Sunday, November 22, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: The Wind, The Hills, The Lightning!! Part 2

(L-R) Williams, Shotz, Gleason. The T.I.v10 leaders at North English

 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

 As the morning of Trans Iowa v10's first day wore on, the wind was picking up. It started out as a mere breeze, but by 9:00am or so it was a full-on issue that caused a lot of duress for the many riders still left in the event. A record number- 99- made it through the first checkpoint. At this point into the event, I was afraid that there might be so many riders coming through to Checkpoint #2 that I might run out of cue sheets again, like I almost had the year prior at Checkpoint #1. Only the resourcefulness and leadership of Brent Irish and his volunteer crew saved that day the year before. 

But Checkpoint #2 for Trans Iowa v10 wasn't in a small village where even a small home printer could be found. No, it was in the same location as the checkpoint #2 for Trans Iowa v7 was. It was about two miles away from Norway, Iowa though, so maybe there might be a way? I was very concerned about this, and I got a hold of longtime Trans Iowa volunteer and former T.I. finisher, Jeremy Fry, who was going to do the Checkpoint #2 duties along with Omaha, Nebraska resident, Scott Redd. 

Jeremy hadn't left Waterloo yet to come down to man his station, so he made some plans to print up about 20 mores sets of cue sheets, just to cover my butt. See, I never in a million years thought I'd see the day when nearly 100 people would start a Trans Iowa, much less have that many go through the first checkpoint! With that concern well in hand, I was free to continue on and keep tabs on the fast, whittled down, lead group, which was now only three riders. 

My course checking duties led me far ahead of the pack of riders and I pulled into North English, Iowa, which had been the scene of several memorable Trans Iowa happenings previously. It was here that Tim Ek swallowed a banana in about two bites during Trans Iowa v5, and it was in this little hamlet that Trans Iowa v6 had its dramatic ending. This time things weren't quite so dramatic. This time it was an oasis. The first big convenience store on the route, about 100+ miles into the event. As the situation of this particular day unfolded, it also became the end of the line for several riders. 

This was due to that East wind, which was picking up in intensity and was decimating the rider's energy reserves. Stronger riders were falling by the wayside as Greg Gleason, Chris Shotz, and John Williams' blazing pace wore them out one by one. Smarter riders throttled back and tried to save something for later when, perhaps, the winds would die down somewhat. But that didn't happen......

The scene at CP#2 with Jeremy Fry, (L) and the race leaders.

 Of course, all that did was reduce numbers so that when the rider count was taken after Checkpoint #2 closed, it was revealed that 37 riders never even made it to that checkpoint and all my worrying about not having enough cue sheets ended up being a non-issue. But what was fascinating was what happened immediately after Checkpoint #2 was passed. 

As I have said, Norway, Iowa was not far from Checkpoint #2 that year. I had it placed about five to six miles away from there, as the course went, using lessons learned when I did this for Trans Iowa v9. However; instead of encouraging more folks to continue, it became a veritable triage center for riders who were exhausted and decided to pull out of the event. While 62 riders took cues for the last portion of the event, 43 called it quits before the end, and probably half of those 43 were sitting waiting for a ride from Norway Iowa's Casey's Convenience store. I heard tales of bodies and bikes strewn across the parking lot for a short while during the late afternoon hours. Of course, I knew many were pulling the plug, because from about 6:00pm to around 11:30pm my phone never quit ringing with reports of riders quitting T.I.v10. 

One of my all-time fave T.I. images. Matt Gersib leads three other riders up a steep hill. Image by Wally Kilburg

 The really ironic thing was that, while the wind never quit blowing out of the East, the course went due West for many miles immediately after leaving Norway. Riders may have had a chance to catch a break, and especially so since a lot of this part of T.I.v10 was pretty flat in comparison to what came before Checkpoint #2. But pushing into a heavy wind on a bicycle in hilly terrain on gravel for nearly 180 miles is no joke, so I do not fault any of those folks at all for what they decided to do. 

The clouds build in. Image by Wally Kilburg

Unfortunately I never saw, nor got any images of, the carnage at Norway's Casey's. Looking back, I kind of wished I had known more about how that played out for the convenience store, as having all that unforeseen business may have been seen as a negative, like it was back in the checkpoint town of Lynnville earlier in the day. However; I never did get any hard feedback on that, although hints of some issues were related to me via some of the folks that picked up riders there at Norway. 

Although I never really did get to see that scene, or many others, I guess I saw enough. But Trans Iowa was run on a shoe-string, it was run with empty pockets, and there weren't opportunities for me to be gallivanting here and there, observing the field front to back, and back to the front again.

No, I was busy crossing the very flat portion of the course just North of Belle Plain, Iowa. I recall that there was a very flat one mile stretch of dirt road there which went straight West. The winds were coming from the East and gusting so hard that my truck was being overtaken by dense clouds of dust kicked up and driven along by the gale. I remember trying to catch one of the waves of dirt just right so my miserable little point and shoot camera could grab an image. Even though I was stopped, it wasn't working. So, after several tries I felt the urge to get back to work and move on down the line, even though I was very far ahead of the leaders, and miles ahead of the nearest chasers. 

The course ended up coming into a ridge road which meandered, more or less, Westward and Northward. This would have been just east of Toledo and Tama Iowa. Here it was that I found myself seeing the Sun disappear behind a mess of gathering clouds and the skies were looking ever more ominous. By this time I was getting weather reports for the evening, and there was a chance of severe thunderstorms. My stomach was in knots looking at this scene before me as the Sun sank.

And of course, the most hellish part of the event was yet to come.......

Next: The Wind, The Hills, The Lightning!! Part 3

1 comment:

MG said...

I love that shot too...