My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meet Team WiscAWESOME & Travel Day to SCIA

Let me introduce the group of folks that put up with me for eight days... Team WiscAWESOME!  Here we are:
Karen, Rachel, Mike, Qing, Maddie, Meghan, Holly, Me, Britt, Lindsey and Brandon.  (Jim is behind the camera)

This was at about 7:30 on Day 1 of the ride, on our way to the Dip-In site in Sioux City. 

Oh, and we're the 2010 National Shake Weight Twirling Champions!  See, we have a sign to prove it!

Qing and Jim were our support guys for the week - driving the RV to the meet-up town and then to the overnight towns, setting up camp, cooking, keeping coolers stocked w/ beer, etc., etc.  Theirs was a thankless job and at times, I'm sure, quite boring.  It would've been hell without those guys there.  Thanks Jim & Qing!

Mike & Britt were the team captains and they did all the organizing work - getting our registrations in, renting the RV, figuring the budget, providing tips for packing and anything else.  Note: if you ever do RAGBRAI, do it with someone whose been there/done that.  Thanks Britt & Mike!

We all met up in Madison in the morning of Saturday, the 24th to load up a U-Haul and fill up the RV.  Here we are trying to figure out how to pack the bikes so they didn't get all beat up on the trip from Madison to Sioux City.

From here, it turned out to be an 8-hr drive (about 420 mi), with a couple stops.  A lot longer than we were planning for.  Two of us were in the RV (Jim and Qing to start, Brandon and I to finish the trip), while the rest were in the RV.  Brandon actually slept in the space above the driver in the RV for the first couple hours.  It was nice spending time in the RV and getting to know everyone else a little.  To me, it was pretty  clear that political discussions were not going to raucous debates.  We were of like minds.

On the way, we noticed a LOT of flooding in Iowa along the US 20 corridor.  This pic was taken in Sac City on the Raccoon River, about 20 miles east of Sioux City. 
The river was over its banks and flooded the town park.  This historic building was surrounded by water - but still safe (for the moment).  It was even worse in eastern Iowa.

The other thing I noticed - you couldn't help but notice - on the way was all the windmills.  And not the old 19th century ones, the new tall modern 3-bladed ones.  There are tons in western Iowa, which explains why I saw this headline in a Tweet: 20% of Iowa's in-state energy comes from wind technology, putting it #1.

We finally rolled into Sioux City at about 6:00 and spent another 45-60 minutes trying to find a place to set up camp.  With 10,000 (or more?!?) people all setting up shop for the night, it was pretty crowded.  We then set up camp and get the rides ready for the day ahead.

I ran over to meet up with Team LIVESTRONG to check in with them.  Came back with some cool swag - a jersey, a cap and a messenger bag.
(And even after 2100 training miles, I'm still fat.)

Then it was time for dinner, a couple of beers and time to call it a night (at about 10:30-11:00).  The plan was to be up at 6:00 and on the road at 7:00.  Of course, at the end of the night, they had a fireworks display.  We couldn't see it from where we were, but we could certainly hear it! 

We ended up not going to the expo area or seeing Smash Mouth play.  Actually, we didn't see any of the bands perform that week.  (Smash Mouth and the Spin Doctors were the biggest names, so I'm not sure it was much of a loss.)  I do wish we would've made the expo though.  Some of the vendors did travel and there were mini-expos in each overnight town.  Next year, maybe.

Next up: Day 1.

Friday, August 20, 2010

RAGBRAI... For the Greater Good

In my first post, I described how it is that I came to sign up and prepare for the 2010 edition RAGBRAI.  But is that all this is? A bike ride across Iowa?

Well, yes.  And no.

RAGBRAI itself is not a charity fundraising project.  It is sponsored and run by the Des Moines Register.  As far as I know, they run it for profit.  (Though they do help sponsor "The Dream Team" - a team of at-risk youth from Des Moines.)

I figured that this would be a great opportunity, then, to raise money for a charity.  I quickly decided on the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF).  You know, the LIVESTRONG folks.  They do great work helping cancer patients and their loved ones, giving them the resources and support they need to fight the disease.  And, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?  Charity fundraiser and bicycling could only mean Lance.

Another reason I chose to raise money for LAF is that in 1982, cancer took the life of my sister Julie, who was 21 at the time.  (F*#& cancer!)  So, that made it a trifecta of reasons to focus my efforts on LAF.

(chalkbot message on the roads of France during Le Tour)

I didn't know it at the time, but there was already a Team LIVESTRONG on RAGBRAI.  When I sent in a request about how to raise money for LAF, I was invited to join the team.  (By then, I was already hooked up with Mike & Britt and Team WiscAWESOME.)  They also let me set up a donation page on their team site so donors could contribute directly to LAF there.

RAGBRAI XXXVIII was scheduled for 442 miles.  I decided to try and raise $10 for each mile I would ride - or $4,420.  Kind of an ambitious goal, I know. 

I also knew that if I were to have a shot at making that goal, I'd need some help.  So I called a friend of mine, Lisa, who happens to be the financial advisor for my employer and asked if her company might be interested in sponsoring me for the week.  I suggested that the sponsorship could be $3/mile ($1326) + pay for a couple of jerseys with their logo that I would wear for the week. 

Lisa was excited about this and passed my request on to the non-profit foundation that the company has.  With her support, the Baird Foundation agreed to send a check for $1500 to LAF.  Internally, there are a lot of Baird employees who ride and they have their own bike jersey.  Lisa got me a couple of those to wear.  I took the liberty of getting them modified slightly to link Baird to LIVESTRONG and to honor my sister.
I think they turned out great!  And, yes, I wore the jerseys 5 of the 7 days of the ride.  (Day 1, I wore the Team LIVESTRONG jersey I received from LAF, as did the rest of the team; and Day 4 was the "college jersey" day, when I proudly wore the cardinal and white with the Motion W.)

With the generous support of family, friends, colleagues, and people & companies I deal with in my line of work, I easily surpassed my original goal of $4420.  With this support, I upped my goal to $15/mile, or $6630.  That may have been an over-reach, but I have raised $5,876.80 so far.  (You can still help my reach $6630 by donating here. hint)

In addition to the Baird Foundation, I especially want to thank Avery Railing and my brother Jim, Health Partners, and Stephanie & Dave at National Insurance Services for donating at least $1/mile to LAF.

By the way, I ended up being the #2 fundraiser on Team LIVESTRONG 2010.  So, thank you for your support!

I had trained over 2,000 miles to get ready and I raised some money for a great cause.  Now, it was time to ride RAGBRAI XXXVIII.  Next post: Meeting Team WiscAWESOME and heading to Sioux City.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why RAGBRAI? Why now?

First, some basics.  RAGBRAI is a week long bike ride across the state of Iowa.  It always starts in the West on the banks of the Missouri River and always ends in the East at the Mississippi.  Traditionally, riders dip their back tires in the Mighty Mo and their front in the Muddy Miss.

For the 2010 edition, RAGBRAI started in Sioux City on Sunday, 7/25 and ended "442" miles later in Dubuque the following Saturday (7/31).  (I'll explain later why 442 is in quotes.)  Seven days of Iowa countryside and small towns.  Good thing Iowa is flat, right?

So, you're probably curious as to how many people ride RAGBRAI.  I have heard that they cap the number of weeklong passes at 8500.  Plus there are riders on day passes.  Plus untold numbers who don't register, thus bypassing the $140 entry fee for the week.  All told, I've heard there are 10,000 riders; 15,000 riders; and even 20,000 riders.  What I do know is that at 5:30 a.m., I was seeing riders head out in the mornings; at 5:30 p.m., I was seeing riders coming into camp at the end of the day (and that was on the short days); and on the roads there were bicyclists as far as you could see and no gap between riders more than 150 feet.

(Borrowed from the "The Two Least Likely To" blog)

So, this is the adventure I signed up for.  And why did I do it?  The decision to ride across Iowa was actually a number of smaller decisions that all added up to this.

You see, I'm a 45 year old man with a desk job.  I don't eat the best.  At least I didn't used to, trying to do better now.  And my doc thought I should shed a few lbs and lower my cholesterol before it got bad.  So I've being toying with riding a bike to get exercise.  I can't run (due to a hip replacement) and I can't swim (because I can't swim).  So, I figured biking would be good.  I tried to start riding regularly each of the last couple years with limited (re: no) success. 

At the end of January, my brother posted the news that RAGBRAI was ending in Dubuque this year.  Our hometown.  My older sister and I started talking about doing - how cool would that be to do your first RAGBRAI and finishing in your hometown? 

Alas, my sister, now a native NY'er couldn't get back to fly-over-land to partake.  At least not phsyically.  Spiritually, she was there every mile.  She was my most loyal follower on Twitter.  She kept asking why I wasn't posting more.  About 1/2-way through the week I realized that an extra 10,000 iPhone users are clogging up AT&T's limited network in rural Iowa and nothing was getting through.  Unless you tweeted/updated Facebook/e-mailed/etc at 5:00 a.m.

Great!  Now I have a goal to work towards, maybe I can get serious about riding.  My first day on the bike this spring was March 15.  "6.75 mi (33 min) - ouch - lungs hurt most."  Ok, maybe this wasn't a good idea. 

But I got back on the bike the next day (10 mi).  And the next (14).  By the end of the month, I logged over 130 miles.  Over the next four months, I rode about 2000 more miles.  (I also lost a few pounds, not as many as I had hoped, but some.) 

And I bought a new bike.  The $200 Schwinn from Target wasn't going to cut it.  Plus, with splitting my time between two towns 250 miles apart, hauling a bike back and forth wasn't going to work.  The Schwinn came up north to where I work and the new bike (a 2009 Cannondale Synapse 7) stayed home.

By late-April, I was determined that I would ride RAGBRAI.  But how?  I didn't have a team.  I had never done this before, so I had no idea what to expect.  There were logistical questions up the wazoo.

Fortunately, I knew someone who had done RAGBRAI in the past.  My wife's younger cousin, Mike, and his wife, Brittani.  I called him and asked if he was riding (yes) and if I could tag along with his team (yes).  Sweet! 

The team (Team WiscAWESOME), it turns out, was a group of nine other riders (Mike & Britt, Rachel, Maddie, Lindsey, Brandon, Holly, Meghan, and Karen) and two support guys (Jim & Qing).  With the exception of Karen (Britt's mom), all were in their twenties.  Three were serious jocks - Lindsey, Holly and Rachel were all runners.  They were a lot of fun to hang out with.  I didn't feel like the 45 year old old man tagging along, but like a part of the group.  (Thanks guys!!!) 
So there you have it.  The start of the story of my RAGBRAI experience.