Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Trans Iowa V10: A Turning Of The Screws

Groups of riders form up headed to CP#1 (Image by W. Kilburg)
6:58am Saturday, April 26th: 
Wally texts me: "Riders past heading to 80th. We are east of Kilduff"

I reply, "Got it. I'm at CP1".

The leaders were not quite as fast coming into the checkpoint as I imagined they might be. The B Road which was rideable was not the reason, but I wasn't sure what was. Maybe these guys up front were taking a more measured pace than in years past. I know that when I saw them go by me they weren't really pushing it too hard. That was a wise decision as it would turn out! The breezy weather was still holding as I was standing around at Checkpoint #1, and the Sun was shining brightly. Time for me to hit the road as everything looked set to go with the volunteers at the checkpoint.

This bridge was just past Checkpoint #1
My main objectives were to check out the nearly two miles of end to end B Maintenance roads and to mark a known unsigned corner a little way beyond there. The B Road I ended up skipping as I felt it was likely dry as a bone anyway and I had looked at it Friday. So, I devised a route around the B Roads and tried to find my crossing of a highway to continue on the course. I felt as if I was lost again, but then I realized that the route dipped into Mahaska County a bit at this point, the Southernmost point of this year's Trans Iowa route.

I finally found the turn I wanted and crossed an old gabled iron bridge. I love finding those on routes as they are also fast disappearing like the barns are. I passed on into some wilder, low lying lands and found my corner to mark, but not before I found a proud rooster pheasant strutting alongside the ditch. He took no notice of my truck as I rolled on by. The corner was down in a quiet nook of a valley, but as I looked upward, it was evident that the wind had increased a bit. Probably due to the warming of the air by the Sun. No big deal.

There were many such hills on the way to North English.
I left the corner now and made my way down the course. The phone was strangely quiet unless it was a text from Wally, the official photographer:

"At 21 and 480th. Pack of 5 about 1.5 mi behind us. They r the lead." (9:46am)

I was still rolling toward the first convenience store on the route past Checkpoint #1 in North English Iowa, a well stocked Casey's. While I had the second granola bar Coop gave me in the morning, I was getting pretty hungry again, and I figured that convenience store to be the first stop for the leaders coming through. So, I pulled in and grabbed some grub, ate it, and hung out on the Northwest corner of the store keeping an eye on the corner where the riders would dump out onto the road leading into Casey's. My vehicle was parked on the East end of the building, out of the way as I could get it so as not to anger any of the locals or the employees.

Greg Gleason, Chris Schotz, John Williams (Frt to Back)

I waited there for quite awhile, drawing the attention of some of the employees, as they came out to toss garbage or smoke a cigarette. (People still do THAT?!! ) I finally thought of something I wanted from the truck when I saw Wally and George's rig blocking me in! They must have been inside looking for me, and sure enough, there they were. Not long after, the pack of five now whittled down to three came rolling into the store for resupply. I snapped off a few images and bade Wally and George farewell as the three riders disappeared into the store to get refueled.

Chris Schotz multi-tasking. (Image by W. Kilburg)
By this time I also knew that 99 riders of 106 had passed through Checkpoint #1. The roads were dry, the B Roads were rideable, and there really wasn't much to stop the rider's progress as of this point beyond the hills which were ever present. Was this going to be like last year where we had 31 finishers? It was shaping up that way as far as I could tell standing there at the Casey's before the noon hour.

I did know that one of the course's toughest sections was upcoming. A long Northward, super hilly road with a brief break West, then North and mostly Eastward over some very hilly terrain to Checkpoint #2. Secretly I was hoping the wind would become something of a factor so the ride would have some more elements of challenge, you know, turn the screws down a bit, but what happened after I left North English was far more than I could ever have imagined. Out North of town I stopped the truck to get a few images and I noticed that the screws had been turned down a bit more. The wind was now definitely going to be a factor.

The second group into the North English convenience store. Image by Wally Kilburg. 

Matt Gersib leads a small group up a big hill. Image by Wally Kilburg
The leaders bomb down a B Road. Image by Wally Kilburg
Later I was texted by Wally and told that they were at the bottom of the B Road before Checkpoint #2 and would be waiting for me. They said it was totally dry. I drove down gingerly nonetheless since there were ruts and bumps eroded into the road from the recent rain run off. As I turned down into the valley there were Wally and George kicking back on lawn chairs as if they were at a back yard barbeque!

I stopped and we chatted for a bit, but I decided to roll on to Checkpoint #2 and see how Jeremy and Scott were doing. Apparently they were a bit anxious for me to arrive so some Guinness could be consumed! I also wanted to catch them up on the DNF's so far into the event. There weren't very many either! When I pulled into the Checkpoint I opened my door and when I stepped out I just about was knocked over by a tremendous gale. I was flabbergasted! The wind had at least doubled in its intensity since I had last been out of the truck in the open. The valley where I saw Wally and George was too protected to get any kind of a read on the wind, so I was not prepared for what met me at Checkpoint #2, and many riders never even got that far due to the heavy winds.

Next Up: The Gathering Tempest

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