I Rode Trans Iowa And All You Got Was This Crappy Recap.

I just got home from Grinnell. At 3pm on Saturday. From TIV8. Which officially ends tomorrow at 2 pm. What happened, you ask? Not enough to keep me on the mildly slimy gravel roads of whatever county I bailed in.  Here’s what happened:

In case you were wondering why it is called a "Meat Up" Pre Race meeting for TIV8

Friday night April 27th, 2012, 70-ish racers and their crews descended upon Grinnell, Iowa for what is known to those in the know as the Trans Iowa V8.  320+ miles of gravel in the hills of west-central Iowa over the course of 34 hours.  This is the Eighth running of the gravel bulls (hence the V8), and an event that brings the bulls back for try after try. We had a pre-race “Meat Up” that included dinner, a talk from race director Guitar Ted giving us the low down hoe down, and a screening of the documentary directed by former endurance racer Jeff Frings about the race entitled “300 Miles Of Gravel,”  which was filmed during last year’s race (TIV7). The rules were clearly laid out, our bellies were full, and the documentary got us all stoked. It was great to be able to see the documentary along side many of the people who were featured. After the Meat Up, my ride (none other than crack race photographer/gravel freak Steve Fuller) and I sauntered off to meet a few people at Bikes To You for a few brews and some great past TI stories.

After managing to snag an impromptu stay at a friends house (crack race Photographer Steve Fuller and I were going to do some “truck camping” until I deemed it too cold and made a phone call) for a few short hours of sleep, I awoke to the reality that I HAD ACTUALLY MADE THE PROPER CLOTHING CHOICE for the race.  For any of you whom have toed the line at a cycling event this time of year, you know that Mom Nature is a fickle mistress when it comes to temperature and precipitation (a serious understatement for Trans Iowa in general, historically), and as I fumbled with my wind/waterproof winter tights I knew that I would not regret them at all.  Truth.

We arrived in front of Bikes To You for the start of the race around 3:20, shortly after as I was putting the finishing touches on my bike a car of young folks parked next to me.

“Excuse me, Sir, what are you guys doing?”

“We are getting ready to do a bike race”


I guess in their minds it was only a good time for the “drive of shame” or whatever it was that they were up to.  It was a hilarious reaction, especially since I didn’t go into detail of what a ridiculous race it was.

We embarked on our journey at 4 am sharp. Things were drier than I had thought they would be considering that I was woken up by thunderstorms a few times between midnight and 2am, but there were was still enough give to the earth to make things more of a grind than hoped for.  There is something exhilarating about riding a wet dirt road in the pitch black of night with 70 other mad-people.  When the pace truck pulled away and dropped us upon the Powesheik County gravel like so many bombs from a B-52, it was a slick, loose battle (sounds gross) to find a line and, at least for me, to find a bearing on what was going to be the pace for the day.  I realized within a mile that I was riding with the wrong group, seeing lots of carbon wheels and Ti bikes, and decided to heed the advice of my good friend MG and sit back and let my legs find themselves. To know your limits is one thing, but to not push too far past them at the start of a 320 mile ride is another, wiser thing.  I saw a few folks that I recognized and said hey, then settled in to what could have been a decent pace to make the first checkpoint at mile 52.  Then we turned into the wind.

For the first few miles  there was a wicked cross wind with some tail wind action, when we turned into it…things changed immensely.

This is what cray cray looks like. 3:30 am in Grinnell and the streets are filled with wild gravel grinders.

I settled into a decent pace, looking ahead to find other riders to chase down.  We ended up gathering a small group for a (loosely labeled) pace line.  I was not happy with the pace, as gravity allows me to descend a little faster than the others and drove on.

Things up to this point weren’t going stellar, I had to stop twice to check my personal “undercarriage”, which was still a little sore from the Gents Race a few weeks ago.  I started feeling the combination of pain and numbness.  This is where things started going south for old beardo.  I started questioning whether I should even be doing this but in the end decided that at this point in my life, do I really need functioning man parts? Ha. Ha. So I rode on.

I know myself well enough to know that if I start questioning things this early in an event that it will not end well.  66% of the time it’s 100% truth. Then, after quieting my little sniveling inner wus, my bike started to malfunction.  It’s only a matter of time before this happens during the course of Trans Iowa, tires kicking up muck, wet sand and gravel chunks getting stuck on your ride.  First, Front D doesn’t want to get out of the big ring while climbing hills.  No good, but it started listening quickly.  I have been having that problem recently and SOME NEW CABLE AND HOUSING WOULD HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM. Chalk one up for poor planning.  Then my Rear D starts throwing my chain over the cassette into the spoke of my recently rebuilt wheel (thank you, Matt at Rasmussen Bike Shop). I need that puny little gear to spin my fat ass up these big hills SO WHY DOES MY BIKE THINK THAT I SHOULD BE CLIMBING IN A HARDER GEAR? It may be a sign from the Vaya that it wants me to drop some weight, it is tired of feeling the stress of 260# on its poor steel frame.  Chalk one up to animating inanimate objects. I was passed by my former draft-mates while off the bike fixing my shifting problems, they were concerned, but I said I was fine and they drove on.  Thanks, guys. I love the community of gravel grinders and baggers.  Always willing to lend a hand to a brother or sister in trouble.

Damn Bike.

I look at the cue sheet, I see that at mile 28.6 I am making a turn back into the wind and towards the first B road.  As I approached the intersection a thought popped into my head.  Where am I in relation to Grinnell? I kind of want some fat kid breakfast and a pitcher of beer. Knowing that I can’t get into my baby climbing gear was disheartening since my legs were already feeling the burn not even thirty miles in.  I pulled out the phone, checked GPS, and saw that Highway 6 was straight ahead.  I looked left. I looked right. I pulled out my flask of Fireball and took a couple hits. I checked behind me, and knowing that the DFL person had passed me making ME the DFL, and that my mind, body and bike were betraying me, and that I was off pace to reach the first checkpoint already with no real hope of making up the time, I excercised a thing a call WWBD (What would Baggers Do) and headed for the highway.  If your bike doesn’t want to cooperate while going slow over crappy terrain, turn it around for a blazing fast tail wind fueled ride back into town on some pavement.  Then get you some breakfast. I am not happy with my showing, but I am really happy that I showed up.  Toeing the line at Trans Iowa was a great experience that I will learn from and remember always.  A great event with some pretty amazing men and women.  It was an honor to share the road with you all.  I now know what I have to do for next year…start training tomorrow.

Songs stuck in my head during my short stint on TIV8:

  • Livin On a Prayer – Bon Jovi. gross.
  • Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle. even more gross.
  • some Hootie song, but I can’t remember which one and don’t want to for fear it gets stuck in there again

I am sure there is a meaning to those songs in the context of this race beyond the fact that I need to finally just start riding with an mp3 player so that this doesn’t happen in the future.

What I did instead of Trans Iowa:

  • Ate a hearty breakfast
  • Drank 8 cups of coffee while shivering the whole time. Didn’t think to pack a change of clothes on my race bike. lol.
  • Read the article about bike trails and food/bars which I was a part of.
  • Got day drunk at Rabbit’s in Grinnell with the local day drinkers (actually, I walked into the bar and there were a bunch of kids from Grinnell College who were doing their take on the Drake Relays, the Drink Relays.  There was some Ying Yang Twins blaring on the juke box and some ice cold PBR. It felt like Carl’s Place for a minute.
  • Got a ride back to DSM with my good friend Joe
  • Passed the F out.

Things I will do differently for TIV9:

  • Re-cable and tune my drivetrain.
  • Train properly. I was pretty lazy this winter. No good.
  • Get/Share a hotel room
  • Drop down to my goal weight of 220. That will keep my bike and my knees happier.
  • Bring even less gear. I packed pretty light, but I could pare things down even lighter.
  • Put my nutrition in the right order.  I have an order in which I go through my Camelbak feed pouches, right to left. I did not arrange things properly and got a flavor shock when I got a mouth full of PB flavored gel. Also, not sure of the caffeine content, which I need to watch.
  • Put Wild Turkey instead of Fireball in my flask. It’s not my favorite “out of the flask” drink.
  • Ride Faster.
  • Make Checkpoints.
  • Finish.

I did manage to make some serious headway into my drive to cut down my swearing, both on and off the bike.  It didn’t help my mechanical issues, but that bike has had its feelings hurt a number of times.  I can’t expect the healing process to be immediate.




Trans Iowa Eve Rambling.

Here it is, my last day of preparation before leaving for Grinnell, Iowa and the “Meat Up” which is the official start of the Trans Iowa V8 festivities.  I am very excited. I have been waiting for this moment for a few years, and the time has come to put myself to the test.  It’s a long ride, and I am going to do my best to hold on to it for as long as I can.  I have been constantly over thinking bike choices, gear, nutrition, physical preparation, weather.  The time for all of those is over, all I can do now is ensure that I don’t leave anything important behind and keep my fingers crossed for good weather.

TIV8 Rig, the Salsa Vaya

The weather is looking about as trustworthy as usual (not at all, today was supposed to be low 60’s and so-so, I took the day off to finish up race prep and rest and it turned out to be in the 70’s. Probably  would have been a good day to serve tacos…but I did have some serious race prep to do…and I am fighting a cold. boohoo.) so I am packing for temps from 40+, anything below that and I will just have to ride harder to stay warm. No biggie, it’s not the first time that bridge been crossed.  A very awesome friend of mine gifted me some white chocolate covered espresso beans, her favorite for distance running, and as I was re-packing them I realized I was down to 7 gel packs. Will this be enough? I think I would rather take my chances with gas station breakfast burritos than live off gels for two days. I think it will be enough. I was trying to figure out how to pack a cheesesteak in my gear, but decided that if the grease leaked out it would just become dog bait, and in turn I would be dog (enter meal for appropriate day part).  Nutrition is about as covered as I can…I have some cashews and chomps, and a Four Loko, and some Fireball in a flask, and a few other things.  Weather is checked off. Packing an extra pair of socks, and I learned during the Gents Race a few weeks back that my goddamn Shower’s Pass cadillac rain jacket is actually a great, comfortable piece of outer gear for racing/endurance riding. ramble ramble ramble.

I have the documentary “Ride The Divide” playing in the background for inspiration.  Sure, the scenery is breathtaking, but what I am taking away for TIV8 is “hey, it’s only 300 miles” as opposed to 2,700 miles that those animals were chewing away at.  I think the real lessons learned by watching are: Yes, your legs could swell up like two balloons (makes me think of the Wall).  It’s okay to start making very little sense on camera at mile 2100.  Don’t wear brand new shoes when riding long distances (Come ON). And the YOU WILL NOT FORGET LITTLE LARRY. Or so he says.

I am kind of kicking myself for not having an ipod or some such device. I guess this could be the ride that I finally give in and ride with music. I really love just observing nature, listening to its beauty, and making up freestlye songs about whatever I see.  Sometimes I break out into Rod Stewart songs. This is why I ride solo most of the time. No one wants to hear terrible songs emanating from this beard.  I DID rap the NWA straight outta compton album on a very long ride once. Well, as much as I could remember while dodging dogs and farm trucks…and a lot of it wasn’t in sequence.  It’s a funny thing when you sing/rap a song by yourself then when you get to the end of the part you are on your brain magically forgets where to go and loops back to the beginning of the phrase you just finished. Look at the rambling. Evidently my brain is warmed up for riding because that is exactly what happens for my whole ride…

When you peel yourself from bed Saturday morning you should see at least one or two updates from the route. It’s going to be an exciting time, I am super pumped to see the men and women of TIV8 tomorrow, to get to see the premier of “300 Miles Of Dirt” the documentary filmed last year during TIV7, and to get out and grind the shit out of some gravel.  Later, skaters.  Fatty gotta get some rest.

Gent’s Race Ride Report

Last Saturday saw the second coming of the Gent’s Race here in the DSM.  5 person teams, 66 miles of gravel, and a bunch of fun. In theory.  My team consisted of myself (der) and 4 awesome gents known collectively as Team Careless Whispers and singularly as Steve Fuller, Mark Stevenson, Bob Moural, and David Cornelison, all men with deep ties to the biking scene (their names are linked to either their businesses or blogs, visit their sites)  I would be hard pressed to put together a better team for any ride of this type, those guys are golden and got me through a rough day of whining and sniveling.

Bob, David, Steve, Mark, and myself right before shit got real

I am not going to give you the play by play.  I honestly don’t want to think about it too much, it was painful but an incredibly good time.  This was probably the most challenging flat terrain gravel ride I have ever done due to a recent road resurfacing (and me not being able to gain any momentum whatsoever).  It was demoralizing at times, but we kept it together, no flats and no mechanicals.  The guys were riding strong and there were some amazing moments when it all came together and we were pinning it to the wall.  Ultimately my motor came up more on the Yugo side than it should have and I managed to be the anchor this year.  All good, the guys took turns babysitting me while I cussed my legs, my bike, mother nature, birds, pretty much everything along the way.

Thank you to the Careless Whispers for all the good times this year.  I can’t wait to return next year, maybe with a different team name.