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: