Saturday, May 06, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Sheets Of Rain

Matt Acker (L)and Walter Zitz rolling in to Checkpoint #2
Approximately 7:30pm on an old steel bridge south of Cumming Iowa:

"Oh wow! That bridge has been hit!"

We are all standing on the deck of an old steel gabled bridge South of Checkpoint #2. Mike and Tony had just pulled up as MG and I were about to take a nature break. It was a time that there was no rain, and everything was peaceful as the river below flowed with a rich, brown water. We lingered there a bit, just soaking it all in.

It would be the last time we would be experiencing peaceful weather the rest of the weekend. MG and I piled into the Subaru again to seek out Dan Hughes and Tony and Mike were off to mark a corner or two. We would see each other again once more then not again until well past midnight.

We could easily see Dan's tracks in the soft gravel. His weaving, wobbly track suggested at first glance that he was hurting so badly he couldn't hold a line. In reality, the wind had come back with a vengeance and piloting a bike after 200 odd miles in wet weather would make anyone's line a tad wiggly. Keep in mind that now anyone out there would be going straight into that wind all the way back to Grinnell.

The bridge in question from the opening paragraph.
We kept going but we never overtook Dan until we reached Indianola at about 17 miles after the checkpoint. MG and I stopped for gas and a last chance for vittles. We knew that we were in for a long night. Rain had started up again as well, and a check of the radar, which had a lot of cool colors, indicated that we'd be in rain for a long time. Gassed up and ready for whatever we'd find out there, we pulled out at almost 8:00pm to find out how far Dan had leapfrogged us this time.

We didn't have to go far. We found him laboring up a steep hill just outside of town. Then we crested the hill, and that was the last we'd see of Dan, well......clearly see him, until well into the morning Sunday. MG and I went onward, making sure all was correct, and as we did, the wind and the rain went to maximum overdrive. The rain was so intense it was scary.

Many Riders DNF'ed at the Cumming Tap adjacent to CP#2. Image courtesy of Ari Andonopoulous
Swirling around in the headlights, this rain looked like snow at times. In fact, some riders would later claim they saw snow. We just knew it was a crazy rain and wind storm that was going to knock a lot of people out of the event. Around the 8 and 9 o'clock hours I received a lot of DNF calls. Many from the checkpoint, and later when it closed at 11:00pm I got a bunch more notifications. No surprise that for many the wind and rain was just too much to bear.
Steve Fuller (L) telling Will Ritchie he missed the cutoff at CP#2 Image courtesy of Ari Andonopoulous

As we got further in to the course, I was fearing that we were leading out too far and I was wondering how Dan was. MG and I both agreed that he looked severely under-dressed for this sort of weather, and we both knew that he'd never gone much beyond the 200 mile mark in his riding. Unless there was more to his gear than was obvious, we couldn't see how he was keeping warm and dry. One mechanical, one small misstep and he might go hypothermic and with no one around him, it wasn't a good thing for us to be thinking about. So, I suggested to MG that we stop in Attica, the very same place where he helped run "The Secret Checkpoint" for T.I.v8.

We sat there for what seemed like forever. Tony thought Dan should have gotten there by about 11:00pm. We last saw him about 30 miles from Attica at around 8:20-ish. We were so concerned that we back drove the course to see if we could locate him. Eventually we saw his light on the horizon so we turned around and headed back to Attica to see when he would arrive. Turns out it took him until about 1:00am to cover those 30 miles. Well, he did have to walk two completely insane Level B roads in that distance. We then headed out to Pella and found Mike and Tony sitting in a parking lot just off the route out of that town.

Sitting out the storm in MG's Subaru on the edge of Pella Iowa. 
Where we were stopped at the outskirts of Pella was about 20 more miles down the road from Attica, but the wind and rain were unrelenting. We did not know how fast Dan was going to be able to get to the corner where we were. We were thinking it would be around 3:00 am, based on his average speed. In the meantime we goofed off. Big time. You maybe have been "punch drunk" after being awake too long, or have been just so silly that it is unexplained by simple means. Well, we were there for several hours. "There" as in off to la-la land. Meanwhile the wind and rain backed off quite a bit. It never really stopped, but the intensity came way down.

It was kind of uncanny. Dan should have been there, but he wasn't. Finally, shortly after 4:00am, he appeared and spoke with us. Apparently, he had stopped somewhere for a while, found something to eat, and was ready to knock off the final 58 miles of T.I.v13. He sprung off Northward and MG and I bade Tony and Mike farewell as we went up the road after him. While 58 miles doesn't sound like much, the final push was marked by roads that were perhaps the softest, wettest, and steepest of all. Plus, there were two more Level B Roads to walk. Also, consider that last year Walter Zitz and Greg Gleason were finished with their Trans Iowa by this time.

Nearing the end of our trip. These roads were the softest and wettest of the weekend.
MG and I were on "zombie status" by this juncture. We literally had no conversation through this section until we got back to Grinnell. Once there I fetched my truck and went to breakfast at McDonalds with Mike, Tony, MG, and Steve, who was going to hang out for the finish. I was figuring that an 8:30-9:00am finish was going to happen. Dan had two Level B Roads and a lot of hills, sure, but he looked great coming out of Pella and you can never discount the adrenaline rush to finish when you are so close to it. Unless something dramatic occurred, Dan Hughes was going to win Trans Iowa v13

Next: The Finish Line

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