Saturday, November 09, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #10

 In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

A "preliminary" T.I.V3 header we used on the site
 After T.I.V2, we had a lot of knowledge gained, but we also had a ton more questions in front of us, and a lot of decisions to make. My coming back from the Dirty Kanza 200 in May of '06 and my insistence on implementing the loop course idea pretty much sent us into an "idea frenzy". Everything was on the table for ideas. In fact, the idea of calling the event something different and doing it across state borders was bandied about quite seriously. The whole idea of "Trans Iowa" was in question, and it may have all become something quite different. In fact, it may not have become anything recognizable as the event it has become today if not for a few key things.

First, Jeff and I realized that we needed the feedback of the folks likely to come to Trans Iowa, and from those that had actually ridden in the event as well. So we utilized the Endurance Forum for feedback on our ideas. In early August we started a new thread and Jeff posted a new "teaser header" on the T.I. site. (Note that he used the Roman Numeral "III" instead of "V3"  This was the only year we did that.) We received a ton of great feedback that actually pushed us towards many decisions that shaped Trans Iowa into the event that it has become today.

No entry fee- 1st year for post cards
 We weighted feedback from past competitors most heavily, and none more so than one of our biggest influencers, Mike Curiak, who had the following advice to give to us:

-Be merciless and diabolical. If an idea pops into your head for a course routing that seems too hard, too long, too ridiculous, use it. Twice. Please.

-Please don't let this race become like all the others. Anyone can finish a 24 or a 100 miler. Anyone can finish a team adventure race. I love that this year's TI had zero finishers. I think that's the measure of a good ultra event: Some years, no one can do it. It's happened in the past at the Grand Loop, and it's certain to happen again. Good.

-Please don't dumb it down to encourage more entrants and more finishers. If anything, do the opposite--make it so hard and so ruthless that you scare 'em off before they even think about filling out the entry form. If they ask for details, laugh maniacally and tell 'em they don't get no stinkin' details...
 I think it goes without saying that Mike's advice was the opposite of what we were mostly getting! That said, it was a big task to weed out the chaff from the good stuff, and there was a ton of chaff! Besides the loop course idea we allowed to be discussed, (it was going to be that anyway, but we put it out there just to get reactions), there were discussions on entry fees based on food donations, no entry fees, cue sheet ideas, starting at mid-night or in the daytime, and other nonsense.

The actual T.I.V3 header (still using the Roman Numeral III)
In the meantime, Jeff and I were living life, letting ideas bounce around, and working side by side at the shop. Things were changing quickly for Jeff though, and underneath it all, there was a tension within him. He had a big choice to make. Stay in Iowa, or go chase his dream of something bigger with regard to his riding and vocation. That finally boiled to a head one day when our boss did something that flipped a switch in Jeff's brain. I'll never forget that moment. I knew from that time on he was on a serious quest to leave the shop and find a better life elsewhere. I was bummed, but that was selfish, so I mostly kept that to myself. But what about Trans Iowa?

It was getting on into Fall and we both knew things had to be decided upon to get the ball rolling again. Most decisions went well, but Jeff and I came to loggerheads when we were talking about registration and numbers for the roster. I advocated for the "free" entry for the event, which Jeff agreed to after we found out how expensive insurance would be, but he dug his feet in when I wanted to cap the roster at 75. He wanted to let a lot more in. I didn't think we were ready to handle that, but in the end, he prevailed. Publicly we stated that 100 would be the limit and that entry would be by post card. If we received over 100 post cards, we would draw 100 out of the entire pool of cards we received. This caused a lot of mayhem!

We received hundreds of post cards from single individuals. I think some folks were in the 300-500 card category! Multiplied by 100 plus entrants, and you can imagine the mountain of cards we were getting. It was out of control. My hope was that we would not get over 100 entrants, and it all would be a moot point, but in the end, we got 128 individuals that had sent in cards, and Jeff said to let them all in and cut the BS. So, I did that very reluctantly. I was hoping that by Spring the numbers would come down to a manageable level. But Registration was over. One nightmare of T.I.V3 had passed!

Recon on the Volga River: Jan. 07
But another nightmare was looming. Jeff was interviewing with Ergon, and had accepted a position. He was taking a ton of time off in the early part of 2007 to travel, and his shop visits became more and more sparse. It was becoming obvious that he was going to be gone completely, and anything Trans Iowa related at this point was all going to be on me. In fact, when I offered to drive him around the course so he could see it, he declined saying he thought it would all be fine. That's when I knew I was flying solo. The only thing Jeff had left to do for Trans Iowa was print off the cue sheets and hand them off to me.

The cues were settled by January, or early February, and Jeff was busy, so I did not get them back right away. I figured that once I got my hands on them I could go over them to check them out, stuff race bags, and be pretty much ready. Volunteers would be needed, so I put out a call for that. The Pre-Race was set for a bar called T-Bock's. Finer details were all that were needed to be sewn up, or so I thought.

Next Week: The Unraveling......

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