That phrase was muttered by myself more times than I can remember the week leading up the TI V4. The forecast looked bleak and clips of TI V2 (which I had signed up for and unfortunately had to bail on due to my ineptness of Microsoft Outlook calender) had me weighing the pro's and con's of making the trip to Decorah. Racing in the mud is not something I enjoy. Spending a few hundred bucks on gas, motel, food, etc. to race in the mud is an even harder sell. But missing the race would disappoint my buddies and leave them with more costs to burden. There was a lot of hemming and hawing.
I'm such an indecisive bastard.
Skip and I exchanged emails and phone calls about the weather and the potential conditions. I expressed my concern and let him know I was 50/50 on going. He was sympathetic to my concern and asked that I let him know of my decision asap. One Lincoln racer had already pulled the plug on TI V4. Butch, a TI V3 finisher, was out due to a crash earlier in the week. So someone else had already bailed from the Lincoln crew. For some reason, that makes it easier not to go. Finally, I decided that if Bonsal bailed, I was out too.
Thursday morning email from Bonsal stated, "It's gonna have to be really bad for me not to go." Well, that seals it. Off to Decorah on Friday! Besides, I had put too much into this year's Trans Iowa not to go. After not finishing last year, TI has been on the top of my list of races to complete. Quitting is not something I enjoy.
With the decision taken care of, now it was time to get ready. I looked back to last year's TI and began to make a mental checklist. Lessons burned into my memory cycled back.
Lessons learned from last year included:
Get the weight off your back and on the bike
No hard efforts - conversational pace all the way
Spin - save those knees
Go with what works -function over fashion
Shivering burns a lot of calories and can be quite demoralizing
Eat real food, eat whatever you want, it's all calories
You need a good light and be sure to have a backup
Keep your feet and hands warm
Expect to make some bad decisions - don't dwell- roll with it
One step at a time
We rolled into Decorah on Friday afternoon. The pre-race meeting was informative and the Lincoln crew was able to see a lot of familiar faces and meet some new friends. We loaded up on spaghetti and picked up our race packets. After the meeting it was back to the motel to set up our bikes and lay out all our gear. We managed to get a few hours of sleep on Friday evening. Up at 2:30 am to prep for the race.
Honestly, I really wasn't that nervous prior to the race. All I wanted to do was go for a long ride with my buddies and hopefully meet a few other cool folks along the way. I had no delusions of grandeur. First goal was to start, second was to get to the first checkpoint. Besides that, all I wanted to do was have a good time and not get hurt in the process.
Race started at 4 am. G-Ted lead out the racers in his car up the first climb. As the posse rolled out of Decorah, I began to ease back and settle into a good pace. I could see the leaders off in the distance and it made for an easy first 30 minutes. Just follow the blinky lights. After losing all blinky lights in front, I stopped at and intersection and waited for another group to catch me. Primarily because I didn't know which way to go. Thirty minutes had rolled by and I hadn't looked at my cue cards once. I didn't even know which sheet I should have been on. Foreshadowing? Maybe...
Was delighted to see some familiar faces in that group. Skip and Dennis were there. Awesome! Skip and I chatted back and forth as we kept up the pace. The wind was a bit ridiculous, but living in Nebraska has desensitized me. It sucked, but I had been there plenty of times and at least it was a familiar suck.
Our small group stopped at a lot of gas stations along the way to the first checkpoint. Refueling often was a prudent idea. Learned that lesson from last year. Getting dehydrated or bonking would quickly end your race.
As the race went on our group began to split apart a bit. Scott Cole, Charles Parsons, Constantine, Ari and I seemed to always be near each other. Eventually Charles and I broke off as we lumbered into the first checkpoint without much time to spare.
Back to my indecisiveness...after some hemming and hawing about continuing onto the next checkpoint, Charles came up to me. I asked him if he planned to make a go at the next checkpoint. Without hesitation he said, "Absolutely." That was enough for me. Spoke to Wills and Eric and they were in too. Scott was asked to join us and after some map checking we were off. The next couple of towns were heading towards the unforgiving wind. It wasn't going to be easy.
Eventually Charles, Scott and I were the only ones pushing forward. The hills and wind were relentless. At one point I wanted to scream at the wind and tell it to fuck off.
We all ran out of food and water 15 or so miles from Winthrop. I stopped to take a crap in a ditch as Scott busted out his emergency reserve of Boost shakes. Charles and I sucked it up and inadvertently began to talk about food. That's a bad thing to do and he quickly shut that conversation down. We put our heads down and inched our way closer and closer to the oasis of Winthrop. Scott and I had both bonked somewhere along the way and weren't much help to Charles. Charles took all the pulls into the headwind during the last ten or so miles. Thanks Charles. Couldn't have done it without you. Scott's Achilles began to give him fits on the way to Winthrop and it seemed that both of us would be pulling the plug there. That wind ate us up.
After pulling into Winthrop, we found a grocery store and went in to recharge. Charles was quick and efficient and gathered supplies while I walked over to the pizza shop inside the front corner of the store. Another rider was in there and had just finished off a pizza. He had bailed and was kicking back waiting for his ride to show up. I forget his name because I could barely stand at that point. We exchanged some small talk as I wandered over to the counter to grab a menu. I ordered some chicken strips, fries with ranch and had a Coke. I felt like shit and had trouble answering simple questions. I was shaking like a leaf and was in the middle of a serious bonk. Not a good feeling.
Charles had all his stuff and eagerly walked over to me as I sat down. It was obvious that I couldn't get up for awhile. I gave him some well wishes as he tried to convince me to join him. I couldn't do it. Scott's support crew walked in around that time and let us know he was done. He was so wasted he went straight to the car. Then my buddies from Nebraska showed up and gave me some encouragement. Seeing their faces really helped. Maybe I will try.
Some soul searching was in order. I remembered Skip from last year at a pizza joint around mile 140. We stopped at the Pizza Palace to refuel cuz Skip looked bad, real bad. BJ and I thought he was done. After an hour break and fries, burger and a Coke, Skip was resurrected and eventually went on to finish. Maybe I had that in me too.
Food was slowly forced down.
I really wanted to quit and find a motel for a warm shower. The only thing that stopped me was the wind. The wind had beat me down all day, now it was my turn to make the wind MY bitch. The next 50 or so miles would be with the wind at my back. I had to get back on the bike.
After leaving Winthrop, I managed to make some great time. Twenty mph for most of the way until the sun went down. I got thru the B roads before dark and was happy to see them in decent shape. Had to go thru some mud and standing water, but nothing like I had envisioned.
Then I began to make some bad decisions. Several wrong turns lead me astray for miles. Very frustrating. Especially when you're ready to be done. Eventually I got to Dehli and thought I was done. The cue sheet ended in Dehli and I remember the second checkpoint being somewhere around 200 miles. So I assumed this was the town. I rode around for a while looking for the checkpoint and finally gave up and called G-Ted. Left him a voicemail and found a vending machine and got a Sprite. Then a car pulled up and two nice folks asked if I had seen Charles. Again, I had trouble answering simple questions and don't know exactly what I said, but it probably wasn't much help. Fortunately, they were able to help me. There was another cue sheet behind the one I thought was the last one. Doh! "Don't worry. You're really close. It's like ten miles away!"
Off I went. Then I got lost again. 245th Street and 245 Avenue. I now know that intersection well....now. It was a comedy of errors. I had to laugh and keep going. After rolling into Earlville (the town with the last checkpoint) I couldn't seem to find the checkpoint! I went to the location on the cue sheet and there was no one there. I got off the bike and took off my shoes, gloves, bag and began to relax. I called MG and he let me know that the checkpoint was in the park. What park?!!? Where?! No, you come to me!
I just wanted to be done. So I began to yell. "HEY!!!!" Eventually someone heard me and yelled back. That's all I needed. I had a direction. I found them and was happy to see the whole Lincoln crew wide awake to greet me. It was ten minutes before midnight (cut off time) and I had made it. I was done...or so I thought.
MG, "Good news, they decided to shorten the course. You're around 20 miles from the finish."
I looked at Matt and pointed to him as I said, "You're a funny guy." I figured the whole crew was playing some kind of a sick joke on me. Those bastards.
"No seriously, you're like 20 miles away." I took a deep breath and said, "Give me the cue sheets." The switch was turned back on. That simple. I hadn't gone that far to come that close to not finish. Those bastards.
The good news was Charles was not far ahead of me and had waited for me for twenty minutes before heading out. Awesome! He was going to finish. That really lifted my spirits.
After eating a cookie and apologizing for keeping the Lincoln crew up longer, I was off. I immediately got lost. It took me longer than I want to admit to get out of town. Had to go back to the checkpoint to ask one of the promoters which way to go. Apparently all my blood was shunted to my legs. The last 20 miles should have taken an hour and an half. It almost took me four hours. Needless to say, I took some lengthy detours. I got chased by the same dog several times and even chased down a skunk (the damn thing wouldn't get out of the middle of the road). All of my lights went out for a bit and I seriously considering calling MG to let him know I was going to find a place to sleep for a few hours until sunrise. While I was pondering that thought, I heard several coyotes yelping in the not so distant darkness. Time to go!
G-Ted eventually found me not far from the finish. He lead me in and gave me the Tour de France finish by honking his horn and flashing his lights. The Lincoln crew stirred from the suburban to greet me. Hand shakes, hugs and pat's on the back were served. I don't remember saying much. I don't think I could.
The whole experience was a joy. Even the death march to Winthrop. I was able to meet some great people and conquered a goal I set out to do over two years ago. I will definitely be back.
Jonn (wearing the green jacket), Lincoln support crew, studying for the GRE while on the way to Decorah. Thanks for helping out man.
Is blogging and driving legal in Iowa?
Dustin, Lincoln support crew, looking quite baffled. Thanks Dirty! It was great to hang with ya. Bonsal chilled in the backseat with Dave Nice. Dave road from Denver to York, Nebraska. Inspiring.
Friday night pre-race spaghetti dinner. Had a great discussion with Jonn and Dustin about PBR. I've never been a PBR fan, but I'll have to give it another day in court.
Guitar Ted conducting the pre-race meeting. Huge thanks to Guitar Ted, d.p. and the rest of the TI crew. I can't even imagine how much they sacrificed to put on this event.
Inspector Gadget would be proud. Mud coating the bottom side of the downtube from my last ride in Lincoln. Figured it was gonna get muddy anyways, so why clean it.
Skip's ride. Simple, clean and efficient.
Checkpoint #1. Charles, Constantine and I. Constantine bowing out graciously. Super strong performance. Classy guy. His younger brother, Ari, also rode great.
Matt rollin' in with a big smile on his face...that's what it's all about. Mission accomplished.
Wills and Eric. They headed out with Charles, Scott and I in search of the second checkpoint.
Skip and Bonsal at checkpoint #1. Glad to see them riding together into CP1.
Very blurry pic of yours truly happily heading east with strong tail wind. Who's the bitch now?
Finished. The smile on Mark's face and the congratulatory handshake was worth the 240 plus miles. I'd estimate I did around another 40 for TI V5 recon.