Monday, August 2, 2010

Remembering RAGBRAI

When we were riding on the bus back to Des Moines, I could feel that I was thinner. I was still amazingly bloated from the heat, but my belly felt slimmer. "I feel like I'm missing an entire fat roll," I said to my dad, pointing to my upper belly. He chuckled and said, "You left it on Potter Hill." Weighing myself this morning the scale showed a 6.5 loss from the morning I flew to Des Moines. Wow. Even puking my guts out with the stomach flu, I've never lost that much weight in a week.

I decide to do the Two Volcanoes Ride today. It's cool and crisp. I'm blissfully chilly in my RAGBRAI jersey and bicycle tights. I'm riding my 46-pound grocery getter because my road bike is being disassembled and shipped from Dubuque. Even still, I'm flying. I feel like a teenager as I get to Mt. Tabor and start the long climb to the top. "Potter Hill was much steeper than this," I think. Not as long, though.

I think about what I learned on RAGBRAI. I learned that no matter how fast you are someone will always be faster. No matter how slow you are, someone will always be slower. I learned that I can ride 490 miles in a week powered by only sports drinks, bananas, fruit smoothies, water, the occasional force fed meal, and (apparently) 6.5 pounds of belly fat. I had no idea I was capable of that.

I get to the top and drink some water. For the first time in my life, I'm bombing down Tabor. I don't think I'll ever be scared to ride my bike again. Just hold on, keep your wits about you. Getting passed by half a dozen cars with 3 feet clearance in 2 hours is nothing like riding with thousands of bikes going all different speeds on the giant rollers of Iowa.

I climb to the top again, this time on the more shallow Salmon side. I pass a road biker going up and feel some satisfaction because my bike is undoubtedly 30 pounds heavier than hers. I round the top and make my way over to Rocky Butte.

At a stop light a super fit road biker asks me if I'm just out for a ride. I say yes. (I must look funny in all my cycling gear on this bike with the milk crate strapped to the back). "Cool this morning, huh?" he says. "Feels great," I reply.

I get to Rocky Butte and start the slow winding ascent, through the tunnel to the top. It is misty and foggy. I hardly see a soul. At the top, I consider just calling it a morning and heading back home. That doesn't sound like me. I eat a gel, drink some water and head back down for another pass, this time on the back side. I'm glad I did. It feels good to get four big climbs in 2 days after RAGBRAI. I scream down the butte, through the tunnel and make my way home at a gentle pace.

Yesterday, sitting on my cushy couch in my cool house laughing with my extremely funny husband, it was the most relaxed I have ever been in my entire adult life. Finishing RAGBRAI and feeling the overwhelming beauty of the luxuries of home was such a release. Riding home this morning, I still feel that way and I can't wait for my next ride and my next challenge. Maybe I'll go for the next fat roll over the next month. That actually sounds like fun.


  1. Sarah, thanks for posting all of your experiences on your Virgin RAGBRAI (were you ever appropriately tagged?). It sounds like you discovered a lot about yourself while you endured all of the trials and tribulations. This winter you won't remember any of the hard times - only the fun you had. I've heard about people like you: on the road before sunrise. Are you crazy? Suffice to say I leave camp no earlier than 8:30, believe that between 6:00 and 8:00pm is the best time of day to ride, and don't consider it a successful RAGBRAI unless I come in on lights at least once. Some time I'll have to ride with the other side of the pack just to see what it is like! Glad you had a great time and hope you'll come back again next year!

  2. Thanks, Chris. I never was tagged although a lot of people noticed my license plate with Portland, Oregon on it and my fenders. I must have been the only bike there with fenders. Is the traffic lighter when you leave at 8:30am? I've never seen so many bikes in my life! It sure was a trip to remember. I'm sure I'll be talking about it when I'm 60 and that it will just get better in the telling.

  3. thanks for sharing sara! sounds like an amazing adventure

  4. It definitely was! Thanks for reading, Ms. S.

  5. I finally read your RAGBRAI posts. Makes me jealous. I wanted to do it this year and it would have been nice to see you and everyone else on the road

  6. Hi Scott! Thanks for reading my blog! Congrats on being back home with your family. It's funny because the further I get away from RAGBRAI, the more I think it is a perfectly ridiculous thing to do. I'm so glad I did it, though and have even kept off the weight I lost that week. It sure is an amazing event and even out here in Portland cyclists know what it is.