Pedal Another Mile

Bicycling, death, life after death.

I Stand For...

I had an idea riding during one of the final days of RAGBRAI to go a little farther than just putting the names you provided me on my bicycle. I am peeling those labels off and if they stick I will put them all on a piece of paper and keep them with the other memorabilia from the week.  

I wore my Stand Up to Cancer biking clothes for the last day. The back of the jersey says "I Stand For" and there's a blank white box. Once I finished, I asked Dan to take a picture of my back as I lifted my bicycle on the shore of the Mississippi River.  

I then opened Photoshop and entered every name that was on my bicycle into that blank white box. and saved it as it's own file. This was a bigger and more time-consuming project than I thought it would be, but it's all done, and two weeks after the ride isn't *too* bad :)

Every file in this directory is lastname_firstname. Click the name, and then when the picture comes up, click the three dots in the lower right corner and select download. The resolution is high enough for printing photos if you like, as well.

Thanks again to Dan for being my photographer the whole week!!

RAGBRAI XLI Day 7: Fairfield to Ft. Madison

Well, I did it :)

I got an even earlier start than usual - we were all tired of RAGBRAI by Friday. The only reason I decided to do it again was because Dan and Tanya said they were going to be there the whole week and we were going to be in hotel rooms the entire time. I wasn't going to risk camping in miserable heat like 2011. Like I said, I like camping and I like bicycling. I don't like doing both in Iowa in July. But even then, seven different hotels in seven nights is pretty grating as well. Poor Dan did so much loading and unloading of the truck I'm surprised his back didn't go out!

So Friday night I decided to get as much done and ready for Saturday as possible, and hoped to leave by 5:15 or so to be able to start at 5:45, a full half an hour earlier than my norm. Well, I started at 5:47. Not too bad!!  

Saturday was windy out of the NW and surprisingly chilly. My Garmin thermometer read 48 degrees when I started.  Monday when I was riding it read 96. Two years ago the heat index was in the 110s a few days. I heard last year was even hotter. I wonder if this was one of the coolest days in RAGBRAI history. 

Early on, in the first mile or two, I felt immediate pain in my right knee. It must have been the cold because it went away, thankfully. After that went away I started hauling ass. My goal was to stop at roadside stands only, and blow through the towns, speeding up the day. There was 63 miles to do today with twice the hills of Friday. I wanted to finish by 11 so we could be headed home by noon. 

Apparently all the roadside stands take Saturday off, because there was barely any to choose from. I was feeling really good and the wind had switched north and I was on a good stretch of a southerly route so the tailwind gave me speed AND the right attitude for the day. By the time I stopped to eat something it was mile 31. I was halfway done. Heck, I had 21.7 miles done by 7am. I was moving at a very good clip for being solo (not in a paceline). The first 20 miles were a continuance of the flatness of Friday, meaning most of the hills I had to climb would be concentrated in the final half of the route. This didn't phase me at all. Not even when I saw a road sign telling me I was on an Iowa Historic Hills Scenic Byway. Not sure of the history part, but it was scenic and hilly. Again, I didn't even look at the climb page on the Garmin- just attacked every hill I came to. I was very happy my attitude change was still sticking.

When I stopped for food I was so happy that there was FINALLY corn on the cob. I saw none at all Thursday or Friday and it was infuriating. I wanted corn on the cob, dammit! So after eating the corn and an awesome breakfast burrito, I set off for the last half. I stopped a few times to take pics and once for a gatorade refill and a free banana at a roadside, but other than that, 20 miles went by quickly. The grueling part was I was headed due east now, and the winds were still straight north, leaving us to deal with quite a nasty cross-wind. 

Miles 15-35 or so were without a doubt the shittiest road conditions of the week. Just lots of cracks, potholes, and separation joints, jarring my already tired and achy body.  Luckily things turned around after that.

I stopped in the last pass-through town of the day to look at Mt. RAGBRAI, a literal mountain of bicycles. I took a few pics, put my jacket into my jersey pocket, and took off for the final nine miles. 

With about two miles to go I could see glimpses of the Mississippi RIver. One last long downhill into the valley, a trip through the downtown area, and there I was, finished! I looked down at my Garmin and was shocked to see my average speed was 18.2 (Starva has decided it was 18.1) . That's right, on day seven in a row of 50+ mile days I rode my fastest of the week. I finished at 9:45 and we were on the road before 11, the time I had hoped to finish by.

408.28 miles in seven days. Unlike 2011, I didn't break down and cry the last ten miles of this journey. Even though I didn't want to admit it, I think I knew back then that things were not good for Billy Jo. Just six weeks after I finished Billy Jo was in chemotherapy again, and for the last time.  A year after that she was in hospice. So my tears in 2011 were because deep down I knew the end was near. I like to think that this time marks the end of the first chapter of a new beginning.

I said it would be ten years (if ever) before I did RAGBRAI again and I'd need a hotel every night. Thanks to Dan's logistical miracles and him and Tanya's willingness to take a week off and spend it with me, in seven different hotel rooms, and transporting me all over the place, I decided that I would do it this year as both a memorial to Billy Jo, as a memorial/tribute to those whose names are on my bicycle, and as a way to raise even more money for Stand Up to Cancer. As of this writing, $15,817.40 has been raised since 9/30/10. Over $3,000 of it since I said I'd ride again this year. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity.

I will not be doing another RAGBRAI. I think twice is enough. Some people do it every year,  to some it is the only vacation they get all year and that's how they decide to spend it.  More power to them. I can see the allure of it, but there's a lot of world out there. I finally got a passport at 42 years of age, and there's still no stamps in it. No matter what way you do RAGBRAI, it is not cheap to do so. In 2014 I could ride across Iowa yet again, or I could maybe get that first stamp in my passport. It is an easy decision for me.

I will always leave my team page open, and maybe I'll do another cross state ride at some point. Just not Iowa :) - the state is beautiful, and after two trips across it at this pace I have still not met one mean or rude person from there, but my days of crossing it by bicycle are over.

Dan, Tanya, CJ - again... thank you so much. I am serious when I say that this would not have been possible without you. I simply would not have done it. I had a great yet exhausting time, and I hope you did too. 

Here's the flickr set for Day 7. Dan has a lot of pictures to sort through and I will make another blog post once I have them and they're on flickr. I will also be updating the RAGBRAI 2013 page with a "by the numbers" type of post, including updating the food/drink tally for each day. Yes, I wrote it all down, and it was A LOT. Despite that, I lost 4.7 lbs this time, a much better outcome than when I actually GAINED 3 lbs in 2011 after 490 miles on my bike. 

Also, I had a GoPro take a picture every 10 seconds I was on the bicycle, across the entire state. I plan on making time lapse videos of each day and once they're on youtube I will post them. That may take me a few weeks though.  

Okay that's it for today - the alarm goes off at 4:30 and instead of riding all day I have to be at work in the morning :-/. Thanks for reading! 

Here's the Strava data for day 7: 

Day 7 Glympse

Home stretch! It's COLD and windy. I sure hope this isn't a headwind for any long stretches. But even if it is, I'll finish it. I didn't come all this way to quit now!

We're already on the road headed back to Fairfield - I want to get an even earlier start than usual. I ate something already, too, and will be getting food/drinks roadside instead of in towns to speed things up. We all want to be home!!!


RAGBRAI XLI Day 6: Oskaloosa to Fairfield

Not too much to write about today. When I woke up it was raining but that appeared to be ending so I took my time getting ready. The hotel was only a mile from the start so Dan got a chance to sleep in, as I left directly from there. 

The rain had tapered off to light drizzle by the time I left but it was cloudy and cool. I was wearing my waterproof jacket, but that turned out to be a mistake. Clothing designed to keep water out has a major design flaw - it keeps sweat in. By the time I stopped for breakfast 15 miles in, the inside of the jacket was soaked and the outside was bone dry. I took it off and was even colder because I was soaked in sweat and it was in the upper 50s. 

The pass-through towns today were quite boring. Nothing at all special about them, so I didn't spend much time in them. The ride today was nothing special either. It was flat, thankfully, because there was quite a headwind going on. It was mostly gray and cloudy, too. There was an increase of roadkill, though - which broke up the monotony. There is a RAGBRAI team aptly named Team Roadkill, which adorns roadkill with Mardi Gras-style beads. It's quite a funny sight.

My heart rate has really whipped into shape again this week. Yesterday it seemed so low at times that I changed the battery in the strap after finishing. Day one avg HR was 154 with a max of 182. Today was an avg of 130, max of 160.

As a result of the blandness today offered, I only took one picture during the ride and a few in the end town of Fairfield. You can see them here. 

While walking around Fairfield, Tanya brought up something I hadn't realized until she said it - Iowa apparently cannot have a pizza restaurant without having it be a steak house as well. Every place was "_______'s Pizza and Steakhouse". Another thing I realized at dinner last night was that they like to give a package of soup crackers...with salad. Strange! 

All day today I had a taste for corn on the cob, so of course not one food vendor in the entire 50+ miles was selling it. If only Iowa was a corn-growing state. I did finally get a piece of pie, though. Pie is RAGBRAI. Those church ladies can cook some awesome pie, and I had not had any until this morning. 

So this is it. One more night in a hotel, one more 15 minute drive at sunrise back to the start town, and one very chilly (53!) start to a 63 mile, somewhat hilly day. NW winds will hopefully provide a bit of a tailwind tomorrow, as the route starts directly south before becoming mostly west until I reach the Mississippi River, where I will complete my journey by dipping my front tire in it's waters. I'm ready for this to be over - I'm not complaining or whining again - I just want to be home. Dan and Tanya do too. I can't thank them enough for all their help and support this week!

Here's the Strava data for today: 

So tomorrow I take limited breaks, just like 2011, to get done as quickly as possible, to get home, to get back into my bed, and to not even look at my bike for at least a week or ten days. My legs are now in a constant state of soreness, but it's a dull pain not even requiring Advil. Okay maybe I could use some, but I'm not going to go look for it. 

Okay, I just asked Dan and he had some, so I took it. :D


Day 6 Glympse

I'm leaving directly from the hotel today so Dan gets to sleep in!!

I updated last night's post with a link to pics since Flickr is back up. Here's the link.

Looks like today is going to start off a little rainy, but it is another short day, and relatively flat. I'll just wear my waterproof jacket this morning :)

Copy/paste for the Glympse for today:

RAGBRAI XLI Day 5: Knoxville to Oskaloosa

I gave myself a major attitude adjustment this morning. I didn't come out here to be miserable. I love riding my bicycle, and yesterday I couldn't stand it, and worse... there were three more days to go!

I woke up today and my quadriceps were already hurting. I figured they'd loosen up after a couple of miles, and they did.

The first few miles out of Knoxville were very easy today. Mostly flat and downhill. It was at this point where I decided, for lack of a better term, to stop being a whiny bitch :)

Yes, RAGBRAI is a tough thing to do. Yes, there's hills. Yes, it's challenging. But lots and lots of people do it every year.

Furthermore, and much more importantly, I am fortunate to be healthy enough to be able to do it. There are countless people right now who would give anything for the pain of a hill-filled bicycle ride over the pain of cancer or cancer treatments. Pain that is unavoidable.

So I told myself to quit bitching. Quit letting the hills dictate my mood. Why I let yesterday get to me so bad I don't know - I guess I was just in a bad mood. Today, however, I was going to enjoy the pain. Not once during the 54 miles did I switch to my climb page on the Garmin bike computer. That page shows total elevation gain and current grade of the hill. Up until today I'd flip to that page at the bottom of every hill, and look at it as I labored up the hills. I decided to say fuck it- don't care how steep, don't care how much you've climbed already... just go.

It was a great ride. At the end I finally looked at the climb page and discovered that I had climbed 200+ more feet then yesterday, yet had the mood of someone who just did 50 miles downhill.

Today I crossed back across Lake Red Rock, this time on the dam. I also discovered that Lake Red Rock is the biggest lake in Iowa. After a quick stop at a roadside all you can eat pancake and sausage stand, I rolled into the city of Pella. I didn't stay long, but basically saw it was Holland in Iowa. Being Dutch, I was torn between staying a while or going on. This was only 12 miles in, and I wasn't sure if my newfound attitude was going to stick yet, so I snapped a few pics and took off.

When I finished, we went to a winery for a picnic. I didn't partake - wine gives me an instant headache - but I did drink a beer! 

We checked into the hotel, I showered and napped, and then we decided to avoid the crowds in Oskaloosa and head back to Pella for dinner. Even though the distance on the bike route was 40 miles, by car it's about 15. I'm glad we went back. What a cool town.  

Flickr set of pics for today is here. Here's one of me in Pella:

Here's the Strava info:


Tomorrow is 52 miles and relatively flat, but it would have been a good day even if it were hilly. :)