Sunday, July 05, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Flaming Out

The Braun Brothers and Charly Tri break away after 100 miles into T.I.v8
 "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!

Sub 24. It was the mythical goal silently talked about amongst the stronger racers that were involved in Trans Iowa. The ability to do the event in such a short amount of time was, to me, also a motivation. Not that I was going to try it, but I was always aware of that being a goal for the fast guys, so I tried to make it hard to accomplish. 

How this idea ever got legs, well, I will never know. I suppose that Ira Ryan doing the first loop course in 25 hours flat was, perhaps, where it all started. At any rate, the first I ever was aware of it was when Joe Meiser won T.I.v5 in a little under 25 hours and told me he would come back to take back the quickest Trans Iowa time if anyone ever beat his time. Note- that happened, but Joe never came back. Family life and whatnot, I heard. Anyway.....

I never would have pegged Trans Iowa v8 as being a version that would have seen a serious threat to the 'sub-24 barrier', but then the Braun Brothers had other ideas, I guess, because they pushed the pace to a ridiculous level during T.I.v8. The course may have baited them into it, or maybe they had a strategy, I never did know, but after 100 miles, they set sail and tore up the road.
MG playing on a scooter at the "Secret Checkpoint" during T.I.v8

The course that year led to a small village with a convenience store at right about the century mark. Most all riders stopped here, as I had strictly warned them that convenience store opportunities were slim that year. Well, I'm not sure if the Braun Brothers stopped or not, but if they did, they didn't stay long, because they and Charly Tri, a Minnesota rider, were up the road alone after the 100 mile mark with no one else in sight. This coincided with what ended up being the flattest part of Trans Iowa that year, so they dieseled along at an amazing pace. There wasn't much wind later into Saturday either, so even that wasn't going to be an issue plus, the weather and roads were tranquil. It all added up to a record early arrival to the the second checkpoint.

By the time the three had reached Checkpoint Bravo, they were back into some heavy hills, and there would be no let up for the rest of the event. In fact, they got worse the closer they got to Grinnell. But, of course, no one knew that. So it was that Charly Tri, trying to keep pace with the Brauns, ended up having a total body shutdown after leaving the second checkpoint. He ended up limping back and calling it in there. This left Travis and Matt Braun alone up front.

Now about this time I was thinking this sub-24 hour Trans Iowa thing might actually go down. The Braun Brothers showed no weakness, and they rolled into the secret checkpoint well ahead of the time they needed to make it there by to stay on track for that miracle time. Amazingly, they appeared fresh and light on their feet. One of the brothers even stooped down to fix a young girl's bike there! This was one of the most touching, amazing shows of caring I ever saw. I mean, where else would the leader of a difficult bicycle race take the time to adjust a child's bicycle for them? 

The co-leader of Trans Iowa v8- fixing a kid's bike while the event was in full swing? Yep! One of the most amazing things I ever saw at a Trans Iowa.
 And think about that- The leaders of Trans Iowa, so confident and calm that they felt they could take care of a kid's bike, and still win the event! I just am still completely blown away by that moment. Things like that made me very proud of what Trans Iowa was. It still does. This is something I'll never forget about the event.

I was hoping the Braun Brothers would prevail, but secretly I was also hoping they would not break that sub-24 hour barrier. Why? Maybe my pride in designing tough courses was at stake. Maybe I would see it as my work being 'lame' and it was too easy? Not sure, but I was doing calculations like some mad scientist trying to figure out when the Braun's would cruise into Grinnell. At Checkpoint Charlie, it still looked like it would be an easy feat for them to accomplish a sub-24 Trans Iowa.

The next stop up the road would be in a small college town and I found a spot where I could sit and observe any Trans Iowa riders going down a bike path into this town without the riders knowing I was there. Perfect! I wrestled with more math, and determined that at the rate the Braun Brothers were going, I should be seeing them before much longer. A need to relieve myself could wait. They'd be there and then I could go find a restroom. It was dark now, and getting colder......

One of the Braun Brothers at the last convenience store on the T.I.v8 route.
And I waited....... Man! I really gotta go, but they should be here any minute! So I tried waiting longer, and the time went by I thought that they should have gone by, and...... Man! I REALLY gotta pee! 

I furtively looked around for a place to discreetly relieve myself. I ended up in a nearby construction firm's parking lot and found my nirvana. Then it was back on watch! Just one more example of the weird situations I got myself into putting on Trans Iowa over the years.

Anyway, the Braun's were slowing down. Not to be wondered at either. But even at their slower pace, they had so much 'time in the bank' to withdraw from that a sub-24 was still in the cards, even at this late point into the event. They reached the last convenience store on the route, 90 miles out, at around 11:30pm on Saturday evening. They had until 2:00pm Sunday to finish. It was a slam dunk they would win. I could see no other outcome.

Then, at nearly 2:00am, with over eleven hours left in the event, the phone buzzed to life. It was one of the Braun's. They were disoriented. They had been off course several times. "....yeah, we're done. Just not feeling it." They reported that they were in a ditch just North of I-80, delirious. Someone was coming to get them. I asked them two or maybe three times if they were sure they were done. Yes, came the answer. With a mere 57 miles to go, they were out. Flamed out.

It was a stunning turn of events, and I don't think I have ever heard of anything like it since. The event now was completely changed. There would be no sub-24 Trans Iowa, as the next chasers, Eric Brunt and Troy Krause, were not on pace to get into Grinnell in under 24 hours from the start. Things swung a totally different direction, and the end game of Trans Iowa v8 would be very different than I thought it would be. In fact, it was weirder than I ever could have dreamed.

Next; Broken Bikes and Broken Fellowship

1 comment:

MG said...

Man, I remember that night well... And it only got more weird from there!