Ride Across Iowa in a Day, Part 2

You may be wondering why this looks like a 2 part blog post, we’re already on the second part, and you missed the first. Well, I’ve ridden across Iowa in a day before, but it was “the short way” at only 256 miles. I’ve had the compulsion to bike across Iowa “the long way” for handful of years, even before I completed the shorter distance in 2016.

I’ve biked a crap ton of miles over the last 24-ish hours and slept only about 1.5 hours in the last 36, so this post will be a little more short and to the point than usual. I’m throwing something up on the blog since I’ve gotten lots of questions on how my day went, so here goes.


My Self-Assigned Grade

Did I meet my A goal? No. I calculated that I met my “F” goal today, so technically I guess I could call my performance a solid F. Does that mean I failed? Nope, and here’s why.

  • I listened to my body and called it quits at the right time. I told myself heading into the ride that should I experience back spasms, painful spine symptoms, or rampant leg numbness that I would pull the plug, no questions asked. I didn’t meet the “no questions asked” part as I ruminated on the decision for WAY too long, but the good news is I pulled the plug at a healthy time. I experienced all of these symptoms today during the final miles.
  • I broke my post-spine-surgery distance record! 165 miles on pavement today.
  • For the first time in my life, I biked from sunset through sun up without stopping for more than a few minutes at a time to refuel, change out gear, lights, and so on. I am a little scared of riding at night, so this is a big accomplishment!
  • Riding across Iowa in the future seems potentially doable with the right crew and a cooperating body. I know what I need to do to get stronger, so I’ll continue to diligently work on that like I have been.
  • I HAVE SORE ABS!! From a bike ride!! This means that all the boring physical therapy I’m doing is working, and even though my back muscles gave out I managed to give my abs a great workout today on the bike. Major progress.



The Highlights

We rolled out of Canton, South Dakota just before 8 PM. We had originally planned on getting in a little sleep before departing in the wee hours, but moved up our start time to ride more during the “cool” 80F nighttime temperatures and hopefully stay ahead of the storm front.

The first 80 miles or so are one of the harder road rides I’ve done in a LONG time. Steady cross-winds of 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph, combined with darkness and a crew of 9 riders with mixed road riding and paceline experience. We did GREAT, and solid teamwork kept the group rolling at quick speeds considering the conditions.

We didn’t hit an open convenience store until about 12 hours into the ride. Our group had a SAG vehicle in the area, and our driver would head into nearby towns not on our route to try to find what we needed. That woman is a saint and kept us rolling and happy all night. I was so thrilled to be eating Fritos and drinking Coke in a quiet church parking lot 4 hours into the ride.

First light, daybreak, and the sunrise were rejuvenating. Purposely lukewarm, chuggable coffee was magical. On the ride I tried to keep my brain focused on what was going WELL and what DIDN’T HURT. Mind games are your friend.

I hit the halfway point and felt like crap. I had done a very successful job of hydrating, consuming electrolyte tablets, and enough food to keep myself from bonking all night.  I ran through my “systems checklists”, again, forced myself to eat more food that I was tired of (see above picture with half a jumbo salted nut roll in my mouth), and still didn’t feel right.

The systems checks this time again revealed that my back hurt and my leg was numb and painful, and I couldn’t stretch away or walk off the leg pain. Shortly thereafter my mid-back muscles went into spasm, my left glute and hamstring were losing power, and I knew my day was done. I bartered some in my head (what if I just ride the last 150 miles at 9 mph with one good leg??!) but I realized that would very likely set me back for weeks to months. I’m feeling pretty damn good tonight.

Six out of the nine riders that started finished the distance in well under 24 hours. They battled high heat indices, sub-optimal to terrible winds, and wicked thunderstorms at the end. Hats off to you, gents.


“Beer me.” I don’t think I’ve ever drank a beer this early in the morning? Thank goodness for loose Iowa liquor laws and gas station beer.

The Conclusion

It’s almost 10 PM Saturday, and our ride started close to 8 PM on Friday. I’ve had a quick nap, lots of calories, a celebratory / consolatory beer at 8 AM in a gas station parking lot.

Lately I’ve been listening to the audiobook Grit by Angela Duckworth, and it’s really struck a chord with me. She writes, “Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.”

I can say that I’m at peace with what happened. Disappointed? Yes. Determined to keep training and tackle this thing again in the future? HELL YES.

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