At around 6:30 Saturday night, I sent Charles a text message.
"Eating delicious Chinese right now. I asked, but they don't deliver to B roads. Sorry."
He didn't mention it at the finish line. I'm sure he had a well rehearsed comeback in mind, but I don't think he could lift his leg high enough to kick me in the crotch.
I was eating Chinese at 6:30 on Saturday because once again I had failed to finish Trans Iowa. That morning I had teamed up with Courtney and together we drove through 20mph headwinds, soft peanut butter roads, fresh gravel and eventually a seemingly endless stream of rolling hills. I was determined to make the first checkpoint before the cut this time and we rode the bubble for the first 40+ miles, pouring every bit of strength into a 10mph average. We made it in time, and had even managed to bank an 18 minute buffer, but the damage had been done. We used up our savings at the convenience store in town and even borrowed a few minutes from the next checkpoint. We set off feeling decent, but it wasn't long before I realized I didn't have it in me to reach the next checkpoint in time. 60 miles into the race I urged Courtney to go on without me. I'd rather ride alone than cost him a shot at making it through. A couple miles down the road he started pulling ahead. I sat up and watched him head off. A short while later I stopped to call Deb and asked her to pick me up in Hedrick, conveniently located about 100 miles into the course. I set off again, eventually joining up with Dave Mable and the two of us finished out our Trans Iowa centuries together at the Hedrick city limits.
Charles, on the other hand, was not eating Chinese because he was too busy pollinating the landscape with his awesomeness. He had ridden the race with the fast folks up near the front and managed a 6th place finish in his first Trans Iowa, despite losing his rear derailleur near the end. Two racers passed him as he walked the last seven miles of the course. I told him I couldn't believe he hiked the last stretch. He responded with a hoarse "what else was I supposed to do?"
So I sat there eating my shrimp and scallops while reflecting on the day. I DNF'd for the second year in a row, but this time I wasn't upset about it. I had improved significantly on last years performance and managed to push myself harder than I thought I could. Even though I was spent after 60, I still eeked out a hundy on course with a little help from Dave. I felt like I had walked away with a couple minor victories in the wake of failure.
This race is bigger than I am, but I'll keep coming back. Someday I'm hoping steady improvement and a bit of luck with the weather will finally see me through. Until that happens, I'll keep scratching for those little wins. After all, the only way I can truly fail is to stop trying.
Until next time...