Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trans Iowa V11 Report: Prologue

In many ways, this personifies TIv11 for me

Last week I posted about the weather being the "wikd card" of Trans Iowa and stated the following: "This is shaping up to be a Trans Iowa that just might be a super tough one."

Spot on.

It was a super tough one. It was so tough that no one finished. So tough that only one individual made the time cut off for Checkpoint 1 in Guernsey Iowa. So tough that cranks broke, derailleurs sheared off, and tires were shredded to bits in the span of 54 miles.

But that isn't the story of this Trans Iowa. In fact, there are so many stories, stories I don't even know about or can begin to tell, that it would amaze you- the readers- to know about them all. Hopefully there will be stories posted elsewhere that I can link to to illustrate this in some some way. Truly- it was overwhelming to hear about some of them for me. I am going to be processing this event for some time to come.

In the meantime, I will tell the tale from my viewpoint. As usual it will take up most of the upcoming week, and I will start out with Friday, move on to the Pre-Race Meat-Up, and then talk about the day Saturday which was so packed with action for me it felt like three days when it was over. For now, here are the facts in terms of numbers and a few stats for you all to chew on till I crank out the first installment of the T.I.v11 report Monday.

  • 92 started with 2 Volunteer Exemption riders: Total 94
  • There were 2 no-shows at the Meat-Up
  • Checkpoint #1 Cutoff time was 8:30am
  • Greg Gleason cleared CP#1 with 5 minutes to spare before the cut off
  • Bruce Gustafson came in 10 minutes after the CP#1 cutoff
  • Greg Gleason covered 123 miles of T.I.v11 in 12 hours and 20 minutes before he stopped.
  • T.I.v11 ranks as the "shortest" of all Trans Iowas so far. 
More soon........

Friday, April 24, 2015

Trans Iowa v11: Sponsors And Tidbits

Listen in all weekend..... we go! It's time to crank up another Trans Iowa. Hard to believe it is the 11th version. But it is, and here are a few of the sponsors and folks behind the scenes I owe thanks to......

Trans Iowa will be supported this weekend by Europa Cycle & Ski. In fact, the event has been supported by the shop since the beginning. The early Trans Iowas were noted for being graced with the old, blue shop van, and now the shop still helps out with the weekend's travel expenses. Thanks Europa! (Not to mention, I get time off from work to do this deal!)

Next up are the team that supports me with their time and efforts to make sure the route and cues are spot on. Jeremy Fry, who does recon with me, and crunches the numbers because I suck at that! He also does a lot of the cues proofreading. Then Wally Kilburg and George Keslin give up a lot of time and drive hundreds of miles just to recon the course, check cues, and look for good photography opportunities. Finally, the Slender Fungus are now big supporters of the event and have stepped up to provide the numbers this year and some other small items which Trans Iowa needs to run smoothly.

The Truck With No Name ready to go for T.I.V10
New this year, I have decided to have a co-rider in the "Truck With No Name". My good friend, Matt Gersib will be assisting me and keeping me awake all weekend. Also new this year, Ben Welnak will be here doing Trans Iowa Radio all throughout the weekend.

WTB is offering all official finishers of T.I.v11 a set of Nano 40 TCS tires, so we really appreciate them. I also wanted to give Pedal of Littleton a shout out for the Salsa Cycles bar tape we will be handing out as prizing. Another big supporter of Trans Iowa is Lederman Bonding Company, who are big supporters of cycling. The aforementioned Slender Fungus, Mountain Bike Radio, and Guitar Ted Productions are also supporting Trans Iowa this year. Finally, a special shout out to Sam Auen and Tacopocalypse.

We will also have a couple of special announcements and whatnot at Trans Iowa from Heck Of The North and The Wisconsin Gravel Syndicate who are doing a Best Beard Contest at T.I.V11 and a special women's award called the "Gravelista".

Okay folks......see ya on the other side......

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: It's All About The Weather And More

Could we be seeing B Roads like this for v11? (Image by W. Kilburg)
"The weather is the wildcard"

I'm pretty sure Jeff Kerkove said that about Trans Iowa way back when, but if it wasn't him, it was a wise man's utterance. Trans Iowa is totally shaped by weather, and what I do with the course, timing of checkpoints, and what have you, well that all is only a small percentage of what makes Trans Iowa so difficult.

Sometimes the weather doesn't show up, in a manner of speaking. Things like sunny skies, light winds, and warmer temperatures have happened at Trans Iowa before. In fact, there was a time when riders swore that there was an "even year curse", which early on seemed to be true. T.I.v2 was an absolute washout. T.I.v4 was a wind swept, bitterly cold, truncated version of the event. T.I.v6 was another wash out. However; things began to switch around after that.

T.I.v8 started out right after a night of angry thunderstorms, and I was sure that it was headed down the storm drain as another version which was to be wiped out by wet weather. I was wrong. It actually turned out to be a rather great version, and who could ever forget the valiant Braun Brothers attempt at a sub 24 hour Trans Iowa? Then at V10, we nearly were derailed again during the evening with a squall line of thunderstorms that sent riders scattering into abandoned barns and farm houses. However, after a two to three hour delay, of sorts, the event was contested to the bitter end with 19 finishers crossing the line.

Odd numbered years were hailed as being the ones to attend with great weather and high finishing rates. And again- it seemed that this was the rule. T.I.v1 was very sunny, but folks forget the horrendous winds and frigid night time temps. But after that, V3, V5, and V9 probably had the best weather Trans Iowa has ever had. I still say V3 was the best, but regardless, those three versions stand out as being some of the best April weather Trans Iowa has ever enjoyed. V7 wasn't bad, but it wasn't stellar either. Cloudy, somewhat cool, but obviously a great weather day compared to the "even years".

Trans Iowa V9 was marked by tranquil, warm weather during the day.
Now we're looking at an odd year, which is supposed to be a good weather year. I've been saying that sooner or later an odd year would be not so nice. Well, it would appear that this year just may be that year. 

The weather forecast looks rather, well.......shall we say wet? It doesn't look to be a whole day affair, but it will be cold, (50-ish), windy, (E-NE at 20-ish), and that will all translate to a tough day riding in the boondocks. Oh........and the night time low looks to be around freezing. That'll be fun, won't it? Definitely does not fit into the "odd years are good" theory. It definitely doesn't play into the sub-24 hour Trans Iowa finish wheelhouse either. Nope. I do not expect to see that happen this year.

This is shaping up to be a Trans Iowa that just might be a super tough one. At least from the standpoint of the weather. I know the course will be tough, but this "wild card" that is about to be played should amp things up just a hair, I think. Want to listen in and follow along? Check out Trans Iowa Radio HERE. The riders will be calling in, and Ben Welnak will be out in the field driving around getting interviews and more. This will be a well covered Trans Iowa from that standpoint. The best Trans Iowa Radio production ever attempted. That said, do not expect every rider to be talked about, reported on, or tracked. We don't plan on doing that, but you could encourage that rider you care about to use the call in number. That would be the way to do it.

One more post for tomorrow and then I'm out for the weekend. Stay tuned to's Trans Iowa Radio page, linked above, Twitter by following the hashtag #TIv11, or myself- @guitarted1961. or at the Riding Gravel Facebook page. I'll not be posting anything here after tomorrow until maybe Sunday.

Well..........maybe sooner, depending upon that weather wild card!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Answers To Anticipated Questions

Okay, it is Wednesday, and time to answer some questions I get every year before anyone asks them again this year. See......I aim to please! Why waste valuable time and energy asking me the same ol' questions again when you can just look at this post and be satisfied with answers without any effort on your part besides reading!

Now I'd call that a fair deal! Here we go......

  • So, how are things going for Trans Iowa? - Well, you know.......busy! But that said, everything is coming together far!
  • So, how many did you get signed up this time? I have always had a certain number "sign up", but through injuries, life happenings, and what not, not all will show up. Hopefully these folks all have let me know, but right now we have 97 riders out of an original 120 that signed up and two Volunteer Exemption Riders. By the way, there will be less than that at the start line. We always get a few "no-shows". 
  • So, do you need anymore volunteers? Nope! I don't. Thanks to all who have stepped forward and have heard back from me that I have jobs for ya. That I have to turn down volunteers is amazing and a huge blessing as this beast has gotten pretty intense from the standpoint of facilitating the challenge. 
  • So, where can we go to see the event? Can we check out the course? No. I do not allow spectators nor do I provide details on where the course is going. Only Trans Iowa Riders are provided with cue sheets to navigate with and a couple of us that are helping with the event have these cues. We will not tell you anything about the course or where it is going unless cleared by Guitar Ted personally.
  • So, can we hang out at checkpoints to see the racers? No. In fact, other than Checkpoint #1, which will obviously be leaked information Friday night after cues are handed out, we will not tell anyone where the remote, rural location of Checkpoint #2 is. Not even CP#1 volunteers will have knowledge of where it is. The CP#2 location is literally just a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. There is no parking, no facilities, and therefore we do not want, and can not allow anyone to be clogging things up by hanging out there. 
  • So, is there anyway we can follow the event? Yes! Check out the Trans Iowa Radio site which is part of HERE.
  • So, where is the finish line? Can we come to that? YES! The finish is at the barn located approximately 3 miles West of Grinnell. The easiest way to get there is to take I-80 West from Grinnell to Exit for County T-38 and go North. Approximately a quarter mile North of the exit, T-38 bears left, but right at this point there is a gravel road to the East named Jacob Avenue. Take this right turn, go around a left hand corner in the gravel road and then look to your right. You should see a red barn with several vehicles parked up the road leading to it. On your left will be the Nature Center which you should park your car at and walk down to the barn. By the way, that Nature center is also the only restroom facility in the area that the public can use. The barn will be going strong from just before sunrise Sunday till 2:00pm when it will all be over with. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Something Offbeat

Things will be changing here soon.........
Well, I figured that all this Trans Iowa nonsense needed a break on the blog, so I have a bit of an update on a project I am working on involving the Blackborow.

The project will be a bit of a slow moving one because everything I need to gather together for this will be expensive stuff and will take time to source and pay for. So far there is a wheel set, and there is a fork coming as well. Then I have to get some drive train parts.

The "old" bits are not going anywhere, by the way. Oh no! I will definitely be keeping this dingle speed set up for Winter and maybe for some other stuff as well. The dingle speed thing is fun, and it works well for me. I was skeptical about the gearing range, but I worked into it and so far so good.

I know I'm being all cagey and whatnot, but I am not ready to go with more than this until I get some of these parts in and am ready to go assemble this bike idea I have. It should be really good, but that's all I'm gonna say for now. That's the break from Trans Iowa stuff for now.......

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: A Big Hurdle Overcome

My view for most of the weekend
The cues are printed. That's a huge relief for me to be able to write. A lot goes into the production of these cue sheets and a lot of combined efforts are needed to gather the information and verify the data's accuracy. All of that comes to a head when I push the button to print. That process takes a while in itself, since I do everything "in house", literally, since it costs a lot less for me to do it that way.

The ol' printer is accurate and does a great job of printing, but it is sloooooow. How slow? You may be surprised to find out that I have about 13 hours on the printer just to do the cue sheets. It isn't like I can throw a switch and walk away either, since the paper tray can only handle maybe 20 sheets of card stock at a crack. That means I have to be around to keep the thing fed. I've learned how to do that so the printer never stops as well, which saves a little bit of time.

I know, many of you are probably thinking I should do something or another to save time, or make this more efficient. The thing is, I save a lot of money by doing this myself. Time? Yes, it costs me a lot of time. In this case, pretty much an entire weekend of free time was eaten up by this process, but I cannot afford to print these at a printer for anything near as cheap as I can do this at home. I know, because we used to have Trans Iowa cue sheets printed at a printer in the early years. That's when we only had 50 folks to provide cues for. And it was still far more expensive then than it is now for me to do it for almost twice as many people. So save your ideas unless they are super cheap to do.

At any rate, I now have to only do a bit of chopping, bagging, and packing then I can comfortably say Trans Iowa v11 is pretty much ready to go. There is the outstanding 76 miles of the end of the course that we didn't get to look at last weekend. I have a plan to check that out along with the bit to CP#1 on Friday before the Pre-Race Meat-Up, just to make sure there are no surprises.

Then the only thing we have to worry about is the weather. Of course, it rained heavily all over the course Saturday and Sunday. That said, it looks like we are to have several days of sunny skies before the event and no rain. If that happens, it should dry things up nicely, but it will be rather cool, with night time temperatures to dip below freezing a few nights coming up, which will delay drying somewhat. I really don't expect that we will have water or wetness issues coming into the event though. Whether that holds up for the weekend is still not 100% known yet, but things look to stay dry throughout the weekend right now.

Finally, I want to apologize to the readers here that are not so into Trans Iowa, but if you've been here long, you know that this is the time of year that Trans Iowa dominates the blog postings for a couple of weeks here. Stay tuned.......

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: On Track But Getting Derailled Again!

Getting sidetracked by Trans Iowa- Maybe worse than a flat tire!
Well, I've been really pleased with the riding of late. The last time I checked in I had just done the Renegade Gent's Race and had felt really good. The next weekend was the Geezer Ride and I was really happy with how that went. The next step would be taking some longer rides, and I sure would like to, but, ya see.......I have this little race to put on.

Honestly, Trans Iowa is one of the main reasons I don't usually sign up for Dirty Kanza or the Almanzo 100, as well. They come just a bit too close on the heels of the grind I put in for Trans Iowa. Doing any sort of meaningful training is pretty much out of the question the week beforehand. The week afterward I am emotionally drained while trying to get back to some semblance of a decent backlog of repairs at work. That brings me right into May with an almost two week time period where all I can get done is commute to work and back.

I suppose I'll have to chalk it up to a period of "rest" for the body. (<===HA!) It is what it is. I sure hope that I can put together a few long rides in the few weeks I'll have left to me before I hop in a truck and head down to Emporia. I'll have to make the best of things in the meantime.

Tamland call up to duty......
Equipment Choices:

Well, I still have to decide what bike to ride, so I have made a decision to swap the WTB rims/tires from the Vaya over to the Tamland and ride that bike in the event. I'm going to carry water bottles, I think, and I can easily get four on the bike, five if I think I need to. The race intel is that there will be "oasis" stops in between the start and the first checkpoint and between there and the final check point. That means I should be able to count on four refill opportunities. I figure on consuming a bottle per hour.  Maybe a bit more. I should be okay with this plan if I stay within a pace that I can maintain without burning myself to a crisp.

And that may not be avoidable, depending upon the weather which, if very hot, will roast me and it will make things very interesting, that's for sure! Heat and I do not have a very successful relationship when it comes to longer rides.  I have slogged through a few, so it isn't like it is impossible for me to do it, but the margin of error becomes very thin indeed when the temperatures soar and I need to do big miles.

Well, I don't expect I'll have another update on the Dirty Kanza for a while.......