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Century Days

I see the century day is 105 miles this year. The article said the last year they had a century day was 1984 but it was 1985 which also went to Mason City. The first year they called it a century day was 1978 but there were 100 mile days before and after 1978-1985.

88 Replies

David Rutherford, March 27, 2022 at 9:59 am

Questions I have been asked….anyone have answers?
I have a lot of new riders this year. The 105 has got my phone ringing.
A few have said I thought this was for normal cyclists trying to stretch a bit, this looks to be going towards more established riders. No one wants to go through all this and consider themselves as failing because they could not do 105 miles in a day. I feel their concerns. I’m trying to get more people out there riding but this magic 100+ mile day is scaring the heck out of them

Does anyone know how many riders did the extra miles to hit the 100 mile day in the past?
Is the mandatory 105 this year to thin the herd?
People have trouble making 80 in a day, don’t see giving an extra hour helping people do an extra 20 when they are averaging 10 miles an hour doing a whole lot.
Will there be extra ambulances as well? Heat stroke has to be an issue with a ride that long.
Will all riders be given the century patch?
Will the towns be shut down earlier to push riders to make the deadline on the 105 day?
And the calls and questions keep coming.

Would love any comments or feedback

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tdubya500, March 27, 2022 at 10:36 am

Does anyone know how many riders did the extra miles to hit the 100 mile day in the past?

They used to send surveys and the last one I remember was about 20% of riders choose to do the century loops in the past

Is the mandatory 105 this year to thin the herd?

No, it’s a tribute to the founder who died this year.

People have trouble making 80 in a day, don’t see giving an extra hour helping people do an extra 20 when they are averaging 10 miles an hour doing a whole lot.
Will there be extra ambulances as well? Heat stroke has to be an issue with a ride that long.

They’ve said there will be extra sag wagons. No word on extra ambulances

Will all riders be given the century patch?

Registered riders who complete the day will get a patch, yes.

Will the towns be shut down earlier to push riders to make the deadline on the 105 day?

Doubt it

#1373268

Mark47n, March 27, 2022 at 11:46 am

Is this for established cyclists?

I hope not. I’ve not spent a lot of time only bicycle in the last few years. That said, ALL cyclists who want to have a good time during RAGBRAI should be training for this event. All of them. Otherwise sore butts, tired and blown legs and bad attitudes will follow. I’ve learned this myself, to my own detriment, going out on rides thinking I’m ready only to blow it (usually by biting of more than I can chew) and bonking 20 miles or more from the car and having to limp it in.

Perhaps It’s because I live in a place where there is no choice but to ride a lot of hills (Seattle) but 1500+ feet of elevation gain over 105 miles isn’t bad. I’ve done the annual Seattle to Portland ride a few times (208 miles, two days) and watched people do in using beach cruisers, skateboards and one woman finished on roller blades…I did see her with icepacks strapped to her thighs and basically being held up by her husband later). My point is that you can do it as long as you have the drive and the patience/self-control.

If you can maintain a steady pace in the 12-14mph range, minus wind, etc, you’ll be fine. If you average 10mph it can be tough but if you can simply hold it and not feel pressured to sprint ahead you’ll still be fine. 10-12 hours is a long day but still possible…I’ve certainly done it and I’m no “established cyclist”

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Ben There, March 27, 2022 at 12:22 pm

The 105 mile day is fairly flat riding by Ragbrai standards. Day before is short day and also very flat. Finish that day early, rest up – fuel up for an early century start as soon as sun hits the horizon. If you hit the road at 5am, you’ll have 14 hours before the 7pm target at end town (and 16+ hours of daylight if you run a bit late).
Of course, if it’s very hot (or cold), raining, or head wind, it will be challenging for many and that is where everyone should have a backup plan based on their abilities. Maybe Ragbrai should designate an additional “meeting town” on century day to allow teams to plan a safe pickup point later in the day.
If weather is mild, maybe even a little tailwind, I think most riders will be pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t as hard as they expected…

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Chris, March 27, 2022 at 3:19 pm

IMHO:
This is what RAGBRAI is about. This is a good thing.

How many “long” days in the past decade have been 85 or 90 mile days? More than a few. In looking back though our notes very quickly, here’s a few days along the way:
2016 – Shenandoah to Creston: 84 miles
2012 – Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids: 88 miles
2021 – Seargent Bluff to Ida Grove: 86 miles
2021- Waterloo to Anamosa: 84 miles (right after a 70 mile day)
2019 – Indianola to Centerville – 85 miles (that was a lie, if I remember. It was over 90)

My point is this: Yes, RAGBRAI has scheduled a 105 mile day. Ben There touched on the critical element: it’s flat. For comparison purposes, Waterloo to Anamosa was 84 miles and 2200 feet of climbing. Or 2021…Le Mars to Sac City at 84 miles and 2800 feet. This is 105 miles and 1700 feet. Yes, you’ll be on the bike longer, but it won’t be as hard being on the bike that whole time. Yes, if the weather sucks, it’ll be an even longer day, but that’s any given day.

I think this is getting blown far out of proportion judging from the volume of comments on here and on Facebook. If RAGBRAI had made it a sucky day it would have been more like 115 miles and 4500 feet of climbing. Then, sure, it’s reasonable to start asking about if this “is more for established riders”. RAGBRAI didn’t do that to us. What they did was a brilliant move on the organizers part: besides a tribute to the Founders, it’s a bit of a stretch for some riders, but something they can be extra proud of. Not only did they do RAGBRAI, they did their first century, too. For those of you who are century riders, you probably remember that first century, even if it was 30 years ago. It’s a rite of passage in the sport. How cool is it that RAGBRAI is going to nudge a bunch of people down that road (pun intended).

The counter to this is that any rider could have done the Karras loop any other year for that milestone. I disagree. The Loop usually comes with a whole bunch of climbing on top of the distance: 2021, for instance, was an additional 1700 feet of climbing in only 25 miles. (Think about that: the whole elevation change of this year’s century was in the 2021’s *loop*). So, not really reasonable for someone looking to stretch themselves a bit, but not go for broke.

There might be a better approach to take with riders who see three-digits on the docket and are freaking out about it. Explain that it’s not going to be much harder than a lot of days in the past, it’s not a guaranteed trip in an ambulance or SAG, and with everyone doing it, they get pulled along, making the miles easier. It’s part of the adventure, and if they can do 85 miles, they can do 105. The day after is not even 50 miles; sure, they’ll be tired, but it’s completely reasonable. If anything about RAGBRAI is reasonable to begin with.

RAGBRAI changes over the years. The late 90’s and early 2000’s had 500+ mile years. Then things got shorter and easier for a bunch of years. Now, it’s evolving into, well…..when we look back at these years in 2030, we’ll know.

See you in July,
-Chris

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David Rutherford, March 27, 2022 at 4:13 pm

My team is watching the reply’s and a response I just got was interesting.

If there has been opportunity to do a century every year and only 20% chose to participate why would the powers to be decide the 80% who did not want to do it be forced to do the100+ miles to consider themselves as finishing the ride. The question to me was – do the wishes of the few outweigh the wishes of the many? Even though the few could still do the 100 if they chose?
I think it’s an interesting question- not looking to get anyone flustered or upset, just relaying the conversations my folks are having.

#1373283

kennethfblue, March 27, 2022 at 5:15 pm

I’ve done 9 ragbrais and several karas loops. While I like the tribute, I think 105 miles is a stretch for a first time ragbrai rider. Ragbrai has been notorious for underestimating elevation changes on prior rides. So I take this flat ride with some suspicion. Also weather conditions can play a big role in the level of difficulty. You can have strong head winds no matter which direction you ride. Extremely hot days are possible or a bad thunderstorm can mix things up. On my first ragbrai I had all the problems mentioned for under prepared riders. There will be lots of riders who will have difficulty doing 105 miles. There should be some way for those people to ride a less stressful ride. After all this is supposed to be a fun ride.

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David Rutherford, March 27, 2022 at 5:56 pm

I liked your comments, how quickly we forget what it’s like for first time tour riders. 100+ miles is hard for experienced riders and we should not minimize what it takes to finish a century ride in the middle of a week new people have never experienced.

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Joseph Schlau, March 27, 2022 at 5:58 pm

David,

This conversation has been continuing in one form or another since news of a no option century ride started to emerge in February. Ragbrai does cringe when it is referred to as a forced century or mandatory 100. Now up to 105.

Usually these conversations take one of several tacks.

Riders, particularly riders with kids concerned about having to ride a long distance with their only option to SAG part or all of the day. Older riders not thrilled with the opportunity to check off a tick mark on their bucket list. And so far not spoken of, people who recently are recovering from covid. They are back to riding but may not be totally recovered yet. Not exactly what they were looking for when they signed up for on a north route.

Then the riders who are taking the opportunity to list their long rides, some on all steel bikes, and century conquests, some going as far to get the mileage out to 2 decimal places. A near transcendental experience for some I guess. Seen as hubris by others.

Then there are those who simply want to divide the ride up into little pieces. Its just 10 – 10 mile rides, 5 – 20 mile rides, 100 – 1 mile rides, etc. It’s a bit like saying that quarterly payments to the IRS somehow makes spending thousands seem easier, almost fun.

If you read the description of day 4 in the blog today, you will take comfort in the fact that your concerns were heard.

“This will be the Century Day, and the RAGBRAI route, usually open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., will be open for an extra hour, until 7 p.m. with increased SAG support.”

“RAGBRAI is working on plans to assist riders who cannot ride the full distance. Organizers anticipate more riders will use the SAG (support and gear) wagons on Day 4 than typical days.”

“We know that we’re probably going to have a lot of sagging that day,” RAGBRAI Director Matt Phippen said in January. “But it’s a tribute to (co-founder John) Karras. There’s people who want that brought back.”

David, If your figure of 20% is accurate, then it’s a small minority of “people who want that brought back” as Matt says. And wouldn’t John Karras be proud of all the people who will arrive in Mason City, in a SAG wagon and all the fuel burned in his honor. Maybe a shorter route and more people arriving by bicycle would have been a better tribute to him.

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Jim Herman, March 27, 2022 at 6:05 pm

Just a thought: If you ride straight on 18 it’s only 78 miles from the center of Emmtsburg to center of Mason City, according to google maps.

#1373290

David Rutherford, March 27, 2022 at 6:14 pm

Joseph,
You sure your not one of my team riders? Lol
Could not agree more with your assessment. I just feel bad for my team members that will not be able to complete the 105 miles no matter how hard they train and the feeling of not completing the ride will crush them. The extra time in the seat and heat will surly do a few in. Even if some think it is just an “extra” 15 or 20 mile ride…. Ha ha.

#1373291

Jim Herman, March 27, 2022 at 7:12 pm

I live in Seattle and the first time I did RAGBRAI I did STP the weekend before. (STP-Seattle to Portland-205 miles in 2 days) I was in fairly good shape but had never done a century before. The first day of STP I rode 130 miles and surprised myself, it didn’t seem that hard. The next day (75 miles) just seemed to drag on and on. A century ride can be done but train as much as you can. You just have to realize what you are doing and how long it could take, and keep a steady cadence. If you can average 12-16 mph, just remember the ending point is lower than the starting point, which means more downhill than uphill.

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Joseph Schlau, March 27, 2022 at 8:42 pm

David,
No, I’m not on your team but it took only 2 hours before our team captain e-mailed and wondered if we should be putting together a SAG plan. I’m sure a few team members are young enough and in good enough shape that 105 will be no big deal. But for others, it won’t happen . . . . no matter who they are supposed to be honoring. As for me, I have a number of options and will decide which to follow as the time nears.

I was looking at that training plan Ragbrai posted. By now one should have logged about 300 of the 2000 miles they deemed as adequate training. Unfortunately, that plan must have been configured for Florida as the 14 degree wind chill this morning does not play well with long distance riding.

#1373294

direwolf, March 27, 2022 at 9:39 pm

That section of U.S. Rte. 18 can be extremely busy, even when RAG isn’t around. There are sections that are poorly maintained. Maybe they’ll fill in the cavernous potholes in the segment ‘twixt Wesley and Britt, but I think it would be a mistake to ride Rte. 18 all day.

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cannontandem, March 28, 2022 at 4:01 am

I know a 105 mile day well tax a lot of riders including my wife and I on the tandem. Those early years were no problem but 40+ years later and some body parts problems will make it a challenge for us. I did a few of the loops in the late 80’s but hated riding into the main pack at the end of the loop and haven’t done it since. Slow and steady will get you there and the more long rides you get in before hand the easier it will be. Being by other cyclists makes the ride easier for most people. Don’t thing about how how much is left but how far you have come. Many small goals are easier then one large one. Pace yourself the whole week.

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