August 1, 2011
I did it! I finished RAGBRAI and dipped my front tire in the Mississippi River! I am unbelievably proud of myself. I went into RAGBRAI telling myself it was ok to walk up most of the hills, catch the sag wagon towards the end of the day, be the slowest person in the group, etc and I was fine with it. But I was so totally wrong. Yes, this girl that threw a tantrum any time I had to participate in any sort of athletic sporting activity as a child, cycled across the state of Iowa.
I gladly used my friend's wedding reception an excuse to not ride the first day. So, I started on the second day, the day with the most climb of all the days - 4719 feet to be exact. And I dominated. I had fresh legs when everyone else was tired from the previous day. I was sprinting up the hills that I was nervous about like a champ, passing many in the process. The first day was by far my favorite, the weather was cool, cloud-covered and beautiful. The rolling hills went far past the road and we were left with the most beautiful, lush landscape with the fog cresting the horizon. I was smitten, completely smitten. This is why I had decided to do RAGBRAI and I was elated that I was riding at an above-average rate, well above my training pace. And I had the huge realization that I can do this.
It wasn't all rainbows and daisies, by the end of the day the sun had come out and the hills were not nearly as fun and I was a exhausted. Days three through five all blur together a little bit with varying emotions: pride, joy, irritation, exhaustion, silliness, delirium, etc. And then finally I took day six off. My entire life I have been pretty sensitive to the sun/heat: heat exhaustion, heat rash, heat stroke, sun migraines, you name it, I've had it. Around day three I developed a ridiculously irritating heat rash on my arms and legs and decided it was best to give them a rest (which conveniently happened to be the longest day on the route). And I wanted to finish strong on day seven, the last day.
And finish strong I did. Six of our team members finished on Saturday, I rode with four of them and led the pack most of the way. I was in the groove in the morning, riding a good 2-3 (or even 8) miles per hour faster than I trained, up hills and cutting through headwinds. It was an amazing experience to feel my training paying off and being able to go that fast and not be completely exhausted. As we rode into Davenport people lined the streets cheering us on as we rode our final 6.6 miles across Iowa. This was amazing, it felt like a real accomplishment to finish.
I got to the dipping station at 2:56 pm, making it our fastest day of the bunch. I'm so happy I did RAGBRAI, definitely have plans to do it again, although next time more pie will be consumed and I want to take the time to enjoy the people and sites of Iowa, not just escaping to the shade in pass-through towns. I want to be able to ride the entire route and even the 100 mile loop, sun and heat cooperating, of course. Although I'm not sure I'm cut out for the whole camping thing...
I had originally decided to track all of the calories I consumed during the week, but I was too exhausted at night to track everything. Instead, here's some estimated stats from the week:
Miles rode: 300-315 (or about 70% of the route)
Feet of Climb: 13,218
Days: 5 (of 7)
Calories Burned: 11,000+
Max Speed: 36 mph
Weight: +4 lbs (It's common for first time RAGBRAI riders to gain weight. The question is, how much is new muscle mass vs consuming too many calories?)
Pieces of Pie consumed: 1 (I am so sad about this stat)
Ears of Corn consumed: 1 (again, deeply saddened by this!)
And props to the awesome team members of TFP (Team Fist Pump):
Will. Paul. Nate. Danny. Loren. Becky. Dan. Jon. Catherine. John.
Major props to Paul and my dear friend, John, who both rode the entire way across Iowa. Paul even added the extra century day. But John was a rockstar, this was his first RAGBRAI as well and he was determined to finish every mile, no one else in our group had that kind of determination. We were all impressed (and a little shocked) that John rode every. single. mile. Congrats, friend!