Saturday, May 03, 2014

Trans Iowa V10: The Fireworks Begin!

8:32pm, Saturday April 26th: 

I texted Jeremy the following:
"Okay. Big problem. Bridge out on J Ave going over Wolf Creek. have to re-rout to K ave. Chris Wells, Amy Oberbroekling DNF"

Jeremy replies:

"Get to staking!"

Gotta love my volunteers!

I said some more colorful comments just before I texted Jeremy, but I won't bother with those here. Suffice it to say that two weeks earlier this bridge was open when we did the recon check of cue sheets. For those who are familiar with the film "300 Miles of Gravel",  this is the small iron bridge that filmmaker Jeff Frings used as the back drop for a fade-in/fade-out shot of Troy Krause as he rode across it. It's been there a long time, and I suppose it failed a bridge inspection or something. Whatever it was, it put a huge kink in my night! There was no way around this, as the State had the bridge sealed off so well you couldn't even sneak around it. I had to re-route the course.

This kicked off about nine straight hours of craziness that I didn't have the time nor the thought to take pictures of, and Wally and George had headed back to Grinnell for the evening, so images of the overnight are sparse. So, hang on, here goes the story!
Hmmm.....a prophetic header, perhaps?

Of course, my first order of the day was to use the re-route protocol I have had in place since T.I.V4 where we use a lathe board and ribbon on a corner on the right hand side of the road to indicate a re-route at the next intersection. Riders look left, right, or straight ahead and whichever direction they see a similar lathe board and ribbon flag on the right hand side of the road, that's the direction they need to go in. It's simple enough, but with the gathering darkness, I did not know if it was going to work or not. As I got into the back of my truck for supplies and my hammer, I was reminded of the strength of the wind as it nearly flipped a lathe board right out of the truck. I had to hold the ribbon down in the bed of the truck as much out of the wind as I could to prevent the ribbon from being so violently strung out that I couldn't tie it to the board.

I was working as fast as I could, knowing that riders can surprise you with how fast they can catch you. I was on the second to last corner I had to flag when the phone rang. It was Greg Gleason. He was at the bridge and wanted to know what to do. I got him squared away and then I decided to hit the convenience store in Gladbrook via the course for Trans Iowa before it closed at 11:00pm. I had plenty of time, as it was only about 9:30 and I had about ten miles to get there. What I didn't count on was a slew of phone calls and texts from people dropping out and from Wally and Jeremy as I tried to get up the road. Seriously! The truck might roll 100 yards and I'd be stopped for 15 minutes, ten minutes, or briefly answering calls and texts. It was pure madness!

The t-shirts were well received.
 Now it was 10:15pm, and I needed a flashlight! I set my mind on getting to the convenience store and drove about 70mph at times just to make sure I'd get there. Fortunately I got no calls during the final few miles into town. I got my flashlight and headed back to the point where the re-route began to see if I could catch anyone else coming through. I knew that Gleason had been riding with Schotz and Williams, but what I didn't know was that Schotz and Williams were no longer riding with Gleason by the time Greg had called me at the bridge. Schotz had fallen back into a chase group featuring Paul LaCava, I believe, and maybe some others, while Williams had other issues, as I was soon to find out.

I had about six miles of paved highway in a straight shot to a mile of gravel to get where I needed to be. I was speeding along, when I slowed down to check a sign on a corner and I saw a cyclist from T.I. on the other side of the road. I swung off the highway, turned around, and crossed over to see John Williams! He told me he had a flat tire, and his Hutchinson tubeless tire fit so tight on the rim it took him 20 minutes to change it out. He had his heart set on winning, so when two smaller groups went by him he was demoralized and decided to pull out of the event. I directed him toward Gladbrook where he could be picked up and moved down the road into position. John had also informed me that a group of riders he had been with figured out the re-route on their own, so I probably hadn't missed anyone else.

One of two Germans in the field, Ralf Stoermer Image by W. Kilburg
Now I settled in at the end of a B Road section where originally the riders would have turned North, but at which point I was routing them another mile Eastward to K Avenue, then another two miles North, where they would again pick up the course. Simple enough, but it was absolutely crazy out there at 11:00pm in the dark with high winds and lightning approaching from the South. I figured I would sit here all night long redirecting traffic and miss the lead riders coming into the barn finish. But it had to be done. What else could I do?

About this time Rob Versteegh was texting me and I informed him that I may not be at the finish and asked if anyone there could take down times and keep track of finishers for me. Rob replied in the affirmative, but offered to find someone to relieve me of my duties there. He found Ari of the Slender Fungus, and before I knew it, T.J. of the Slender Fungus had volunteered to come out with Ari in tow.  In the meantime, I was texting Wally about the weather and finding out it was a narrow band of intense lightning and heavy rain that passed through Grinnell in about 20 minutes. I thought about it and decided that was an okay amount of time to have riders scrambling for cover and wait it out yet still leave enough time to finish. As this discussion was going on, I was watching the lightning and it was truly spectacular.

I decided to do a longer update on Mountain Bike Radio's Trans Iowa coverage while I waited out my replacements. I got on and was recording when  I saw a rider finally. A lone rider. It was Mark Johnson. I begged Ben Welnak's pardon and went out to help him. By now the conditions were ridiculous. The wind was up over 30mph, a light rain was blowing sideways, and the sky was ablaze with the fireworks of lightning to our South-Southwest. Mark was a bit befuddled by my request for him to follow a re-route, but he caught on as I shouted the instructions over the howling of the wind. Suddenly, a mouse ran between our feet! I thought it was a leaf, but Mark said no- it was a mouse! Then he told me he was having chain trouble with his single speed. Just before he left he said to me, "Give me one more steep hill and I'll probably take care of this drive train for good!" He actually made it up several more steep hills, but indeed, his chain finally did give out on him as he had to stop about 25 miles out from the finish.

Next up: A Hop, Skip and a Jump


S Sprague said...

That's a bummer on Mark Johnson's chain not making the final 25 miles! Way to go SS'ing that far!

Ralf said...

Hi Mark,
hello from Germany! Even if I didn't finish TI, I had a lovely time taking part in this event. I think I undererstimated the steepness of the climbs. But never mind I really enjoyed the ride and all the people in and around the event!
By the way, thanks for the photo!