What. an. experience.

Where do I even begin?

Not only was RAGBRAI the biggest physical challenge I’ve ever faced, it was also one of the most mentally trying feats as well. In fact, physically, I was in decent shape, but it was 80% mind games. When I had no more gas in the tank, my mental toughness was the only thing to push me up the next hill, into the next town and through the day.

Sunday was a nice short day of 45 miles, so I felt great when I rolled into Denison. In fact, I even thought I’d still be doing the century on Thursday. (Ha!) Monday was the longest day at 72 miles and 2500 feet of climb, but it was just the beginning for me–I started my period around lunchtime. Let me tell you, hell hath no fury like riding a bike with a dry tampon. So much pain! On top of that, the doubts were starting to creep into my head. My body was already feeling spent and it was only the second day.

Even though the route for Tuesday was super flat and only 62 miles, it was one of my hardest because I was having intense period cramps and my legs were dead tired. My body has never known soreness like this. Every movement took such a great amount of motivation and effort. I barely managed to shower and eat before falling asleep as my head hit the pillow. I was so beat that while I waited in line for dinner, I all but signed up to take the SAG vehicle the next day.

Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling like a bus ran over me. I sat in my sleeping bag for an hour willing myself to move, still arguing with myself about taking the SAG. Around 6:15am, I managed to put my bike shorts on. I reasoned that I would ride until I couldn’t. The SAG was always an option, but I had to at least try. I don’t know how, but I made it through the day. Now, with 4 out of the 7 days done, I was over the ‘hump’ and could convince myself to keep going.

The rest of the week was a blur. By Thursday, I mixed up all the previous days. The riding was SO MUCH easier. My soreness was ever-present, but with less intensity than Tuesday/Wednesday. I really enjoyed Iowa City and would like to go back to truly experience it. Next time without the exhaustion and dehydration and with more than just a couple hour to explore.

On Saturday, I made it to Davenport to the Mississippi River… and I cried. What a release it was! Not only physically, but more so mentally. My last 2 weeks of working at the UA were insanely busy. I moved to Phoenix the very next day, but I didn’t even have time to celebrate and hang out with friends. Then, grad school starts in the next week. RAGBRAI was the perfect transition. I’m really glad that I did it alone–I needed it.

Thank you, RAGBRAI… for kicking my ass and forcing me to process, reflect and reset.

I’ll definitely be doing RAGBRAI again, but next time, I’ll either go with friends or join a team.

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