Friday, May 2, 2008

Trans-Iowa Race Report...the truth is revealed!

Correction: Joe Meiser was the guy that had his wheel blow up...
An Inaccurate Race Report pertaining to the 2008 Trans-Iowa

“…At first I found this lack of compassion to be disconcerting, but like all successful organisms I quickly adapted to the harsh realities of the peleton's Darwinian leanings and even facilitated the antipathy on one occasion when tragedy struck another rider, thinking cruelly with designs only on self-preservation, “Good…he’s done for…that’s better for me.” Such is the state of one’s mind when confronted with the primordial unfeeling rules of The ROAD…”

“…There is a lesson here: It is neither the elites nor the peasants that prosper from democracy; it is the men of modest means and abilities that thrive under a true democracy. The same was true in this year’s Trans-Iowa.”

The following is a reflective piece that combines an in-depth Trans-Iowa pre-race muse with a hazy narrative of what “really” transpired during a 20+ hour sojourn on the back roads of Iowa…I spent considerable time planning for the Trans-Iowa, but not nearly as much time as Guitar Ted and his crew. I did so only because its fun for me to plan for big events, and I suspect the same can be said of Guitar Ted, et al... Although I imagine that the guyz that made this wonderful event possible have loftier goals than that of the author. For me, it really is all about the planning and the prerace and post-race hydration process. A typical school night during the several weeks leading up to the Grand Dance in Iowa involved getting my little Sophie down for a night of slumber, cracking a cold beer, and heading down to the basement to assess and re-assess my thinking about how this bad boy could play out if I played my cards right. The pre-race work is in black regular font, while the post race commentary is in dark red (or bold font).

CP Farrow’s Strategy for Victory @ The Trans-Iowa IV Race

Working draft [April 14th, 15th, 16th, 2008]
Trans-Iowa Race: April 26th and 27th
345 mile loop on gravel and dirt roads…
Charlie Farrow

I. Pre-Race Theory: When one approaches a 24+ hour road race alone, he or she is essentially forced into riding along with a group of other solo time-trialer, any and all of whom are forced into reacting to the whims of the group consensus. For example, if the group decides to stop to reload at a gas station, one is essentially forced to stop as well. Racing as a team of two will allow Tim Ek and me to race the Trans Iowa (TI) proactively. We can dare to leave the group and yet still benefit for riding together. Three or even four committed guyz working together would be optimal, but even with just two riders working in concert can mean significant saving in workload. For example, by pulling and drafting, even if Eki and I can only cut our total workload by just 5% over the course of 25 hours the savings translates into over 60 minutes. One hour could very well be the difference between winning the race and finishing in 4th or 5th place. In summary: The credo: “Out of sight leaders ride faster than followers into the waiting arms of the grim demons that await all during the agony of the long harsh Iowa night” applies to the Trans-Iowa… Recently, David Pramann, the wily veteran and record holder of the Arrowhead 135, wrote to me to confirm the importance of drafting, which of course, had the effect of bolstering my commitment to realizing the significance of working together and sharing the work load in a planned fashion.

Assumptions and limitations of the Theory:

Experience has taught me that in these super long events if one can withstand the initial attacks, the lead group will inevitably get smaller and then slow to a more doable pace. Of course, experience has also shown that early solo breaks are unpredictable…Given what I have been able to ascertain as to the composition of the field of riders, I will be surprised if someone attempts a solo break during the first segment of the race. Also, it is an appropriate assumption that the four or five riders that comprise Team Polska will stay together for the first segment; they will most certainly initiate the initial attacks. I do not think that Scott Cole, the wily enduro-veteran from Wisconsin has a partner(s) to support him, so he will stay and therefore be forced to react to the Polish team. I suppose Hannon (the guy that has finished high in the past and that was in the lead when he bailed last year) could potentially attempt an early solo break (especially if he has a mate to assist him)—Hannon represents an unknowable variable as he quit last year with a bum knee, but only after impressing many of the other riders with his strength. Eki and I will need to assess his strength and his supporting cast during the first hour or so of the race. Of course, surely there will be someone else in the mix (some unknown, but talented and motivated rider) that will play a significant role in the unfolding drama but at this point it’s all speculation on who that might be. In summary (with Ira Ryan, the two-time winner staying home), known favorites in my estimation, contending for the top spots are Marcin of Team Polska, Hannon, and Cole. If Team Poliska is truly a team and not just a group of guyz wearing the same jerseys, then Marcin (or possibly his brother, Maciej) would have to be the favorite. However, based on the information that I could glean from last year’s race, Team Polska fizzled leaving Marcin to fend for himself during the long forlorn night…the hope is that this too will be the case in 2008.

May 1, 2008—
Post-race commentary on the theory:
Sadly, my good friend and dedicated training partner, Tim Ek (aka Eki Hondo) was unable to compete because of a sudden and dire family emergency. Traveling down to Decorah knowing that Eki and I would not constitute TEAM EKI HONDO was a sad thing for both of us, but really itz just a bike race (one of many for the upcoming season), and I knew that we would someday soon have a chance to team up again. In fact, I am hoping to convince him to team-up with me for the National 24 Hours @ 9 Mile come early August. Apart from being sad about the loss of his company, not having him along basically forced me to essentially throw out our planned bold attack that was to take place when the lead group stopped for the first time, but more on that later…Regarding the importance of riding within the group, due the ferocious winds, I was spot on. Essentially staying in the lead pack for the first 150 miles or so was the crucial factor in the ultimate outcome. I was also correct about the significant advantage in race-times earned by the riders that were able to ride in the lead pack. From what I have been able to gather, the fourth and fifth place finishers were out there alone for a long long time. Given the conditions, it was clear even from about ten miles out that no chase group would be powerful enough to catch up to the lead group that comprised eighteen or nineteen riders. This is usually the case, even in mild conditions. Remember friends, out of the box, it is imperative that you get with the lead group, especially in long races or you gonna suffer. The lead group, as predicted pushed hard initially, but within 50 miles of the start things calmed down and it became easier to hang with the group. Team Polska (only three this time comprising the Brothers Nowak and one other nice young fellow) was a factor as they rode very well, and clearly dictated the early attacks. Of course, the head winds dissuaded any real serious solo or duo attempts at breaking away and so the group basically resigned itself to function as an entity unto itself. It was a real treat for me to be able to ride along with Lance Andre. I met Lance in early February during the Arrowhead 135 and was impressed not only by his sheer tenacity, but also by his cheerful and amicable character. Lance had a great effort as he rode to the first check point with a freshly broken thumb and various other injuries sustained in a recent crash during a criterium. He is a totally upbeat fellow and represents the best there is about events like the Trans-Iowa. Also of note: Lance gave me a set of chemical toe-warmers that really helped as the sun went down). Brian Hannon was indeed another important factor and he also turned out to a top notch guy as well. I enjoyed talking with him as we huddled together in the middle of the tightly-knit pack of riders. We shared among other things, various collective experiences of living in Boulder, Colorado. Mr. Hannon and his family are currently embarking on a great new adventure by moving to Italy! Obviously a talented rider, his knee once again betrayed him somewhere between checkpoint one and checkpoint two. While I was planning on the fact that Marcin and/or Maciej Nowak and Hannon would be at that front, I was also quite cognizant of the certainty that someone other than the “favorites” would play a key role in the outcome. Almost from the onset of the race it became clear that this “someone” would be in the form of Gorilla and Joe Meiser. These two guyz do not fit the stereotype of the lean gaunt cyclist. In contrast, these guyz are big youthful strapping lads endowed with massively muscular legs. Early in the race, I tried to dismiss them as being too big to go the full distance. Yet, they continually took the longest and the hardest pulls and so within the first 75 or so miles, I was thinking that these “Gorillas” were the men to follow for as long as possible. On a fast section, in a tragic turn-of-events, Meiser somehow got his rear wheel into another’s pedal and trashed three or four spokes rending the wheel semi-useless. Gorilla stopped to assist while the callous peloton sped away. Yet amazingly within a half-hour or so they were both back, having fought the towering winds to reconvene with the group. But alas, Meiser’s wheel was too damaged and on a rough section, the whole thing fell apart and he was done…so it goes. It was a real shame for him because at this point it was obvious that Gorilla and Meiser were two of the strongest riders. Again, Gorilla stopped to assist, while the heartless, merciless peleton moved onward. And yet, once again miraculously he was strong enough to recapture the group. The group was decidedly not about providing nurture and comfort to its subscribers, if a guy fell back for any reason the group inevitably surged forward in evil gleefulness. At first I found this lack of compassion to be disconcerting, but like all successful organisms I quickly adapted to the harsh realities of the peleton's Darwinian leanings and even facilitated the antipathy on one occasion when tragedy struck another rider, thinking cruelly with designs only on self-preservation “Good…he’s done for…that’s better for me.” Such is the state of one’s mind when confronted with the primordial rules of The ROAD…

As alluded to above, without Eki, I knew that I was nothing more than an amoral slave to the wolf pack and so I played it like a deceitful, manipulative, but outgunned little choirboy trying not to cause any problems unless no one was looking. I suspect the tough-as-nails Joe Kurcharski from Michigan was following a similar design. Joe Kurcharski is a great guy from Kalamazoo. I remember spending a lot of time in the “back row” with Joe trying to not call attention to myself and to certainly not be called forward to lead. Joe had a better excuse for refraining from moving up to the front as he was on a single-speed (the new Sweet G.F. Superfly plastic-job with Stans Crows for tires). Also, I suspect that he too had a concealed “sweet-spot” for those ferocious headwinds. In other words, I knew that in my twisted world, the worse the conditions became, the better the chance I had at hanging on and ultimately getting myself into an opportunistic position late in the race. Every once in awhile I’d take an obligatory pull at the front, but not for long as I was just not strong enough to handle the winds for more than a minute or two, and furthermore there didn’t seem to be any outward social pressure from the rest of the self-serving predators for me to do anything more than a ceremonial pull every once in awhile. Of course, no one else stands out in my minds as taking long pulls, except Spahn and Gorilla….So it went into Checkpoint #1 and beyond, heading for Checkpoint #2…

II. Pre-Race Goals:
1.) My ultimate goal is to finish in the top three among the racers…Yet, if the opportunity presents itself, at the later stages in the race, I am committed to being in position to WIN or better yet, tie for the Win w/ Eki Hondo…This notion of being there should the opportunity present itself is based on the supposition that if I am lucky and other more capable riders are unlucky, then we could win this race…stranger things have happened!!!

Post Race Reflections on the Goals:
Although even without my friend, I did ultimately find myself exactly where I wanted to be late in the race and I did finish in concert with the other two leaders at the abbreviated finish at approximately Mile 260, but not without doing battle with some big time demons… Somewhere between the first checkpoint and the second checkpoint, I lost contact with four stronger guys and was therefore forced to ride solo for four or five hours into Checkpoint #2. The solo effort, given the unrelenting headwind required double the effort of riding with the group. Going it alone came about when the depleted lead pack (maybe 8 to 10 riders) arrived at a set of tremendous rollers. Interestingly, the breakup of the final group did not result from an orchestrated attack or even a discernable moment of truth, instead what ensued as the riders began the seemingly endless climbs, was a slow war of forlorn attrition whereby at the end of this persistent anaerobic effort, four guys had significantly gapped me and those behind me. The lead four were not together but riding in two equal sets with (I think) Hannon and Gorilla in the lead and Joe and his strong, but ailing Michigan buddy giving what looked to me as a reluctant chase. Finally topping out, I was alone in fifth place as the other guyz including Marcin and a couple others, I assumed, fell off or more aptly were blown off the earth (Note: I never looked back, such is “The Rule of the Jungle”)…they were never to be seen again.
You know, dear reader, the sinking feeling of being left behind, the angst of not being picked for the varsity, or the torment of staying home on prom night— so there is no need to articulate further on this depressing matter. Suffice to say that at that point-in-time, I felt the full weight of humanity with all its shortcomings. Believing that “hope, any hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things,” I prodded the trusty steel Kelly with all my might and yet clearly my rivals were pulling away, with indifference leaving me alone to contemplate the absurdity of our brief meaningless existence amid the cold, heartless expanding galaxy…As they literally rode away into the sunset, I resolved to give chase, but to slow my pace and to try and recover…with the aim being to live to fight again when the real demons would come. The tyrannical demons of the night!!!

2.) As stated above, at Mile 207.25 (aka Check Point #2) when one receives the last cue sheet with the directions to the finish some 138 miles down the road, my goal is to be in position to have a good chance of winning the race. That means being in the lead preferably with Tim Ek, or in the lead pack (a pack which by this late segment of the race will no doubt be comprised of no more than three or four riders). Again, the hope is that Tim and I will have been able to escape and are riding as a pair at the lead by the time we get to Check Point #2. In any event, I am therefore committed to staying at the front, unless it is obvious that the pace at the lead is too fast.

Post Race Reflections:
I was not in the lead group as they rode into the second checkpoint, but I was in third place and I knew from speaking with some remarkably observant kids jumping on a trampoline on the front lawn of a farm just outside of a little town and then soon after to Brain Hannon (at a grocery store in that town) that I was in third place and more importantly only “30 to 40 minutes” behind the remaining two guyz. It was at this point that my ship really started to come in. Firstly, the informative and bolstering information provided by the youthful trampolinists and especially Brian Hannon that I was not far behind the other riders; Secondly, the realization that both Brian Hannon and Joe’s friend from Michigan were out due to bad knees; Thirdly, Brian generously sharing a few pieces of delicious pizza with me and in doing so drastically cutting the time that I needed to refuel; Fourthly, Brian totally pumping me up by pointing out that just outside of the town the course direction changes dramatically to complement the wind…In a matter of just minutes, I would be riding with the wind!!! Once I left the little town, I turned with the wind and thus began a hammer fest towards the second checkpoint. Talk about perspective, the enemy in the blink of an eye became my great benefactor.
In summation, the pace had only momentarily become too fast for the author as the winds had forced democratic equality onto the lead group early on and I had benefited. There is a lesson here: It is neither the elites nor the peasants that prosper from democracy; it is the men of modest means and abilities that thrive under a true democracy. The same was true in this year’s Trans-Iowa. The hard driving head winds had prevented the more talented from breaking away as well as barring anyone from the back from advancing to the front. I rode hard once the winds changed in my favor and I got to the second check point in time to reload and leave with the remaining top two, namely John Gorilla and Joe Kurcharski

3.) Another goal is to maintain focus throughout the race and to therefore not get lost, to stay positive and therefore persistent, and to persevere through those moments of despair and agony (to essentially fight the good fight against what Capote referred to so elegantly as the “mean reds.”). The “mean reds” that come with the setting of the sun and that can negatively affect even the most stoic of riders.

Post race reflection:
The race ended before the mean reds appeared. Yet, I suspect they were waiting to ambush us farther done the line. But I do think I was ready to battle them and I am sure that before the end of the season I will get an opportunity to test my meddle against the demonic seeds of doubtful despair. To be honest, really the only disappointment I have about the outcome in this event is that I did not get to really test my endurance to the fullest extent. It is in the wee hours of the darkness, around 2:00 am to 5:00 am where a man really has to face serious hardship and despair. I am confident based on how good I felt going into the night that I could have successfully battled through and finished well.

4.) Another goal involves racing in a matter that is beneficial to both Tim Ek and me. I firmly believe that in this race, two working together is clearly advantageous. We as a duo can attempt to break from and gap the group; whereas alone each rider is forced to sell his soul for the security of the pack.

Post Race reflection:
Eki and I will get our chance…

5.) If things do not go well for me, I still want to be in a position to assist Ek for as long as possible…

Post race reflection:
Tim Ek is young and motivated, so he will get his chance at victory…It is my sincere hope to be there to share in the post-race hydration process!

III. Tactics:
A.) Work with Tim Ek as a highly functionally integrated, symbiotic team.
B.) Alternate between taking five minute pulls and five minute drafts.
C.) Always attempt to ride in the slipstream as much as possible and focus on being calm and efficient.
D.) When in the pack of lead riders, work at the front as little as possible and when in the lead, go easy attempting to control the pace early on…
E.) While riding in the group focus on efficacious pedaling and breathing. F.) Find a rhythm.
G.) Drink at regular intervals.
H.) Drink a little bit every 15 minutes and eat a little or drink the SE every 30 minutes. I.) Be ready to follow the break when the inevitable break occurs, watch this break to come from the Polish team.
J.) Commit to and therefore prepare for a nonstop ride to or beyond the first checkpoint; this will involve planning for six hours to six and a half hours on the bike [120 to 130 fluid ounces of fluids and 1500 to 1800 calories]. Plan for 280 calories per hour…do not repeat the often repeated mistake of bringing too much food.
K.) Accordingly, plan calorie and fluid intake to the degree that there is nothing left at the finish. Include two water bottles with paste (including one chocolate and one strawberry spirteen powders from the COOP); one water bottle per 3 hours…
L.) Take risks and race it; as it is better to finish in 20th place but to have had a real chance at winning than to finish 10th riding conservatively with never a chance to win…
M.) Eki and I have a plan going into the gas stations, for example, I run in and buy the sport shakes, while Eki buys the water, etc…
N.) Have a great week leading up to the start on Saturday @ 4:00am. Good nutrition, lots of sleep, positive attitude.

Best case scenario: Eki and I can influence the pace of the lead group heading into the first check point. Eki and I will be sufficiently supplied with fluids and calories (and the right mind-set) to allow us to forgo any stops up until the 109 mile 1st checkpoint (not including quick “leak” breaks). The hope is that some if not all of the lead pack will stop at some point before the first checkpoint @ 109 miles. This stop will allow us to gap the group and maybe break away with the notion being that the chase group will not be organized enough to give a concerted/effective pursuit (“out of sight out of mind”). The point behind this early effort is to be pro-active in the first stage of this three stage race. If we have other riders that stay with us during this early move, we will allow them a place in the line and attempt to work efficiently, but not franticly, to establish a gap on the chase group. I would not be surprised if a few stay with us…but I think there exists an early opportunity here to break free. Following this notion of a best case scenario…if water is available at Check Point #1; we will have enough calories on board to be able to get fluids from the volunteers at the check point and thus being afforded the opportunity of forgoing the obvious stop off-route from the first check point. This ability to rehydrate at the checkpoint, will allow us to go beyond the obvious reload stop, and instead find a reload stop further up the road. This scenario could potentially offer us a psychological advantage over the chase group…Again, we can get over zealous and ride too hard, but if we can maintain a steady race pace, after breaking from the group we may just be able to build a formable lead…keep breaks to a bare minimum…ride through the night to VICTORY!!!

Post Race Reflection:
The group stop did happen just as I figured it would at around the 80 mile mark. I had plenty of fuel on board to keep going for another 50 miles. But due to the winds, I doubt Eki and I would have risked the bold break.

Next-best case scenario: We do not get away or the group catches us…WE then react to the situation as it presents itself. If we are strong, we should continue to press attempting to demoralize the group. I would be very surprised if there is more than four or five contending after the 200 mile mark.

Post Race Reflection:

In closing:
Thanks again to all the volunteers and I hope it all comes off again next April…I wouldn’t change a thing. Keep it hard, long, and no support…and pray for bad weather…

IV. Working draft of the Gear List:

_____ Kelly CX bike
_____ Camelbak 100 fl. oz. bladder
_____ little clip thingy for the camelbak tube
_____ five or six big water bottles [Leave with 130 fluid ounces of fluids; including the camelbak full of water and two water bottles full of SE thick malt-type paste
_____ (2) rear red blinkers…have on the bike
_____ fenders; _____rear & _____ front
_____ directions to the pre-race meeting
_____ Eki’s cell phone #
_____ Al’s cell phone #
______Thingies for holding the cue sheets on the bike
______Boure Knickers
______chain tool and _______ extra little thingie for a broken chain
______Wool craft socks
______ Smart wool socks
______Wool external toe warmers; affix with tape
______Duct Tape
______Shoes: Bring both new Specialized & Lakes
______Tires…leave with Michelins on front and rear…bring Bontragers (2); Stans (1); and Continental (1)
______red or blue sharpie to use in conjunction with the cue sheets
______wool jersey (blue)
______craft cycling jacket
______gloves (leather black) & _____ regular mtb cycling gloves
______ COGGS hat for under the helmet
______Craft black long sleeve wool undershirt
______Cliff shots (gels)
______Cliff shot blocks
______three or four beers
______caffeine pills
______Electrolyte pills (Hammer gel product)
______ 2 packets of spirteen from CO-OP; one chocolate and one strawberry
______ Chamios lube…destine and Vaseline
______ bring Gold-Bond foot powder
______ bring absorbent pads for the front of the cycling bibs…
______ (2) extra tubes for 700 X 28 & 30s and 2 tubes for the 29er tires _________
______sunglasses (both pairs)
______tool box
______floor pump
______mini pump
______ patch kit
______head light (Petzl) with _____ fresh batteries
_____ little light for the handlebars
____ another little light for the handlebars?

Caloric and fluid calculations:
· Basics: 280 calories per hour max… and 20 fluid ounces of water per hour max.—
· Gels equal 100 cals each
· Clif Blocks equal 180 cals per bag
· One scoop of Sustained Energy equals 114 cals.
· Clif bars are 180 cals each


  1. Great ride Charlie! I wish I would have felt better to be up in the front group. I'm already planning for next year. Scott

  2. Did you take a personal day to put this novella together? I'm gonna have to email Mr. Hexum and look into this...

    For what it's worth, I had all my money riding on you. Since you lost in the sprint finish, my only hope is that the movie industry will pick up on my bad luck and make a motion picture of my rapid fall from economic grandure. This and my rebate check will hopefully pull me out of bankruptcy.


  3. You lost to a gorilla ? That will be some story to tell the grand kids.

  4. I can't wait to read this...gimme a week and I'll comment again once I gots time to read it.

    You are awsome! Greater ride!!