Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the category “Cycling”

Getting Reacquainted With My Bike…the hard way!

You may recall me mentioning my bike a bit more last year. Of course, if you are fairly new to my blog, then odds are you haven’t gone back that far to read old posts and you have no idea what I’m talking about. In that case, you can take my word for it that I spent a lot of time on my bike last year! If you have been reading my blog since last year…shhhh…just keep your mouth shut and try not to burst the aura of awesomeness the newer folks are feeling emanating from their computer screens right now.

Either way, my focus since January has been about 99% running, and my Trek 2.1 has wept accordingly, hanging out in the basement and avoiding the leaks in the floor from the heavy rain. I did manage to move my trusty Trek onto the trainer over the winter with the help of a friend. Despite all my riding, my ability to change out tires and tubes leaves a bit to be desired. Thus, you may want to bump me down a few notches on your emergency tire call list. Just sayin’. Now, just like simply owning shoes doesn’t mean you put them on and get out the door for a run, simply owning a really pretty bike doesn’t mean you get on it and log any miles. Up till this point, I had completed approximately 4 trainer rides, totaling about 60 miles. By approximately, I mean exactly, and by “up till this point”, I mean since September. Needless to say, my legs and butt were not properly acclimated to cycling.

A great group to ride with...self-portrait style!

A great group to ride with…self-portrait style!

So, when a few great friends invited me for a century ride on my rest day, during a low mileage running week, I obviously said yes immediately! Now, what I really mean is I told them that if they helped me put my road tires back on and grease my chain, I would begrudgingly accompany them on their much-too-early bike ride. After a nice and relaxing 4th of July with the beautiful epicurean, I woke up at 5AM the next day to eat a small breakfast and head over to their house to meet them for our ride. At 5AM, on what is a vacation day for most folks, it’s pretty darn quiet in a small town in Iowa. Everyone is sleeping. I couldn’t help but think about the comfy bed I left behind as I pedaled down the road toward their house…then back to my house when I realized I forgot my sunglasses, and then back to their house. I didn’t exactly know the route for the day, and they assured me they would be moving at a comfortable pace, with the goal being simply to reach 100 miles. Have I mentioned yet that this was basically my first time on the bike all year? I should also mention they’ve been riding all year, and are training for Ironman Wisconsin. Hmmmm…I wonder if our definitions of “comfortable” are the same?

Taking a...ummm..."break" on the side of the road :)

Taking a…ummm…”break” on the side of the road 🙂

We headed south out-of-town, and were quickly traveling down a country road I’d never been on before. I like exploring uncharted (by me) territory, so this was exciting. It was still relatively cool outside, and we had the road to ourselves. At this point, 17-20 mph seemed perfectly reasonable. It wouldn’t seem nearly as reasonable 80 miles later, but I’ll get to that in good time. We headed south again, and picked up the High Trestle Trail in Woodward. This trail has only been open a few years, but has become incredibly popular, and for good reason. After about 10 miles, we crossed over the Des Moines River, and the view from the bridge is fantastic! It was still early enough, so traffic on the trail was light. We hit the 50-mile mark in Slater, where the trail turns south towards Ankeny.

This kitten wanted to welcome us to the trail...and grope my rear tire.

This kitten wanted to welcome us to the trail…and grope my rear tire.

At this point, one of our friends had to head back to Ames to get back in time for work. My legs were feeling mildly tired, but I was still in pretty good shape. Nonetheless, I still thought long and hard about heading back to Ames with him. Alas, my internal competition is far too great, and I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t keep going. I kept my mouth shut, and continued on. We hit Ankeny, and cut under the interstate, and up some nice, rolling hills. Ok, so they would have been nice and rolling if my legs didn’t have 60 miles on them at that point. I was certainly happy to start heading north, and let the tailwind provide a little natural propulsion. Aside from moving a bit more to the east, the northern direction was definitely well-earned, and I was feeling pretty darn good, all things considered. Mind you, my butt was screaming at me, but it had been doing that for the last 40 miles, and showed no signs of letting up, so I just accepted it as a given.

Stopping for some water...a nice couple offered to take our photo, and leave their mark as well.

Stopping for some water…a nice couple offered to take our photo, and leave their mark as well.

When we hit mile 90 or so, we headed back west towards Ames. That’s when my legs began to revolt, and my speed dropped to a more mandatory 12 or 13 mph. The wind was still blowing from the south, which meant it was trying to blow me over personally during the entire last segment of the ride. Mother nature and I do have a bit of a love/hate relationship. She’s the jealous type as it turns out. Even so, a nice friendly push from my friends made the final few miles much easier, and I made my way back into town. I arrived home around 3pm, and felt every bit as tired as sitting on a tiny, hard bike seat for 9 hours would suggest. I managed to avoid most of the sunburn that typically haunts me, but I had plenty of other more “delicate” bruises. My body had to remind me of my crazy somehow, right? Despite it all, it was a wonderful day with friends, and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience. The bike will probably always play second fiddle to my endurance running addiction, but it’s great to maintain my relationship with cycling as well!

We had most of the country roads to ourselves...

We had most of the country roads to ourselves…

except for the trains!
except for the trains!

Regardless of the GPS readings, we knew we had hit our mark, and it felt great knowing I had tackled this challenge…more challenges to come!

GPS readings aren't an exact science :)

GPS readings aren’t an exact science 🙂

A “century” of learning…in the saddle!

H.G. Wells has nothing on me. I flew threw a century in less than a day! Like any long span of time, there were a number of ups and downs. There were moments that left me in awe of my own accomplishments and moments where I really had no interest in going on. I met some new people, got to know some friends better, ate some delicious food, and learned more than I anticipated about myself in a span of merely 9 hours (merely…hah!).

As I had previously posted, this week is RAGBRAI 2012. Although I had talked to plenty of people about the experience, heard some great stories, read blogs and looked at pictures, I still really had no idea what I was in for when I signed up. I only knew that it was an experience I hadn’t had yet, and I wanted to have it!

We trekked up to Sioux Center, IA on Saturday morning, by way of Lincoln, NE to pick up our SAG driver for the week (a friend’s daughter). We camped at a friend’s house on Saturday night, but I didn’t get much sleep. Between the rain and the anticipation, I was doomed to insomnia. We woke up at 5AM to pack up our gear and we were on the road by 6:10AM. It was a beautiful ride of town, and we had plenty of time for the mere 62 miles that the day had in store. Ironically, my previous long ride was only 55 miles, so even the shorter rides this week were long for me! The day went fairly well, and I enjoyed the stops in small towns along the way. I really had no idea how big of a deal it was for RAGBRAI to go through town until I saw everything the towns came out and did for the riders. Clearly, with 15,000 hungry and thirsty riders coming through, there is at least a small economic incentive as well 🙂 We arrived in Cherokee, IA around 11AM, and had plenty of time to get set up with our host for the night. We had the luxury of staying indoors with AC, which was vital considering the 100 degree temperatures!

Departing from Sioux Center, IA for Day 1 of RAGBRAI

The second day saw another 5AM wake-up call, and we were again on the road by 6AM. Monday proved to be a great day. I traveled with a group of friends who I mostly consider much faster and more skilled than myself, so I had no aspirations of keeping up with them during the rides, but figured I’d enjoy the company of strangers and experience everything. However, I got going on Day 2 and it was as if my legs decided to +1, because I was feeling good and rolling right along. We stopped several times, for some great cinnamon rolls and the classic slice of pie (who can say no to homemade pie served by little old ladies at a church in a small town?!). We rolled in to the state park we were staying at, 67 miles under our belt (another PR for distance), and I had averaged closed to 19 mph along the way, which was a complete shock but it certainly brought a smile to my face!

Homemade Apricot pie- yes, please!

Now, we had been leaving early to try and beat some of the heat, as the highs reached around 100 degrees each day. However, camping outside in a state park (granted, it was quite beautiful and situated right on a lake in Lakeview, IA) meant still sleeping outside and enduring the heat. I don’t do well in heat, and I slept pretty poorly. In addition, the next day was a 100 mile (century) ride, so we woke up at 4AM to be on the road by 5AM. Needless to say, getting starting on Tuesday morning was a struggle.

Nonetheless, I pushed myself out and up on the bike, and I had plenty of adrenaline flowing. Riding a century meant surpassing my previous high distance from the day before by 30 miles, and really riding twice as long as I had trained for this year. I was feeling good, and my confidence carried me for about the first 30 miles. Then my back started spasming- feeling like someone is branding your lower back with a hot iron isn’t exactly motivational when it comes to cycling. Still, I pushed through it. The route itself was only 77 miles, but there is an optional “Karrass Loop” (named after the founder of RAGBRAI) which adds 23 miles and gives you the full century. In retrospect, I should have known I might be biting off more than I could chew, but I’m rather internally competitive so I went for it! Mother Nature had other ideas.

Dunking my head in a pool of ice cold water after the Karras Loop!

Clearly I have offended her quite a bit in the past, because I found myself riding into a 21 mph headwind, which meant I was topping out at about 9 mph on the straightaways. Then came the hills! There were two GIANT hills in and out of the river valley during the loop that were both larger than anything I’d ever gone down or up. Flying down them at 40 mph was AMAZING but painfully putting one foot in front of the other on the way up left much to be desired. Still, I made it through, and finished out the route with two more giant hills and plenty of headwind. The strawberry rhubarb pie and homemade peach ice cream definitely eased my pain (especially because I hadn’t eaten enough and was a tad dizzy at one point), but the damage was done. I finished out the century with a friend (it was both of our firsts), pedaling on shear determination and will, but running on fumes. By the time we got to our meeting location, my bike computer read 108 miles (my phone had died at 91 miles).

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt, but there was still a wonderful sense of accomplishment tied up in riding that far. RAGBRAI recommends riding  1000 miles as preparation for the week, and I had done 450. On day three, that lack of training caught up to me. By the time I got home, my whole body ached, I was sunburned, badly chafed, and my back was still hurting. In the end, I had to make the tough call to bow out gracefully from the remainder of the week of RABGRAI. I had ridden a total of 240 miles in three days, made some wonderful memories with new and old friends, and learned a lot about not pushing myself TOO far. I enjoy cycling, but I enjoy running even more and the last thing I wanted to do was injury myself and inhibit my ability to reach my running goals this fall.


I have a lot of great memories ahead of me, and I couldn’t be happier to have these to add to the list. Thank you to great friends for a wonderful RAGBRAI experience!

Chasing 42 Across Iowa: RAGBRAI 2012

This year has been great for my running confidence. I’ve run further, longer, and faster than I ever have before, and I’ve felt great along the way. There is no question that I love running now more than I ever have before. A consequence of that running, however, has been a somewhat less enthusiast training commitment to cycling. I’ve actually run twice as many miles as I have biked this year, if that tells you anything.

This lack of saddle time has me a tad apprehensive as I get packed and ready to head to Sioux Center, IA on Saturday for the start of RAGBRAI 2012. Since the first summer I moved to Iowa, I have been hearing about this bike ride across Iowa, and the descriptions have ranged from arduous to intoxicated to, well… get the picture. Needless to say, my curiosity was peaked from the beginning, and this year I’ve committed myself to riding. Despite the wealth of information on the internet concerning this Iowa tradition, I’m still chasing down quite a few unknowns:

1. Will my butt hold up? This ride may give chaffing a new meaning for me…but I’m prepared with my Butt Butter!

2. Will my legs hold up? I’ve mentioned before that running ultra marathons doesn’t translate into cycling endurance, and my endurance will certainly be put to the test over the course of the next week, with daily miles ranging from 45 to 100 miles. For the record, the mileage most days will still be longer than I’ve previously ridden at one time…hmmm…..

3. Will my body hold up in the heat? The midwest is having record heat and drought, and next week promises to be more of the same with highs in the mid to upper 90’s all week 😦

Despite these unknowns, I couldn’t be more excited to be going with a great group of friends, and everything I’ve been told leads me to believe that the hospitality in each town is second to none. I’m looking forward to eating some delicious food along the way, and meeting some new friends on the road. With 20,000 or so riders, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to tell!

So, let the pie, fun, and riding begin!

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