I hope you all are ready and excited for a very good RAGBRAI XLI! It is just a week away. By now your training should be done (remember there is no cramming for RAGBRAI) and hopefully you are making your list and checking it twice to make sure you have all the essentials you need to bring along. I thought I’d pass along a few words of wisdom as you prepare for a great week across Iowa.
Eating: There are plenty of opportunities to eat on RAGBRAI. Maybe too many. I’ve heard stories of people gaining weight on RAGBRAI despite riding hundreds of miles. Unfortunately it is all too easy to do. Despite all the miles, you can’t eat all you want. I’m not discouraging from sampling much of what Iowa has to offer in the way of food (our sweet corn is the best by the way), but practice a little moderation. A piece of pie here, a pork chop there, a turkey leg later. Plus, you don’t want a real full stomach while riding. Eat one item at a time and ride on. You do need energy and the best source of energy is carbohydrates for all the miles you will be riding so be sure to consume lots of fruits and things like pancakes and potatoes. I guess pie counts too.
Drinking: If there is one thing you can count on it’s that it is always hot in Iowa in July. Even more important than eating is to make sure you don’t get dehydrated. You need to stay hydrated which means drinking a lot of water while riding. Between the heat and all the riding, you will lose a lot of water each day. A good rule of thumb is to drink a least one large water bottle per hour while out on the road. Then keep sipping once you reach your destination each day. Now as soon as I mention ‘drinking’, people might possibly confuse that with beer. I’m not going to make any comment of whether you should or should not enjoy a beer once in a while other than to say that if you choose to imbibe, you need to do so responsibly. But keep in mind that alcohol has a dehydrating effect so it can be counterproductive.
Riding: As far as advice for the ride, the most important thing to remember is to take it at a comfortable pace. If you find yourself breathing hard you are working too hard. You will wear yourself out and pay for it later. Avoid the temptation to jump in with a faster group of riders if you aren’t able to comfortably keep up with their pace. You have all day to ride the 50-80 miles. Even at a pokey 10 mph, you will have plenty of time to get through each day’s ride even with time stopped at several towns. Hills may be a challenge for you and at times you will have to exert pretty hard to get up and over some of them. But the rest of the time, cruise along at a comfortable pace. You should be able to ride at a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation.
Finally and most importantly, it’s really not about the ride. It’s about the experience. It’s also not a race. The faster you go, the more you miss. I’m talking about all the wonderful opportunities to strike up conversations with other cyclists along the way and to meet people from all the local Iowa towns. The locals really enjoy seeing all of you pass through their towns. But you have just as much to benefit by interacting with them. Many of your lasting memories won’t be of the long, hot, windy miles you ride, but the experiences and acquaintances you make along the way. When people talk about RAGBRAI, very rarely talk about riding 400+ miles in a week. Rather they talk about the food, the people, the fun and funny things they see and do. But mostly they talk about the hospitality of the towns you ride through. Don’t cheat yourself out of this part of RAGBRAI. Your goal should not be to see how fast you can ride across Iowa, it should be to see how many new and different experiences you can accumulate. That’s really what RAGBAI is all about.
Have a fun, safe and very enjoyable week!
Coach David Ertl
David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and is a national head coach for the the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and he coaches individual cyclists. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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