Monday, April 28, 2008

T.I. v4 -- For I Am But a Humble Student...

The night before the big race... Eric Brunt preps his helmet light.

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.



millhouse said...

Great story. Sounds like you learned alot, and you lived to ride another day. You guys that lined up this weekend are an inspiration; someday I hope to be able to attempt something so epic.

MG said...

Thanks Millhouse. It certainly was a great adventure, and I felt fortunate to be able to be a part of it.

You can do it too... Just take your time and build up to the long stuff. You don't have to do it fast. Oftentimes, the best part is taking your time and enjoying the journey. That's the part I enjoy the most.

Talk to you soon.


cvo said...

good job buddy,
you did us proud,

nice write up as well.

good luck at the dirty k.

and with the rides in between,

MG said...

Hey, thanks CVO. It's been way too long since we've talked, my friend. I look forward to catching up with you soon. From the looks of things on your blog, you've been having a mighty good time. :-)

Thanks again, my friend.

Happy trails,

Cornbread said...

I have no doubt you'll be crossing the finish line next year.

Thanks again for all your encouragement during the race. Couldn't have done it without ya.

mw said...

i've been dissappointed with myself with this TI. i feared stoming thru miles of B-roads alot and didn't know when we'd see em. even tho i was also telling myself they weren't so bad. you just walk. but the walking kills your average. and my average was barely getting me to the first checkpoint. so i knew i likely wasn't getting any faster thru the second phases, but i could have seen what happened instead of stopping 1/3 of the way thru. dammit. lesson learned.

Guitar Ted said...

Nice write up, mg. It was a pleasure to have you there in the event. I was rootin' for ya, (Is it okay for a promoter to root for riders?)and I was bummed that it bit ya, but it bit a whole lot of folks, and I knew that it would before I beeped the horn to start on Quarry Hill road that morning.

I look forward to seeing you and riding at the DK 200.

Make those lessons count in Kansas, buddy! I know you will.

MG said...

Thanks guys. I appreciate both of your comments.

MW -- Don't beat yourself up over how it all worked out. It ended up that way for a reason, and it's not for us to question why, but simply to learn the lessons the experience had to offer and move forward and use those lessons effectively in our next adventure, just as Guitar Ted said so eloquently.

And thank you Guitar Ted. Of course I'm biased, but I think it was just fine that you were rootin' for me. I really appreciate your support, my friend. I don't know if you even know how much I do... it's a lot.

We're gonna' have a great time at the 'Kanza. Jim and crew always put on a great event, and look at it this way G-T, you're off the hook as a promoter! You just get to enjoy being a participant in this one!! That'll be sweet!!

Have a great weekend!


MG said...

BTW, forgot to mention in my comments earlier... Cornbread, I felt fortunate simply to have been able to witness your accomplishment as a spectator. It taught me a lot just in that experience, especially with the perspective of having ridden more than a hundred miles with you earlier in the day.

I can't wait to ride with you, and MW and Skip and Guitar Ted and Butch and Bonsall and more, at the 'Kanza later this month. It's gonna' KICK ASS!

Why, oh why isn't our GB Gnat going to be there? Gnat? Gnat? Paging Gnat to the Flint Hills. 200 miles of gravel are calling. (man, wouldn't it be sweet if it was this easy...)

Rasmussen Bike Shop said...

Nice write up Bro. Not sure what you're up to next weekend, May 10, but there's 3/6 hour race up at Seven Oaks ( Hope to see and some of the Lincoln posse there!


Jason said...

Sounds like it was epic dude. You'll get 'em on Iowa gravel in 09 I'm sure.

gNAT said...

I'm reading and listening, but I'm not jumping on the DK bandwagon this year. Sorry buddy.

I need to get through this year with good health and lot's of riding. Then we'll see about next year.

Hope your weekend is swell. I rebuilt my trusty green El Mariachi back up today.

MG said...

Oooooohhhh... Seven Oaks. I like Seven Oaks. Thanks for the heads up Cam. And thanks for the kind words to all three of you.

Gnat, man, I totally understand on the DK... I knew it was wishful thinking. But it sure would be sweet to have you there ridin' with us, especially as strong as you're ridin' right now. I know you'd be killin' it! Saying you're healthy right now is basically like saying the sun is hot -- it's a given!

That green El Mariachi is still one of my absolute favorite bikes ever, even in the face of the newer bike. Its performance still stands up well -- a testament to its solid basic design. And that green color is to die for... I'll take an ice cold margarita to go with that please!

Hope all of your weekend is going swell.


EB said...

good stuff my friend, once the beating I'm receiving from school subsides I'll share my tale of Trans Iowa '08

See ya soon

MG said...

I can't wait to read the stories you tell, my friend. I'm sure they're going to be awesome!

And I look forward to riding with you again soon too. Thanks again for making the trip with us Eric.

Keep your head up, my friend. The semester is almost done!!