Monday, June 19, 2017

Dirty Kanza 2017

It has been a while since my last post...I like doing this but I guess I feel it's getting old for a lot of people...oh well...I like telling my story so here it 2017 DK half.

Hmmm...I'm not sure where to about the week before. I'm sure I'm like most of the gravel riding loonies out there and watched the weather waaaay too close for peace of most of you know the weather wasn't being very cooperative right up into Thursday morning in Emporia...all I could think about was how long it was going to take to walk/run the now infamous mud march from 2015.

From the looks of the picture above I had good reason to worry! With that planted squarely in the front row of my brain I watched the forecast and the radar hoping it would change for the better. Thankfully the Gods of Gravel and Mother Nature had a meeting and the Gravel Gods convinced her to lift her foot of the Precipitation accelerator on Thursday afternoon. With nothing but a big blue sky, a little heat and wind on Friday to help dry things out, when I arrived on Friday about 12:30 and drove down to the first turn on to gravel I was optimistic that it was going to be dry on Saturday...barring a late night sneak attack ala 2016...

With the weather sort of behind me now it was time to sign in and head to the rider meeting. I was glad we went to the first meeting at 1:00, it was standing room only and I didn't want to go to the one at 7:00pm...I wanted to be ready and chillin in my hotel which is what I was doing!

Now with my bike ready, my clothes laid out and my breakfast set up and ready to be made it was time to chill and eventually sleep...does anyone ever get a good nights sleep before the Dirty Kanza??? I don't think I ever really sleep...but maybe I get about 4 hours of shut eye...not enough but it's been that way for me for the last 7 years....oh well.

4:00am...race day...I get up and grab some me some caffeine! As I sit there and drink I think about what is about to happen...everything is ready so I'm good. I put in the saddle time, worked out my nutrition and even bought gravel specific tires for 2017. I'm pretty sure I put more thought into this year than years past. The main reason was to finish...DNFs are for the birds and I ain't got no feathers!!!!

Coffee gone and breakfast ate I kit up and head to the start line at about 5:20am. Between the coffee and my nerves I did a pretty good interval for a warm up to the start. You know what they say...the longer the race the shorter the warm up. We stayed about 4 miles away and I drilled 3 of 'em.

Anyway...I'm not a fan of lining up behind people I don't know so I always get to the start with plenty of time to spare so I can nab a spot on the front row. The 200 finally rolls out and the 100 rolls to the line and I find my spot on the front as I have for the last 4 years. Most of the people that line up at the front are there to cross the line first...I suppose that includes me but I don't go in saying I'm going to win...I do my best because that's all I can do, if I happen to win right on if not I did my best.

GO!! We're off and rolling towards the first turn and I'm right where I want to be. As we turn onto the gravel I can't help but wonder about the mud march section at mile doesn't last long because I have to focus on the task at on gravel. We were rolling 20+ mph for the majority of the time and with that speed we topped the last hill before the mud march quickly and much to my surprise and relief it was fast and DRY!!!

Now is where the "fun" begins...I ride a rigid carbon 29er MTB with a flat bar and bar ends. As we race onto this section of "B" road I allow a little distance between myself and the guy in front of me, the reason is simple, there are more things to cause chaos on these roads so a little extra room is a good thing. Racing along about a mile into the "mud march" section I'm in the left track and the guy in the right track wants to come over. He looks and I say take it, so he stands up to cross from right to left in front of me, with plenty of room I might add, as he crosses the middle I see his front wheel start to wash out. As dude is crossing, I have my hands on the bar ends no where near the brakes and no time to grab the brakes it happened so he is going down, I say aloud...very loud...HOLY SHIT!!!

Now I'm thinking...he's going down in front of me and I am gonna crash my brains out on gravel, dirt and rocks...for a brief moment I was mad, after all this is why I lined up on the front row to avoid such things. So as I'm rolling at this guy at speed, I start drifting towards the ditch and think I'm gonna flip into the ditch at speed. This seemed a little better than wadding myself up on gravel. As I get closer I see a spot in the ditch that has been scooped out, is round and rideable. With my hands still on the bar ends I pick a line and go for it. I Rambo through the ditch into the grass next to the fence and Rambo back again to the road unscathed and punch it to get back on the train I was with. As I was coming back on to the road I took a quick look back and a small pile up had occurred due to Mr. Wheel washer outter. I shook my head in disbelief and laughed for the next mile because I couldn't believe I pulled that off...I guess being a longtime MTBer pays off sometimes. From that point on the HOLY SHIT moments were done for the day...

Back on the back of the lead train the next10 miles fly by uneventfully...then we hit the first long climb over the highway. This is where I was dropped. At the time I was thinking no bid deal I will get back on in a mile or 2 but that never happened. Oh well time to settle into my race which is what I did. For the next hour and a half or so I picked my way through the 200 milers and occasionally would latch onto a group that was rolling as fast or even a little faster than me until they slowed for whatever reason and I would roll on.

The dry and crazy fast conditions had me roll into the checkpoint in 2:41:00. This is by far my fastest time to the checkpoint, by about 30 minutes. Flying!

Now at the checkpoint, I wasn't hungry at all so I survey what I might want or need and all I did was drink some Gatorade, water and grab 2 fresh mix bottles and blasted off. My shortest pit stop ever!!

Earlier this year while daydreaming about the DK and rooting around on the web I stumbled across someone who was talking about their nutrition plan for such things and said they were using "Infinitgofar" and went on to say they didn't have to carry solid food with this stuff...I was like yeah right. So I started doing some research and the Infinit web site says their formula allows endurance racers/riders to keep going without the need for solid food....hmmm...I think to myself, if this stuff works it would lighten the load on me and my bike so I bought some to give it a go out on the long 5-6 hour training rides.

For the century rides I did in prep for the DK, I purposely went out on an empty stomach with this stuff in my bottles to see if it would work as advertised. I didn't go out without any food, I took a Clif bar and a couple of gels and some money just in case. To my surprise the stuff actually worked. For the 104 mile ride I drank 4 bottles of InfinitGofar, 3 bottles of water, half a Clif bar and one gel pack which I didn't really need, and a can of Coke at 75 miles because it was hot and I wanted one! To make sure this wasn't a fluke I did the same route the following weekend with more or less the same results. At this point I decided I would do this for the Dirty Kanza. Here's the site if you wanna do a little research okay so I have enough computer skill to write a blog...copy and paste the site because I am too tired to figure out how to make it a link...SHEESH!

Anyway...I roll out of the checkpoint in 9th place and feeling pretty good. About 5 miles into the second leg I was following a guy that was a couple hundred yards up the road and he blows past the right turn on the B road where it all fell apart last year...being the nice guy that I am I yell at the guy and point to the turn he missed and away I go. He stayed a ways behind me for about the next 10 miles but when he finally caught me he said thanks to which I responded, no worries. He's the guy in the pic below behind me.

Shortly after this another rider comes up to us and the 3 of us ride together for a while. After about 5 miles with these dudes I start to unravel and let them go. Alone again and I'm good with it. I can see a rider up the road a ways and I'm slowly but surely gaining on him. In the time that I saw this guy I came across a farmer lady who had just set up her cooler for some Emporia farmer neutral support. I asked her what she had and she said bottled water and some Gu bites...I think...and a few other things. I didn't really care about the other things because it was getting hot and it was already humid, so I asked for a bottle of water and she handed me one, I slammed about half and handed it back and she kindly poured the rest on my head...which hit the spot!!

Now refreshed...for about the next 5 minutes...I roll on and set out to catch the rider ahead of me. after about 5 miles I finally pass Brandon Beehner from Illinois, he had stopped for something and as I pass I asked if he was good and he said yes. A few miles later he caught up to me and I decided to make a deal with him. It was, we will work together to get this over with sooner rather than later and just do what you can without killing yourself and me and I will do the same. The deal was made and after that I said if you need water, he did, and see a farmer with a cooler we are stopping to which he responded RIGHT ON!

For the next 45 minutes or more we were looking hard at every house we passed and it was starting to get depressing! At about 21 miles to go we pass a rider that was laying in the grass on the side of the road, as we pass I ask if he was good and he said yes i'm cramping. About a mile later there was a Farm couple with a cooler full of iced down bottled water...WOOOHOOOOooo!! I didn't really need it but Brandon did so we stopped. I had about half a Camel Bak and 1 bottle left for liquid so I took the opportunity to fill my empty so I could have some cold water and poured another bottle on my head. All squared away we roll out again. As we are riding away the guy that was laying in the grass rolls up with another rider.

A mile or 2 down the road I see the 2 that we left are riding and I asked Brandon if he wanted to wait? He said no, so I was good with it and replied if they catch us right on, if not, no worries. About a mile later they came charging by and I said lets go and we jumped on the train. For the next 9 miles we were killing it again. We make a turn onto road R and I start to come unglued, fortunately there's a railroad crossing about a half mile up the road and as I'm crumbling a train comes and the group slows and I dig to catch back up and get recovered. We slow rolled the half mile and by the time we got to the crossing it was gone and the group mentality was on kill again. I was recovered and was taking pulls again. We managed to stay together for about 3 more miles before it took it's toll.

In that 3 miles we had picked up another rider, Dallas McCarter from Lawrence Kansas, and the 3 of us couldn't match the pace of the 2 strong men we had just let go. It was about this time we had noticed if we pull our heads out we could finish in under 6 hours. It was about this time we were on the last long flat road, about 3 miles before we go under the highway and hit pavement for the final stretch through the college. I knew Brandon was more or less toast, he's a big dude and Dallas had been telling me he was toast for the last 8 miles. So I took it upon myself to try and get us to the line in under 6 hours. I go to the front and pull along at 18 mph for about 2 miles before I needed a break. I pull off and tell them I need a break to which Brandon said I can't pull 18 and I said I just need a break and do what you can. So I sit on the back as we roll along at 14mph, which was killing me, after about a 30 second break I go back to the front and drive it to the tunnel.

Once on pavement we face one more hill...I said a few good words for this last hill, use your imagination! Anyway, Dallas, who is quite a bit smaller than Brandon or myself, goes ahead a little and gaps me on the hill, Brandon was done at this point. I'm thinkin, oh hell no! So I dig deep and punch it over the top to find a right turn to a downhill. This gets me right back to him, so now he's telling me "it's all you, you did all the work coming home so it's all you". All this is being said while the pace is increasing. As he and I come onto Commercial street, he puts his head down and drives the pace hoping it would be enough that I couldn't come by. As we get about halfway down the chute I grab 2 gears and drill it by him to which he responded "okay, you're good" and we crossed the line.

My computer said 5:58:48 but that's not the time that counts...officially the time was 6:01:50...close but not under...I guess stopping twice for water probably put us over the mark but that's cold water at that time hit the freakin spot and I would totally do it again!!!!!

The next day I had the ridiculous urge to attempt the 200...I'm not sure if that will happen but right now I think I will give it a's 6 months until I have to make a commitment to it and I may change my mind because I really want to do Leadville again but that's about as slim a possibility as it will be to get in the Dirty Kanza in 2018.

Here's to getting in to both in 2018!!

I love riding my bike!