Sunday, May 01, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: A Chorus Of Bovine Voices

Jon Duke captured this spectacular image the morning of T.I.v14's start.
 "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!  

The Trans Iowa was rolling again. One last time and I was really not feeling anything at all. In fact, as I write this all I can remember are a couple of things. One was that it was a spectacular morning. The weather was incredibly calm and, well....perfect. I was suspecting that the riders would be blazingly fast. I was thinking that this could be another Trans Iowa v12 where we had 40+ finishers. I think a lot of the riders were on the same page too. You could literally feel it in the air at the start. 

But after the first few moments Matt and I were just enveloped in the deep, darkness of an Iowa rural landscape. The occasional cue would be given, and the Subaru's little boxer type 4 banger would roar out of another corner and we would rumble down toward the next cue on the course. Meanwhile the Sun started to lighten up the Eastern sky. It wasn't long before Matt and I came to what I thought was an interesting bit of the T.I.v14 course and I asked him to stop the car for a bit.

The Eastern sky begins to blush as the riders kick up the dust coming toward CP#1 in T.I.v14. Image by Jon Duke

It was an intersection of four Level B dirt roads in a dingle deeply cut in on all sides to the point that a lot of the surrounding countryside was cut off from view. In fact, it was not far from Hartwick, and we weren't too far from the checkpoint. We were too early to arrive there, so we had some down time to just hang out for a bit. 

Birds were singing and in the intersection, it was very dark, but all around us, above our heads, we could see the brightening sky. We spoke of how that was a beautiful place at that time, how weird it was to have dirt roads intersect like that anymore, and maybe some other sundry bits of conversing were had. I don't have a great memory of what was said, but I vividly remember standing there and that we really took the time to soak that in. 

The Moon set as we got started on T.I.v14
Matt and I had this view from the dirt road intersections.

It was such a beautiful April morning that I was almost forgetting we had a group of fast gravel riders approaching soon. Thoughts crept in of Matt and I getting caught there by the lead group blazing down the dirt road. We jumped in the Suby and headed up the course to Checkpoint #1. 

Hartwick, Iowa's population is currently listed at 92 souls. It is one of those curious little villages that makes one wonder why, how is this even in existence? Iowa has a lot of that going on. Hartwick is a perfect example of this rural oddity. It isn't very close to anything, and there isn't a lot going on there unless you are a farmer, or a cow. 

We set up shop at the corner of an intersection near a tiny city park where we met Dennis Grelk, the T.I.v8 winner and veteran of other Trans Iowas, and his wife, Christina. We sat and awaited our other volunteers who were not long to arrive. We all were to be ready to go by 6:00am. By my calculations based upon past history and the weather that day, I fully expected to see riders by not long after this. Certainly by 6:30am they would have been through the checkpoint on a day like this one.

Meanwhile a chorus of bovine voices filled the air. It was roaring from the West side, then that would quiet down and we'd hear a chorus rise from the North side. There must have been some big herds of cattle right next to the village. I'm sure cows outnumbered humans in this tiny spot, and probably still do. Still, we thought the leaders would show up at any minute now. 

The lead group of T.I.v14 did not arrive at CP#1 until 6:50am.

But we did not see the leaders until nearly 7:00am, and they were in a bit larger group than I had remembered this being in recent Trans Iowa events. Not since around T.I.v6 or v7. Hmm... What gives there? I didn't have time to ponder these thoughts as I stood there that chilly morning, but after time had passed, I figured it out. Of course! It was the new procedure introduced for the cue sheets!

Since the fast guys could not just enter the first set of cues into their fancy Garmin devices and since that meant they had to do navigation 'old school', and follow cues, this tightened up the lead group, made it bigger, and slowed them down by what I figured was at least a half an hour! 

This not only had the effect of leveling the playing field a bit, but it made the event what it was supposed to have been all along for the entirety of the event, not just from Checkpoint #1 onward. I was really happy about this development, but I was also very disappointed in myself for not having caught on to this before. I still regret this and I wish I could have done this secret cue thing until the start all along.

Next: Tears And Beers

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