Last Wednesday, I congratulated myself for what seemed to be a RAGBRAI trial run: a ride with a lunch stop in the middle and a little bit of heat/wind at the end. I've totally got this.
Um, not quite. The 65-miler lacked humidity, 90-degree weather, more than a few hills, more than a few stops, fried food, frozen treats and beer.
But don't worry. I got all of that in Sunday, and I can handle it. Mostly.
I rode with several of my RAGBRAI companions from the Principal Riverwalk up to Big Creek and back that day, which was everything I've come to expect from July in Iowa. Throw in the hills on the Neal Smith Trail, plus some residual fatigue from the previous day's run, and I was a little uncertain about how well a 50-plus-miler would go.
The first prolonged one came at Latitude 41, and the idea of lunch had me positively giddy. I ordered a Summer Shandy and a catfish strip basket and tucked right into both.
It was so delicious ... and so greasy. Did we really have to get back up and keep riding north and then turn back around? We couldn't just nap? No? UGH.
The next seven or so miles were not the easiest miles I've ever done. My first all-fried-food meal in months sloshed around, and the beer's carbonation didn't bring me any relief until well into our next stop (at Big Creek).
Almost as good as the relief from the grease? The 25-cent Fla-Vor-Ice I got at the air-conditioned concession stand. So much welcome coolness.
When we trusted that the rain on the radar had passed, we hopped back on and flew. The hills were mostly down; the wind, mostly at our backs. I felt strong, cheerful and grateful for second-half momentum — and then we stopped again. Latitude 41 was still there and still open.
At the time, I would've rather kept going. But that's not what we're going to be doing in a few weeks. In a few weeks, we'll be riding only long enough to build up a thirst and a hunger. So it was good that we stopped for another beer and another few glasses of ice-cold water.
And really, come to think of it, our stop-and-go riding was done during the sunniest part of the day. After that beer, we stopped only for a bathroom break on the 16 miles back to the starting apartment, under a sky only just bright enough for my sunglasses to still help, not hinder.
So how did I feel upon our return? Surprisingly, just sweaty and of average fatigue/hunger. Not dehydrated, sunburned or queasy. And most of all, content with how my stomach handled a true RAGBRAI simulation.
Still to be determined: how my legs and seat will handle RAGBRAI.