My students and cohorts at school provided good therapy by allowing me to tell the tales of the experience. At the beginning of the day I was swallowing my pride and feeling disappointed. By the end of the day, the tales were more laughable and less emotional. It made me realize that I was really taking this all a little too serious. After all, riding my bike is something I do out of sheer enjoyment. And I did enjoy the journey. I/we also decided that "tragedies" can create a more realistic story line. The hero doesn't always get the girl in the end. Right?
So I thought I'd share some of the memories I have of the weekend. Some are good, some bad, and some just weird little snippets of nothingness that have come to my mind.
The Good: I stayed up too late on Friday night to with my pit crew, Kelley and Jeff, to watch the Blackhawks pull out an overtime win over the Blues. Go Hawks!
Good: It's tough getting up at 3:00 on Saturday morning to get to the start. But all the lights aglow on the bikes ahead of me at the start of the ride provided a hypnotic beauty.
Good: The first "B" road proved to be mostly rideable. That was a good sign of "B" roads to come.
Good: It seemed like an easy ride to Checkpoint 1. The wind wasn't so bad and the legs felt fine. Being on a single speed, I rode my at my own solitary pace.
The Bad: After Checkpoint 1, the wind decided to pick up. This was the wind I expected. I didn't fight it. I figured there would be both head winds and tailwinds, so things would balance themselves out.
Good: Surprisingly, the wind didn't seem to bother my spirits and it allowed me to get into a steady cadence. When the course began to be more hilly, it just allowed me to get out of the saddle and stretch my legs. Just another day in paradise.
Still Good: I passed plenty of riders between the first two convenience stores. It was good to see Corey Godfrey, Mike Johnson, and Jay Barre. I felt bad that I didn't ride with them. I wasn't trying to be rude and not be more social, but my singlespeed gearing dictated my pace and neither going to fast or too slow for my one gear would be fruitful for my legs.
More Good: After riding solo for most of the ride so far, I met up with others at the second convenience store and enjoyed some solid food and some good conversation. And then it was off down the road.
Getting Good: After the convenience store stop, I got to enjoy crosswinds or tailwinds for a good long while. I was feeling geared out whenever the tailwinds launched me down the road. I soon ran across another rider (I forget his name) and had someone to ride with for about 30 miles. A little conversation on a bike ride is always a good thing.
The 1st Bad: As I was cresting yet another large hill I had my first chain break of my ride. No big deal. These things happen. All I had to do was slow things down in my mind and replace the link with some of the spare ones I brought, and then it was back on the bike toward Checkpoint 2.
Halfway Good: Checkpoint 2 came at approximately 175 miles. The crew that was there was extremely positive and encouraging. I joked with them that I doubt the forecast of stronger winds would make much difference, which I would later find out I was wrong about. When I no longer am able to ride TransIowa I plan to volunteer be a similar ambassador of goodness.
Not So Good: My dinner time convenience store stop was only about 8 miles after Checkpoint 2. Upon stopping, I felt lightheaded and my stomach felt nauseous. Wierd. I sent quick text to my wife at home, and pit crew to tell them all was good, then promptly turned my phone back off. Even if I didn't feel good at the moment, they didn't need to know, and I knew was going to continue on anyways. It was at this convenience store where I accidentally bought a raisin cookie instead of a chocolate chip cookie. I really don't like raisins.
Back to Good: The cure for not feeling good when you get off your bike is to get back on the bike. Yeah! I was looking forward to riding into the night. The night offers a certain peacefulness and the lack of light causes me to have a new found focus.
The 2nd Bad: My chain broke once again while pushing up an uphill segment. I quickly changed it During this time a female rider passed me by. She was riding impressively. It's weird to just have someone come out of nowhere and ride off into nowhere into the night. Ghostly almost.
The 3rd Bad: Another chain break not more than 10 miles down the road while climbing another hill. This breaking was starting to concern me. Was it the same weak link area or just a bad luck chain? I took out an extended amount of links and replaced them, being extra careful to make sure I put the pins in a good secure spot. And off I rode.
Looking Good: Normally you just don't see much of the Iowan landscape during the night. But scattered lightning storms throughout central Iowa were lighting up my surroundings. I was feeling optimistic that the distance lightningscapes were going to remain scattered an I would mostly avoid them. During this time I also ran into "Guitar Ted" who rerouted me around a bridge that was out. It was good to see him and have a little friendly chatter. I extended my thanks to him for the generous amount of wind and hills that his event offered. Our brief conversation and his distinctive laugh were something a appreciated during the middle of the night. While we were talking, a mouse ran between our feet. GT thought it was a leaf at first, making me feel like maybe I was hallucinating.
Good Eating: I took a midnight break at the closed down Casey's in who knows what town. I broke out a delicious provolone and turkey on French bread sandwich I had purchased earlier in the day, and chased it down with a Frappuccino I also carried on board. I decided to put on all my warm base layers as I watched the lightning storms approaching. I had two choices a this point. I could either find cover and sit shivering somewhere and wait indefinitely for a storm to pass, or I could ride through the storm and hopefully keep my core temperature up and maybe ride out the storm. Both choices sounded lousy. So I opted to keep on riding. Good Choices: I'm glad I kept on going. I rode in and out of scattered storm systems and eventually got to a point where the bulk of the storms seemed behind me. About his time I ran into another rider. I forget his name too, but he was from Whitefish Montana. Nice guy. He had his music playing and we rode together for a good while in the night and into the early morning. He had rode hard to stay with the lead group early on. A gutsy choice. One I wouldn't have made, but admire others for attempting. Bad Timing: The last town I rode into proved to be fruitless in terms of food or drink offerings. Convenience stores in Iowa apparently aren't open at 6 in the morning on Sundays in these little towns. I had one last sandwich stowed away, so I ate it for breakfast and downed a bottle of Gatorade. Good fixin's for sure! And away we rode.
Bad Winds: We rode a cruel 9 mile stretch of headwinds that had to be blowing close to thirty miles an hour. The man from Whitefish was drafting me the entire way, which was fine, I was the stronger of the two at the time and I wanted a friend to ride with. Within a mile before we turned out of the headwinds he got a flat tire and told me to go on ahead. I probably should have stopped, but stopping sounded more miserable than riding at this point, so I kept on.
The 4th and Final Bad: At mile 311, while coasting a downhill section, easily hitting 30mph, I heard my chain snap. And before I could stop, it had wrapped around my frame and rear cog. I dismounted and undid the chain. This time it looked bad. The pin had not just broken, but the chain had kinks and bends in it all over. I attempted to fix it with what few spare links I had left, but I didn't know if I could over come this mechanical conundrum. I was 25 miles from the finish. I had a decision to make. I made the call.
Not finishing TransIowa was never an option or thought in my mind. Maybe I should have walked the last 25 miles? I had about six hours to complete that distance. Maybe it was the giant thunderstorm blowing in, or maybe it was sleep deprivation. But I told myself I would be able to live with the decision I made and I wouldn't be any less of a person for doing so. It wasn't an easy choice to make. I thought I had been prepared, but I hadn't been prepared enough. It was like loosing a game because an official blew the call. It was still a loss.
When I tally up all the good vs. bad that came out of the experience, I can see that good prevailed. I'm still the same me. I'm still motivated to do the event again. I still have an awesome wife, beautiful kids, and great family and friends. I'm lucky to have had the experience and appreciate the opportunity to participate in endurance adventure events. Riding is just part of who I am, but is not all that I am.