I get uncomfortable when I hear stuff about how "X race changed my life" and stuff like that. I'm suspicious of epiphanies (my greatest epiphany during an ultra was the realization that quesadillas are Mexican grilled cheese). So when people tell me I'm "a god", or I'm an inspiration, or I should be talking myself up, and ask me "what it means to me" I treat it with a large dose of skepticism and humility. Nothing happens out there that doesn't happen at home. The only thing that separates me from someone who didn't do TransIowa is that I signed up and showed up.
It isn't that there isn't anything special about the event. I do appreciate all the hard work that Mark and the volunteers put into organizing this thing. I enjoy meeting and hanging out with like minded individuals. I hope to do more of it in the future, but it's not like we're saving lives out there. We all make choices and this is where mine have led.
All philosophy aside TransIowa went really well for me this year. In spite of a winter that didn't allow a lot of bike training, a sprained ankle a month out, coming down with a cold a week out, and whatever other obstacles presented themselves I came into the race in good enough shape. Not the best shape, but good enough.
My plan was to go out and ride my own race and I did that. I rode by myself pretty much from the beginning and never really did ride with a group. My single speed gearing helped prevent that. I had to push hard on the uphills and spin on the flats preventing the usual "easy on the hard stuff, hard on the easy stuff." For the last 140 miles (including the entire overnight) I didn't see another cyclist (okay I did see Grelk and one other in Brooklyn, but it turned out they were dropping from the race so I dropped them), but my favorite riding partner is myself so I was never uncomfortable with being alone.
Around midnight I found that there were hills out there I could no longer climb on the bike. My knees would no longer take it. So I walked, no shame in it, but I kept moving.
A check of the cue sheets after crossing Highway 30 near Montour made me realize that we were going to have to put in 100 miles between convenience stores. We had had the warning that we would should be prepared for that distance without resupply, but I didn't really expect Mark to call our bluff. Going through the shuttered town of Brooklyn at 2am was the low point of my race, but I knew I could manage another 15 miles to where the cue sheets promised a refuel.
The convenience store on I-80 midway between Brooklyn and Victor was salvation. Warmth, coffee, breakfast sandwiches. The attendant was the most enthusiastic sober guy I've ever met at 4am. If anybody could give you a pep talk to keep you going it was this guy.
I divided the remaining 40 miles of the race into 10 mile segments. 10 miles (let's push it to 11) then sit down in the road and eat a Snickers and drink as much water as possible. Repeat. I skipped the last break and rode the last 15 miles in one stretch.
The finish to one of these things is always a shock. After the simplicity of the road, nothing to do but pedal, I once again have to talk to people, make decisions, the rest of my life.