Sunday, November 15, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: The Wind, The Hills, The Lightning!! Part 1

 "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!

Volunteer Brent Irish helping to put the final touches on the prizing table for T.I.v10
Immediately upon returning home from putting on Trans Iowa v10, after being awake for 40+ hours, I sat down and wrote a quick post for this blog which mentioned my initial reactions to the event. The sentence, " There will be so much to say about this one: The Wind, The Hills, The Lightning!!" , pretty much says what was foremost in my mind at that point. That initial reaction is still what is foundational to my understanding of Trans Iowa v10 today, years later. I said later on it was the toughest Trans Iowa ever. While v13 would give that a run for its money, I could still make an argument for v10 as being a harder to finish event. While the story of v13 has to wait, this post will lay out why I feel like I did, and still do, about Trans Iowa v10. 

Of course, wind had been a big factor in Trans Iowa events from the onset. Who could forget that gusting Northwest wind at the checkpoint in Algona that just about took down the 40 foot Red Bull tent? (Well.......that is, if you were there!) Then there was that Arctic blast at T.I.v4 which was knocking folks right off their bicycles. The winds during v7 and v5 were bad depending on the direction the course was going, but they had equally as great tailwind sections also. 

That was the thing I noted. Since Trans Iowa had gone to the loop course for v3, I noted that everything sort of balanced itself out. The winds being one of those things, but in v10, I had designed in a long, mostly Eastward section right after the first checkpoint. My thoughts were that a sustained East wind in Iowa wasn't a common thing. Well.......apparently The Wind said, "Oh yeah? Hold my beer!" The crazy East wind was brutal that day of Trans Iowa v10, and it never really ever let up for the entire event. I was later very surprised by this. It just goes to show you that even after producing these events for a decade you can still learn a thing or two. 

Toys for all the girls and boys! The check-in table for v10. Located at the kid's area in the Grinnell Steakhouse.

The wind for v10 wasn't really a pre-event talking point, that I recall, so it came as an even bigger surprise that this wind was so ferocious and long lasting. As the event started, it wasn't there. I recall the hours before Sunrise being pretty calm, actually. The course wound its way West and then South and the checkpoint ended up being at a corner on the South side of a village called Lynville. All the way to that point, about 50 miles in, the weather was actually about perfect. 

Early into T.I.v10. Image by Wally Kilburg.
My main memory from the morning of this event was making my way to a point on an eastward portion of the course where a bunch of big rollers were located. I found a spot on top of one looking back where I could see the tops of the two previous rollers. I figured this spot would make for a good lookout point.

I remember sitting there for quite a while before I saw any riders appear. Meanwhile, in a field across the road to the North, there was a small tree that must have been filled with Robins. There strong warbling rang across the hillsides as a soft breeze was rising up from behind me in the East. The Sun peered over the greening hills and it was again one of those surreal, special moments during a Trans Iowa I experienced alone. I will never forget the peacefulness that filled my heart in that moment.

But eventually I had to get back to the task at hand. I was tasked with making updates on the event to the "Trans Iowa Radio" feature where folks would be expecting some news on a somewhat regular basis. My job, as a course checker, meant that I'd likely only be able to tell folks about the 'pointy end' of the group of riders. That would have to do since I did not have the resources to cover the largest group of Trans Iowa riders to ever take part in a single Trans Iowa. 

And that group didn't whittle down much coming into Checkpoint #1. This is where I learned something that made me make a change to following Trans Iowa events. The situation was that, as usual, I had the checkpoint in a small town with a convenience store so that riders had a chance to resupply, or pick up anything they may have forgotten in the scrum to get ready at 3:00am earlier in the morning. (Note- I did have T.I.v9 stop in a town with no convenience store where CP#1 was at, so I had a clue as to how this might work) Lynville did happen to have a convenience store, but it was the bare bones type of place. Not what we think of these days when we think about convenience stores. 

The small store was inundated with the back half of the riders in the event, who, for whatever reason, made this stop a resupply/breakfast/social gathering spot. With probably five times the amount of people this store would normally see on a Saturday morning hitting this store up within a period of a couple of hours, it was a recipe for a bad experience. Fortunately the 'bad' part was not experienced by the riders, although I did hear of some folks near the back saying this place had run out of some things. No, the big complaints came from the store itself. 

While I never was contacted directly about the issues, I had it come back to me through the grapevine that the store was upset since many items were wiped out, they were not getting resupplied until early in the following week, and residents were going to be upset with the store due to the situation. Obviously, having local customers upset is not ideal if you run a local convenience store. 

This very thing was why the now defunct Dirty Kanza 200 went to the aid station type set up for their event to handle more riders than convenience stores could service. I never wanted to go that direction, so the following year, I set the checkpoint at village where there was no convenience store at all, and made the first resupply chance at a point where riders would be more spread out. I also figured on possibly reducing field size, if I had anymore issues, but as I have said, I never had another field this size again. So, I never had to worry about that change for any future Trans Iowa events.

A bridge early on in the course during T.I.v10
A pack of riders early on into the event during T.I.v10. Image by Wally Kilburg

The next big issue in the event became the hills and the wind mixed together. This middle part of Trans Iowa ended a lot of people's day. This all came to a head at a point just about ten miles past Checkpoint #2. This part deserves its own post and next time I will continue on with stories from this part of the event. 

Next: Trans Iowa Stories: The Wind, The Hills, The Lightning!! Part 2

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