Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Looking Ahead

Checking out the Gryphon and clearing the head
So, it is time to move on and start looking at some other stuff coming up on the horizon. Yesterday I mentioned the next Geezer Ride, which is free, by the way. I think I forgot to mention that part. Anyway, in regard to that, I needed to pick out a bicycle for the ride, so I was thinking about going single speed again, like I did for the last one. Only this time, maybe without having a flat tire!

So, I grabbed the Singular Gryphon and put a little extra sealant in the tires, spruced it up a bit, and rode it into work and back yesterday to see how it was. I took the long way home, and I noticed that the computer on there seemed, well........off. Maybe I am that slow though. Hmm..... Seemed like I was outrunning a couple of geared cyclists I came across though, so I don't know. Maybe we're all slow! I'll have to do a roll out and recalibrate, just for good measure.

But beyond that, I forgot how odd 180mm cranks feel. My Pofahl single speed has that length on it as well, which was the bike I rode in the last Geezer Ride. I forget how long the stroke feels at first. It is a sensation that you get used to pretty quickly, at least I do, but after being off that long of a crank arm for so long, it felt really odd yesterday morning. By my afternoon ride though, I couldn't really feel that longer stroke. I did notice my cadence went down a bit though. Gotta work on spinning that bigger circle a bit better.

And this ol' girl is going back to Odin's Revenge
Odin's Revenge is also coming up next month, so I thought a bit about which rig I would take over there. I've had the Gen I Fargo at that event before and I have done okay with it. The 'mud-fest" year was the last time I rode it there and at the time, I had a test post from Cirrus Cycles on it. It was a Body Float post, and it worked really well at Odin's. So, I took off the Body Float which was on the Ti Muk all Winter and I popped it over to the Gen I Fargo. I went for a quick ride, and it felt perfect, just like it did back two years ago.

I think that test/review post was a carbon fiber shafted one, but this one I bought is a titanium shafted one, which will also have a bit of give with as much extension as it has. I think this and the Luxy Bar, with better gearing than the bike had last time out there, will be a great choice for Odin's rough, long course. I probably won't run the frame bag out there. No need to carry anything but water and food at that event, typically. Water is super important, and the old Fargo can pack on lots of water. Six bottles and that's not including any I might put in a Chaff Bag or a jersey pocket. No need for a top tube bag mounted water bladder/hose arrangement, although that might prove easier to use and which may make me drink more often.

The Body Float post is really nice.
The Body Float post should help to keep me fresh and do that odd little thing it does to keep that rear wheel digging when the climbs are bumpy or if the ground gets greasy from moisture. I hope to do some long ride testing with this set up before the event, so I'll have time to dial things in.

I decided against the Fat Fargo because Odin's is a long, hot, tough event, and those wheels are heavier than these XC oriented ones which have done well out at Odin's before. I think the Fat Fargo wheels did me well in the loose, powdery dust out there, but slogging up climbs was harder than it needed to be. The Gen I Fargo wheels should prove to be much better for the hills out there. Deep dust, well that should work out okay, and with a promised different course, who knows what we will get out there.

Oh......and I am working on a special build. This new rig isn't even for me! I am acquiring the bits and pieces for this rig now, and I should have something to show here in a bit if the parts show up as promised. So, stay tuned to see what that might be.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Geezer Ride News

Tony McGrane at the last Geezer Ride in 2015
Hey folks! It's time to talk about another Geezer Ride! This one starts in North English, Iowa at the parking lot East of the Casey's Convenience store.

Go HERE to see the Ride Page which has a link to the route we are taking. This ride was designed by my gravel riding buddy, Marty, who has done a few of my rides in the past. This should be a good time. Let's review here just what the heck a "Geezer Ride" is all about.....

  • It's NOT A RACE. It is about FUN and GOOD TIMES on bicycles on gravel roads. 
  • It is a NO DROP RIDE. If you are slow, come on along anyway. We will literally stop as many times as it takes to make sure we don't leave anyone behind. Because of this, plan on not getting back till probably between 3:00-4:00 pm at the latest. Sooner if we get a good group that has more speed, but I figure the earliest we will get back is 2:00pm. 
  • The distance is a little longer this time! The planned route is 55 miles. There will be a stop at a Casey's at about mile 40 or so. Bring your money/debit card/credit card!!
  • NO SAG!! This is a self-supported, self-sufficient ride. Start by having enough water and food to go 40 miles!!
  • Did I mention this is for FUN?

The Course:

Well, since Marty came up with this, I really will be along for the ride on this one! That said, he did let on about a few things when he described this to me.

One- it will go through some Amish territory. So, we may see some horse and buggy action, some Amish farms, and what not. Secondly, Marty promised some awesome Level B road he's been itching for me to see for a while now.

Finally, he designed the course to stay away from the monster hills that I am aware of in this area. Now that is not to say that the course is flat. It is not, but it does have some flattish sections and the rollers are pretty average. I looked at the course profile and there are a few big climbs, but again- we will wait for stragglers! 

Okay, so that's about it. Again, we will ride at 8:00am, so please be on time if you are headed down. I already know of a few riders committed to coming to this, so there should be a good number of riders on the route. plus, the weather is forecast to be gorgeous.

Hope to see you there! Please comment if you think you may be coming or if you have any questions!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Thank You

Greg Gleason, (red headlamp) and Walter Zitz coming in to the "observation point" 60 miles from the finish
This will pretty much be the wrap up for my Trans Iowa v12 posts this year. Of course, I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and here is the list that I came up with. In no particular order.... I wanna thank you.

  • It's a great success when no one gets seriously injured. So, it wasn't a total success on that front, with that shoulder separation, but there wasn't anything else I am aware of, and for that I am very thankful. This is usually my number one concern about putting on Trans Iowa. 
  • The weather was about as opposite this year as it was last year. Yes......who wouldn't be thankful for that? 
  • Volunteers: I had AWESOME volunteers this year, and I never had to put out the word to get them. Everyone stepped up to the plate and did far and beyond what I could have hoped or asked for. I am beyond thankful for that. Thanks to Alex Poulos, Patrice Parsons, Paul Toigo, Jon Duke, Celeste Mathias, John Mathias, Mike Baggio, Andy Tetmeyer, Steve Fuller, Jeremy Fry, Robert Fry, Dave Roll, Todd Southworth, Mike Johnson, Tony McGrane, and anyone else that assisted along the way.
  • The Grinnell Steakhouse: Wow, these folks are so nice and accommodating to me and the volunteers. You guys are the best! Thank you for the use of the room and all you do. 

MG gettin' his gravel freak on.

Thanks to Matt Gersib, in particular, for driving me around this year. It was such a great day, night, and day with him, and the easing of the load on me was huge. I felt bad Saturday Night/Sunday morning when MG was driving. He looked pretty beat, and I know that time was a struggle. Thanks Brother! You are the best!  

This was the sixth time we've been to the Grinnell Steakhouse for the pre-race meeting.
Thank you to the Grinnell Steakhouse. For six years they have done me a great favor and kindness. Go there for succulent meat and great service. They are good people. 

The start line of T.I.v12
Thanks to the 84 riders that showed up, gave it their all, and made Trans Iowa v12 one for the record books. In no particular order, here is a list of "firsts", and if I miss anything, please let me know in the comments. 
  • First time we've had "co-winners" for a complete Trans Iowa. We've had "co-winners" for a shortened event once before.
  • First time we've had a fat bike finish a Trans Iowa. Balvindar Singh took that honor this year. 
  • First time we've had a Japanese finisher in Keisuke Inoue.
  • First time anyone has seriously threatened the 24hr barrier. Walter Zitz and Greg Gleason came in at 24:01. The previous best Trans Iowa finishes have both been at 25 hours. Consider also that Zitz and Gleason beat second place by over an hour this year!! 
  • Janna Vavra has the most T.I. finishes of any women at three. She was also the first women to finish a T.I. 
  • Longest completed Trans Iowa ever at 340+ miles. I do not have an exact mileage due to the slight variation introduced by the reroute which added a little to the original 339.9 miles. 
  • Most finishers ever at 47! That's more than half the starting field and nearly what the entire field was in several previous Trans Iowa events! 
  • First time a father-son has finished the same Trans Iowa event. Al and Travis Brunner both nabbed finishes at T.I.v12. They may be the only father-son duo to have finished any T.I., but I haven't checked on that yet. I think that is true though. 
Couldn't do it without these two guys.
To Wally Kilburg and George Keslin- Thank you! These two are the linchpins of Trans Iowa's prep and imagery production. Two fantastic guys that I have had the distinct privilege to have gotten to know. Thanks isn't enough.

Bikes To You/Craig Cooper: Thank you so much for all of your behind the scenes help and friendship. Many people have no idea how helpful you really are to Trans Iowa and myself. Thanks!!

Thanks to Mike Johnson and Amy Jardon for printing the cues. Thanks for their help also and Dave Roll and Jeremy Fry's for bagging them. What a load taken off by you folks!

Thanks to the anonymous donor of the stickers, hats, and banner for T.I.v12. 

 Thanks to Ben Welnak for facilitating Trans Iowa Radio. I think he posted over 114 calls!!

Thanks for the great sponsors! WTB, Velocity USA, Lederman Bonding, and the Slender Fungus.

Okay, that's a wrap for Trans Iowa v12. Thanks for putting up with this over the past couple of weeks. Now it's time to return to my regularly scheduled blogging!

Trans Iowa v12: Photograph

When it comes to Trans Iowa, the event has been very fortunate to have attracted some really talented image takers. Going way back to T.I.v3's David Story, and all the way up to now with Wally Kilburg, Trans Iowa has enjoyed some stellar image production. Along the way there have been others like Steve Fuller, George Keslin, Jason Boucher, Celeste Mathias, and various staff photographers from newspapers and cycling brands. I have been also wowed by images taken by the riders themselves at times, with some of these being my all time favorites from over the years.

That said, I don't think anyone has done a front to back coverage of a Trans Iowa version as well as Wally Kilburg has done this year. So here we go with Photograph: The Trans Iowa v12 gallery of shots I liked best from Wally Kilburg.

Greg Gleason and Sarah Cooper: I am so honored to have these two, and all the other fine athletes, come to Trans Iowa
The first Sunrise: It wasn't the kind of light a photographer likes to work with, but Wally aced this one. 
I think the way Spring has aligned with Trans Iowa this year was showing Iowa at one of its most beautiful stages.
Wally literally got in the ditch to get this great low angle shot.
Greg Gleason (L) and Walter Zitz cross the line at 4:01 am to take the win.
Sarah Cooper took the Womens title for T.I.v12
I feel Wally really captured Greg Gleason's personality with this portrait shot.
Wally catches the leaders leaving CP#1 by framing the shot between me (L) and Tony McGrane, one of T.I.v12's volunteers.
I love this shot of WTB's Will Ritchie. Again, it really captures Will's personality well.
One of Trans Iowa's unsung heroes- George Keslin, who does all the driving for Spring recon and for Wally when he is photographing the events.
Okay- this is awesome. It is 270th in Tama County, and you can see where MG drove me up if you look closely. 
Greg and Walter at Sunset on Saturday night in Marshall County.
Wally took a lot of shots on this Level B, but this one of Ben Oney just really does it for me.
Same Level B as above, and this one was my second favorite from this area.
We saw dozens of pheasants this year. Wildlife sightings are one of my favorite things about Trans Iowa.
Many riders knocked off a T.I. finish after several failed attempts. Vin Cox came from the UK three times to finally get his finish.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Stop This Game

When I started this series on Trans Iowa v12 I mentioned that there was a lot of behind the scenes drama this time. Well, there was and some of it was pretty dismaying. It is a side of Trans Iowa I usually don't talk about, but I think it is high time to have a little "full disclosure".  Everything has its bad side, its negatives, and things that aren't all that fun to deal with. Here's a list of things from this edition of Trans Iowa.   

First off, I was made aware that an individual that came to Trans Iowa to help support a rider was, well......drunk and out of order. So much so that this individual was being inappropriate to others and got "sick" in a public hot tub at a motel where other riders were staying for the event. I heard from a good friend that went down to use this hot tub that it was a complete mess and that there was even more vomit spread elsewhere in a public area. A worker at the motel was so upset that they were crying as they had to clean up the mess.


Besides the completely obvious, many don't know that I sign a contract with the motels to guarantee the room blocks get filled up which has a clause about damages to rooms which I could be liable for. In this instance, it was a mess made in the common area, but still..... Just stop it already! This isn't high school prom or a college beer party. Grow up! Sheesh.....This is something that needs to be discussed and I am going to put it out there in the hopes that with the knowledge that stuff like this is going on, maybe the gravel cycling community can police itself and knock this nonsense off.

The scene at CP#1
Okay, so then after the Meat-Up, I find out someone is missing a page out of their cue sheets. Bah! Well, we had extras and I hit the fellow up at the start line with a spare. No problem. But then after CP#1, we had a guy missing pages in his set of cues. He hooked up with a following rider, then we had no further issues with cue sheets, but you start worrying, you know.

Then at Deep River some of the riders were being approached by an emergency vehicle on a gravel road just outside of the village and did not yield the road way. Look.....red lights, sirens blaring.... You get the hell out of the way, right? I'm sorry, but this is unacceptable behavior. It really bugs me that people would not take a few seconds to just get out of the way. It's not going to affect the ride and their time. There is no excuse. Had I seen it, I would have DQ'ed the offending riders right then and there.

Well, that wasn't the end of it, as I had to apologize to the Deep River head of the EMS department which was necessary, but only because of some boneheaded riders actions. We're better than this folks. Really, we are.

Contested ground at Checkpoint #2
Next up was some tense moments at the location of Checkpoint #2 when we set up to receive the riders. Of course, we had the issue with the re-route, but that was well in hand. The Checkpoint seemed a benign deal, until we were approached by a local farmer, who was concerned that we were along the lines of what they normally see around there. Folks that tear up the dirt road with their cars, turn around on their land, and then get stuck. Finally, these nere do wells approach their farm asking for a pull out of the mud. Well, there also was the issue of "parking on their land", amongst other things. We were able to assuage the farmer's fears, and after some discussions, we were on good terms. But, that could have gone poorly and we may have had some problems with our checkpoint location. Even though we were on a public roadway. In the end, it was not a big deal, but it added to the stress levels.

Then we had a volunteer's wife get ill back home and she had to be taken to the hospital. That volunteer was released to go back home immediately, of course, but we were very concerned for that situation during the remainder of Saturday and Sunday. I should say that everything turned out well with them, so no worries now. 

I should also mention that we had a rider hit a large dog, go down, and separate his shoulder. More bad stuff to deal with, but again, it worked out okay and we were able to move along. Things went smoothly Saturday afternoon, night, and Sunday, until we couldn't track down a couple of riders. One called the wrong number to DNF, and the other forgot. That happens every year, but on top of the rest of the stuff that happened, it was not what I was looking forward to at the end of a long weekend.

I felt inside my brain like Josh Lederman felt here at the end of T.I.v12
Then there is the usual let down at the end of any Trans Iowa. Most of you have no idea what I go through, but after all the hoopla, stress, and worry of any Trans Iowa, I find myself alone and completely exhausted at the finish line area. It is really, really tough on me, not only physically, but mentally. It is a time I usually have to fight my demons and try to stay "up". This sometimes carries on for only an hour or so, but sometimes it can be a couple of days. These days, depression is talked about a lot more than it used to be, so I don't mind saying that I find post-Trans Iowa a time that can be a real struggle with that. This year things were compounded when on the Tuesday after the event my Grandmother died.

So, when you see me writing or hear me talking about not thinking about a future Trans Iowa, or maybe even talking about it not happening, maybe, ever again, that is real. I'm not joking, and these things I have outlined today all contribute to that feeling that I just want out. Stop this game. Walk away. Be free.

This isn't a post many of you thought you'd ever expect me to write about Trans Iowa. However; it is a side of putting this on that has always been there. Every year there is some level of drama, life happenings, and stress and yes- depression- that happens with this deal. It is a side of Trans Iowa that hasn't "won out" yet, but I have struggled mightily with it over the years. I figured it was about time to just get that out there.

Now you know.

Next: Photograph

Friday, April 29, 2016

Trans Iowa V12: American Horse

Me with Travis (L) and Al Brunner. The first father-son combo to finish in the same T.I.
Yesterday I spoke about the heroes that are unsung in Trans Iowa, and there are more than I mentioned. However; like I said, this is about T.I.v12 stuff that has struck me as being cool, important, or noteworthy.

One of those things is the event itself. I heard from a few folks before, during, and afterward about what they feel makes Trans Iowa so special. Many have picked up on the vibe and have commented on how they appreciated me keeping the thing strict to its roots and values. It isn't an easy ship to steer in this sort of "get bigger and better" culture. Not that some events and event directors haven't been successful doing that, because clearly, they have. I guess it just is defined by what you term as "success". Success, in regards to Trans Iowa, doesn't look anything like "bigger and better" and it never could.

I won't get into the reasons why I feel Trans Iowa couldn't be bigger and better, but I will say that it remains different, and I don't think anyone can disagree on that point. My wife, Mrs Guitar Ted, and I were discussing this just the other day. You can find a lot of events that are just big time deals, or that grow every year till they are that "big time deal", and with that, certain amenities are added, features are added, and many times that starts to cost the entrant more money. Hopefully the services rendered and experiences gained are worth the cash outlay. At least, that's the hope, and the sincere desire, of the promoters.

CP#2: Nuthin' fancy, but it gets the job done.
It is rare to find the event that doesn't get bigger, better, or change all that much. It is rare to find that event which has a spirit and feel that remain true year to year, and that hasn't changed going all the way back to its inception. My point to Mrs. Guitar Ted was that this is something that resonates with a few folks. You can't bottle it and sell it. Although, people will try to do that for you. People will try to nudge you into making it "bigger and better". So far, I think I've resisted that urge.

The event known as Trans Iowa isn't the only one that is like this, by any means, and there are great events doing similar things to Trans Iowa. They are out there keeping that steady hand, not changing, and attracting those that don't want that spit shined, polished event production. Some say it is the "grassroots" American gravel grinding ethos. Maybe it is. Some say these events are not races. Some say that they aren't events at all, because they don't have timing chips, "proper" finish line areas, or prizes. Whatever.

It's maybe a unique, "horse of a different color" kind of thing that you either get or you don't get. Whatever side you find yourself on regarding that view, Trans Iowa is like an American Horse, and its spirit will never be broken as long as I am running it.

Next: Stop This Game

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trans Iowa V12: Heroes

Wally Kilburg, photographer and TI hero, making us look like heroes.
You know, a lot of the time we tend to focus on the winners, or the people we think are steering the ship in an organization, team, or event. However; in any endeavor, I am of the opinion that there are unsung heroes. People that have much more importance than we may know.

There are time limits in Trans Iowa, and as many of you know, if you miss them, you are done, in terms of the event. It was set up this way to weed out slower folks and so we wouldn't have to be standing at the finish line and checkpoints waiting on riders for hours and hours. We have jobs and families, so waiting until Monday morning for you to finish is not an option. By missing a checkpoint, you don't get cues for the next section, so your ride is essentially done. However, back in T.I.v8, a few riders figured out that if they made checkpoint two, the last one, that they could finish on the route despite missing the 2:00pm cut off time.

Since then we've had probably at least one person a year, with exception of last year, that came in far past the cut off time. So it was to be again this year. Three folks who gutted it out, despite knowing that they had no chance of getting an "official finish".

A couple of heroes, just for one day. Image by Jon Vandis.
Two of these folks were first timers to the event. Crystal Wintle and Jon Vandis. Thinking about that, it occurs to me that if you, or most anyone else I know of, were knowingly going to fall short of a challenge, especially one so tough, I think most of us would just throw in the towel. I mean, why torture yourself? 

I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that when I drove away from T.I.v12's finish area, it was just as we left it. A nice green park. No traces of Trans Iowa ever having been there were evident, yet here these two are, smiling like champions where that finish line was for them. They reached the end of the cues, and took away a personal satisfaction that they had just knocked off 340 miles in one sitting. Amazing! Truly heroic.

There were three of these folks though, like I said before, and perhaps the last fellow out on the course of T.I.v12 is the most curious, in a way.

Scott McConnell coming to the intersection of E 84th St N & HWY 14
His name is Scott McConnell. A past Tour Divide finisher, Scott has finished outside the time limit at Trans Iowa three times now. Three. That's absolutely incredible, and I'll tell you why....

Just the other day a few of us were remarking on how the fast guys are out there for what? 24 hours to 30 hours? Okay, so taking that into account, think about this image of Scott, the last image I took during T.I.v12, well......actually after it was over! Anyway, consider that in this image Scott is still 15 miles out and it is 4:00pm in the afternoon! That's 36 hours folks, and he was battling 20+ mph head winds, heat, fatigue, and still finished the route later that afternoon. 

Now, I don't give out any "Official" recognition for finishing outside the time limits of Trans Iowa. It is a challenge that you either overcome, or that you do not overcome. However; that doesn't mean these folks aren't champions. It doesn't make them "less" for not being on the "official finisher's list", and in many ways, I feel they are the toughest, most determined Trans Iowa riders the event has ever seen. You could call them my heroes.

Heroes, just for one day......

Next: American Horse

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Gypsy Road

 I'm drivin' all night . I end up in the same ol' place.
The second deal that I can think of that was important for me on this- or any- Trans Iowa, is the roads. The condition of them, what they show me, where they take me, and just being out there on them. Sure....being on a bicycle is better, but Trans Iowa has evolved into this roving band of gypsies not only on bicycles, but in the chase vehicles as well.

Now days we have three, sometimes four of us roaming around in cars doing things that are unseen or unknown by the riders. Sometimes the things we're doing are evident. The riders see us out there, sure, but sometimes, unless they are the front runners, they do not see us at all. I would fall into that former category. It's a weird existence for two days, but it also is a great time now. It wasn't always so fun though!

I won't get into it too much, but those years where I was out on my own in the "Dirty Blue Box", or the truck were hard. Really hard. Once David Pals came on board for T.I.v4, I realized that I didn't need to repeat the nearly catastrophic trip I endured coming home from v3, and having someone to hang out with all weekend was fun. After David left Trans Iowa I missed that for a few years, which were the really hard years. Last year I was going fix that by putting MG in the passenger's seat, but v11 was pretty much a bust. So, for v12, MG asked if it would make it easier on me if he drove and I played the role of event director. Wow........that was a great idea! 

Steeper than it looks, really off camber and rutted. Oh....and this is the widest part of the road! It gets narrower on top.

Sometimes we make wrong turns too!
 So, MG brought his wife's Forrester and we put that all wheel drive vehicle to the test. We drove it all the way through 270th in Tama County, which, if you were in Trans Iowa this year, you know was no small feat. For those of you unfamiliar with that "road", and I use that term loosely, it is a dirt scar cut through a ravine and a hillside that is barely wide enough for one small sized car, and has ruts eroded into it which are 4-5 feet deep in spots. Not only that, but the gradient is pretty steep. MG expertly navigated us through this road, and well, we just had to celebrate that fact. A quick pull on the flask for each of us, and then back at it. More miles to go!

Tony and Mike were having their own adventure, and that included a wrong turn on a super muddy Level B that went steeply up a hillside. After some scrambling, Tony realized he had a rear axle lock out and he used it! He revved the 302, dropped in in drive, and all four wheels spat out clay and mud while the truck lurched forward, pitching sideways, jumping in the air, and spurning the earth under its four wheels. It was a sight to behold, and MG and I were cheering like college boys at a bowl game.

My coworker Andy brought down a relatives 1980's era Winnebago and we slept in that Friday night. Just another way Trans Iowa feels like a road trip for me. The whole event, in a way, is like playing hooky on the World for me. Sleeping in strange places, running around in the hinterlands, goofing off, spending time with good people, and just generally dropping out for a while. Sure, there is the event, and running it isn't easy, but playing the part of a wandering soul on a gypsy road is kind of fun for a while.

Next: Heroes