The DK inspired me to not only create this site to chronicle my journey, but more importantly it got me back on my bike. Last fall I was flipping through Bicycling magazine and came across an article talking about ultra endurance events – mainly the double century. It described the craziness of the DK – 200 miles all on gravel. Who seriously thinks that sounds like fun? I did. With Emporia being a short drive from KC, I knew this was something I had to try. I had been dealing with a chronic, nagging knee injury from running, and I was too stubborn to think it would ever go away. I kept trying to run thinking I would eventually be fine and I could get back into triathlons. I had always loved cycling – the freedom it provided – so I used the DK as an excuse to purchase a new bike, put my running shoes back in the closet, and start training.
As the race drew near, all the nervous thoughts crept into my mind. ‘I haven’t trained enough, why did you sign up for this’, ‘am I sure I have all the right gear’, ‘what am I going to eat and drink all day on the bike’, etc. I had never ridden more than 100 miles before, so how was I going to double that…in one day?! What made matters even worse, I drove to Lawrence and went to dinner at Sunflower bikes the Thursday before the race get some tips from the DK legend Dan Hughes and the Queen of Pain Rebecca Rusch. When they both were saying be prepared for a long, brutal day on the bike I was getting nervous. Thankfully, I was able to stock up on some Gu Roctane and Red Bull for fuel thanks to Rebecca and her sponsors. More on the Red Bull later.
Me and Rebecca Rusch at Sunflower Bikes. I’m glad I was able to pick her brain. Her advice ‘Rip it up!’.
Since this was my first endurance race, I spent a lot of time researching the gear I would need (This race got to be expensive). I felt I was pretty dialed in with my choices. I ran my Trek Cronus CX Ultimate cross bike with Specialized Nimbus Armadillo tires – no flats!
Post race pic. My bike took a beating but handled great all day.
All that was left was deciding on my nutrition and hydration. I had been giving a number of products some test runs during training and what I found to work the best was plain old natural food. I never felt right downing all the sugary energy drinks, gels and bars. I came across the Feed Zone Cook book by Allen Lim and Biju Thomas a while back and fell in love with their recipes. I made a bunch of rice cakes, waffles, granola and eggs for race day. I give a lot of credit to finishing the race to what I ate. My nutrition plan was the following: eat 1 Gu Roctane every 50 miles, then consume 200-400 calories an hour through the food I made. I tried to get most of my calories from the real food and not a drink. I drank mainly water from my Camelbak and the Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix. That stuff is tasty and won’t give you gut rot.
I felt I did my due diligence with my race prep so when 6am rolled around on June 1st I was ready. Downtown Emporia was buzzing with some amazing energy as the town came out in full force to support the 900 or so riders lined up at the start.
The first 50 miles were great. The temperature was perfect, the wind was mainly at our back, and fresh legs meant a fairly decent pace line. I had my fastest split and shortest rest as I rolled through checkpoint 1 in Madison, KS.
Thanks to tbl photography for capturing a great shot.
Personally, the second 50 miles was the most brutal with nearly all of it into some stiff headwinds. Add in some steep climbs and from about mile 85-90 I was having some serious doubts about making it out of checkpoint 2. I was also re-developing a saddle sore that had plagued me in the weeks leading up to the race. Needless to say, I wasn’t comfortable and the thought of another 100 miles was getting to me.
Cassody, KS was a welcome sight. Mentally, I really needed that break. Being able to get off my saddle and out of the wind was the best feeling. I don’t usually ride with music, but I had been saving my ipod for the last 100 miles as I’d heard the DK plays tricks with your mind. After 100 miles I physically felt great, but was mentally exhausted. Popping on my DK playlist was a life saver.
Trying to regroup in Cassody. Glad to have my boy Dunkin there.
By the time the third segment was underway, I was feeling better. The combination of switching out my saddle (I know that’s frowned upon but I had to do something so I could sit comfortably) and having my music gave me a fresh start. I wasn’t suffering as much and was able to take in the scenery that makes this race so special. Being a Kansas native, it was amazing being in the Flint Hills on the open roads. I had never been into cattle country like that before and you really had to take the time to make yourself look around and appreciate the landscape around you.
Another one from tbl photography.
What we got to look at all day. Shots courtesy from adventuremonkey.com.
I felt much better rolling into the final checkpoint in Cottonwood Falls, KS. I remember Rebecca Rusch stating on Thursday night she was planning on drinking a Red Bull before she rolled out of checkpoint 3. It had bee a long time since I had consumed one of those, but I took her advice and slammed one. Maybe it was part mental knowing the end was near, but after the Red Bull I felt really strong – and the last segment was seriously the best I felt all day. If i hadn’t of made a few wrong turns at the end it would have been my fastest segment (admittedly having the wind die down helped a lot). That was the first time I had ever ridden at night in the dark. It was very peaceful. I made sure to always look in front and behind me to make sure I saw other lights to help confirm I was on the right path. The last thing I wanted to due was take a major detour off course at this point. The last 10 miles seemed to take forever. All I could think about was the finish. Rolling into Emporia at midnight, with people still lining the streets cheering you on and kids giving you high fives – you really do feel like a Rockstar as our DK t-shirt so eloquently stated. When I hit the finish line it was the best feeling in the world. I got dropped my bike, went straight into Jimmy John’s and got a cookie. Heaven.
Thanks to the adventure monkey for capturing my finish. Words can’t express how I felt here.
The Dirty Kanza was such an amazing experience. The race and weekend were first class. The town of Emporia, Jim Cummins, Kristi and Tim Mohn, and all other involved really rolled out the red carpet for the racers. What a cool event to have in my home state of Kansas. I’ve been on a high all week from finishing and racing. I finished 240th in 18hrs with just over 16hrs on the bike. I’m thankful the Dirty Kanza was able to reignite the passion I have for cycling and competing. I’m already making my plans for next year. I will be back…
I’m thankful my parents were able to share in this experience with me. They did a great job providing support all day. I couldn’t have done it without them.