Every Mile, Every Day

In just two weeks, I’ll be in Iowa, ready for the start of another RAGBRAI . In the meantime, I have to make arrangements to box and ship my bike, pack all the necessities for a week-long camping and cycling trip, fly across country, and oh yes, keep riding.

Arizona summers are counterproductive to long training rides. This is when we force ourselves to wake up at 4, clip in at 5:15, and try to be finished before the heat starts radiating off the pavement — usually by 9 a.m.

Motivation lags, the body rebels, and even though I have ridden at least 1200 miles this year, I begin to have doubts about my body’s ability to get me from the Missouri River to the Mississippi.

My friend Tracey once said, “There are many ways to ride RAGBRAI.” There’s the Des Moines Register’s way, which is included in the entry fee. They load your camping gear and bags on a semi in the morning, and unload them at the next overnight town. If you ride fast and arrive early, you have to search through a large pile of gear to find your own. If you take your time and arrive later, there’s less stuff to search through, but the nearby camping sports are gone. If you go that route, you are committed to ride every mile of every day. There’s no SAG option unless you have a medical or mechanical issue.

Other options include chartering with a bike club or charter service, or getting a vehicle permit for your own personal support crew. In previous years, my family came and we stayed in our camping trailer, along with several friends who brought their own tents and camped with us. My husband enjoyed being our “roadie” the first few times, but after a while it became more work than vacation, and we sold our trailer.

This year, I’ll be riding with the Melon City Bike Club of Muscatine, along with my friend Diane. Although riding with a bike club is typical for most riders, it will be a new experience for me. I will sleep in a tent instead of a bunk; I won’t have anyone making my coffee in the morning; and most significant — no personal SAG driver to call when the going gets tough. In other words, I’ll have to ride every mile of every day.

That’s been a goal I thought I could achieve in past years, but so far I haven’t made it. In 2000, I was too new and didn’t have a road bike. Still, I ended up riding 359 out of 450 miles.

The next year, I didn’t plan to go and hadn’t ridden much. Since it was ending in Muscatine, I got talked into meeting our friends about midway across the state and finishing with them. My total for 2001 was only 168 out of 505 miles.

By 2004, I had a new bike, the weather and route were fabulous, and I felt capable of going the distance. On the third day, however, I fell out of a Kybo and sprained my ankle. (I know, most people worry about falling into a Kybo, aka porta-potty, not stepping out of one and doing a face plant in front of a crowd.)  I took the next day off, rode half of the following day, and ended up with 358 out of 490 miles.

In 2006, I was beginning to want to ride every mile of every day just to say I could do it. Before the ride even started, I went to the ER with a corneal abrasion. I was very light sensitive afterwards and ended up starting my ride on Day 2. I didn’t even finish that day’s route because I lost my prescription eye drops along the way. After that, I rode all of the remaining five days for a total of 354 out of 444 miles.

My last ride across Iowa was 2008. By Day 4, I was sore enough that when some of my friends decided to hop in their car and skip the last 20+ miles, I joined them. The next day, most of our group took a day off to rest and avoid the rain. That time, I logged 345 miles of the week’s 471.

This year’s route isn’t much different from the rest. I hope I’m a little different, that my Spin classes and Saturday rides with The Ladies will pay off and I’ll ride every mile of every day.

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