Just a little over two months from now, I will be lining up for the 11th running of the gravel grinding monster known as Trans Iowa. TI.V11, as it is called, takes place on the weekend of April 25-26, starting in Grinnell, IA. That is when the race starts, but that isn’t how the adventure started. The adventure began with a road trip to Europa.
Europa Cycle & Ski is a bike shop in Cedar Falls, IA and just so happens to be where Mark Stevenson, aka Guitar Ted turns wrenches. He is the race director/route planner/mad scientist of TI. You can find his blog here. In order to earn one of the 120 spots in TI, you have to enter by a post card sent to Europa. Registration is actually an entailed process that takes place over the course of 3 weeks in October/November. You can find specific instructions for this past year here.
The first week, there are 40 slots available to those who have either won or finished TI in the past. It is first-come-first-serve. Postcards can be mailed, sent by package service or hand delivered. If all of the slots are not used, the remainder is added to the 40 slots available the following week. Week two is for veterans- people who have started TI before, but not finished. The same process applies- 40 slots plus whatever (if any were left) slots were passed on from the prior week. Week three is for the 40 rookie slots.
Each week, registration starts on Monday morning when Europa opens and ends Saturday. You can’t send your card in early or they are thrown out. If it is late, it is thrown out. If it gets there after the 40 slots are full, you are out of luck. Timing is of the essence to get in to TI!
My original intent had been to just mail my card in and if I got in, great. If not, that would be great too. As the registration process was going on and I was waiting for the rookie week, I started to care more. I REALLY wanted to get in. I was emotionally invested now. To add to my self induced stress, Guitar Ted was blogging that the talk around “town” was that things would fill REALLY fast. His prediction was hours, not days. My brain got to ticking.
“You know, I bet I could take that Monday off, drive up the afternoon before, be there when they open and insure I get in!” So I did. 🙂
I left Sunday evening about dark and headed north. I stopped when I got into Iowa to grab a nasty burger on the run, then continued on. I stopped for the night at a rest stop and hunkered down in the car. Doing this on the cheap!
My alarm went off at 4:30 and I went inside the rest stop to wash my face and freshen up. Back to the car and down the highway to the next exit where I found a McDonalds. Hotcakes and coffee helped to make up for a not-so-restfull night in the car. I caught up on a little bit of reading as I had plenty of time. I only had a little over an hour left to drive, but I wanted to be in the parking lot early, not knowing if there might be others already camped out. Doors open at 9:00AM.
The whole way that morning I questioned myself. Should I have just drove on in last night? What if I get there, after having driven 400 miles, only to find out that there are 40 people camped out and I am out of luck? To make matters worse, I had to stop a few miles away for gas. Tick, tock, tick, tock…. Oh well. I got my gas, grabbed a fresh cup of coffee and headed for Europa.
When I arrived right about 7AM, I was the only person there. Yay! What a relief! Then I started thinking, “Was this dumb? I mean, what if nobody shows up and I drove 400 miles to hand deliver my card when I could’ve just spent 50 cents on a stamp?” I did’t have to think about it very long. By 7:10, there were two other cars in the parking lot.
As the time ticked away, we all waited in our cars and more cars kept pulling in. Now it was a matter of principle….I wanted to be the first one in the door! My concern was someone would make a move for the door and we would all bum rush the place, just to stand out there in line. That normally would’t be an issue, but it was pretty cold that morning and I did’t come prepared to sit outside for an extended period. So I sat and waited for someone to make a move.
By 8:10, there were about 10 cars in the parking lot. Shortly thereafter, UPS came by and dropped off a package. Wait minute! I was here first! How many entries were in that package? People can send their entries with someone else. Oh boy.
On top of being all worked up about the situation, the two 20 oz coffees I drank are just about to run through me. I can’t leave or I will loose my spot! Only 50 more mins. Only 49 more mins. The wait was truly painful.
Around 8:40, I saw someone get out of there car. This is it. I had been prepared to make a run for it, post card in hand, coat zipped, bladder bulging. I hopped out and headed for the door. It was a mass exodus. Like lemmings, everybody got out of their cars at once and started for the door. No running, but with haste. I had parked strategically and got to the door first and started the line. Now we wait more! Just in the cold. And I gotta pee!!!!
With a little less than 10 minutes to go before the 9:00AM hour, Guitar Ted felt sorry for us crazies standing in the cold and had one of the guys open the door. We all filed in and I proudly turned my card in at the counter first. WOOO HOOO! I was so excited. I should be in right? The only thing I could say was, “can I use your bathroom?” Nice.
Everyone filed in and handed their cards in. About 4 or 5 more entries came in right away attached to flowers and house plants from a florist delivery. In the mean time, I scurried away to the back and hit the can. Relieved in multiple ways, I ventured back to the counter and chatted with Guitar Ted a moment. I mentioned that I drove from southeast Missouri, 400 miles to hand deliver that card and I was really excited to have a spot in the race. He was very courteous and thanked me for coming, although he had a little bit of a look that told me he thought I was nuts. I’ll take that. 🙂
Then he said that he would have to go over the cards and make sure all the right information was on there before the entries were official. Good grief, I hope I got everything right. I glanced around the shop, said my goodbyes and headed back out to start on my way home. The suspense was killing me! No sense waiting around though. The road beckons and I must drive!
Along the way, maybe 11:00, I stopped in southeastern Iowa at a Subway to grab lunch. While eating my sandwich, I pulled up Guitar Ted’s blog to see if there were any updates. Lo and behold, registration was closed. It had only taken 30 minutes for the 40 rookie slots to fill up. The roster showed my name as the second rookie, so I assume the UPS package was counted. No matter. I WAS IN!!!!! I get the privilege of toeing the line for the 11th Trans Iowa. How cool!
I’m so glad I made the trip. In retrospect, I would’t have had a chance mailing my entry. Even some of the Fed Ex entries did’t make it in time. It was a great adventure, but just a small speck in the story that will be told about this race. I have been training. Building my cycling mileage, running for cardio and weight loss and this week I start my upper body workout regimen. I am way behind what I wanted to be. My whole house ended up with the creeping crud after Christmas and I spent most of January coughing and hacking. I am back on the training wagon though and can’t wait. Not only is TI an epic gravel event, but for me, it is just another step toward a much bigger goal. Did I mention I am on the roster for Trans Am Bike Race as well? Next time. 🙂