Wednesday, May 6, 2009

transiowa v.5 pt.4

if you don't know this yet about endurance racing, here's your heads up. demons. they exist. they hide, laying in wait and when they attack it is ferocious. i don't know anyone who's ever ridden through the night and not had to face them. it is at that moment that all of your hours and months and years of suffering hopefully pay you back. my demons came out at 3 a.m. due to my less than stellar diet over the previous 24 hours i had been battling raging heart burn for the past 10 hours. we had now been riding about an hour since we left cp3 and i had absolutely stuffed my face with pizza, trail mix and oatmeal cream pies. the dry socks and jacket had taken the sting out of the cold but i was miserable. i had overeaten and was choking back vomit with almost every breath. i was falling asleep on the bike, having conversations with myself that it was okay to close my eyes for just two seconds and that i'd feel better if i did. i couldn't propel my bike up any sort of incline. all i wanted to do was sleep. it was cold, dark and i was sick and tired and delirious. i was getting dizzy and was unable to communicate. this was the critical moment of my ride...the moment i knew was coming. i knew it at the time as well. but i was broken. the four of us stopped for necessities which was a welcome change of pace for me, but still i knew i was in trouble. i did what i needed to quickly then without a word i left the group and started walking my bike. it was a gentle incline and certainly rideable but i just couldn't do it anymore. i walked to be moving. i walked to make progress. i walked to stay warm. i walked because i didn't know what else to do. suddenly, i looked next to me and there was andy. without a word he had joined me. i'm sure he was strong enough at the time to ride but i think he sensed what was happening. at first he just walked there without saying anything. then finally he looked at me and simply asked "trying to walk some sense into yourself?" i cracked a smile. he nailed it. i wasn't out of the weeds yet but with that smile came a slight shift in attitude. i don't know if it was his understanding or the fact that i was carrying on a conversation or what, but something was changing. i used a gu in hopes the caffeine would wake me up a bit and we continued to walk. as we crested the hill and got back on our bikes things seemed to be getting better. within about 15 minutes i was back at "full strength", back into robot mode of simply continuing to turn the pedals over. in those few minutes andy saved my race and i was beyond thankful that we had picked him up back at cp2.
back on the bikes and back at it but i still wasn't moving very one was really. except gersib. he seemed to feel good and rode off the front a bit. no one even questioned it. he looked strong and we were riding slow and it made sense. so wills, andy and i continued on until we hit the 295th, h, i, 300th, 63 debacle. i absolutely will not complain about the cue sheets. we were in rough shape and i'm sure they made sense, just not to us at that moment. it was around 4 a.m. and we were just outside toledo and we were lost. after some searching we kind of figured out where we were, maybe missed a turn or two but somehow ended up in the right place and found our way to highway 63 in toledo. we chose to ride a half mile out of our way to get to an all night gas station. another great decision. i finally bought some tums and gained minor relief for a while. we rode out of toledo having picked up 2 more lost souls with the promise of sunshine not far off. the two we picked up preferred a faster pace and left us quickly as we left town. and then it happened. first the sky changed colors. from black and purple to dark blue. then i noticed i could see my computer for the first time since about 9p.m. by 5:45 it was light out. i don't remember the first time we saw the sun but it held all the magically restorative powers i had promised myself it would. after a brief sun appreciation ceremony we continued to roll on. somewhere along the line here my memory gets a little rough because i'm not exactly sure how or when we came back into contact with gersib. i know we rejoined him at the last gas station but i feel like he was around for some of the daytime prior to that as well. so it is.
so we continued on having been refueled by the sun not knowing we were about to come across the most amazing story of the race. as we came down a long hill and rounded a corner we spotted a rider standing along side of the road. much...MUCH to my surprise it was charlie farrow who had been one of the favorites to win. charlie, while obviously a little out of it, was still charlie. upbeat, positive, optimistic, smiling...when you are as humble of a person as charlie is it seems that the world holds more amazement than it does for most of us. as we rode along charlie began to tell us his story. he had ridden with the leaders for a long time until something knocked him out. i have heard other riders talk about seeing him doubled over with stomach pain and charlie talked about how bonked out and tired he was. this man is tough as nails and he couldn't continue. but instead of packing it in and calling for support the way most of us mortals would, charlie began procuring newspapers. hopefully his story will come to light in his own words but my understanding is that after scrounging up some newspapers he then found a cemetary, laid down, packed himself in the newspaper and drifted off to sleep. by the time we got to him he had been sleeping for a couple hours at least and was now ready to get back on the bike. this man is amazing. everyone on transiowa suffers, but this was ridiculous. and after all of this the guy was smiling and happy and the world was his to explore and experience. such a contagious personality was great to ride with.
the rest of the trip into the last gas station was fairly uneventful. whatever town we were in, we knew that we had only 40 miles to go with enough time that it was no longer a consideration. so, it was breakfast time. at this gas station we met back up with gersib and the two from the earlier stop. so we now...some 27 or so hours in...had a group of 7 hanging out having breakfast. people were having coffee and donuts and breakfast pizza and alerting families/support people of our eventual finish. it was amazing. soon we bid the 2 farewell and matt, matt, andy, charlie and i headed back out. it wasn't long before my fixed gear finally got the best of me. i was toast. i knew i was going to finish and i wasn't cramping or bonking but i just couldn't keep up. we rode the most memorable stretch of the ride which was a series of rollers beyond anything i've ever ridden. the downhills hurt, the uphills were very long walks and the tops of my feet were paying the price for assisting my brakes by pulling up against my shoes going downhill. this was making walking almost as bad as riding. so i got dropped. and i was okay with that. i had maybe 2-3 hours left, the sun was up and the end was in sight. i could do this alone. eventually i came out of the rollers and took another gu and the lights turned on. we hit an unexpected flat section of course so i put my head down and began to hammer. somehow i found the strength to bridge back up to the group (pretty sure i surprised myself and everyone else). we all rode together for a little while longer til we got back into some hills. charlie and andy rode off the front and i wouldn't see them again until the finish. good for them. the end was near and everyone wanted to be done...if you had it in you to get there sooner then that's what you should do. i just didn't have it. matt and matt soon dropped me again, i bridged back once more, then got dropped again. i could see ahead of me that gersib had pulled away from wills and i knew we had less than ten miles to go. in fact we were on our final road with the exception of a quarter mile b road that held the actual finish line. so i took one more gu and put in one more effort. i caught back up to wills a couple miles from the finish. it was over and it was obvious. neither one of us had any intention of pushing the pace or attempting to finish without the other. i was happy to have someone with me at the finish. especially someone i began this journey with 31 1/2 hours ago. it just seemed right. as we crested a small rise on the b road the group at the finish line began ringing a bell and everyone jumped to their feet. man was that a sight. matt wills and i rolled across the finish line tied for 11th overall and 5th ss/fixed (i think) somewhere right around 31 hours and 30 minutes having ridden 314 miles of course plus however many ridden off course.
i was trashed. i took some time getting the last 2 days clothes off and getting a beer before finding some shade to sit in and make some phone calls and send some texts. it was good to have family there and a lot of what had quickly become friends. i think everyone that rides a bike in nebraska was there and i had many questions as to what exactly i was going to do with my fisticuff since i'd been promising to never ride a fixed gear again once i finished transiowa. lots of man hugs, respect, love and beer being passed around at the finish line. shortly after wills and i finished two more came through and then one of the absolute highlights of the weekend was being there when paul jacobson finished. this man has battled transiowa for four years now with incredible spirit and determination. and he finally got his. the smile on his face told the story of the last 4 years. on top of that, i had the honor of handing him a brand new vassago fisticuff frameset for his effort. a couple of beers, and many many congratulations and thank yous later we headed to mcdonalds. i tried to eat as fast as i could because i was scarily close to falling asleep face down in my food. soon i gave up, passed out, and woke up 3 hours later back in decorah.
gersib and charlie
40 miles left
finishing with wills

much respect mg

what its all about

thank god for shade

congrats paul

weapon of choice getting some well deserved rest


the technIAn said...

Man, much respect! The story and enormity of that ride probably can't even begin to bring back those countless hours in the saddle. You rocked the hell out of that ride. Congrats from all the Iowa City crew. I don't know if I am quite ready to face my demons of that magnitude as Ouachita brought out some scary ones already once this year. Again, much respect.

Guitar Ted said...

Thanks for taking the time to finish the story, Ben. I know what you are referring to with the news you got today. We spoke of this man at the finish line as I recall. I am sorry.

shockstar said...

thank you g-t. yes, it was colin we spoke about over the weekend. i was struggling with the news when i wrote that but as he said, he ain't dead yet. there will be a time to cope with that, but for now we're focusing on trying to find time to ride together.

MG said...

Absolute respect, brother.