Sunday, March 14, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Good Plan Goes Wrong: Part 2

 "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!

The event was off, but I knew we were in a race against the weather from since before we got going. Big storms were headed our way, backing into the area from the Southeast. I was concerned because of the potential for lightning. Before I made it out of sight of Grinnell my fears were confirmed. Lightning spotted! My heart sank. I was now worried that I'd have to call things off right after they got started. Then it started raining. I was pretty much in constant communication with Wally and George, his driver, all through this early portion of the event concerning weather and rider progress. Wally texted me at 5:14am, "Riders passing us at 322 and 70. Rain hard here. Running at 15-16mph. Good spirits!" 

That sounded hopeful, but I was super busy taking down DNF calls and texts as well. An example, "5:34 am: "Brian McEntire #69- out Just going too slow. No way I'll make the CP. Riding back in."

It was looking more and more like there would be a whole lot more texts and call-ins like this. I stopped to make a Trans Iowa Radio post and the truck started sliding toward the ditch! Yikes! I managed the post and settled back into the truck. As I pressed on, the lightning abated, and it looked as though we may have dodged a bullet. But the rain kept right on coming.

Racers descending a hill early into T.I.v11 Image by Wally Kilburg. 
  Not just any rain either, but a slashing, heavy, cold rain. The wind drove the sheets of precipitation sideways, and with temperatures dipping into the upper 30's, it was a recipe for a miserable ride. Worse than miserable, actually. So, I am fortunate that I had the excellent Wally Kilburg and Jason Boucher out there in that wicked weather to document the mayhem. Words cannot convey how raw and violent the wind and rain were that morning. Their imagery helps tell a story I never could with words. 

I think Wally, his friend George, and Jason all knew this would be their only shot to get imagery for the event, or at least for most of the riders. They all knew too well the legendary stories of those years when Trans Iowa roared and did not let anyone pass. They were fascinated by those stories, and now they were at Ground Zero with an opportunity to tell the story like it never had been before. Kudos to them for risking life, limb, and very expensive equipment to grab the shots that they did. 

Following are a selection of those images.

An unidentified rider battles the wind and rain on the way to CP #1. Image by Wally Kilburg

Leaders realizing they would have to walk the Level B road on the way to CP#1. Image by Wally Kilburg

Sarah Cooper and Gerald Heib battle the wind and rain. Image by Wally Kilburg.

Jason Boucher captures the darkness and heavy rain riders experienced during T.I.v11.

The roads deteriorated quickly into a mushy, saturated mess, and with the course largely headed into this maelstrom, the combination proved to be a knockout punch to most of the field. It was just going to be too much to overcome to be able to make the cutoff at Checkpoint #1 in Guernsey, Iowa by 8:30am. That was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, there was that wicked Level B Maintenance Road stuck in there about halfway to the checkpoint. 

Of course, here I was in the truck, alone again, manning a buzzing phone, taking notes to check off riders who were quitting, and answering questions about how support people could gather the muddy, rain soaked riders in and bring them out of this ridiculous storm. By the time the skies lightened up, showing a grey, rain soaked landscape, I had decided it was no use driving to check the course and I headed off to the checkpoint to see about the large volunteer crew I had assembled to help out with passing out cue sheets. 

A rider passes Wally and George in their truck during Trans Iowa v11. Image by Wally Kilburg.

 Of course, between Wally, Jason, and my calculations, it was immediately apparent that maybe a small handful of riders had any chance of making the checkpoint in time. Also, the last several miles into Guernsey were directly into the howling gale. I mean, this was Trans Iowa, right? Why would it work out any other way? And of course, I was crestfallen inside. This event was turning out to be a disaster. It seemed as though all my plans had been washed away in the heavy rain and blown apart by the violent wind. It had all gone wrong.

But I didn't have time to think about all of that. There were rescue missions, there were the riders to be accounted for, and of course, an event to put on, regardless of how few there may be left to ride in it. 

Next: A Face In A Window


Skidmark said...

I’m thinking, I want a severe weather protocol which extends time cut-offs- to keep hope alive.

Guitar Ted said...

@Skidmark - Yeah, a nice concept but in reality it would not have worked within the parameters set for the event. Namely in the concept of the overall time stamp of the event, which I was not going to extend. For one- keeping volunteers longer than they had expected would be a big ask on my part. Remember- these people were not paid a dime for their efforts or their time, so I was at their mercy as it was. Asking for more- even though they may have been willing- was unconscionable.

So, if the event could not be longer than 34 hours, what is the point in extending a checkpoint time cut-off?

Secondly- Communicating that information on the fly to 95 riders spread out over 53+ miles in driving rain and wind in the dark? Yeah..... Not happening within the structures and resources at my disposal. If I miss telling even one person because I cannot find them in time, it would all be a failure in my mind. Besides that, you as an athlete have already measured energy expenditures for "X" miles already based upon the original time stamps. Now you are changing that up? No....not a very fair idea there.

Tell them before the start? How? Could I have known with 100% certainty that the storm would be that severe? I knew rain was coming. I did not know the rate of rain fall, the ferocity of the winds, or the temperature drop that came with it. Again- nice idea, but not realistic given the technology and the situation at hand.

Did I miss anything there? I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but unless there are convincing arguments for a time extension given what I have told you, I hope that explanation puts that idea to bed.

Skidmark said...

Thanks GT, yep, the certainty that the format is unchangeable is golden.