Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Never knew Mr. Pot Pie John Williams had a blog until today...its obviously awesome! check it out:

and here's his trans-iowa's too good to not repost...

rode hard and put away wet
Trans Iowa V7 recap

Last October in a moment of confidence, or ignorance, I decided I would sign up for Trans Iowa V7. I wasn't sure if I was capable of riding the 320+ mile course in one continuous, unsupported effort, but no better way to test your mettle than trial by fire. So I signed up, trained like hell and showed up in Grinnell, Iowa to race what could be the most physical challenge of my life. What follows is my story.

Friday night was the mandatory racer meeting and sign in at the Grinnell steak house, one of those kitchy cook your own meat restaurants, of which I'm a fan. After signing in, greeting familiar faces, and consuming the largest steak I could find in the cooler we filed into a meeting room. Guitar Ted gave us a once over of the rules, course conditions, as well as hand had out our race numbers, that came in the form of Buddhist prayer flags and inform us of the documentary film crew that was to be on course filming. The shin dig was fun but soon it was back to the room to make final decisions on what to wear and how much food to carry ect. Sarah surprised me with a little good luck charm, a Madonna del Ghisallo medal, the patron saint of cycling. I pinned it on my camelback along with my prayer flag thinking I'm not a religious man, but it can't hurt. When the alarm rang at 3:00 AM I felt my first streaks of fear, not the mix of anxiety and excitement that had been rolling threw my guts for the last 5 days, but real what the hell am I about to do fear. Luckily I was able to fend off those feelings and replace them with hurrying to get ready to make it downtown for the 4 A.M. start time.

The start was good, a thick blanket of fog quickly cleared up revealing a beautiful starry spring night. The roads were fast but wet and mud was flying everywhere, giving everyone healthy splattering grit. Through this I was able maintain a decent spot in the lead group, I even offered a few brief pulls. By the time we reached the first checkpoint at the 53 mile mark my drive train sounded as if it could explode at any minute from all the mud and gunk thrown up form the road. I felt good as I feverishly checked in, tried to clean out my drive train, and refill my water bottles. The vibe at the checkpoint was hectic at best. I tried to spit out a few clever thoughts to the film crew about savoring the moment, all 30 hours of them, but I'm sure it came out as a jumbled mess.

The leaders were quick to head out, so I latched on to a small group and headed out a few minutes after the lead group of three took off. The pace was fast and I was consequently spit out out the back about 5 miles out, and was strung out between two small groups. This is were I resolved to ride my own ride and settle into a pace I could maintain for 24 more hours. It was sunny, warming up and I had a long stretch of tailwind, I was content and confident.
After missing a few turns I ended up with a group of about 10. We were a random assortment of riders that seemed to have a good dynamic, and we would stay together for the what would be the majority of the race. The rest of the afternoon past by with mile after mile of ideal gravel roads and muddy unrideable B roads through the hills and farm lands of rural Iowa. I was in hog heaven, getting the Trans Iowa experience that I came for. While on this stretch the film crew got lots of footage of us, I even managed a few shameless close ups. We rolled into checkpoint two at mile 177 shortly after the sun went down and about 2 hours before the cut off time, this is where the real challenge began.

As the night wore on the affects of sleep deprivation mixed with exhaustion created a difficult mind frame, something I think everyone in our group was experiencing. The pace began to slow and the stops became more frequent, talking was almost none existent as everybody stared blankly down the spotlit road. Soon the hardest challenge just to keep my eyes open. I would sprint a hill to get my heart rate up and a blast of energy only to nod off on the downhill, waking as I started to swerve. I tried to talk to any of my companions about anything I could, just to try to stay awake, I even told the old Mcdunna nails joke (it was Easter by this point). After a few hallucinations and a couple more nods the sun finally started to rise for second time this race. With the sun came the realization that we had slowed down so much that if we stayed at our current pace we would finish with only a few minutes before the 2:00 cut off time.After a long set a big rollers I had opened a pretty good gap, I stopped to let 2 other riders from our group catch up and there I suggested we take off to ensure we make it in before the cut off time, the other riders agreed and off we went.

The three of us pushed on the last 70 miles at a pace that would easily get us to the finish line before the cut off. During this time we deiced we would ride in together not attempting any attacks on each other, reaffirming the gentile roots of our sport. As the last few miles ticked by the realization that I was going to be Trans Iowa a finisher was filling me with euphoria. Although when I finally crossed the finish line for 7th place in 32 hours 13 minutes, after hugging my family and shaking the hands of race organizers, Guitar Ted and David Pals, all I could get out was "I'm really tired." So we returned to the hotel for quick shower and hot tub before Sarah drove us home.

In the end I felt elated, I felt proud, and mostly I felt like A dragon slayer who had just killed the baddest beast in the land.

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