Sunday, August 08, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Celebrations

Sarah Cooper is all smiles after winning the Women's Open and being 5th place over all. Image by Wally Kilburg.
 "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 clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

Now that Greg Gleason and Walter Zitz were the co-winners of Trans Iowa v12, all we had to do was sit back and see how many others might make it back to Arbor Lake Park. Due to the co-winners torrid pace and the excellent conditions, we had to wait over an hour for second place finisher Luke Wilson to roll in.  Then we had to wait almost another hour later to see Travis Brunner finish as the first place single speeder along with third place finisher Jackson Hinde. It was a testament to just how fast Gleason and Zitz really were going, and it also marked the last time a finisher would come in before 8:00am! 

Way back when, my co-conspirator in Trans Iowa, Jeff Kerkove would tell me that 'everything has to go right...' to get a finish, much less a record breaking finish. Gleason and Zitz had that 'everything' about 99.99% locked in, but there was one minor .01% that they missed, and that was in terms of navigation. While it may seem 'unfair' to many outside of Trans Iowa, navigation was an integral part of the challenge. Trans Iowa was a 'race', but that was only a part of the event. It was a challenge, first and foremost. It started out that way, and it stayed that way until the end. "Do you have what it takes?" was the question, and in the case of the mythical sub-24 hour thing, which, by the way, was not a part of Trans Iowa's challenge, Gleason and Zitz apparently did not. Not 100% anyway, and so it was. Ironically, it would be another issue with navigation and Greg Gleason that would factor into one of the big stories in the last Trans Iowa. But I'm getting ahead of myself here......

Sunday morning of Trans Iowa v12. Shenanigans inspired by Trenton Raygor and Charles Parsons. Image taker unknown.

 Meanwhile a record number of finishers for a single Trans Iowa were slowly making their way back East and South to Grinnell and Arbor Lake Park. Many were in groups and one of the largest was captained by Charles Parsons and Trenton Raygor. Charles, a veteran of ten Trans Iowas, had told me about midway through his ten year run that he had taken on the mantle of being a 'shepherd' of sorts. A cheerleader/mentor/coach that wanted to see those around him finish the event because, as he told me a few times, he believed that finishing Trans Iowa was a life changing event worthwhile to make happen. Especially if you got past Checkpoint #2. He and Trenton teamed up for this purpose during T.I.v12, but Charles was an old hand at this by that time. Charles it was, as an example, who helped rally Mike Johnson to a finish in T.I.v7. I'm sure that he managed to find motivation for many riders in the years he was involved in the event. 

Well, part of the 'motivation' Raygor and Parsons had in mind during v12 was a "Whiskey Stop" before their big group made it back to Grinnell. Essentially, once the Sun had arisen, there would be a celebratory pull from the flask. And so it was that many riders finished due to Charles' and Trenton's intentions to inspire them on.

From L-R: John Mathias, Warren Weibe, GT, MG (with back to camera), and Ari Andonopoulous. Image by Celeste Mathias

The finish line scene Sunday morning. Image by Celeste Mathias

From about 10:00am until noon we had approximately 30 riders finish T.I.v12. That's more than half as many riders as T.I.v1 had in the entire event! Ultimately we had 47 finish the event out of 83 who started. An amazing finishing rate and it was something that never would be repeated again. Obviously I was quite busy during this time. It was a few hours of highly emotionally charged conversations. Very touching and memorable for myself, and I am sure for others as well. Celeste Mathias captured some great moments during this magical time for everyone and I am beyond blessed that she had the powers of observation that she had to do that. 

Here I am looking on as riders give each other hugs and congratulations. Image by Celeste Mathias

Some of the 47 riders who finished T.I.v12 getting their picture made to commemorate the occasion. Image by Celeste Mathias.

I was pleased with the outcome. I mean, how could I not be, right? Just looking around at this scene I was amazed at the small, tightly knit community of riders created around this event. Several of these people went on to do ten or more Trans Iowa events, many more would end up with 6 or 8 Trans Iowas. Friends were made for life and memories were made that families will share for generations. And here I was, one of the people responsible for it all. You could say 'the guy responsible for it all', I suppose. I don't claim anything, but all I know is that this was, and still is overwhelming. I still do not understand this 100%. Maybe I never will. 

And standing there at the end of it all, I was numb. I just could not fathom what had happened. Time seemed to stand still. Yet time was moving, and there were things that needed attending to yet. One by one riders packed up and said goodbye. I sent the volunteers home at 1:00pm, the last rider, Josh Lederman, had come in shortly before 1:00pm. There were still a few riders unaccounted for who may still have been out on course. So, I stuck around until 2:00pm. By this time there were only a few families at the park with their kids running around on the grass. You wouldn't have known that such a 'big deal' as T.I.v12 had just happened here. Then I cleared up any remaining trash and race flagging, and packed up the truck to go. Not home. Not yet. I had to look for the lost.....

Trans Iowa v12 was 'officially' over, and it was a huge emotional roller coaster of an event for me. At the time, no one knew the depths of worry and thought I had gone through on Saturday, and no one could guess at the highs I experienced Sunday morning. Now it was back to concern for four people I had to account for. Now the event was over for most, but it wasn't over for some, not yet. 

Next: Not All Who Wander Are Lost.

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