A couple of weeks before the start of Trans Iowa, Matt told us a couple of interesting things. One, he wanted to finish by 11:00 am on Sunday so he could attend an award ceremony for his daughter and two, it was prom so his daughter and her date were going to try to meet him, in their prom finery somewhere on the course so he could see them. Matt was the only one of us with previous ultra distance running race experience so while I didn’t doubt this was all possible, I really thought…no way.

My goal was just to finish. We hadn’t yet talked to a first time TI racer that had finished and I knew the attrition rate at best was about 60%.  So adding an earlier deadline seemed crazy to me but normal for Matt. We decided we would all try to work together and ride at an 11:00 am finish pace but if we got split up, so be it.

Guitar Ted and gone over the number of convenience stores we’d come across but it was all a little fuzzy. We thought there was one about 20 miles from Checkpoint 1 and that’s where we planned to reconnect with Matt. Sure enough, about 20 miles later we’re just west of Melbourne, Iowa and there’s a convenience store about ½ mile off course. GT said don’t pass one by so we didn’t. Brad and I rolled up to it a few minutes after Matt arrived; the three amigos are back together!

The other patrons ask us what the heck we’re doing and have the typical reaction when we explain, “that’s crazy, 300 miles?!”. I bought a couple of salted nut rolls, mixed another bottle, lubed my butt and my bike. Matt took off ahead of us again with the same plan, we’d catch him on the course. We never see him again.

At this point in the race, we start seeing the same people we’ll run into over and over again. That’s one of the fun and interesting part of the race. You can’t push yourself like you would in say a 100 miler or you’ll blow up and not be able to finish. So you can easily chat with other riders as you pass them or they pass you. You also leap frog each other depending on the amount of time you spend at the convenience stores, fixing a flat, changing clothes or performing a bodily function.

Here’s the cast of characters we rode with off and on;

Single speed guy from Ames. We met this kid at the first convenience store. The funny thing to me about him is he witnessed both of our wrong turns. The first one about 3 miles after the store, the second one about 60 miles later and no we were not riding with him in between those two incidents. He was just coincidently at both of them.

Andrea who talks to herself. At about 100 miles we pulled onto a highway for a 50 yards to get across a bridge. We stopped for traffic and up rolls Andrea from Iowa City. She reminds me a little of my daughter Sarah. She was a bike commuter and delivery girl in Iowa City who had gotten into racing. I had trouble hearing what she was asking me and had to keep saying, huh? I finally figured out she talked to herself almost non-stop. I guess she was more interesting than we were. She was a cool girl and a strong rider. We pulled away from her shortly after the bridge but would see a lot of her.

Portland Chick. Christina is originally from Romania and now lives in Portland. She’s travelled to Iowa for this race because, “I love to ride gravel.” She becomes the tortoise to our hare although it’s hard to call the pace we were riding hare like. Every time we see her, she looks exactly the same. Her vest is unzipped and flapping behind her like a cape and she always is wearing exactly the same stuff. She’s grinding this out on a single speed and goes on to become the first women to finish on one.

British guy. Cresting a hill we see a rider pull out of a farmyard. Turns out to be one of the guys from the UK we meet on Friday. His accent reminds me of a ridiculous ATM in Newton where the woman has a British accent…stupid. The guy’s great, he’d just stopped at a random farmhouse for water. He wasn’t used to the heat because it’s always chilly and rainy back home. I felt for him. No gravel roads in England but good mountain biking trails in the forests. He found out about this race from FB friends and decided it was weird enough that he had to try it.

Tony’s friend Brian. A co-worker told me about a buddy of his that was trying it for his second time. He was described to me as having an enormous head. A guy pulls up beside me and asks, do you work at Vernon in Newton? It’s Brian. His head turns out to be normal size.

Busted pedal dude. We pass a kid who greets us with, “do either of you have a spare pedal?” One of his Egg Beater’s lost the nut on the end of the spindle so the pedal would slide off. The other interesting thing is, he’s shirtless which will be even more interesting later.

We’re coming to a town, which means, convenience store! We roll through Eldora and pass up a Fareway and a HyVee for Casey’s Pizza. Two slices, a big chocolate chip cookie, Gatorade and another salted nut roll make their way into my shopping cart. Andrea roll’s in so we all sit in the sun on the curb and eat the best pizza we’ve ever had. We fiddle around restocking and getting bodies and bikes ready and then the three of us roll out.

We’re still feeling good and well on the way to checkpoint 2. Feels like we’ve been heading north forever and we’ve got a small tailwind.  We know we will pay for this. We turn to the east and start making some longer, straight runs.Flat and straight

Up ahead, I watch dogs run out from a farmhouse and harass a couple of riders as they make a corner. I figure we’ll be in for the same treatment. Turns out to be four snapping, snarling mutts who sure seem like they want a piece of us. We hear at then end that two people were bitten. I wonder if it happened here, why didn’t I bring my dog spray, I’d love to blast those bastards.

Feels like a grind to get to CP2, which turns out to be two guys in a rural cemetery. The only info they would give us was a convenience store was coming up in 10 miles. We grab the last set of cue cards and roll on.