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 here...in Iowa....to 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 north....how 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 laughs....it 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!
- JB, SFCA
- JB, SFCA