RAGBRAI Write-Up (Gurai 2008)

RAGBRAI XXXVI

Day 1 - 58.9 miles

Never has a ride seemed so ominous the night before. I got up in time to leave the Team Roadshow camp in Missouri Valley, IA at about 6:15 am. I had a chilling realization after I’d left that I had forgotten to bring my ibuprofen, an essential for the RAGBRAI unicyclist.

Things lightened up when I ran into Brent along the route about an hour and 45 minutes into the ride. He paced with me for a few miles and then continued on.

For the first 35 miles, I dealt with terrible cramps in my calf muscles and progressively more intense muscle aches. I started to have doubts about my unicycling RAGBRAI this year–especially the century on the following day. I tried fighting it with bananas for potassium and a new potassium-filled drink called Perfect Water, and I must say, the Perfect Water held off the cramps for at least 10 miles.

Luckily, after the 40 mile mark, my muscles started to loosen up and relax, making the muscle pain and cramps disappear. With all the trouble out of the way, I made it into the overnight town of Harlan, IA at around 2:15 pm, the earliest I’ve ever completed a RAGBRAI day by unicycle. Two hours later, I couldn’t even feel residual muscle pain from the ride.

I still haven’t seen the other unicyclist this year. I rode 20 minutes in his wake all day long, apparently. Oh well, I think the early start to the century tomorrow (4 am) will give me head start enough to let him catch me on the route halfway through.

Finally, I finished this day with a trip to the pool and a shower at a HOUSE! We had a contact in Harlan through one of Team Roadshow’s members, and so we camped in their back yard and made good use of their house, including the kitchen, with which a delicious carb-filled dinner of spaghetti and salad hit the spot like nothing ever before. I’ll need the strength; I’ve got a potential 18-hour ride ahead of me tomorrow.

Day 2 - 82.9 miles + 18.0 miles = 100.9 miles

Today’s ride was sparked with a nice little delay in the form of a storm in the middle of the night that prevented me from leaving at 4 am and riding the century loop. Alas, I decided to ride the normal route and think about my century options later.

The first 35 miles of the ride went by quickly, but I had a humbling scare at that point when I ate lunch and realized I was dehydrated. After many panicked minutes, I managed to rehydrate after two bottles of propel water, two Tums, 3 ibuprofen, and an energy drink; afterwards, I rampaged the next 15 miles with no breaks, putting me straight to the meeting town with 27 miles left in the route.

After a hearty second lunch of chips and salsa, bananas, and energy bars, I continued on into a slightly stormy last third of the route. As the tallest thing on the road, I was pretty certain I was destined to be struck by lightening. However, with no death by Zeus, I zoomed straight on into the overnight town with inexplicably rejuvenated muscles.

Later that night, I decided to finish my century by performing 72 laps on a quarter-mile track on the high school campus we camped at. My day finished with a personal best of 100.9 miles.

Day 3 - 56.8 miles

I woke up today completely drained from my 72 laps the night before. I only got 4 hours of sleep, but I was feeling alright about it since today’s ride was going to be less than 60 miles. I left at around 8:05 am after taking two hours to really wake up. Things started off easy enough, though I started to have trouble around mile 20 when dehydration started to threaten me. I took a long break (30 minutes) at an XS energy drink tent on the route and rehydrated with several bottles of Perfect water, bottled water, and Propel powder. I think that as my metabolism speeds up each day of RAGBRAI, I need more and more water each day, so I’m getting dehydrated as I get used to needing more water. Luckily, I was able to rehydrate successfully, and I continued on.

I met up with some Roadshow crew in the meeting town, where Sarah on the support crew had food waiting for us. The support crew this year really went the extra mile to pamper the riders; they’ve been so great to us.

The rest of the day was quick and easy. About eight miles away from the overnight town of Ames, IA, I got a huge burst of speed, sustaining a speed of 17 MPH, which provoked a biker to start drafting me; wow, that felt good to be able to do. I continued a pretty quick pace all the way into town, making it in at about 4:35 pm. Once I got there, I realized I had completely dehydrated myself on that burst of speed. I drank two bottle of Gatorade and two bottles of water and still wasn’t quite rehydrated, but was feeling better. Close call…

Day 4 - 77.9 miles

This is the point in the week where waking up every day feels like death. Once you get moving, things will get easier, but getting to that point is the most difficult thing you’ll ever do. I did, however, make it out at a semi-normal time of 6:30 am.

I was supposed to meet news people in Nevada, IA and Colo, IA (towns one and two on the route). However, I missed them in Nevada and ran into delays on the way to Colo. Apparently, someone had gotten the urge to dump boxes of tacks on the route to blow out as many tires as possible; my tire was one of them. At that moment, all my RAGBRAI dream shattered; I thought it was over for me, but I figured I might as well try to do all I could to fix it. I spent an hour trying to flag people down to help me patch the tube so I could continue on. It took forever to find someone with a pump AND a Schraeder valve, but in the end, it was Bareback, the rider with no seat, that saved me with a floor pump.

With the tube successfully patched and a renewed sense of hope, I continued, blasting along at an incredible pace (for a unicycle). For the rest of the day, I played cat and mouse with the rest of Team Roadshow, being passed by them and then catching up to them again many time over the course of the next 40 miles or so. This was a good day; I was never dehydrated in the slightest all day long.

I hit a slight snag when I tried to stretch out my left foot and slightly rolled my ankle on the pedal at 15 MPH. I felt a bit of a twinge in my achilles during that altercation, but I didn’t think anything of it. Near the end of the day (the last 14 miles or so), that injury caught up to me a little bit, slowing me to a crawl of 8 MPH until the end of that day’s route. I could only hope that it was a minor enough injury to heal overnight. But if I’ve learned anything from RAGBRAI over the past couple of years, it’s that the most minor problems can snowball into huge ones over the course of 70+ miles every day. Still, I was happy to have finished the day on a patched tube at about 6:45 pm.

Day 5 - 76.2 miles on route; 17.0 miles completed

I woke up today saddened that my achilles was still in pain from yesterday. I knew right away that the day wasn’t looking good. Still, I had to at least make the attempt and hope that the pain would begin to dull as endorphines started to take over.

I left at about 7:00 am, and upon the first mount, I knew that if I was going to finish today, I wouldn’t make it into the overnight town until after dark. But after ten miles and breakfast, I could tell that I just wasn’t going to be able to make it; it was a choice of either sagging with the support crew or snapping my achilles trying to make it across the route. Naturally, I chose the former. I called Sarah (Roadshow support who had been driving my car for the week) and had her drive back to the first town on the route: Vining, IA. Since it would be difficult for a car to make the trip into the bike route, I had to unicycle the rest of the 7 miles to Vining. It was a little rough, but without the need to save strength for the rest of the day, I pushed myself hard to get there.

The rest of the day was very restful. I met the other riders in the mid-town for some food, then continued to the camp for a day of relaxation. I wrapped my left ankle up in an Ace bandage; hopefully that will help me for tomorrow.

Day 6 - 64.1 miles on route; 0.0 miles completed

My ankle is no better today (perhaps a bit worse), so I decided to do support today and give my achilles a rest. Maybe I’ll be able to ride the last day tomorrow. Making it to the Mississippi River is always a good feeling.

I went with Sarah to the mid-town to grab our team’s riders as they passed to feed them. This was the most fun I’ve had at the mid-town (of course, the day I didn’t ride at all). We sat next to a playground and ate while the riders told stories of the mayhem they’d caused so far on the ride. Apparently, they formed a flying V formation and sped down the left side of the road with their asses out while yelling a war chant. They made sure people thought they were “Team Zombie,” but everyone still seems blatantly aware that it was Team Roadshow. If only I could take part in these shenanigans.

After some play at the playground, they continued on, and Sarah and I drove to the overnight town and camp. I plan on riding tomorrow.

Day 7 - 52.7 miles on route; 17.9 miles completed

I woke up nice and early this morning. I got all suited up just as a few others were waking up. I was given a great idea: one of the other riders was going to be taken to the meeting town to start from there instead of riding the whole route. I decided that since I really just wanted to cross the finish line, I might as well start from the meeting town as well so as not to further hurt my achilles while doing it.

Starting at the meeting town put me hours ahead of the rest of the team, but I continued at a normal pace anyway. The tack that blew my tube from a few days earlier was taking its toll again. There was a slow leak today that caused me to need to pump the tire again every five miles or so. I only needed to go 18 miles today, so it wasn’t so terrible, but it still took a lot of effort to fill such a large tire with a hand pump.

I stopped and waited for the team to catch up to me about 5 miles from Le Claire and the Mississippi River. Then, we rode in together doing “zombie chants” and keeping in a rough formation. We then made a somewhat anticlimactic decent into the river valley and completed the ride for the week.

Afterward, we shot a team photo and said our goodbyes. Knowing the team a little better this year made this part of the trip a bit harder than last year. Once all that was said and done, CT, Brent, and I hit the road and made it back to West Lafayette about four hours later.

I’d like to thank all of Team Roadshow for making this year such a great experience and a fun vacation. See you all next year.

Final Word

It was a disappointment that I was unable to complete RAGBRAI this year. This was my second attempt at the ride. I can say pretty confidently, however, that I had it in me to finish this time. Last year’s ride was unsuccessful due to unpreparedness, whereas this ride was unsuccessful due to injury.

Next year’s ride promises to have at least four unicycles riding. To all of you out there that managed to read through this whole thing: get training; let’s get as many unis out there as we can for RAGBRAI XXXVII!

Nice write-up. Read through the whole thing?!? I would have gladly read four times that much about your epic adventure.

Nice job, and there’s always next year to do even better!

Great write up. I did an MS150 ride a few months ago and some guy thought I was the same unicyclist he saw during RAGBRAI last year. Apparently all unicyclists look the same

Yes, they certainly do. Funny you should mention that; there was a newspaper piece about me this year, but the picture was of the other unicyclist that did this one. I wonder which one of us that guy saw last year…either me or CT (mouse on the forums). I love how small the unicycling world can be sometimes.

I kind of want to do RAGBRAI, but considering I just got a 36er a few days ago, I may do some shorter rides. I think doing the MS150 or something like that would be a huge accomplishment at this point. If I start some serious training, I would love to do RAGRAI, especially since I know some bikers that do it every year.

By the way, my 36er is awesome (no threadjack intended).