Sunday, May 07, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: The Finish

Somewhere in Southern Jasper County, 5:19am, Sunday April 30th: From a text to Mike Johnson from me: "Sarah Cooper, Josh Peter, and Luke Wilson DNF".

We were down to sub-10 people that could possibly finish Trans Iowa v13. Big names, like Sarah Cooper and others, were dropping out due to lack of time, hypothermia, or mechanicals. It was a Trans Iowa that had it all. Drama, weather, tough, gutty performances, and stories to last a lifetime, but it wasn't over just yet.

We made it back to town by a little after 6:00 in the morning, but we knew Dan wouldn't be arriving for a while yet. Several of us met at McDonald's for a bite to eat and to go over all that had happened so far with T.I.v13. We all could tell it was going to go down as one of the toughest, most dramatic T.I's yet.

Following is a run down of each finisher as they came in.

Image courtesy of Jon Duke
Dan Hughes at the finish of T.I.v13
Dan Hughes: 170 mile solo break to win in the most horrific conditions anyone has finished a Trans Iowa in? Yeah...... what else can you say? Dan also is now the only rider that has completed the mythical "Triple Crown" of gravel which was whispered about in the earliest days of Trans Iowa and the Dirty Kanza. He has won the DK200, TI, and Gravel Worlds. Personal observations: I don't know Dan all that well, so my viewpoint of him is that he is an "all business" type racer. He was pretty stoic going in to, and almost all through Trans Iowa. Emotions got the best of him at the finish line. Perhaps that is uncharacteristic of him, I don't know, but it was obvious he had been through quite the experience and that winning Trans Iowa was something of a "big deal", at least to him. One more thing- Dan was obviously very motivated and was obviously mentally tough. One would have to be to pull off what he did. But it was also apparent that it nearly came all unglued at the end. It makes his accomplishment all the more noteworthy.

Greg Gleason at the finish of Trans Iowa v13

Glad to have it over with and celebrating with a Surly "Todd The Axeman".

 Greg Gleason: After losing contact with Dan Hughes and losing up to an hour and a half to him, Greg pulled back to within 45 minutes going in to a massive headwind and carrying a mock load for his Tour Divide attempt. Greg seemed pretty satisfied with his effort and was pretty chipper at the finish line. Personal Observations: Greg is one of the riders that comes to Trans Iowa that "gets it". The whole enchilada is well understood by this man, and therefore I think he is a quintessential figure in TI history. Dan Hughes may have gone 170 miles solo to win, but Greg did as well for second place. No mean feat. Consider that Greg's average finish is something between first and second place in this event, and I think you'll agree with me. Plus he is a fantastic guy and always a pleasure to be around.

Front to Back- Jackson Hinde, Walter Zitz, and Matt Acker. Image by Jon Duke

(L-R) Matt Acker, Walter Zitz, Jackson Hinde- All manage a smile after 300+ miles of brutal wind, mud, and rain.Image by Jon Duke
Matt Acker, Jackson Hinde, Walter Zitz: Walter fell back to Matt and Jackson after a flat tire and the trio stuck it out together through the night to finish in a tie for third place in Trans Iowa v13. Personal Observations: Walter was a co-winner last year, and Jackson placed third last year as well, so these guys were expected to do well again. Matt was in his in his first TI but showed that he had the mettle and fortitude to overcome an extreme challenge. Walter related to me at the finish that his flat tire was a "blessing in disguise" since Gleason and Hughes were setting such a blazing pace. Jackson later e-mailed me to say that he was in a ditch at mile 180 of the second leg in the fetal position barfing his guts out. He yo-yo-ed with Matt and Walter till the last stage and then was able to ride in with them.  All three gents were chipper and looked fresh as daisies at the finish line. This has happened before with TI finishers and it still boggles my mind when guys that have been up 30+ hours pedaling a bicycle in less than ideal conditions can act as though they haven't done anything but ride around the block. Or, maybe it is just my thick-headed perception after having been awake just as long as they have.

Mark Johnson struggles against the wind with his single gear. Image by Jon Duke
Mark Johnson rolls across the finish line of T.I.v13 with 10 minutes to spare before the cut-off.
Mark Johnson: Mark is a gritty, tough guy that has shown me that riding single speed isn't a detriment in Trans Iowa. He has finished the event multiple times and has placed as high as second overall. His first place finish in the SS/Fixed Gear class and fourth overall stand as another awesome Trans Iowa achievement. Personal Observations: Mark was the complete opposite when it came to the condition he was in when he finished as compared to Gleason, Zitz, Hinde, and Acker. (Sounds like a law firm!) Anyway, Mark looked like he rolled out of a Chicago dumpster with all the plastic shopping bags stuffed in his clothing and used as pogies. His disposition was one of joy mixed with a bit of confusion, likely due to exposure. An amazing feat to come in just under the time limit.

Honorable Mention: Now, let it be known that "officially" anyone outside the time limit is not an official finisher of Trans Iowa. There has to be a time stamp, and you either make it, or you do not. While Dan Lockery, a former Trans Iowa finisher, did not make it on time, he got within about five miles of doing so.

Tough, but no cigar. Still, a gritty performance that deserves some recognition as everyone else in the event had dropped out behind him.

(L-R) Ari Andonopoulous, Mike Johnson, and Steve Fuller- Hanging out at the finish line of T.I.v13 (Image by Michael Roe)
The Finish Line Scene: Every Trans Iowa finish line scene is different. So, I don't really know what to expect, and especially at a new venue for the finish. Miller Park worked out really well for us, actually. It was "remote" enough as to not cause a stir with neighbors, but close in to the motels and the town itself. That was all good stuff. The weather impinged upon the fun though. It just really sucked to stand outside in conditions that conspire to suck the very life out of you. My finish line volunteer, Sveta Vold, was great, despite her not having a lot to do. Her daughter, Yeva, was the hit of the scene as she danced and cavorted about. Sixteen month olds have a way about them that just grabs you.

It also is a last chance to talk to some folks I won't see again for a long time, if ever. In that sense, the finish line scene is always an emotional drain for me. This year it was a bit surreal in that when Greg Gleason left, so did almost everyone else. Zitz, Hinde, and Acker came in, there was a small crowd and then it thinned down to Sveta and her daughters, Dan Lockery's support guy, and Mark Johnson's support guy. We all sat in our cars nursing our own thoughts until Sveta knocked on my door and offered me some tea and two small cakes. That was so nice of her to do, and I needed that.

Mark came in and after a few words and a quick photo or two, he left. Sveta left as well, since there was no chance of any other finishers. Dan's support guy was a little miffed that I wasn't going to stick around after 2:00pm to watch Dan come in, but I never do that. The event is over at 2:00pm, and I pack up and head for home. Every year, same deal.

So, that was the end of Trans Iowa v13. I will have one more post with my thoughts and comments on the event tomorrow. Then I'll move on to other stuff.

Thanks for reading.


Ari said...

That was a cold finish line but we have not missed it for anything. That is a time I look foward to all year. Thanks for posting all this!

Katharine Ankofski said...

Can't get over that Jackson managed to finish despite barfing his guts out.

blooddoc23 said...

Thanks for all the great coverage and writings! Very fun to read.