Saturday, December 08, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Time Cut Offs

Checkpoint for the first Trans Iowa
I got a comment on the blog yesterday from a reader that wanted to know about the reasoning behind the time cut-offs at checkpoints and over-all for the entire event. The questioner was concerned that they could not finish the event without extensions to the time cut offs. Also, the concern about driving from far away was pointed out and they wanted to not do that and fail to make the first checkpoint.

Okay- There is a lot there to cover, so let's break it down piecemeal. First- why are there cut-offs in the first place?

There are a few reasons for time cut-offs. First, many folks may not know this but one of the co-founders of the event, Jeff Kerkove, came from a 24 hour racing background. Having an overall time cut off was normal practice for an event that he would have done, so it was that when Trans Iowa was conceived, there was a time cut-off for the entire event. Besides, we had to be back to work on Monday after the event! Seriously though, we wanted there to be a challenge factor involving time.

At the eleventh hour we sprang a time cut-off to the Checkpoint in Algona the first year. This was done because we realized at the last moments that we needed to keep me moving along the route to check out things, and that we couldn't expect Jeff's parents to be sitting there in Algona waiting on riders for however long they took. Also- and more importantly- we knew that if a rider didn't get to Algona by "X" time, they wouldn't finish by our overall cut-off anyway. (For a recap of the first Trans Iowa, see this.)

Leaders in at Checkpoint #1- T.I.V6
How were these cut-offs arrived at?

 Subsequently, after T.I.V1, we announced what the checkpoint cut-offs were ahead of time. Checkpoint cut-offs and over all event cut-off times were determined based upon a "ten miles covered on course every hour" formula. This was arrived at by thinking about the over-all time stamp for Trans Iowa.

Obviously there would be a start time, but we determined that in order to allow for riders and support folk to get back home for a possible work assignment, school attendance, or what have you, we had to cut off the event sometime in the early afternoon of Sunday. (Given our weekend time slot for Trans Iowa) We then pushed back the start of Trans Iowa by suggestion of Mike Curiak to force riders to use their lights out of the gate. This starting time was determined to be 4am, to allow us to cut off the event at 2pm Sunday, and still give our riders the 10 miles covered every hour on course minimum.

Okay, so the over-all mileage of any given Trans Iowa fluctuates a bit, so this meant that 34 hours over all would be the parameters in which to fit the event into. Then comes the checkpoints. These are figured- by design- on a slightly different level than I used to in the early days.

Soft roads: T.I.V6
So, why not make the cut-offs easier to attain?

 Okay- Trans Iowa is a challenge. It is supposed to be difficult to do, because if you all could finish it, what would that mean to anyone? Just like not everyone will win a race, not everyone will be able to finish any given Trans Iowa. Sometimes no one finishes Trans Iowa. (But that's another story.)

So, with that in mind, I usually set a slightly quicker time cut-off for the first checkpoint into the event. It usually entails riding 50-55 miles in 4 plus hours or so. Sometimes the mileage is less than 50, and sometimes the time is more than 4 hours. It all depends upon my design for the course. This year you'll have to ride about 53 miles and you'll have 5.5 hours to do it in. If you don't make it in that amount of time, you are done. But I also believe that you wouldn't finish in 34 hours overall either. Plus- I don't want my volunteers sitting there all day waiting on stragglers. Finally, there are some intangible things, such as the challenge factor, that figure into my decision each year.

But what if I travel from a long ways away and don't even get to ride past the first 50 miles or so?

Now, perhaps this all seems arbitrary, unfair, and unnecessary to you. Maybe you are thinking the cut-offs should be relaxed to make it more attractive for those coming from afar. I have one answer to that, "Trans Iowa isn't for you." That's right. Trans Iowa isn't for everybody, and if you don't think it makes sense in one way or another, do not sign up, and do not ask me to change anything about it. I have it tweaked out to where I like it, it is easier to put on the event, and most folks that have ridden in it like it as well.

That isn't to say that I don't want or that I do not get advice on how to run Trans Iowa. I do, and I ask for that from those that have ridden it. You might be interested to know that almost to a person, no one has had an issue with time cut-offs since the first Trans Iowa. I can count on one hand with three fingers gone how many complaints I've gotten about that. So, you see, it seems to be working for most folks that accept this challenge. 

MG goofing off @ the Secret Checkpoint: T.I.V8
Okay- so that should about cover the issue, but as always, if there are any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Announcement Concerning "300 Miles Of Gravel":

As many of you know, the documentary film about the running of Trans Iowa V7, "300 Miles Of Gravel", has not been available publicly......until now!

Go to the Trans Iowa V9 website, and there under the "Latest News" section, you'll see how you can get a copy for now. (Look for the entry dated "12/5/12) At some point, the project will also become available on Finally, there is some chance that the film will be shown in Iowa on Public Television, (IPTV), on or around about the time that T.I.V9 happens.

Okay- there you have it. I'll be back again with more Trans Iowa V9 stuff in the future. Stay tuned!


Josh Lederman said...

What are the dimensions of the cue sheets? Are they 1/4 of a letter size piece of paper? Thanks!

Guitar Ted said...

@Josh Lederman: The cue sheets fit neatly into small sandwich bags, Zip-Loc, or other brands make these and it is what I use to give you your first set of cues in.

There will be a complete, detailed post on cue sheets alone coming in the spring.

steve said...

thanks for your explanation. i wouldn't want the cut off time extended several hrs, just one or so. that being said, as i get more experience i can see ti as a goal in the future. it is the mt everest of gging fer sure!

thejacobsons said...


The person that wrote in needs to appreciate that the weather is the number one factor on whether a person will make the cut offs. I know for most people, unless the weather is close to ideal, making the cutoffs is extremely difficult or impossible.


Guitar Ted said...

@thejacobsons (Paul) Hmm..... I would modify your statement to read as follows: " The person that wrote in needs to appreciate that the weather CAN BE the number one factor on whether a person will make the cut offs."

There also can be other factors- such as getting lost, (due to a snafu as in T.I.V7), or you get dehydrated/bonk, (this happened to many in the first T.I.), or mechanicals, etc.

Certainly weather is a big, big deal, but it doesn't have to be near perfect, or perfect, for someone to make the 1st checkpoint.

T.I.V8 was a perfect example of this where the weather really sucked, the riders hada 12 mile slog into a mighty headwind, yet a record number of folks,(55), made the first checkpoint on time.

Go figure.......