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Category Archives: Endurance Cross racing

Adventure Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work – 4/18/14

That’s right! This is a new series here on the Virtus Blog. First, though, I have to give props for this idea to my favorite strength and conditioning blogger, Tony Gentilcore. He’s hilarious, entertaining, and super smart when it comes to fitness. And yes, I totally ripped the idea off from him.

This idea is simple. We’ll post some cool shit related to adventure that we think you should check out. This first installment will be focused on The Cedar Cross since it’s coming up quick, but there’s still time to register!  It is a gravel race in Mid-Mo that is the perfect tune-up race for Dirty Kanza, and it’s one that you don’t want to miss. The race director isn’t half-bad either.

1. One Month to Go and Heavies Ride for Free – Bob Fuckin’ Jenkins

The Cedar Cross is the shit for many, many reasons. One of those reasons is our very own Bob Jenkins. A couple weeks ago, there was an ad on facebook basically making fun of an overweight rider, and it was despicable. Bob was moved to write this post and make Cedar Cross even more awesomer. Read it and see just how fantastic this race is going to be.

2. Cedar Cross 2013 Video – thebikeweiss

Okay, so this technically doesn’t require any reading, but you should still check it out. I don’t know the guy who made it, but it shows some great footage of the race from last year.

3. Cedar Cross 2012 Race Report – Casey F. Ryback

Here’s a great race report from our friend, Casey, from Team Seagal. It’s from the inaugural Cedar Cross way back in 2012. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll sign up for Cedar Cross 2014 and join in on all the fun.

Let us know what you think of the new series. Do you like it or does it suck? Should we continue or shitcan it?

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Grind Over Matter – The 2012 Dirty Kanza 200 Race Report

DK200

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.

Granada Theater at Dirty Kanza

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.

Casey Emergency Room

For those of you trying to do the math, Casey is old, but not as old as Maw Maw.

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.

Pre-race meeting at Dirty Kanza 200

L to R: Chris, The Hammonses, Gorrilla-faced Bob, Robby, Michelle, and Adam

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:

Support Crew To-Do List for Dirty Kanza 200

Pretty comprehensive list, isn’t it? And #7 only applied to me even though Robby wanted some lovin’ too.

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.

Team Virtus at DK200

L to R: My lovely wife, Becca, Austin, Adam, Rage Kage, Robby, Bob, Me, Casey, and Michelle.

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.

Austin at DK

“There’s nothing to see here. I did not just completely fall off my bike before the race started.”

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.

Starting line of the Dirty Kanza

This is what the back of the pack looks like. I’m very comfortable here.

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.

Sunrise at DK200

Sun-up at Dirty Kanza

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:

Fixed Gear at Dirty Kanza

This is Tod from Kansas. His ‘nads are much bigger than mine.

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:

gravel road at DK200

Wide open grasslands

Nice view at Dirty Kanza

Not a bad view for a pee-break, is it?

Long Road at DK200

Travis (and Justin if you look closely) about to go down a sweet downhill.

Gravel at DK200

Bob, Kage, Justin, and me. (Photo Credit: Ellen Thompson of Bonk Hard Racing)

Top of huge climb at Dirty Kanza

I’m not sure who this is, but it’s the best shot I got at the top of a big climb. Just look in the background and you can see how long this road was.

Winding gravel road at Dirty Kanza

Clear skies, winding gravel roads, and long, slow climbs and descents were a common theme throughout Leg 1.

Rolling on Gravel at Dirty Kanza

Justin, Bob, Me, Kage. (Photo Credit: Ellen Thompson of Bonk Hard Racing)

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.

Bob Jenkins at Dirty Kanza

Bob. Enough said.

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:

Gashed tire at Dirty Kanza 200

He didn’t gash the sidewall, he gashed the damn tread of the tire.

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.

CP1 Cassoday at Dirty Kanza

I’m not sure why Austin was so damn happy here.

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.

Riding Leg 2 at DK200

Me followed by Adam. Kage is barely visible behind Adam, and Bob is back and off to the right.

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?

Minimum Maintenance Road at Dirty Kanza 200

“Minimum Maintenance Road – Travel at Your Own Risk”

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:

No Shade Gravel Road at Dirty Kanza 200

No shade in sight.

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.

Shade Tree at DK

Those trees in the distance provided the shade that I needed.

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.

Bob changing a flat at DK200

Here we see Bob’s better side as he works on his flat.

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.

Justin Nemeth at Dirty Kanza

Justin before the flat tire.

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.

Drinking Pickle Juice at Dirty Kanza

Lip-smacking good! Seriously.

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.

Kage tired at DK200

Kage was tired and sore, but not done yet!

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.

Back Massage at Dirty Kanza 200

Ohhhh Yeah!!! That’s the good stuff!

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.

Travis riding gravel at DK

Long, never-ending roads.

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.

Travis as the sun goes down at DK200

Thumbs up from Travis as the temperature dropped with the setting sun.

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.

Setting Sun at Dirty Kanza

Riding from sun-up to sun-down is quite an experience.

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:

Robby under a buffalo penis at Dirty Kanza

Oddly, this is not the closest Robby has ever been to Buffalo genitals.

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.

Luke at Dirty Kanza Checkpoint 3

I was wise enough to avoid sitting under a buffalo penis.

Adam at Council Grove DK200

Adam eating pizza and still looking strong.

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.

Bob peeing at DK200

“Quit playing with your dinghy!”

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.

Adam on the last leg at Dirty Kanza

Adam walking one of the hills even though it was “all flat.”

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.

No Hitter

Thou Shalt Not Mention the No-Hitter… or Finishing the DK200!

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.

Dirty Kanza 200 Finish Line

There were FAR less people around when we rolled through.

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.

Tired at the finish of Dirty Kanza 200

Too tired to stand, and in too much pain to sit down.

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?

Happy with the DK200 Finisher's Pint Glass

Beer never tasted so good.

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.

Finish of DK200

Look closely and tell me who had time to go take a shower before coming back.

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.

Bob and Adam at the DK200 Finish Line

Adam and Bob

Luke and Becca DK200 Finish

Having Becca there at the finish made it even better.

Michelle and Adam DK200 Finish

Michelle and Adam

Three Amigos at DK200

The Three Amigos

Dirty Legs at Dirty Kanza

Those aren’t tan-lines.

That is all for now.  I can’t wait for  next year!

Ride Together, Die Alone Redux: The Cedar Cross Race Report

***NOTE: The title of the blog post was completely ripped off from my race report of last year’s Dirty Kanza, but since I wrote it, I give myself permission to steal it.***

On Friday evening as Bob, Cary, and I were weed-eating the single track portion of the Cedar Cross course, Bob said to me, “Hey, you may want to seriously consider bringing a headlamp on race day.”  Since Bob is the mastermind behind Cedar Cross and knows the course like the back of his hand, I threw a headlamp into my bag as I headed to race HQ on Sunday morning.  Unfortunately, I am quite stupid.  I thought there was no way I’d need a light, so right before the start of the race, I decided to throw my headlamp back in my van.  Twelve brutally difficult hours later as the sun had set, I realized my stupidity knows no bounds.

Cedar Cross Gravel Grinder

I registered at the check-in table, said hello to a lot of my cycling friends, and then promptly fired Adam for showing up at the last minute with his son’s helmet that was way too small for his big melon.  Once I made final preparations (and threw my stupid headlamp back in the van), we walked over to hear Bob’s words of wisdom before the race started.  I can honestly say it was the funniest pre-race speech I’ve heard.

Bob's speech at Cedar Cross

“I swear, it’s THIS long.”

Here is a Garmin link to the Cedar Cross course if you want to see it or follow along.  I’d like to point out that this is NOT my Garmin link.  I was MUCH slower, and I wasn’t wearing my Garmin.  Anyway…

The race would start out on pavement with a lead car showing us the way.  I made my way to the back of the pack along with Adam.  It was already in the 80’s and humid, but that’s perfect training for the DK200 in a few weeks.  Bob said go, and all 120-ish racers rolled out with hopes of crushing the 112 mile course.

It was less than a mile before the race doled out its first set-back of the day. Just 0.8 miles into the race, our friend Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. got a flat tire.  Adam and I made sure he had everything he needed, and we kept going.  We knew that Jim would catch up to us soon enough.  Unfortunately for Jim, this would not be his last go-round with bad luck.

Flat Tire at Cedar Cross

Big calves and a flat tire.

Adam and I made it to the gravel with only a few people behind us, one of them being Jim.  It wasn’t very long before we saw our friend, Dave Baettie, pulled off to the side of the road.  Somehow he lost a screw to one of his bottle cages.  I handed him my bike tool since Adam couldn’t find his (Fired again!), and I took a pit stop in the brush.  As Dave took his bottle cage off, Jim came up behind us.  It was good to have him back in our group.

At mile 3, we began our first climb, and it was brutal.  At the start of the climb, I heard someone’s tire spin out.  When we got to the top, there was no Jim Smith.  We assumed he had spun out and walked the hill or had just fallen behind.  Later I found out that Jim had his secondflat tire within the first 3 miles of the race.  That’s some pretty terrible luck.  I feel bad for leaving him, but I really didn’t know he had had another flat.  I just thought he would quickly catch up to us again.

Dave rode on ahead of us as Adam and I found ourselves on familiar ground: The Dirty Jenkins ride.  We’ve ridden this stretch of gravel many, many times, yet we still love it.

As the sun beat down on us with no shade in sight, we rolled on.

Gravel on the Cedar Cross

That little speck in the distance is Dave.

We passed a handful of riders and caught up to a few more as the miles were easily ticking by.  It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the entrance of Mark Twain National Forest.  It doesn’t look like it is public land, and without Bob Jenkins, a lot of people would have never known you could ride there.  With double track though open fields, a pond or two, and a bit of single track thrown in, this stretch of the Cedar Cross course is just really cool.

Cedar Cross Double Track

This part was marked with Kansas City Chiefs balloons, but Bob SHOULD have used balloons from the greatest team of all-time: The Chicago Bears.

At one of the cattle gates around mile 15, the Hoosier Daddies were volunteering, and by volunteering, I mean they were handing out ice-cold beer and water.  We caught up with a few more riders and our friends Travis Hammons and the Boos Bros here as they enjoyed the frosty beverages in the shade.  It was also here where Jim Smith caught up with us and informed us of his second flat.  Unfortunately for Jim, this still wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.

Hoosier Daddies at Cedar Cross

The Hoosier Daddies know how to volunteer!  And Travis looks WAY too happy.

It was hard to say good-bye to these guys, but after one cold beer (or four if you’re Kyle Boos), we rode away in a “pace-line” through the fields.

Cedar Cross Fields

Another cool stretch of grassy fields through Mark Twain National Forest.

Not long after the above shot was taken, we descended a rocky, rooty hill with lots of sticks and branches scattered about. As I came down the hill, I saw a rider off his bike.  I realized it was Jim Smith pulling a stick out of his spokes.  Unbelievable.  Two flat tires, and now this?  The cycling Gods were not smiling down upon Jim, but I guess it’s better to get all of your bad luck out of the way at a free race instead of the Dirty Kanza.  He said he was just going to walk back up to the Hoosier Daddies and get a ride.  Bummer.  I would later find out that this STILL wouldn’t be his last go-round with bad luck.

Jim Smith at Cedar Cross

Man, that sucks.

I caught up to the group, and I stopped to get a shot of them as they rode through my favorite piece of this part of the ride: a long, flowing downhill through the tall grass.

Riding through Mark Twain National Forest

Look closely and you’ll see the line of riders in the distance.

We left the National Forest, and we jumped back on some gravel roads.  This stretch of gravel had a few wet-weather creek-crossings and one low-water crossing.  This particular low-water crossing can be very slick, but before I could yell out a warning, Travis and Kyle splashed right through it.  Well, Kyle splashed right through it, but Travis wasn’t so lucky.  He fish-tailed like a mo-fo, and just when I thought he was going to pull out of it, he crashed and slid on his side through the water.  It was awesome to watch!

Crashing at Cedar Cross

Travis fought the concrete, and the concrete won.

Adam and Derrick missed the show because they stopped to pick up one of my water bottles that had bounced out of its cage on the rough descent.  The top of the bottle was destroyed, though, and I had lost my eFuel in that bottle.  I used a simple strap to secure the other bottle after that, and I had no more problems.

Here’s a shot of Adam showing Travis how to do it:

Adam riding a low water crossing

Adam was almost re-hired for showing up Travis… almost.

I was feeling really strong as we rode the gravel on Clinkenbeard, Ginn Ln, and Barnes Chapel Rd.  It kept getting hotter, though, and we were sweating buckets.  Soon we found ourselves turning onto the single track at the trail head.

Gravel before the singletrack at Cedar Cross

Still feeling good… for now. (Photo Credit: Nicole Stacey)

We hopped onto the first section of single track.  Although it was muddy, the first quarter-mile or so was rideable.  After we crossed the creek, though, things turned to crap in a hurry.  You see, horseback riders completely destroy these trails no matter how much time and effort we put into maintaining them.  It’s a shame, too, because these trails could be incredible.  But it is what it is, and there’s not much we can do about it.  Trust me.  Trying to maintain these trails is a losing battle.

I didn’t get any photos of this section because I was too busy trying to survive.  I tried riding what I could, but that wasn’t much.  Riding was only marginally faster than walking, and the energy exerted just wasn’t worth it.  So I pushed my bike the last mile and a half or so.  Even pushing my bike was completely exhausting, though.

And then we got to the “Staircase of Pain” where we saw Jim Davis sitting and talking with Mr. Race Director himself, Bob Jenkins.  He was there to get some photos of all the suffering.  Just take a look at this:

PHOTO OF THE STAIRWAY COMING SOON!!

After the “stairway” completely drained what was left of my energy, we pushed our bikes up a hill to find our friends from the Hoosier Daddies again.  It was great to see them.  I stopped for a quick pee-break before I grabbed another beer.  Uh-oh.  My pee was a dark yellow.  Not good at all.

So, I did something I never thought I’d do: I didn’t follow the Virtus Code that mandates no “free beer shall be refused.”  I would hereby like to propose an addendum to this part of the Virtus Code: No free beer shall be refused UNLESS you are at risk of sever dehydration leading to cramps during a race.  All those in favor say, “Aye.”  All those opposed say, “Nay.”  Okay, the “Ayes” have it.

Beer at the Cedar Cross

I can’t believe there was any beer left after the Boos Brothers and Jim Davis were there.

I had been drinking a lot of fluids, but with this kind of heat, humidity, and energy expenditure, I guess it was enough.  I was worried.  We were only 30 miles into this race, and I was in trouble.  Then I remembered that Bob said there was a Peach Snapple in his truck for me.  I’m a Diet Peach Snapple addict.  This, however, was the full-sugar variety, and it was just what I needed.  I slammed the delicious Snapple and a couple of water bottles from the Hoosier Daddies.  Hoping to recover, I rested a few more minutes than I normally would have at this point.

We said good-bye once again, and we rode off onto S. Millsite Rd.  I’ve been on this road before and there are 4 nasty dogs here.  In fact, the Cue Sheet for this race warned racers: “Watch for Four Pissed Off Dogs.”  People thought Bob was kidding when he recommended dog spray, but these dogs are the reason for the recommendation.  I love dogs as much as anyone and don’t like to spray dogs, but these dogs are vicious and not to be messed with.

By the time we got there, though, the dogs were no threat at all.  They were either worn out from terrorizing all the racers in front of us (which was a lot), full from eating some of the racers in front of us, or they had been sprayed so many times by the racers in front of us that they didn’t dare mess with us.  Regardless, we only heard one of them bark a wimpy, little bark as we simply strolled right by them along the gravel road.

A few miles later, we began riding past  the “Cranky Old Bastard’s” place.  He literally has this weird sign in his yard stating that he will shoot you if you mess with him.  I’ve never stopped long enough to read the entire sign or get a photo of it, because I don’t really want to find out if he’s bluffing.  As we rode past, he yelled out to us.  I thought to myself, “Please don’t stop! Nobody stop!  Nobody stop!”  But then Jim Davis stopped, so we all stopped.  He asked us how many more riders were coming through so he could let his dog back out.  And then he apologized for making us stop our ride.  Um… What?!?  I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the faster riders had sprayed him with dog spray, too.

Anyway, we rode gravel for 4 or 5 miles.  I’m sure it was a little unsettling for some riders to ride past a Dead End sign with 90 miles remaining, but that’s exactly what we did.

Dead End at Cedar Cross

The Cedar Cross doesn’t care about Dead Ends!

For those of us that ride gravel around Jeff City, we knew where this “Dead End” would take us.  For a car, it is indeed a dead-end.  On a bike, however, you get to cross the very cool Rutherford Bridge over Cedar Creek.

Rutherford Bridge at Cedar Cross

This is the ONLY way across Cedar Creek for miles and miles and miles.

From the bridge, we hiked our bikes up a big, muddy hill and started riding more gravel, a bit of pavement, and then more gravel.  Somewhere along the way, Travis and I lost Adam, but we didn’t realize it until we turned onto CR 326 and ran into our friends Aaron Lackman and Justin Nemeth along with a couple of guys I didn’t know.

It was brutally hot by now, and the two guys we didn’t know didn’t seem to be doing too well.  I thought about waiting for Adam, but we had discussed this very scenario earlier in the day.  We both agreed to go on without the other if one of us dropped off the back.  Since it was only a few more miles until the manned checkpoint and bag drop, we rode on, hoping Adam would catch us there.

When we got there, we saw probably 8 riders sitting in the shade, resting and refueling before heading out on the last of the two stretches of single track.

Bag Drop at Cedar Cross

It was great to see Bob’s smiling mug.

The gear drop couldn’t have come at a better time for me.  Knowing there was less than 20 miles to go before I could resupply my water and food, I had been pounding my water and food since my last stop at the end of the first section of singletrack, and I was running precariously low.  Drinking ice-cold water was heavenly after chugging hot water and e-Fuel for so long.  Big thanks to Mo and Chadwick for volunteering there!  There was another guy helping out there, too, but I don’t remember his name.  Regardless, thanks to him too!

Some of the riders looked like they were feeling pretty fresh, others looked a little rough, and some looked like they wanted to die.  Kind of like this poor guy:

Overheating at Cedar Cross Gravel Grinder

He looks miserable. I have no idea if he finished or not.

I was just beginning to worry about Adam as he rolled up.  He seemed to be doing well enough.  He didn’t look fresh, but he didn’t look like he was dying either.  He said he was going to chill there and fill up with water.  I gave him what was left out of my drop bag since he forgot to pack one, and I headed back out with a handful of riders including Travis, Aaron, and Justin.

I was dreading this next section of singletrack.  I had helped Bob and Cary Maloney weed-eat and clear the trails on Friday, but Bob had gone back out there to find that horseback riders had already trashed part of them.  Bummer because they were in great shape less than 48 hours earlier.  If this section of trail took as much out of me as the first section, then my ride might be over.

Aaron Lackman at Cedar Cross

Aaron at the top of a climb.

Justin Nemeth at Cedar Cross

Justin near the top of the same climb.

Fortunately, the trails were in much better shape than I expected.  They weren’t great, but there were some fun, rideable sections to go along with the muddy, destroyed-by-horses sections.  I exited the single track feeling good.  Travis seemed like he was starting to struggle a bit, though.

We ended up playing leapfrog with Randy and Dana from Team Red Wheel on the next several miles of gravel, and for whatever reason, I was starting to feel really good at this point.  I must have finally caught up with my hydration and nutrition.  It’s a good thing, too.  Standing between us and the Hams Prairie Store 20 miles away were lots of big hills.

Being on a singlespeed, you either ride hard up the hills, or you get off and push your bike.  There really isn’t much in-between.  So at the start of every hill, I had to go up ahead of our little 6-person group and then wait at the top so they would catch up.  I’m definitely not a good climber by any stretch of the imagination, but I had no granny-gear with which to spin up the hills.  Believe me, if I had it, I would have gladly used it.

At the top of one hill, I waited for the group.  Then I waited some more.  After a few minutes, I thought something must have gone wrong, so I turned around and went back.  Thankfully, they were just around the corner and not all the way back down the brutal hill.  Everyone but Travis was pulled over talking to Randy’s girlfriend (or was it wife?).  Travis had fallen off the group, but it would have been suicide to ride back down the hill for him.  Fortunately, Randy’s girlfriend/wife said she’d drive back to check on him for us.  Big thanks to her.

So we continued on our way.  I kept riding ahead on the climbs and waiting at the top.  Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I’m a good climber.  In fact, I kind of suck at hills.  If I could have gone any slower up the hills without walking, I would have.  The only problem with riding ahead and waiting was the heat.  It was really starting to get to me.  Sitting at the top of each climb in the blazing sun with no breeze was terrible.  After one long, slow climb, I just couldn’t bring myself to stop.  The thought of stopping as the sun torched my skin was too much.  Since the others were still together, I decided to just cruise on, knowing that I would soon see them at the Hams Prairie Store at mile 69-70.

Riding Solo Gravel at Cedar Cross

Riding solo and feeling good… for now.

I was feeling the best I had all day long, and I was having a great time.  Shortly after crossing Hwy 54 at mile 63-64, however, I started to fall apart.  My legs began to feel heavy.  My head started hurting.  I even felt a little queasy.  I drank as much as I could, but I was afraid of vomiting which would have only made things worse.  It was mind-blowing how fast I went from feeling great to wanting to die.

I thought about waiting in the shade somewhere for the group behind me, but I knew I only had about 7 more miles to the Hams Prairie Store.  Those seven miles really hurt, though.  I hated every damn pedal stroke.  I eventually made it to the store at 5:35 PM.  Many of the top riders were already done with the entire course at this point, and I still had 40+ miles to go.  What a bunch of show-offs.

I walked into the store with my head pounding, and my guts churning.  The air conditioning was the bomb diggity, though!  There were other riders coming and going, but all I wanted to do was order some food, get a drink, and sit down.  I ordered a hard salami sandwich, but they were all out since Bob recommended to everyone that they order one at this store.  Damn.  I was looking forward to that.  It didn’t really matter since I wasn’t sure I could even eat anything without vomiting.  So, I ordered a roast beef and Colby cheese sandwich, grabbed two Powerades, and sat down.  There was only one problem.  I just couldn’t eat or drink any of it.

Food at Hams Prairie Store during Cedar Cross

It looks delicious now, but at the time it looked foul.

Fifteen minutes after I arrived, Aaron and Justin showed up.  They didn’t look good, but they looked better than I felt.  I think I had only eaten two bites and drank two swallows as they sat down at my table.  Things weren’t looking good at all.  I felt like absolute dog crap.

If I would’ve had a support vehicle there, I would have thrown in the towel.  I was really bummed.  I kept picturing Bob at the finish line, an ice-cold beer in one hand, a delicious homemade brat courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies in the other hand, laughing his ass off at how much pain I was in.  So, I texted him.  I remember texting him, but I didn’t really remember what I had written until I looked at my phone at the end of the race.  We normally try to keep this blog PG-13, so if you’re offended by foul language, you may want to skip ahead.  Here is the text conversation we had.  And please remember that Bob and I are very close friends, and I was a bit delirious at this point in the race.

Text to Bob Jenkins at Cedar Cross

Another text to Bob Jenkins at Cedar Cross

And now the world knows that Bob has agreed to ride the Cedar Cross course on his GT Peace 29er singlespeed.  I’m going to hold him to it.  Anyway, back to our story…

Aaron and Justin ordered some food, and I was still trying to force myself to eat and drink.  Another rider came over and sat down on the bags of dog food by our table and starts talking to us.  This guy looks like he had just been on a 5 mile leisure ride.  His name is Keith Clark, and he was determined to finish the ride since his wife had told him he was too old for this kind of thing.

Then in walked Kyle Boos.  He, too, looked a lot fresher than I felt, and he had consumed a 6-pack of the Hoosier Daddies’ free beer.  Very impressive, and kind of disturbing too.  Kyle ordered his food, took a leak, ate his food, and left before I finished half of my sandwich.  I was struggling.  I got some encouragement from my facebook friends, but I was really having doubts.  Every gulp and bite I took just didn’t want to stay down.  It reminded me of how I felt at the Tour de Donut, only 10 times worse.

Struggling to eat at Cedar Cross

This is me hurting and trying to swallow food without puking. (Photo Credit: Aaron Lackman)

I received a text from Adam saying that he was cramping up pretty badly back at Hwy 54.  He and Travis were pulling out of the race.  I wanted to join them, but I was starting to feel slightly better.  Eventually, I was able to finish my sandwich and drink both Powerades.  I grabbed two more Powerades to pour into my water bottles, I paid my bill, and I headed back out into the heat… an hour and 15 minutes after arriving at the store.

Fortunately, it was probably 5 to 10 degrees cooler than when I had arrived.  That was fantastic!  I knew there was one more climb left, but it was an SOB of a climb.  After that climb, though, it was all flat.  Having ridden those flat gravel roads that lay ahead of me, I knew the wind could be terrible.  But I had checked the forecast earlier, and the wind was supposed to be at our backs.  So I was confident that if I could make it to the top of the next climb at mile 76, then I could probably finish this race.

There was a group of 8 of us leaving the store.  One guy only rode far enough to hit 75 miles on his bike computer, so that left us with 7.  I didn’t get everyone’s name, but there was Aaron, Justin, Keith, Tony (who joined us on the Cock-Gobbler 50+ mile gravel grinder back in March), and two other guys.  We headed out towards the killer climb that no one wanted to face.  Of course the toughest climb of the day the last climb of the day.  Thanks, Bob!

I was starting to feel quite a bit better by the time we got to the climb at mile 76, and for a split-second I thought about trying to ride all the way up.  With more than 30 miles left, though, I figured I’d better play it smart and push my bike up it.  It was the only hill I walked (other than the singletrack and the “staircase”).  Two in our group rode the whole thing, one of them being Keith, and I was quite impressed.

It wasn’t long before we rode up on one of the coolest parts of the race: The Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower in Fulton.  Keith, who was wearing a Wind Power jersey, asked me to snap a photo of him with the tower in the background.  That’s pretty funny.  A few others stopped for a photo-op, myself included.

Nuclear Reactor and Cooling Tower at Cedar Cross

I wanted to hold my bike up over my head for this pic, but I was too damn tired.

Shortly after leaving the nuclear power plant, we had the pleasure of riding down what Bob referred to on the Cue Sheet as a “Totally badass downhill” and it was indeed BAD-ASS!  Thankfully, we made it down the hill before it got completely dark.  As we hopped on the Katy Trail at around mile 84, it was getting very dark, and everyone that had lights started using them.  I, being the complete fool that I am, did not have one, though, and I was very glad to be in this group.

We rode the Katy Trail and then hopped onto CR 4000.  A few guys in our group were talking about taking the Katy Trail the whole way back, and it was very tempting.  I just couldn’t let myself do it after coming this far, though.  I had ridden this gravel before, and although it can be tough, I knew I could make it – especially since the wind was supposed to be at our backs.

After a short stretch of gravel, we wound up back on the Katy Trail, but something didn’t feel right.  Then we started having trouble following the cue sheet from this point on.  I broke out my phone to pinpoint our exact location, and this confirmed my fear.  We had unfortunately gone right when we should have gone left onto CR 4010.  A LOT of riders must have done the same thing since there were a ton of tire tracks going the way we had gone.

So after riding 100 miles (only the second time I’ve ever done so), we had a decision to make.  The two riders whose names I never got rode on ahead, so I assume they took the Katy Trail all the way back.  Tony’s rear-end was killing him, and he had to work the next morning.  So he understandably opted for the Katy Trail as well.

***UPDATE: I received an email from one of the two riders that rode from Hams Prairie to the Katy Trail with us.  His name is John Porter, and his friend’s name is Mark Cody.  It turns out that they rode a few miles of “extra credit” earlier in the day, and since they had to drive back to Kansas City and work the next day, they rode the Katy Trail to the finish line.  Kudos to those two for finishing up around 11:00 PM even though they knew they had to drive 2 – 3 hours.  They didn’t get home until 2:30 AM.  That had to be rough.  It was great riding with them, and I hope to see them next year. ***

For me, there was only one choice.  I had to go back.  I said I was going to go back and ride the full course, but I told the other guys that I didn’t expect them to go with me.  I was ready to ride the last 16 miles PLUS the 2 or 3 miles we had gone off-course by myself… in the dark… with no light.  But I couldn’t have been happier when Keith said, “I’m going with you.”  Aaron and Justin both said they were in as well.  Holy shit.  These guys were awesome riding partners.

We turned around and got back on course.  The gravel on 4010, however, was fresh and loose.  It was NOT easy riding.  But we put our heads down and kept the cranks turning.  Together.

Several miles of gravel led us to a short jaunt on the Katy Trail led us to CR 4015.  Once we turned west onto CR 4038, the headwind slapped us in the face hard.  A storm was blowing in fast and furious, and just like Bob planned, after 106 miles of riding, we’d be riding into a vicious headwind and trying to beat the storm the last 10 miles

It was not fun.  At all.  But again, we just put our heads down and kept the cranks turning. Together.

The lightning show was pretty impressive, but I really hoped we didn’t get caught in the storm.  We kept getting closer and closer, but it seemed to take forever.  But then finally, we rode under Hwy 54 and soon found ourselves riding toward the finish line to cheers of the few remaining riders, friends, and family still there at around 11:10 PM.  Fourteen hours and roughly 116 miles after we had started.

The cheers grew louder, and then we were completely soaked with sprays of warm beer as we crossed the finish line.  Together.

It was incredible.  I couldn’t believe it.  We had done it.  Together.  We were officially Cedar Crossers.

I hugged Bob (after flipping him off), high-fived everyone I could see – Travis, Kyle, Derrick, Emma, Adam, Cara, Jim, Bob’s Mom, my fellow riders… It was a great moment.  One I’ll never forget.

Although the lights to the pavilion had been turned off, there were still deliciously hot baked potatoes (courtesy of Bob’s amazing Mother!), sour cream, and loads of butter.  I had a couple of notes from my wife and kids that almost brought a tear to my eye.  Unfortunately, they had to go home earlier since it was a school night.  I never dreamed I would be finishing that later.  In fact, I think I told my wife that I should be done around 8:00 PM and if I wasn’t, then it meant I probably wasn’t finishing.

And then the storm hit.  We had made it in just in the nick of time.  It was a perfect ending to an unbelievably great day.

But wait… It gets even better.  Jim Smith from Monster Bicycle Co. handed me this:

Last Survivor Award for Cedar Cross

This is the trophy that I am most proud of. And it’s useful, too!

I didn’t even realize that technically my tires were the last to cross the finish line, but I’m glad they did.  I almost feel bad for winning this prize since the four of us really finished together, but I don’t feel bad enough to give it to someone else. 🙂  I freakin’ love this flask.  I immediately filled it with Blackberry Whiskey (also courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies) and tried it out.  Nothing ever tasted so good.  Huge thanks to Jim, who ended up having an even worse day than I thought.  Seriously, go read his report.  It’s ridiculous.

Monster Bicycles Co. Last Survivor at Cedar Cross

I slept with this flask that night. Seriously.

We sat around reminiscing awhile as Bob called a bunch of people who had never checked in.  He wasn’t sure if these people were still out on the course, on their way home, asleep in their beds, or dead.  After a little while, though, the rain had let up a little, and it was time to go home.

This was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever finished, and it was one of my favorite races of all time.  It was brutally hard.  I wanted to quit several times.  I hated Bob for a little while.  But it was all worth it.

I’d like to thank the awesome sponsors of this race, the even awesome-er volunteers, and especially Bob Jenkins.  I know everyone that took part in the Cedar Cross appreciates all that Bob did, but I don’t think anyone realizes what Bob actually put into this race.

He has worked tirelessly for months on this race: planning, scouting, weed-eating, lining up sponsors, getting permits, more scouting, hating horses, more weed-eating, blogging, riding the course, re-riding the course, more scouting, more schmoozing with sponsors, more weed-eating, more hating the effing horses, driving the course, more re-routing the course, answering countless questions via email that could have easily been answered by simply reading the damn blog, meeting with the Jeff City Tourism Bureau, checking the weather forecast every half hour during the week leading up to the race, worrying that even one of us coming to the race might not have an awesome time, marking the course, re-marking the course, hating the damn horses even more, and then worrying his ass off on race day until every last one of us made it back safely, and the list goes on and on and on…

And do you know how much money he made from this race?  Not a damn cent.  In fact, Bob sunk a lot of his own cash into this race to bring us the best damn gravel race Missouri has to offer.  That’s just incredible.

Bob has said to me several times that “we” are doing this or “we” did that, and he has referred to this race as “our” race.  I just want to make one thing clear.  The Cedar Cross was, is, and always will be Bob Jenkins’ race.  And don’t let him tell you otherwise.

So, Bob.  Thank you.  I’m proud to call you my friend.

And to those that raced, thank you.

And to those that finished with me, a giant thank you!

And to those that missed it, make sure you’re there next year.  This thing is going to be HUGE next year.

Forgotten Trails

Hopefully by now, you know we’re putting together the most badass Monstercross ride/race of all time.  This sort of thing takes a lot of time to coordinate, and a whole lot more elbow grease to make sure the course is ready on raceday. In addition to gravel roads and National Forest land, The Cedar Cross will traverse several miles of what I have come to call “forgotten” singletrack. This trail system, for whatever reason, seems to have been completely forgotten, which is both sad and exciting. Sad because so few people know these trails exist, and exciting because SO FEW PEOPLE know these trails exist!!

Today, Pepper and I set out to clear one small section of the race course. Here’s what went down.

On South Mill site road, there’s a trailhead just to the side of the road right before it becomes someone’s driveway. I suspect this piece of trail is forgotten because it’s fairly remote and just a bit hidden. This photo was taken while standing on the trail looking out at the road.

Trailhead, my ass. Keep a watchful eye for the grey diamond on the tree.

From here, it’s a short downhill to yet another hidden trailhead. I’m not kidding, it took me 30 minutes to find it the first time I was out here. The trail goes almost straight down into a semi-dry creekbed.

Where I'm standing, it's dry.

This is where the work started. Can you find the trail in this picture? 

It's frickin' shameful, isn't it?

A  bit of heavy lifting and one broken rake later:

  

Pepper is such a camera whore

This is what I came up with for the water crossing. The water should pass under these rocks and roll off the trail. I’m still a beginner at this type of thing, so if anyone has a few pointers, I’m ready to learn a better way.

All flat-rock, water would be coming right-to-left

 I bet it took over an hour to clear a piece of trail that people  will ride in about 30 seconds, but it’ll be worth it on raceday.

After clearing “Pepper Hill”, I turned my attention Northward. Check out this Before/After shot:

The dog doesn't even know where the trail is..

 ***Leaf-blowing sounds***

Well how about that 🙂

Obviously there’s still a lot of work to be done, but this course is  going to be worth it. There will be no admission fees, but there WILL be prizes for top finishers, manned SAG stops, bbq at the finish and a special SHAT trophy for the one racer who truly earns it. I’m still trying to nail down the race-date, but it I’m hoping to make it happen on March 25th

This race will be awesome.

Two tired, hairy animals.

 
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