RAGBRAI, Here I Come!

Last night I “attended” a webinar about RAGBRAI, which I will be doing at the end of the month. I’m starting to get excited about it and the roadtrip to follow.

“What’s RAGBRAI?” you ask.

Sometimes I forget that some people have not lived in Iowa, where—whether you ride a bike or not—everyone knows about the Register‘s Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI. (This is the 42nd edition, making it slightly older than me.) As the name implies, the ride starts on the western side of the state and continues over the span of a week to the Mississippi River on the eastern border. When I was but a wee teen at camp, we would often talk about the enormity of such an undertaking as we pedaled our bikes over the plains, past the farms, and through the little towns of Iowa. “One day I’ll do RAGBRAI,” I told myself back then. Twenty-five years later, I’m finally going back to ride it.

Iowa is blessed with lots and lots of paved county roads linking close to a thousand cities and towns, both “big” and small. These roads typically have very little traffic and seem to exist for three things: getting the corn from the fields to the grain elevator, going to Grandma’s house, and RAGBRAI. With so many roads and towns available, event organizers have a lot of options; unlike some other cross-state rides (such as the Pan-Mass Challenge, which is also on my “someday” list), the course changes every year. Some years are longer than others. Other years are hillier.

This year’s ride is the third-shortest route and second-flattest in RAGBRAI history. Yay?

RAGBRAI is a huge group ride with 10,000 cyclists partaking in a week-long rolling party. Food and adult beverages are available everywhere, I am told. I will be tent camping every night. It’s an experience . . . not a training camp. I’m going to try to perfect the art of balancing cycling, food, and insulin as I eat and ride my way across the state. BBQ, pork tenderloin sandwiches, pie, ice cream: bring it! Some of my college friends are riding, as are a huge contingent of my family on my father’s side. It will be great to ride with them.

Don’t get me wrong; even with these priorities, it’s still going to be a challenge. At 455 miles (732 kms) long, I will still need about 30 hours in the saddle to finish the ride at a moderate 15 mph clip. Fortunately, that’s spread out over seven days. As is the 11,780 feet (3,590 meters) of climbing. People who remember my hilliness scale, will remember that I wrote “if it’s less than 30, it’s flat. If it’s between 30 and 50, it’s slightly hilly.” This year’s RAGBRAI’s days range between 17 and 46. Of course, Iowa’s hills are a little different than New England’s, since they tend to be long and shallow. Here’s the breakdown:

Day Distance (mi.) Climbing (ft.) Hilliness
1 69.2 1771 26
2 40.8 1078 26
3 105.7 1800 17
4 38.5 695 18
5 65.8 1743 26
6 67.4 1623 24
7 67.5 3073 46

With all of this cycling distance in my legs, I should be ready for the Rev3 Maine half-ironman triathlon at the end of August and the JDRF Lake Tahoe ride a couple of weeks after that. (Please consider helping JDRF improve the lives of people with diabetes with a contribution to my ride. If you do, I’ll send you something special from RAGBRAI!)

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4 Responses to RAGBRAI, Here I Come!

  1. mary! says:

    dude, this sounds super fun!

  2. Lady Imp says:

    Sounds like it was fun! Hope it went well!

  3. Victoria says:

    This is so exciting. I’ve been following the photos online. I’m so jealous. I want to do RAGBRAI! There was an NPR (or at least I think it was NPR story) on it the other day. So much fun. I hope you’re having a blast!

  4. Jeff Mather says:

    I saw the NPR (“No Pie Refused”) guys several times on the ride. If I’d known they were actually public radio folks, I would have maybe chatted them up a bit.

    Also… we’re going to have to do this together sometime!

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