During the week-long-party-on-wheels that is RAGBRAI, all… no, MOST inhibitions are thrown to the wind. Men and women who ordinarily armor themselves with suits and dresses – of the sort that hide bulges and accentuate the more flattering curves, be it of muscle or body shape – strip down to spandex, which by nature hides absolutely nothing and accentuates everything (the good, the bad and the ugly). But, who cares? With monstrous heat and humidity crushing you, prudence and fashion are tossed aside faster than a toupee in a tornado. Everyone from CEOs to retired grandmothers strut their stuff with little regard to what anyone else thinks – and good on ’em!
There is, however, a select group of maniacs who find a crazed type of joy in dressing up for the beastly ride. For two years running now we’ve seen a team of bananas being chased by a monkey (all full body suits, mind you), men dressed as women and women dressed as babies (though the diapers are unsightly, I’m envious of all that extra padding).
On the flip side, and often in addition to the costume-clad lunatics, are those people that drink their way through the week. Road-side stands offering shots of hard liquor can be seen as early as 7AM, and – much to my surprise – people actually stop and trow back a few to kick-start their mornings. Craft beer tents tend to draw bigger crowds, and you can always tell where they’re parked as the line often stretches well beyond the field in which they’re serving. The thought of drinking that early and/or during such heat with so many miles to ride makes me nauseous, but with the amount of sweating and cardio we do the possibility of absorbing anything long enough to get drunk is pretty slim – so, to them I say, “Cheers!”
Cold beer on hot days is all good, but what fuels my engine is the food on offer. To say that I eat like a pig during this week is an insult to pigs everywhere. Of this I am not proud, nor am I particularly embarrassed. The amount of cardio coupled with the rate at which my body metabolizes calories makes it is near impossible to maintain any type of balance as far as energy input/output goes.
For example – on RAGBRAI from the moment I awake (usually with the sun, around 5:30/6) I’m eating. Fruit, bagels, coffee, eggs, spaghetti, cheese anything I can get my hands on. Then, because we usually have to stop and walk through every town due to the congestion, I’ll buy piece of pie (or three) from the local church ladies along with some more fruit, bread, gatorade and pickle-juice to wash it all down. Add about 5 lbs of nuts, corn on the cob and two ice cream sandwiches and you have my morning food diary from day two of this year’s ride… and by ‘morning’ I mean breakfast and second breakfast. Oh-ho! Tis not yet noon and I’ve already gorged myself on all the aforementioned, yet by the time we got to lunch two hours later I was positively ravenous! To an outsider this may sound like a medical condition, but let’s break it down a bit…
If you take my gender, age and body weight and calculate the average calories burned during one hour of rigorous biking (with sustained riding around 15-19mph) you’ve got a little over 600. Now, considering let’s say…85 degree heat and my accelerated metabolism, it’d be fair to bump that number up a bit. With an average of 8-10 hours of riding each day, that translates to, give or take, 6,500 calories burned!! So, yes, for seven days during the summer I morph into a bottomless and grotesque dumpster, but I’ll be damned if I let it bother me. In fact, I quite enjoy myself – savoring every bite of fresh corn, pie, pretzels and pasta! Call me what you will, and say what you want, but I’ll just fly on by – me and my porky self – too busy to notice or care, for I can guarantee I’m thinking about what I’ll eat next!