TransIowa was a focused effort for me. I wanted to finish and use it as a test of my fitness for Tour Divide. I came in to the race in better shape than years passed having put on many miles on the loaded Fargo and the then super secret Ti La Cruz. My effort paid out when Tim Ek and Dave Pramann handed me the victory in the early morning hours of our ride.
This year TransIowa was another focused effort. I had a goal. I wanted a sub-24 hour finish. A win was irrelevant, breaking the 24 hour barrier was the only thing I wanted. I vocalized that goal. I planned physically and mentally for that goal. I made spreadsheets (yeah I know) for that goal.
The weather is always a factor. When Tim Ek says “TransIowa decides,” I believe he means, Iowa and its relationship with the weather patterns. The forecast was looking grim. A storm was developing in the south west and being pushed across the plains. A low pressure cycle was sitting over Iowa. Early Friday morning it began to rain.
The forecast called for rain Friday, clearing up into Saturday morning and a possibility of rain over Saturday night. It left room for optimism, the chance that it wouldn’t rain or would only rain enough to make the course faster. I continued to believe in my hypothesized reality until a new reality was created. It would soon be created.
I once focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on the pre-ride preparations once at the event. It is comforting to have all of this on auto-pilot after a few years of trial and error, trial and success. Saturday morning will always come quickly, but with much anticipation. I relish in the prologue ride to the start line, usually a quiet gentle spin, lights dancing in the darkness. It is a time when I get inside of my head, spin through my goals again, and enjoy being.
At the start line, the excitement begins. We all stage ourselves accordingly. Our friends and loved ones take photos to document that moment in time when we all believe we’ll finish the 300+ mile/500k ride. Mark says a few words then he and Dave Pals, his co-promoter, climb in the lead out vehicle and pace us out of town and onto the gravel.
It was at that very moment that my front tire hit the soft surface of the wet gravel road that my goals began to transition. Thick, chunky soup and crunchy, oily peanut butter come to mind as phrases one might use in describing the surface of the roads. I focused on spinning easy and staying near the front. Partially for position should someone make an early break as Ira Ryan and Brian Hannon did in TransIowa V3. Mostly, to minimize the amount of road spray sent my way. With the roads this soft and wet paceline efforts would only lead to a face full of fine silt mixed with the feces of a thousand pigs.
Charly Tri led the pace into checkpoint one. He was often out front 20-30 yards, ad-libbing lyrics to the tune of The Proclaimers 1988 hit song “500 Miles”. By pace I mean plod, the plod to checkpoint one. We averaged a respectful 15 mph/25kph into the checkpoint. It was respectful given the pre-dawn lightning show, rain, and B-Road hike-a-bike.
It has been reported that there were nine of us that came into the checkpoint together. I wouldn’t know. I never looked behind me. With conditions as they were it was impossible to look around and see who was still there. It was near impossible to do typically simple things like eat on the bike. To do so meant even more grit in the mouth and a high risk of crashing. Left in the lead group after the checkpoint were Charly Tri, Charlie Farrow, Tim Ek, Sean Mailen, John Gorilla, and Jeremy Fry. The sky was clearing up and the roads seemed to be improving. Well, at least the skies were clearing up.