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 event.....my 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 bored....no more grad school, no more tests, no nothing. I wanted something to challenge me (other than my education) so I thought what could do that...how 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 race....you are a gravel GOD...cycling legend...you 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