Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kickball anyone?

After receiving a rather intimidating e-mail from my RAGBRAI-organizing colleague at Wartburg College, the competitive juices flowed like Gatorade -- my red to Kendra's orange. Before the day was out, we had agreed to a kickball match between members of Team CoeBRAI and members of Team Knight Riders.

She even threatened to hold practices, "so we can dominate." I won't go that far, but I'll bring the game ball on RAGBRAI. I'll need at least 10 of you to commit to an hour of off-bike physical activity on Thursday, July 26 in Independence. The game will be held at our hosts' house, which gives us home field advantage and is conveniently (for Wartburg) located adjacent to the hospital.

(Having suffered through more "adult" kickball tournaments than I care to remember, I will serve exclusively as bench coach.)

You remember kickball, don't you?

You might wonder why Coe's historic rival isn't the opponent. I have approached organizers of Team Ram with the same challenge and am awaiting their response. I have to say, though, that the Coe-Cornell rivalry is currently based solely on duration. While we are academic peers, the two Linn County schools have enjoyed much different athletic success since leaving the Midwest Conference for the Iowa Conference. While Wartburg tends to dominate Iowa Conference athletics, Coe has more than held its own. Ask any current Coe student-athlete who they want to beat most and 99.9 percent will say Wartburg. Don't let them down.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ride on

The real RAGBRAI training began tonight, over pork and pie, at a drivers' meeting held at the home of Sara and Brian Farrell. Sara, a Coe psychology professor, has graciously agreed to drive our rental truck. Brian, a local attorney, will be biking across Iowa for the first time.

Also attending this meeting were my wife, Lisa, and kids, Zach and Karissa. Zach will be accompanying me on bike for the first time. Lisa and Karissa will operate the family camper and assist with ensuring your comfort.

Tony Bata, the sag wagon driver and sous chef for the last two CoeBRAIs, also attended to offer some sage advice and to share some tasty wine.

Tony's presence reminded me that this RAGBRAI will be different than the past two, although I'm the only one who will notice. And while we won't have someone preparing lavish meals for us each night, we won't go hungry either.

Here's a rundown of the CoeBRAI itinerary:
Friday, July 20 -- Pasta dinner in the Coe cafeteria at 6 p.m. Free for all CoeBRAI participants. We'll hand out wristbands, jerseys, maps, etc. at this time for all who can attend.

Saturday, July 21 -- Gather in the parking lot behind Eby Fieldhouse for a planned 10 a.m. departure for Rock Rapids. (RAGBRAI theme: Wild Wild North West.) Please allow ample time for loading your bicycle and gear (packed in a 30 gallon plastic tub). We'll camp at the home of David Springer '94 in Rock Rapids.

Sunday, July 22 -- Bike 75.7 miles to Spencer (RAGBRAI theme: Licensed to Thrill), where we'll camp at the home of Tarrel Zwiebahmer Storey '93. The Storeys have invited us to make use of their deck, fire pit, and bathroom off the garage. Showers will be available at the YMCA, three blocks away.

Monday, July 23 -- Bike 77.4 miles (or 100 for those opting for the Karras Loop) to Humboldt (RAGBRAI theme: A Holiday In Humboldt). It's an official CoeBRAI jersey day as we hope to gather for lunch in Havelock with Brady Krischel '07 and her family. Brady and her father are recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident over Christmas break and we plan to present her with her very own CoeBRAI jersey. Biking across Iowa is small potatoes compared to the journey she's on. We don't yet have a host in Humboldt, though I haven't given up hope. If nothing materializes, we'll likely be camping in the main RAGBRAI campground at the fairgrounds in northeast Humboldt.

Tuesday, July 24 -- Bike 71.1 miles to Hampton (RAGBRAI theme: Hot Fun in the Summer Time), where we'll be hosted by Tess and Henry Wieck, parents of Joe Wieck '04. The Wiecks have graciously offered a free barbecue for all CoeBRAIers.

Wednesday, July 25 -- Bike 68.2 miles to Cedar Falls (RAGBRAI theme: LiveLarge). We'll camp at the home of Barb and Al Poe, parents of current Coe student Anson Poe. The Poe home will also be the site for the alumni dinner, free to CoeBRAI participants and catered by Famous Dave's (mmmmmmm). This could be a wild overnight as Blues Traveler headlines a benefit concert at the UNI-Dome ($10 for RAGBRAI participants).

Thursday, July 26 -- Bike 62.9 miles to Independence (RAGBRAI theme: America's Fame is in Our Name). We'll camp at the home of Coe Admission staffer Mary Ohl and we'll be treated to Mary's husband's famous barbecue pork loin. (See what I mean about not going hungry? Or broke?)

Friday, July 27 -- Bike 64.7 miles to Dyersville, home of the Field of Dreams (RAGBRAI theme: Ride the Distance). Here we'll be hosted by Colleen Ries '04 at the home of her mom, Charlene Willenbring. Their home is most conveniently located on the inbound route through town. You're on your own for dinner, but they have rented a port-a-potty for our use.

Saturday, July 28 -- Bike 56.6 miles to Bellevue and the Mississippi River (RAGBRAI theme: Soaring into Bellevue on the Mississippi). This should be the most challenging day of the week in terms of hills. While we'll almost never ride as a pack, it's a cool feeling to enter the end town as a unit, so we'll gather at a school on the edge of Bellevue and finish our journey (wearing CoeBRAI jerseys) as a team. We'll then bus back to Cedar Rapids. In the past we've been back on campus by 3 p.m. That might be a best-case scenario this year, but we'll be home on Saturday regardless.

Special note about housing: Anyone needing a place to stay before or after the ride should notify me ASAP. Please don't assume that we can put you in a vacant dorm room without notice. Much as I wish it worked that way, it doesn't.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

RAGBRAI 101: Roll with the punches

"You can't always get what you want" is not only the greatest lyric ever, it's also the first, last and only rule of RAGBRAI -- and, apparently Swine Trek.

We had last-minute plans to camp, but scrapped them at the last minute when a steady rain settled in Friday night. We left home shortly after 6 a.m. in order to arrive in time for registration and a 7 a.m. departure from Pleasant Creek State Park.

It was cold and we were under-dressed, but determined. We felt good arriving in Center Point about 8 a.m. and stocked up on fruit and cherry donuts. But when we went to leave I discovered my front tire was flat. Inflation proved futile, so I replaced the tube with the spare I always have with me. (Lesson #2)

By the time we discovered the route out of town, my front tire was flat again and our ride was over. We summoned a sag wagon and rode back to Pleasant Creek, 10 miles in to what was supposed to be a 50-mile ride.

I traded a two-hour wait for the chicken dinner for getting our bikes in for a tuneup (Lesson #3) and proceeded immediately to Northtowne Cycling. They tell me it will be two weeks; I pray it will be shorter.

In review:
Lesson #1 -- "you can't always get what you want."
Lesson #2 -- carry a spare tube
Lesson #3 -- get your bike tuned up at a reputable shop that will assure RAGBRAI readiness

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Deadline approaches

I'll send individual e-mails on this as well, but I wanted to remind everyone that the deadline for sending in your final payment for Team CoeBRAI is July 1. Five riders sent in full payment weeks ago and I just got checks from two others. That leaves 20 riders owing $150 (or $175 in the case of Abby Masters and Meg Reid). Checks made out to Coe College (with Team CoeBRAI on the memo line) can be sent to me at 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Hi all, finally getting onto this list. Too many years ago I was on RAGBRAI (and even earlier, since the second ride was SAGBRAI). This'll be my first RAGBRAI since those IV. The amazing thing is that I plan to ride the same bike I rode on 2 of them.

Now I'm getting ready to move and I found my old t-shirts. Here's the images.


Friday noon ride?

Fresh from a 30-mile ride this morning (my first time on the bike in about two weeks...) I feel that I need to keep the momentum going. Anyone up for a 12- or 15-mile noon ride from Coe on Friday?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

So much for Barenaked Ladies

Oh, they'll be out there, but they won't be on stage in Cedar Falls.

Rumor had it that the all-male Toronto-based band would be performing during the Cedar Falls overnight. Apparently not, since it was just announced that Blues Traveler would head up a UNI-Dome concert to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation and local cancer-related charities. Tickets for registered riders are $10.

This makes a certain amount of sense, if only because memory tells me Blues Traveler frontman John Popper has some connection to Cedar Falls. The schedule shows The Nadas opening from 6-6:40 p.m. followed by Lance Armstrong (who knew he could sing too?!) from 6:40-7. Blues Traveler is scheduled to perform from 7-9 p.m.

Meanwhile, my favorite Iowa-based band, Bob Dorr & The Blue Band, will be performing in the RAGBRAI beverage garden (aka beer tent) from 4-6 p.m. Guess I'll be getting an early start out of Hampton on July 25 and, potentially, a late start out of Cedar Falls on July 26.

The three young-uns among us (those under age 21) will be invited to an interactive session with Lance Armstrong following the first day of the ride in Spencer at the Clay County Regional Events Center in the main RAGBRAI campground. Young riders will have the opportunity to talk with Lance and ask him questions about his journey in life and his experiences on RAGBRAI. The event will be free for registered RAGBRAI participants under 21 years of age.

After biking 75.7 miles from Rock Rapids to Spencer, I'm guessing this is just the inspiration my son, Zach, will need to get up and do it again the next day.

Day 2 should prove inspirational for us all as we'll pass through the hometown of recent Coe graduate Brady Krischel, who recently returned home to continue her rehabilitation from a near-fatal traffic accident over Christmas break. We'll present Brady with a CoeBRAI jersey and hope to have lunch with her and her family.

Stay tuned for more details and additional announcements in the remaining 34 days. But it seems you'll have to find the Barenaked Ladies on your own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Father's Day ride

With Sunday's baseball schedule cleared, I'm toying with the idea of a Father's Day bike ride to West Branch, where my father-in-law lives. The ride would culminate with a feast of some sort. Any and all are welcome to join my son and I, but I need to know in advance so we have ample food and beverage at the end of the 36-mile journey from my house. I propose a 9 a.m. start, which would put us in West Branch about noon. You would be on your own for transportation home, but the ride is free. Any takers?

Also, I've learned that no baseball games are scheduled for June 23, so Zach and I intend to join Bob on Swine Trek. Entry fee is only $20 if mailed by June 16 ($25 after). Distances of 25, 50 and 100 miles are available, plus you get a chicken dinner with all the trimmings, though, curiously, no pork. Visit for a registration form.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not all flat

While shuttling back and forth between my neighbor's cabin in rural Bernard and my son's baseball tournament in Dubuque over the weekend, I had the opportunity to preview the terrain for the last day of RAGBRAI. Specifically, I drove the 13-mile stretch from Cascade to Bernard along D61 and Y31. If this stretch is any indication of the day, and I believe it is, RAGBRAI officials have saved the worst for last.

Even my camper was slowed by the hills.

Day seven is the shortest ride in terms of mileage (56.6), but it's the worst in terms of climb (3,195 feet). That's 56.4 feet of climb per mile. Here's how the rest of the week compares:

Day 1 -- Rock Rapids to Spencer -- 75.7 miles, 1,647 feet of climb (21.8 feet/mile)
Day 2 -- Spencer to Humboldt -- 77.4 miles, 1,482 feet of climb (19.1 feet/mile)
Day 3 -- Humboldt to Hampton -- 71.1 miles, 1,491 feet of climb (21 feet/mile)
Day 4 -- Hampton to Cedar Falls -- 68.2 miles, 2,057 feet of climb (30.2 feet/mile)
Day 5 -- Cedar Falls to Independence -- 62.9 miles, 1,505 feet of climb (23.9 feet/mile)
Day 6 -- Independence to Dyersville -- 64.7 miles, 2,412 feet of climb (37.3 feet/mile)

Day 7 is 6.3 miles shorter than the next shortest day, but there's 783 more feet of climb than the next hilliest day. Day 2 is both the longest and the flattest, taking us 20.8 miles further than Day 7, but with 1,713 feet less of a climb.

Don't be fooled by the hype about "flattest ride ever." There will be hills-a-plenty, if only confined to the last day or two. Make sure you incorporate some hills into your training and save some strength for the grand finale.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oh, nothing really...

Hi again;

I appreciate the Knee Saver info, Doug, and look forward to being with you, Lonnie, for Swine Trek. I'd encourage others to join us - among the mysteries of the universe is why they serve chicken at an event named after pork...but you must be present to learn the answer! Again, see: if you want info/the registration form, etc...It's $20 before June 16, and $25 AFTER 6/16.

In my own soap opera, "As the Knee Turns", I'm optimistic now. I just did a 22-mile, much hillier-than-my-average route. This was something I blogged about earlier which affected me severely last time. And it's not this evening producing anything like the same earlier pain! (Yay for me.)

Probably both additional training and DOWNSHIFTING EARLIER (like THAT isn't a 'duh' realization: one doesn't have to prove masculinity on every hill...and age matters on joints) may have made a difference, but I'm far more optimistic now about being part of COEBRAI than I was in the last post. Not that this matters to most, but I had a great conversation with another biker about how Lance Armstrong was among the earliest professional riders to downshift much earlier: sure, it requires more rpms - but is MUCH easier on ones knees and can be quicker overall, apparently...

Any interest for rides after work this week, or this Saturday? I'm tempted by Hiawatha-Brandon on Saturday, maybe something like 9am-5pm...

Thanks, Lonnie, for your continuing info updates, too!

All for now;


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Special delivery

Just when I was needing inspiration most, I arrived home from work tonight to find a package from the Des Moines Register. Inside were our RAGBRAI credentials, including wristbands, bike tags, vehicle passes, luggage tags, participant guides, merchandise catalogs and RAGBRAI jerseys for those who ordered them.

These will be distributed upon departure from Eby Fieldhouse on Saturday, July 21. If for some reason you need them sooner, let me know.

The participant guide includes suggestions for what to pack. I'll recite them here (with editorial comment in parenthesis).

Please put identification on everything you take on RAGBRAI. Lost items can be returned to owners.

Bicycle equipment: Find your helmet, mike sure it fits correctly and pack it now. (Unless you're planning on biking anytime between now and July 21!) Bicycle shops can handle most any mechanical need you have, but you might consider bringing a small repair kit that includes a tire, spare tube, tire irons and small wrenches. (I've survived on spare tubes and chain lube, after the eventual rain, the past two years. As long as you get your bike serviced before RAGBRAI, it should be good to go.) In addition, a rear view mirror, bike gloves, pump, bike bag, rain gear, bicycle lock and water bottles are necessary equipment. (Personally, I don't mess with rain gear. If it rains, I get wet. And a lock isn't really necessary either, from my experience. )

Camping equipment: You'll need a duffle bag (or, in our case, a 30-gallon plastic tub), sleeping bag, pillow, pad, tent, ground cloth, rope, stakes and a flashlight. (A collapsible chair will also come in handy.)

Toiletries: Pack a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, skin lotion, shampoo, soap, razor, nail clippers, brush/comb, hair ties/barrettes, deodorant, mirror and toilet tissue. (No arguments here, though I could probably survive a week without nail clippers.)

Clothes: T-shirts, shorts, a jacket, pants, warm-up suit, underwear, socks, shoes, sandals, sleepwear, swimsuit and sweatbands/bandannas should get you through the week. (Two sets of biking attire are sufficient from my experience -- one to wear and one to dry out after "washing" it in the shower. Remember that you will be getting a CoeBRAI jersey and some of you also ordered a RAGBRAI jersey. Remember also that each overnight town has a t-shirt they would like to sell you. Be sure to bring padded biking shorts!)

First Aid: Pack aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamins, Band-Aids, gauze, tape, first-aid cream, lip balm, sun block (lots of it!), insect repellent, safety pins, special medicines, Campho-Phenique and sanitary protection with disposable bags if needed. (And Gold Bond powder. Don't leave home without it!)

Miscellaneous: Bring an alarm clock, spare glasses, sunglasses, a scouting knife, camera, film, watch, earplugs, ID, money, traveler's checks, credit cards, journal, pens, pencils, stamps, address book, several plastic trash bags for rain protection and zip-lock bags. Be sure to enclose everything in a water-tight plastic bag.

(Oh, and bring your bike.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

RAGBRAI is next month?!

Forty-five days sounds better, but not much. Somebody post something inspirational, please.