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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reaching "The End"

"The End". The words that come at the end of any good story. Those were the words I was striving for after Trans Iowa v7. I had just come out of a very emotionally draining, physically taxing Trans Iowa which, in all honesty, was very flawed. I developed a fire in my belly to make Trans Iowa the event I always knew it could be right then and there. I gave myself goals to achieve, and I wanted to "get it right" by the time I reached v10, because that was my goal all along: To reach a decade of doing TI's and then just walk away from it. "The End" that I was striving for was this. This idea was something I think formulated in my mind around T.I.v5 or so, but the drive to the "finish" was found post v7. That's really where it came into focus for me.

Whatever gets started has to have an end at some point. I chose "ten". Ten was a nice, even number and I knew at some point I needed to cut back on several things that were wasting me away, taking a lot of energy and time in my life. Things which I was acutely aware of, and I knew I needed to address the situation. I backed out of doing the website work, editing, and reviewing for Twenty Nine Inches in 2014, which was a huge weight lifted off my back, but there was still a Trans Iowa. Why? I was supposed to have been done with that as well.
This- was supposed to be "The End". The last shot from T.I.v10

 Trans Iowa v10 ended at "The Barn" where a few previous Trans Iowas had ended. I felt v10 was a great event. The feeling of the "gravel family" really was brought into its maturity, at least for Trans Iowa, at v10. It was a rich event with great story lines and epic struggles all across the field of entrants. There was a weather factor, and we had a decent amount of finishers. So, it was the perfect Trans Iowa to just walk away from. I wasn't going to "officially"announce that "this was it", but the word got around. You know how families are. So it was that I was leveraged pretty strongly by several folks who begged and pleaded with me to continue. I capitulated only because I had one or two more goals left unfinished that I wanted to tackle.

Goal number 1 was to get a covered bridge on the Trans Iowa route somehow. I had seen them marked on the maps, and I almost figured out how to get one into TIv8, but it just didn't quite jive with the course. So, that was left out there. Then I wanted to go Southeast. Finally, I wanted to circumnavigate Des Moines as a way to give a nod to Gravel Worlds. So, I decided to continue with the event until I had achieved all my goals and wasn't having fun anymore.

Of course, v11 was a wash. No one made it to CP#1 on time but Greg Gleason, and he went 128 miles. If you remember where he ended up, you can guess which goal that version of Trans Iowa was trying to achieve. V12 was something that popped up in my head where I wanted to bring TI close to home here in Waterloo, and that obviously happened. It wasn't an "original goal", but you can be thankful that it extended Trans Iowa an extra year!

T.I.v13 was maybe the best, from my standpoint. I notched two goals in one event- Covered bridges AND circumnavigating Des Moines. I was really satisfied it came off the way that it did. So, then that pretty much was it. So why a v14 at all?

 Well, I wasn't very motivated for it, I will say that much. However; I wanted to end it in a way where the riders would understand that this was "it". There would be no cajoling, persuading, or going back. After v10, I realized "just walking away" wasn't going to work. This had to have a "hard point" to end it and for me to be free of any thought of ever doing Trans Iowa again. This post is part of that "hard point".

That didn't mean it was easy to continue and do "just one more". The wind had gone out of my sails, and honestly, putting on v14 was the hardest thing I had done with any TI since v3, probably. It was a total mental slog. I had motivational issues, and coming up with a basic course idea was tough. I finally decided to use a "Greatest Hits" sort of approach for the course. This also pointed out to me that "The End" needed to happen after TIv14. I wasn't having fun, and I had run out of goals to keep me going.

The end of Trans Iowa meant I would have a LOT of explaining to do to my "gravel family" who were enthusiastic and wanted TI to go on forever. Of course, that was unrealistic thinking, but the feelings are real. My plan going in to the Pre-Race was to not spend any time saying "why" I was doing what I was doing, but to ask, just one more time, that the riders give me a clean event. And so that brings up a secret fear I have had for years about putting on Trans Iowa. That being that something "terrible" would happen.

It was a very tough fear to put down every year. A huge risk, and something I never, ever wanted to live through. I always have had a big comedown after any Trans Iowa, and a lot of that was due to being so tense about riders and their safety. Many folks who don't know me color me as an uncaring, tyrannical, strict, and stubborn event director. They say I don't care, or that I am a masochist, or some other malevolent terminology is used to describe my style. Nothing could be further from the truth, and many that do know me and that have spent time with me during a TI can vouch for that fact. Running TI tore me up inside. I just wanted to escape that eventually and be free.

Then there was the family. Not the "gravel family", whom I love in a special way, but my blood family. My wife and two children. The kids are in high school now and in a few years they will be gone. Springtime will be filled with graduations and other stuff teenagers want their parents to be a part of. Trans Iowa stood in the way of a lot of that. I needed to clear my slate and be present with my kids and my ever enduring wife, Phyllis. So, I am stepping out of event promoting mainly to do what a good Father should do.

I think that about sums it up. I gave Trans Iowa my all. I did the very best I could do. I think I was successful, and I achieved my goals. Now others will have to write the legacy story of this event, because my time in it is over. Will I miss it? I am sure that I will. But I have rich, deep memories to last a lifetime and a LOT of people to get around to to give thanks. I am sure that will take a long time to get done. I look forward to seeing many of you in the years to come.

Finally- Thank you. I don't have much, but I can say this. I am deeply thankful to anyone and all who had any part in Trans Iowa over the years. There are too many people to list. Some will say that Trans Iowa was all about Guitar Ted's vision and dedication, but that is selling it way, way short. Trans Iowa was all about all the people involved. All of you.

The End.


  1. Thank you for all you’ve done, and all the opportunities you’ve given me, Brother. You are truly special and TransIowa was just reason why. I’m proud of you. Thanks for letting me be a small part of the magic.

    Love you,

    1. Thanks for being his side kick these past few years. You kept his fire going by helping him out!

  2. Mark - congrats on setting a standard of gravel events around the world. I remember seeing V1 and thinking it sounded so awesome. I've been an avid follower since that time. Always wanting to sign up, never wanting to take a spot from a more deserving rider. But, I knew this would not go one forever. I am so, so happy that I got to participate in the final TransIowa. Thanks for the memories of years past. It was a great run.

    Enjoy the time with your kids and Phyllis. You deserve it and the time will go fast, just like the last 14yrs has gone fast for TI.


  3. Well done, Mark! I thought you were finished several years ago. Congratulations on giving our tough guys a challenge. Many epic goals and stories from these amazing athletes.

  4. Thank you!!! Much love from someone who feared it, failed it, finished it but never once faked my love for it or the RD that ran it his way!!! See you on the road, hopefully gravel, in the future Mark. And thanks to Mrs and the kids for allowing us to use you for our feed for 14 years.

  5. All good things must come to an end. This was a good thing.

    Thank you for 14 wonderful years, Mark.

  6. Mark, beautiful words and a heart felt thank you for the races I participated in. Your legacy as a focused, thoughtful, detailed and inspiring race director is a standard for any race director (on the “detailed” comment, I wish we hadn’t assumed you meant left on 328 and your cues had a typo when we turned left off the wrong 120 onto 338 last night — bonus miles with our forgetting the precision you bring to the race). Health and happiness to your and your family! Todd Watchmaker

  7. Thanks for the work and gifting us all 14 incredible events. While I can never imagine myself participating I love following every year and hearing the stories and the memories. Thanks so much for that!

  8. Thank you for making it a reality for 14 years. It was a goal, a bunch of very memorable failures, a pinacle moment in my riding to finish, and an honor to run a checkpoint for two years. Thank you, Mark.

  9. GT,

    You are a true gentleman and inspiration. You have a distinct ability to unite, care for, and protect us, your gravel family, and I thank you.

    Much love to you and your family!


  10. Mark,

    Please know that you Trans Iowa was something special. Your passion and love for the event was felt on every b-road, every long steep hill, and every turn. You created all the incredible TI courses. You created an adventure like no other! I feel so incredibly lucky to have been part of your gravel family! All 5 of my TI experiences I had are some of the most special to me. All because of your passion and loce for your gravel family! THANK YOU! Your gravel loving friend.

  11. Thanks for keeping grassroots alive for 14 years. TI was the first race after I found the whole gravel thing that really clicked - I always wanted to attend but never could make my schedule work, so selfishly I hate seeing it go; but based on your posts after the race every year I could tell there wasn't much left for the most imoimport parts of your life. Hope to see you at more events down the line.

  12. I left out an important word in my comment above... It should have said “you are truly special and TransIowa is just one reason why. Sorry for the omission.

  13. Thank you for your years of hard work and dedication to Trans Iowa, I cannot imagine the amount of time and energy putting on TI must have taken. I always wanted to try a TI but never felt like I was ready, after seeing this post I guess it's time to stop wondering what if on some of other rides I'd like to do and get busy doing; even if the doing results in not finishing because there might not be a next year. Good luck in your future endeavors.

  14. Major props for running THE definitive gravel race that spawned a thousand imitations. And always with a high level of quality and integrity. Thanks for letting us be a part of it. Cheers G-Ted!

  15. Job well done sir. Enjoy your family and more free time.

  16. Thanks for all of the hard work. Our experience training for and failing at V3 was the inspiration for the Ragnarok 105 (which celebrated 11 years this year between 10" snowfalls) "up" here in SE MN. As the main organizer for the 'Rok the last few years, the dread of something terrible happening is what will make me stop wanting to do the race/ride. There is nothing quite like the feeling of relief when the last person rolls in and the parking lot is empty.

    If you are ever inclined we'll have a spot (or a few spots) on our rider list for you now that you won't be 150% into TI prep.

    Thanks again! Great work!

  17. Thank you for an amazing and humbling experience this year. At midnight yesterday I would've traded the world for another shot, but I wouldn't trade those first 19 hours for anything. Best to you in whatever life brings you in the coming years, looking forward to continuing to read your writing on here.

  18. Mark--Thank you for the incredible gifts of Trans Iowa V1-14. The TI will always be in my mind THE American Spring Classic cycling race. It sure was fun at the end of every April these past 10 years to have had the opportunity to ride The Gravel, climb the seemingly endless Iowa rollers, and endure/suffer all those muddy B-road HABs. Haha! I feel so incredibly privileged to have participated and to have been a part of your extended TI family. Thank you, brother. See ya down the road.

  19. Even though I was never an entrant, I appreciate you allowing me to be part of the passed several TIs! It has been a lot of fun running check points, hanging with you, double checking the course, taking pictures, and getting to meet a great group of people!! It has and will provide a lot of stories for years to come (and I have a lot of pics to back those up… heh!)! I will miss the activities and camaraderie but I completely understand the drain/strain it brings to you and your family. We’ll just have to meet somewhere and share stories etc….. Maybe I can get my fat ass in shape for a Fall Geezers Ride if you host another one. Take care my friend! As always, I wish you all the best!!

  20. THANK YOU MARK for hosting such a unique event in Iowa. Your passion for our state and the gravel within was certainly special each year. It was an era that changed the way I ride, the way I push myself and the will to finish. It was MUCH more than a bicycle race. The end of an era. Hats Off To Ya!

  21. I remember the first time I heard about Trans Iowa. I thought it was crazy, impossible, epic and mythic. "Only a crazy person would attempt that!" I tried to forget about it butI couldn't get it out of my head. Finishing TI9 stands as one of my proudest accomplishments. My number plate is stapled to my garage wall and it always comes up when I'm telling bike stories. It was crazy, epic and mythic, just like you Ted! A huge THANK YOU to you Ted, for creating all those memories for me and scores of other riders.

  22. Mark, to say that Trans Iowa changed my life would be an understatement of epic proportions. Thank you for everything you have done for gravel cycling. You are a good man.

  23. Mark, TI7, 8, 9, and 11 were all special to me each in their own way. Thank you for your efforts, blood, sweat and tears, for all the years you put into this amazing event. We all have days in our life that we hold up as our best days ever: our wedding day, birth of our children, graduation day, things like that. Getting to compete and finish a Transiowa is right up into that list of highlight days in my life. Thanks for giving so many of us the chance to have "one of the best days of my life".

    Hope to see you around Lincoln this summer for Gravel Worlds!

  24. This makes me super sad, being such a late-comer to gravel, but absolutely understandable. Love to you & your family!

  25. Thanks for V7. It was tough and put a smile on my face, even though I DNF’d. The Old No. 7 banner still hangs in my garage.