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 www.ragbrai.com, 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 heart....my 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!!!