A Wednesday Evening Letter to Readers

Dear Readers:

Tonight, I am fantasizing about installing railings beside my toilet.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself! Earlier today, I spent some time working on a very serious reflection which I originally intended to publish as my lone Thursday blog post. However, the evening’s activities and associated thoughts have caused me to reconsider. I’ve decided to post this letter as a “bonus” Thursday post. No worries if you don’t read them both at once – take your time!

Right now, I want to tell you that, in addition to installing railings beside my toilet, I am wishing for some kind of topical application which will ease the chafing I am experiencing…someplace it would not be polite to mention too specifically. While we’re at it, some medicinal whiskey to assist the Motrin IB in deadening the pain would also be welcome.

What, you may well ask, have I done to myself? Well, the entire thing began a couple of months ago when my friend and colleague, Sarah Botkin (that’s B-O-T-K-I-N) innocently asked my thoughts about sponsoring a university group to do a one-day ride on the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). The day she was considering, July 29, the group rides from Grinell, Iowa to Coralville, Iowa – the closest stop to Cedar Rapids on this year’s trek. Mileage for the day: 75 miles.

I immediately fixated on the date. July 29, a Friday. Also, the day immediately after Thursday, July 28 – my 50th birthday. Bells began ringing in my head, and visions of ushering in my second half century with what, for me, would be a physical feat of spectacular proportions. I could also envision my own celebratory mood as, that weekend, I partied in celebration of both my birthday and my legendary ride. It was a compelling vision.

So, I’m signed up. I’ve received confirmation that my registration and payment have been received. I’ve ordered my MMU/Mustangs/RAGBRAI commemorative bike jersey. If you’ve never worn a bike jersey, let me just say that they are flattering on very fit men (think Lance Armstrong). Less so on 50-year-old formerly morbidly obese women with upper arm flab. I figured that ordering, and agreeing to wear, said jersey was at least half the journey toward successful completion of this goal.

Then, suddenly, it was June 1 and I had been on a bike exactly twice. So, its sad but true – I panicked. Tonight, I was finally free to take a long ride with B-O-T-K-I-N. We left at 5:20 p.m. from my house, and headed south on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, a multi-use trail that wends its way through downtown Cedar Rapids, the Czech Village, around Mt. Trashmore (the ginormous landfill), and out into the country – all the way to the small town of Ely. On my first bike ride of the spring, I had followed the trail in this same direction. About 7.5 miles, for a round-trip mileage of 15. It was a respectable first outing, and I was happy.

Tonight, I was determined to stretch. To push myself. My trainer at the gym recently told me that she had read somewhere that people almost never push themselves too hard physically. They probably had a fancy-schmancy psychological name for it, but I like to call it a “healthy fear of injury” – which I decided to set aside tonight in order to get busy training for RAGBRAI Day.

Three hours and 26 miles later, I pulled into my driveway, so slowly I almost wasn’t able to work my bike out of the wide tire groove worn in the asphalt. I dismounted. Well, I tried. But the muscles in both of my legs were shaking so badly that I needed assistance to keep the bike, and me, from toppling over. My entire body was shaking in such a strange fashion that I began to laugh. It resembled hysteria. In fact, Botkin asked, in all seriousness, “You’re not going to have an attack or anything are you?”

My knees are sore, so much so that getting up and down from the low toilet in my bathroom prompted the thought of railings to take the strain off them. But there’s a difference between being sore and being incapacitated. This thought, when it occurs to me, makes even the chafing less bothersome. In fact, I feel exhausted but keyed up suddenly. I pushed my physical limits – something I’ve been wary of my whole adult life. Ok, if I’m being truthful, its something I’ve always emphatically said, “Hell-to-the-NO” to. And I survived. In fact, I can see myself doing it again.

So, the purpose of this letter is to make the following intentions known:

  1. I will be riding RAGBRAI on July 29. 75 miles, baby!
  2. I will be celebrating my joy in life that entire weekend. Because the next 50 years are going to be amazing!
I hope you’ll join in the fun – the more the merrier!
Your friend,

11 thoughts on “A Wednesday Evening Letter to Readers

  1. Oh Jen– Healthy fear of injury is a good thing! So sorry the panicks got the better of you. Slow and steady wins the race, my girl! Feeling your pain, as the one who has not yet done more than 15 minutes on her bike this spring…and wishing for a bike trail of any kind, instead of mountains…

    1. Chris: You are so right – I didn’t do anything last night that would have caused injury (except for the possibility of an unforeseen accident). I just exhausted myself! That felt good, in spite of the immediate pain. Today, I feel great – I know I used my muscles, used my knees, but nothing actually hurts. In fact, I know the biking always immediately brings improvement to the knees. I wish you had bike trails too – mountainous bike riding would be really hard. You should see the little bumps of hills that pose a challenge to me right now!

  2. Because I know these things, I thought it important that I share that this “topical application” of which you speak does, in fact, exist! Though I’ve never used it, some people swear by it. A friend of mine uses it every time she rides. There is one called “Chamois BUTT’r” and, the last time I was at North Towne (next to the McDonald’s on Blairsferry Road) I saw a version made specifically for females that had some equally clever name of which I can’t currently remember.

    Good luck 🙂

    1. Thanks, Allison! I suspected some might exist somewhere, I just didn’t have any on hand. Good to know where to go for it, though! How’s your Boot Camp going? I think people who do those are brave!

  3. You continue to amaze me! What a remarkable way to bring in 50! BTW I cannot believe we will be turning 50….we cannot be 50!

    1. I SO agree with you, Kathe!! Will be in Dubuque with Sue the 22nd thru 25 of June (and again 4th of July weekend). Come see us! We can be NOT old together 🙂

  4. Hey, I just found the Hoover trail the other day (Thursday) and rode to Ely from my house! Sometime, if you and B-O-T-K-I-N want another interesting ride, try the Sac and Fox from MMU. You have to go along Cottage Grove, which requires great care due to traffic, but after doing the trail (14 mile round trip) you have the “joy” of riding UP the Cottage Grove hill. If you make it (and just slow down and use granny gear and tell yourself you’ll rest at the top–and it’s sure OK to rest at the top) it probably means you’ll be able to handle any hill on RAGBRAI! And make sure you bike shorter distances several times a week–the weekly mileage is more important than any one daily trip. I am riding RAGBRAI (the full week) but did not buy an MMU jersey because I could not bring myself to shell out that much money for a shirt that would look terrible on me–and I’m just too old and too cantankerous to wear anything but comfortable Tees on a bike ride. Anyway, hope to see you July 29–and remember, bike 50 miles next week, 75 the week after that, 100 by the second week in July and you probably will do all 75 miles!

    1. Thanks for the great advice, Joe! I’ve been reading your adventures in training for RAGBRAI, and I think it is awesome that you plan to do the whole trip. I haven’t set that as a goal, mainly because I’m not into roughing it overnight if I’m going to ride hard every day. But you never know…someday maybe I’ll give it a shot.

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