Trans Iowa 7 Part Three: Is That A Dog?

In anticipation of the upcoming Dirty Kanza 200, we continue our series of gravel-inspired posts. -Kid

The sun rises over our backs and left shoulders. It’s a beautiful Easter Sunday sunrise. It’s refreshing and my second sunrise on this same bike ride. We keep kicking it. We get confused. Which way John asks? I’m unsure. This looks right so we keep going.

We fly but I’m starting to not feel good and the legs are quickly dying off. I’m just trying to stick with John but it’s getting hard. John stops, “This can’t be right. We are too far.” Urgency sets in. Where’s Dennis?! John just starts ripping it up some random dirt road, “Screw it, I’m riding to Grinnell.” “What”, I think? “John, this has to be right, it looks like the cue sheets have us go through some town, and there is a town that way,” I yell after him. He stops and comes back, “Okay”, he says. Then he is off chasing again.

We ride together for a bit longer and then I can’t sustain the pace any longer. The exhaustion quickly sets in. I’m bonking. I wish I had yelled something at John like “Go get him!” or “You can do it!” or “You are the strongest guy out here! Do it now!”, but I didn’t. I think I just watched him ride off. I felt more like I was watching a movie at this point than actually there on that road.

I’m happy for him and hope he catches Dennis and wins (nothing against Dennis of course). I decide once I get to the town, I’ll figure out what to do. Right outside town Charlie, Tim, and Troy pass me. They ask how I am, and I say I’m doing fine. I get into town and realize the directions are correct. I stop and slam two Reese’s cups. Start a Snickers. Eat some nuts and raisins. Now I just have to slow pedal and give it time. The sun is illuminating the whole countryside, and I’m still glad I’m here. I’m going to finish this thing.

Finishing becomes my sole goal now. John is up the road somewhere and I’m just riding my bike. Tim, Charlie, and Troy slowly went out of sight. I kept pedaling. Guitar Ted and Dave drove by. This section of Iowa was hillier than I liked. I wanted pancake flat right now. I also knew the wind would probably start picking up soon. I was now only 30 miles from the finish but had no idea how long that 30 miles might take.

My mind was starting to play tricks on me again. Every small bush I saw on the side of the road could possibly be a dog. From far off, I would stare at it and think, “Is that a dog? No I don’t think that’s a dog.”

I looked up and saw 510 Avenue and took a left. A mile and 100 yards of B road later I realized I was on the wrong road. I turn and go back. The sign clearly reads 500 Ave. I had totally looked at it from just 10 yards away and read it wrong. I was going to need to second-guess my decisions from now on to stay on course. I knew my mind was tired.

I broke the ride down into 3-mile increments or whenever I got to flip to a new cue sheet. I allowed positive thoughts only. Lydia was waiting for me at the end of the race I told myself. My parents and sister were very proud of me I thought. Everyone liked me and thinks I’m amazing! (I’m kidding about this one!). I slowly ticked off the miles, and I mean slowly. I average 10 mph at this point if not slower. Legs were sore. Mind was falling asleep. Eyes tired. Keep going Sean. Keep going.

10 miles left. Where the crap is Grinnell I thought? Seriously, where the crap is this town? Did Guitar Ted move it? Shouldn’t it be like right here? Shouldn’t I see it by now? Please! I just want to see the edge of town!
Finally I turned a bend and sure enough, a water tank loomed. Town was close! The road flattened out and I got closer and closer. I knew guitar Ted wouldn’t let the finish be easy and sure enough, suddenly hills lay in my path. I crossed I-80 again and it felt amazing. I started riding by homes and seeing pavement. So close.

I would not allow myself to look at my computer, just cue sheets or what’s ahead. Just finish already! I turned the corner, crossed the major inbound road, and the park became visible. Where is everyone? Is everyone already gone? I turned the corner, and could now see people. They saw me and pulled out cameras. The finish! I moved closer and saw friends and the race organizers. They cheered for me and new energy came from out of nowhere.

I crossed the line, or lack thereof, but knew I was done, and was so happy! People grabbed my bike and helped me off. Questions were asked and I gave half-thought answers or just complete ramblings. Finally I saw John and asked him how it went. Dennis won. John got two more flats. Dennis had ridden incredibly strong to win. Nice job man.

I lay down in the grass and it felt amazing. I couldn’t believe I that I could just lie down. Crazy.

Totals: 341 miles, 30:15 hours, 19,000 feet of climbing, 6th place. I had finally finished Trans Iowa.


This post filed under topics: Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Sean Mailen Trans Iowa Ultra Racing

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Sean 'Mailman' Mailen

Sean 'Mailman' Mailen

I was born and raised in the hills of Tennessee. I decided in high school I wanted to design the best bikes and parts possible; I’ve been following my dream ever since. I love about every possible mode of cycling, mountain biking is the most fun, but if I’m on two wheels I’m happy.


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Ari | May 28th, 2011

Did you have a chance to take any photos?
Nice write up and hope to see you at Dirty Kanza in a few days.

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