My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Baby & the Bathwater

Over the last couple months I have been thinking about my relationship with LIVESTRONG. I think many of us that have fundraised for the organization have done so. I think the work the foundation does is excellent and really needed. I've met amazing people from Austin. I've met families that have benefitted from its services.

But I also know that there are many other nonprofits out there engaged in the fight against cancer. And they aren't tainted by their founder's disgrace.

Let me step back a moment. As you know LIVESTRONG was founded by Lance Armstrong. It was created in 1997. Before he "won" any Tours de France and as he came out of his own fight with testicular cancer. LIVESTRONG has now raised over $500M in its 15 years. Most of it on the account of Lance's fame and notoriety.

As we know now, that fame (& fortune) were ill-gotten gains. And while "everyone was doing it" and he never tested positive in any of the "hundreds of tests," the fact remains he doped. He cheated to win those yellow jerseys. And his fame from those "victories" made LIVESTRONG what it is today. (The details are laid out in this report by the US Anti-Doping Agency - a report that Lance has chose not to contest.)

I've seen five basic responses to the Lance news as it relates to LIVESTRONG:
  1. The die-hard supporters who are 100% behind the Foundation and Lance and still call him a 7-time TdF Champion.  They believe that the USADA report was a "witch hunt" and the fact that he "never" tested positive is proof of his innocence.
  2. The supporters who are behind the Foundation and, while accepting that the Tour victories have been erased, say that the good Lance has done as a cancer warrior outweighs whatever "bad" there is in his cycling career.  Therefore they continue to support LIVESTRONG and support Lance.  He has had a major and sometimes direct positive impact on people's lives.
  3. People who support LIVESTRONG and its work and want to separate the Foundation from the controversy surrounding Lance. This post on Huffington Post is a great example that comes from the author's personal experience.
  4. Some people are, understandably and reasonably, pulling away from the Foundation and shifting their efforts/support to other organizations. Here is a blog post from someone's personal blog laying out their reasons for doing so. And
  5. Lance's long-time critics who have also been critical of the Foundation and view it is a front to benefit it's founder, even before this summer's news.
Oh, and no, LIVESTRONG does not fund cancer research. Instead, it has focused where few other orgs have - on providing support and information to those who are just starting their fight against the disease. This work is important to patients and families that are shell shocked by the news that they have cancer. For more information, go here:

So, do you give up on a good organization because of the misdeeds of its founder? Do you throw the baby (LIVESTRONG) out with the bathwater (Lance and his cycling "accomplishments")? Some will say "yes, absolutely yes." Some will say "as long as he is still connected to the org, then yes." And some will say "no, I continue to support the work of the organization."

(For the record, Lance has not only resigned as Chairman of the Board, but also from the Board of Directors. In addition, the organization had also changed its name this last week from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Lance is no longer connected formally with the Foundation.)

As for me, I'm not giving up on the Foundation. I am going to continue my fundraising for LIVESTRONG. Unless the Foundation itself is mismanaging its resources. But there is no evidence of that. In fact, LIVESTRONG is a 4-star (its highest rating) charity according to Charity Navigator. See this link for the CharityNav rating and here for how the Foundation spends its money.

So, why am I sticking with the Foundation? Three reasons. The first is my sister Julie. The reason I started in 2010. (Miss you Sis!) Here's a link to my post in 2010 about why I chose LIVESTRONG when I started.
Julia Avery, 1961-1982
The other two reasons are two courageous young men I've met during the last couple of years while riding with the LIVESTRONG team on RAGBRAI: Drew Wall and Jack Hoeger. These boys have been fighting for years. And LIVESTRONG has been there for them. They and their families are witness to the positive work the Foundation does.  

Here is a video about Jack:
And a link to a previous post I wrote about these young men.

I guess I belong to the third group above.  So, no, I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And I haven't cut my bracelet off either.  I will continue to work to raise money for LIVESTRONG through the RAGBRAI ride fundraising effort.  So when I call on you in the next few months, I hope that you will consider supporting my efforts. If you cannot because of your feelings about Lance, I hope you consider donating to another organization instead. It won't help my fundraising, but it's not about my fundraising. It's about doing good and helping. And bringing an end to cancer.

Thank you for your time!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ghost Bike: R.I.P. Carrie Pete

This morning was perfect for early ride before getting ready for work.  I woke up before my 4:15 alarm and checked the weather on my iPhone.  63°F and partly cloudy.  I got dressed and took the dogs out before heading out.  The air was calm, if a bit humid, but it was nice out.  I decided to go only with shorts and jersey - no base layers or arm warmers today!  There'll be plenty of days for those coming up.

At 4:35, I mounted up and headed out.  (I use two headlights - a stronger one to see and another I set on flash mode to be seen.  I also have a flashing taillight and a light strapped to the back of my helmet so I'm visibile.)

When you first start out on mornings like this you get a bit chilled until you get your motor warmed up.  It usually takes a mile or so.  Before you're warmed up, you second guess your clothing options.  I thought about turning around to get arm warmers.  But didn't.

This morning, there were some patchy areas of light fog.  Nothing too bad.  I could certainly see and be seen.

County Highway M is a nice road to ride, I think.  Recently repaved, with wide shoulders (at least 4'), its pretty smooth.  I was riding west on Cty M from Highway 113 to Middleton.  About 2 miles from Hwy 113, just past Cty K, the road bends left and goes up a hill as you pass Governor Nelson State Park.  The climb is about 70' - pretty easy (but remember, that's about the height of a 7-story building).  As I'm riding, I'm focused on the patch of shoulder illuminated by my headlight and also paying attention to the car traffic. 

Near the top of the hill, just as I ride past it, I notice something on my right. In the patchy fog, I recognize it - a bicycle painted all white.  A ghost bike.

It was recently left there, chained to the speed limit sign post.  I continued my ride, but kept thinking about the ghost bike (which, in the fog and early morning darkness appeared like a ghost) and the news stories I read about a recent accident in this area.  My route took me back to the intersection of Cty K and Cty M just north of the ghost bike.  Instead of turning left to head back towards home, I turned right.  I wanted to get a pic.  I wanted to write this post.
The sign attached to the top tube reads "RIP Carrie Pete."  Carrie was struck by a pickup truck on October 8 at about 11:40 a.m.  The driver had fallen asleep.  (News stories are linked here.)

I don't know Carrie.  Never met her.  But I do know that she is a special person to someone else.  She is someone's daughter.  And/or someone's wife, and/or sister, and/or mother, and/or  friend.  (Obit here)
Carrie Jo Pete

What I do know is that she died senselessly.  I'm sure the driver didn't mean to hit her.  And I'd bet that it is tearing him up.  Ironically, she may have saved his life - the collision may have prevented him from going into the ditch and wrecking.

So, this is a plea, dear readers (both of you).  Share the road. Drive attentively.  Don't drive drunk or (just as bad) when you're sleepy.  And share the road.  Cyclists DO have a right to ride on the roads (we do not belong on sidewalks).  And remember, when you see a cyclist, he or she is not an inanimate object.  He or she is someone's child.  Someone's lover.  Someone's friend.  Someone's Carrie.

Rest in peace, Carrie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I want to thank everyone - all 60 of you!!! - who supported my fundraising efforts again this year!  Many of you have contributed for each of my three years riding with Team LIVESTRONG.  Together, we have contributed more than $2500 this year and $10,000 to the Lance Armstrong Foundation since 2010. 

Please know that your contributions to the Foundation are going to provide support for cancer patients and their support networks, whether it be assistance navigating the bureaucracy of the medical and insurance world, or educational materials.  There is on-line, call center, and printed materials.  All of this is provided for free to people who need it.

Harvey and Mary Avery
James Avery
Patricia A Black
Robert C Borch
Martha Alejandrina Boyd
michael brevig
Brain Brewer
Debra K Brown
Victoria Chung
Jason Dummert
Erin Fath
Gene L Fornecker
Joseph Gill
Jenny Goldschmidt
Ilya Gorbonos
scott gralla
erin green
Lisa Marie Green
Christina Hafeman
Rodney Hawkins
Kathleen L Johnson
Richard J. Ketter
Jennifer Knecht
Lynn Knight
Mike Koltes
Jerome Landmark
Sandy Langer-Wood
Loretta L Langlois
Stephanie Laudon
Tammy Jean Lenbom
Keith Lucius
Erin E Lynett
Janelle Marotz
Ken Mischler
Linda R Mont
Krissy Nelson
Brad Olson
Annalisa Oswald
Natalie Rew
Howard C Richards
Daniel M. Romano
Margaret Rudolph
Debby Schufletowski
Linda Skoglund
Margaret Smith
Bob Soldner
Patricia Sprang
Catherine St Jean
Mary Stapenek
Timothy Stellmacher
Matt Storlie
Chayot Thongklin
Mary Ellen VanValin
Lisa Voisin
Lisa Voisin
John Vonder
Woodrow Wiedenhoeft
Michael Worringer

I hope I can count on your support again in 2013.  I look forward to riding again.  I look forward even more to a time when cancer is a footnote in history, not a threat to the lives of our loved ones or ourselves.


Monday, October 22, 2012


Well, it's still hard to get more than a few minutes to write out the post for the last day of this year's ride. Plus I need to do a post thanking all my sponsors. And, for good or ill, one addressing the latest news regarding Lance Armstrong and my future with the team (hint: I'm staying! and plan to ride again next year).

But first, my post about Day 7.

The last day was almost 70 mi from Anamosa to Clinton (one of the longer last days). There would be some ups and downs today as we got closer to the river.

The thing about the last day is that the team schedules a meet up location/time. This is the only time all week we need to somewhere at a specified time. We would meet at about Noon at a small college campus inside Clinton. But more on that later.

I had a chance to ride with a couple of strong athletes today: Matt Rivera (a marathoner) and Andy Wirsing (who rode his bike from Clinton home ... to UPSTATE NY! after we finished ... in 6! days).

Maybe the best compliment was from Andy, when we were hugging the left lane and flying, commenting about how fast I was driving the train. Of course, gravity was giving me a big hand in that as we were going down a long descent. We hit an intersection and turned left at full speed (maybe 25). Fortunately, we hit a gap in the group so I swing a little to the right before diving thru the corner. That was fun!

Andy dropped me going up the next hill. (Oh gravity, you can be such a fickle partner!)

#SeenOnMyBike - a beautiful view from on top of a hill overlooking the farmland valley in eastern Iowa

Matt stayed with me and we rode together the rest of the way to Clinton. We got in a couple pacelines that we're chugging along pretty well. But we kept coming upon congested bike traffic and cars coming the other way. I finally suggested we jump out. Too busy for a paceline, I thought.

Eventually we made it to the team meet up location in Clinton. Traditionally, the team rides the last couple miles to the the Mississippi in formation, two-by-two, survivors in the front. It's an amazing experience. (Hence the scheduled time.) This year, I caught it on video on the cell phone. (Sorry its sideways.) Here is the video:

Heading Home. Hoping my memories don't fade like the shadows.

Finally, I want to thank my Team LIVESTRONG teammates (all of who I hope I can now call friends!) for a wonderful week. I don't want to leave anyone out, so I'll skip listing everyone by name. It was great spending the week with you. I can't wait to see you all again next July!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

RAGBRAI Days 2, 3 and 4

Disclaimer- In the 2+ months since we rode into Clinton to end RAGBRAI XL back in late July, things have been a little crazy in my life.  We moved and I changed jobs.  Things are finally starting to settle back down.  But it has been about 10 weeks since the ride.  And I don't keep notes as I ride.  So these posts are from memory, sometimes triggered by the photos I did take.  As a result, this post is not as good as it should be.  Honestly, the only thing I recall off hand about day two is that I met a guy named Dale from the Madison area and will be buying a tandem from him so I can ride RAGBRAI next year, or the year after, with my daughter.  Let's see if I can conjur up more memories...

I previously wrote about Day 1 here.

Day 2 took us from Cherokee to Lake View. 
I don't have any special stories from D2, except this - I met a rider, Dale, wearing a Capital Brewery jersey (near Madison).  Turns out that he's from the Madison area, too.  We talked about riding, family, etc.  Turns out he has a tandem he rode with his son, who is no longer interested.  So I'm going to buy it from him so Olivia can ride with me in 2013 or 2014.
Now, to let the pictures tell theirs.
Just a few more of the 20,000 riders on RAGBRAI.  I especially love the combination of the "biker" look ("Hills Angels")  w/ the Norse inspired helmet.

"TRUCK UP!" RAGBRAI is ridden on the open roads. Thankfully, 99.9% of aware and careful.

One of several hand-cyclists I saw all week. Riding using your legs to motor for 500 miles is tough enough. I cannot imagine doing it all with your arms. #inspiring #tough

Dinner at the VFW.  Great food!
The view across the lake in Lake View.  The band shell is ready for the night's concert.  Heard them perfectly all night.
Day 3 was the start of the three longest days of the week - two 80+ mile days and one 77.  But you know, 81 miles just wasn't enough for some masochists out there.  Riders feeling up to it could ride an additional 23 miles, including a couple of big climbs, to cover 104.5 miles on the day.  Hey that sounds like fun!  Sign me up!  Two Century Rides in four days?  Excellent!
So, I opted to ride the Karras Loop.  I'm really glad I did, too.  I actually ran into Krissy and her dad in Stratford, the small town on the loop.  If you recall, Krissy was my riding partner for the iGranFondo the day before RAGBRAI officially began. And her birthday was coming up.  She had been searching for the only ride patch she didn't have - 2010, which was the first year I rode.  The patch has sat in my handlebar bag the last two years.  So it gave me great pleasure to pass it along to someone who has ridden twelve RAGBRAIs now. 
Happy Birthday, Krissy!
The other memorable moment of Day 3 was the watermelon in Dayton.  Oh! My! God! It was the best watermelon ever!  56.5 miles into the day, there was a church just as you enter Dayton that was selling the seedless watermelon.  Did I say it was good?
As for the extra miles of the Karras Loop, the worst were the miles at the start of the Loop where we headed east on Cty Hwy D54.  We rode in a serious headwind.  It was like riding with a parachute on.  Once we turned south, we made a nice descent into a river valley and then came back up other side.  The hill was long and fairly steep.  But it wasn't the hardest hill of the day.  Once we pulled into Stratford we were welcomed by local ladies handing out leighs to all the riders.  After a great lunch, the Loop had another descent and climb. 
As I was about to return to Dayton, I caught another impressive rider.  This guy was riding a unicycle!  He had never ridden 100 miles ever, so decided he wanted to do his first on the unicycle.  I saw him multiple times  throughout the week.  Insane.  And incredible.  Chappeau, young man!
After leaving Dayton again, we headed to Lehigh.  Lehigh is a small town along the river valley.  It was great getting to fly down into town.  The climb out was actually longer and steeper than the hills on the Loop.
It was a great day on the bike, all in all.  Even riding into that headwind at the start of the Loop.
Day 4 took us from Webster City to Marshalltown. 
 My one story about this day, was that after riding "solo" (or about as solo as you can in the middle of 20,000 other cyclists), I ran into a couple of LIVESTRONG teammates, Tina and Deren in Story City at a food vendor in the city park.
We ate lunch together and chatted. Turns out Tina grew up in Dubuque too and her folks lived on the same street as my folks, albeit more than a few blocks away. The three of us rode a century old carossel in the park before heading out of town. We rode together the rest of the way. It was a great day riding, talking, and sharing with those two. I'm proud to call them friends now and look forward to riding with them again soon.
On the last stretch heading towards Marshalltown, I got separated from Tina and Deren.  Then, right as I got to town, I heard a voice shout out the greatest combination of two words ever: "FREE BEER!"  I turned right, crossed the tracks, then left into the driveway, where I was warmly welcomed with a cold beer.  Anyone riding a bike was welcome here.  And it was a welcome relief after another day of riding in temps in the mid-upper 90s and low 100s.  Another example of how RAGBRAI is such a great event!

Iowa hospitality on display in Marshalltown: "FREE BEER!" Thank you so much!

Ok, three stories....  That evening in Marshalltown, a storm rolled in starting at about 10:00.  A handfull of us gathered under the awning on the side of the bus, shooting the shit, drinking a beer, and staying dry.  As the rain and wind picked up, a few of us ducked in the team bus. The folks from Austin had the fun job of walking about camp checking on everyone.  By midnight the storm had passed.
The worst part of the storm missed us.  But we still had winds strong to blow over at least one tent.
View from the bus of the storm rolling in at 11:00p.  That's not the sun.  Or the moon.
Yes, Lance signed the inside of the team's SAG bus.
All in all, we survived storm with nary a problem.  Well, except for me.  Due to my own stupidity.  I tried to outthing Mother Nature.  With the winds blowing strongly, I came up with the (not so) brilliant plan to drop my tent so it wouldn't blow over/away.  It remained staked in.  And it worked.  The tent didn't blow away.  Of course, neither did anyone else's.  But, sitting on the ground meant that the open top was no longer protected by the rain cover.  I ended up with a bit of rain inside the tent.  I was able to soak it all up... using my cotton sleeping bag.  So I had no sleeping bag that night.  And it was probably the coolest night of the week.  So, it wasn't the best night for sleeping.
I previously blogged about Day 5 and Day 6, as they were pretty special days. Ehh, chronology, who needs it? Next up: Day 7, the last day of the ride.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Sorry for the delay in posting.  Since RAGBRAI ended, I have changed jobs and have moved.  And there has been other stuff going on in life.  As of today, I haven't even ridden a bike in two weeks. :(
After completing the 107-mile iGranFondo ride in Sioux Center on Saturday, I rode over to the community's high school/middle school campus to hook up with Team LIVESTRONG for the week.  This was my third year fundraising for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (hint: follow the link to my donation page!), but my first riding the whole week with the team.  (In 2010, I rode with Team WiscAwesome and in 2011, I only rode with Team LIVESTRONG but only for the last two days.)  I only knew a few of members on the team, most notably Jim and Linda from Iowa City.  (Jim and Linda were instrumental in me getting back to Grinnell last year.)  So, I pretty much laid low that night.  Being exhausted after the day's ride didn't hurt either.
Every night with Team LIVESTRONG, we gather at about 6:00 to talk about operational issues (where will the next camp be, when to get your gear on the truck, etc) as well as the work of the Foundation and personal stories from team members. That night's meeting was focused on logistics.

After the meeting, we are on our own.  That night, I hung out around the campus, grabbed a shower and some food and started to meet teammates. And then it was bed time.  In a tent.  On the ground.  You'd be surprised how well you will sleep on the ground after a 100-mi day in the saddle.

Sunday was scheduled to be a short, but very hot day.  It was scheduled for 54.4, ending in Cherokee.

I took my time this day, stopping in most of the towns.  The most notable was in Orange City, a small Dutch community that takes graet pride in its Netherlands heritage.  The town square was designed to reflect the aesthetic of Holland.  Multiple windmills and beautiful flower beds.  There was also a local making wooden shoes using traditional methods (and he spoke Dutch).  Residents were in traditional garb as well.  Beautiful little town.

The other towns that day were not as memorable for me, except that I got to watch an old guy dancing with a bunch of women from Team Whiners in the meet-up town of Marcus.  Maybe it's because it's been a month and I'm writing this from memory.  For the most part, I rode alone.  Well, as alone as one can be in the middle of 20,000 other cyclists.  But I didn't partner with anyone for most of the day.
Team Whiners living it up and giving dance lessons in Marcus!
But in the last hour of the ride, I hooked up with a rider from California (and I've already forgotten his name).  We started talking when I slowed down to take a picture of a guy riding a penny-farthing (see pic below).  The guy on the penny-farthing, by the way, was riding his fourth RAGBRAI on that (type of) bicycle.  I saw him multiple times throughout the week.  And yes, he was planning on riding the full week.
Anyway, back to my riding partner.  We talked about past RAGBRAIs, where we were from, how we got there this year, family, etc.  Turns out, the guy's wife was from Dubuque and she went to high school with my little brother.  They graduated together in '86 from the not-to-named Catholic HS in town.  Ron recognized her name, but they didn't hang around together.  (The school had about 1400 students at the time, I believe.)

We rolled into Cherokee and split up - him to find his wife and kids, me to find my team.  After a shower and setting up my tent, I headed downtown to get something to eat and to drink.  I popped into a tavern and I ran into same guy!  He was there with his wife, son and son's girlfriend shooting pool and having a beer.  I met the family, bought a round, and hung out with them for an hour or so.  Great people.  Damn if I can remember their names though.

All in all, Day 1 was an awesome day.  Yeah, it was hot, but it was a short day and a great chance to stop and take one's time if you wanted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RAGBRAI D6: Best Day Ever?

Maybe not, but it was a lot of fun. Of course, when you take 8-1/2 hrs to ride 42 miles, you better be having fun!

D6 actually began the night before. It was the RAGBRAI 40th Anniversary celebration in downtown Cedar Rapids. The evening was a celebration of RAGBRAI. and included honoring the seven riders who have done ALL FORTY RIDES(!).

Then it was time for the Counting Crows. Team LIVESTRONG was represented up front at the concert. There were at least a dozen of us in the front of the audience. It was a lot of fun. Thanks again to Marty for arranging for the bus to get us back to camp (on his yard).
Counting Crows in Cedar Rapids on Thursday night. Great show!
Knowing it was a short day the next day, we planned on "sleeping in" and hitting the road at about 9 on Friday. (And if the teammates who weren't out until 1am would have gotten that message, we would have slept in at least past 7.)  That morning we were treated to a pancake breakfast prepared by Drew's family. Drew's grandfather has a mobile kitchen he brought over. The pancakes were delicious. Thank you!  (For more about Drew and Marty, or more specifically, Marty's son Jack, see my D5 post.)

A group of about 12 of us on Team LIVESTRONG rolled out together this morning, including the LIVESTRONG intern Eliza. I'm not convinced that she had been on a bike before. "There's a seat in my shorts!"

Eliza though did have "Super Dave" with her as her personal escort. Dave volunteers as the team mechanic and is a former pro racer. And was in the peleton with Lance. Great guy and served as a great guide/chaperone/body guard for Eliza.

It was a good thing, too, as we lost Eliza and Dave before we even got out of downtown Cedar Rapids. But they caught up to us at the first stop, a place called "The Rut."  I'm sure a bunch of lycra clad cyclists are not the usual clientele at The Rut (a place named after the mating season for deer), but they treated us great!

While we were enjoying bloody Mary's and other beverages, Eliza was introduced to Team Spin.  

Eliza meets Team Spin. << It's a conspiracy, Eliza! Runa away! << Too late!

Eliza gets spun. << And she sticks the dismount! <<  
She's all smiles. Hmmm. How did all those stickers get on her? And look at the placement! Now, we know why she is smiling!
Welcome to RAGBRAI, Eliza!

This was the theme of the day - ride a way then stop and have fun. We rode to Mt Vernon and ate breakfast and ducked into a bar for a beer.

We rode on, fighting a strong headwind out of the north, to Springview where we grabbed lunch ... and ... a beer.

You get the idea. This was not a day for challenging yourself. It was a day to enjoy the experience of RAGBRAI and the comraderie of the team. I had a fantastic day riding with Barb, Tina, Deren, Eric, Allen, Eliza, Dave, Gene, Don and Cindy. (I know I'm missing someone! Sorry!)

Rather than heading into the overnight town, Anamosa, in the last few miles, we turned left and went off route to the party in Stone City. Stone City sits in a valley, surrounded by hills on all sides. It was fun riding into. We had dinner and a beverage or two there. They had a bluegrass band playing there too.

Sidebar: My brother Tom plays in a bluegrass band as well (The Cosmobilly Band).  As I listened to the music, I wondered if he knew these guys.  He lives not too far from where we were.  I found out a week or so later that not only a) does he know the guys in that band, but b) his bassist was playing for them; c) he was there... when I was... less than 50' away from me!; and d) he and his band (including his son Lakota) played at a farm where a couple teams were staying just outside of town that night!  If I had only turned my head to the right, I would have seen him - he was probably the only one there in bib overalls rather than lycra shorts!  And I would have been able to listen to him play that night, too. Such is life, I suppose.

Climbing out of Stone City was advertized as brutally steep.  The party organizers had arranged rides in trucks and ATVs for riders who didn't want to climb the hill.  I took it as a challenge. So, when it came to head to camp for our team meeting, I saddled up, along with a handful of others - including ELIZA!  I actually thought the hill wasn't that bad.  It wasn't any steeper than the two on the Karras Loop (see D3 post - yet to come) nor the longer one out of Lehigh that same day.  As I tapped out the climb, I heard my chain starting to slip.  I tried changing gears to move the deraileur, but it kept slipping.  Finally, just as the climb started to flatten out, the chain dropped.  Damn.  At least it wasn't on the steepest part.  I got the chain back on and pressed on.  We all made it to the top (Chapeau, Eliza! Well done!) and rode the final few miles into town.

Entering in to Anamosa on the scheduled route, riders passed under a gate celebrating the city's role in state corrections.  Having gone through Stone City, we didn't come past the gate.  I did however hear about it. 
Riding into Anamosa (home of a large state prison).  (photo from:
That evening, the team meeting was especially emotional. Dave and Gina shared the story of the loss of one of their boys to cancer when he was a teenager.  Gina also shared how, when her other son was a counselor in Vail one summer, Lance Armstrong approached him to ask about his story - why was he wearing the yellow bracelet.  As the brother shared, he said that Lance should talk to his mom.  So Lance had the brother call Gina right then and took the time to listen and talk to her and offer her some words of support.

Next, Eric spoke.  Eric is in his early to mid 20s ... about the same age as Gina and Dave's son.  He just recently opened up to his friends that he is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed as a teen.  Now he was sharing his story with a group of 75 strangers who are now part of his family.  Needless to say, there were tears and Eric, Gina and Dave spent some time talking and bonding.
Eric and Gina hug near the end of the evening's team meeting.
This was to be our last night in camp together.  The next morning, we would saddle up for the last time this year and ride to Clinton.  Once in Clinton, we would gather together to ride in formation to the official ending spot of RAGBRAI - the dip in site on the Mississippi River.  But that's for another post.

It was an incredible day.  It was fun.  It was challenging.  It was emotional.  It was supportive.  It was LIVESTRONG on RAGBRAI.

Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome below!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

RAGBRAI D5: Jack & Drew

Admittedly, this post is out of order.  But that's because this is the most important post.  So, here it is.

Today (D5 -Th, 7/26) was about Drew and Jack.  These two young men are incredibly inspiring with their resilience, their resolve, their humor, their spirit, their aliveness.  While fighting cancer.
The morning began like most in camp - finding a back tag and dedicating the day's ride. This was my backtag for July 26. 
For the ride, we started in Marshalltown and ended almost 85 miles later in Cedar Rapids.  Unless you rode the Karras Loop, this was the longest day of the ride this year.  Passing through Garwin, Clutier, Garrison, Vinton, and Shellsburg, the day's ride was "nice" compared to the first four days of the week.  A storm blew through Marshalltown the night before and temps dropped out of the high 90s and l00s and peaked at 89 for the day.
Another RAGBRAI pass-thru town invaded by tens of thousands of cyclists.
For breakfast today, about two hours into the day I stopped in Clutier.  There I found the Iowa Pork Council had set up shop with a grill and were selling barbecued ribs slathered in sauce.
YUMBO!!! Breakfast of Champions!
But today wasn't about the miles.  Or the stops.  Or the food.  Today was about Jack and Drew.  Two young men, courageously, inspirationally, and tenaciously fighting cancer.

Today's ride ended in Cedar Rapids, home to Jack's family.  Jack's dad, Marty, has ridden with the team for several years.  And when the route was announced with an overnight in their town, Marty told his wife that he wanted to host the team for the night.  Jen agreed - with the caveat that she was not going be anywhere near!  It was incredibly generous of Jack's family to make their home available for the team.  In addition, they prepared an awesome meal for us this evening.  Marty also arranged for the team to shuttle from his house to the Catholic HS in town.  The school agreed to make their locker rooms available to Team LIVESTRONG.  It was glorious! No rush, no lines, no crowds, no shower trucks!  And that night, Marty set up a bus to take us downtown to the main RAGBRAI party and Counting Crows concert. 

I'm not sure I can sufficiently describe Marty's, et al, generosity and hospitality nor adequately express my gratitude. Except to simply say "Thank You!". And I look forward to riding with you Marty in future RAGBRAIs.

Unfortunately, Marty was not able to join us on the ride this year.  Jack, had had some complications, including near continuous seizures.  Just prior to the start of the ride, Jack underwent brain surgery to end the seizures.  He was in recovery while we were camping in his family's yard.

To get to know Jack, see this video:  You can also follow Jack's progress via this blog maintained by Marty and Jen (Jack's mom).  If you want to be inspired by a true fighter, get to know Jack.

After dinner, during our team meeting, we had the opportunity to hear from Marty.  He shared Jack's story and the family's story.  LIVESTRONG has been an important part of their fight.  Hearing their story was inspirational and affirming.
Jack's Dad (and our generous host) sharing the family's story.
After Marty spoke, we got to hear from Drew.  Drew just finished his freshman year of high school with a 4.0+ GPA (weighted grading) and was spending his summer taking summer school and working to get ahead in school so that he wouldn't fall behind when it came time for treatments.  And unfortunately, those treatments would be restarting soon.  The day before, Drew was diagnosed with a new metastasized lump. 

When Drew was first diagnosed, he was given two surgical treatment options - 1) remove the lump and with it have to replace the bone with a cadaver bone or 2) amputate the leg.  Drew made a decision that he wanted to live life to the fullest.  For him that meant option 2.  He golfs, plays basketball, and (yes!) rides a bike.  A cadaver bone would be too brittle to allow him to be engaged in the activities he wanted to participate in.
Drew had all of our attention.  Eloquent and articulate young man.
In addition to being an active teenager, Drew is also an engaged community member.  He testified before the state legislature in support of a bill that would require insurers to cover the full cost of prosthetics.  He was invited to stand behind the governor when the bill was signed into law.
Drew passed his leg around we could look at it.  This is Tina examining it, and Matt next to her.
Finally, to cap an emotional evening, we had a birthday cake to celebrate what would have been the 18th birthday of the daughter of one our teammates, Tina.  It was a celebration of the all to brief life that Katie had lived.
We also celebrated Tina's daughter's 18th birthday. It sucks that Katie wasn't here to celebrate it. (#EffCancer!)
More than any other team meeting or any other day, July 26 really reaffirmed why I support LIVESTRONG.  It's not about the ride. Or the yellow bracelets.  Or me.  Or even Lance.  It's about the 28 million Jacks, Drews, and Katie's out there.  It's about developing and providing the resources that the Lance Armstrong Foundation shares with cancer patients and their support teams.  If you want to donate to LIVESTRONG, you still can over on my fundraising page here.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Because spending 7 days riding nearly 500 miles across Iowa in late July isn't crazy enough, I signed up for a new event, a 100-mi ride called the iGranFondo, that ran the day before RAGBRAI began.  The Sioux City Convention & Visitors Bureau is behind the event and is looking to connect it to RAGBRAI in riders minds.  This, the innagural year, the ride ran from Sioux City and ended in Sioux Center, where RAGBRAI was starting from the following day.  And, the organizers would SAG your gear up to the start town so you wouldn't have to worry about that.

The iGranFondo is a timed ride (but not a race! haha).  The organizers put together three routes - the Fondo, a 30-mi jaunt that began and ended in Sioux City; the Medio, a 60-mi ride from Sioux City to Sioux Center; and the Gran, the 100+ mile ride, which followed the first half of the 60 mile route before detouring on a 40-mi loop back through Sioux City and then finishing on the second half of the Medio route.

Through the wonders of social media, I had previously made a friend with another avid cyclist from Omaha, Krissy (or @FutureMrsChaps as she's known on Twitter) and we decided to ride the iGranFondo together.  We rode as Team Stomach of Anger (a cycling-themed t-shirt company that also had a cool jersey we both owned).  Like me, she was also riding the the whole week of RAGBRAI.  (Her tales from RAGBRAI can be found over on her Team Uffda blog.  She and her family, riding in her grandfather's memory, were using RAGBRAI to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association.  You can donate to this great cause by clicking on the link on the Team Uffda blog site.)
Team Stomach of Anger is ready to conquor the Century Ride!
I met Krissy at her grandmother's house the night before.  (THANK YOU, LOIS for your hospitality and generosity!)  We woke up Saturday morning and headed down to Riverside Park for the start of the ride.  Because of the forecasted heat, ride officials opted to have two start times - 7:00 and 8:00 - so riders could try and beat the heat.  We missed the 7:00 start by a few minutes.

Unlike RAGBRAI, where riders get up and go whenever they want, the iGranFondo has a scheduled mass start.  It was kind of cool, being escorted by the police for a few mile with a rolling "neutral start" from Riverside Park to Stone State Park where the ride would officially begin.  
Let's Do This!
And what a beginning!  After rolling over the timing pad to get our start time, we immediately started a climb - the Stone State Park Challenge.  We climbed almost 400 feet in less than a mile to start our 100+ mile adventure.  It was like going up a wall.  And then out of the blue, comes along this older gentleman, zipping up on his old cruiser bike (with baskets!) and just goes right by a bunch of us.  That is humbling.  Chapeau, sir!  And keep pedaling!

After a rapid descent (no one was sticking to the 20 mph max recommended), but they weren't flying all out either, we turned north to ride 16 miles to Westfield.  After a quick stop at Hummers (yes, a listed "unofficial" stop) so I could do some carbo reloading, we rode east for 13 miles, passing the Medio route turn off.  Krissy and I were having a real solid ride those first couple of hours.  
Carbo Re-Load!

Then we turned south, back towards Sioux City ... and into the wind.  It was a solid hour of riding into a headwind.  That kind of effort can be brutal and we made our second stop of the day.  Again, at an "unofficial" stop, Mike's Saloon on the outskirts of the city.  More carbs (but good carbs!) for me.

As we rode south, we passed a handful of riders all heading north, on their way to Sioux Center for the start of RAGBRAI.  Most were self-supporting - hauling their gear in bags on the bike and/or a trailer.  A few were on their way to meet their team vehicle.  In Mike's we chatted with three guys from Oklahoma who were riding up.  Two were "virgins."  We wished them well and took off.

The stop couldn't have been better timed for Krissy.  She was about to bonk going into that headwind.  That's a great thing about having a riding partner - you have someone to watch out for you.
Feeling good early in the ride and hammering out the miles
With her energy restored, and me refreshed after a cold pint, we turned north for the long haul to Sioux Center.  We made another brief stop at the the 65-mi mark, where the route re-joined the Medio.  The "official" stops were tents manned by volunteers, with water and food.  A peanut butter sandwich and a banana later, we pushed on with fresh, cold aqua.

The route was quite hilly - about 3,000 total feet of climbing.  (For reference, that is about half-way up from sea level to Denver, CO.)  Most of the hills were rollers - where you are literally going up and down for miles.  It wears on your legs.  SHUT UP LEGS!  We have miles to go yet.
This may have been the only stretch of flat road we rode all day.
We made one final stop in Hawarden for a water refill before taking on the last 22 miles.  While we riding, the wind shifted from out of the south to out of the east.  And it picked up.  We were both doing great at about mile 90.  Heading north, we flew down a long descent, made a bend to the northeast, then another 45° turn to the right, with a slight climb to start the last 13 miles.  Straight into that wind.  I blew up.  After riding an average of 17.2 mph most of the day (93 mi in 5:24), I limped into Sioux Center averaging 11.3 mph for those last 14 miles (1:14).  Krissy was dragging me... like an anchor.  Not sure I would've made it without her.  Like I said, it's good to ride with a partner sometimes.

And, when I saw a water tower in the distance, like an oasis, I was sure that I was almost done.  Just get to the tower and you'll be in town.  Just a little further.  C'mon! Not much longer.  There!  WAIT! WHAT?!?  the towers were for an agri-business.

We were starting to see RAGBRAI riders.  We asked how much further.  When we were told 7 more miles, I came to a stop.  I got off my bike.  Took off my cleats.  Drank some water.  Ugh.  After a couple minutes, I pulled myself together and pressed on.  I caught back up to Krissy (actually, she was waiting for me up ahead) and we pushed on. 

We finally made it.  6 hours and 38 minutes of ride time later.  107 miles covered.  3000 feet of vertical climbed.  We crossed the timing pad.  We weren't last, but we certainly weren't first (that was someone who finished in a little more than 4 hours!).  But we finished!  We were handed a nice medal to honor our efforts.

What a way to start the week!  I must've been nuts! (And I can't wait for next year!)
Drained after 107 miles of hills, wind, and work.  (Not quite the same enthusiasm as before the ride.)