Monday, May 08, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Epilogue

The event is over, of course, but as with any other multi-day adventure, the memories live on and the thoughts take time to process. I have written about the entire event front to back already. As I sit here to write my final thoughts on this version of Trans Iowa, it is the Wednesday after the event, so things are still fairly fresh and unconsolidated in my mind. These thoughts should be considered to be a bit raw then, and I may think things through differently after some time for reflection. That said......

The event went without a hitch, amazingly enough. Given the forecast, the ample opportunities for folks to get injured or lost, and considering the bizarre history of this event, that it went so smoothly is amazing. Simply mind boggling to me. A good friend of Trans Iowa and of myself, Michael Roe, put it this way in an e-mail to me: "It was truly an epic adventure in the truest meaning of the word, epic.  It was quintessential TI.  It was a thing of terrible beauty.  It was one of TI’s greatest adventures.  It was your masterpiece.  It was perfect."

I cannot argue with any of that.

Acknowledgements: Before I comment further I wanted to again send my thanks to several people. My truest supporters and friends of this event who would drop everything to help me with Trans Iowa. People like Wally Kilburg, George Keslin, Jeremy Fry, Tony McGrane, Mike Johnson, and Mike Baggio. John and Celeste Mathias, Todd Southworth, and last but not least, Matt Gersib. Also, The Slender Fungus, all the silent supporters over the years, and anyone who was a sponsor that wanted to help. Also all the volunteers who have stepped up every year to do this thing, you know who you are. You are too many to mention just here, but you all figure in to my feelings about Trans Iowa.

 Trans Iowa Radio.    I should mention that Ben Welnak, my partner in was a huge help in doing that service for everyone and I know it was well appreciated. Thanks Ben! Hopefully Trans Iowa Radio served the function people wanted it to. I have not listened to it yet. Too much going on that needs taken care of first. I may get around to that later.....

Sponsors: A huge, heartfelt thank you goes out to WTB and Will Ritchie. WTB sent out a ton of tires to hand out to the finishers and, as you know, we had only six. Dan Hughes deferred his winning set of tires to someone else as he owns a shop and he felt it would be something better to give someone outside the industry. So, in reality, we handed out five sets of tires, all Riddler 37's, by the way. Will Ritchie did well riding in the event, and I believe he made it to CP#2, so I hope that he had fun there as well.

Velocity USA gave a wheelset to the last person through checkpoint #2 that finished and that would be Mark Johnson. Thanks to Velocity for being behind Trans Iowa for several years now. Also, Pedal of Littleton gave away some bar tape and Salsa handle bars at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Finally, Lederman Bail Bonds were the ones responsible for the awesome t-shirts for T.I.v13.

Personally: Last year Trans Iowa sent me into a dizzying spiral of emotions. This year I am okay in that regard, but physically I have taken a hit. I don't respond well to sitting in a car for hours on end getting bounced around on gravel. My body is a little jacked up due to that. I have had a headache ever since I have gotten back, and I haven't had the focus or stamina that I need to do my job 100%. This bothers me. (<===This has lessened since I wrote this. By the time of this post that has all faded away.)

So, how am I doing? That is how I am doing. But enough about me. The event had what I would term a "zenith moment". How do you top the last two years of Trans Iowa? I don't think it is possible. This brings up fear. Fear that the next TI, if there were to be one, would be something "less". Fear that if I roll the dice again I may end up getting hurt by someone's misfortune out there on the gravel roads of Iowa. So far, that hasn't happened. But, given the probabilities........

I'll be perfectly honest- Trans Iowa this year was a goal, and I wished that it would turn out to be almost exactly as it has. The circumnavigation of Des Moines and getting covered bridges on the route, along with some history and bike culture stuff, were all things I wanted to accomplish before I quit this gig. I have accomplished them. There was one new piece of information I got that was unintentionally given to me by a former TI rider which indicated to me that there is a new form of cheating afoot. He made a blunder by talking about what he did on Facebook the last time he rode in Trans Iowa. Apparently guys are using computers to lay out the first set of cues against a mapping program to create a route file which they then load into their GPS computers and use that to navigate by. Clear case of cheating. I cannot say it happened this year, but since it is so easy to do that, I cannot imagine that someone didn't use that trick. This news was disheartening and turns me off from doing TI again.

Me in the Subaru at CP#1. Image by Jeremy Fry
So, I know that this all sounds like it is "the end" of Trans Iowa to you who are reading this. It very well could be. I have reasons to stop it. I have reasons to carry on. I will not get into all the nitty-gritty of that. Just know that, as I said above, that these thoughts are raw and right after the event.

I go through the whole "I am never going to do this again" phase many times prior to a Trans Iowa running again, and this year was no exception. I understand that the added stress of going through the loss of my father-in-law two weeks prior to Trans Iowa didn't help matters. That said, my support people helped out again. Mike Johnson stepped up to pay for the cue sheet printing and he helped stuff the bags for the riders. Tony McGrane carted stuff for me all weekend and he and Mike did all the corner marking that was necessary. Josh Lederman of Lederman Brothers Bail Bonds put up the money for this year's excellent t-shirts as well. Those t-shirts were picked up and carted by Sam Auen for me, which turned out to be a perfect plan.

I have already received all of these folk's pledges to help again for a possible T.I.v14. Yes, that's great, and I appreciate that more than anyone will ever know, but the thing weighs on me right now and I am not going to say anything one way or the other. It is the Wednesday after the event, folks, and I just needed to vent.

So, to sum up, Trans Iowa v13 went so smoothly, it is amazing. Simply mind boggling to me.The future? Don't even ask me.


Nebo said...

I do not live in the Midwest.I do love to ride my bikes on gravel and backroads. I have never done a ultra-distance gravel event.I do very much enjoy following your adventures on the blog and have for many years.I also totally understand your desire to keep Trans-Iowa a self supported and self-navigated event. All that being said, I think that if rider safety is a concern you should allow the use of GPS devices. Riding down the road fumbling with cue sheets doesn't seem safe to me.

Guitar Ted said...

@Charles Martin: Fumbling with cue sheets is probably safer than grabbing a downtube mounted water bottle. If any of the riders in Trans Iowa cannot manage that, they shouldn't be in this event.

13 years and thousands of miles traveled by many riders in this event and not once have I seen or heard about an issue with cues causing a mishap. Dogs? Loose gravel? Wind? Yes, but never cues. That is the least of my worries.

Ari said...

Thank you for all your words. Thank you for all your efforts. I feel like this Trans Iowa was a truly amazing one. I feel like all Trans Iowas are amazing in their own way. As you well know The Slender Fungus is there to help, promote and support this very important event. I believe there is a hardcore group of people that want this event to continue. There is no substitute for it anywhere around. The energy that happens, the memories that come out of it and lifelong friendships that it produces are incredible. It has changed a lot of peoples lives. On our behalf I want to give you the sincerest Thank You. We wish to line up again.
Ari and the Slender Fungus Cyling Association.

Derek said...

@GT -- Agree 100% with you about bottles w/cues. Thanks for an AMAZING experience and event, even with my DNF. (More on that later.) Thanks so much for ALL that you do for gravel, for cycling, for Iowa, and for strangers and friends. If this is the last one, I am honored to have toed the line in 2017. If not, I sincerely hope to get back and finish in 2018+!

- To avoid this possible cheat, perhaps distribute cues at the start line?
- As a rookie, using cue sheets for the first time ever, they were very easy to use. Navigation was at the bottom of my TI issues!
- @Charles: no fumbling. You only switch the cue sheets 30 miles or so, so it is not a big deal to stop to switch pages. 20 seconds later you're off again.
- On my few non-TI gravel rides w/a GPS route on a Garmin Edge, it was a pain and didn't help. Arguably it was less safe! On road, it is terrific. On gravel, the bike vibrates too much to read the small text display for roads & turns. You have to stare at it long and hard, and I often can't hear the beep. Cue sheets are better for gravel!

Katharine Ankofski said...

I couldn't even leave my hotel room without getting lost trying to find the exit, but managed to navigate with cues just fine (minus early-morning headlamp issues that were my own damn fault).

Not even fully grasping all the work--physical and mental and emotional and everything in between--that goes into planning this event, I'm crossing fingers and toes to get one more stab at this adventure. Rest up, GT!

Steve Fuller said...


As always, it was a privilege to help with TI. It's a must do for me, whether riding or helping. I get to see and talk to people I don't get a chance to visit with any other time of the year. This year's event was definitely a "classic" TransIowa. It was difficult and tested individuals, but it was finishing was possible if one was prepared and had a bit luck on their side.

I like Derek's suggestion of cues at the start line. A slight inconvenience at the start of the event, but nothing a volunteer or two shouldn't be able to efficiently carry out. It's disappointing that this needs to be done, but now that you know that it's happening, it's easy to prevent.

Enjoy not doing anything TI related for quite a while. Ride your bike, spend time with your family, and get ready for Spotted Horse. :)

Phil said...

Kudos on an amazing job, GT!! You've earned some time to rest and decompress. Hope you can roll into a great summer with your family!!

Don't know that I'll ever toe the line for TI. But I'm in awe of the excellent work you do for TI!

All the best,