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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!

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34 Year Old Virgin

No, not that kind of virgin.  I’ve got four kids, for cryin’ out loud.  Get your mind out of the gutter, would ya?  I’m talking about 100-mile virginity.  You see, I was a virgin to century rides up until a few days ago.

I was supposed to get my first century done at last year’s Dirty Kanza, but that didn’t work out too well.  With this year’s DK200 coming up in just 5 weeks (HOLY CRAP!  5 Weeks?!?!), I thought it was about time I got my first century out of the way.  So Bob and I planned on doing a slightly modified version of a mostly flat 100-miler to Booneville and back that Stoney Cranmer, of Team Red Wheel fame, put together.

A couple of friends that were going to come just couldn’t make it (Kage and Travis), but our friends Aaron Lackman, Justin Nemeth, and Dave Baettie met Bob at the N. Jefferson Katy Trail right on time.  Since my lovely wife and I decided to let our oldest daughter open her presents on her 10th birthday before going to school, I was unfortunately running late.  As I sped the Virtus Van towards the Katy Trail, the skies did not look promising.

Cloudy Skies

Forecast was no rain and possible record-high temps.

I rolled into the parking lot, and tried to get ready as quickly as possible.  The weather was a cool 60-ish degrees, and although it looked like it would rain at any moment, we were staying dry as we rolled out on the Katy Trail.  My plan was to maintain a 12 mph pace which is what I plan to ride at Dirty Kanza.  The first 15 minutes or so, we were hovering around 13 mph, so that was close enough.

It wasn’t very long into the ride when a kamikaze squirrel scurried out in front of Dave, Aaron, and me.  It was a big, fat, brown squirrel, and when it saw us, it sprinted straight down the Katy Trail, panicked, bolted left, right, then left again.  Dave nailed it with his chain ring and then rolled over it with his back tire.  It was amazing!  It happened so fast, and Dave barely even felt anything.  And the squirrel actually got back up and ran off into the woods, apparently unharmed.  Bob and Justin missed the show.

Riding onward, we passed the first stretch of the Katy Trail that runs right next to the Missouri River, and we were happy that there was no head-wind.

Katy Trail Near Jefferson CIty

L to R: Aaron, Dave, Bob, Justin

It was pretty clear at this point that a 12 mph pace was going to be too slow for everyone but me.  So I told everyone else to go to hell, and they dropped me.  No, that’s not true.  They stayed back with me for the first half hour or so, but since I was feeling good and the weather was perfect, I picked up my pace to around a 14 to 15 mph average.

I’m sure the other guys could have gone even faster, but this was a “time-in-the-saddle” ride: a ride to work out the kinks in our nutrition and hydration plan for Dirty Kanza and to get our taints, backs, and arms used to being in the riding position for hours at a time.

Justin Nemeth

Justin’s future’s so bright, he’s gotta wear shades.

A few miles before Hartsburg, there was a really rough patch of the Katy Trail.  We didn’t see it in time, and we just smashed right over the ruts on our cross bikes.  No big deal… Until we made it into Hartsburg, and I realized that two of my water bottles full of my precious e-Fuel had fallen out of my Minora.  Again, this wasn’t too big of a deal on this ride where I can get water at every stop on the Katy Trail.  At Dirty Kanza, though, this would have been a costly mistake.  I’ll make sure they are more secure for the DK200.

After a couple of the guys refilled their water bottles, we hopped on some flat gravel roads.

Gravel Grinder in MO

The rain was still threatening, but it hadn’t let loose.

We kept riding, talking, laughing, and having more fun than anyone working or going to class that day (Kage).  The clouds were beginning to dissipate, and we were having a really good time.  My new Revelate Designs Tangle Bag, on its maiden voyage I might add, was awesome.  I had a Camelbak hydration bladder in there along with my bike tools, money clip, and a snack or two.  It was really nice to have nothing on my back.

As we rolled along, I noticed Bob was employing a new technique to keep his legs fresh while on his bike.  I was quite impressed, so I snapped a photo:

Stretching while on the bike

Yes, he is stretching while riding his bike. Now that’s talent!

Everyone was feeling good, and we kept riding.  When we got near Cooper’s Landing, Bob decided to take an alternate route, so he took the gravel while the rest of us stayed on the Katy Trail.  He always marches to the beat of his own drummer.

Katy Trail and Gravel near Cooper's Landing

Aaron and Bob and the Missouri River

We all laughed at the weather man.  It was supposed to reach record-high temperatures today.  No way.  It was in the 70’s and there was a light, cooling breeze.  This ride was going to be a piece of cake.  We just kept putting miles behind us as we talked and laughed.

When we reached McBaine, we headed out on some pavement.  Again, this was Stoney’s route.  We rode some pavement onto some more pavement.  There were no good views, we weren’t near the river, and we had no idea why Stoney would add this stretch of pavement to the ride.  But then we saw it…  The Big Ass Tree.  And Stoney’s route made a lot more sense.

The Big Ass Tree near the Katy Trail

That’s a big tree.

Now, I had heard about “The Big Ass Tree” before, and it looked like a pretty big tree as we rode towards it.  I’ll be honest with you, though.  I wasn’t really impressed.  But then, as we got closer and closer, I began to realize just how big this tree really is, and let me tell you, it is a BIG ASS TREE!  And it just seems so out of place. There is nothing around it.  You really just need to see this thing to truly get a sense of how big this mo-fo is.  Here are a couple more shots, but photos never do justice:

Big Ass Tree near Columbia, MO

L to R: Bob, Dave, Aaron, Justin

Luke and The Big Ass Tree Burr Oak Tree

Notice the empty Minora Water Bottle Cages

I guess “The Big Ass Tree” is not it’s official name.  It is also referred to as the McBaine Famous Bur Oak Tree, but I prefer “Big Ass Tree.”  Don’t you?

We said good-bye to the Big Ass Tree and hopped back on the Katy Trail.  It wasn’t long before a we saw a DNR truck parked in the middle of the Katy Trail.  As we got closer, we saw a wonderful sight.  Lisa had found my water bottles and tracked us down.  Big thanks to you, Lisa, wherever you are.

Lisa from DNR

Thank you!

This time when I put my water bottles back into the cages on the Minora, I bent the cages in to make sure the bottles stay put.  I had no more problems losing the bottles.  I might use a simple strap or something similar at Dirty Kanza to make extra sure they stay put.

Lisa left us, and we jumped back on the bikes.  I looked up just in time to stop before running over Aaron who had crashed.  Apparently, Bob completely cut him off (unknowingly if you ask Bob, but the jury is still out on that).  Aaron couldn’t get unclipped, and he just toppled over.  It was his first crash on his new Salsa Vaya.  Aaron has cat-like speed, though, and I only managed to get a shot of him after he hopped back up to his feet.

Aaron after his crash

WTF, Bob?!?

Between McBaine and Rocheport we had a ton of fun and saw lots of cool stuff.  Here is just a small sampling.  We saw:

Turtle on the Katy Trail

Turtles

Cliffs on the Katy Trail

Cliffs and Caves

Blood on the Katy

Blood

Explosives Shelter on the Katy Trail

Bob groping an old Explosives Shelter

And then on the other side of Rocheport, we rode through the tunnel:

Tunnel near Rocheport on the Katy Trail

It was nice and cool here.

The sun was out in full force now, and the temperature was definitely rising.  From Rocheport to Booneville was my least favorite part of the ride.  There was a strong headwind for the last 10 miles, the scenery wasn’t great, and the Katy Trail seemed to stretch on forever and ever.  We were all still feeling pretty good, but this part of the ride was just dragging on.

We eventually rolled through New Franklin and Franklin, and we soon found ourselves crossing Boonslick Bridge into Booneville.

Boonslick Bridge

Almost halfway!

We were all hungry, so we stopped at the Riverside Diner for some grub.  After all the crap that Bob has given Adam about not eating any gravy in the past, Bob had the audacity to not order any gravy.  Of course, I shamed him into adding a side of it, and Bob proceeded to dip his double bacon cheeseburger into the gooey gravy goodness.

Dipping a burger in gravy

You’re welcome, Adam.

This would end up being a bad idea for Bob, but we’ll get to that in a second.  We paid our bills, jumped back on our bikes, and we rolled out again.  The route back to Jefferson City included a little bit of pavement and gravel with some climbs.  Even though it had gotten pretty damn hot and humid, we were still feeling good, so we jumped off the Katy and onto the pavement.

Climbing a hill on a cross bike

The hills hurt more than we had anticipated, the heat was getting to us, and Bob’s stomach was not really cooperating after eating all that gravy.  I’m not sure what he was thinking when he ordered that, but maybe he’ll know better next time.  Anyway, after a few miles of gravel, hills, and heat, we decided to jump back on the Katy Trail to finish the ride.

Gravel Grinding in MO

Gravel road back to the Katy Trail

The hills and the gravel were a nice break from the monotony of the Katy Trail, but we were glad to be back on the flat, smooth surface anyway.  We rode back through the tunnel on our way to Rocheport, and we decided to take a break under its cool, breezy shade.

Dave under the bridge

Dave was so cool! …Get it? We were cooling off in the shade, and I said he was “cool.” Get it?

Bob’s gravy was trying to find it’s way back out of him one way or another, so we decided to take it a little easy for awhile.  We made it into Rocheport and stopped for another break.  I was starting to feel the effects of the heat and the miles at this point, so I was more than happy to take another break.  I dumped a water bottle of cold water over my head, and, after the initial shock, it felt wonderful.

Aaron needed to get home by 5:00-ish, so he needed to pick up the pace.  Justin decided to keep him company, and Dave decided to stay back with us (even though he could have smashed us and left us in his wake).  So we said good-bye as they rolled onward, and we rested a bit longer.

Bob laying down on the Katy Trail

I, too, assumed this position for a few minutes, and it felt great!

We soon got back on our bikes and started riding towards Jeff City once again.  Bob seemed to be feeling much better at this point, but I was starting to fall apart.  By the time we hit Hartsburg (only 10 – 11 miles from Jefferson City), I was really hurting.  I had a pretty bad headache, I was starting to slow down, and I couldn’t even think about eating anything.  I’m pretty sure I got behind on my hydration, and that is a BIG no-no.

I was carrying plenty of water, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t drink enough.  Maybe it was because the morning temps were fairly mild and the riding was fairly easy.  Or maybe it was because I was having too much fun riding with my friends.  I don’t know what happened.  Usually I stay on top of that kind of thing.  All I know is, if that happens at Cedar Cross or Dirty Kanza, my race will be over.

The last stretch of the Katy Trail from Hartsburg took forever.  And I mean for… ev… errrrrr…  We’ve ridden that piece of the Katy countless times, so I knew each and every little landmark.  I kept thinking we’d never make it back to the parking lot.  I was wrong, though.  We made it back just a bit after 6:00 PM for a total time of 10 hours and 20-ish minutes.  Actual riding time was 7 hours and 54 minutes.  The total distance ended up being 102.29 miles.

cyclo computer on a century

First Century: CHECK!

Aaron had already left so he could be with his family, but Justin was still hanging around.  I wish I could have stuck around longer than I did, but I needed to get home since it was my daughter’s birthday.  On top of that, I felt like dried dog poop, so I bid adieu to everyone and headed home.

By the time I got home, my headache had gotten worse, and I couldn’t even finish my dinner since I felt like puking.  Let me repeat that.  I, Lukas Lamb, could not finish my dinner… after riding my bike all day… for over 100 miles…  Um, yeah.  I’m pretty sure I was severely dehydrated and possibly on the verge of heat exhaustion.  On my way home, I realized that I had only urinated once all day.  That’s just stupid.  When I finally went to the bathroom at my house, my pee was a dark, brownish-yellow.  Not good at all.

So I learned a BIG lesson: Carrying enough liquid isn’t enough.  You actually have to drink it to prevent dehydration.  Now, that’s pretty obvious to most, isn’t it?  Well, it was obvious to me before this ride, and I still managed to screw it up.  It won’t happen again… I hope.

Anyway, it was truly a great ride.  Not only was it my first century ride, but it was Aaron’s first one as well.  It might have been Justin’s first century too, but I’m not sure on that one.  So, I’m no longer a century virgin.  If all goes well this weekend at Cedar Cross, I’ll get my second century in.  And if everything goes perfectly on June 2nd at Dirty Kanza, I’ll lose my bi-century virginity too.  I can’t wait!

Ride Together, Die Alone: The 2011 Dirty Kanza 200

For the last couple of years I’ve heard the guys from Team Red Wheel talk about this little race they call The Dirty Kanza 200.  They all said the same thing:

“It was the most miserable race ever. It was ridiculously difficult and painful… and I can’t wait to do it again.”

Having done some longer adventure races in the past, I understand what they mean when they say how “fun” it can be when you’re suffering miserably.  However, 200 miles of tough gravel roads through the Flint Hills of Kansas in 100+ degree heat just didn’t sound like something I’d ever want to do.  A bunch of the TRW guys signed up again this year, including our very own Bob Jenkins, but there was no way in hell I wanted to subject myself to that kind of pain and punishment.  So I didn’t sign up for this year’s race.

The Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel road bike raceThen Robby Brown called me up.  He said he needed a teammate to do the team relay (a new part of the 2011 DK 200).  While I was reluctant, I didn’t want to let Robby down.  Even though my longest ride ever up to that point was 59 miles (in cold weather I might add), I begrudgingly agreed, and we signed up as a team.

Despite being signed up to “only” do 100 miles, I was still pretty terrified.  I had heard too many tales of vomiting, heat stroke, numerous flat tires, and corpses rotting under mulberry bushes.  After several 20 mile rides, a ton of stationary biking (thanks to all of the rain we’ve had this spring), a 55 miler on the Katy Trail, and an 80 miler on the Katy Trail, I knew I was ready.  And by ready, I mean I was still completely unprepared and unsure of whether I could ride 100 miles at Dirty Kanza.

Nick from Red Wheel Bike Shop loaned me some cyclocross tires for my mountain bike (since I don’t have a cross bike to ride).  The tires seemed to make a huge difference on my training rides.  He also let me use one of his extra Team Red Wheel jerseys, so that I would look a little more legit.  Big thanks to him.  The jersey was MUCH nicer than anything I currently have.  The only other question regarding apparel was whether I should wear traditional cycling shorts (which I’ve never worn without a pair of shorts over them) or my standard baggy mountain biking shorts.  All of our friends on our team facebook page convinced me to forget about modesty and go with the spandex.

Luke in Cycling Shorts

Not sure why I'm pointing at my nether regions, but I guess I was nervous about my spandex debut. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Stacey)

We all met at the bike shop on Friday morning, and we drove on out to Kansas.  We were a little behind schedule, but we made it to the Granada Theater in Emporia where we were treated to a viewing of Ride the Divide (Thanks again goes to Red Wheel Bike Shop for footing the bill!).

Granada Theater in Emporia

After the movie, we all checked into the hotel and then went to do some team carb loading at the Pasta Palooza.  Unfortunately, only Bob, Robby, Matt and Nicole Stacey, and I were wise enough to pre-order our meal tickets.  The rest of the TRW crew and our Sag volunteers were out of luck.  They had to go elsewhere to shovel fuel down their throats.

Dirty Kanza Pasta Palooza

Bob, me, Robby, and Matt getting ready to get our grub on (and possibly gloating a little)

At the pre-race meeting, we listened to all of the usual pre-race meeting stuff… Rules, thank-you’s to sponsors & volunteers, and all of the other usual race info.  Oh, and I won a sweet Awesome Strap from Backcountry Research as I snatched it out of the air when the volunteer threw a bunch out to the crowd.  I must say it was a pretty amazing grab.

Back at the hotel, we got our bikes ready before getting some sleep.  I, however, had a severe headache.  I’m not sure if it was a migraine or nerves or what, but it was bad enough that I thought I might puke.  So I laid in bed with a trash can next to me just in case, and I subsequently passed out.  Robby was pretty worried about me, but Bob assured him that I’d pull out of it.

Thankfully, I woke up feeling like a million bucks.  I didn’t have much to do since Robby was riding the first 100 miles.  All I had to do was brush my teeth and drive the guys to the starting line.  We parked a block away from the Granada Theater starting line, and everyone got ready in their own way.

Patriotic Team Virtus

A nice, introspective pre-race moment... and a minor adjustment to Bob's junk.

Patriotic Team Red Wheel

L ro R: Stoney Cranmer, Pete Goode, Bob Jenkins, Matt Stacey, Barry Vollmer, Nick Smith, and Robby Brown

Everyone rode on over to the starting line and waited for the long day to start.  The weather was perfect, and the forecast couldn’t have been better.  It was around 70 degrees at the start of the race, and the forecast called for a high of only 92 (hey, it was 105 degrees last year), light wind, and a 0-10% chance of rain.  It was going to be a great day.

Below is a short video of the start of the race.  At around the 21 second mark, you’ll see our group of guys.  Bob is easy to spot, and if you wait a couple of seconds you’ll see Robby ride by with a red backpack on his back.  You’ll also see some tandem bikes and even one recumbent bike.  Check it out:

After seeing the riders start the race, I headed back to the hotel to get my bike and gear ready, and I also destroyed the free hot breakfast.  I loaded up the Virtus Van, and I drove 40 minutes to the first checkpoint in Cassoday.  I waited and chilled for a couple of hours until our guys started to roll in.  First into CP1 from TRW was Barry Vollmer, followed by Matt Stacey, and then Corey “Stinky Feet” Case.

Barry CP1 at Dirty Kanza

Barry Vollmer posing for a picture taken by his lovely wife (and my nephew's teacher of the past year)

Matt Stacey at DK200 CP1

Matt Stacey Rollin' through Checkpoint One

Corey at DK CP1

Corey Case coming into CP1

These guys were making really good time, and they seemed to be feeling pretty good at this point in the race.  It wasn’t very long until Nick Smith, Pete Goode, and Stoney Cranmer rolled in with a group of other riders.

Nick Smith CP1 at Dirty Kanza

Nick ALWAYS follows the rules of the road by using hand signals.

Stoney and Pete CP1 DK200

Stoney and Pete coming into CP1

I knew Robby should be rolling in at any moment, but I was starting to get a little worried about him.  My apprehension was relieved when Robby rolled in about 10 or 15 minutes behind Nick, Stoney, and Pete.  It turns out he was riding with all of those guys but had to deal with a flat tire.  Bummer.

Robby CP1 DK200

Robby was still smiling... even after changing a flat.

After Robby rode in, Wendy Davis made it into the checkpoint followed a few minutes later by her husband (and birthday boy) Jim Davis.

Wendy Davis at CP1 DK200

Wendy Davis

Jim Davis at CP1 DK200

Jim "The Lawman" Davis

A short while later, Bob Jenkins rode into the checkpoint with our friend Travis Hammons.  Bob’s plan was to ride at that perfect endurance pace that he could maintain all day.  It seemed to be working for him since he looked like he was feeling pretty fresh… and really, really sexy.

Bob Jenkins at DK200 CP1

Bob at CP1 with Travis on the left in the background.

Somewhere in all the madness of riders coming into CP1, Chris Bopp rolled in.  I think he came in at around the same time as Nick, Peat, and Stoney, but I’m not sure.  He actually dropped out of the race at CP1 since this was his longest ride in the last 6 months.  But after some ice cold beverages and refueling, along with some encouragement from the team, he decided to go back out for the second leg.

Bopp and Bob at DK200

Chris and Bob discuss some serious race strategy as Nick's mom (one of our awesome sag support volunteers) looks on.

Robby rested for 20 minutes or so and then destroyed the one-seater bathroom.  After filling up with water and eating some food, he headed back out to ride the 40-ish miles of the second leg.  Some of the sag volunteers had already moved on to the second CP to make sure they were there for the faster riders in our group.  The rest of us stayed back to make sure that our guys had everything they needed.  Once all of our riders were gone, we made our way to the second checkpoint in Florence.

Once we got there, I went into the bathroom at the gas station and put on my spandex and a liberal amount of Chamois Butt’r.  Then it was a waiting game.  The wind was pretty bad, and the heat had gotten much worse.  There is no way that the weather man was right about a high of only 92.  It had to be 100 degrees or so.  Damn you, Weather Man!!!

I was kind of dozing off and on in my van, so I’m not sure who came in first.  I know that Stoney was the first one to ride out on the third leg of the race, and I think Matt Stacey was the second one to leave.  Barry and Pete took a little more time to rest and refuel.  They looked a little worse than they did at the first checkpoint, but not too bad.  From talking to them, it seemed like the second leg of the race was tougher than the first.

Barry at CP2 DK200

Barry resting and recovering before riding the 3rd leg.

Peat CP2 DK200

Peat might be the most photogenic person I've ever met.

When Nick rolled into the 2nd checkpoint, I lost what little confidence I had.  He looked like he had ridden through hell on the back of a horny gorilla.  The heat and wind had taken a toll on him, and he said that he was done for the day.

Nick CP2 DK200

Nick at CP2

Nick sat down and proceeded to tell us just how awful the second leg was.  There were numerous Eff Bombs, and I think I peed in my pants a little.  My hope of finishing 100 miles was quickly dwindling away.

Nick hurting at CP2 DK200

If the Dirty Kanza can do this to Nick, I was pretty much effed.

A short while later, Robby rolled into the CP.  I quickly loaded my bike with water bottles full of my anti-cramping Go-Go Juice, and I rode over to meet Robby.  Robby looked a little worn out, but he looked fresher than a lot of riders coming into the CP.  He said it was pretty damn rough out there as he handed me the map.  With the temps still scorching and the wind still blowing, I started my first leg hoping to make it 60-ish miles to the next checkpoint.

I rode roughly a mile or two of pavement before I hit the gravel roads.  I was feeling good, but I knew I shouldn’t go out too strong if I had any hope of riding 100 miles.  My realistic goal was to average 11 mph, and my optimistic goal was to average 12 mph.  It was hard to reign myself in, though.  It just seemed too easy to go faster than 11 or 12 mph.  A couple of times I looked down to realize that I was going 20 mph.  Yes, it was on a slight downhill, but I was still impressed with myself… and scared that I was overexerting myself.  I just kept riding at what felt like a comfortable pace – not too hard, not too easy.

Gravel Road at DK200

Notice the tops of the trees on the left... Windy. Also HOT!

The first hour of my ride was brutally hot and pretty windy.  I’m not sure how the other guys made it over 100 miles in these conditions.  I was riding alone with a couple of riders in front of me as well as behind me for most of the time.  Every 15 minutes or so, I’d pass a few riders sitting or lying in a ditch seeking the shelter of the shade.  They looked at me like, “How in the hell is that chubby dude passing me?”  Little did they know that I was only 15 miles into my ride.

I hit the 20 mile mark in just over an hour and a half, averaging roughly 13 mph, and I was still feeling great despite the heat and wind.  The scenery was amazing.  I could see for what seemed like 100’s of miles, and there was absolutely NO civilization in sight.  It was like nothing else I’ve ridden though.  The temperature then began dropping, and the clouds started to roll in.  Sweet!  This was my day.  I knew I was going to make it.

Cloud Silhouette DK200

Riding as the clouds roll in.

I made sure to keep drinking my e-Fuel and eating my Honey Stinger Waffles.  I would down half of a bottle of e-Fuel every 25 – 30 minutes, and I’d eat at least one waffle every 45 – 60 minutes.  It seemed to be working since I felt great.  With the sun behind the clouds and the temps dropping quickly, I felt like I could ride forever.  And then I saw this in the distance:

Rain in the Distance DK200

A nice refreshing shower on the horizon

It didn’t look too bad, and I was kind of looking forward to a brief shower.  I kept riding for another 5 miles or so when I heard the first rumblings of thunder.  Lightning up ahead… Thunder… Lightning to my right… Thunder… Lightning to my left… Thunder.  Cool!  I was surrounded.  It was almost like I was riding into the eye of the storm!  Uh… Wait a minute… Is this a good thing?  I looked to my left to see this:

Weird Rain Clouds at DK200

It sort of looked like a funnel cloud, but I was fairly certain it was just a sheet of rain (I hoped so anyway).

Then it started to sprinkle as the wind picked up.  I contemplated stopping to put my camera and phone in a ziplock bag, but then I remembered I didn’t have one since the weatherman said there was virtually NO chance of rain!  (Thanks again, weatherman!)  So I kept riding.  I made it to the 30 mile mark in 2.5 hours when the skies let loose in a BIG way.  It started raining hard, and the wind nearly blew me over.  It was kind of fun riding in the cold rain… for now.

As the thunder and lightning surrounded us, I closed in on a female rider from the St. Louis area who knew Jim and Wendy Davis (I think everyone from St. Louis knows those two).  She asked if I would mind slowing down and riding with her because she “didn’t want to die alone.”  She wasn’t kidding.  I thought of Jack Shepard from “LOST” giving this “Live Toghether, Die Alone” speech, and it seemed very fitting.  So I stayed with her.  We saw a big tree on the side of the road with an old farm house behind it.  She pulled over to pack her camera away and to seek some sort of shelter from the storm.  Since she seemed to be in a safe spot, I rode on.

Then the fun really began.  If you’ve never ridden in sideways hail, you should really try it sometime.  Actually, I take that back.  It hurt like hell.  My camera was soaked by now, and I figured it wasn’t going to work or else I would have taken some video.  Besides, I was too busy trying to stay upright on my bike.  But here’s a video from another Dirty Kanza Rider:

It probably would have been smarter to get off my bike and into the ditch, but I’ve never been accused of being smart.  So I kept riding… for a few more minutes.  As I rounded a corner and came down a hill, my bike started to weave and swerve uncontrollably in the mud.  I couldn’t stop in time, and I went down.  The rain stopped just as quickly as it had appeared, and I was left there in the mud with a huge smile on my face.  I thought of Bob and how he would have loved to ride through that storm with me.  A tear of loneliness rolled down my cheek and fell into the mud below.  Okay, that’s not true, but I did wish Bob and Robby were with me.

I hopped back up and looked at my bike.  I wasn’t sure my camera worked, but I thought I’d give it a shot:

Muddy Bike at Dirty Kanza

Hmm... Maybe that's why I crashed. (My poor spoke cards)

I scooped as much mud out as I could, and I began to push my bike down the mud bog… er… I mean road.  Then I heard my phone ring.  I couldn’t believe it still worked.  I answered it, and Robby said, “Dude, are you okay?  You need me to come get you?”  I think I replied with, “Eff no!  This is awesome!”  He informed me that Pete (probably 10 miles ahead of me) had seen a tornado and asked them to come get him.  I told Robby that the storm had already passed through and that I was going to be okay.

I planned on pushing my bike through this short muddy section and then finishing the rest of the Dirty Kanza. However, that “short” muddy section turned out to be a little longer and muddier than I thought.

Mud Bog Roads at Dirty Kanza

Where's the gravel?

I could only push my bike for 10 or 15 yards before the mud would completely stop the wheels from spinning.  Then I realized some riders behind me were catching me by pushing their bikes in the ditch.  So I followed suit and did the same.  It ceased being fun at this point.  My phone alerted me that I had received a text, and I grabbed it only to find that my screen was dead.  It was useless to me at this point.

After pushing my bike for 2.5 hours or so, I had only gone about 4 miles.  For those of you keeping score at home, the first 30 miles took 2.5 hours and the next 4 miles took the same amount of time.  A group of 5 riders (including Emily Brock, last year’s DK200 Female winner) that I was riding… uh… walking with stopped when Corey, Nick, and Chris pulled up in an SUV.  They were still looking for Pete (don’t worry, he made it in okay).  These guys informed us that we indeed had many more miles of “B” roads before reaching CP3.  It was getting close to 8:00 PM at this point, and the time cutoff for CP3 was 10:30.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

As a group, we looked at the map and decided to get to the nearest paved roads and take them all the way to CP3.  It’s weird how complete strangers will form some sort of “team” when you’re out in the middle of nowhere under harsh conditions.  I was again reminded of Jack’s words, “Ride together, die alone.”  We hopped the barbed wire fence to ride along the fence line where there was no mud.  It wasn’t easy riding, but it was faster than pushing our bikes.  Instead of averaging 2 mph, we could probably manage 6 or 7 mph.

Riding Fence Line DK200

Leaving the mud - my bike weighed a ton! (Photo Courtesy of Chris Bopp)

As we began riding through the field, my stomach churned.  Whoa!  Not good.  I kept riding for another 30 seconds before I had to get off my bike to avoid soiling my spandex a la Dan Dugan at last year’s DK200.  I let the group ride up and over a hill before I waddled over to a ditch with my butt cheeks clinched.  I got my spandex down just in the nick of time, and I left a “Luke Patty” right next to all of the cow patties out there.  Sorry to disappoint you, but I did not get photographic evidence.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

I assumed the others had left me behind, but one of the guys had a flat tire.  I caught up to them, and we rode off towards the pavement as a group.  When we hit the pavement, I was in the back of the pack with one guy behind me… Or so I thought.  As I looked back, I realized we had dropped one of the riders.  I had heard him say that he didn’t have a light since he thought he would make it to CP3 with plenty of daylight.  Since it was probably 8:15 or so by now, there was no way we were going to make it before dark.

I yelled for the others, but they couldn’t hear me.  I decided to go back to see if he needed help and to make sure he didn’t “die alone.”  His tire wasn’t holding air, and his pump wasn’t working.  I let him use my pump, and that seemed to do the trick.  But a few minutes later, his tire was flat again. With all of the mud and muck, it was really hard to make sure there was nothing inside your tire to cause a flat.  We pulled over at a little abandoned shop.

Muddy Bike at DK200

Betty, my noble steed. She was not happy with me.

I found out that the guy’s name was Dave, and he was from Omaha.  He’s hypoglycemic, and he just couldn’t stomach any more sweet tasting gels, waffles, or bars.  He had had a loooong day, and I think he had reached his limit.  He sort of had a meltdown as he tried to change fix his flat for the third time in the last 20 minutes.  Many eff bombs were dropped, and I thought Dave was going to quit and sit there until help arrived.  My phone was dead, and his had no signal.  He would’ve been waiting awhile.

Omaha Dave DK200

Omaha Dave changing his tire... again.

The third time’s the charm.  The tire held air, and we rolled on the pavement toward CP3 at Council Grove.  The wind was brutal, and the sun was going down quickly.  We made it to Highway 56, and we figured we had about 12 miles left.  The wind was even worse once we got on the highway, but we made decent time with all things considered.  Dave was great to ride with, but he was more than ready to be done.  He had an extra 100 miles on his legs that I didn’t have.  Once his phone got a signal, he called and left a message for his sag support to come get him.  We then kept rolling as the last rays of light disappeared.

Sunset at DK200

Good bye old friend.

I had enough light for the both of us, and we pushed on.  We figured we only had about 4 miles left when we saw a sign telling us that Council Grove was 13 more miles away!  What?!?!  That was a punch to the pills that we didn’t need, but we kept going.  As we got within 3 or 4 miles of Council Grove, a truck with bikes on a rack pulled up to see if we needed help.  I said that I’d ride in the last few miles, but Dave opted to hop in the truck.  We said goodbye, and then I was alone.

I put my iPod on, and tried to push the pace a little since I figured I would be disqualified.  I averaged 18mph or so (not great for most, but that’s wicked fast for me).  I made it into Council Grove, but of course the CP was a two or three miles from edge of the town.  I rolled into the CP, and they took my number and handed me a map.  I thought it was weird that they were going to allow me to continue.  I was happy and bummed at the same time.

Then I realized that they just assumed that I had ridden the race route when in fact I had taken an alternate route.  I went back to the volunteers to tell them that I had taken the paved roads, because I didn’t want to get credit for something I didn’t actually do.  They informed me that I was indeed disqualified.  I still had the map for the last leg, though.  So I could technically still ride the last leg.  But what was the point?  I was already DQ’d, it was already 10:15 PM, and I wasn’t sure if the rest of the gravel roads were muddy or not.  So I called it a day.

Travis’s friend, Sheldon, handed me the most delicious piece of Meat Lover’s pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life.  BIG thanks to him!  I owe you one, man.  I got some water, and chilled a little while with Bob, Robby, Travis, and his crew.  I then saw a group of riders come in with VERY clean bikes.  Several of them headed back out for the 4th leg to “finish” the Dirty Kanza 200.  In my mind, that’s not right, but hey… Who am I to judge?  If they can live with that, then they have a much different idea of what the Dirty Kanza is all about than do I.

A big Congratulations to Matt Stacey and Stoney Cranmer.  They were the only two in our group to finish the race (and I mean legitimately finish the race).  Matt finished in 27th place overall and 16th in the Men’s Open Division with a time of 16:37.  Stoney finished 34th overall and 5th in the Single Speed Division with a time of 17:16.  Very impressive, guys, and I couldn’t be happier for both of you.

I rode (with some hike-a-bike) 66.99 miles in 7:10.  I felt good… Not great, but good.  I think I could have ridden 40 more miles as long as the roads were dry.  Am I disappointed?  You bet I am.  I feel bad that I couldn’t finish my half for Robby, but I guess that’s part of endurance gravel racing.  There wasn’t much I could do about the weather.  It was a blast, and I had a great time hanging with the TRW guys, Travis and his crew, and Jim and Wendy Davis as well.

Mark my words: I WILL be back next year.  And I’ll be shooting for the full 200 miles!  Who else wants to join me?

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