Tuesday, May 5, 2009

transiowa v.5 pt.1

we're actually gonna back this thing up to thursday real quick for anyone that believes in omens. larsson's training wheels have been off his bike since late last fall. we had just enough time for him to get comfortable riding if he had a push off and no more than 15 yards of concrete before heading into grass where he could comfortably lay it down. thursday he got it. and he was off. learned how to get started on his own and was riding laps around the building, through the grass, sidewalk, driveway and had the hugest smile on his face. that's where its at man. whether it was the reminder of why we ride bikes, the inspiration provided by watching him overcome his fears or just a gentle cosmic nudge that this was going to be a good weekend i'm not really sure. but it sure was an awesome way to kick off the weekend.
friday morning i finished packing and had done all i could with getting the fisticuff dialed and by mid afternoon i was headed for williamsburg. i had woken up friday morning swallowing razor blades so i stopped at a gas station for a gallon of water. i think this decision would help far more than my throat despite slowing my trip by adding about 4 bathroom stops on the way down. got to williamsburg and checked out the outlet mall (my lodging for the night) and just sort of got oriented. headed from there to the williamsburg rec center where i was about an hour early for the festivities. roll up to find the brothers braun. i actually rode/walked quite a bit with these guys last year and they are a top notch pair from the madison area. they killed it this year taking 4th and 5th overall and 1st and 2nd single speed. we chatted for a while before others showed up and we headed inside. once inside i ran into dave nice and we talked for a bit about fisticuffs and his upcoming attempt at the divide (damn...that's an adventure...good luck dave). got to chat briefly with midwest endurance cult heroes dave pramann and charlie farrow. pramann spent a fair amount of our chat trying to convince me to do arrowhead...someday when i have the coin to drop on a fat bike and all the gear i'll probably get up there. but that might be a while. saw a bunch of other people i've met/seen/ridden with before. cale, mg, joe, steve, paul, dennis, gorilla, ari, and got to chat some with organizers guitar ted and dave pals. optimism was high as weather and past experiences were discussed. all went well and we had somewhere around 52 strong looking forward to a 4 a.m. rollout.
as things winded down i took my leave and headed for mcdonald's for some final calories then headed to the parking lot i would call home for the night. final details on the bike and a few conversations with a slightly overzealous but well intentioned mall maintenance guy as well as a random meet-up with mg and matt wills as they were headed for an atm and myself for the bathroom. funny how life works sometimes. once i was happy with the bike/cue sheets/lights i drove to the starting line just so i knew exactly where i would be going at 3:30 in the morning. leaving the cemetary i was treated to an amazing sunset. got back to the mall, parked the van, threw in a movie and tried to sleep. i think i slept from roughly 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. alarm was set for 2:45 a.m. guess i wouldn't be needing that.

get up, get dressed, eat plain mcdonalds hamburgers purchased the night before, listen to some slipknot, make sure dennis didn't freeze to death overnight, roll over to the start line. always cool to see so many blinking lights in the dark of night. lots of optimistic banter and more conversations about the promise of wonderful weather. guitar ted drove a controlled rollout before pulling off and allowing the mob to start their adventure. as expected a big group popped off the front. i laughed to myself a bit. last year i would have chased them and forced myself to ride as hard as i could to keep up as long as i could. i've learned a lot in a year. the first hour and a half of this ride was spent in total darkness with a lot of positions shifting as people sorted out their speeds and riding partners. for a short time i fell in with jim and warren. fabulous guys. jim, i believe, is the mastermind behind dirty kanza and both were great to talk with for a few minutes. soon i ended up with these two guys and something felt right. as we rode they began discussing their friend who obviously hadn't "stuck to the plan". right in the middle of this conversation we roll up on a guy just standing there. apparently their friend realized his failure to stick to the plan and stopped to wait for his friends. these three guys turned out to be matt wills, matt gersib (mg), and jeff bonsall from lincoln, nebraska. the best piece of advice i've ever received regarding transiowa was from a v.3 finisher ward budweg. he told me that if you want to finish you have to analyze every person you meet and within 90 seconds make a decision about that person. if you don't think they share your mindset, if you aren't absolutely confident that their in it for the long haul then you need to move on. these guys' collective experiences with previous transiowas as well as their personalities told me i had found the perfect fit as long as i could hold on. these three guys would prove to be instrumental in my ability to finish the ride. it was evident early on that our personalities were going to work well together so i set my mind to riding with these guys as long as i could. soon the sun came up. funny thing was at the time it didn't hit me that i would see two sunrises before this thing would be done. the sun brought with it a general rise in attitude and shortly after that we all rolled into cp1 together just over 40 miles in and well over an hour ahead of the cutoff time. other than that, the first 40 was fairly uneventful with a couple exceptions. gersib's hilarious attempts at documenting our journey (a video i'm not sure will see the light of day) and the only moment in the next two days that i would forget i was riding fixed. i'm pretty sure it was wills (it was dark) somehow swerved in front of me and i instantly locked up both feet entering a brief fixie/gravel power slide. no harm done. at the first checkpoint we were all smiles, especially after the coffee shop allowed me to use the facilities next door. breakfast wasn't sitting well and i needed some office time. so we took our time, ate a lot and got saddled up to head for cp2. we had roughly 110 miles to go and with the buffer we created by getting to cp1 early we had about 12 hours to get there. we had no idea how difficult that next stretch was about to be.


jb* said...

brilliant ride ben! single speed is tough enough, but fixie... i was totally impressed. i did start to feel really bad bombing past you on the decents.

the original big ring said...

hardcore Ben. Congrats on it. I don't think I could have tortured myself like that on a fixie, let alone a ss.