I’m in bed by 9:30 Friday night, good! I toss and turn until 10:30 or so, bad. The alarm goes off at 2:00 am Saturday morning, more bad! I haven’t been this nervous for a race in a long time, hmmm I wonder why, race length is three times longer than my longest ride, maybe that’s why.

I’ve got an hour to make my final clothing choices, drink some coffee and try to get something to eat. I like my coffee first so I get that taken care and then stick my head outside to get a read on the temperature. I go with knee warmers, arm warmers a vest and a light jacket. I’ve got a winter weight cap and a light skull-cap, full finger light gloves and cheapo fleece ones to pull over those at night. There’s a wool t-shirt and a light rain jacket in my tail bag just in case.

Brad picks me up right at 3, we grab Matt and we’re in Grinnell about 20 minutes before the start. Racers stream in, unload and take up spots in the street. TIV9 StartGuitar Ted has a couple of last minute announcements and we’re off…to the slowest start in a race I’ve ever experienced. Granted it’s a paced roll out behind GT’s truck with no name but it’s pretty slow. We’re almost out of Grinnell when the first casualty of the day happens and a rider goes down. For those of you that don’t race, this is typical. Someone gets a little too anxious, makes a stupid mistake and bam they’re down. You don’t want to be that guy. I think it was about that time too when I saw someone stopped messing with a tire. This is another staple of racing called, the premature punctuation. You don’t want to be that guy either.

We cross the highway and hit our first gravel and the race is officially on. The ride to the first checkpoint was pretty uneventful after that. Since I live in this area, I knew what to expect…hills. There were plenty of them. The biggest challenge on this first leg was sticking with the plan and not riding too fast or pushing too hard. We watched a beautiful sunrise over our shoulders and road some very familiar roads as we passed by Newton.

IraCheckpoints in Trans Iowa are pretty low key. A few people getting your number and handing out new sets of cue cards, that’s it. Guitar Ted told everyone at the pre race meeting that the first checkpoint was in Ira so two of the wives came over to say hi and wish us well. Matt took off while we were saying goodbye to the ladies with the thought that we would catch him at the upcoming convenience store.

We hop on the bikes and head up the hill to cover the 120 miles of gravel between us and checkpoint 2.