Another year has rolled by and again I went to Emporia to get me some Flint Hills gravel. For 2013 the great peeps that run the Dirty Kanza decided it would be a good idea to do a half distance DK...110 miles officially. This made me happy, mostly due to the fact I've tried the 200 twice and for one reason or another had yet to reach even halfway let alone complete this 200 mile bout with the Flint Hills of Kansas, so sign up for the half I did and here's my story.
Anyone who has done this race knows the day starts early...for me it started at 4:30, get dressed, eat breakfast, down some caffeine, love me some caffeine, and be on the bike riding to the start by 5:30 at the latest!! On the bike now and wound up for a variety of reasons, I drill it to the start line...about 3 miles. You know what they say, the longer the race, the shorter the warmup...well...whatever I did worked because I never suffered in the first hour, and I was with the lead group out of town for the half....and we were flying!!
Moving on...The start was staggered 15 minutes and I'm sure some of the 100 riders rolled out with the 200...oh well. I started out fairly fast and a group of about 15 quickly formed at what I thought was the front of the 100. I felt within myself and wasn't worried about the speed at this point. We started a rotation, not a very good one I might add, the guys were taking 2 minute+ pulls, I limited mine to 30 seconds, this went on for about an hour maybe less.
Our group came to some GIANT mud holes, this is where the 100 and 200 came back together as well. My group disintegrated because it was a hike a bike...oh well...once I got through I started riding my pace which was faster than I had anticipated but no worries. A few miles later the course was pointed straight at Texaco hill.
Once to the top of this climb I stopped and took a look around for a minute...there's something about this part of the world...and I like it!! A handful of miles later the course split again, this is where the 200 went it's own way for good, well at least until the rolled into Cottonwood Falls. Shortly after this split there was a water station for the 100. I asked how many had come by and he said about 8-10, this was encouraging! I could see a rider about a half mile ahead of me at the base of what turned out to be about 4 miles of climbing, so I set out to catch up before we turned into the wind.
I got to the top of the climb and saw a rider that was in the early group was close so I waited for him and he and I started to work taking turns into the wind. We eventually caught the rider I was trying to run down on the climb and the 3 of us started to work which was nice because the wind was howling 20mph+ and we had 30 miles to go til the checkpoint. Eventually we shelled the guy I waited for and the two of us set sail...this is where the wheels sort of came off...somewhere between miles 40 and 50 we missed a right turn and didn't realize it until 5-6 miles later.
Once we figured out we needed to go back the way we came, we get rolling and a 1/4 mile later a farmer stopped us and said "you boys aren't lost, you're confused...you missed you turn about 4 miles back"...at this point he tells us the road we are on will eventually connect with the course so just stay on it and you will get back on track. This guy was awesome!! We would have eventually got back on track but it would NOT have been that easy!!! Thanks farmer dude!!! So we get rolling and something feels weird about my bike...ugh...the front tire is flat...leave it to me to find the one piece of wood on a bazilion miles of gravel that will give me a flat...talk about insult to injury!! A quick change and away we go.
Once back on course we were working again and my legs were getting tired, I was starting to worry a bit because I had been eating and drinking like I was supposed to so this wouldn't happen. We finally reach the right turn onto pavement which would be the last 3 miles to the checkpoint with a tailwind!! A good opportunity to spin out the legs right before a break. At the checkpoint I was at 71 miles and should've had 60....
I was at the checkpoint for about 10 minutes-ish...got refueled, loaded up with the stuff I would need for the next 50 miles and headed out. I looked for the guy I was riding with so I wouldn't have to face the next 25 miles of headwind alone but no luck...so away I went, solo.
I was feeling okay when I rolled out but after about 12 miles I was feeling good again and rode a sustainable pace into the wind and went as fast as I could when I was with the wind. I did stop 3 times briefly the first two to move turtles off the road, I wanted to make sure I had enough good karma for the last 50. The third stop had me stop and help a girl named Kimbal. She was running a tubless CX set up with only Co2's to refill and the bead had come off, which meant she was screwed because she didn't have a pump...I guess I needed more good karma because I more or less changed and aired it up for with the pump I WAS carrying...it was faster for me to do it anyway...she was fighting it. I got her rolling and away I went.
I finally reach about 25 miles to go and the course from this point on was tailwind or quartering tailwind. I had my computer on ride time so I would eat every 15-20 minutes. I put my head down and drilled the last 25 miles which took about an hour and 10 minutes...I was a man on a mission!! I covered the last 50 in 3 hours total and felt strong while doing so. I gotta admit I was a little bummed when I turned onto main street for the finish, due to getting lost on the first leg and adding about 50 minutes to this melee, but that quickly went away when the crowd that had gathered cheered me as I rolled to the to finish. That by itself is what made me want to do it again!!!
As I look back, I think about my first attempt at the 200 in 2011...I did everything wrong and suffered horribly, I honestly have never suffered that bad for that long. Last year, 2012, I might have been able to complete the 200 but it just wasn't meant to be. This year I trained for the half and my efforts were rewarded with a strong 123.5 mile ride...it was supposed to be 110 but apparently I need more Flint Hills gravel!!
Anyway...if this year went well I was considering attempting the 200 again next year with the goal of beating the sun...at this point I don't think I will do that but it's a year away and people change their minds. I will however, at the minimum, do the 100 again I absolutely had a blast!!! If you are looking to challenge yourself, the 100 will give you all you can handle and maybe more I GUARANTEE IT!!
Final numbers...9:03:34 total ride time for 123.5 miles...I would do it again in a heartbeat!!!