The Early Lead RAGBRAI WATCH 2K18

The test is near


Sports Editor



IOWA - You’re never truly prepared for RAGBRAI. 

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. 

Just a few days stand between me and my first journey on the week-long annual bike ride across the state of Iowa. 

What started out as an ambitious goal this winter to endure the entire spectacle has now whittled it’s way down to more realistic expectations. 

I’m just not ready, which means if I want to come out alive, I’ve settled on riding four of the seven days. 

I’ve swallowed my pride enough to know this will certainly be plenty for my first go-around. Excitement is still coursing through my veins despite that discouraging realization, though a strong case of anxiety continues to creep up as well. 

My training regime has been littered with excuses which I feel will only let me down in the latter part of the week. 

First, it was the cold of late Iowa winter. Then, that winter never seemed to end while sleet, snow and frigid temps slithered its way into April. 

What started so well (I was watching my diet and even went on a few sub-zero bike rides), quickly fizzled out as I made up excuses.

Track season, baseball and softball got in the way. Work trips to Indiana and Minnesota were next sprinkled around boys weekends and birthdays. 

Then the excruciating heat and humidity of May arrived. 

Before I knew it, we were in June and I was suddenly running out of time. 

I’m most concerned with whether my butt can take the long, grueling hours on the bike seat, with my ability to ascend hills a close second. 

Eating and drinking will come naturally, of course, and I’ve camped hundreds of times before. Concerts and small town Iowa? Check. 

But will I have the endurance to make it through 70 plus mile days in the middle of an Iowa summer? That’s the real, um, burning question. I’ve tried sprinkling in several hills here and there while also working on my endurance. If you know me, my bike goes with me everywhere, even to the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities (a work assignment) where I found time to ride the Great River Trail (it’s gorgeous, by the way. I recommend cruising it during sunset, the Mississippi River views are spectacular). There have been sanctioned bike rides, community rides, quick tours, casual rides with my son, and even simple jaunts to the store and back. Hell, I try and park several blocks away from Drake Stadium and ride into the Drake Relays and the state track meet, how many journalists do that? 

At least I’m trying, right? 

If anything, I’ve certainly done my RAGBRAI research and information gathering to the best of my ability. 

I’ve picked the brain of veteran rider and former RAGBRAI co-host Chuck Offenburger and his wife Carla (who both know everyone within the Greene County border, they can take you on an endless history lesson), chatted up Jefferson mayor Craig Berry, observed my dad on several long rides and even mingled with other experienced veterans throughout Jefferson. 

The common theme I’ve noticed is to enjoy RAGBRAI. Drink it in, don’t try to impress and outwork yourself. 

There is something for everyone to enjoy, whether you like to ride, love food, music or camping or just thrive off exploring new towns, it’s a giant festival that captivates everyone. 

One story in particular that stuck out this week during our weekly Manic Monday Jefferson RAGbRAI “training” ride throughout town was that of Greene County engineer Don Van Gilder and his wife. He had a fascinating tale to share on the courthouse steps with the sun snaking its way through the trees and around the Bell Tower. 

Back in 2008, the pair was one of the co-chair couples for the overnight Jefferson RAGBRAI stop. And after rolling out of bed early the next morning from a late, late night of volunteer work, they spontaneously decided to hop on their bikes to Grand Junction. Well, one thing led to another and, surprise, they found their selves in Ames, with nearly no training at all. 

At the time, the Van Gilders would’ve been in their early 60s, which is a remarkable feat in itself. If they can haphazardly hop on a bike and ride a full day, I surely can.

Here’s to miles and miles and miles of fun, sweat, aches, pains, music and food. I hope I make it back. 

Roll on and gear down. 

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