Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Trans Iowa V8: The Start- Wet And Windy!

Coop had the shop open early...
 Trans Iowa V8: The Start- Wet And Windy!

Note: All images by Wally Kilburg and Guitar Ted. Click to make bigger.

April 28th, 2012. 3:30am: I have been up an hour already and am now sitting at the start line of Trans Iowa V8. As usual with this event, a few racers are already there tweaking their bikes, warming up, and generally just milling about. In about ten minutes the area is teaming with blinky lights, LED head lamps, and nervous cyclists readying themselves to go.

Radar showed that the rain was quickly moving away from us. It had in fact, just stopped raining as I pulled up to the start area in front of Bikes To You. The winds were stiff in town and it was 42 degrees on the bank's thermometer. It would be colder and windier in open country. At least it wasn't raining!

I gave myself some time before I started herding the riders behind my truck for the planned controlled roll out. My course was laid out so that we would turn east at the next corner north from the bicycle shop, then go as far east down 5th street as we could before turning north. This road led us out of town, but the chip seal lasted several miles this way. I wasn't sure until I actually was leading out the T.I.V8 peloton where I would peel away and let the race begin.
Ready to roll!

I gave my usual description of the first moments of the event and my "parental sounding warnings" to the riders, which I do every year. Then it was counting down the minutes to 4:00am and the tooting of the horn. This would be the first year the "Truck With No Name" would have that honor. It was the vehicle I purchased with Mrs. Guitar Ted that I had always intended for this task, but David Pals had always wanted to use his Element before. Now that he was gone, my truck was pressed into duty.

Speaking of the truck and David, this reminds me that it was the first Trans Iowa in a long time where I didn't have a partner in the vehicle with me. Last time that happened was T.I.V3. In a way, I had a support person that year with Zach Dundas following along who was writing a book that featured Trans Iowa in one of its chapters. This time there would be no one following along with me either. I was not really thinking about that though, I had other pressing matters on my mind.

"One minute!", I shouted out, and then I got buckled in for what would be a long weekend in a truck on gravel roads. At precisely 4:00am, I tooted two short blasts on the horn and pulled away. Meanwhile I could hear the cheer from the riders and the sparse crowd of onlookers and we were off. Trans Iowa V8 was officially happening. A moment that was months and hours of work in the making was finally happening.

And they're off!

A couple things always strike me at the start of Trans Iowa. First- The moment of the start, for me at least, is much like the start of a sled ride. The moment when you feel gravity clawing at the sled and you know that any sense of control is quickly slipping away as the snow and gravitational pull send you flying downwards. It is exciting, and you know that the moments that are coming in the next 34 hours are going to make for one thrilling, crazy, out of control ride.

All I can do is ride herd best that I can and pray that all goes well. The ducks on my end were all in a row, but there are so many things happening over miles and miles of Iowa gravel roads that I would be foolish to even think I could be in control over them. Trans Iowa is something that gains a life of its own in that time.

The second thing is something much more serene and beautiful. The trail of riders with their lights blazing is a kind of mesmerizing and awe inspiring. The roll out is the only time all the riders are strung out together, and I always crane my neck a few times to get a glimpse of the spectacle. Unfortunately, I have to keep my eyes mostly up the road this year, as I don't have the luxury of having David doing the driving, so my glimpses were brief, yet satisfying.

The first B road came at Mile 29
Well, so much for all of that, I had cleared the city, so I goosed the accelerator and flew up the road and over a hill. The ghostly glow from 67 LED head lamps shone like a moon from behind the first hill in my rear view mirror, then they were gone.

Then the next thing about Trans Iowa starts hits me: the alone feeling. It's kind of jarring, going from the festive atmosphere, the nervousness of the start with all the bright lights, to the dark, brooding Iowa farmlands still lying in sweet slumber. And me, alone in a truck, checking cues and trying not to go into the ditch.

Of course, the route was good to go, I checked it all the day before up to Checkpoint Alpha, but you never know, and I wanted to see how wet and squishy things were after the rains. So, I stopped about 16 miles in and stepped out of the truck on an eastbound stretch of the course. Holy cow! The wind was so strong I had to use both hands to press the door open and get out of the truck. Just as I had surmised, the wind and temperature was worse out here. Bone chilling, wet wind with a 40 degree air temperature being wind chilled by a 26 mph wind with higher gusts. Nice. It may not have been raining, but this wasn't good.

You see, the course went due east for 11 miles over hilly roads. I felt that it might be a deal killer. The roads? They seemed a bit soft, but not bad. However; there was a B Road which might really throw a wrench in the works. I beat it up the road and parked on the entrance to it to wait for the leaders to show up.

And here they come!
It was completely dark when I arrived at the B Road. I decided I wanted to get out and soak in the feeling of the countryside, but after about five minutes of that, I was chilled to the bone. A car passing by stopped and the driver asked if I needed help with anything. I said no, but thanked him as I stood shivering in the wind.

Then I hopped back into the relative shelter of the cab of my truck and squinted through the slowly lightening shades of morning until the darkness had been chased away.

What was left behind was a grey, cold sky and a wet landscape. According to my calculations, the riders must have been going at a slower pace, not to be wondered at, what with that wind. Slowly I could discern a black smudge crawling up the road. The leaders! They were barely doing a 12mph average by my figuring.

Uggh! I wasn't worried about these guys I could see, but my mind was thinking about the back end of the field and was wondering how much slower these conditions were causing them to go. How many would make the checkpoint before 9:30am? I had visions of losing half the field off the top due to the severe conditions. "The Curse" was real, perhaps, after all.

Next: To A New Horizon

1 comment:

Bill G said...

Mark - this is awesome seeing the event from your eyes and comparing them to the visions I had. To be honest I don't even remember the first 50 miles. I remember bits and pieces of it but I could not tell you if it was windy or if I was cold or if I was working hard.

Thanks for the memory!