Sunday, July 31, 2011

CR Biker Survives His First RAGBRAI

I’m back, blog friends. Yes I survived. Image is me and my son Jon at hte finish. And it was way cool, an awesome experience, great fun.

I’m sure I’ll write more later. I have ideas for a post about the language of RAGBRAI, the food of RAGBRAI and some of the sights.

But for now, let me say that RAGBRAI was grueling, a pain, a great challenge. It will be days before my knees and my butt will forgive me. My lips are burned, my nose is red, I have odd rashes in strange places.

And it was totally worth it.

The bike will go into the shop tomorrow for a post-RAGBRAI rehab. Me, I feel like it has been much more than a week that I’ve been gone.

When you’re in the middle of aRAGBRAI day, it seems to last forever. Certainly the climbs up rolling hills seem endless. The heat was hot. I’ve been through Iowa on a bike with a name, and it felt good to be out of the rain. In Iowa, you can remember you name, but the pie tastes sweet even if the borrowed lyrics are lame.

Would I do it again? Time will tell, but my tentative answer is why not? Where else can a ham ball sundae taste so good!

More images on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RAGBRAI Images part 1

RAGBRAI laundryAltoona air forceAir Force 2Holey moleySpoken wordCamp reflection
Bike flowersPhone chatRider Joebike tiresMore bike partsTuesday ride
BikersCarrol bugSt. Mary's churchSt. Mary's WileySt. Mary's WileySt. Mary's Wiley
St. Mary's WileySt. Mary's WileySt. Mary's WileyElk HornBig BikeDay 1 bikes

Quick Wednesday update, courtesy of Brigid and Eldon--photos from RAGBRAI.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Final Stuff

I broke and then replaced my saddle this week, and have a new tire to put on my bike this morning.

Then, it’s off to RAGBRAI! I may not be updating this blog much—computer is not going with me, and my cell phone is not so smart, so you may not hear from me for a while. I will try to do a Wednesday update, and possibly a quick note Friday during RAGBRAI, but otherwise will be off the grid.

I may be texting some updates to KCRG, not sure yet, but otherwise, so long and see you on the other side of the state!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Let’s Hope 1,400 Miles Is Enough

What with one thing and another, including a flat tire, I didn’t do a lot of riding this week after the “long” ride. I ended up this week with 120 miles, while the training goal was 175. I finish this week with a tad over 1,300 training miles total, and figure I’ll probably do about 100 this week, which means I’ll start RAGBRAI with 1,400 training miles.

I hope it’s enough. It should be.

Getting enough sleep during RAGBRAI may be my biggest challenge. I camped out last night in the 4-person tent I plan to take on RAGBRAI, and managed to get only about 3 hours of fitful sleep in it.

Well, for one thing it didn’t occur to me that I had to unzip covers to open windows for ventilation, so hopefully it won’t be such an oven during RAGBRAI. I also will use ear plugs during the ride, which I hope will help.

The tent was set up too near our air conditioning unit, which loudly kicked on several times during the night.

I also waited too long to set up the tent, and ended up working with Audrey in the dark. Our flashlight had a loose head on it and kept popping apart.

We don’t do any projects well together. Whether painting, yard work or assembling furniture, it’s best if one of use does and the other avoid the vicinity. Sadly, the tent requires two adults to set it up, so it forced some uncomfortable togetherness.

On the other hand, that’s now out of the way. I have set up, and taken down, the tent. My first night of sleep in it may not have gone that well, but better to learn some camping lessons now.

I do feel a bit apprehensive with RAGBRAI on the way. I think it will be a grand adventure, but a challenge, too. Not sure how much of it I will be able to share with you, blog readers, during the event—ironically, my bike blog will probably be on vacation during my long bike ride.

But the tent is stowed and ready. I still have details to tie up—I have to get a new rear tire, I have not been able to find sunglasses clip-ons yet, and I have to talk with Jon and Brigid and Pat and Mimi about.

Details, details—yet, I’m fairly confident I’m ready, or as ready as I can be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reflections of a Poor Bike Mechanic

Not poor economically, although I’m in the anxious middle class—but poor in mechanical ability. And, as you can see from one of the photos, which shows me using my Nikon to snap a picture of my new mirror, a bit of a pun.

I had to fix a flat on my front tire today, and also added a mirror. My daughter Katy had bought me a mirror last year for a previous bike, and I put that mirror on my new bike, but it was plastic and I managed to snap it.

So, today, I installed a new mirror. It’s bigger, which is good, and fits the bike better—the attachment is much tighter. I hope that, and its metal construction, means it will last longer.

The tire change was interesting. For one thing, I did not find a hole in the flat tube, but the tube was stuck, adhered, to the bike tire. Hmm.

I also inflated it with my frame pump, as an experiment. Then, after inflation, I noted the tire was not seated correctly, and had to deflate and re-inflate. The second time, I used my foot pump.

The foot pump works much better—45 or so pumps and the tire is nice and firm. I counted around 150 pumps with the frame model, and the tire was still slightly mushy. But, on the other hand, I would have been able to ride the bike in a pinch, so the frame pump earned a RAGBRAI ride.

Not quite done with pre-RAGBRAI maintenance. Besides a good chain lube, I’ll also be getting a new rear tire. I’ve worn through the first one training for RAGBRAI.

At least, I’m on the road again!

Summer 2011 flowers


Summer 2011 flowers, a set on Flickr.

Trying to see what happens when I set up a link to one of my flickr sets of photos ...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Flat! And Not a Musical Note .....

I was a bit stiff and sore last night, after my 64-mile ride, and briefly had painful cramps in the large muscle of my upper left leg. The bigger the muscle, the more painful the cramp, and I was making unhappy "ouch" noises while Audrey was asking me "what's wrong?"

Well, clearly, my command of speech while my brain is reeling from a leg cramps is limited. Eventually I managed to moan out the words "leg cramp," which I think were a relief to her since it's wasn't a heart attack.

So I wondered what the night and next day would bring. See photo of my tired face, taken during my final break yesterday before doing the last 11 miles of my ride. After that, I expected many physical problems--I have a touchy back which can get quite painful, and I thought walking would be a challenge today.

The night, surprise, surprise, brought a full 8 hours of restful sleep--not that normal for a mid-50s man. Our ability to sleep soundly does not improve with age, or at least mine doesn't. (And no, although it is true that I make more sound when sleeping now, that's not the same as soundly sleeping .....) But 64 miles will knock you out like a six pack, and there's far less danger of accidentally dampening the sheets.

And the morning produced another miracle. I was indeed stiff and sore, but I wake up almost every morning stiff and sore--another perk of middle age. I was not exceptionally stiff and shore, and after walking around and stretching, was ready for the short bike ride to the gym.

But, my bike had other plans, specifically, a flat tire in the front. My previous flats had been in the rear, so the bike maintenance problems are branching out.

Anyway, zero miles so far today. Going to do a little mechanical work--fix the flat and install a new mirror--and I hope to get a few miles in this evening. Wish me luck. My mechanical skills are like my innate musical talent--almost nonexistent, but if I keep pushing I can sometimes do something.

I guess an off day after yesterday is OK, although I did plan to go into work today. My mighty steed did not cooperate. More miles, and work, tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Long Ride—A RAGBRAI Analogy

It’s not exactly a RAGBRAI day—for one thing, I was riding bike trails in Cedar Rapids, for the most part, so it was much, much less hilly than any cross-country ride in Iowa.

As any Iowan can tell you, we’re not Nebraska. Nebraska is a military bed with all the sheets tightly tucked in. You can bounce the quarter. Iowa is the bed in the morning with a few pillows misplaced and the sheets and blankets every which way.

No mountains, but lots of hills.

And, I was riding alone, not in a pack of some 10,000 or more.

So it was merely an analogy of a RAGBRAI day, but today I rode 64 miles. I went down to Ely, rode over to the Prairie Park Fishery and rode on the west side of the Cedar River out to Ellis Park.

I am sure glad I invested in bike shorts. My leg muscles are not happy with me, but still. I did it and my butt survived—I can ride a distance that’s equivalent to a RAGBRAI day.

Time, on the other hand, was not so great. I started at 9 a.m. and got back home around 4:30 p.m. That’s more than seven hours to go just over 60 miles—average speed well under 10 mph. However, I did stop for at least 5 minutes each hour and took one 15-minute break in the middle of the ride, and much of the ride was in the city. When I was headed out to Ellis Park through central Cedar Rapids, I had to wait at every traffic light. When I was in motion, I was usually doing more than 10 mph, but all the “zero” time pulled own my average a lot.

I am not sure how RAGBRAI conditions will either speed me up or slow me down. The excitement of the event and being with other riders may speed me up. Or heavy traffic may show me down. There won’t be city stops and goes, but there will be a lot going on.

We’ll see. For now I’m just happy to confirm that I can indeed handle more than 60 miles on a bike in one day. And I’m up to 100 so far this week.