Note: This post is about my second Dirty Kanza 200 experience on June 3, 2017.
It’s broken into seven parts:
Part I – Prep / Training
Part II – Preamble
Part III – Starting Line
Part IV – Checkpoint One
Part V – Checkpoint Two
Part VI – Checkpoint Three
Part VII – Finish Line
Don’t Worry Be Happy
My thoughts as I roll out of Eureka @ 3:30pm…
- Thirty minutes at a checkpoint is too long, double the plan, but was overheated and feel much better now.
- I’m enjoying myself.
- It’s only a hundred miles back to Emporia, I could do that in my sleep.
- What’s that a storm cloud headed our way? It’s gonna feel good when it gets here.
Mud & Camaraderie
That first century was a frantic pace and there’s not much time or energy for team building. We help each other out, but it’s all business.
The second part is when stragglers clump into semi-cohesive units. It’s only natural and in any case, foolish to ride alone. A group of riders will always be safer than one, assuming everyone does their job properly. Each new set of eyes brings another brain to identify and solve problems.
There’s Jim, who took a few years off from his securities job down in Atlanta, Georgia to help his wife with their Montessori school, and train for this race. He and I teamed up during the first half of the third leg. As the worst of the thunderstorms rolled over.
Before we crossed the US hiway 54, a rider was waiting to be picked up by her support team. Another victim of muddy roads, a derailleur twisted, bringing an early end to a long day. We stopped, checked and offered encouragement as a car whizzed by us.
“That’s a storm chaser!!”, someone called out, leaving me to wonder just how bad these storms were gonna get.
Derrick, is an IT guy from St. Joseph, Missouri, riding a single-speed bike on his way to a fifth finish, and with it a Goblet commemorating 1000 miles of toil.
We rode for a bit at the end of the third, right at dusk. My GPS, up to now worked flawlessly had changed into the nightime display mode and I could no longer make out which lines to follow, missed a turn and heard the buzzer telling me I’d veered off course.
I stopped and pulled out my cue sheets. Those were tucked safely and sealed to stay nice and dry. What, I forgot to seal, its pages wet, stuck together and useless?
I was tired and let my mind drift. Why didn’t I bring a headlamp on this leg? I’d be able to read the nav screen better. And where is everybody? How long have I been on the wrong path? Am I lost?
Be calm. Get your focus and above all think. What about the phone, maps are on it too. It’s almost dead but plenty of reserve power available.
Just then Derrick’s dim headlight appeared in the distance. He stopped and we quietly discussed my predicament. For some reason his GPS device couldn’t figure that turn out either. It was then we noticed tire tracks off to our right, turned and got back on track, both nav devices mysteriously resumed working once again.
Jeremy is the service manager at one of the better bike shops in Topeka, Kansas. He’s making a third attempt. Two years ago, he broke down in what turned into a mudfest. Last year, he completed the course, but twenty minutes past due and didn’t make the 3:00 am cutoff.
His bike was a grinder of sorts with some fats. It sounded like a Mack truck on the downhills, but geared like a mountain goat on the uphills. I want one of them bikes. Going to have to look him up at that bike shop one day.
Last year I remembered him lying at the roadside, probably ten maybe fifteen miles outside of Emporia.
“You alright?”, we stopped and asked. It was an hour or more past midnight and the blackest of night.
“Yeah man, just tired, and need to rest a bit. You guys go on, I’m fine”, he calmly told us.
There’s the guy from Iowa, who normally wouldn’t be at the back-of-the-pack (with us), but his derailleur snapped and he’d just converted to a single-speed as I caught up with him, and his buddy. This was a first attempt for both. They’d been making good until the rains hit.
Or the four chicks, from where I do not know, who were much faster than I, but somehow kept passing me. How I would get past them again remains a mystery.
Also, all of the others, whose names can’t be placed, but the stories can…
Seven miles into that third leg came the rain. It felt good, but introduced challenges. The roads become slippery and a rider could easily go down. They become muddy and the bike very much wants to break down.
Both are critical risk factors in terms of finishing. One’s outcome much worse than the other.
Fortunately, both problems have good solutions. The first, slow down the descents, pick through the rocks, pools of mud and water — carefully. If in doubt stop and walk a section, although I never had to on this day, except for that one crossing with peanut butter on the other side.
By the way, these pictures that I’m posting are from the calmer sections. It’s never a good idea to stop along a dangerous roadside just to take one. That will create a hazard for the other riders, who then have to deal with you in their pathways which limits their choices for a good line. When the going is tricky, keep it moving, if possible to do so safely.
The second problem means frequent stops to flush the grit from the drivetrains. When it starts grinding, it’s time to stop and flush. Mind the grind. Once I pulled out two centimeter chunks of rocks lodged in the derailleurs and chain guards.
Use whatever is on hand. River, water, bottles, puddles. There was mud — everywhere. In the chain, gears and brakes. It’d get lodged in the pedals and cleats of our shoes making it impossible to click in or (worse) to click out. I’d use rocks to remove other rocks or whatever is handy and/or expedient. It helps to be resourceful at times like this. That’s not a fork, it’s an extended, multi-pronged, mud and grit extraction tool.
The good folks alongside the road were keeping us supplied with plenty of water. It wasn’t needed for hydration, but for maintenance. I’d ask before using it like this, to not offend them. Pouring their bottles of water over my bike, but they understood and didn’t seem to mind.
We got rerouted once because the water crossing decided it wanted to be a lake. This detour added a couple of miles to a ride that was already seven over two hundred.
The rain made for slow but I was having a good time and didn’t want the fun to end.
Enjoy this moment. Look over there, all the flowers growing alongside the road. The roads were still muddy but the fields were clean and fresh, the temperatures were cool.
wild flowers along the third leg
Rolled in about 930p under the cover of night.
After all that fussing over nameplates in the previous leg and found out it was mounted incorrectly. It partially blocked the headlight beam and had to be fixed.
It was Cheri’s second year doing support. Last year it was her and Kelly crewing for Gregg and I. This year, she and Gregg came as well. As I said earlier, the best part of this race is experiencing it with friends and family.
I was in good spirits, but hungry, my neck ached, and my bike was in some serious need of attention. All of this was handled with calm efficiency by Kelly & Co.
Kyle, who’s an RN, provided medical support with pain relievers and ice packs. They knew I liked pizza late in the race and Gregg handed some over that had just been pulled fresh from the oven, across the street, at the EZ-mart. It may not sound like much now, but gave me the needed energy boost, from something that doesn’t get squeezed out of a tube.
As soon as Cheri finished the nameplate, Gregg got the drivetrain running smoothly once again.
All the while, Kelly and Mom were assisting and directing. There’s the headlamp needing to be mounted, fresh battery packs, change to the clear lens on the glasses, socks, gloves, cokes, energy drinks, refilling water tanks, electrolytes, gels and more. There’s forty-some to go, total darkness, unmarked roads. Possibly more mud on the remaining B roads. Weather forecast clear and mild.
“Who are you riding with?”, Gregg called out as I was leaving. He ran alongside for a bit, urging me on.
“Derrick and I are gonna team up”, I called back, which was true, that was the plan as we rolled into town. Now I just had to find him. Madison was practically deserted at this hour, its checkpoint regions, i.e. red, green, blue, orange, were spread out, and what color did he say he was again??
Twenty two minutes spent refueling at checkpoint three and into the darkness again. That last leg started @ 10 pm with 45 miles to go. I could do that in my sleep, may need to.