Sunday, April 30, 2006

Trans Iowa V2 Re Cap

Here it is! The story of this year's Trans Iowa V2 race. Get your favorite beverage handy! This is going to be a loooong post!

To say that this year's event was going to be affected by the weather was just a mild understatement! It was dominated by the weather. To understand exactly what happened, we need to examine the situation from earlier in the month. When April started, we were getting several storms with heavier amounts of rain dropped over southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. This ended up causing widespread flooding across the state of Iowa. The week to ten day period previous to Trans Iowa looked promising for the event; however, because we enjoyed summer-like temperatures and dry days. This served to get the surface dry, but the water tables had not had time to drain down properly. At least they were not ready for what happened this weekend!

A high pressure system parked itself above the eastern U.S. and blocked the passage of weather systems for a few days. It coincided with Trans Iowa weekend, which turned out to be all of our undoings. The skies opened up over the course on Thursday night. The rain continued unabated throughout the weekend from there. By the time of the race start, the ground, which still hadn't fully recovered from the rains earlier in the month, were totally saturated with water. Rain was forming in pools, rivulets, and lakes all over northern Iowa.

This had a very negative effect on the "B" roads especially. The "B" roads are, in reality, just dirt. There often is no drainage systems in place and in a couple of instances, no ditches to gather rain water. Iowa dirt forms some of the stickiest, thickest, pastiest stuff I've ever seen. It gets stuck onto any metal or rubber surfaces and holds on for dear life! This made these sections of the course that I had intended to be hindrances to the "speedier" bikes into unrideable quagmires. In fact, you couldn't even walk in them! The mud litterally would suck the shoes off your feet!

Not only was this a race killer, but the gravel itself was so engorged with water, that it became much like riding on a beach. The rolling resistance was unreal. Western Iowa has the distinction of having a high amount of glacial till type gravel. High in granite and quartz content, it's ground up consistency being most like sand. In the eastern part of the state, we have mostly limestone gravel roads, which are more like concrete when wet. In fact, our gravel out here gets faster in many cases when it has been rained on! Unfortunately, the riders got no where near the eastern part of the state!

What this all meant was that the riders could not meet the minimum speed requirements to allow them to make it to Algona Checkpoint before six in the evening on Saturday. This was the reason the event was over yesterday. We made every effort to get the competitors something for their efforts by raffling off any of the prizes donated to us by our generous sponsors to the remaining folks that showed up in Algona to retrieve their drop bags. Everyone was very complimentary towards the event, and Jeff and I. We say "Thank You!" and we were proud to be associated with such fine atheletes. Everyone seemed to be very understanding of the plight that we were all being subjected to. That just shows me again how cool the endurance racing crowd is. I was again impressed.

The pre race meeting: Once again, the Pizza Ranch in Hawarden made out like bandits- as well they should have- by hosting our humble little pre-race meeting. I was glad to see that the racers and their supporters took advantage of the food on offer and spent their hard earned dollars there. The folks that live and work in Hawarden are some very fine people and they deserved our support for hosting this event's start. I heard similar goodwill stories from the folks staying at the various host family houses and from the folks down at the new Super 8 motel. Makes me feel proud to be an Iowan, it does! (sniff!) Ah- I digress! Anyway, a special thanks to David Nice from Colorado for lending us a hand in getting the drop bags readied before the meeting. Thanks! After everyone ate, we had a quick Q and A session, and then we called everyone up for the bags. We were a bit surprised by the 19 no shows! I knew the weather would be a detriment to people showing up, but I didn't think that many would drop out! After the end of the meeting, everyone scurried off to their beds for whatever shut eye they could muster before the early morning start.

The Race Start: Jeff and I tossed and turned all night with the jitters. We weren't helped out by the fact that our host home had the World's Loudest Toilet in the bathroom downstairs where we slept. That thing sounded like it was powered by a jet engine! Anyway, we popped out of the sack at 2:30 am, got our clothes on and bolted for the nearest convenience store so that Jeff could procure his requisite "black goodness" fix before our 3am arrival at the West Sioux High School parking lot. I haven't been so wide awake in a high school parking lot at that time of the morning since.......well..... Another story for another time! At any rate, Jeff and I were ready to go. The racers started showing up shortly afterward. The lights were kindled on their helmets and handlebars, and we lined up to head out at 4am. sharp. As I tooted the horn to signify the start of the race, I noticed that Aerosmith's song Back in the Saddle Again was blaring out of my radios speakers. How fitting! The winds that had been forcast were nothing but breezes and we had a fine mist spewing in our faces, but it seemed fine to us. Spirits were pretty high, and hope was still in good supply.

The Early Stages Until Morning: The roll out was three miles on pavement before I pulled the van off and the racers made the left hand turn onto the first gravel section. The event soon saw a small lead group go off the front containing about eight riders. In the darkness, it was quite impossible to tell who they were, but they had several minutes advantage on the main field by the 20 mile mark. The conditions were steady, and the pace that the leaders were setting was a bit torrid for a 340 mile event. It was my opinion at the time that this lead group would either disintegrate or be absorbed again by the main field later in the event. However; I hadn't seen what effect the "B" road sectors were going to have. I would change my opinion!

Attack of the Killer Bees!: I was pleased with the way the event was unfolding until I saw how long it took for the race leaders to traverse that first section of "B" road. These guys were reletively fresh and excellent riders, yet they had been slowed tremendously by the first mile of "B" road. I chalked it up to having it be so dark when they hit that muddy mess. There was another "B" road section at about dawn. I thought that this would prove to be a better guage of things to come. I was aware that there was worse to come, and the racers weren't. I was hoping the onset of dawn would help them out by allowing them to pick better lines through the "B" roads. My concerns were growing as each minute passed with no riders in sight. Finally, I saw a few guys coming up the road, but the time that had passed by was putting a finish in Algona by 6pm. in jeapordy. The lead group was about eight or nine riders strong. They still had several minutes lead on another slightly larger group. It didn't really matter though, because only the lead group had any prayer of getting to the check point in time to continue onwards to Decorah. The race was over for the other 37 riders and we were only 45 miles into the event!

The Final Cut: The end came quickly for the rest of the field. At the town of Paulina, Iowa, many riders realized that it was already over for them and they packed it in. Probably a wise choice, because the next twelve miles to Sutherland, Iowa proved to be the undoing of everyone else in the event! That twelve miles had 4.5 miles of "B" road that must have been walking speed only as it took our lead group just over two hours to cover that distance. Hope was gone. The event was, for all intents and purposes, over at this point. No one was going to make that nearly 100 miles that were left to get into Algona by six in the evening. Not with the extreme effort that had been put out already. Several of the lead group decided to try to race for Algona anyway. We agreed that we would bestow prizing upon anyone that could roll into Algona by using the course laid out on their bike.

Crazy Canadians! While Jeff and I watched the lead group plow it's way through the last "B" road sector, we noticed that there were two extra fellows tagging along in the back. They turned out to be none other than Dallas Sigurdur and Lindsey Gauld who were the Canadian counterparts to Paddy Hummeny, who had been grinding along in the front for most of the event. An amazing bridge up! Lindsey and Dallas had been no where to be seen just ten miles back and here they were! Paddy was suffering badly from a respitory ailment that he had been battling for a week, so he pulled the plug, along with three others from the lead group, in Sutherland. Dallas and Lindsey kept grinding, and soon, they were the only two left standing. At the 119 mile mark, in Mallard, Iowa, they finally pulled out. It was about seven in the evening, and no one was going to get to Algona. The Crazy Canadians gave it their all, but the course and the forces of nature conspired to beat all challengers this year!

Thoughts and Musings: I suppose that some folks would tend to look at this and think that it is all a failure. Well, that would be a tragic miscalculation on their part. If anything, this years event was a rsounding success. Jeff and I made some tweaks to the event since last year, and they worked out beautifully. The participants in the event seemed to understand fully the reasons for the way things turned out and accepted that gracefully. I met sevearl new people and got to experience several new things. I think several of the event participants would agree. Will there be another Trans Iowa- a Trans Iowa V3? Hmm........yet to be determined! Give us a rest and Jeff and I will decide later. Whatever the outcome, I have had a great time doing the previous two Trans Iowas, and I have learned alot!

Look for picture and the stories to go with them in the days ahead!

No comments: