The Lincoln crew (sure was weird without Skip) took off around 11 AM on Friday and headed for Omaha to pick up the mustached Eric. After picking up Eric we were on our way to Grinnell, Iowa. I've never been there before, but had heard of it several times from a former co-worker who went to school at Grinnell College. After spending a couple of days in Grinnell I've come to the conclusion that it's a cozy little Midwestern town with plenty of friendly folks. I'd like to go back again someday to ride the rolling gravel surrounding the town and hit up some of the local eateries.
Butch (support crew along with Nathan) hooked up the Lincoln crew with a Bed & Breakfast two blocks from the start of the race. The B & B was beautiful inside and out. Plus our hostess was top notch. We didn't have much time to settle in at the B & B prior to the pre-race meeting.
Guitar Ted and Kevin checking folks in at the Pre-race Meat up
The pre-race "Meat up" was at the Grinnell Steakhouse just off the main drag going into Grinnell. The food was great and the company even better. Got to see several folks that I hadn't seen since last year. Always fun.
I've never been to a restaurant where you get to cook your meal. Definitely a unique experience. I managed to burn a couple of slices of Texas toast. Went with the veggie kabobs. Yum.
I took that 20 bucks and used it for the pre-race meal. Thanks again to the City of Grinnell and the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. Charles also hooked up the Lincoln crew with a checkpoint crib sheet. Thanks Charles!
Guitar Ted giving us the scoop
The pre-race anxiety was palpable as we were each called up individually to pick up our cue sheets and race packets. Guitar Ted gave an encouraging gravel road condition report and also a weather update during the meeting. The word was that the roads were dry as a bone in recent weeks and could handle the rain that came down in the past 24 hours. Plus the forecast for Saturday was for cloudy skies. So we all left the pre-race meeting thinking that all should be good to go in the morning. I was optimistic.
The cue cards were great again this year. Perfect fit in the Banjo Brothers cue card holder. Unfortunately, the wet weather took a toll on the cue cards and turned them into a mushy mess. Ziplock baggies were probably the best option for keeping the cue cards dry. Lots of homemade cue card systems were utilized.
Most of us were in bed by 10 PM. It was a short, but surprisingly restful night of sleep. This is my fourth Trans Iowa, so I really didn't have much trouble falling asleep. Up at 2:15 AM and headed downstairs to the dining room for breakfast. Dorothy hooked us up! Fresh fruit, muffins, egg casserole and plenty of juice and coffee. It was the perfect pre-race meal. I loaded up on calories since it would be the last sit down meal I'd have for quite a while.
Racers gathered at the start and signed off on a waiver. Shortly after 4 AM Guitar Ted and Dave Pals hopped in the Element, tooted the horn and we were off. A light mist began as we rolled out of town in the darkness.
The pace was about what I expected on the pavement out of town. Nothing too crazy, but fast enough considering the size of the group we were rolling in. The mist began to pick up as we rolled towards the first gravel of the day. As soon as we hit the first bit of gravel, I knew it was gonna be an epic day on the bike. The first gravel section was completely saturated and the consistency of pudding. Mud began to spray everywhere and folks quickly settled into their sketchy riding condition comfort zone. The good lines on the road were tough to pick out in the darkness and I came close to going down several times in that first set of gravel rollers.
Within the first few miles of gravel my chain sucked into the frame on a climb. Had to jump off and take care of that. The lead group got away at that point. I had to chase them down and really go beyond my sketchy riding conditions comfort zone in order to latch back on. Also lost a bottle on that stretch. Bummer.
When we hit the first B road of the day we immediately got off the bikes and began to push. The thunder and lightning was pretty intense around that time. It was actually pretty damn cool, but probably pretty damn dangerous too. I wasn't too concerned because I know the chance of getting hit by lightning is fairly small. But hey, if you're gonna go, why not go out doing something you love?
After the B road the lead group tried to make up some time, but weren't exactly meltin' butter due to the conditions of the road. The lead group consisted of the usual suspects including: Joe Meiser, John Gorilla, Tim Ek, Charlie Farrow, Charly Tri, Matt Braun (single speeder!), Troy Krause, Sean Mailen, Jason Buffington, and myself. Am I missing anyone?
The group reached the first checkpoint in Monroe with about an hour to spare. Since I lost a bottle earlier and had already emptied my other two bottles I opted to hit the Casey's in Monroe and let the lead group go. Troy and Matt joined me for a refuel. It was a prudent strategy because the next refuel spot was several hours away.
My drive train wasn't working well after that first B road. I stopped several times during the day to try to tweak it to no avail. It was a frustrating battle with my drive train all day, but I'm sure many others were in the same boat. I'm surprised I didn't snap my chain.
Matt, Troy and I headed out of Monroe together and were making relatively good time. Eventually Matt had to stop and switch out a belt on his SS belt drive system. He told Troy and I to continue on which we reluctantly did. I prefer strength in numbers, but Matt's belt swap was gonna take quite a bit of time. We figured we see him later anyways since he was riding very strong.
Late morning and early afternoon the sun actually came out for a short time. The roads were still terrible, but if the sun helped to dry up the roads just enough to lift our spirits. There were some big rollers on that stretch.
Troy and I rolled into the town of Pella and hit up a convenience store for a refuel. A large crew of the initial lead group were already there getting some fluids and forcing down some calories. We visited for a bit and shared some stories of the day thus far. We wished them luck as they rolled out. Troy and I weren't ready yet and finished off our Fritos prior to departing.
As we rolled out of town we spotted Dennis at another convenience store. We rolled over to him and waited for him to finish his food. We were excited to have another person with us, and were especially excited because it was Dennis. I love riding with that guy.
The sun disappeared sometime after Pella. That wasn't a big deal, but I spotted some rain clouds off in the distance. Oh no, not again.
Troy, Dennis and I spent several hours riding together. Dennis and I took turns navigating. At one time I dreaded navigating with cue sheets, now I actually enjoy it.
If only we had dry conditions! The B roads and gravel were beautiful. The roads that we hit this year were some of the best I've ever seen in Iowa.
Prior to the second checkpoint the roads were relatively flat. That was a nice change of pace which allowed us to make up some time. We had plenty of time to make it to the second checkpoint, but were concerned about reaching the third checkpoint within the designated cut off time.
The last 8 or so miles prior to Checkpoint 2 were some of the toughest roads of the day. Very soft and terribly slow. Barely turning your smallest gear slow. The rain also began again about the time we hit the really crappy roads. Since we were already wet it really didn't seem to matter at that point.
Troy and I rolled into the second checkpoint with about an hour to spare. All of the leaders were there. No one had left the second checkpoint as of yet. The rain was keeping everyone in a holding pattern.
Several folks began to calculate the odds of anyone successfully making the third checkpoint by the cutoff time. The rain really began to pick up at that point. When I rolled into the checkpoint I was all fired up to continue on, but after hearing other folks talk about pulling the plug I began to consider it. Eventually I decided to ride back to Grinnell with a small crew. Then Matt Braun rolled in solo. He said he was continuing on, no doubt about it. Then Eric and Charles rolled into CP #2 with a couple of minutes to spare and said they were continuing on. Jay and Tracey Petervary were also gonna give it a try on the tandem.
Well, I couldn't let those folks go it alone. So I decided to continue on and roll out with them. The chances of us making it to the next checkpoint were slim, but I felt we should at least give it a go. It reminded me of a line in the movie Gran Torino when Walt was talking about his experience in Korea, "We all knew the danger that night but we went anyway."
John Gorilla and Joe Meiser had decided to give it a shot too and took off a bit earlier.
Matt and I broke away from Eric and Charles after passing Jay and Tracey. Eventually we couldn't see anyone behind us in the distance, so Matt and I continued on. The roads were surprisingly not all that bad. They were soft, but not muddy.
A couple of B roads were walked prior to the sun going down. The rain and wind picked up mightily after the sun went down which soaked us to the bone. Unfortunately, we were heading right into the wind which really dropped the core temperature. As Matt and I rolled into North English, he requested to stop and warm up at the convenience store. I knew if we stopped we were done, but I agreed. About that time I heard someone yell our direction. I looked over to see Guitar Ted waving at us. We rolled over and he said it was done. He and Dave decided to end the race in North English. Whew! It was over.
Eric, Charles and Jay and Tracey rolled in shortly after us. John and Joe were already there hosing off their bikes at a local Malt Shop. The owner stayed open late for us which allowed us to get out of the rain to warm up and get some hot food and coffee.
I was happy to be done in North English, but was also a bit disappointed not to make it further. Guitar Ted and David made the right call. Make no mistake about it, but I really wanted to see if I could ride through the night. I've never done it before. That was one of my goals for this year. Make it through the night. I guess it'll have to wait until next year.
First true meal in 18 hours
Thanks to Butch and Nathan for being our support this year. You guys did a great job and took care of everything! Also thanks to Guitar Ted, David Pals and all the rest of the race organizers and volunteers. You folks make this event great and I'm excited for next year. Also thanks to all the other racers. It was great riding with ya. Also thanks to everyone who either directly or indirectly gave support via gear, encouragement, text messages, and good vibes.
Alright, now that I got this post complete I can get to tearing my bike apart. It needs some lovin'.
Alright, now that I got this post complete I can get to tearing my bike apart. It needs some lovin'.