One thing I want you to remember about Charles: he just really started riding gravel this year. And started chasing the Cup O' Dirt. Then finished Trans-Iowa in 6th place on his very first attempt ever. See what chasing the Cup O' Dirt can do for a person? Seriously, though, this is an amazing feat and Charles an amazing rider.
I finished Trans Iowa. That gives me Cup O' Dirt centuries two, three, and four. Those were also my second, third, and fourth gravel centuries ever. Yay.
I think everyone else's blogs and things have covered what was going on at TIv8 pretty well, so I'll try to tell you the things that I haven't seen mentioned, or that were unique to my ride.
The last 50 miles were torture like everyone said, but for me, I also noticed that there was a 10- or 20-mile stretch with about 40 to 60 miles to go where the dogs were awful. I didn't have the energy to sprint away from them like I usually do, which usually deescalates the situation immediately. I don't know what the deal was. Were these just overly aggressive dogs? Were they not used to seeing things on the road at 4:00 in the morning? Did I smell that bad? One dog actually made mouth-to-leg contact, but didn't get it to sink in.
When I got to the secret checkpoint, which I was later told was in Attica, there was some 9- or 10-year-old girl there. She was evidently a local, wandering around, hanging out at the checkpoint. She didn't have any adult supervision, and it turns out she didn't even live in that town but somehow wound up there. I don't really know what was going on. What I do know is that this girl was telling us stories about her sister who is in prison, her dad who "gets in trouble when he drinks beer," and all types of other great stuff. She was enjoying the free donuts and candy bars, and never stopped talking the entire time I was there. It was really bizarre, but I was also laughing.
I didn't see a single person or vehicle on the road from the time I passed the Braun brothers in the ditch (3:00 a.m.???) until I was about 12 miles from Grinnell (9:00 a.m.???). I went through Melbourne early enough that no one even had lights on--it was like the town was deserted. This was also bizarre.
I fell over with about 40 miles left, bending my hanger, and keeping me in granny and second-to-granny gear. If I downshifted my chain would get really tight and pop and whine like it was going to explode. So I soft pedaled for the next 30+ miles (not that I had a ton of gas left anyway). I got to the last B road, with 8 miles left, and started pushing my bike. The smallest bit of mud was gathering on my tires as I pushed the bike along, but I thought nothing of it. Then the wheels stopped turning, I looked down to see my derailer sucked into my spokes, and my heart sank. Evidently the hanger was worse than I thought and the slightest bit of mud on my drive train put it over the top. I spent about 30 minutes trying to do a SS conversion, and mostly my lack of mechanic skills prevented me from doing it. But there was also my mental and physical state at this point--my problem solving and fine motor skills weren't the best right then. So I had to walk/coast seven miles into town. It really sucked, but I was also thankful for my situation. I could have had that happen 30 miles into the race and been toast from the get go. Or it could have happened 25 miles from Grinnell, dooming me even after going through all that torture. But I made it.
And Craig gets awesome points for having breakfast burritos waiting for me at the finish line--way cool.
Overall, it was a pretty wild experience. Tons of thanks to Guitar Ted and all the volunteers that put this on. Countless man hours have to go into this thing. It's really well run.
I don't know if I'm down for another one. I'll have to see how well I bounce back from this.
I hope you're finding some time to enjoy the gravel. It's been fun reading everyone else's updates. Until next time, over and out.