Day 3 is always the hardest day.
At this point your body realizes you are doing something to it that you probably shouldn’t be doing. It has been going on very little sleep. It is getting hungry. It is getting chafed. And the feet hurt. That was the worst of my casualties. My feet were killing me. Riding in the rain yesterday without socks was not one of my best ideas. Proven by the small toe on my left foot which was trying to secede from the union of my foot. In a very painful way.
We woke up to the sound of pouring rain. I looked at the clothesline we had strung between two giant Silver Maples and watched our jerseys, shorts, towels drip heavy with rain. Chris and I decided to grab everything and head to the local laundromat. It was nearly impossible to find and involved crossing the route which at 7 am – though it was pouring rain – was streaming with riders eager to get started on their day. Some riders leave at 5 am. Some at 7 am. With 77 miles to ride today, many would need this head start. And the rain wouldn’t help.
Finally we are at the laundromat, clothes washed then clothes dried until we brought back fresh smelling clothes warm from the dryer. I think we all agreed that it felt like heaven. Meanwhile, everyone was gathered on Virgil and Joanne’s porch laughing the morning away. None of us were eager to start riding in the rain so instead Joanne made coffee, she brought out her peanut bars, sat on the porch swing and laughter broke through the rain. Lois came over and brought leftover muffins and egg bake. It was one of the most comfortable mornings I’ve ever had on Ragbrai.
But it must end at some point because it was time to ride. Day 3 promised 77.1 miles with 4, 470 feet of climbing. By 10:30 am, the rain had stopped and the roads were drying. It was time to ride. Fresh shorts, clean jersey, warm socks, let’s ride.
The first 10 miles were hilly. It was Chris, Jen, Red Bear, Trixie, Soko and I setting out into those hills with a stiff crosswind. I put myself in the back to help some others get a better draft in the paceline. By mile 9 I was behind the Red Bear. And when he dropped off on a hill, it left me going backwards behind him. I was fighting the wind, a hill and a gap – that I couldn’t bridge. Someone turned around seeing me going off the back yet the group pressed forward.
I got pissed. At the very least slow up for 15 seconds so I can hop back on the group. Isn’t that why I waited for everyone to pack their stuff up this morning? So we could ride – together? Meanwhile I was fighting the hills and wind to catch back up. I could see them moving as a pack up the road, over the hills while the gap between me and them grew. At one point they were 2 minutes ahead and I realized it was not worth the chase.
I’m not sure if it was the rain the day before, the pain in my toes or just day-3-being-tired but first I got angry, then I got grumpy, then I decided I would ride the entire day as nonstop as possible alone. I saw the group in the first town and just rode. The hills were relentless. I spent most of my time grinding up at 10 mph passing Ragbrai like it was standing still. Finally I made a stop for food around 40 miles into the ride into the town of Peru. At some point the group must have passed while I was in town because I saw them on another well-created Heckle Hill, where they first offered me beer, then heckled me, then I kept going.
About 30 minutes later I stopped in the town of St. Charles – the 50 mile mark of the route. I was spent, beat and my feet hurt so freakin’ bad. I think I was bonking for the past 20 miles. I needed water, salt and food. Now.
I look behind me and see Chris.
Do you know how much wattage it takes to chase one angry wife for 30 minutes?
We ate the typical Ragbrai lunch – he a pulled pork sandwich, me a grilled chicken sandwich that was so dry it took about 3 cups of ketchup to make it palatable. I saw a sign leading into the town that promised FUDGE and knew I had to have some. I absolutely love homemade fudge. I found the vendor and ordered ¼ pound of Peanut Butter and another ¼ pound of Snickers-type fudge. Both were delicious. And now there was ½ pound of fudge in my belly. Which I later learned was like going without socks – not my best idea.
The next 10 miles were hell. The sugar surge from the fudge was churning through me while my less than stellar effort at hydrating today was catching up. I could tell Chris was working hard to go slow enough to ride with me. It was still hilly and the wind was picking up.
Alongside the road we see a sign for wine tasting at a winery. In a split second we decide to go. We ride 1 mile up a gravel road to a building with the most beautiful vista over lush vineyards. Unfortunately after a few sips we realized that while Iowa makes great pork and sweet corn it makes absolutely wretched wine. Imagine grapes that grow fat from humid summers with washed out flavors of oversweet.
Back on the road we rolled out to Prolle and found JB and Dr. Nuts sitting in some chairs in a field. We hung out with them for awhile and I marveled at the height of the corn. It had to be 6 – 7 feet this year. And it’s not even August yet. Chris and I then rolled on toward Indianola. At this point I got my second wind of the day – fueled by two women who were trying to outclimb me.
I didn’t like that.
So I started riding harder to push past them, outdescend them and then eventually drop them. Chris says to me “somebody is feeling better” or honestly somebody just got a fire under their ass and doesn’t like to be passed on the ride.
The day ended up being around 80 miles when we finally rolled into campus of Simpson College. It was a long day. Though it took a little over 4 hours to do the ride, we were out there on the course for 7 hours. And that is a short day. Some days we are out there up to 11 hours doing…whatever. Heckling, relaxing, talking, goofing off. It’s Ragbrai. There’s no rush. 40 miles can take all day.
In Indianola we camped on a lawn that belonged to a young couple. If they were 20 they were old. They had a baby. They smoked cigarettes. And the guy had “69” tattooed on his hand. Above his knuckle tattooes. And his hat was tipped to the left. Regardless you learn to never judge a person by what is tattooed on their body because no sooner did he actually invite me into the house to take a shower. A real shower. At least once during the week someone in Iowa will allow you to shower in their home. The hospitality and trust always amazes me and I find myself grateful for finally feeling clean.
Later that night, I met up with Rachelle and Kristin. They came bearing gifts for the team (so sweet!) and helped me experience my first Fluffy Taco (wow, that sounds bad). It’s an Indianola specialty. I headed back to camp around 9:30 pm and noticed a party in full swing on the lawn. There was a lot of laughing and shouting. Trixie was offering Red Bell. Giff and Chris were having a heated discussion about how Ragbrai used to be cut throat riding and quietly I agree. I can read through the lines and know that Chris is plotting some put up or shut up moves in the days ahead. It’s best not to anger Chris when a bike is involved. It’s like waking a sleeping bear. You will get clawed because he’s not hungry for berries.
Good thing tomorrow is only 45 miles.