Pedal Another Mile

Bicycling, death, life after death.

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Three weeks. THREE WEEKS?!?!?

RAGBRAI starts in three weeks already??!??  WTF!!!!

Okay, okay... my last post was two and a half months ago and it was complaining about the horrendous "spring" weather we were experiencing.  I really meant to make some more posts between then and now, but life, work, and training for RAGBRAI had other thoughts about that, and that's okay.  This post will catch up.

The weather obviously improved, somewhat.  I had many very cold rides early on. Weekday rides are exclusively before work, starting at about 6:30 am. it wasn't too uncommon to start my ride in temps in the low 40s.  There's been quite a bit more rain than normal, sometimes resulting in flooded, impassable trails.  There's been days with temps in the upper 90s and heat indices in the 110-115 degree range.  Despite all of this, since the day of my last post, I have ridden 53 times totaling 1,332 miles.  Not too bad, considering I have a full time job with a 2-3 hour daily round trip commute. 

Highlight of these 53 rides include three metric centuries (100km or greater), riding down a trail for a few hundred yards with deer on either side of me not more than 20 feet ahead (I wish I had the GoPro on for that!), and...

a pretty nasty crash three weeks ago, to which I am still bearing damage.  I was two miles from the end of a 31 mile ride on Sunday June 10th.  The pavement was damp the entire ride due to overnight rain, and I thought I was being cautious enough.  Apparently not.  I approached a 90 degree left turn, slowed considerably (not enough) and entered the turn.  The next thing I know I'm on the ground, bleeding, and my left hip/thigh is screaming in pain.  The bike seemed okay, except the front brake hood/lever was knocked out of alignment.  I determined it was ridable and finished the last two miles on adrenaline.  I had road rash on my shoulder, elbow, and knee, but none of these were too bad.  The elbow bled a LOT, but no stitches were required.  My big worry was going to be my left thigh.  Before I even left the parking lot, I knew I was in for a long period of discomfort.  I only hoped that I'd be able to resume riding quickly, as RAGBRAI was a mere six weeks away.  I went home and immediately began ice and tylenol treatment.  The following week was pretty uncomfortable, especially sleeping.  I am a left side sleeper most of the time, and the size of the hematoma on my leg was not going to permit left-side sleeping anytime soon.  Oddly enough, the only activity that did not hurt on Monday was the three minutes I spent on the indoor bike trainer.  I reluctantly decided to not ride Tuesday morning, but by that afternoon decided I'd give it a go on Wednesday.  Everything went well on that ride, and each one since has been fine as well.  95% of the bruising is gone, but a sizable swollen lump remains.  A doctor visit resulted in assurances it was normal and would recede with time. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a pic of my leg at it's worst, about 10 days after the crash:

The bruised area was about 12 by 6 inches.

Like I mentioned, most of the color is gone now, and I'm patiently waiting for the swelling to recede.  There's no pain rmaining and I can sleep on my left side again.

So that's what has been going on, cycling related, since my last post.  I'll be making an effort to update more in the next three weeks, and then, if there's a cell signal, I'll be posting daily from the trip.

In much more important news, I'd like to thank everyone who has already donated to team Pedal Another Mile at Stand Up to Cancer, as I am attempting to raise $10 donated for every mile ridden on RAGBRAI.  This would bring the total raised since 2010 over $20,000.  There has been over $1,000 raised since March - so over $2.50 per mile has already been donated!! Thank you all SO much!  If you haven't donated and would like to, I thank you!  Just follow this link.  Even the minimum donation amount, $5, means a little over a penny a mile, and every penny counts!! 



This "spring" sucks

As I started this post, it was a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, and instead of being out on a ride, I was bundled up in the house as 39 rain degree pelted the house driven by 30+ mph winds.  We went out to dinner and then rented a movie so I left this as a draft to finish today.

As I continue this post, it is a Sunday morning in mid-April, and instead of being out on a ride, I am bundled up in the house as 33 rain degree pelts the house driven by 30+ mph winds.

This weather is driving me absolutely crazy and it's severely limiting my ability to get some much needed miles on my bike.  I was startled to see this post from the RAGBRAI Instagram account on Friday:

A post shared by RAGBRAI (@ragbrai) on

Yeesh - that's a lot closer than it sounds.

On the less than 10% chance that Spring 2018 decided to grace us with a nice day, it always seemed to be a weekday and therefore I'm at work.  I did discover a routine mid-summer last year that I like to ride before work (leaving the house by 6am, driving in, and riding the trails nearby for 10-15 miles), but I also like to enjoy riding before work, and I cannot really enjoy riding in weather below 45 degrees.  Lately it's been in the 20s to mid 30s at 7am.  As a result, it's been 28 days since I have ridden outside now :(

I've also not been feeling very well for some weeks now (follow-up doctor appointment is tomorrow so hopefully I'll have some answers), and this has led to a grand total of 20 miles over two rides on an indoor trainer in April.  Granted, yesterday's 12 mile ride was up a 1500 foot "mountain" using the app/service called Zwift, but I am really lacking in miles the past month or so, and I now have 98 days before the long ride back east.  Zwift is a pretty cool service, and one that has made it possible for me to ride an indoor trainer for more than 20 miles a winter.  In my opinion, riding inside flat out sucks, but having my old bike on a smart trainer, coupled with this app, allows me to ride with other people, ride different routes in a video game setting, and the coolest thing is that when you approach inclines, the trainer automatically adjusts the resistance, making it feel like you are actually climbing that mountain.  

The basement winter riding set-up.

The app runs through an Apple TV connected to my old 61" TV which has a failing DLP chip in it, resulting in white dots on the screen.  For watching TV or movies it was no longer an option, but for this purpose it's absolutely fine. There's three "worlds" - London, Richmond Virginia, and the fictitious island world of Watopia, which features beach roads, tropical jungle roads, a volcano, and several snow-covered mountain climbs.  About the only thing missing is the wind resistance.  Anyway, according to Zwift, since I started with the app on Halloween I've ridden 662 miles.  That's about 600 miles more than I would spend on a bike during the winter on a normal trainer, so I'm definitely thankful I have this, or this "spring" I would be SERIOUSLY behind schedule.

Approaching the top of the mountain.

Here is Strava info of the ride I did yesterday. I'm thinking I may pick a somewhat flatter route if I ride later today. 



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: 

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


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. :)

RAGBRAI XLI Day 4: Des Moines to Knoxville

Another first for me today on RAGBRAI - I was COLD. I started just after 6am and it was about 57 degrees. Such a difference from 2011. Anyway, it was a nice change. I wasn't teeth chattering so it was okay. I stopped a few times right away to take pics. The sunrise was blasting the State Capitol building, making it look like it was glowing. The pics don't really do it justice.

After that was a ride through the state fairgrounds and then... then the hills appeared. Lots of 7-9% grades with a few 10s in there for good measure. Chilly and hilly. It was almost 20 miles to the first town of Runnels, where I stopped for breakfast. There was a grade school through high school pep band that was really good. I decided to buy my breakfast from them and threw in an extra couple bucks for their fundraiser. 

There was hardly anyone in Runnels. Such a contrast from what the first town looked like yesterday. I guess a lot of people stayed for the whole concert and fireworks last night in Des Moines and slept in. As a matter of fact, the number of people the entire route was very very light - the lightest amount of cyclists I've encountered on any day in RAGBRAI. I have been using a GoPro camera on this trip. It takes a still photo every 10 seconds. My plan once I am home is to make a time lapse video of each day. Once I do that you will see how empty today was. There was a lot of time where I saw no one in front of me at all. I saw no one behind me either. Just me, corn, an occasional cow, and shit tons of hills. I know the Garmin data doesn't agree, but today *felt* hillier than Monday. All I know is I am glad I stopped myself from drinking any more beer last night, because doing today hung over would have been a nightmare. 

Right before getting into the "meeting town" of Monroe, while going up yet another hill, I popped my chain. First mechanical issue I've had. It was no big deal to fix, but starting up from a dead stop on a hill really blows! I was glad for the lack of riders, because I likely would have had to walk the rest if it was crowded. I really would like to be able to say I didn't walk any this time, unlike 2011 where I had to walk Twister Hill.

A few miles outside of the end town of Knoxville, I saw the 230 foot slip n slide I had wanted to do. At the point I reached it, I had just warmed up. It was in the 60s. Had I gotten soaked I would have risked being cold again, so I passed.  Once in Knoxville, the route took me through their race track and under the bleachers. That was cool - a nice change. Plus it was flat ;) 

I got into the downtown/event area of Knoxville, parked my bike against a tree, and laid down on the grass in the shade for a nap. After a bit I woke up, got some lunch, and sat under a tree the town named the Peace Tree. Knoxville is home to a craft brewery called, you guessed it... Peace Tree Brewing Company. Once Dan, Tanya, and CJ showed up, we took a tour and had a few of their beers. We had a really good time.

That's the part I tend to forget once in a while when I am out riding. Sometimes, especially during the last half of the week, the bicycling part really begins to feel like a chore. As the week goes on the feeling grows stronger and by Saturday I can't wait for it to be over. I call it "starting to crack". I did it in 2011 as well. I'll finish - I am too stubborn, determined, whatever you want to call it, to do anything but finish, but my love and joy of being on the bike diminishes somewhat.

But then a few hours pass by and I am with friends and we are eating, drinking, and laughing, and I forget all about that. Strange how that works.

Here's another cycling quote I had saved to my hard drive:

While I am out on my bike here in Iowa, I am impressed and amazed by the beauty of this state. Pictures will never ever do it justice. Seeing it at bicycling speeds really allows you to take it all in, too. However, being impressed and amazed doesn't mean I can't also be pissed at the reason it's so beautiful - the hills. But at the end of the day, when the riding is over, he's absolutely right. 

Maybe I should just pace myself a little better. I suppose I can try tomorrow. 

 Pictures will likely have to wait until tomorrow - Internet is ridiculously slow tonight. I'll post the link but you'll have to check back tomorrow to see them. Here's the link to the day 4 set. 

Here's the Strava data: