A year from now, what do you wish you had done today?
That’s what I thought last summer as I was sitting on my brother’s back porch and said that I wanted to bike ride over four hundred miles across Iowa. At the moment, it wasn’t even a pipe dream – it was a day dream, at best. But somehow, that idle thought set into motion a chain of events that still amazes me, now that I’ve gone to RAGBRAI and returned.
When a person makes a decision to do something, obstacles become obsolete, even if the obstacle is self-doubt. Believe me when I tell you that over the past year, I thought there was no way I would be able to ride in RAGBRAI. However, I kept training according to plan and only took breaks when I really didn’t feel up to it. Even then, I knew that I had to keep going because I had made a promise to myself, and I had already told so many people how excited I was to reach my goal.
When I was in Iowa during RAGBRAI, I was constantly amazed by the beautiful scenery. Though I was surrounded by the same sights in my childhood, returning years later allowed me to appreciate it in a new way. I came to appreciate, for example, the extent to which Iowa is not flat, contrary to popular belief. In fact, the RAGBRAI route this year included an approximately 17,000 foot climb, and similarly, about 17,000 feet of descent.
I have previously written about how a true cyclist never coasts, and while I still adhere to this philosophy, I will admit to having done a fair share of coasting down these hills. Why, you might ask? Because sometimes, it is important to see everything around you. My fellow cyclists and I found ourselves being constantly reminded that there was no rush – “Where we goin’?” became a popular refrain. The beauty of RAGBRAI is in the ride, the scenery, the small towns along the way, and the conversations with others on the road. Why rush to get to the ending town each day, just to collapse exhausted on the couch?
As I approach my twelfth anniversary of living in New Jersey, I find myself thinking back to the feeling of coasting down the hills in Iowa – no deadlines, no emails, no cell phone coverage, no Facebook. Simply green, rolling hills, beautiful sunny days, and the sense of victory at the end of each day as I moved closer to my goal. Nearing the end of the seventh day of riding, I became unexpectedly emotional. So many feelings waved over me: extreme joy at reaching my goal, sadness that my parents weren’t alive to see me dunk my tire in the Mississippi River, and the emptiness of the next morning…”Well, what do I do now?”
Like with any goal, I did not meet this one alone. My dear friends Ed, Michele and Mark who helped me buy a bike, to Dave and Tami at Montclair Bikery that sold me an awesome Trek Madone for my first ride; Riley, the BikeFitPro, spent more than a few hours tweaking this and that on my bike for the most comfortable and efficient ride; Sandie Reilly, my cycling coach, who taught me to pedal correctly and helped me gain confidence in handling my bike on the road; and lastly, but perhaps most importantly, my sports nutritionist and fitness trainer, Oscar Coetzee, who pushed me during every season to go harder and farther while teaching me how to properly nourish my muscles for peak performance. I thank each one of you.