Monday, April 26, 2010

T.I. v.VI....

Road to checkpoint 3....
He didn't make it....

Judy and I went to Grinnell this past weekend to help G-Ted and DP with Trans Iowa v. 6. Whoa! Our job was to man checkpoint 3 until the cut-off time of 1 a.m. 207 miles into a 314 mile race. The forecast called for showers with about 3/10ths of an inch of rain over the weekend. I believe that the Grinnell area received an inch and a half on Friday night alone. More on Saturday and Saturday night. The dirt and gravel roads sucked that moisture up like a sponge. Mud.
57 brave souls toed the line at 4 a.m. heading out for the 44 miles to checkpoint 1 in Monroe, Iowa. 27 of them made the cut-off time of 4 hours. Checkpoint 2 was 87 miles away from Monroe at What Cheer. Several made the 5 p.m. cut-off, but only 8 moved on toward checkpoint 3. None of them made it. The race was called and then ended in North English.
It was brootal.
And beautiful.
The fact that 57 started this 314 mile death march sends shivers up my spine. 314 miles of gravel and "B" maintenance roads. Rural, desolate, isolated Iowa farm country. Mud. Rain. Thunder. Lightning. Wind. 33 hours to complete it. Not one minute more. 57 people facing this huge challenge, willingly.
A test of oneself against Mother Nature and the backroads of Iowa. A test of one's physical conditioning and mental power. The ability to suffer and bear it. How do these folks keep going when the body and the mind say "stop"?
The physical effort required to make it to checkpoint 1 was superhuman. Those that went on from there were nothing short of amazing. To leave from checkpoint 2 and head toward checkpoint 3 in the prevailing conditions bordered on insanity. It would require another superhuman effort to travel those 76 miles. 1 a.m. cut-off. 107 miles to go after checkpoint 3 to the finish.
The dark loneliness of rural Iowa backroads. Wet, cold, and hungry. Riding a bicycle with only your own thoughts to keep you company....
But it wasn't to be. Not this year. Mother Nature had the final say in this version of Trans Iowa. The race was called at about 7 p.m. The halfway point. It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last. Mother Nature can throw a mean pitch. When she shows her full fury, she always wins.
Everyone who starts the race knows this outcome is a possibility. In the springtime. In Iowa. It happens. Yet, 57 people faced the challenge. They toed the line and started the race. They took off in the dark to find a convenience store in a small town 44 miles of "B" roads and gravel away.
Each racer hoped to make the checkpoint on time and move toward the next. Each knew that the physical and mental aspects of this undertaking were huge. Each knew that they may not make it. Yet they tried. They took up the challenge. They were willing to face whatever was on the road ahead of them.
They all have my respect. Each and every one of them. This race is, without a doubt, the most difficult adventure many of these people will ever face. Even if the roads were dry and the weather were perfect, it would be a huge challenge for even the best prepared racers.
I suspect that most of these 57 people will register for this race again next year. They will toe the line at 4 a.m. in some small, still sleeping, out of the way town in the countryside of Iowa, hoping for a good result in what will possibly be the most difficult challenge of their lives.
It sends shivers up my spine.
Ride safe.
Peace out, yo!