Category Archives: Dirty Kanza
I feel lost. I don’t really know what the hell I’m going to do with myself this weekend as my fellow Virtusans set forth on a mission to finish The Dirty Kanza 200. I will sadly, for various reasons with which I won’t bore you, not be in attendance this year. I feel like I should be there as part of the support crew, but I just can’t make it happen this year.
Finishing DK two years ago alongside Bob and Adam was one of the highlights of my supremely mediocre (at best) racing career. Last year, my heart wasn’t into it, and it showed when I pulled out at the 108 mile mark. I doubt I’d have finished anyway because the wind was horrible, but both Robby and Casey crushed it last year.
Unfortunately, Kate hasn’t quite been able to finish this beast of a race. Two years ago she made it 165 miles after getting into the race with just a few weeks to train for it. Last year she succumbed to the wind as so many others did. This year, however, she’s more than ready. Barring a serious mechanical or severe weather (both very real possibilities), Kate is going to finish this fucker this year. No doubt in my mind.
And to make sure Kate finishes, I apparently gave her some extra motivation a few months back. I don’t exactly remember how this all came about, but both Bob and Kate assure me that this happened. Somewhere in an email conversation or facebook chat or maybe even in a face to face conversation, I said if Kate finished the DK this year, I’d be at the finish line in…
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
… Nothing but a jock strap.
What the hell was I thinking?! It’s not that I’m betting against her at all, because that would be a foolish thing to do. In fact, it isn’t a bet at all since Kate owes me nothing if she fails to finish (which ain’t gonna happen anyway).
It’s just that I know how much pleasure we all get out of embarrassing each other, and when the going gets tough – and it will get tough – Kate will keep going, knowing that my utter humiliation is in her hands. And I honestly can’t remember how those words ever came from my mouth or keyboard, but I guess they did. I’m such an idiot.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I won’t be in attendance. So all of the wonderful people at the finish line will be spared from seeing me nearly naked. In lieu of being at the finish line in a jock strap, Kate has agreed to accept a photo posted to our facebook page instead. So, that’s gonna be a treat for everyone.
As much as I don’t want to have to post that photo, I truly want Kate to finish Dirty Kanza this year. I hope all of them – Kate, Bob, Adam, and Travis – finish the race and have a great time. I’m just bummed I won’t be there to see it all go down. And I’ll be even more bummed when I have to post that stupid photo.
So, to my Virtus brothers and sister, good luck, ride strong, and have fun! Strength and Honor to you all.
In the weeks leading up the 2012 Dirty Kanza, nearly 500 riders lay sleepless in their beds wondering if they’d chosen the best tires for Flint Hills gravel. Worry and wonder about race-food, how much water to carry and whether or not the human taint can endure 200 miles swirled through their brains. I wasn’t much different, but I did have to ponder one question most others didn’t:
Can a 260 pound man finish this race?
I’d already tried twice and failed spectacularly, never making it past the halfway point. 102 miles is nothing to scoff at, but I wanted that damn Finisher’s glass. I had planned to train a lot more this year, but preparations for Cedar Cross had pretty much taken over my life since January. Trail work, (not trail-riding), had become my new way of life. If there had been an endurace weed-eating/chain-sawing/leaf-blowing event, I probably would’ve dominated.
Unfortunately, weedeating endurance doesn’t really transfer over into cycling endurance . Luckily, The Cedar Cross was an enormous success, ($800+ raised for the animal shelter), so it was totally worth the sacrifice.I’ll leave out about a thousand details and fast forward this story to race-morning. Pulling into a parking spot about mile 1/4 from the starting line, we almost immediately ran into Travis Hammons and company. Travis and I have raced together a few times and it seems like something “epic” happens each time we’re together. Whether it’s bike-whacking across private property or eating wild onions because we’re out of food, there’s always a story to tell. I certainly count him among a small number of people I consider real friends. Here’s a pretty good shot of Travis later in the race:
I hadn’t seen any of my TRW team-mates yet, but I knew they were around. I had to assume they were lined up closer to the front, so I probably wouldn’t see them til much later in the race. Gear assembled, we lined up for a quick pre-race photo.
Note that Austin is suited up and riding in Casey’s place. Casey had some super-shitty leg problems and was unable to race, so we were all very proud when Austin volunteered to Casey’s spot. At 62 miles, the 1st leg of the race would be his longest ride to date. That kid is more of a man every time I see him.
Making our way to the starting line, I spotted a kindred spirit and it was time for a photo:
Jim Cummins gave the order for the race to start, and the mass of riders crept forward. There were so many people attempting this year’s DK that it took a good minute or two before we even got to start pedaling. It was an odd thing to be wearing arm-warmers at the Dirty Kanza, but I was damn glad to be doing it. The longer it stayed cool, the happier I’d be.
Prior to race-start, we’d all agreed to work together as much as possible while recognizing that this was an individual effort. 200 miles is a long haul, and everyone was bound to have a problem or two throughout the day. There would be no joy in it, but stragglers would have to be left behind. I think everyone had their own private fears about slowing down the rest of the group. I know I did.
We were probably only about 20 miles into the ride when my stomach started cramping. Having my guts all tied up was making it hard to keep the pace, and I was getting worried. I kept thinking about Dan Dougan’s experience 2 years ago, when he earned the nickname “SPD.” (Shit-pants Dan). Not me, buddy.. I’d drop trou and paint the gravel before that happened. I talked to Luke about the stomach issues and he suggested eating a FOOSH.
“Remember how Scott Fredrickson said they helped his stomach during long races?” he said.
Scott is basically the man, so anything good enough for him is good enough for me. I ate a Foosh and 5 minutes later my stomach felt great. I’m sure that sounds like a commercial, but I’m not bullshitting one bit. I couldn’t believe how quickly it worked. I’ve always liked Foosh for the caffeine boost, but after that experience I’ll never race without it. Those little mints totally saved my ass….from itself. My chamois stayed clean and my breath smelled fantastic, I was back in the game.
I think Robby was off the front first, followed shortly by Austin. The rest of us stayed pretty tight for the first leg. I remember we were being very casual, just taking in the scenery and stopping to “water the grass” quite a bit. Time was passing quicker than we realized, though… and with about 12-13 miles til the first checkpoint, we found ourselves in a bit of a race against time. We formed a “not-screwing-around” paceline, went to work and shit got pretty serious for about 45 minutes. Luke was out front and the rest of us were just doing whatever we could to stay on his wheel. We made it with time to spare, which is good because I couldn’t have held that pace much longer.
We rolled into the CP, grabbed a chair and marveled at how quickly our support crew switched out all our water bottles, brought us food and serviced the bikes. You would’ve thought these people were getting paid or something. We literally did nothing but relax in the shade while they worked. It was great. They even took care of Adam:
I think we hung out for about 25 minutes. I ate half of a Jimmy-John’s Gargantuan and a bottle of strawberry Ensure. Heading out for the second leg, I had 4 water bottles and a 3 liter camelbak. I had frozen the entire pack before the race, in hopes that the icy-cold bladder would be soothing on my back. Sprinkle some ice in the jersey pockets and we had a recipe for success.
I felt a lot better now than I had for the first 62 miles. My stomach was settled and my legs felt fresh, but I knew it could fall apart at any time.. just as it had on both of my previous DK attempts. We left the aid-station and it seemed like hardly any time had passed before we reached the area where Travis and I had fallen apart last year. Rolling past the turn where he and I had parted ways, it was plain to see that he was much stronger this year. I think he had me gapped by half a mile by then.
I can’t remember who I was riding with when I saw the water spigot that had saved my life last year. It was crazy to think that at this point last year I was out of water and afraid for my life. The cooler temperatures were really helping out.
To be completely honest, I don’t remember very much else about this part of the race apart from getting a flat tire. We had just gotten to the bottom a very sketchy, fast and FUN downhill when I realized I had popped the rear tire. I pulled over to fix it under some trees and pretty much everybody stopped to wait for me. When we stopped, the sweat really started to pour in my eyes. It hurt like a sumbitch and I couldn’t see anything. I had to have Luke spit (clean water) in my face just to rinse it off, which was pretty hilarious and reminiscent of our experience at the Thunder Rolls. Travis loaned me his quick-inflator and the bike was ready to roll in no time.
I felt bad that everyone had stopped for me, but I don’t think we really lost a lot of time. All the sweat that had built up on my arms/jersey while we were stopped felt like ice when we started rolling again, and I have to say it felt pretty awesome.
About 2o minutes before we hit the 2nd checkpoint, my body started the downward spiral. I was dizzy, had some back pain, my stomach was sitting heavy and I had to wonder if I would eventually barf. I had clearly become the weakest link in our group, or at least it felt that way. Not wanting to make a spectacle of myself, I figured the smart thing to do was sit in the grass and wait it out. I remember Michelle running up and asking me if I wanted anything.
I told her “lemonade and pickles”. The look on her face was priceless,(and it sounds disgusting now), but at that moment my body needed lemonade and pickles. Next came the other half of my sandwich and a bottle of Ensure. I also ate another FOOSH…just in case.
Everyone else was ready to go, but I needed more time and told them not to wait around. Self-doubt had started to creep in, and I was about 90% sure I’d never make it to CP 3. I just felt run-down. After a brief talk with Becca, (who wasn’t having any of my crybaby crap), I was back on the bike and heading out of town.
The third leg was 59 miles long and it was all new territory. Rolling out of town, I was thrilled to have made it this far and really tried to commit the moment to memory. I’d say the first mile or two was paved and downhill, which was awesome… until I realized my headlamp was still back at the checkpoint.
Turning back just wasn’t an option, so I convinced myself that the full moon would provide all the light I needed. With the way I was feeling, I couldn’t even be sure I’d last long enough to need a headlamp.
The first climb after leaving town was a beast, and I wound up pushing the bike for most of it. I was really in pain at this point. My legs still felt good, but every breath I took sent a sharp pain between my ribs and shoulder blades. Further “enhancing” my mood, the sun was starting to really beat down. The temps weren’t anywhere near as hot as last year, but I was definitely feeling it. Sweat burned at my eyes, but rubbing them with filthy hands wouldn’t have done any good and I definitely wasn’t going to waste my water flushing them out. Out of options, I just squinted and hoped it would subside. It really sucked ass.
That hill went on for what felt like an eternity. Halfway to the top I was pretty much demoralized and didn’t give a shit anymore. Pulling the cell phone and calling for a ride sounded like a pretty good idea, but I couldn’t make myself do it. When I finally got to the top of the hill, I just stopped. All I could do was lay over the handlebars, gasp for air and think about all of the horrible dietary decisions that had lead me to this moment. The fried food, beer, chips, hotwings, dark beer, pizza, nachos and more beer.. it had all culminated into this masterpiece of failure. This would have been so much easier if I just would’ve committed to a diet and lost weight.
Luke’s famous quote,”You can’t out-train a shitty diet” echoed in my mind. I was so embarrassed and pissed off at myself.
I stared down at my frame bag, knowing my cell phone and the freedom it could bring were only inches away. I wondered if anyone else had dropped out. Would I be the only one? How terrible would that be?
Finally catching my breath, I turned to look at the hill I had just climbed. I was surprised to see that it was pretty enormous, affording me a view for miles in either direction. It was a magnificent view I never would’ve seen if I hadn’t stopped and turned around. I stood there gawking for a moment.
Hmm. I might as well take a leak while I’m stopped.
Then came another surprise. My urine was clear…and that’s a really good thing after 100+ miles of riding. I stood there for a moment thinking about my situation. I had already climbed the biggest hill I could see for miles, I was apparently well hydrated and there was plenty of time to get to the last checkpoint.
Right there, my attitude changed completely and I started to believe again. Sure, I’m a fatass.. but I’m an endurance fatass.
I don’t have to be fit, all I have to do is NOT quit.
I had plenty of water, plenty of food and plenty of time. Finally done being a crybaby, I saddled up and rode an easy pace until the rib-pain eventually went away. My eyes finally quit burning too, and all at once I just felt great. My spirits were on the rise and so was my average speed. With its long sweeping turns and gorgeous views, this stretch of the race was by far my favorite. All I had to do was keep my average speed above 11 mph and I’d make it on time. No problem.
Sadly, this portion of the course also seemed to have the most casualties. Justin had some tire issues that ended his ride, which was really a shame because he’d been riding like a diesel truck all day. I have no doubt he could’ve finished. Later down the road, I found Kyle Boos laying on a bridge with some pretty terrible back spasms. Kyle is a strong endurance rider so this was very surprising to me. Ever the sportsman, he was kind enough to give me a handful of lemon drops and a headlamp. Emma was on her way, so I left knowing he’d be fine.
For the next 3 hours, nearly every person I came into contact with was either waiting for a ride or sitting in the ditch thinking about calling for one. I remember seeing dudes out there who looked like they were straight from the pages of Men’s Health magazine..these guys were FIT. It was so odd to me they could make it that far and still quit, especially given their apparent fitness level. I can only imagine what they were thinking when my fat ass rode by. By now, I was riding with my jersey completely unzipped, so my beer belly and manboobs were out in the open. I’m sure it was a horrible sight, but I didn’t care.
I remember looking to my left and seeing that the sun had nearly set. I’ve always said that if you can survive until the sun sets, you can finish this race. If my theory was correct, I had this thing in the bag. Alone on the gravel, I now found myself mocking the sun. Waving my middle finger and literally cackling, I can only imagine what it must have looked like…seeing an obese, topless cyclist yelling and laughing at the sun.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, I caught up to Derrick Boos. I’d been riding alone for about 3-4 hours now and it was great to have someone to talk with. We rode together for the rest of the 3rd leg, and I was glad to have company on those low-maintenance roads.
Now, I like to think we’ve got some rough roads in Callaway county, but there are places out on “the Kanza” that had me at full pucker. It’s crazy how quickly the roads go from smooth and fast to total shit. One moment Derrick and I were flying down this grassy “road” in the dark, going waaay too fast and loving it, and the next moment we’re smashing through a big-ass rock garden. My front wheel came down so hard that my handlebars bent forward, but we somehow came away without any flats. It was pretty awesome.
It seemed like the closer we got to town, the faster we went. We had time to spare, but I think we both just wanted to get there. The tail-lights of a passing car in the distance meant we were getting close to the highway, and soon we were riding along on gloriously smooth, taint-friendly pavement. Riding into that third checkpoint and knowing we only had 37 miles to go felt like victory. Absolute victory. 37 miles wasn’t shit to me anymore.
Becca and Michelle must’ve known I was nearby, cuz they found me quick. It was great to see them, and they were definitely excited that all of us had made it to this, the final checkpoint. It was even more uplifting to learn that Adam and Luke were still there. They were clearly ready to go, so I didn’t get to relax under the giant buffalo penis like Robby had earlier in the day.
One of the volunteers told me that the rest of the course was flat, and another one had said there were still some big climbs ahead. I knew one of them had to be fibbing and chose to believe it was the first one. It didn’t matter anyway, we were on a mission now. Becca and Michelle swapped out my bottles, refilled my Camelbak and threw me a couple bottles of Ensure. It was time to go.
**By the way, THANK YOU Chuck Vohsen for telling me about drinking Ensure during long races.**
With piss and vinegar in our veins, we set out for the final measly 37 miles of the Dirty Kanza. It’s all a bit of blur to me, but I distinctly remember it was NOT flat. There were at least 2 climbs that had us pushing, and if I’d been alone out there it would’v been much worse. At the top of one climb, I looked down to check the time and saw that my ipod Touch was gone. I had owned it for 3 days. MUCH profanity was spoken.
The guys were ready to turn around and look for it, but I told them we could come back in the morning. You can buy an ipod anywhere in America, but DK Finisher’s glasses can only be gotten in Emporia before 230 am. Missing the time cutoff was a risk I wasn’t willing to take.
**Side-note** When Adam found my ipod the next day, it had apparently been run over by a few cars, and possibly a bus. It looked like a wadded up gum-wrapper. Good thing I bought the warranty 🙂
I vividly remember seeing the glow of Emporia in the distance and knowing that the finish line was nearly in hand. Surely our friends would all be there, and that was a warming thought. I’d stood at that finish line 2 years in a row waiting for friends to finish, and it was always such a thrill when they did. Surely, the entirety of Team Redwheel had either finished ahead of us or dropped out by now. They’d be there for me just as I had been there for them in years past. They had to be shit-faced by now… the finish line party was gonna be awesome.
We rode in silence, but my mind was racing.
Casey and Robby surely had beer ready on ice. Travis must’ve finished by now.. he was probably sitting in a lawn chair drinking from his Finisher’s glass. I wondered about Kate, she had looked pretty rough last time I saw her. Becca, Michelle and Crystal, our “DK guardian angels,” they were probably exhausted from taking care of us all day, but they’d be there. Emma was definitely going to want to know about Derrick. I felt a bit of sadness that Cara hadn’t been able to come, but I knew she’d be proud from afar. Part of me wondered if she’d believe we actually made it. I really need to marry that girl.
Emporia’s glow grew closer until we could see individual street lights. We were almost there. Gravel finally gave way to paved roads and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad that it was almost over. It wasn’t how I had expected to feel at all.
We rolled past the college campus and turned onto Main street.
Holy shit, there’s the finish line.
3 abreast, we crossed the finish line and were promptly soaked by a monsoon of beer and the cheers of friends and family. I’ve beer-sprayed a lot of finishers in my time, but I’m pretty sure this was my first time on the receiving end. The taste of beer mixed with the dirt and sweat from my face was flat-out awesome. We had done it. 20+ hours, 200 miles, and now this 260 pound man has a finisher’s glass. And even with the complete absence of Team Redhweel, (WTF?), I can’t remeber a more satisfying finish-line celebration.
I drank one beer and was literally drunk on my ass. Perfect way to end the day if you ask me 🙂
And I’ll say this, being a team is more than just wearing matching jerseys. There’s a deep-rooted feeling of brotherhood, (and sisterhood, Kate), that can only be born of shared suffering, defeat and eventual triumph. A feeling that could never be bought or sold. A feeling of family; a family of Off-Road Medics, Virtusans, Lederhosens, Trail Monsters, Adam, and everyone else.
A family of BAMF’s who finished the Dirty Kanza.
Two hundred miles is a long way. Two hundred miles on a bike is even longer. Two hundred miles of rough, gravel roads through the Flint Hills of Kansas in the heat and humidity of June on a bike is just stupid. Throw in possible hazards such as nasty storms, severe cramps and dehydration, bad crashes, wayward helmets bouncing down the road (we’ll get to that in a minute), flat tires, gashed sidewalls, cattle stampedes, getting lost, etc., and you’re talking about a horribly bad idea. After attempting to ride half of the Dirty Kanza as part of a duo last year, I was still dumb enough to sign up for the full 200 miles this year.
I’m not alone, though. Around 420 riders toed the line for the full 202 miles at this year’s DK200. Many have said it before me, but I’ll say it again. There is just something about this race. I don’t know what it is exactly, and I can’t put it into words. I’ll try to paint you a picture of the race, but trust me… It will pale in comparison to how amazing this race really is. If, at the end of reading this race report, you think to yourself, “That race looks pretty cool, but these people are crazy. There is no way I’d ever want to do that, but man… it does look kinda fun,” then I have one thing to say to you: See you there next year.
Friday June 1st – Drive to Emporia, Check-in, and Meeting
Casey and Austin almost didn’t make the drive from NY because of some cramp-like pain in Casey’s legs. He decided, after waiting an extra day, to make the drive and see how he felt. Well, he didn’t feel any better. In fact, Bob had to pull over and let Casey sprawl out on the side of the road for a bit. Not good.
Eventually, we all made it into Emporia and checked into the hotel. After Casey needed help getting off the toilet (literally), we decided that his son, Austin would go to register for him. We registered and went to get a bite to eat when Casey called and asked for someone to take him to an emergency care-clinic. My wife, Becca, and Austin went back to get him. It wasn’t long before they sent Casey to the emergency room for blood-work.
Clearly, Casey would not be racing with us the following morning. As a former pro MMA fighter, he’s used to a lot of pain, so if he asked to be taken to the clinic, I knew it was pretty damn serious. He had trained unbelievably hard for this race, and there is no doubt in my mind that he was far more prepared than I was. Then to drive nearly 20 hours for this race, spending money on gas, food, and lodging (not to mention the race entry fee), only to end up on the sidelines watching the rest of us race had to be terrible. It was decided that Austin would race in Casey’s place.
We sat through the pre-race meeting where I didn’t win anything. Actually, that’s not true. I managed to snatch a sweet Backcountry Research TulBag out of the clutches of Jim Davis’ hands, but I couldn’t bear his sad, puppy dog eyes staring back at me. So I gave it to him. Actually, I already had a Tulbag since Backcountry Research was such a generous sponsor of The Cedar Cross, and even though I absolutely LOVE it, I figured I didn’t need two of them. So Jim ended up with it after all.
We made our way back to the hotel, finalized our food bags, and got our bikes ready. I went over everything one or five more times before crawling into bed around 11:00 PM with the alarm set for 5:00 AM. Before going to bed, I made sure that Becca and Michelle knew where to go and what they were supposed to do. Just to make sure our crew knew exactly what we needed from them, I made my wife this list:
Saturday, June 2nd – Before the Start of the Race
We all slept as much as we could, although I think we all slept fitfully at best. We awoke the next morning and got ready. We loaded up the Virtus Van and Casey’s van, and we drove over to the starting line. And let me tell you something… It was COLD! I never dreamed that I would be freezing at Dirty Kanza, but there I was, shivering in my jacket before the start of the race.
We all lined up for a group photo before riding around the corner to the starting line.
As I made my way around the corner toward the starting line, I looked up just in the nick of time to see Austin topple over in the middle of the street. I’m not sure what happened, but since he was riding his dad’s bike, I can only assume that he wasn’t used to it. I’m guessing that he couldn’t unclip, and he just fell over. It was hilarious! Fortunately for Austin, we were at the back of the pack, so only a handful of people saw it.
We saw some of our good friends at the back of the starting line: Travis Hammons, Justin Nemeth, and the Orange Lederhosen boys. Robby, Bob and Travis lined up a little in front of us. It was a really cool experience standing there with 400+ other riders ready to tackle the 200+ miles that lay ahead of us.
Leg #1: Emporia to Cassoday – 62 miles
After several last-minute high-fives, good lucks, fist-bumps, and a hug or two, we heard a countdown and then “Go!” With adrenaline coursing through our veins and visions of drinking out of the coveted Finisher’s Pint Glass in our heads, we all rolled out together. I was feeling good, and my ass did not yet hate me.
Here is a short video of the start of the race. At the 1:36 mark, you can see Kage, Adam, me, and Austin (left to right) with only a dozen riders behind us. I couldn’t see Robby or Bob. I guess they’re just too fast. If you can spot them, leave us a comment with the time of the video, and we’ll give you a high-five the next time we see you.
Before the race, I had made it well-known that I didn’t want anyone waiting for me. I wanted us all to ride our own race at our own pace. I just didn’t want to hold anyone back. I figured some of us would stay together for most of the first leg, and then we’d kind of spread out. Austin, Adam, Kage, Justin, and I stuck together as the sun was juuuust starting to show itself.
It wasn’t very long at all before we saw Bob and Travis making a pit stop on the side of the road. I guess those boys pre-hydrated quite well since we were less than 20 minutes into the race. So then our Virtus-Train was rolling seven strong. Robby was already way ahead of us.
The gravel roads were smooth and easy with no hazards at this point. Or so I thought. After looking down to put my water bottle back in its cage, I looked up just in time to avoid getting hit… by a bicycle helmet. It bounced right in front of me as I swerved around it, and then it bounced into some other riders’ paths behind me. Fortunately, no one crashed.
We stopped to figure out what had happened. Then we saw Austin sheepishly slinking over to pick up his helmet. When asked how his helmet had flown off his head while riding his bike, he responded in a Butthead (from “Beavis and Butthead”)-like voice, “Uh huh huh… I had to adjust my hat… huh huh.” Wow. I’ve never seen a helmet flying down the road at me before. Austin replaced his melon protector, and we all rode on.
The miles were flying by easily, but it was very early, the wind was nonexistent, and the temperature was a perfect 50-55 degrees. The scenery was nice at this point, but we had yet to make it to the heart of the Flint Hills. Some riders passed us, and we passed some riders, chatting every now and again along the way. Everyone was in good spirits with high hopes of finishing. I wish I knew whether or not this guy finished:
As I passed this guy, I mentioned that I liked his bike. You see, it was the same bike as mine: a Specialized Tricross Single Speed. Well, I thought it was the same bike as mine, but there was one major difference. Todd asked what gear I was running, and I replied, “42 x 20.” Now, I really don’t know much about gearing or gear-inches or anything like that. I just ride what I think I can ride. I assume that this is a very easy gear, but I don’t really have anything to compare it to. I then asked Todd what he was riding. His answer: “48 x 15… Fixie.” Um… Even with my limited gear-knowledge, I’m pretty sure that is a ridiculously difficult gear. And riding a fixed gear?!? Wow. We wished each other luck, and then the Virtus caravan rolled on ahead. Tod, if you’re reading this, please let us know how you did!
***UPDATE: Unfortunately, Tod had a major issue with his knee that prevented him from finishing the race, but it’s pretty clear from his comments below this blog post that his ‘nads are definitely bigger than mine. We’ll definitely see him again next year, and hopefully we can make it to Wilder’s on Main in Hutchinson sometime where he is the Chief Chef (and Bob, they even have biscuits and gravy!!!).
Nothing crazy happened on this leg of the race. There were big hills, wide-open scenery, and lots of great gravel roads. Some of us would ride ahead for a spell, and some of us would fall back a bit. For the most part, however, we all stayed together for most of this leg, and it was really great riding with such good friends in such an amazing place.
As we got farther away from Emporia and deeper into the Flint Hills, the roads became rougher, the scenery more beautiful, and the ride more awesome. We’ve written this a thousand times, but it bears repeating: Photos do no justice to just how amazing it really is out there! Especially with my crappy, little camera. That being said, here are a few photos from the first leg of the Dirty Kanza:
With about 25 miles left of the first leg of the race, I could tell that Austin wanted to go faster than I was willing to go. I told him to do his own thing, ride his own race, and to be careful. As he and Adam started to drop us, I realized that I should follow my own advice. I realized that we were going a bit faster than I had originally planned. I also noticed that Bob decided to ride a little slower and had fallen off the back of the pack a little bit. Knowing Bob is a wily veteran of Dirty Kanza, I decided to slow down and ride with BLD since he was maintaining my intended pace.
Within a mile or two, it seemed like everyone kind of had the same idea as we caught up to the group during a pee-break. Either that, or we all just wanted to stay together at this point, so we grouped up again. With about 10 miles left, though, we were a little concerned with our pace, so we picked it up just a little bit. Somewhere along the way, Kage had fallen off our pace. She, too, had made it clear that we should not wait for her. I was torn, though. Part of me felt like I should really go back, but the other part of me knew that we all needed to ride our own race. So we kept riding.
Somewhere along the first leg, we ran into our friends Cary and Guy. Cary is an animal on the bike, so I was surprised to see him. They were calling their support crew to see if they could scrounge up another set of 26″ tires and tubes. Cary had gashed his tire pretty good, and although he had booted it, it didn’t look like it was going to last the rest of the race. See for yourself:
We wished them luck and said goodbye. We later heard that Cary didn’t finish the race, and that’s too bad. He’s a great guy and, like I said, a VERY strong rider. Sometimes, though, things don’t go your way – especially at Kanza.
The last 10 miles or so, I wasn’t feeling great. I wasn’t feeling terrible, but I was a far cry from how I thought I should be feeling. It was getting hotter, and my ass was really starting to hurt. The ass pain and chafing was weird since we were less than 60 miles into this race, and during training, I had ridden farther and longer on the exact same set-up with no issues. I finally put my earphones in and cranked up some tunes to help bring me into Cassoday.
As we made it to the checkpoint, I saw Travis’ beautifully pregnant wife, Crystal, waving to us. I waved back. Then I heard cheering and saw our support crew waving at me. I turned into the parking lot and found our crew. They told me that I needed to go down the street a bit to check in with race volunteers before I could sit down in the shade. I was a bit pissed, to be honest. I rode over to the volunteers, checked in, and got the map for the next leg of the race. I then went back to our spot where Austin and Adam were already in the shade.
I think I was a bit snippy with Becca, and I feel REALLY badly about that. I think I said something like, “Hey, if you aren’t set up in the same spot as the checkpoint next time, it would be cool if you informed me before I rode any extra mileage.” It turns out that Crystal was waving for me to go the other way when I came in, and the rest of the crew was waving and yelling at me to go the other way, too. I just couldn’t hear them with my iPod on, so it was my own damn fault. Big thanks to Becca for not getting mad at me in the heat of the moment.
A few minutes later, Kage rolled in. Robby had already come and gone before I made it to the Checkpoint, and Austin decided to call it a day. 62 miles was his longest ride ever, and he had not trained for this race since Casey was supposed to be riding instead of him. So, he joined our amazing support crew at this point.
And amazing they were! All I did was sit down and rest. Casey took care of our bikes, wiping them down, airing up the tires, and lubing the chain. Becca and Michelle were swapping out water bottles, filling water bladders, handing us food (Half of a Jimmy John’s Gargantuan Sub for me) and ice-cold drinks, and making sure we had anything we needed. It was mind-blowing. They were like a well-oiled machine that had been doing this together for years even though this was the first time they had done anything like this.
We had only intended on staying for 15 – 20 minutes, and we really had no excuse to stay any longer since our crew was so efficient. For whatever reason, though, we stayed roughly a half an hour. Eventually, we all realized we needed to get moving, and we hopped on the bikes again around noon.
Leg #2 Cassoday to Florence – 44 miles
We rolled out together onto a short stretch of pavement before hopping back onto the gravel roads. The sun was out in full-force now, and although it wasn’t nearly as hot as the last two years, it was still getting pretty damn hot.
We were maintaining our pace of 12-ish miles per hour, and I was starting to feel better. My ass, however, was starting to feel worse. The Chamois Butt’r that I reapplied did nothing except burn the hell out of my already chafed nether regions. I was worried that this was going to get really bad. The good news, though, was that the roads were getting a lot rougher. That could only be good for my ass, right?
We kept rolling, and we were having a lot of fun. I only had one problem at this point. My butt-pain was becoming a lot worse, and I decided to pull over to give my sore parts a rest as soon as I found some shade. At Dirty Kanza, however, Shade is hard to come by for miles and miles at a time. Don’t believe me? Have a look:
The more my ass hurt, the more I thought about it. The more I thought about it, the more it hurt. I then realized that it felt like my saddle had somehow shifted backwards. I needed to adjust it, but I didn’t want to stop in the blazing sun. So I kept riding… and riding… and riding… Until we eventually found a small refuge of shade.
I hopped off the bike in the shade and checked my saddle. Sure enough. It had shifted backwards and upwards. I think it started shifting slowly throughout the first leg of the race. So slowly in fact, that I didn’t even notice it until the damage was done. I was like a frog in a pot of water slowly brought to a boil. The change in the position of my saddle was too gradual for me to realize it until the pain became unbearable.
Adjusting my saddle helped tremendously. Pressure was immediately relieved, but the chafing and soreness did not go away. There was nothing I could do at this point, so I just hopped back on the saddle and started riding again.
Some of the sections on this leg were beautiful. There were some good climbs and some great downhills. One such downhill was an absolute blast to fly down, but it was rough. Actually, it was so rough that we had our first flat of the day. Well, I should say Bob had our first flat of the day. Fortunately, we stopped in the shade for Bob to change the tire. Even with the shade, though, it was hot and humid!
Kage decided to ride on as the rest of us waited for and/or relieved ourselves while Bob worked on the flat. She figured we’d catch her soon enough. I took this opportunity to drop a deuce behind a tree. Don’t worry, I’ve been trained in LNT principles, and this was definitely an LNT deuce.
Once business was taken care of and Bob’s tire was ready to go, we started on our way again. We caught Kage sooner than I thought we would. Later I would learn that she wasn’t feeling well, and she was struggling a bit (read her race report here).
We all rode together for awhile, but Kage fell back. I slowed down to check on her as the others pulled ahead. Even though she wasn’t feeling great, she was still in good spirits, and I still haven’t ever heard her complain. We chatted a little as we rode together. We talked about whether we were going to make it to Florence before the 4:30 PM cut-off and if we did make it in time, whether or not we were going to feel like continuing.
I told her that I promised myself that I would ride out of any Checkpoint that I made it to in time regardless of how I felt. I told Kage she should to do the same, and she agreed. Shortly after this, we caught up to the group as they were taking another pee-break.
I don’t really remember what happened after we caught up to the other guys, but somehow we lost Bob and Kage. I don’t know when or where it happened, but they were nowhere behind us. Looking at the clock and figuring out how far we still had to go, we knew we couldn’t wait for them. Again, I was torn. I wanted to wait for them, but I knew if I did, there was a good chance I might not make the cutoff. What if I had a flat? What if I started to cramp? So, we kept riding with the hope of seeing Bob and Kage catch up to us.
With about an hour left before the time cut-off and roughly 10 miles to go, we heard a loud “Pssssssssssss!” Not good. Justin had a flat, and from the sound of things, we were expecting a big gash in his tire. This was not the case, though. It seemed to be just an ordinary flat.
Adam’s legs were on the verge of cramps and they would tighten up anytime he stopped, so he needed to keep riding to stay loose. I told Travis to go on ahead, and I’d stay with Justin to make sure he was good to go.
We’d still have time to make it to the cut-off, but we needed to hurry fixing the flat. As we were almost done, Bob came riding up. It was really great to see him, but I was worried about Kage. He said that he tried to get her to ride faster, but she just couldn’t do it at that point. She told him to ride on.
With Bob back in the mix, we did ride on. We all hoped and prayed to the Kanza Gods that none of us got another flat or any other mechanical. If there were any more problems, that rider would probably miss the cutoff and the others would have to go on ahead. Fortunately, we had no more issues on this leg, and we made it into Florence with about 15 – 20 minutes to spare.
Emma from Orange Lederhosen and Crystal had kind of teamed-up with our support crew to form a super-crew. They were all there waiting for us again, and once again, I was blown away by how awesome our crew was. We were more than taken care of. We were pampered! Before helping Austin take care of our bikes, Casey put a bag of ice on my neck, and it was heavenly. Becca got me the other half of my Jimmy John’s sub, watermelon, cherries, and some ice-cold pickle juice. It was just what I needed.
Our crew informed us that Robby had come in and left already, and he was looking really strong. We then sadly told our crew that Kage had unfortunately fallen too far behind, and she wasn’t going to make it. But we were wrong. With less than 3 minutes before the cut-off, Kage rolled into the Checkpoint. We were freakin’ thrilled! I couldn’t believe it.
With only a month’s-worth of serious training for the DK200, Kage’s main goal was to make it farther than she had ever ridden before, and she had already done that by making it to Checkpoint 2. It would have been sooooo easy for her to miss the cut-off and be “forced” to quit. Kage, however, is a Virtusan, and that just wasn’t an option for her.
We had until 10:30 PM to make it 59 more miles to Council Grove. This gave us a little more than 6 hours from the time we arrived to the checkpoint. We knew from last year, though, that things can go bad quickly, so we all wanted to make this transition a quick one. Once again, though, that didn’t really happen.
I needed a longer break here. It was pretty hot, and I just needed some time off of the bike. My ass was killing me, and I was on the verge of cramping. One benefit of having your wife on your support crew is the lack of awkwardness when you ask for a massage.
The crew was way too good to us, and it was hard to leave this checkpoint. I’ll be honest. I wanted to quit right there. But I knew I couldn’t. I remembered Bob’s words: Imagine how cool this story would NOT be if it ended with… “and then it got really hard so we quit.” So, I just forced myself to leave.
Adam didn’t want his legs to tighten up too much, so he had already left a bit earlier than the rest of us. Kage needed more of a break, and so did Bob. After staying there almost an hour, I just couldn’t wait anymore. Even though it was excruciating to sit on my saddle again, I headed back out with Justin and Travis, hoping to catch Adam and hoping Bob and Kage would catch us. We had about 5 and a half hours to make it to the next Checkpoint.
Leg #3 – Florence to Council Grove – 59 miles
We kept looking for Adam in front of us and Bob and Kage behind us, but it was just the three of us and the gravel roads. And the roads went on and on and on… You could see the road stretching out in front of you for miles, and you could see every climb that was coming up. It did bad things to my head, man. Very bad things. I think that’s why I didn’t take many photos of this leg. All I wanted to do was ride until it got dark. I thought that once it got dark, everything would be okay.
Somewhere in the first 20 – 25 miles of this leg, we lost Justin. I don’t know when or where it happened, but Travis and I looked back and he was just gone. Later we found out that he gashed his tire badly enough that a boot wouldn’t fix it. Unfortunately, his race was done. That’s a shame, because he was riding strong. He looked WAY better than I felt throughout the entire day.
That’s just part of it, though. Sometimes flats gets you, sometimes the heat does. Sometimes it’s cramps, and sometimes it’s a freak storm like last year. These are just a few of the challenges that you face at Dirty Kanza. It could just as easily have been me who had the flat, but it was just bad luck for Justin. I know he could have finished this race.
It was great riding with Justin all day, and he would be missed. Now it was just Travis and me at this point, but not for long. Another 5 – 10 miles down the road, we ran into Adam, Jim Davis, and the Lederhosens, Derrick and Kyle. Kyle was having debilitating back spasms that ended his race. They were calling Emma to come get him, but they were having trouble getting a signal. Eventually, they got in touch with her, and we rode on.
Soon Jim pulled away from us and Derrick and Adam fell behind. Again, I’m not sure when, where, or how we lost Adam, but it happened. Once again, it was just Travis, me, and the open roads as the sun was starting to set.
It was finally starting to cool off, and the sun was getting lower in the sky. I couldn’t wait for darkness. I was tired of seeing the endless roads in front of me. I was on the verge of cramping again, so I hoped the cooler temps would help with that. My ass was absolutely killing me, but there was nothing I could do about that, and the sun going down wasn’t going to help that.
Just as it was getting dark enough to break the headlamp out, I started feeling weird. I just felt really weak. I ate a waffle and drank some water, but I couldn’t shake it. As Travis and I were climbing a hill, I suddenly found myself standing next to my bike in the middle of the road. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all. When I looked up, Travis was gone. I wouldn’t have yelled at him anyway, because I would not have wanted him waiting for me.
I felt like I was going to pass out. I quickly grabbed a King Sized Nut Roll and pounded all 480 calories. I downed an entire bottle of e-Fuel and ate a Honey Stinger Waffle. Then I waited a few minutes. I didn’t sit down for fear of not getting up. I just stood there. Then I miraculously started feeling better, so I slowly walked my bike up the remainder of the hill.
By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was back. Obviously, I didn’t feel fresh since I had already ridden 150-ish miles, but I was back. I don’t know if I was too consumed by trying to block out my ass-pain or by trying not to think about the hills I could see in front of me or what. But clearly, I hadn’t eaten enough. This bummed me out a little, because it was really nice to ride with Travis. This might have been a blessing in disguise, but we’ll get to that later.
I got back on my bike, and rode on alone as it got darker. Although it was kind of cool riding alone, it’s much more enjoyable to ride with friends. After taking a pee-break a little while later, I looked back and saw a light coming up the hill. I jokingly thought, “Man, it would be great if that was someone I know.” I could see that it was indeed a Virtus jersey, but then I realized it was just Adam. I’m kidding of course. I couldn’t have been happier to see that guy, and we rode onward together.
We made it to the checkpoint in Council Grove around 10:00 PM, and I can’t tell you how happy I was. Becca and Michelle were there yelling for us as we got our new maps, and they showed us the way to our pit-stop area around the corner. They seemed surprised to see us. I’m guessing they were pretty worried when they saw Travis roll in without us, and I’m sure he had no idea what had happened to us.
Casey and Austin had already gone on to the finish line so they could be there for Robby Brown who was absolutely killing it out there! Big thanks to those two for being there for Robby and also for letting Becca and Michelle stay behind to see us come in to CP#3. Robby was long gone by the time we got there, but this photo is too funny to leave out of this report:
We sat down and ate some delicious pizza courtesy of Chris and Casey. Huge thanks to those guys. We were once again treated to first-class service. All we had to do was sit, eat, drink and recover. Our crew took care of the rest, and I can’t thank them enough. They seemed as excited as we were at the possibility of finishing the Dirty Kanza.
The only thing bringing me down was the fact that it looked like Bob and Kage were going to miss the cut-off. Even though Bob had made it farther in this race than he ever had before, I knew he was going to be disappointed. But then, we heard someone yell, “There’s Bob!” He had done it. He made it into the Checkpoint with about 15 minutes to spare as we were getting ready to head back out.
We told Bob great job and then left his ass behind as we rode toward the finish line. No, that’s not true, but we did rush him a bit. We still had “only” 37 miles to go, and we had heard that it was “all flat.” We didn’t want to take any chances, though. After coming this far, it would have killed me to miss the 2:30 AM cut-off at the finish line. So Bob got ready in a hurry, and the three of us rolled out on the final leg together.
It turns out that it was much easier to leave this checkpoint than it was to leave the second checkpoint, and this confirms Bob’s theory: “If you can survive until the sun goes down and just make it to Checkpoint 3, you’ve got it made.”
Leg #4 Florence to the Finish Line in Emporia – 37 miles
We were bummed that Kage had probably missed the cut-off, but we knew that she had exceeded her goal. It turns out that she had ridden completely alone for hours, many of those in the dark. She pushed through what were previously her limits, but her race ended with a crash that twisted her knee at mile 160. Again, you should read her report here. Big thanks to Emma for going to pick her up and bringing her back!
I was feeling surprisingly okay. I wasn’t feeling great by any means, and my legs definitely wanted to stop turning the cranks, but I just kept going. There was no other choice. Overall, though, I was feeling better than I expected. Honestly, I kind of expected to have either missed a cut-off or already quit before this point.
My pain in the ass (literally) was my biggest problem. With every little bump in the road, my ass screamed at me, and it was bad enough that I had to stand and pedal, then coast, stand and pedal, then coast, stand and pedal, then coast for a mile at a time every 10 – 15 minutes. It was rough. Focusing on trying to block out the pain and the fact that my camera is terrible in the dark led me to only taking two photos on this last leg.
Whomever told us that the last leg was “all flat” is full of shit. I think I walked 3 of the hills on this leg, and there were a couple of other smaller ones that I wanted to walk.
I don’t remember a lot of the last leg other than loving every minute of it, even the hills. I was riding with two of my closest friends on the final leg of the Dirty Effing Kanza 200. Even though I was in pain, and the hills were crushing me, I was happy. We started the race together, got separated along the way, we all rode solo at some point, and then we all somehow managed to end up riding the last 37 miles together. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
We talked about our journeys up to this point in the race, we joked, we fired Adam, and we just had a blast. One thing we did NOT talk about, though, was finishing this race. I kept thinking, “Man, we’re really going to do this! We’re going to finish this damn thing, and we’re going to do it together!” But I didn’t want to say it out loud. I noticed that neither of the other two guys were mentioning the possibility of finishing either. We still had a long way to go, and anything can happen out there. I don’t think we wanted to jinx it. It’s kind of like the unwritten rule where you leave the pitcher alone and give him a wide berth during a no-hitter, and you NEVER talk about it until it actually happens.
Somewhere along the way, I remember looking down and noticing it was 12:02 AM on June 3rd. It was now my Dad’s birthday. I wished him a happy birthday and kept on riding.
I also remember seeing our friend Keith “Smiley” Clark roll up behind us. This guy is amazing. I know he could’ve been several hours ahead of us, but he was just enjoying the ride, talking to different riders, and having fun. It was really great to see him.
Then I remember rolling into the small town of Americus around 1:00 AM. My ass was SOOOOO thankful to be on pavement once again. We naively hoped that it would be pavement the remaining 10 – 12 miles of the race, but deep down we knew that this wasn’t the case.
Then I remember getting within about 5 or 6 miles of the finish line and knowing we were going to finish. We then rolled into Emporia, through the college campus and some side roads, and then we turned onto Commerce St. The finish line was in sight.
Although it would have been cool to finish an hour earlier with Travis, I think nearly passing out allowed me to finish with Adam and Bob, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. We came rolling down Commerce St, three-wide, side by side to the cheers of our crew, our friends, and a few other remaining spectators and race volunteers.
As we crossed the finish line, beer rained down from the Heavens. No, we were not hallucinating. You see, Casey, Austin, and Robby completely douched us with warm Keystone Light as we rolled by them, and it was absolutely the best way to finish this race.
It was a bit surreal. I was completely exhausted yet fully energized and exhilarated at the same time. I was so happy to be off the bike, yet a little sad that it was over.
I was then handed my precious Finisher’s Pint Glass and the DK200 sticker, and I couldn’t wait to have an ice-cold beer poured into it. But wait I did. And then I waited some more… Somehow thinking she had already given me a good beer, my wife had given the last one to Bob. I had a decision to make. Do I taint my hard-earned Finisher’s Glass with Busch Light? Or do I just hold an empty glass? Fortunately, Robby saw what was happening and came to the rescue by filling my glass with good beer. I was happy. Can you tell?
It was all a bit surreal. Everyone from our team and crew was still there at 2:30 in the morning, celebrating with us. Robby had finished hours earlier, but he was still there to see us finish. Kage could have gone back to the hotel to shower and sleep, but instead, she was there to see us finish and celebrate. Our support crew’s job was over, so they could have gone to bed for some much-needed sleep after a LONG day, but they were there to see us finish. Our friends Travis and Keith finished ahead of us, but they, too, were still there to see us finish. To all of you, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hanging out at the finish line with everyone after 20+ hours of racing was the highlight of one of my favorite races of all time.
I honestly would have bet against myself before the race started, and I still can’t really believe that I finished. However, I’ll be the first to admit that the almost-perfect weather played a HUGE role in my success at this race. Regardless, 200 miles of gravel is still 200 miles of gravel. Do you think there will be an asterisk by the record-setting times for the male and female winners? Nope.
The weather is just another piece of the puzzle to finishing this epic race. Sometimes it cooperates, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve never complained about or blamed the storm for ending my race last year, and I’ve never heard Bob blame the heat or the weather for his DNF’s from the previous 2 years. We never felt like the weather stole a DK200 finish from us or anything like that. It is what it is. We just weren’t ready to finish the race under those conditions. So I don’t feel bad at all for considering this a monumental success in my racing career… Even with nearly perfect weather.
I’d like to thank our support crew one more time. We couldn’t have done it without you. You guys were simply the best.
Also, big thanks to the race organizers and all of the amazing race volunteers.
Now, I’ll leave you with a few more shots of us after finishing the Dirty Kanza 200. Take a look at all of our faces and you’ll see exhaustion, happiness, pain, joy, camaraderie, fatigue, etc. You might see some dirt and beer on our faces, too, but you know what I mean.
That is all for now. I can’t wait for next year!