Dirty Kanza

They get pretty pumped about the DK200 in Emporia

The Dirty Kanza is a 200 mile ultra-endurance bike race through the Flint Hills of Kansas. The race was actually back in June and there’s already a report on teamredwheel.com, but I wanted to write my own.

Last year, a few of the guys from Team Redwheel came back from this event with stories about the vastness of the Flint Hills, Kansas’ never-ending gravel roads and an “all-you-can-eat” pre-race pasta dinner. It all sounded pretty horrible except for the last part. The fact that it’s 200 miles long was enough for me to wave the middle finger, but when registration rolled around I gave in to peer pressure and signed up. There were 4 sagstops along the way, so how hard could it be… right?

While unloading the bikes in Emporia, we got a good taste of the weather we’d be dealing with the next day. It was in the high 90’s at sunset with nearly zero humidity. We were all sweating our asses off just from standing around. Tomorrow would be an interesting day.

Dong had to decide which S-works to ride that day

Even Nick was feeling the effects, and it wasn’t long before we all got a good look at what Mr Smith brings to the party:

Nick is “too sexy for his shirt”

Man.. I thought I was pale.

The pre-race pasta dinner was magnificent, as was the company. We got our race packets, DK 200 shirts, an ass-load of Salsa stickers and waited for the pre-race meeting to begin. There was a raffling of many coveted items in the bike world, not the least of which was a frameset for the Salsa Fargo. My number was drawn for a Mountain Feedbag, but someone else had my same number, so he got it. I already had one anyway, so it was cool.

I had elected to ride my Tricross 1X9 with 2 bottles of water on the frame, 2 on a seatpost-mounted aqua rack, and 2 more in my jersey pockets. The projected temp was going to be 100+, so hydration was going to be a pretty big deal.

I was also planning to wear my Camelbak… too bad I forgot it in the motel room.

When we drove into town I was really surprised at how many locals had come out to watch the start of the race. There was a crowd lining the streets for at least the first mile of the course. Riders were staging in front of the town theater, so we all made our last minute checkovers and tried to look tough before the “fun” started.

How cool is that!

I think everybody kinda had their own ideas about what pace to ride before the heat kicked in.  TRW is a team before and after the race, but we seldom recognize one another on the course:) In that light, we made sure to wish one another luck before the hammer dropped.

Happy faces....for now.

**From right to left: Nick Smith, Stoney on Nick’s shoulder, Don Daly’s backside, Barry Vollmer, Corey “Scardick” Case, and Bob on the far left**

As is usually the case, my only goal was to survive and have a good time. My longest ride ever had been 88 miles at Syllamo earlier in the year, so riding 100 miles in the Flint Hills would be very satisfying, if it happened.

Not sure what’s going on in this photo. Cyclocross break-dancing maybe?

Somebody put down the cardboard, I'm gonna tear the roof off this sucka

There was a police-escorted neutral rollout out of town, which was totally badass. The morning was cool without much wind, so the first 10-15 miles rolled by pretty quickly. A lot of people were getting flat tires, which had to be frustrating that early in the day. It was interesting to watch some of the “faster” guys group together and break away from the rest of us. I knew the heat would be brutal later in the day, so I decided to knock down some miles early in the race. I settled into a surprisingly comfortable 17mph pace and watched  the miles tick by.

The weather was nice and I was feeling strong. With sunny skies and flowers lining the road, it was hard not to smile. So far so good.

Quite the view
I know it hadn’t been more than 20 miles when we made it to the first photo-op. I saw a shallow creek crossing and a camera-man standing in the shade.  Noone seemed to be slowing down for the water, so I didn’t either.

Too bad noone was next to me

One particularly interesting think about the Kanza is its remoteness. You’re so far into the Flint Hills that a lot of cattle farmers don’t even use fences. As a result, you wind up weaving your way through a herd of cattle and/or riding along as they jog next to you. Very cool stuff.

Mooooooove over, ya bastards!!

When we got to the 30 mile mark, things turned bad in a hurry. We were pedaling straight into one of the worst headwinds I’ve ever encountered. I was literally in my easiest gear (on flat terrain)  laying on the top tube pedaling at 3mph. It was terrible. I actually had to stop and remove my spoke cards, because any time the wind came from the side I almost went off the road.
Barry Vollmer passed me on his singlespeed…laughing hysterically.
We had 10 miles of that shit before we turned and it became a tailwind The tailwind turned out to be a blessing and a curse; It was a blessing to have the wind pushing you down the road, but it was a curse to have such minimal airflow over your body. With a mid-day temp of 106, it was getting tougher and tougher to keep hydrated and stay cool.
I think the first checkpoint was at like 46 miles or something, and I was glad to see the TRW element waiting with food and cold water.
Gassin’ up–Still having fun at this point

The miles began to pass by slower and slower as I began to wear down. The vastness of the Flint Hills is awe-inspiring in a way that you can only understand if you’ve been there. I remember seeing shadows on the ground miles ahead of me and actually having time to look up and figure out which cloud was casting the shadow. People ahead of me were nothing more than dots on the horizon, as were the people behind. Once in a while I’d pass someone resting in the grass or waiting for a ride to come pick them up. There was also the occasional ambulance, but most of the people I saw were dropping out of the ride before they had health problems.

I ran into some trouble myself  about 80 miles into the ride. I had very little water left, lots of ground to cover and I knew I was dehydrated. I never completely kill my water supply because it tends to make me panic a little bit. Just knowing that I have one or 2 swallows of water left “just in case” is comforting, (even though it would be smarter to just drink it).

I was dizzy, tired and nearly out of motivation. It was time to either throw in the towel or find a place to rest and recoup. I never planned on finishing 200 miles, but  quitting before 100 wasn’t an option.  About 1/4 ahead ther was a bend in the road with some shade over a  bridge. I got to the bridge, parked the bike and took my helmet off to sit in the shade. At the exact moment my ass hit the ground.. the shade was gone. It had only been a shadow from a cloud and now the cloud had moved on. Much profanity was spoken. I knew it wasn’t going to do me any good sitting in the sun, so I crawled down under the bridge and sat in the creek.

Normally I would have been afraid of snakes. Not today. The water was filthy, but cold and somewhat refreshing.  It was tempting to drink from the creek, but I wasn’t that desperate yet. Instead, I filled a bottle and tucked it away. I bet I rolled around in that creek for the better part of 45 minutes trying to cool off and get my head straight. The heat was just absolutely kicking my ass out there. Every few minutes I’d hear a few more riders roll past me on the bridge above. It was a bit off-putting to know that I was losing so much ground, but I’d rather be slow than dead.

I eventually decided I better get out of the creek before I  fell asleep or had a seizure and drowned, as I’m sure either of those things would have completely ruined my day. {I’m only about half kidding there}

I rode a few more miles and chanced to find a shade tree. I still had plenty of time to make it to the cutoff, so I decided I’d lay in the grass under the tree for a while to rest. I was almost asleep when Zack rolled up on me and started freaking out a bit. To hear him tell the story, I must have looked like a corpse rotting in the sun. He woke me up and made sure I was good to go, but absolutely refused to leave me there. When I finally got up, I realized we were both standing under a mulberry tree full of berries.

I think I hear angels singing

Mullberries never tasted so good. The perfect food, it had juice, sugar, flavor….damn those were good berries. How does a mullberry tree even survive out there? Add to that, what kind of crazy luck do I have “just happening” to collapse under one?

I think we rode another 7 miles before we ran into a convoy of  jeeps loaded down with water coolers. They offered us water but we turned them down. It was against the rules to accept outside assistance during the race and we didnt want to tarnish our experience. The Jeep folks told us that the race directors had SENT them out there, and if we were smart we’d take the water. That’s all the reassurance I needed, so I filled every bottle I had.

It was a laborous ride to the 102-ish mile mark, but we made it. At the checkpoint, there was a shady spot to sit next to an ambulance.

Will someone please photoshop the girl in the left corner?

After that, we commenced to crushing fried chicken and beer with Nick Smith while waiting for the other guys to finish or drop out. I really can’t remember how many miles everyone got, but I know the vast majority of us didn’t finish. One man, (who shall remain nameless), informed me that he had been so depleted he actually shit himself.


If it had been me, I would’ve taken that to the grave.

Despite the mass of fallen riders, the day was not without its success stories. Surprise, surprise…Christopher Bopp finishes strong:

Always a crowd pleaser

In my opinion, the “Rocky” story of the day has to go to “Mister” Stoney Cranmer.

“What’s a Rocky story, Bob?”

Thank you for asking. A Rocky story is kind of like a Cinderella story, only much nobler. I call it a  Rocky story when someone pursues a goal with boundless  rigor and tenacity and never gives a moment’s thought to bringing attention or “fame” upon themselves. It’d be like if Chuck Norris never got a tv contract; He’d still be a badass but you wouldn’t know about it. He’s the opposite of an attention whore.

Here’s a more recent photo of Stoney from a cross race in Mt. Pleasant:

Stoney finished his first attempt at the Kanza on a singlespeed and landed himself a place on the podium. 2nd place in a 200 mile race…I don’t think there are too many regular joe athletes running around who can say that. Stoney made the Kanza,(and all the rest of us), his bitch. I can’t wait to see what he pulls out of his hat for 2011.

"The Quiet Man" sits second from the left

Two more of my heroes “showed up” that day. The first man on the left in the above photo is Mr Pete Goode, who took 4th place at this year’s installment. I believe this was the 2nd or 3rd time Pete has finished the race. Most people don’t klnow it, but Pete is also a bike commuter fashion aficianado.

Barry Vollmer  got lost in the night and didn’t finish until several hours after Stoney and Pete. Most people may have called it quits after being so far off course, but Barry’s got an iron will and a body made for endurance. He crossed the finish line with energy to spare and a smile on his face, completely satisfied with his Dirty Kanza experience. Barry is a total badass, but sometimes he wears pink shirts. I respect him too much to make fun of him for it….just thought I’d bring it up:)

He looks like he just rode around the block!!

The Kanza is in June and registration opens January 15th. Sign up for 40 miles of fun….and 160 miles of character development. This is my “big ride” this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of my friends out there.

About Bob Jenkins

Crusher of beers.

Posted on January 8, 2011, in Epicnicity---yeah it's a word, Race Reports, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. You had me at Dirty Kanza.

  2. Damn, That was quick:)

  3. That’s a great report and the first race report you guys have posted that made me think hell no (oops, second, bc I read about Leadville, too, and almost peed my pants at the thought of that downhill to beat the time cut-off). What’s scary is how quickly “hell no” turns into “hmmm…could I?” I think for the time being I’ll just look forward to reading your 2011 race report.

  4. Another great report, Bob! In fact, it was so good, I almost thought about registering for this ride… almost. Maybe next year.

    It’s pretty damn funny to hear Zack tell the story about how he rolled up on a dead dude under a tree. Good stuff.

  5. So, nice work. Say I am planning on a day trip through the Flint Hills for my birthday all of you should join me. Meet me in front of the Theater in Emporia, Kansas on June 4. Wear your party hats and bring PBR tall boys on ice! See ya there.

  6. I will be doing this race and finishing. Maybe not this year, but soon….very soon. Great report Bob

  7. I’m thinking Missouri will be well represented again this year. Between TV/TRW, Team Seagal and The Davis crew….holy cow.

    I don’t even want to think about the party at the finish line…

  8. Looks like registration is January 15th starting at 6am EST. The race this year is June 4th. WOW that is coming up in a hurry. It may seem like a long time away, but it is less than 5 months away. Decisions…decisions…

  9. Sign up. What’s the worst thing that could happen….?

  10. That is exactly what I am afraid of…. What is the worst thing that could happen? It sounds so fun and so miserable at the same time. I have thought about this before but I don’t know about getting my wife to run support for me with a 1 year old. LOL.

    • I’ve already committed to doing too many other races this year to justify the money and time away from family. Well, that, and I’m kind of a wuss.

      Usually, the support thing has a way of working itself out. I’m sure there will be people going that you know. Maybe team up with them as far as a support crew goes.

      Let us know if you sign up, man.

  11. There are sag stops about every 40-60 miles to load up on water and food, so a minimalist approach isn’t out of the question. The course isn’t terrible, it’s the weather that wears you out. I’m going to train this year by laying in my oven. Step one for you is a new helmet, my friend. That purple lid of yours can’t breathe well. Come to the non-race on March 13th and I’ll hook you up.

    There are several threads about the Kanza on the Team Redwheel blog. Look for anything written by Barry, Pete or Stoney and ignore anyone who posts under a pseudo-name. As far as I know, there is no magic bullet as far as your bike configuration. People ride it on cross bikes, mtb’s fixies, whatever. You just need to figure out what setup is the least punishing for your taint, and go with it. At least that’s what I think.

    I’m going to try to get a family member to roll down there this year too. We can work something out if you need sag supprt.

    And remember, I’m an expert….I finished half of it last year 🙂

  12. Well I am signed up. Let the training begin. LOL. Bob you will be happy to know that I have a new helmet, I actually got it before I did the Berryman Epic, big difference too. Non-race? I hadn’t seen anything about it yet. I spent some time reading the threads on redwheel this morning, lots of stuff there. My wife says that if I am a good boy maybe I can have a new bike, hopefully soon. I really think a cross bike would probably be the best, but what do I know, I am not an expert. =) But if you do hear of a cross bike for sale let me know. A good friend of mine is really interested in doing sag support so hopefully he doesn’t back out.

    • Congrats on signing up, man! That’s awesome. I’m no expert either, but I’ve heard a cross bike is the way to go. Good luck and happy training!

      Oh, and we’ll release some details on the non-race very soon. Breaking news… It’s March 13th.

    • I guess I let that one slip, didn’t I? Whoops, lol. Glad to hear you got a new helmet, man. I actually brought one to the Berryman for you, but didn’t see you until the race was starting. No big dealm I’m sure we can find someone who needs one. I don’t know if you looked at the list of confirmed riders, but Jim and Wendy are both doing the Kanza this year too. That should be a battle royale. I can’t wait for this thing.

      I’d strongly recommend buying a cross bike. I’ve got a Specialized Tricross and i love it. A cross bike is fast on the road, fast in the mud, and tough enough to jump curbs if the mood strikes you. You can also get into a much more aero position than a mountain bike.

      Way to step up man, maybe we’ll see you at one of the gravel grinders.

  13. **News Flash**

    Robby and Luke will be doing the 2-man relay at the Kanza this year. Now all we need is for Casey and Drew to pair up…

    • Bob, Congrats! You just posted our 600th comment on this blog! You win absolutely nothing, though.

      I’m pretty terrified of doing this race with Robby, but it’s “only” 100 miles, right? That’s “only” 40% longer than any ride I’ve ever done, so I should be able to do this, right? And Robby said he’d take the second leg of this race, so I should be able to avoid the crazy heat, right?

      Holy crap! I need to get on my bike right now and ride until I can’t ride anymore!

      • You can do it…you just commit to pedaling til your 100 miles is up. Of course, the longer it takes you, the more heat Robbie has to ride in…so no pressure there.

        • Thanks, Kate! And you bring up a good point regarding the heat. I could really mess with Robby by taking my sweet time to finish my 100 miles. He is, after all, the one that got me into this mess.

  14. I’m glad to see you two signed up. There’s no need to panic, you’ve still got plenty of time to build up your long ride. Just add 5-10 miles at a time. Baby steps, Luke.

  15. I would do it if Drew wants to team up. It’d be a good chance to test my (hopefully it works out) new used cyclkocross bike. But if I am coming all that way (20+ hours one way) I would’ve done the whole thing. I even asked Luke to do it with me as a team but he didn’t want any part of it. Funny how he does now, maybe it was just me he didn;t want to play with. (He actually called me and offered me the spot with Robbie since I was interested previously and he wasn’t. I turned him down, it’s a long ass haul for half a race.)

    I am thinking about doing the 28 hour Longest Day AR here in the beautiful Catskills in NY (if I can find a partner, I don’t think they allow solo’s). I was trying to talk Luke into it but now he’s committed to another race (Pussy, he took the easy way out – 100 miles, cake). Anybody want to do the Longest Day AR here in NY with me? Anybody? You don’t even have to be a team memebr, just a warm body that can keep moving for 28 hours and not stop (you don’t have to go fast, just keep going). Anybody? Seriously, let me know if you want to partner up and we’ll do it. Virgins (to Adventure Racing) are welcome.

    • Come on, man! You know it’s not like that. I’m still planning on doing The Lionheart AR with you in PA later this year. And I’ll be there in less than two weeks to see Austin wrestle and to do that snowshoe sprint AR. Can’t wait!

      • You know I am just playing around. It would be a long haul for such a short visit. I already decided not to go. You let the cat out of the bag…The Lion Heart. Now everybody will train harder to try and beat us adn they still have time to do so. So, if we don’t win I blame you for letting everybody else know that we plan to do this race. We have to now, you just burned our ship. Anybody else want to do the Lion Heart with Luke and me? No takers yet on the Longest Day? Anybody want to race with me? I’ll buy you an icecream cone, Bob? I’ll even through in a hot dog and a beer as a prelude to the cone. You in?

        • Casey, I’d like to do this Lionheart Race you’re always talking about. Tellyawhat..If I can get the time off and it doesn’t interfere with anything uber-important AND you bring some authentic New York hot wings…I’m in.

          But I get to be the pace center.

          • Great. I’m holding you to it. I’ll bring you some wings from “The Anchor Bar” (claims to have invented the Buffalo Style Chicken Wing, there are 2 such bars that I am aware of in Buffalo). Now we need to find a fourth so that we can roll as 2 teams of 2 (Checkpoint Tracker Points). I am not even sure that we can do a team of 3, I’ll have to check. But after last race (Thunder Rolls) I thought our days of 3 man teams were over.

            Let’s get in great shape and try to rock this race. Sounds like you and Luke have stepped up your training regimine. I’ll match your workouts and try to do even more, that way I am not the anchor at the race. Check out the race website (http://americanadventuresports.com/lionheart.htm) and make sure you can handle it. THen we have to find another racer. ANybody else interested? Drew, Zack, Darin, Robbie?

            I say who ever comes into the race in the best shaped (obviously based on the most ripped abs, a.k.a. a 6-pack) gets to be the official pace center for the race. Either that or we could always cage fight for it. The competition starts right now. Now. Go…seriously, start traiing right now.

            • I just checked out the race website and they do offer a 3 man team option. Plus, there is kayaking (not canoeing) on a river. Kayaks don’t seem to be on the gear list so they must provide them for you. Since they offer a single option they must be single kayaks (or at least they must be available). Either that or a triple, which we have to do if that is the case (doubtful). Maybe the 3 man team is back in business. One of us will have to shoot the race direcetor an email when we get a chance. Not it.

  16. Hey Casey, You dont know me, but I would race with you for a 12 pack of Pabst tall boys. Well, er, and a plane ticket.

  17. Roooooaaaad trip!!!

  18. Sweet. A road trip with me, Bob, and Sasha would be soooo much fun.

    And isn’t it weird, that Casey, the Anchor Man, Lamb wants to bring you wings from the Anchor Bar. The Anchor Bar, by the way, has the best damn wings in the world. God, I miss NY!

  19. Where else would the anchor man get his wings? Shasha that’s cheap. I’m going to start racing with you. Bob and Luke insist on 6 4-locos each and a fifth of Jack to split. Now that loco is bye-bye maybe they’ll accept 12 tall boys and a fifth of Jack each. This race you’ll have to drink on your way home and not to the race.

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