Five times I’ve trained, stressed, and obsessed over Trans Iowa. Trans Iowa, a race I fell in love with as a budding, fresh-faced endurance cyclist, looking for an adventure that would go beyond anything I’d ever done.
Heading into TI v9 this year, I hoped and planned for my fourth finish of the event. I’d been fortunate enough to finish in second place in two of the previous additions. There’s a point where those finishes don’t really mean all that much, because just completing Trans Iowa is a monumental feat in itself. Those finishes did give me a boost of confidence though, and it meant that now I wanted to win! As I headed down to Grinnell, Iowa from my hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, winning was on my mind, but just finishing remained the primary goal.
My wife Amy and I loaded up my Warbird Ti and headed to Iowa one more time. Amy would serve as my “support” for the race, which isn’t quite the same as what support means in other races. Trans Iowa is a self-supported, nonstop, 320-mile gravel road race. Riders are not allowed to accept outside assistance. They must fend for themselves, using resources such as gas stations, bars, or stores for resupply. However, competitors are allowed to help each other. Amy would provide “support” for me in that I would know she was back at the hotel waiting for me, listening to the updates via the Internet, sending me positive thoughts, and looking for me at the finish line. Just knowing she was there would prove invaluable as I took on the struggles that go hand and hand with the TI.
“Do you mind if I sneak in here?” I asked as I found my place in the front row at the start line. Ultra-fit athletes surrounded me as I chatted with some familiar faces. My nerves simmered on low while Guitar Ted, the race director, moved through his vital last minute instructions. I felt his voice drift into the background as I became lost in my own thoughts regarding the race, or more accurately adventure, that I have come to love so deeply. I’m not sure how or why, but Trans Iowa had wiggled its way in, grabbed hold of me, and it wouldn’t let go.
I scanned through the field and saw riders re-checking gear and quietly asking questions of each other. ‘They’re nervous’, I thought. I was pleased to see them with the jitters as this race is not to be taken lightly. A lot can happen and things can get serious in a hurry. Being nervous means that the situation has been accepted, at least the best that it can be. My nerves weren’t as high as I thought they should be. Would I be able to ride the distance completely if I had not mentally come to terms with it? I told myself that I’d done it before and I could do it again. While fumbling with my GPS, Guitar Ted’s voice came rushing back into my head, “BE CAREFUL!” he shouted and then disappeared into his truck. ‘We’re close’ I thought. Just then I heard the horn sound and he began the lead out. I turned my cranks over for the first of possibly a million revolutions. I was underway in my fifth Trans Iowa. I was right where I belonged.
....to be continued tomorrow…
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Tim (Eki) Ek
Tim Ek was born and raised in Duluth, Minn., and still calls it home. He’s always had a passion for competition and seeking his own extremes. Tim's true love is the woods: Out in the wild is where he clears his head and finds his peace, and he prefers getting there by bike. Tim Ek: The Eki Chronicles, ekichronicles2.kinetic-fitness.com