Friday, May 27, 2016

Trans Iowa V12

The Interim

I'm struggling here. I know the post "big event" dip all too well. In the days following, you feel a sense of loss and depression. That "what do I do now?" feeling. You second guess your training leading up to the big event. You question nearly everything you do and have done. Maybe you're less than pleasant to be around. 

As I write this, I'm nearing two weeks after my finish at Trans Iowa. I've been battling all of the above. My left hand is still numb, specifically at the finger tips. I've been dealing with a virus for the last 2 weeks. My compromised immune system allowed this beast to settle in, afflicting me with headaches, cough, fever, and lethargy.

Jim Phillips and I at The Cedar Cross - May 7th, 2016

On a bright note, I'm recovering and feeling much better. This coming weekend (May 7th) I'm heading to Jefferson City MO to enjoy 110 miles of The Cedar Cross. This race is a mash-up of gravel racing, mountain biking, and self flagellation. Racing Cedar Cross was a motivational tool to get me back on the bike. June 4th I will be in Emporia KS for 200 miles of the Flint Hills. Regardless of the conditions, The Dirty Kanza is never easy. 

Cedar Cross

Heading to Iowa - L-R Myself, Collin Little, Jim Phillips, Jamie Wynne

Trans Iowa v12 - Prologue

Sunday morning, shortly after sunrise #2, Jamie, JT and I have been riding for 27 hours and we're approaching the City of Baxter Iowa. In the distance I notice what appears to be the city limits sign. Jamie and I are side by side, enjoying a rare glassy smooth stretch of pave. No words, just an exchange of looks. I hear a servo chirp from Jamie's Di2, I drop a cog, we stand, we sprint. Jamie takes the city limits sign sprint mile 286. We still have 54 miles to reach the finish line. Right there, that's why I love him. 

Trans Iowa v12 - Sunrise #1

Trans Iowa v12 Starting Line

My memory of the events leading up to the Baxter Iowa sprint are fuzzy, like a dream recalled in fractured segments.

3:50 AM Saturday morning, and I'm chatting with Corey Godfrey near the start line. I've been riding endurance gravel for +5 years and this morning, I see many friends and familiar faces. It's a narrow spectrum of riders that "enjoy" this hobby. A few words from Mark, a blast of the horn, and we're rolling conservatively fast and furious toward checkpoint #1 at 50 miles.  

Trans Iowa Starting Line

At a post race meeting, I was asked about my race day plan. In all honesty, I didn't have a global plan, not one detailed in hard copy. I had an immediate goal of sticking with team Kuat to checkpoint #1 at 50 miles. We had to average right at 12 mph to make it before the cutoff. Three hours, thirty-three minutes later, we arrive at check point #1 with a 15 mph average. 

Step #1 successfully completed. 

At mile 70, nearly 5 hrs into the ride I stop at a Casey's in Victor, Iowa. The place is busy, buzzing with riders refueling, in search of the elusive "real food". I want a slice of pizza, but it was disappearing at rate typically reserved for bread and milk before the snow storm. My team Kuat friends had split up, with Jim and Collin ahead of me, and Jamie trailing me by a few minutes. I down a sandwich and chips, load up on liquids, then head North.

Saturday Morning - Mile 90 Climbing the 13th Ave. Hill

Somewhere around the 100 mile mark, I hear a familiar voice behind me shout "Nice bike". The voice is Jim Cummins'. He's complimenting my bike because, it's a righteously good lookin' bike.....and it used to be his righteously good looking bike. Jim is riding with Scott Omara and Warren Wiebe. We spend the next several hours visiting and making our way North to the next source of sustenance, a convenience store in Traer Iowa at TI mile 132. By Traer, we've been riding for 9 hours and 40 minutes and we're hungry for some more "real food". 

My Fargo in its natural habitat

We leave Traer and continue the push North, assisted by a much appreciated tailwind. This section is highlighted by an arrow straight 10 mile run up Ansborough avenue. Nice hard pack gravel, perfect weather, and that tailwind. Even with 150 miles on the legs, this section was a joy.  

The Interim

I have the luxury of like-minded friends willing to train with me for hours and hours. Months prior to Trans Iowa, nearly every weekend was spent exploring new routes that Collin had mapped. Gravel exploration exposes you to areas that you would otherwise never see. There's beauty in this world that is muted, or altogether removed by the creature comforts of the modern automobile.

Sunrise Training Ride
In these hours we talk life, love, politics, religion, and more importantly, bikes and bike racing. At times we just bitch and moan, it's clinically therapeutic to bitch and moan. 

Jim, thanks for documenting our rides so well.

Trans Iowa v12 - The Sunset

Thirteen hours, fifteen minutes, and 165 miles after leaving Grinnell, we arrive in Hudson, Iowa. I'm still travelling with Jim, Scott and Warren. At this point in the race, Jim Phillips is off the front at +1 hour, Collin is leaving the convenience store a few minutes after I arrive, and Jamie arrives a few minutes after I do. We rest, we fuel, we ride.

From Hudson we're heading primarily West toward Grundy Center at TI mile 189. It's getting dark, and during the stop in Grundy Center we fuel and adjust clothing layers accordingly. 

Jamie and I had been leap frogging one another for 20 hours now. I come upon him at an intersection near the 200 mile mark. I let Team Emporia ride away and joined Jamie and JT. We would spend the remaining 140 miles together. 

 Trans Iowa v12 - The Darkness

We continue the push South toward the Iowa River valley. Around TI mile 220, Jamie, JT, and I are descending a hill on the rutted B road, 270th Ave. JT caught a front wheel in one the ruts and face planted hard. We both thought this might be the end of JT's Trans Iowa. We had him sit while we assessed him for damage, and quickly deemed his wounds superficial. His headlight required some McGyver engineering, but the bike controls were sound. 

Twenty hours, and 236 miles in and I feel a serious bonk heading my way. It's 1:20 am Sunday and I need some calories. We stop for a nature break and I tell Jamie that I need some real food soon. He offers me half of the breakfast burrito that he'd been packing since Grinnell. I'm not sure what the shelf life is for a breakfast burrito, but that might have been the best thing I've ever tasted, at least that's how I remember it.

It's 3:10am when we arrive in State Center, Iowa. TI mile 265. We're out of food and water. We cross a set of railroad tracks and find a closed convenience store. We sat down for bit, unsure what to do next. Luckily JT pulled out his phone and determined there was a convenience store a mile further. Otherwise we may have sat there for days. 

Little did we know, Collin and Jim had left this c-store 15 minutes before we arrived. I remember Jamie and I slumped in the floor of the Caseys, leaning against the coffee island. We had no words, but listened to the clerk explain to a coworker how nobody wanted to work very hard these days. With warm food and rest came the strong desire for sleep. We found the energy to get up and head back out to the bikes.

Single speeder, Jeremy Kershaw rode up as we were loading bottles. He exclaimed that he'd been riding alone for hours, obviously elated to see a convenience store and people. He asked Jamie, "How far out is the lead group?" Jamie paused, looked him square in the eye, and said, "I don't know what that means?". 

Trans Iowa v12 - Sunrise #2 The Deep Gravel

Jamie and JT - Somewhere in Iowa

After that city limits sign sprint in Baxter, the gravel got mean. Deep chunky gravel that tries to make you bleed. Combined with continuous rollers, this was soul crushing. 

It was one of the final stretches due East that I looked down. I kept seeing bright flashes of light. The flashes were reminiscent of the sun reflecting off the surface of water. The first time, I just dismissed it as a rogue reflection, the second time I was looking for the source of this phenomenon. I failed to find it. I discussed this with Jamie, and he said with certainty, "there are no flashes of light coming from your tires, ride on". 

At mile 335, we stop at an intersection to drink. I post this to Facebook. I remember reading it several times over in my head, making sure it made some sense. 

It did.

Trans Iowa v12 

 Jim Phillips - 11:11am (31hrs:11min)
 Collin Little - 11:24am (31hrs:24min)
 Jamie Wynne - 12:06pm (32hrs:06min)

Jamie, Myself, and JT at the finish. 

At the Finish Line - Left to Right, Jamie Wynne, Jim Phillips, Collin Little, Don Buttram