Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 4: A little inspiration on the road

Prior to this week, whenever I told people I was biking across Iowa, the common response I'd get was this: "I'd never be able to do that."

People look at the sheer mileage (442 miles this week) and immediately believe it to be an insurmountable distance for them. They either don't think they're in shape for it or they don't think they have the motivation to submit themselves to a week's worth of biking.

Make no mistake: This is no picnic. We're more than 250 miles into the trip so far and signs of fatigue are evident in both myself and everyone else. We're all sun burnt and sore from biking and I can't imagine anyone is looking forward to the 82-mile ride tomorrow (the longest day of the week) from Charles City to Waterloo.

However, if there's anything I've learned from RAGBRAI this week, it's this: Anyone is capable of making it across Iowa if they really want to.

Want proof? Take a look at the photo on the right. I saw the guy in the photo while biking into Swaledale (first town after Clear Lake) today. To be clear, that's not Photoshop; he really is riding a recumbant bike with no legs. He apparently lost them in Iraq and has to pedal with his hands.

I didn't get a chance to talk with him (it's tough finding people again on the road, it's a never-ending wave of bikes), but a friend of his assured me that he's not a daily rider. He is in fact doing the entire bike ride. This also isn't his first RAGBRAI. His friend said he's completed "several" of them over the years.

I've seen some inspiring riders on the road this week. A 10-year-old boy trying to keep up with his dad, a just-married couple using RAGBRAI as their honeymoon, a 75-year-old man participating in his 20th RAGBRAI.

But there's something incredible about a person doing something like this with no legs. Rather than complaining about the knee pains I have while biking, I should be thankful that I have knees that can feel pain.

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