Sunday, 14 July 2013


Bet has given you her 'take' on Ragbrai, so I thought it was time you heard things from my perspective.

Late last year NorthWapiti fan Shelly Lewis emailed me. "I've noticed you are doing a lot of biking these days". She asked if I was familiar with 'Ragbrai' and maybe I would be willing to come out to Nebraska, do a talk for a rescue group that way and then ride the event.
I'd never heard of the ride, but a quick Google search, a visit to, and my interest was seriously piqued!!

Over the next few months we spoke a few times and a plan began to form. By the time winter was in full swing I was pretty much committed to the idea of riding 400+ mile across the state of Iowa but I don't think I had really wrapped my head round and heart into it.

Then the final day of the Canadian Challenge race rolled around. As some might recall, I left the last checkpoint in 2nd place, but with a serious challenge close behind me. I pedaled and poled the 50 miles to the finish line looking over my shoulder every few minutes. Sometime during that run with sweat dripping down the back of my SkookumBrand anorak, I vowed that if I got second place, I would take some of the generous prize money and buy myself a road bike and commit seriously to riding Ragbrai.

I was unaware that Jillian ended up turning around part way through her run, returning to the checkpoint and scratching so second place, and Ragbrai, was a done deal.

With a bit of help from my 'biking guru' before he headed back to England and a nice stumble into a great deal (needing a less then 'standard' size can be a curse or a blessing!), a road bike was sitting waiting for me when I got back from judging on Iditarod...

My Specialized Tamrac Elite - a 'gift' from my dogs!

....and training began.

The comment has been made to me many times in the last 3 months that traveling with an animal is a better method of transport than a bike - and don't get me wrong - my passion for animal-assisted travel is still as strong as ever. Traveling with my dogs or a horse will always be the biggest passion in my life but let me bare my soul a bit.

This was me a few years ago -

This is me today -

Yup, I know, the hair is WAY different....well, that and the 80lbs.

More than the difference in how I look though, is the difference in how I feel.

When I was heavy folks still had trouble keeping up with me on a day-to-day basis and I could push through a fair amount of physical stuff others couldn't - but NEVER could I have imagined or accomplished riding a bike 20 or 30 miles - let alone 400 miles. I hurt and was exhausted at the end of a day.

Yesterday I rode 60 miles. It took me, breaks included and riding into a nasty headwind for 25 miles, about 4 1/2 hours. I came home, cooked dinner, did chores, and then lit a fire in the firepit. This morning I didn't crawl out of bed - I feel great and am debating a route to ride this afternoon (if the predicted rain holds off).

Animal-assisted transport is amazing. To connect and cooperate with another species is really soul stirring. It will NEVER get old for me...

...but to go down a trail powered only by your own legs, lungs and legs, lungs, and heart....that is something too.

So, I'm riding Ragbrai to celebrate my body. It's still far from perfect - and even far from where I want it to be - but it is capable - and with every pedal stroke, I will be proud of it.

Oh yeah....and I'm also riding Ragbrai for the food and drink....some things never do change, you know!!!


Anonymous said...

Yay Karen
Wish I had that determination. Some day.

Libby the Lab said...

Looking forward to meeting you next Saturday!

Marcia C said...

Looking forward to meeting you Saturday. And maybe next year you can do BRAN (Bike Ride Across Nebraska)!

Christine said...

and then SAGBRAW along the Wisconsin River down to the Mississippi!!!

Barbara in IN said...

And then the one from Vancouver to PEI, if I have those correct. Or the one from Seattle to Gloucester Massachusetts. :)

Nannette Morgan said...

Good luck and have fun Karen! Did you know that your Specialized bike comes from where I live? Morgan Hill, CA?!!

Kaos Siberians said...

LOL...I'm waiting for you to ride RAAM! (Race Across AMerica!)

ElizabethMC said...

So proud of you Karen! My hat is off to you!

Wild Dingo said...

Wow! As a former amateur bike racer (mountain, road and cross), I'm really impressed with how you're coming along on your cycling hobby! That's a great bike! For now I can't do much in the way of biking or running due to a temporary health condition, but because I have a sibe who "needs" to run (not just because she's a sibe, but it's excellent exercise for her hip dysplasia), I just literally took up the sport of bikejoring her and my other dog (a GSD mix). What an adventure. Adding dogs to the mix of handling a bike is just rad and I'm really glad I get to mix my favorite two things in the world: cycling and dogs. We don't go very far now, just 5 miles, because the sibe actually needs to build up endurance, but little by little i'll add distance and hope to work them up to 10 mile rides with me by winter time. I love the dimension of biking "attached" versus having my dogs run by my side of my bike freely (which i used to do) because it just adds another dimension of challenge (handling your bike AND your two DOGS) and another element of bonding as a team. we ride slower this way but we work together as a unit instead of independently. And much safer for everyone in the deep forest. I can see why mushing is such an addiction. And now to see a musher get addicted to biking just makes me smile a mile wide! Good luck Karen!