To repeat anything of an ‘extreme’ nature is to insinuate a certain level of bravado, insanity or – more likely – an unhealthy combination of the two. This is especially true when there is a level of physical pain involved in the activity, but thanks to the human body’s ability to forget pain (of course we remember that things hurt, but we can’t mentally re-create the actual pain felt) we as humans tend to repeat extreme and painful events – childbirth, running marathons, attending your friend’s improv show, etc. Though I like to think of myself as a pretty even-keeled person without any affinity for the extreme, this past July I found myself once again heading to the West side of Iowa to join tens of thousands of fellow lunatics in the 7 day, 500 mile Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).
What is the matter with me?! I had done this before! I know first-hand what it is to have your thighs on fire as you pedal up monstrous hills, to do 8-10 hours of cardio for seven consecutive days in 100+ degree heat, and to be blistered in uncomfortable places from going on a 500 mile bike ride over monstrous hills in 100+ degree heat!! I should have learned my lessons from the year past, and tucked the RAGBRAI ticket in my ‘once, but never again’ file. But… as I mentioned, the body cannot remember actual pain, so with the blisters and heat rash and muscle cramps out of my mind, then what was left is the magic that comes with participating in the oldest, longest and largest bike ride on the planet. It’s not fair to have the mind involuntarily tilt towards fondness, but it does, so there we were – barreling down I-88 in our trusty RV, dodging a tornado and giddy with excitement for the week ahead (also a little giddy from dodging an actual tornado – gotta love summer in the Midwest!).
This year’s team grew to include 5 riders (three of which would go on to ride the entire 500 miles) and 3 in our RV support crew. As we pulled into the starting town of Orange City, we joined over 30 thousand bikers, support crew and local Iowans to embark on yet another extreme (albeit, epic) bike ride. This was not the first rodeo for all but one on our team, Tattoo Frank. He was a RAGBRAI newbie, and was joining Katie and I on the full, week-long ride.
Two great rivers border the West and East of Iowa, the Missouri on the West and the mighty Mississippi on the East. The ceremonial start of RAGBRAI is always the day before the ride starts, with a back tire dip in the Missouri River. Then, seven days later we finish with a front tire dip in the Mississippi. Tattoo Frank, Katie and I made our way through the throngs of people to the official dip-site. With our back tires dripping with Missouri River water our RAGBRAI adventure had officially begun!
Unlike the previous years’ ride, where I had prepared by logging a little over 1000 miles in the saddle, this years’ prep consisted of a whopping 50 miles. I probably didn’t have any business doing RAGBRAI this year, but as I will discuss in a future post, a large portion of this ride is mental, and while I wasn’t physically prepared to pedal 500 miles, I was willing to bet that my mind was ready. Yet… as we rode back to our camp doubts began to grow in my mind. I knew I was in for some serious blisters – so doubled-up on my Butt-Butter – but would my determination be enough to fuel me for the ride? I was picked-up by the Peruvian paddy-wagon on my hike in May, and I’d be damned if I had to be picked up by the RAGBRAI one. Either way you shake it, this was gearing up to be one helluva trip!
*More RAGBRAI posts to follow*