In the fall of 2011, during a flat 20 mile bike ride that nearly killed me, my brother Keith and his wife Teresa asked me if I would drive their truck and camper while they rode their bikes across the state of Iowa during RAGBRAI (the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). The thought of this did not appeal to me since I would end up using a week of vacation time just to drive a vehicle 100 miles each day, turn on crock pots and wait for bicycles to show up.
They really tried to sell the idea to me by describing all the fun places they go and how the host towns where the cyclists camp have concerts, food, shopping and all kinds of entertainment and fun. As we rode our bikes, they would tell stories of the rides and all the things they had seen and done and it did not make me want to drive their camper and SAG for them. (SAG stands for Supplies and Gear) Instead, it made me want to join them on the bikes but I knew there was no way I could ride almost 500 miles over rolling hills in 7 days.
|My brother Keith and his wife Teresa on my first "big" ride |
First ride with my Trek on the Mopac Trail from Lincoln, NE to Eagle, NE.
I was in love with that bike and within a few weeks, she sold it to me. It has changed me and quite possibly saved my life. The next time they asked me to drive their camper on RAGBRAI, I told them I'd rather join them on the bikes. They loved the idea.
I was scared and I still don't know what made me think this goal was something I would achieve. I heard once that courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to move forward in spite of it. So I mustered up some courage and started training.
Since we'd had a mild winter, I basically rode my bike whenever the weather would allow. At the time I'd decided to participate in this bike ride, the most I'd ridden on any day had been the 20 miles I talked about earlier and when I'd done that, my legs had cramped severely for several days after the ride and I'd nearly thrown up several times. To do this ride, I knew I'd have to ride 60-80 miles a day and it wouldn't be cool like it was during January in Nebraska, it was going to be hot since the actual ride was the last week in July.
In early July, while at work, I suddenly got the feeling of vertigo and every time I opened my eyes, I vomited violently. My mother had a stroke at 42, my brother, a heart attack at 40 and since I was 48 and already on blood pressure medications, I was certain that this was my stroke. I can remember feeling like my blood pressure was bottoming out and there is a dentist office in my building so I asked a co-worker to go get a blood pressure cup. They checked and it was 80/50 or some low number like that. That is about the last thing I remember before I got to Emergicare who sent me directly to the hospital emergency room.
The ER doctor ordered several tests including CT Scans and echo imaging. All the time I was there, I worried and told them was how afraid I was that I would not be able to ride RAGBRAI which was only 2 weeks away. At the end of it all, it was determined that I was too healthy for my blood pressure medicine. I'd been exercising, losing some weight and eating right and suddenly I was enjoying something that had always eluded me...I was healthy.
My Della used to tell me, "Right Actions, Right Results"
Within a few days, I felt stronger than I had all summer long. I was riding harder and better than ever.
For months, I'd been adding more hills and more miles to each ride until finally it was time to ride for real. I didn't feel 100% physically trained for the ride but I had faith that if I just started riding, my tenacity would get me through and it did. On July 22nd I got on my bike in Sioux Center, Iowa and for seven days I rode, ate and didn't do much else. After 471 miles, I arrived at the Mississippi River in Clinton, Iowa.
With tears in my eyes and the hugs of my family, I realized I had achieved my goal and so much more. I certainly didn't lose the 100 extra lbs that I have carried for so long but I've lost some of it and I feel certain that if I continue as I am, I will most certainly lose more. I no longer take any medications for heart disease, cholesterol or blood pressure. I spent years feeling like my body was a time bomb and I was waiting for it to go off while I sat in the recliner with a bag of chips. I don't lead that kind of life any more. I'm stronger, healthier and happier than I've been in decades.
Dipping my tire in the Mississippi River in Clinton, IA
RAGBRAI is right around the corner and I'm going to do it again. This time, no camper or air-conditioning; we are taking tents and backpacks and going to rough it like thousands of other do. Again, I am afraid and I lay awake at night, dreaming and wondering what the ride will be like.
My goal scares me a little and excites me alot.