Monday, June 1, 2015
Where to begin...This will sound familiar. Once again the Dirty Kanza has come and gone. After last year I thought I was done with this race but my riding buddy who made it to Cottonwood Falls last year said he wanted to do the entire half in 2015 so I told him I would do it again...I did and here's my story.
This is my 5th trip to the DK and the morning ritual is pretty much down...up at 4:00 and rollin to the start by 5:10, this year was no different. I get to the half staging area and there's a handful of riders for the half already there, no big deal I was where I wanted to be...on the front row.
At the neutral roll out I'm close to the front but no hole shot this year...I think I was 5th or so.
Unlike last year, the race was on the minute we hit gravel...we were flying!! I get settled in the group of about 15-20 somewhere in the middle and roll along not working too hard. That changed a short time later. We were riding west and the howling NW wind was killing me. I was far enough back that I couldn't really get behind the guy in front of me to get out of the wind without riding in the really soft stuff...it was starting to suck!
At about 7 miles I had had enough and sat up...it's a long ride and I've done the blow up into a bazillion pieces and suffer horribly for hours...read my 2011 write up. Anyway, I get recovered and start rolling along again and come to the mud pit from HELL!
When I get to this I decided I would ride it, after all the Hammer has tons of mud clearance, so I never gave it a second thought. As I started this mud section I slow but surely passed a small army's worth of people, I was calling out rider back and when people would turn to look they were shocked to see someone still riding, especially the further in I made it. This stretch was 3 miles...I made it at least halfway before my bike finally clogged up and wouldn't roll anymore. Was it worth it? Maybe...maybe not...it took me about 10 minutes to get it to roll again, but I would rather ride 3 mph than walk 3 mph and I only had to walk half or less of this mess!
Moving on...Once clear of the mud it was time to get riding again. This proved to be a little more of a challenge mainly because my drivetrain was totally clogged, my grip shifters were coated with mud and my gloves were coated with mud...a pain in the ass is what it ended up being. But forge on I did...about a mile after the mud ended, water was streaming onto the road and I stopped to clean my shifters, gloves and shoes, this worked well and seemed to be a good idea because slowly but surely other riders saw me and stopped for the same reason, one even said "good idea".
Now I can shift, sort of, and get rolling again. Another mile later I decided to stop and try to wipe as much mud of my chain as I can because it was skipping on the cogs and trying to wrap around the chain rings every 10 seconds. While doing so a guy from Colorado who was doing the mud march behind me offered some chain lube, I took him up on it, it seemed to help, so good karma to him, I hope he finished!!
From this point on I was taking a center line through every puddle I came to and by the time I reached the water stop my drivetrain was "clean". At the oasis, I refilled my bottles and grabbed a couple of Gu gel packs. I didn't really need them but I still had 28 miles to go to reach Cottonwood Falls and 19 miles were headwind...better to have too much than not enough.
So I take off solo from the oasis and can see a rider up the road about a mile and can tell I'm gaining on him and get to his wheel shortly before we make the turn north. We talked for a minute, I think his name was Brandon and decide that 2 is better than one and take turns doing work in the wind. A few miles later I can see David Neidinger is slowly catching us so I say to the B man we should slow down and make it 3, as soon as David reaches us he goes to the front and keeps driving his pace which was more than I could handle at that point so I let them go and settle in for a meeting of the voices in my head...
At this point the voice that says quit made a pretty good argument and for a brief moment I gave in and was going to do just that...after all I was starting to suffer pretty good and had 17 miles of head wind in front of me.
The next thing I heard were the words that Rebecca Rush said, she said don't listen to that voice, you can keep going you just have to want to...it was that moment that I decided that I would finish this race whether I was going 30mph or 3mph, from then on my energy came up and I was good to go again.
A few miles later the B man was up the with David and slowly but surely David rode him off his wheel. So for a while the B man and I were riding about the same pace and the gap never changed. Finally I think he eased up again and waited for me because 2 in the wind is waaaay better than one. Once again we were sharing the work and for a while it was okay. Then we turned onto Den Creek Road, this is where the B man started to falter. I would pull up a hill and there would be a gap so I would slow and wait for him to get back on until the next hill. He finally said "don't let me slow you down" and away I went.
Shortly before I set sail from the B man, another rider had passed us. As I rode along using my Etrex 30 for nav, I watch the new rider take what I thought was a wrong turn...so I zoom in on my nav and started to get worried...what the hell was going on? So I decided to take the same turn as dude in front of me, back my nav to menu and start the map again...this is where I found out why the track I was following was blue instead of purple...I was on the 2014 course...D'OH!!!!
I get it squared away and life was good the rest of the way into Cottonwood Falls, with an official ride time of 4 hours and 31 minutes.
I roll to the wagon and the only clothing change I wanted to make was socks and gloves...this added to the stop time but I didn't care my feet were cold!! So I grab two CLEAN bottles, fill the angry midgie (camel bak) grab 2 Hammer gel flasks, some more rice cakes and a ham and cheese roll up and get ready to roll, while I was refueling Foto Matt was cleaning and pouring lube like it was free on my chain, by the way, I told him to use that much. I was positive there would be, at the minimum, more water...which there was and mud too...imagine that.
As I roll out of the checkpoint I see the B man ahead of me, so I ride a bit harder and catch up to him and we decided to work together again. This didn't last long because I started to ride away from him on the hills so he told me to get after it and I did. I'm pretty sure he went back to the checkpoint because I never saw him again and I didn't see him cross the line. Back to solo into the head wind. Oh well, I punched the quit voice in the eye so it wasn't a problem.
So I ride along for what felt like a month on this 12 mile section of headwind and manage to pass a rider, hooray!! Not long after that, I was passed by a new rider...awwww...oh well...I wasn't feeling bad but didn't want to burn my last match just yet, we still had about 31 miles to go and still a bit of headwind to face.
At about mile 73 I make the turn to start the tailwind drive for home. For about the last 3 or 4 miles I can see another rider and he's keeping my pace and gaining a little from time to time, so when I get some tailwind I decide that it's time to race. That is until mile 76. There was a family there with water and soda and as I roll up I ask if they have a coke, yep, so I stop and pound a tasty beverage, mmmm mmmm, I do like a tasty beverage!
Anyway, I drink most of it, until my nemesis is about 30 feet away and I can tell he is going to stop, I hand the can back and take off. The gap was about the same when he was rolling again. That is until I rounded the bend and saw this behemoth!
It was now that I was like WTF!! I am sick of these F***ING HILLS!!! It's supposed to be flat, where are the flat roads!!!! I put my head down and settle into a decent pace on this climb and drill it up the second step, once at the top I was pleased to see a long downhill to flat with a lovely tailwind. I was on the gas from the coke stop to Americus...dude chased me until I broke. I was all in for 15 miles and finally had to ease up and let him get by and go. Did I mention I had to pee for the last 20 miles?
Once he got by me I chased for about 5 miles and held him to about 150 feet ahead of me...until nature said it was time to take care of business, so I stopped and felt a bazillion times better and wondered why the hell I waited so long...
Once I got rolling again I couldn't see anyone behind me but kept the hammer down because these roads were FAST and if I ease up and "ride" in I would be passed again for sure. Sure enough, when I got about 1/4 mile from the pavement I could see a rider charging down the road after me, and just ahead of me was Jennifer Rhoades, who won the women's half pint, so we rode together and talked for a bit, I told her there was guy chasing me and as we turned into the campus she said "do you need to go"? I said yep! I drilled it to the intersection that has a signal which was green for me and according to Jeff Uhruh, the man that was chasing me, it was yellow as he and Jennifer were in the intersection. I had to sprint the majority of the way to the line to keep him behind me, which at the line was 3 seconds. My total ride time was 7:35:01 good for 12th overall in the Half Pint.
The build up to this epic adventure for 2015 was one for the ages...and not in a good way! The amount of negative things that tried to derail this train was almost enough to make me not go.
Here's a condensed version of the madness...
1. I booked my hotel online...in Emporia...VIRGINIA!!! I'm not sure who dropped the ball there but it was most likely me...When did I discover this? March 24th...At this point there's an ice cubes chance in hell I'm getting a room...F*&%#%&*&%#K!!!!!!! For the record, I'm not the only one who has done this. The next day, a Monday, I start searching for a room...I call the Flint Hills Inn and to my complete surprise they have a room available on the 30th!! Book it I tell the nice lady, she does and gives me a confirmation number...HOORAY DISASTER AVERTED!!!
2. The second nut knock came about 2 and a half weeks from the race...I caught some sort of stomach virus...I was hoping it would be short lived but I didn't feel "normal" again until 9 days later...I rode for an hour, easy, outside about 3 days after it started hoping it would help...it didn't...from then on riding the couch was the only riding I did...goodbye fitness...I was freaking out at this point!! I finally got back to normal and got some saddle time the week leading up to the race....talk about crappy timing!
3. On Memorial day I decide I should call the FLINT HILLS INN and confirm my reservation. Since I'm telling you this you can probably guess it wasn't going to be good...well...you're right. The lady on the phone proceeded to tell me "we don't have a reservation under your name"...I say I have a confirmation number...she looks it up and still NADA...WTF!!!!!!!!!! Less than a week out and I don't have a room...AGAIN! I'm so mad at this point I want to puke...so I sit on my couch thinking about all I've done to get ready for this race again...after about 20 minutes I pick up my phone and half heartedly search for a room that I know doesn't exist...when to my surprise the BEST WESTERN has a room...I had to take a double take of my phone because I couldn't believe what I was seeing! So I run to my laptop, pull it up and sure enough...A ROOM!!!! WOOOOOHOOOOOOoooo!!! I book it online and call directly after I receive the confirmation email to confirm that it really happened. Again, DISASTER AVERTED!!
4. Thursday night before travel Friday. I'm going over my bike and proceed to pull the threads out of the fork where the disc caliper mounts...karma...why do you hate me!! So I freak out a little an find a longer bolt that fixes the problem...life is good...again.
5. Same night a little later...I have my bike upside down doing something to it. When I went to pick it up I grab it by the stem and my computer mount takes a small chunk of flesh from my thumb...the gods of gravel and karma are now conspiring against me...not cool!
6. Last one...I needed some Hammer Gel so on Friday morning I wait til the bike shop opens and head out to get some. If you didn't know, it has been raining like it's a rain forest in these parts (Kansas City) for a while and Friday was no different. So I open the garage and back my truck out and just about the time I start to stop I hear a loud pop and my right front tire slides to a stop...What the hell was that?? I get out and look and I ran over a huge toad...At this point I said F**k it I'm not going to Emporia...I couldn't take all of the bad mojo anymore. I tell my girlie and she reassured me that everything would be fine and to get the Hammer gel.
There are a few more instances in the weeks and months before the DK but these are the good ones!!
To say this race was hard is an understatement! It was BRUTAL!!! Add in all the that crap above and I was sure I was gonna die in a mud puddle next to a meadow muffin in the middle of the Flint Hills! SHEESH!!!
I have said this before and will say it again. If you want to do the DK 200 and aren't sure you will make 200 miles...try the Half Pint, it has taken me to my limit every time and for the last 5 years I have said this is the last one...I will be back in 2016 for another 100 miles of gravel in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
I love riding my bike!
P.S. DO NOT BOOK A ROOM AT THE FLINT HILLS INN. They lost my reservation, as well as several others by the admission of the hotel, they will lose YOURS!!