Sunday, March 28, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: The Last Rider

Greg Gleason's surprisingly clean looking bike in Sigourney,. Iowa

  "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!

 MG and I rendezvoused at an interstate truck stop on I-80 and decided that we could have breakfast. This was weird! Having any time at all for myself during a Trans Iowa? This was unheard of. I felt like a truant. This was a luxury I had not expected in the morning when it was still dark outside. 

But with one last rider left in the event, and Tony and Mike out there covering for us, we had time to casually sit down and talk about what had just transpired over the past seven or so hours. MG was amazed by the tales I had to tell, and of course, at that time I only knew a little bit about what had happened. 

But I wanted to know about him. What the heck was going on? Flu? Something not sit right with him? He looked to be just fine at that point as we chatted in the truck stop. Turns out that through a process of deduction it was determined that some bad ranch dressing at the pre-race meal was to blame. Basically food poisoning. But all was well by noon and MG had something to eat with no further ill effects. After this, we tried to come up with a plan to deal with the event, such as it was.

This was unprecedented. One man was left. We had probably ten people including MG and I which would have to keep 'on duty' to facilitate the event with this last rider. I basically had to decide first whether or not just to call the event off. I quickly determined that we had to run the event. Calling it off without any real good reason, whether there were ten riders or one, wasn't in my game plan. So on to the next hurdle. That being, do we keep everyone on duty, or can we just pare it down to MG and I to follow Greg around? 

This was put to Jeremy, who was the lead at CP#2, and to Tony and Mike. Not one of them was going to quit until the event was 'officially' over. Jeremy, who was going to have an assistant come along with him, did decide that he would come alone, if needed. This didn't sit well with me because this meant that Jeremy would have had to have traveled several hours in one direction to get there, all for a single rider. Jeremy didn't care, and so I was left with having that worry on my mind. Meanwhile, MG and I determined that if we could prove that Gleason couldn't make it on time, we could pull him, but that had to be a slam dunk. If it was close, we were going to have to let things play out. The first order of business then was to find out where Gleason was. Without that knowledge, we had no good way to ascertain his progress or to figure his approximate time of arrival at CP#2.

MG and I headed South to pick up the course while Tony and Mike reported in that they had short cut the course to Sigourney, approximately 30 miles further down the course, and had not seen any signs of Gleason. He should have stopped at a local Casey's there for resupply. Maybe he slipped by and was South of there already? Tony and Mike went to check that while MG and I, in separate cars, by the way, made our way to Sigourney to eventually meet Tony and Mike and convene there. Before we got there, Tony messaged me. Gleason was at the convenience store. 

Had Gleason made good time he had several miles of this to traverse on his way to CP#2- This taken the Saturday of T.I.v11 near where Greg stopped.

Tony related to me that the roads immediately South of Sigourney were treacherous. The worst he'd seen all day. That was saying something! Greg was inside the Casey's scarfing down a sandwich. His bike sat outside, looking none the worse for wear, despite the horrible conditions. Apparently, the heavy rains had washed away any mud Greg had run through. By this point the rain had abated. There were showers and mists, and the wind had calmed down significantly. In fact, things were actually much improved from my view. Had more riders made the time cut-off, this would have been a race. 

But on the other hand, it was looking like a losing battle. John Gorilla probably had the right idea after all. A close shave on time to the first checkpoint didn't allow enough time in the bank, as it were, to deal with walking more miles of Level B Roads, and there were definitely more miles of Level B Roads to Checkpoint #2. Gleason was pressing it close too. While we were watching him prepare to leave Sigourney, it was already 12:45. The next checkpoint closed at 8:00pm. Greg had a little over 80 miles to go. He was going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to make it, but he was a strong rider, and conditions were improving. Plus, I knew there was a long stretch of very flat terrain coming up. Maybe if Greg turned on the afterburners, he could gain enough time to play with to navigate the B Roads and still make it. Maybe. 

Of course, Greg didn't know this, and we couldn't tell him. It was just going to have to play itself out. I did lob a comment at him that I meant to get into his head. I said, "With 80 miles to go it's gonna be tough to make it in time."Greg didn't respond with anything tangible. He just grunted and shoved off. But now I knew the idea was understood. He could be motivated, or he could crumble. Now all we could do was wait to see what the outcome would be. 

Greg Gleason finally appears over the hill where we were parked. A little too late!

Now I had some math to do. Actually, I had the numbers crunched by Mike Johnson as well. I didn't want to rely on my math skills. I also forwarded my numbers to Jeremy, who just so happens to be a math professor at a local community college. All were in agreement that if I parked at a point about 40 miles from Checkpoint #2, and if Greg wasn't there at or before 4:00pm, he wasn't going to make the time cut. This was predicted on our knowledge of the course, the number of muddy, unrideable Level B Road miles within 40 miles of CP#2, and the weather. 

The weather actually improved even more by the mid-afternoon. MG and I had positioned ourselves at the spot where we were figuring Greg had to get to by 4;00pm. It was just at the end of a long, straight run Eastward where the course turned South down a narrow, muddy Level B Road. I was anxious. On one hand, I wanted Greg to fail because then I could call off Jeremy and save him a long round trip. On the other hand, I wanted to see Greg overcome the deficit and pull off a major coup.

In the meantime MG and I had a couple hours to kill. It seemed like a super long time to me. Of course, we were in the middle of no where. Nothing was going on. We just kept chatting, staring Westward at a low hill, looking for any sign of movement on the horizon that might indicate a rider. We spent some time playing with Amy, MG's dog that he brought along, and otherwise the only break in the monotony was a single car that passed us by. 

MG and Greg Gleason quaff a cold Dales at the spot where Greg pulled the plug.

At 4:00pm I told my finish line volunteers, mobile volunteers Mike and Tony, and CP#2 volunteer Jeremy that the event was over. Wally and George were notified and they decided to head home. We had not seen hide nor hair of Greg. Then we waited some more. 

Then at 4:20 MG said "There he is!", and as Greg rolled up I got out of the truck and walked up to meet him. It was over. Trans Iowa v11 was officially done. I made an announcement on "Trans Iowa Radio" to make it public. Officially it was the shortest Trans Iowa ever in terms of time, at just over 12 hours. Greg covered about 128 miles in that time, which was the second shortest amount of miles covered in a Trans Iowa ever. But could he have made it? 128 miles sounds good enough to keep going, right? Well, he had about 3.5 hours to do 40 miles to Checkpoint #2 and again- I knew the course. With at least three plus miles of walking in that 40 miles, he wasn't going to make the cut-off. It truly was a slam dunk to stop things, and even Greg agreed.

A solemn moment of silence followed which was cut short by MG asking Greg if he wanted a cold Dales. He responded in the affirmative and we both gave him a toast to celebrate his efforts. Then we piled into our vehicles, Greg with MG in his vehicle and myself in my truck, and off we went back from about as far as you could get from Grinnell on the T.I.v11 course. It was a long drive, and we didn't really know what we were going to do for certain once we did get back. 

I had a lot of time to think about that along the two hour drive back to Grinnell. We decided to tell everyone to head to a place in down town Grinnell called Lonski's. It was a local sports bar/college hang-out where I had been a few times before. MG also helped get the word out. I had a LOT of WTB tires with me as WTB had sent out something crazy like 40 pairs of Nano 40 TCS tires to hand out to every finisher. Well, obviously there weren't going to be any finishers, but I needed to download these tires. I really didn't want to be sitting on those for a year until another Trans Iowa might happen. 

Another Trans Iowa....... Yeah, I was thinking about that too. How could I let this Trans Iowa be the last? How could that be my legacy, my end statement? I couldn't allow it. The riders would have not allowed it, nor would they want to not have a chance at redemption. I figured that there would be a fair number that would want to have another crack at it. My volunteers wouldn't want it to end that way. I'm sure it was not the experience they were thinking it might be. Another year would prove to be better. 

In the meantime I had one more thing to do. A meeting. A gathering of the fellowship of Trans Iowa riders was to take place. An unprecedented chance to sit with those who had dedicated themselves to this crazy event. I was really looking forward to it too. 

Next: The Gathering


Rydn9ers said...

I wonder how many great stories start with MG and I rendezvoused at...

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers - Oh pffft! LOTS!! :>)