The weather leading up to the race was rain, rain, and more rain. My thoughts lead me toward the Cedar Cross which I really enjoyed this year. I had thoughts of smooth packed gravel with some mud spots. FUN!
Travel plans were made with the team and of course, Sarah and I were late. But the team held to form and everyone was running a little behind. We posed for a nice picture before making the trek to Emporia.
We are a good looking group, but we were missing a new and vital member…CARA JENKINS!!!! The trip was full of good conversation; talk of a glorious finish
and of course cookies!
The time and miles passed pretty quickly and we arrived at the grand hotel….THE ECONO LODGE!
We settled in and headed to the Pizza Ranch for some yummy carb load. After dinner we headed to Emporia to check in and attend the pre-race meeting. We looked all over for Cara but could not find her.
The pre-race meeting went as expected and we headed back to the hotel for final preparations and bed time. Adam needed to be fired because he forgot half of his stuff. But he managed to get it in order and we hit the sack….JACK!
Morning came early and I stuffed some breakfast down and water. We loaded the car and headed for the start. Pictures were taken and before we knew it….literally, the stat had occurred.
As we were taking pictures we heard….GO! WTF?!?!?! People were shouting that the race had started, and we didn’t even hear it. Not the best start to a 200+ mile race.
Cooler heads prevailed and I found some people going my speed. I rode with Jim Smith for a while as Casey and Aaron headed up the road. The wind had started to gust some, but we were heading south so I did not care. I looked down a few times a saw that I was cruising in the 20’s. I thought about backing down, but I knew that I needed to get to the checkpoint as fast as I could. I knew the wind would be taking a toll on me later on.
We crossed a sweet swollen creek with a very enthusiastic lady on the other side. I didn’t get a photo, but here is one….
Not long after this I rolled into Checkpoint 1. I was feeling pretty good, but I had the wind in the back of my mind.
After a quick stop to refuel and to change socks, I was back on the bike. I noticed that we were going to be heading more west and north west. The first few miles ticked by with no problems. Aaron and Casey were already up the road. My goal for this leg was to find a group that was going my speed and hang with them.
As we were about to turn west, I got passed by a group that I thought I could tag along with. I grabbed the back wheel and sucked their draft. It was nice, but they were booking it. I felt confident I could stay there for a while, but as we headed more and more west, I felt myself struggling to hang on. As they rode away from me, I felt like a failure that I couldn’t hang on. I was now left with battling the damn wind by myself. F**K!!!
I tried getting my mind right, but I could not clear the mechanism. The suckfest was on, and there was nothing I could do about it. My mind wandered to my pace and just what time of night I would finish. I seemed to watch my cyclometer more and more. At one point…probably one of my weakest points….I had only done 4 miles in a half an hour. I was no longer having fun riding my bike. Thoughts of quitting were in my head. I think this is one of the first races I have really thought heavily about quitting. It was not my proudest moment.
Somehow I managed to go on and finish the 2nd leg. 100 down and 100 to go. As I pulled into the 2nd checkpoint I did not know if my day was done. I think I told my awesome supporter and wife Sarah “I really don’t want to ride west or North West anymore.” As I took a peep at the map, what spirit I had left,….sank. The 3rd leg was entirely to the west/northwest.
I sat down and Sarah immediately brought me food. Aaron was there and he was hurting just as bad as I was. Casey was getting ready to head back out and looked fresh as a Missouri Morning. I think I even heard him say, “MOOOOOornin” as he rode off.
It felt awesome to eat and I quickly downed 2 sandwiches. While doing so I acquired some big time chills. I threw the arm warmers back on, but was still shivering uncontrollably. Aaron was curled up n a blanket and eating everything in site. Sarah offered me her fleece coat and I snatched it and quickly threw it on. Aaron and I chatted about quitting, but when he said he was feeling better, I had no choice but to join him. We recovered a bit more and then got ready. A quick look at the map showed 13 miles east. EAST! HELLZ YES!
We knitted up and headed back out.
The first 13 miles of Leg 3 was AWESOME! We had a tail wind and the gravel was fast. My legs felt ok and Aaron and I were enjoying the downhills. I hit 41 MPH and Aaron said he hit 44. This of course was just before we turned North. Damn wind….
We were back to sucking but it wasn’t as bad. Riding with another person just really makes the ride suck a lot less. As the mile ticked by we met up with another solo rider…..Scott Hefner. He was out of Overland Park, KS and he was a God send! Aaron and I chatted with him a bit and sat in on his wheel. He was a very strong rider and pulled Aaron and I. I tried taking some pulls, but my legs were really feeling it. My left knee was hurting on every pedal stroke, and it seemed I always had to pedal.
As the miles ticked by we met up with another Sing Speeder who was riding strong. We all came into the 3rd checkpoint together and Scott, Aaron, and I decided we would finish this thing together.
After eating, changing, and fending off my wife, we headed north again. We took off in the daylight, but “The Darkness” would soon arrive. As the sun was going down Scott snapped this breath taking sunset.
As the miles ticked by I was very happy to be on the last 50 miles. My spirits were high and my body started feeling a bit better. My knee was still hurting, but my mind was better. I always say, “Get your mind right!”, and it was getting better. Riding with these other 2 people was exactly what my mind needed.
Just before we made that sweet left hand turn east we climbed a hill that seemed to last for 20 minutes. Hanging on to the top made my right. My mind was right again and I knew I was going to finish. Once we turned east it was smooth sailing. The miles ticked by more easily. We double checked our maps a few times to make sure we were going to right way and were always spot on. The gravel got smoother and faster as we headed toward the finish.
With about 2 miles to go I was in front. We had about 10 minutes left until 12 and I wanted to finish be midnight. I was pushing with everything I had left and pulling the group. We raced toward the grated bridge. By this time we had a good pack of about 10 riders. Aaron and I took the bridge first and as we started to accelerate we heard a dreadful sound. Scott had not made it all the way across the bridge! OH S**T! We quickly stopped and returned to him on the ground. He was in pain fo sho. We aided him the best we could, but he just needed time. Scott’s helmet was scratched to HELL and he was complaining of right shoulder pain. Luckily his bike was rideable. Aaron bent his hood back into place and Scott made it back on his bike. The group was back down to 4 as others had went on. The Virtus way is to never leave a man behind and Aaron and I were not leaving Scott behind. He was one of the main reasons we were going to finish and it was now our goal to get him to the finish line.
We slowly rolled through campus and rolled into the finish line. I knew Bob Jenkins wanted to splash me with beer and splash me he did. He missed me at Cedar Cross to get Aaron, but he was on the ball and got me right in the eye. Well played Bob….well played.
WE MADE IT! All the struggle, all the gravel, all the hills, all the pain, all the WIND! We had done it. We finished 200 miles.
This race could not have been completed without the help of a great “Support” crew!
I found out later that Scott separated his shoulder when he went down. It was truly an honor to ride with him and Aaron. Without the two of them my day have been done at the 100 mile mark. Both gave me encouragement and let me draft. I could not have finished without them.
Another HUGE shout out to CASEY LAMB! This guy rocked (get it) the whole race! I am blow away by his ability to ride the wind, hills, and everything else that comes with Kanza almost entirely by himself. Aaron had the privilege of accompanying Casey for part of the day, but this guy was definitely a man on a mission. Great finish Casey!
It was time to celebrate.