Sunday, November 24, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Endurance Promoting

Post-stuck image. T.I.v4 recon shortly before the event.
  "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!

Trans Iowa v4 was mainly a survival event. Obstacle course? Ah.........crap-show? Well, we ended up calling our experience "endurance promoting". Trans Iowa v4 was all of the above, certainly. It all started, as most "bad" Trans Iowas do, with weather.

We had a particularly deep, late running Winter that year, as I recall. David Pals and I tried to do recon the December before, but with -12°F below zero temps, snow packed in the roads, and no good way to assess the roadways, we bailed out on recon after only a handful of miles. We kept hoping that Winter would relent, but by mid-March we were still no where closer to verifying the route and snow was still on a lot of the roadways. We finally knocked out recon just before I had to go to Sea Otter and David did the cues, last minute-like. The week of the event I was still verifying roads, in the rain, and ended up getting my Honda stuck in a Level B road. I managed to miraculously push it out unassisted, and drove it a quarter mile in axle deep mud to freedom. That was just a portent of things to come.......

Rain was prominent that week, and we were getting flooding all across Iowa. In fact, the morning of the Pre-Race David called to say that he may not make it due to a basement flooding. I was in a panic as he had the cue sheets! Well, it worked out, but then I was afraid that the roads were going to be bad. I back-drove a big portion of the beginning of the event, and saw that while things were iffy, it was clear.

The event was kicking off with the pre-race meeting at T-Bock's in Decorah, like the year before, but instead of in the vacant Odd Fellows attic, we had T-Bock's party room. They even offered two different kinds of sauce for the spaghetti. And they requested that I taste-test the sauces the morning before the meeting. The cook actually reduced the sauce all day. Amazing! It was as if this Trans Iowa thing was a "big deal" or something. I remember thinking people were taking this waaaay too seriously. Taste-testing the spaghetti sauce? Outrageous!

Back-driving the T.I.v4 course the morning of the pre-race I saw this calf. It became the T.I.v5 header
At least the riders were loose and relaxed. I recall the T-Bock's staff were amazed at the amount of beer they sold prior to a 300+ mile endurance event! The rest of that day was unremarkable. David made it up, of course, and we hit the hay and got a pretty decent amount of sleep. Overnight we were supposed to see a cold front come through. I remember hearing the wind howl across the roof of the motel as I fell asleep that evening.....

The next morning we got up at 3:00am to howling Northwest winds and snow? Yes- snow! It was blown in on a frigid wind and the riders which were gathering on Ice Cave Road that morning were all assembling behind some dump trucks parked in a gravel lot at the corner to get out of the icy blast. I recall Craig Severson, then a co-worker of mine, shivering with nothing on but a light jacket and no tights or anything beyond cycling bibs. I was really concerned for him, as it was probably in the teens for windchill that morning. Fortunately wisdom got the better of him and he bailed not long after the frigid start.

Oh yeah.....the wind! It was so powerful it was knocking riders off into the ditches. I remember John Gorilla telling me years after the event that he figures he got blown over at least three times that day. Him and most of the field of riders went down at least once that frigid morning. It even almost knocked me over a few times as I stood peering Eastward on a hilltop South of Cresco, Iowa, looking for any signs of the leaders. It was also the only Trans Iowa that I ever saw snow. Now, other riders say they saw snow in other Trans Iowas, but I can only verify that it happened at v4.

The lead pack grouped together South of Cresco, Iowa during T.I.v4
The reroutes happened all day, and with the wind, it made the going really slow. David and I were nervously watching the clock, doing calculations, and working that against what we had set as a cut off time to reach the first of two checkpoints that year. It was going to be really close for many riders. DNF's were happening at an alarming rate, and as we neared Wadena, Iowa, a small hamlet in the middle of a valley surrounded by hills, we knew the field was going to be whittled down to a bare minimum of riders.

Riders were getting turned around on the twisting roads North of Wadena and as time ran out, I recall that many of them were saying they could see Wadena as they were struggling to get in under the time cut. So close, and yet too far! What a feeling that must have been! David and I went down into the village where a lot of riders were calling it quits for the day. It was then that we heard that cell phone coverage was bad, or non-existent, in the town. No wonder we couldn't get a hold of the check point volunteers! I recall feeling bad as riders, spent from their efforts against the elements, were forced to climb the steep hills surrounding Wadena just to get a call out to their support people. Another lesson learned! (But fortunately cell coverage improved dramatically in the years that followed. Or unfortunately, as we shall see.......)

The riders were getting spanked, and we had some stressful times at points, but as the number of riders in the event dwindled, our "spanking" was ratcheting up. It didn't take long after leaving the first checkpoint for it to start in either.

Next: Endurance Promoting: Part 2

1 comment:

S.Fuller said...

I recall the large number of damaged bikes from that day. I also recall people saying the cross winds, and especially the gusts, were making it too dangerous for people to ride in pace lines. Explains why so many people were knackered when they got there.