My alarm went off around 2:30 or 2:45 AM - I can't really remember when. I had placed all of my bottles and kit in the bathroom the night before, so that's where I went to prepare myself for the day's events. I moved my bike into the hall while eating a breakfast cookie, set my tire pressures, then knocked on Paul and Vin's door to see how they were getting along. They were mostly set to go, but Paul was getting more beauty shots taken of him by the photographer that Salsa had sent to document his day. It was like being in the middle of a Rapha Continental shoot in some ways ;)
After transferring Paul and Vin's belongings to my room, the three of us rode down Hwy 146 into Grinnell and rolled in to downtown and in front of Bikes to You. The mood around the starting line was much lighter than in past years. The morning's relatively warm, humid, temperature and the forecast for the rest of the race weekend surely was the cause for this. Despite being there for the better part of 30 minutes, I really don't remember too many details. Knowing that I wouldn't see many of these people until Sunday, if at all, I tried to wish the riders I knew good luck. I recall lots of camera flashes going off, and a few people shouting my name. Mostly, I was trying to keep my nerves under control and silently hoping that nothing unexpected would derail the last four months worth of training. The Trans Iowa can deal cruel twists, even when you have prepared properly. Guitar Ted gave some last minute instructions, hopped in the Truck with No Name, and allowed us 5 minutes to our own thoughts before honking his horn and heading south on Broad Street.
The horn startled me out of my thoughts and I found myself clipping in and following everyone else down Broad. Since I opted to not look at the cue sheets the night before, I wasn't really sure where we were headed and just settled in behind everyone else. It wasn't too long before we took a right hand turn, and I realized we were right crossing Hwy 146 close to our hotel. A small group of people were at the controlled intersection cheering for us. Suddenly, Guitar Ted sped away into the morning darkness and it was just us and the gravel.
At the pre-race meeting, Mark mentioned that the first 12 miles were going to be shoulder to shoulder fresh gravel. He wasn't lying. My heart rate jumped from a fairly sedate 125 to 150 bpm as I tried to get my legs and bike beneath me and settle into some sort of reasonable pace. The next few minutes were hectic as our cluster of 90 riders quickly strung out into lines and worked to find the smoothest lines we could. As the fast guys worked their way to the front, I settled into maintainable pace and picked my way around other riders as the hills and the gravel allowed. It was going to be a long day and I was not going to end it early by forcing a pass when it wasn't safe for me or the other riders. During this first few miles, the eyeglasses I was wearing were fogging up to the point they were useless. So much for reading any road signs from a distance. There was a group up ahead, but their pace was faster than what I was comfortable running, and I opted to let them ride away. Soon, the sun was up, and I found myself alone. I settled into a schedule of drinking every 15 minutes and eating at the top of every hour. I felt that this would be an easy schedule to remember, even as the race wore on and I started to tire. I recall passing the Wittenberg Grange building near Clay Street and Holly Avenue, viewing numerous foggy valleys from above, and seeing photographers at various points on course as we passed by. These things, and the seemingly unending rollers of Jasper County, were what stick out most in my mind from the first section. Parts of the course were used as part of TIV5, as I rode by some of the same spots I sat at to take photos of riders early on. Mark was taking us almost straight east across a good portion of Jasper county, and in the process showing riders just how flat Iowa was.
Before I knew it, I found myself on a long, paved descent and a short section of bike path, rolling into CP1. One of the volunteers took my number, and I remember Ryan Clutter and Chad Quigley asking me how I felt. At this point, I didn't feel like I had ridden 10 miles, let alone 50. I was very happy with my pacing and my nutrition to this point and didn't feel like I had over extended myself in any way. After a few minutes to swap cue sheets and quick restroom break, I turned south and scaled a steep climb to start the second leg, which would take us over 120 miles to an unknown location.