My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

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.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Overview of a Week in Iowa

8 Days. 600+ miles. 55 Iowa towns, villages, and cities. 1 Tweep. 75 Teammates. $225,000.

What an incredible week and a day.
Ready to roll!
After driving west across the state of Iowa,from Dubuque to Sioux City, with my little brother (Thanks, Ron!), I arrived in the start town for the iGranFondo. This ride, a new event created by the Sioux City visitors' bureau (or maybe by the city), was scheduled to ride from Sioux City to the RAGBRAI start town. This year, that town is Sioux Center, about 60 miles from Sioux City.

But I'm ahead of myself and getting too deep into details for this post. I'll do posts with the detes about the riding in the coming days/weeks.

So, Friday night, I met up with a cycling pal I got to know via Twitter, Krissy (aka @futuremrschaps), a librarian from Omaha, was also riding the iGranFondo and has family in Sioux City. We stayed at her grandmother (Lois)'s house - they even had a room for me in the basement. And her grandmother took us out to the Olive Garden for dinner (carbo loading!).

Saturday morning, we headed to Riverside Park to start the ride. We both had signed up for the 100-mile ride (aka a "Century") so we chose to ride together so we could support each other on what was sure to be a tough day. And we needed each other. About halfway through Krissy was struggling. At the end of the ride, it was me. But we finished, together. It ended up being closer to 107 miles.
107 miles later, we finished the iGranFondo!
It was a tough ride to Sioux Center. But we made it. And, thanks to her family, so did my gear! Her dad and uncle delivered it from Lois's house. I can't say enough about the generosity and kindness of Krissy and her family. THANK YOU!

We rolled over to the middle school in Sioux Center, where Team LIVESTRONG was setting up camp.  I got to meet up with some people that I met last year on my abbreviated ride and, over the course of the week, got to meet a number of new people.  
It was with these folks that I’d spend the next seven days, riding and camping … and eating and drinking. Everyone on this team was committed to giving the finger to cancer.  Collectively, the 75 of us raised over $225,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. With your support, I was able to raise over $2500 of that. (The team's top fundraiser, Laurey M, who raised over $25,000!, was not able to join us on the ride, unfortunately.  She was recently diagnosed with a relapse of cancer and had to start treatments right away.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Laurey!  And FUCK YOU, CANCER!)  There is still time to contribute to the Foundation if you want to add to that - just go to my donation page here. The Foundation exists to provide support and education to cancer patients and their support team – friends and family.  Our team includes survivors, family members of survivors and of those who have passed, as well as those that just want to support LIVESTRONG
Over the next seven days, we pedaled from Sioux Center to Clinton,covering over 470 miles (plus another 23 for those crazy enough to do “TheLoop”).  We would spend the nights in Cherokee, Lake View,Webster City, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, and Anamosa.  We would ride in groups, large or small, or ride solo.  We would ride hard, cranking out the miles, or go easy making many stops along the way.  
RAGBRAI comes through one of the many small towns in Iowa on the 2012 route.
It was a great week. I met up with Krissy and her dad later in the week (while we were all doing "The Loop").  I also met and rode with the husband of someone who went to high school with my little brother, as well as another guy from the Madison area who it turn out is going to sell his tandem bike once he gets back home.  (Hello! If Olivia wants to do RAGBRAI withme, it will be on a tandem for the first year or two.  Hmmmm.)

So, I’ll be writing up posts for each of the days and about some of my many new friends.  I hope you find them readable, enjoyable, inspirational, and encouraging.  One thing about RAGBRAI is that it never lacks for providing material for many, many stories.  I hope I do the stories justice. 
A personal greeting just for me!
As always, your comments and feedback is more than welcome.