77 miles and one happy ending

I finally rounded up an assortment of photos from my day of Ragbrai. Just a quick recap for anyone who doesn’t know – Ragbrai is a bike ride across the state of Iowa that takes place every July when it’s just about as hot as it can be here. They cap it at 10,000 official riders, but when you add all the unofficial people it can be a lot more than that. I’ve heard about how cool it is for years, I’ve written stories about it, I’ve gone to it when it came near Des Moines (because Lance Armstrong rode it a couple times when he wasn’t doing the Tour de France). But I’d never actually been a part of the ride itself, and it just felt like time. Plus, I knew my best friend, Erin, and her boyfriend Jason, would be riding this one day in particular because it was stopping in his hometown (Ottumwa, Iowa).

So that wasn’t really a quick recap at all, but there you go.

I was pretty nervous going into the day because due to training for the Bolder Boulder 10k race in May and spending the week before Ragbrai doing Nia, I didn’t have as much time to devote to cycling as I wanted. When we did do our 60-mile ride (and I am kicking myself for not bringing the camera that day – it was gorgeous!), I struggled at the end with an uncomfortable seat and was not sure how my butt would survive an even longer ride. Plus, the logistics of getting us all there, a car left at the finish, and a place to stay overnight the night before so we could get up at the crack of dawn, were a little crazy.

And you will just never believe where they put me and Mike. In a juvenile detention center! That is one place I never thought I would sleep. But it did give us our own bathroom (sort of), and a door to shut at night.

Oh, and did I mention that Ragbrai is notorious for teaching people from out of state that Iowa is absolutely not flat? These rides are long, hot, and hilly. But as I discovered, they are also wonderful.

Though it stormed early in the morning, the clouds cleared and we had a sunny day to ride, with temps in the mid 80s. With the humidity, it did bake us in the afternoon, but July in the midwest could easily be in the 90s or even 100s, so we got lucky there.

In the first town we got the whole group together and stopped for Chris Cakes, a pancake stand that turns out more pancakes in half an hour than you’ve probably seen in your whole life.

Dad, about to chomp.

They were the beginning of a day of eating anything and everything we could find, so that we could replinish the 2,000 calories or so we burned. My list goes like this: A banana, a Larabar, pancakes, a hardboiled egg, coffee, mac and cheese, chips, Gatorade, chocolate milk, peanuts, a Clif bar, a strawberry smooothie, chocolate ice cream, an apple, and I’m sure there’s more I can’t remember. By the time we got to the end we were starving, and ate a whole dinner with strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert. A la mode, of course.

By lunchtime I was feeling a little out of it, and not sure the rest of the day would be great. But after I rested for a while, ate more, drank more, and saw Smoky the Bear and several riders with thongs on the outside of their bike shorts I felt a little better. At that point Erin and I separated from everyone else so we could talk and the hills flattened out a little. Then I stopped at a gas station and spotted two people drinking the miracle drug out of cartons – chocolate milk!

I immediately went inside and bought some. I’ve heard many times that chocolate milk is the perfect substance to help you recover after an athletic activity, and I often drink it after a run. I felt soooooo much better after drinking it, that I made it up 3 of the most monstrous hills I’ve ever ridden. When we finally met up with the rest of the group I was on some kind of weird chocolate milk trip/cyclist’s high. I felt like I could conquer the world. So I ate some homemade ice cream (why not?), and we kept on going till the end.

The whole group, minus my stepmom (the photographer).

And weirdly, my seat felt fine the entire time. Yeah, it hurt in a way that riding 77 miles will do to you, but it didn’t cut into my enjoyment of the ride at all.

You just can’t imagine what it’s like to ride across these normally deserted country roads with thousands and thousands of people from all over the country. There is every kind of rider in every age group, from kids to grandparents. There are pelotons of superfast people going by. There are fit people, plumpy people, people in costume, people who drink every single night (and day) and still manage to ride. Ragbrai is everything people say it is, and more.

I loved seeing the little town squares, and their cute little general stores.

Oh, and I just about forgot to mention the happy ending. As we pulled into the driveway at Jason’s mom’s house, he did this!

And she said yes!

Now Erin and I get to plan our weddings together. She and Jason went on to finish the whole ride, and I’m so proud and happy for them.