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Justin, Jim and I will all be doing RAGBRAI this year. This will be Jim’s 5th RAGBRAI- he’s 73. Also: he’s awesome.

So it’s the Friday before RAGBRAI- The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa- the weeklong trip now in its 40th year, and all week I’ve been trying to think of what to say on my blog as I embark on the journey.

Most of the last week has been spent trying to figure out how to deal with the heat on this ride.  My hopes were for mid-eighties during the ride and sixties at night, but that’s not going to be the case.  The 10 day forecast now includes the entirety of the ride and every single day’s high temp starts with a 9 and ends with a heat advisory.  I’ve ridden in high temps before and survived; in fact, one of our training rides had a heat index of 115.  That’s not the problem.  The problem is sleeping at night in a stifling hot tent when it’s still 90 at 10 pm and then getting up the next day to do it all over again.  I’d say in order to perform my best, I really need to recover with a good night’s sleep.  We’re doing everything we can to prepare, including bringing fans for the tent, but I have the feeling sleep is going to be tough at times.

RAGBRAI Map 2012

The route itself is going to be a challenge of course.  The quick overview is:

Sunday: Sioux Center to Cherokee, 54 miles, 1675 ft of climb

Monday: Cherokee to Lake view, 62 miles, 2173 ft of climb

Tuesday: Lake View to Webster City: 81.2 miles, 1657ft of climb

Wednesday: Webster City to Marshalltown: 77 miles 1,997 ft of climb

Thursday: Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids: 84.5 miles 3576 ft of climb

Friday: Cedar Rapids to Anamosa: 42.2 miles 1907 ft of climb

Saturday: Anamosa to Clinton 69.4 miles 2,811 ft of climb

The standout as “Toughest Day” is already looking like the stretch from Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids.  Besides having the longest mileage and far and away the most climbing, it looks to be the day with the highest predicted temperatures. At least at the end of this day I can look forward to the Party on the Island; Cedar Rapids is throwing a big celebration for RAGBRAI’s 40th Anniversary and is featuring the band Counting Crows on the main stage!

The stretch from Lakeview to Webster City also is making a good case for possible “Toughest Day” contention.  This day is the one where you have the option to do the Karras Loop.  Karras is a tack on loop that adds enough mileage to give you a full century (100 mile) day.  This particular loop features 2 enormous climbs out of the Des Moines River Valley and is billed as the toughest Karras ever.  Riders who take on the loop and succeed earn a patch and a lot of pride.  We’ll just have to see how we’re doing when we get there.

It’s not all worry for me though.  I’m very much looking forward to getting out of the office, unplugging, and seeing Iowa again.  My friends Jim Cate, Jeff Spencer and David Mochnig are joining myself and my husband for the trip.  We’re going with the Keokuk, Iowa Bike Club- which has been organizing this group for many, many years now and seem to really know how to plan for every eventuality.   I’m also looking forward to seeing friends on the road including Marinan, Scott, and Jen, who all cycled the Tour of the Mississippi River Valley event with me this year.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to is the food.  There’s no excuse like riding 500 miles to eat… well … pretty much whatever you want.  What do I want? Pie, mostly.  Lots of pie.

Photo Credit Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register

My hopes for the trip are kind of simple.  I hope everyone, first and foremost, rides safe.  There will be a ton of riders and a lot of hazards, and I wish for a RAGBRAI free of injury and flat tires.  I hope that the sun is tempered with clouds and a beautiful tailwind to push us across the Hawkeye state.  I hope the food is as good as I’ve heard, and I hope that we take the time to stop and enjoy it.  I am confident I’ll have fun with my friends and that I’ll make some new ones.  I hope that when pedaling gets hard friends will lift me up, and I hope I can do the same for them. I also hope I don’t get to cranky about camping and I apologize in advance if I do.

I was just commenting to a friend today about the interesting nature of club sports like running or cycling.  You train with friends, you ride with friends and there is always someone experienced to learn from close at hand, but when the rubber meets the road, every pedal stroke or footfall belongs to you.  Nobody is getting my bike across Iowa but me.  But at the end, if I can do this, it’s going to be a goal that was 20 years in the making and one I can really be proud of.

Now listen, I’m not making any promises, but since we should be hitting the road early and arriving midday at our destination most days, I am planning on doing some mini-blogging from my iphone in my spare time.  Conditions, charging my phone, and distractions like pie may change that, but I’d really love it if you guys followed along next week for updates.  And I always appreciate comments on my blog, but I would especially like them while we’re out on the road.

Only one way to end this blog:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4ANP8g8wrE

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It’s time for Adventure Quincy! The Mississippi Valley Council, Boy Scouts of America and the Quincy Medical Group are presenting an Adventure Race called the Physically Strong Challenge on Sunday, March 25th.

You may enter the challenge with either two- or four-person teams. There are male, female or co-ed categories. The course will consist of basic orienteering, running, mountain biking, a 40-foot climbing/rappelling tower, a 350-foot zip line, and a canoe race.

The Physically Strong Challenge will benefit local scouting programs and is

Physically Strong Adventure Race Medal!

designed to promote healthy living. The race is in keeping with the Boy Scout Oath, where members pledge to be “physically strong.”

There will be a pre-race meeting at the Saukenauk Scout Reservation that is mandatory for participants.  At the meeting, participants will learn rules, get important safety information and check-in for the race.  Campsites at the scout camp will be available for those that would like to stay overnight.

To find out more information, visit http://www.mississippivalleybsa.org/Council141/Program/AdventureRace. The cost to participate is $90 per person and you must be registered by March 16th.  Registration for current Boy Scouts will be $30 per person.

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