Monday, April 28, 2008
T.I. v4 -- For I Am But a Humble Student...
Last year, I made MW a promise, that if he finished Trans Iowa v.3, I'd ride the next Trans Iowa with him. So this year, in much colder, windier conditions than they faced last year, I toed the line for what would end up being a day spent learning lessons about making assumptions too far into the future, and the value of experience, both taught by this year's fifth-place Trans Iowa finisher, Corey Godfrey.
Yep, our boy Cornbread was the fifth and final finisher of Trans Iowa this year! NOBODY else who toed the line had the persistence to get it done. Congratulations Cornbread!! Your gutsy performance deserves all the accolades it will undoubtedly generate. I'm proud of you, my friend, and I was glad to be there to witness your success firsthand. If I couldn't do it, I'm glad I could be there to see you do it. Way to go Corey.
To put the heinousness of this year's Trans Iowa to you, the reader, another way... The promoters of the race shortened the race by 100 miles, because the roads of the race course were either washed out or flooded in several sections, and their back up routes were also washed out. They were screwed!
As much as I wanted to find Trans Iowa success, I could tell it wasn't in the cards almost right from the start. My first mistake was the pack I chose to carry. It was HUGE! I don't know what possessed me to carry everything and the kitchen sink, but for some reason, I made the last minute decision to up-size my pack late Friday night, which turned out to be a fatal sin. There was no way I was carrying the pack I had for 343 miles. No freaking way... So there was strike one.
Strike two was my legs... they weren't very good either. I've been racing bikes for a long time, and I know when I'm having a great day. Last Saturday wasn't one of those days, sadly. I wanted to make it one of those days, so badly. Off the start, our Omaha homeboy, Eric Brunt and I rode up into the front group, and for about the first 30 miles or so, it was all good. We used my Niterider TriNewt, along with (Salsa Cycles homeboy) Joe Meiser's Niterider HID to bomb the downhills in the early going, because it didn't seem like anyone else brought a bright light. And as my legs started to get a little weaker, that light started to be my saving grace. I'd fall a little off the back, but would be able to bomb a downhill and catch back onto the group. Eric seemed to pedal comfortably with the lead group on his Surly Steamroller.
Eventually, somewhere before the town of Cresco, at around mile 40, I had to let Eric and the lead group ride away from me, which meant I was left to fight in the wind alone. Things didn't feel too good at this point, but I was still near the front of the field, so it wasn't like it was fully crap either. But keep in mind, this was 40 miles into a 343 mile race, so I should have been feeling like a million bucks at that point. But with a 40mph crosswind buffeting my every move, I wasn't feeling much love.
Luckily, as I dove into my massive pack in search of a new hat to replace the Swobo, the second group, including Cornbread, Skip, MW, Bonsall and my new friends Constantine Peters and Scoletrain rolled by, and suddenly, I had a new cast of characters to ride with. Things were suddenly looking up. My legs didn't feel any better, but my spirit suddenly did! And after a quick stop at the gas station in Cresco for snacks and supplies for others in the group (which of course I didn't need -- I had plenty in my pack-o-plenty), we were on the road again.
I ended up riding with this group for pretty much the rest of my ride, up to the final 10 miles before the first checkpoint at mile 110 (or mile 115 with wrong turn mileage), when everything went to heck, and I had to go into "just bringin' in the ship" mode. The combination of bad legs and heavy pack conspired to make me one tired, sore shouldered guy, and I had to raise the white flag of surrender at the checkpoint. Ironically, about 20 miles earlier, I'd made an off-hand comment about the second leg of the journey, or the second checkpoint, or something like that, and Cornbread said to me "dude, we haven't even made it to the first checkpoint yet."
Point taken, and lesson learned. In hindsight, I should have been better focused on the immediate task at hand... Or maybe I should just have been better prepared for the conditions we encountered that day? Or perhaps I should have stuck with my original game plan that I'd thought through over the past four months and carried a smaller, more sensible pack? These are the questions I ask myself endlessly after the fact... and beating myself up over their answers will change nothing, except to perhaps help influence my future decisions.
Regardless, fittingly, as I rolled into the first checkpoint, Eric and MW were just rolling out to start their second leg of the journey. I wished them safe travels and good luck and sat down to ponder what had just transpired. Not much time passed before I noticed another orange La Cruz laying down on the pavement. It was Joe Meiser's... He was out of the race too, with a broken rear derailleur, after shifting into his rear wheel and also ripping several spokes out of the wheel -- a tough way to go out. He ended up bodging the bike into a singlespeed to ride it into the checkpoint, but his day ended there. His wheel was too trashed to continue.
Skip and Jeff also decided to pack it in at the checkpoint, so we suddenly had a rack full of bikes. A trip back to Decorah was in order to dump bikes so we had enough rack space for MW, Eric or Cornbread if they decided to drop out, which turned out to be fortunate, because no sooner did we drop the bikes than we got a call from Eric, then from MW -- both were dropping out, and they said Cornbread was likely not far behind. So we hightailed it back to their location -- a nice hour-plus drive. We found MW and Eric sunning themselves like marmots in a ditch, then found Cornbread near dinnertime at a grocery store in a town I can't remember the name of. My memory is that he was considering quitting when we got there, but 10 minutes later, he was back on track, and had powered down a burger and fries, and was getting back on the bike to ride again. He was not to be denied.
And that's how it was with Cornbread... He faced challenges. He got lost. His lights died. But in the end, he fought through it and he persevered -- he would not be denied. That's the stuff heroes are made of.
So next time you see Cornbread, shake the man's hand. He kicked ass at Trans Iowa this year.
Thanks to my sponsors: Salsa Cycles, Monkey Wrench Cycles and Oakley. Look for a more detailed T.I. equipment post to-come soon.
I'd also like to send a big THANK YOU out to Jonn and Justin, our support crew for T.I. this year. These guys were incredible. Witnessing Jonn throw the Suburban into a 4-wheel slide avoiding a deer bolting in-front of us at 4am was impressive, to say the least. Thank you so much. Words cannot express how much I appreciated having the two of you there.
Posted by MG