Pushing the eye mask off my eyes, I sat up in my sleeping bag to find myself in an unfamiliar tent. Whose tent was this? I found my head lamp and checked my watch. It was 3:26 AM. Close enough, I thought, and began packing stuff up.
As my head cleared, I remembered it was Andrew and Janet’s tent, which was much easier to put up and take down than my tent. Juan and I had arranged this the day before since we would be making an early exit from our Iowa City camp at City Park.
Juan’s 3:30 AM alarm went off, and he sat up and began packing things up as well.
“This is what elite athletes do all the time,” Juan said.
“You’re right,” I said, and thought how there was a minuscule probability I was going to make a habit out of this.
I was already in my bike clothes for the day as I had put them on after my shower the night before. All we had to do was get everything packed up in the tent, and our Ducktail Lounge Cycling Club teammate Niles (with the help of a few others, I assume), would take charge of getting our stuff loaded and the tent taken down.
At 4:01 AM, we snapped this picture and took off from camp.
Once out of Iowa City, we cycled into darkness for over an hour. West Liberty was the next pass through town, which was 20 miles away. It was very cold. Juan’s headlight threw my shadow up on the fog in front of me. There was no easy way of anticipating a hill until you were going up or down it.
At around 5:30 AM, we arrived in West Liberty. Dusk was approaching, and the town was busy with volunteers getting ready for the riders (featured photo of this post). I had some coffee, some chocolate milk, and a banana. We left West Liberty around 5:50 AM.
Biking again for another 14 miles, we arrived in the meeting town of Wilton around 6:35 AM. Each day of RAGBRAI has an official meeting town that is usually around the halfway point of the ride. On this day, it was almost exactly the halfway point.
In Wilton, we locked our bikes up next to the Wilton Candy Kitchen and prepped for the ride to Davenport in order to run the Bix7. Jessica Johnstone, a good friend of Juan’s, picked us up in Wilton and drove us to her office at Balanced Chiropractic in Davenport, which was only a few blocks from the race start. Jessica was a key element to this crazy endeavor. Not having to deal with huge lines for kybos, we leisurely stretched and used the bathroom at her office.
On our walk to the start, we passed a few people who had started even earlier and had ridden all the way to Davenport! They knew our bus driver, Al, who had told them a few Ducktails would be running Bix7.
Setting my phone to run mode, I stood waiting for the start. Wow, I thought, I’ve actually made it to the Bix7 and am going to run 7 miles in my five finger Vibrams, biking shorts, and jersey. This is crazy in the making.
Off we went. For the first mile, the pace was set for me in the massive crowd. I crossed mile 1 at around 11 minutes and thought to myself, “I can do this 6 more times…. easy.”
Around 2.5 miles I looked to my left to see the elite runners passing under the 5 mile mark. Yeah, yeah, I thought, they didn’t bike 35 miles before the race start. A little ways beyond the 3 mile marker, jello shots were being handed out. Since I was on a RAGBRAI experience, too, I thought it pertinent to down one of those. It was also fitting that I down another on the return trip when I saw them again.
At mile 5, I remember thinking about how I had thought 4 miles ago that I could do this 6 more times pretty easily, and how foolish that was. Yes, I was going to get those last 2 miles in, but they weren’t going to be easy.
Battling knee aches and pains beginning at mile 5 and then hip pains around mile 6, I struggled through. A little after passing mile 6, Juan was finishing the race with a 1:05:30 time. Going back down the hill and around the corner, I went through the finish line as they called my name at 1:13:56.
Stage 2 of this crazy adventure was complete!
Enjoying some post race snacks and beer, we walked slowly back to Balanced Chiropractic to chill out and come down from the race high. We left a little after 10 AM and arrived back in Wilton around 11 AM.
Iowa Craft Beer has been a popular vendor of RAGBRAI over the last several years. It finds two places to set up along the route each day with the exception of Wednesday’s three places, and the last day’s one stop. Given 14 opportunities to stop and enjoy an Iowa Craft Beer, if you stop at 10 of them, buy a beer and have a wristband scanned, you are given a T-Shirt that can only be received by doing it this way. They are NOT sold to people. One must earn it!
Juan and I had earned our shirt, but we had a little hiccup. We had passed the Iowa Craft Beer stop at around 6:15 AM that morning on the way to Wilton, and they were far from open yet. So, we hopped on our bikes and rode the 7 mile round trip to have a beer and get our T-shirt.
We met up with some Ducktails at the Junction Bar & Grill in Wilton, before walking our bikes over with beers in hand to the team bus in order to regroup and have drinks. The team was divided on whether to focus on finishing the ride and getting done, or taking it nice and easy to have fun along the way. I was in the former camp, ready to be done and at the bus.
Nevertheless, we all took off together.
Eventually, we made it the rest of the 35 miles to the dip site in Davenport after a few breaks between. Juan found a spot down the trail from the official dip site that we had all to ourselves (it is good to be with someone who knows the Quad Cities area). Deanna took a selfie of Shane, myself, Amelia, and Juan sitting on the Mississippi.
The ride to the bus was not a short and easy ride. We tacked on another monster hill climb and 6 miles of riding before reaching the bus at NorthPark Mall. Stage 3, instead of 35 miles, turned into nearly 50 miles of riding before we got off the saddle for good.
With the additional miles we put in traveling to the border and back and the gravel loop on the first day, adding the century loop on Thursday’s ride, and not cutting corners in between, Juan and I finished the week at around 550 miles.
New bonds were formed. Old bonds were strengthened. By pushing each other, we find out there are no limits. They can be pushed even further.