My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

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.


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