transiowa. dnf. dnff.
maybe i put too much into this, maybe i let it mean too much, but this is all i've worked toward since last fall. this was the one race that mattered this year. i've never worked this hard for anything. and i didn't finish. not only did i fail to finish, but i didn't even get a chance to prove to myself that i could ride until i was a broken down pile of what i once was...and it was my fault. a mental mistake. was i strong enough? don't know, i felt like i was, but i didn't get to find out. damn...how do i cope with that?
here's the rundown. pre-race was fine. met some people, everybody was in a good mood in the basement of t-bock's. met jordan earlier in the day. he's 22 and finishing college in colorado. couldn't have hoped for a cooler, more normal guy to randomly offer a place to crash to on the internet. we hung out all night friday, got our bikes ready and what not. i fell asleep about 8:30 on the couch and slept poorly off and on til 3. got up, made breakfast and made sure i had everything ready to go, left about 3:45. got to the 4-way stop by palisades at the end of ice cave and seeing 60 people with headlights and flashing taillights was a really cool sight. but...it was cold, damn cold. we took off up a steep hill on a route that is basically my favorite ride around here. we headed up toward bluffton and i was in a great mood and feeling good. after the first big hill, a group of about 15 of us had separated off the front. about a half hour in we rode up wagon hill road and by then we had pretty well dropped the field. i rode with the front group (now about 12 of us) for almost 2 hours but my fixed gear was making it tough so i backed off a bit to where i could still see them so i didn't have to navigate on my own. got to cresco (38.5 miles) just in time to see them leaving. my back was destroyed already so i stopped to apply generous amounts of icy hot. left kwik trip and within a mile took a wrong turn. got turned back around in time to see jordan. the pace of the lead group was starting to concern him in terms of the big picture so he had stopped at the gas station and gone inside and i never saw him. so he and i paired up and got back on track. minutes later we see the lead group of about ten riding straight at us...wtf?!?!?!?!? EVERYONE including us had missed the reroute around a a low water crossing. so they saved us a couple extra miles, and we hooked back on with them and enjoyed the benefits of riding in a group and trying to fight that monstrous wind together. imagine 2 or 3 perfect diagonal lines drawn across a gravel road and that was us when there was cross wind. into the wind we were a perfect straight line, wheels 6 inches apart trying to conserve as much energy as possible. seriously, the wind was unlike anything i'd ever ridden in. i was pushing way too hard to stay in the lead group, but the benefits of not having to fight that wind alone forced me to keep going. when there was a crosswind you could seriously see the side of your front wheel because we had to lean the bikes so far into the wind. anyway, i dropped off the lead group again and decided to stop for a meal...AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! totally forgot all of my premade pb&j sandwiches. so, snickers for now, i'll stock up on jerky at the next gas station. i'm about 50 miles in. i fought this terrible mind destroying cross wind for a couple more hours. i was supposed to be entering waucoma around mile 69...would have been low 70's due to the reroute. i was on 306th and i thought my next turn was on 3rd st. i had read right over the direction that said turn on w ave. i must have gone about 2 miles past w by the time i realized this...and i was doing about 23 mph with the wind. i stopped and considered my options. i turned back into the wind, riding less than 10 mph and fighting the wind with everything i had. i figure i went back about a mile and a half, thought i saw the water tower, almost made my own way back to waucoma thinking i'd get back on track there. nope, maybe the directions were off a bit...so i turned BACK around and rode with the wind like 5 miles, hit a black top and saw a big church so i knew there had to be a town...waucoma??? nope, st. lucas. fought the wind into st. lucas and saw a sign that said waucoma 5 miles. it was 10:30. if i could do 10 mph straight into the wind i could be in waucoma by 11 with three hours to go and 40-50 miles to the checkpoint. i knew my race was over with the effort it was going to take. i almost called for a ride from st. lucas. after some soul searching i chose to make the effort to get to st lucas and then make a decision. i was literally riding at 5-6 mph into 40 mph headwinds into waucoma. i got there just before 11. hopped into the gas station and pulled out all the stops and everything i thought would help. 1. cheeseburger (empty calories, full stomach, big smile) 2. gu (big upside, big downside...lots of caffeine but i knew i would crash when it wore off) 3. ipod (had been saving this for the night because of battery life but it seemed necessary...volume so loud i couldn't hear ANYTHING including cars or the wind). at that point i put my head down and i rode as hard as i have ever ridden in my life. for three solid hours i hammered on that bike...i caught a tail wind and was averaging somewhere around 23 or 24 mph slowly realizing how far off i was on mileage and knowing for those three hours that it was going to come down to minutes in terms of reaching the checkpoint. just outside of west union i came across dan...i asked him if we were going to make it and he was skeptical but bonking so i didn't stick around. he offered me some apples he was munching on, i declined and took off...as i sprinted away from him i heard him yell to me to be careful...apparently he was concerned that i was pushing way too hard. i spoke with him after and he said he'd never seen anyone ride t.i. so angry :) he told me the lead "group" of single speeds was up ahead. i caught up with them leaving west union. 6 guys...dan's buddy from tennessee, cale from milwaukee, 2 brothers from madison, another guy who's name i didn't catch and who dropped off. anyway...those guys took me in like family...and we continued to RIP!! we hit hills between west union and wadena (checkpoint) that blew me away. massive, massive downhills that were killing me on my fixie, but they would wait for me at the bottom. climbs that i could get halfway up before tennis ball size cramps threatened to ruin me. i walked many hills over the next 15 miles. we kept looking at the miles and our clocks, constantly saying "maybe, MAYBE". these guys were helping me get food out of my pack, waiting for me to beat the cramps out of my hamstrings. cale got blown into the tennessee guy and crashed in the gravel. our route took us out of our tailwind and back into a crosswind and occasionally a head wind. then...FINALLY we turned back with the wind. something like 4 or 5 miles to the checkpoint (guessing cause my mileage was so screwed up) with 15-20 minutes. we had to average 15 mph with some nasty climbs left. i was WALKING up a hill with 5 minutes left...i wanted so badly to puke beside myself while hiking that hill. at 2 p.m. one guy had dropped us. we had dropped one guy. cale, the tennessee guy and i made on last turn, we could see wadena, and we were too late. we rolled up to the checkpoint at 2:02 p.m. the checkpoint was scheduled to be 109 miles in...i was at 130. and i was wasted. i don't know how far i could have gone. i don't know if i would have left wadena. most people that made it there quit there. i wanted to ride until my legs no longer functioned...i did not want to have my ride ended by a mental lapse and a time cutoff. BUT...it is what it is. i proved a lot to myself in the last three hours...i proved a lot to myself simply making the decision to ride from st. lucas back to waucoma (by far the worst 5 miles of the ride). my new found friends and i headed to the bar, got some grease and some coors lt, laughed at our misery and shared stories of mechanicals and who looked strong and who got blown off their bikes and who got lost...it was awesome...truly amazing. it was without a doubt the most addictive thing i've ever done in my life and i will do it next year and probably every year after until i finish. thank you to everyone (you know who you are) for all of the support. there are many people that have helped me prepare for this and a few that i owe more than i can ever repay.
vassago...thank you. the fisticuff fared far better than i. this bike will appear at transiowa again next year, and will be thoroughly flogged until then.