As I pulled into the the Kwik Star I noticed two other bikes leaning against the building, but I don't recall seeing the riders as I entered. I grabbed a basket and aimlessly wandered the aisles of the truck stop for quite a while. I really wanted a bottle of Muscle Milk, but couldn't find any, so I settled for chocolate milk, two donuts, beef jerky, and a warm sausage and cheese sandwich. I found a spot in the dark of the trucker's lounge, and sat down at a table with Charles and Chris refuel. I finished the first round of food off and was still feeling hungry, and I was starting to get chilled. I wandered around a bit more and, being chilled, I grabbed a can of Coke and another bottle of chocolate milk and went to the counter to pay. I must have looked horrible, as the overnight clerk, who was really chipper, asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee. It didn't sound good, so I turned him down. Sleep deprivation causes you to do stupid things sometimes. I sat back down in the lounge and made a quick FB post about my position while finishing chocolate milk and Coke off. We spent about 45 minutes at the truck stop before the call to leave was announced. I quickly filled my bottles, dropped some Nuun tablets in, and followed the group out the door sometime around 5:00 AM.
We headed east for a mile, looking at the morning twilight and then dropped south into a valley for what seemed like a long time. The cold, damp air that settled in the valley really made me want to finish soon. Finally, we turned west, and Mark's route continued to pound at our legs with more loose gravel and a miles of constant rolling hills. Around mile 304, we came off of a jog and on to a flat straight section of road. It was covered in big, chunky gravel, with the "smooth line" barely discernable from the rest of the road. Jay Barre led us onto the rock. As the smooth line Jay was following ended, I jumped to the opposite side and pushed the pace a bit. It was easier for me to ride at speed and let the bike bounce a bit. I slid even further into the dirt at the edge as Paul Errington and Jay dropped in behind. We rode like this for just over a mile until we hit a stop sign at the intersection with a paved road. We were out of breath, but the last mile of our own little "Paris Roubaix" helped wake up our heads and legs a bit. I recall our group starting to break up a bit around this point of the race. Tim Ek had told us he was going to cruise in because his knee wasn't feeling good. Mike, Ben and Chris were content to hold the pace we had been riding the entire night. With the finish feeling close and the sun warming us up, Charles, Jay, both Paul's and I were slowly picking up the pace the further we rode along.
We hit a small section of B road around mile 306, rode through it, and then an energetic Tim Ek passed Charles and I while we stopped for a bio break. He settled in with Jay and "the Pauls" as Charles and I rejoined them. Tim had made some seat post adjustments after he had dropped back and his knee wasn't bothering him any more. The pace picked up a bit more and then we turned north onto a set of rollers and things really started heating up. Tim passed me on the first uphill and for some reason my legs woke up a bit, and I decided to jump on his wheel. We cruised on the downhill together and he passed me on the next uphill. I got onto his wheel again and this time I decided to drive the pace on the downhill until I had built a bit of a gap between the two of us. I looked down at my cue sheets and realized we still had a ways to go, so I backed off to get my heart rate down and give my legs a rest. Not too long after this, I hear a bike behind me and turn to see Charles Parsons. He flashed a smile and said "I couldn't let my good friend Dog Chow just ride off", then rode ahead. I wouldn't see Charles again until the end of the race. Tim pulled up next to me as we were getting closer to town, and I told him I hoped he was done riding hard, as I was feeling pretty spent. He glanced over, picked up the pace a bit more, and then rode off ahead of me. I still felt pretty good, and I wanted to finish strong, so, knowing that there were just a few miles left, I picked up the pace a bit more as I crossed under I-80. I could almost smell the finish now, and my body and legs responded with just a bit more power. I turned the corner and headed west towards the finish. As I looked up I saw Tim just 3/4 of a mile ahead of me. The pressure on the hills over the last few miles had kind of blown the "overnighters finish together" mantra that I assumed was an unspoken rule, and I thought about sitting up at this point. But, knowing what Tim had accomplished as a rider over the the years, it was a big deal to me to finish with or ahead of him to set a personal benchmark. With that in mind, I rolled forward on to my aero bars and picked up the pace. It took a mile or two, but I caught up with Tim, kept rolling past and took a left turn onto the B road and into the home stretch. I got out of the saddle and sprinted, then sat and sprinted one more time, turning down a small driveway, expecting to see the barn at any minute. Instead, I found myself in a private driveway. I turned around a couple of times and rode back out, looking for the turn to the barn I must have missed. I turned back around and rode to the end of the driveway again, and as I was circled once more to go out, Tim pulled up. I'm not sure if he had followed me, or if had made the same mistake that I did, and turned down the wrong road. Karma always comes around, and I was paying for not finishing with the group. Tim and I talked on our way back to the finish, and he suggested that I go in first. A big thanks to him for allowing me to do so.
I rolled down the final hill towards the finish, turned into the driveway, sprinted towards, and past Mark and the small crowd of people gathered around the finish area, skidded to a stop and let my bike drop I was finally done. I had finished 323.3 miles of TransIowa V9 in just over 28.5 hours - far faster than I had ever imagined finishing. I got a bit lost with all of the people gathering to congratulate me, but the best thing was turning around and seeing that my wife Kathy had made it to the finish and was there to give me a hug and congratulate me. She had been completely supportive of my training and weird schedule over the last 4 months, so it was absolutely perfect to share the moment with her.
Lots of things happend in quick succession. I gave Mark a long hug, partly out of exhaustion, but partly because it was the only way I could say thank you to him without breaking down in tears. Photos ensued. Kyle Sedore handed me a bomber of cold tasty Double IPA. I took a huge swig. It was ice cold and so satisfying. Rob Versteegh and Kyle were both handing me dry clothes and food. Julie Goodman scrubbed my dog bite out with Everclear, and bandaged it. Sarah Russell held me up after the bomber and exhaustion got to me. I honestly felt like Cancellara at the end of Paris Roubaix - Through the crucible, out the other side intact, and into the hands and arms of an incredible support crew to make sure I looked good on the podium, or in this case, a log by the fire. Having everyone there at the end meant a lot to me, and I want to thank each and every one of the people that I mentioned for making my finish just that much more special.
This is pretty much the end of my race recap (Gee, only 4 long posts?) If you've made it through this far, congratulations. :) I'll have one final post coming with some miscellaneous thoughts, and some discussion about my bike and setup for those that are curious.