Free Your Mind, And Your Legs Will Follow

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Recap: Trans Iowa

Hard months of training had come down to this day....we gathered at the Grinnell Steakhouse and had a delicious meal which the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce had so graciously helped us out with, talked about the race, gathered our packets, conversed with friends....and off to the hotel rooms to check and pack our bikes for a final time. We tried to get some sleep, but in reality no one really slept. The nerves and anxiousness of the race kept everyone tossing and turning and thinking of what the gravel would be like on race day since it had been raining for a whole week in Iowa prior to the event. We got up, had some food, got dressed and rode into town to gather at the bike shop in downtown Grinnell. It was so awesome to feel the energy in the group and to see how pumped up that people were to be here. It was like everyone knew how hard that we all had been training and we were ready to release a caged animal. We lined up and Guitar Ted sounded the Salsa Woodchipper horn out of the Honda Element and we rolled out of town together. The first gravel section was surprisingly mellow even though I heard that the race starts here....the leaders were off of the front but it didn't seem like anyone was going crazy just yet. The gravel was soaked and a thin layer of clay shot up over the bikes, tires, and clothing that we had on....what a blast this was!!! I was soooooo excited to be here, to be on my bike with legends of gravel road races, to be on the Trans Iowa with my very good friend Ari, and new friend Michael (Dr. Giggles). The training had paid off and we felt fresh.

The sun started to rise and the groups started to spread thin. We turned the lights off and started entering the hilly section of the first leg of the race. My legs felt great and the 34-34 low gear that I have turned up everything that was thrown in my way...Our goal was to stick together and we tried to do that as much as possible. The Slender Fungus were take the beast down and to get finishes from the beast known as the Trans Iowa. This was the 4th attempt for Giggles and Ari, and I wanted to do my best to help them achieve this goal. The 3 of us began to split up, confusion on the course took us on a B-road where we walked for a mile through a muddy pit. This ate up about 30-45 minutes of time. As we got on the bikes again we saw 30-40 bikes coming back at us in the opposite direction. It was the leaders....what had gone wrong?! I guess everyone had gone off of course, the cue sheets didn't add up and our mileage was all messed up. We followed the leaders back to the course and regrouped with Ari and then Giggles. By this time our legs were fried from carrying our bikes for 1 mile through a mud pit....and then the wind picked up.

25-30 mile an hour winds out of the west north west....guess what, the course was about 35 miles west and 10 miles convenient. Giggles was pacing out his ride to finish the checkpoint exactly on time. I knew that I needed to go faster and started to pull forward into the wind. Ari and I got separated for a while and after easing up again I knew that we needed to make the checkpoint together....this was the GOAL...I could not be selfish and just leave my training partner behind. We hit a very very hilly section of gravel hills. I had to walk some of these hills and Ari was in the granny gear churning up them as fast as he could spin. I kept eating and drinking knowing that the hills would keep coming.

Ari began to cramp and I blocked as much wind as I could and gave him a push up the hills when I could. I told him to keep drinking and eating....he would not give up, WE would not give up. I dropped into a harder gear and kept grinding into the wind...Ari right in my draft. We passed group after group of hopeless riders. I knew that at this point it would be minutes if not seconds to make the first checkpoint if we did not hold at least a 14-15 mph average into a 20-20 mph headwind with brutal hills. I kept grinding.....We both started to get tired, the pace slowed, again a turn was taken down by an angry farmer and we had to turn back a mile out of the way....wonderful. Finally, we were in a tailwind. The last 5 miles of the course into Baxter, IA. Ari's legs were cooked, mine were almost there from the effort that I put in...he told me that I needed to leave him and push forward. I told him that I wasn't about to do that. Finally, after yelling at me some more Ari yelled "JAY, GOOOOOo, JUST GOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" I got into time-trial mode and shot off with as much energy as I had. The clock on my computer said 9:09, the checkpoint cutoff was at 9:15. I needed to hurry. I left nothing to chance and hit the hills with as much energy as I had....rolled into Baxter and had someone flag me down and tell me he was sorry....

I said, excuse me... sorry for what. I pointed to my computer which gave a ride time of 5 hours and 7 minutes (which put me in with enough time for the checkpoint) and showed him my clock which read 9:15....he said he was sorry and that the time on his cell phone read 9:16 and that I couldn't go on. I was in disbelief....this guy had no idea what we had just gone through.....A turn that was not marked, a B-road that was not supposed to be ridden, a heroic effort to get to the checkpoint on time and this guy told me NO....

I stood in the road for minutes....hating myself, cursing the world...why did this happen, HOW did this happen.

It took me a while to cool down....We regrouped as everyone can into the checkpoint. We decided to roll back to Grinnell with a tailwind. Mark B from Princeton, IL joined us and it was a pleasure to ride with him this weekend as well. I thought about things, we had a good ride back to Grinnell, I mainly stayed alone to think about what had happened. Giggles and I chatted about what had happened and we came to a positive outcome. I came to the conclusion that these things (in a way) were out of my hands....the course was the course, the weather was the weather, I came to Iowa to ride with Ari and Giggles, and thats what I did. We did not give up, we laid it all out there, we gave it everything we had. We may not have finished but we learned a lot, had a great time with great friends, got some great riding in, made notes for next year, had a lot of may not have been a finish at one of the hardest races out there....but it was an amazing experience none the less.

I enjoyed meeting everyone that I did. Finally, meeting Michael (Giggles) with whom I knew I would be racing with since October but never have met...he is an awesome guy. Riding with Mark B again since the Bonkfest...that dude is awesome and has good taste haha. Chatting with and meeting Jeremy Kershaw, Tim Ek, Charlie Farrow, Cornbread, and many others. This gravel grinder group of riders is amazing and it is an amazing atmosphere to be a part of. What a wonderful experience. I plan on placing well at the DK2oo and heading to Duluth, MN to ride with the DBD in the heck of the north. Thanks to everyone that made this a special weekend and to all of the volunteers especially our buddy Rich for coming along and doing support for us...thanks Rick! Big thanks to Guitar Ted and David Pals for putting on a great race, I really hope that you guys continue to do so. I will be back next year with a finish in my sights!

Congrats to all that finished and to Dennis Grelk on an amazing ride!


T.I. Recap coming soon

Full Trans Iowa recap coming soon. Some of the DBD's recaps: Here is Tim Ek's (2nd Place) recap on the race. Jeremy Kershaw's recap. The ride was brutally tough. About 18 of the 74 that started actually finished. Still gathering my thoughts for the full recap

- JB

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trans Iowa: Pre-race Thoughts

Having spoken with Ari many times about this race and hearing his experiences, seeing his pictures, reading blogs of others who have competed in this first thought was, "Why in the hell would anyone in their right mind want to do anything like this". Last year during my birthday I was sitting poolside in Vegas drinking beer thinking of Ari, Giggles, and Hellmut slogging away in the mud covered terrain of Iowa wishing them a good race and nothing more. I wanted them to finish but that was the extent of my involvement. Earlier the month before I had just graduated from grad school with my M.S. in organic chemistry. This was the hardest thing mentally that I have ever had to do. Write an 80 page thesis, defend my thesis, get grilled, on top of 3 years of hard work, class load. etc etc. I moved out of town, started a new job at Wheel Fast and started a simpler life.... a year later I will be spending my birthday weekend much differently. So, why enter the Trans Iowa?

Well, I needed another challenge. I was getting more grad school, no more tests, no nothing. I wanted something to challenge me (other than my education) so I thought what could do about riding 320 miles through gravel?.....sounds good to me.... I have always loved gravel road rides, cyclocross bikes, the culture, everything about it. I love that it is a small little niche group of the massive cycling industry and lifestyle that millions of others live day to day. Trans Iowa is just small enough that it is not very well known (although its getting there)....but to finish the race, or to win the are a gravel GOD...cycling have made a major accomplishment in pushing your physical limits, your equipments limits, and the most important and least thought about....mental limits.

So, I spoke with Ari about entering the event. He encouraged me.....I pulled my hair out trying to get into the event..... got into the event and started training that same day for the event. We had brutal weather all winter, I rode mainly by myself....but kept the goal of finishing this race in sight. This motivated me day to day when the weather was terrible out, or my legs were tired or I wanted to go meet up with some friends and grab a beer. I KNEW that I must train for this event and if I came shy of finishing that I would blame myself for not training harder than I did.

I rode close to 3000 miles this year, and many miles last year after getting into the event in preparation. Researched products and other riders bike setup. Consulted with Ari on any thoughts that I had on the race. Talked with Joe Miser on T.I. up at Frostbike in February. Spent sleepless nights thinking about any little detail about this event. I feel like I owe a lot of thank you's to people for helping me with this. First, a thank you to Guitar Ted and D.P. for putting this event on and spending all of the hours and hard work setting up this free event. I have never raced it before but I know you guys bust your asses and I thank you for that. Secondly, thank you to my girlfriend Jill for being so encouraging with me about the event. She always told me to ride, get the miles in, do what I had to do, knowing that it sacrificed time with her when we live 3 hours away and don't see each other much as it is. Buying me a new camera for my birthday and my revelate frame bag....thank you Jill! Last, to my family, friends, boss, and anyone else for encouraging me, supporting me and believing in me. I love you all.

I hope the weather holds up for this saturday, that the gravel is not too saturated, that we are able to make the checkpoints in reasonable time and that our spirits are held high. Excited for a long ride with some great friends and a memorable experience if anything else.

Reading Ghost Trails by Jill Homer, I think she described her preparation for the Iditarod 350 mile ride through Alaska very well and made me think of my preparation for Trans Iowa:

"I gazed down at my boots, which continued to step one in front of the other through powder as fine and white as sand on an idyllic tropical beach. The Iditarod Trail. This was everything I had wanted. These were the moments I had anticipated, prepared for, and let my life be consumed by for months...arguably years. I never claimed to be an experienced winter ultra-endurance racer, butI put in the time. I, the quintessential non-athlete, set up rigorous training schedule and stuck to it. I trained until everything I did felt like training.
Who goes out in a January sleet storm to ride their bicycle for 12 hours when only six of those hours are even remotely light? Who waits for the temperature to drop into the single digits so they can spend a weeknight sleeping outside in their back yard, buried in a tight sleeping bag just to see if they can in fact survive? Who spends many hundreds of dollars on gear and food and travel and entry fees just to drag themselves into the bowels of their own personal hell? I looked down at the drifted snow, the Iditarod Trail. 'I did that....all of that...for you'."

Trans Iowa....this is for you

- JB

Hitting the Nail on the Head

I am turning myself inside out wondering about this race, ben shockey puts into words everything that I am thinking. I physically feel strong enough to finish. Riding with the Slender Fungus will hold my head up high and keep me in good spirits. The bike position is dialed.....I am nervous never having competed in an ultra endurance event and excited all at the same time. I am telling myself that this race will get finished....I sure hope the weather cooperates and is not too muddy like last year was. Pre-race thoughts entry coming tomorrow.

- JB

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Ride

Met up at the Ari household at 7 a.m. We headed northwest with a tailwind and ended up in Elgin where we were totally lost and had no idea where we were. Ari found the route home and we trucked into the massive headwind for 20 miles. Had great conversation and talked about final plans for the Trans Iowa in 6 days.....6 DAYS AHHHH!!! ITS HERE ALREADY!!! Was blessed with an AMAZING new camera for my birthday from my AMAZING girlfriend, shot some cool photos and still learning how to use the new camera. Got in 70 miles for the day and still finalizing all plans, gear, and state of mind for the long one approaching. Thanks to the Gravemaker for my AMAZING flag from the Tour of Flanders....seriously amazing, thank you! Will make a final thoughts post for the Trans Iowa here in a few days. Pray for our souls.

- JB


10-Day Forecast for Grinnell, IA

Monday, April 11, 2011


You think just riding the race is hard...slow the picture down a bit and then take a look at why this is considered one of the hardest races in cycling, AND has been around longer than the tour de france, some even consider it more prestigous. Found this from Guitar Ted's facebook...thanks for the link!

Some Things

Congrats to Johan Van Summeren on a great Paris-Roubaix

Week Recap:

Monday - 30 miles
Tuesday - 40 miles
Wednesday - 50 miles
Thursday - 40 miles
Friday - 162 miles
Saturday - 24 miles
Sunday - 80 miles

Taking today off of the bike and going to get some miles in and taper off the beginning of next week for Trans Iowa. - JB

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trans Iowa Training

Today I awoke with visions of doing a 150-200 mile ride. My day off got moved from Thursday to Friday as of some family matters with my boss which is totally cool. This denied any possibilities of riding with my Trans Iowa training partner (3 Hours away) Ari, who has Thursdays I planned on going solo. The wind was out of the north so I headed into the hills of Athens and Petersburg to start....I set my mind on doing a long ride and this kept me cool and calm and not in a rush for anything during the day, I expected to be on the bike the entire day. I ended up in Petersburg and planned on riding down to Jacksonville, I texted my friend Dale who teaches and lives in Jacksonville on a whim and turns out he was on spring break and could ride with me, I took some amazing roads filled with hills and gravel on the way out and met with Dale with 67 miles under my belt. He took me through a loop all the way around Jacksonville and sent me on my way with 100 miles in. It was so nice to ride with Dale, he is always great company, very traditional cyclist like myself and we get along very well. Had a great ride and chatted about bicycles, life, and everything in between...including the taste of plain Gu (remember your Hinsdale story Ari?). I rode 120 miles self-supported with everything in my Revelate Tangle bag...I hope this is a good sign of being prepared for the monster that awaits. I stopped in Franklin, IL for some candy and peanuts and gatorade and continued my quest home. The ride home seemed like a struggle and as I pulled into the bike shop, I realized I had ridden with a leaking flat tire for probably 5-8 miles. Perfect timing, I changed the tire and headed home and the legs were tired but felt like they could have given more. Ended the day with 162 miles of gravel and pavement. Was the longest ride I have ever done in my life and feel great about it....thanks to Adam and Mark for getting me out for a beer afterwards and talking nonsense like usual, great friends and a great day of riding. Can't wait for Trans getting more and more excited, and glad to have tried a long ride with a some-what finalized bicycle set up. Cheers!

- JB

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Secret T.I. machine. Ari, Giggles, and I will take turns pedaling the gravel roads of Iowa while one person takes rests in the back. The center platform is for all of our food and supplies.

Thinking of Trans Iowa looming two weeks away always makes me think of this song.

The Quadrabent system to link two recumbents is actually pretty neat and we ordered this in for a family with a special needs daughter, what a cool way to go out and explore.

Don't let that meat loaf!

- JB

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jill's Bike

My girlfriend Jill bought a very nice used Litespeed Antares this weekend from the experts at Wheel Fast. The bike is equipped with campagnolo centaur ten speed and is an aluminum frame with carbon seat stays....what a great deal and great set up for a first road bike, hope to start riding some miles with this lovely lady!

- JB

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flanders Day

Congrats to Nick Nuyens

Steven "Gravemaker" Graves making the Wheel Fast debut in Belgium

Flanders Day Cookie

Had a Flanders party over at the Boss' house with burgers, delicious chocolate dipped cookies, and Belgium beer. What an exciting race. Congrats to Nick Nuyens of Saxo Bank proving that even with a lot of guys leaving the team that it still is a very stong team this year. Very excited for Paris-Roubaix next Sunday! - JB

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tour of Flanders

Great photos taken from pez cycling for Sunday's tour of flanders. Look for a Wheel Fast jersey on the last climb (the Muur) because the gravemaker is going to be rocking one! Happy Flanders Day! My favorite cycling event of the year!!!!!!!!!! - JB