Saturday, December 22, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Different Courses Every Year

Renegade Gents In Iowa
I was perusing blog stats and when I looked into this popular post, I was reminded of a question posed in the comments concerning Trans Iowa. That question was concerning the fact that I put out a different course for Trans Iowa every year.

"Why don't you just run the same course every year?"

I could answer that in one simple word:


But of course, it is much more complex than that. There are many reasons, actually, but cheating is one of the top reasons. Maybe I take a dim view of humanity, but here is why I think this way....

What would stop someone wanting to win, or set a record, at Trans Iowa from having cached supplies at critical points? Or heck- just having someone standing there somewhere with a hand up? (Think I am dreaming this up? I've seen it at Trans Iowa and at another long distance gravel grinder.) What would stop someone from cutting the course?

Nothing, that's what. Yes- there are upright guys and gals that will do the right thing, and there are a few bad apples which ruin it for those folks because they employ cheating methods. It's the way of the world. If you think otherwise, I think you may be fooling yourself, or perhaps you are very idealistic and naive. Whatever- cheating exists and gravel grinders are not exempt from it.

T.I.V7: Image by S.Fuller
Trans Iowa is a free of charge event set up to allow those who choose to ride the course to do so with no support, no previous knowledge of the course, and they agree to the time limits set forth to complete the pre-arranged course within. Sure- I could have the same course every year, and I could set it up so that I could have it be assured that no one is cheating. But that would actually be far more difficult from my side than making a different course every year, especially if I want to keep this a free event.

Besides, if folks don't like the idea, they do not have to come and ride in Trans Iowa, do they? No- there are going to be other events which will satisfy your curiosity for a pre-arranged course, no time limits, and ultra-distance. (Yes- Dirty Nellie. I don't live under a rock, ya know!) And to address that specifically, I wish Mr. Skogen nothing but the best in his debut of this course. That event is his deal. As for Trans Iowa, that is my deal, and the way it is set up came out of years of trial and error, not only on my part, but even before Trans Iowa existed.

As I said though, there are other reasons I do a different course every year. One of those reasons is to show off other parts of Iowa. I get to see stuff I wouldn't normally see, and I get to share something of that with others that are of like mind. Doing the same ol' same ol' every year isn't in my DNA anyway.  I like going different places- maybe you do too? If so, then having a different course works.

Don't be afeard of the B's! Image by S.Fuller
Another reason is that I feel that each Trans Iowa should be a unique event. And despite the possibilities of having a singular course, this probably would be the case anyway. Why? Weather, that's why. Each year is different in a dramatic way simply because the weather can be so different. Rain, snow, wind, no wind, pleasant weather, cold, and warm can all happen depending on the year and greatly affects the outcome of the event. It kind of takes away from the reasoning for having a singular course, which to my mind is for direct comparisons to be made. I don't think that this is a fair way to gauge Trans Iowas against each other or to gauge participants efforts from one year to another.

For instance, it seems to be human nature to want to set a record for the fastest to do a course, or heck, just part of a course! If I am wrong, then why is Strava a thing? Right? Well, I get asked sometimes, "Who did Trans Iowa the fastest?" And you know- I find that to be a very difficult question to answer. I guess my final reply would be to ask another question: "In which version of Trans Iowa are you asking about?" Because, you know, each version is a different course, a different length, and run under widely varying circumstances. How can you say one individual has a record in Trans Iowa overall for fastest anything? You can not.

Oh, I have read where a couple of past Trans Iowa winners have written that they did it the fastest, but ya know what I think? They are both right for the respective years they actually rode in Trans Iowa and finished first. Last year it was Eric Brunt. That's his Trans Iowa. Make sense? That's another reason I do different courses. The winner each year was the fastest. No one can take that record down. And they say records are made to be broken.......

Gravel: It's what it is all about.

Added to this is my philosophy that each finisher, each participant that didn't get all the way through, they all can say "I was in that Trans Iowa. The one where..." See? The T.I. that went through such-and-such, the T.I. that had this crazy B Road, the T.I. that had this amazing view.

In other words, how can each Trans Iowa be special if it is mostly the same every year? It even kind of bothers me that I use the same city to start in more than once. (But Grinnell has been too awesome to deny.) Trans Iowa is a gift, in a way, that wouldn't mean as much if it were the same thing every year. That's just my own personal feelings on the matter. Others can do whatever the heck they want, and I'm okay with that. They are not me, and I am pretty odd, (or so I've been told), so I would never expect anyone else to do it the way I think is best. That's not an expectation of mine, anyway. But I do expect that of myself, so Trans Iowa is what it is.

I hope that better explains where I am coming from with my reasons for a different course every year. Again- this is just the way Trans Iowa is, and will be, as long as Trans Iowa exists. I feel it is one of the unique features of this particular event. It makes it different. It suits me to do it this way. I think it also creates a fair and level playing field for each year, and by doing a different course every year, folks get a special experience that will not be recreated ever.


john said...

Mark - Just keep thinking about the fun and joy of riding the bike and not so much about the rules. I know we need rules, but remember the spirit of these type of events and relax - easier said than done, I'm sure.

Guitar Ted said...

@john: This doesn't really make any sense to me , John. I put the dang event on, so- of course- I have to have the rules, and I have to think about that part- A lot. If I don't, things get pear shaped and who is at fault?

My responsibility to those who take part in my event are to make sure the rules, (for one thing), are fair and understandable so THEY can have fun, relax, and just ride their bikes. So the riders can enjoy the spirit of these events.

make sense?

And again- It isn't something anyone HAS to come and do.(Trans Iowa, that is) So there is that choice one can make,(to do something else that appeals to them), and I am okay with that as well.

john said...

Certainly a very hard and complex ordeal you are working with.

MG said...

Makes perfect sense to me, Brother...

David Swanson said...

I can't wait