Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dirty Kanza 200 Recap...

So here it is...Last Saturday, I raced in the Dirty Kanza 200 Gravel Grinder.  Unfortunately, I did not finish but had to bail out at mile 183.  If you'll read along, I'll give you a full detail of my experience.  If you're not familiar with Dirty Kanza, it's a 203 mile race among the gravel roads in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  A lot of training took place to get ready for this ride and countless hours were also spent trying to research every blog article I could find that talked about what to expect.  The one thing I can take away from the experience...You really don't know what to expect till you get there and you turn your cranks over and over and over and over...

On the Wednesday before the race, my buddy Mike, my wife, and I all packed our car and drove from Knoxville, TN to Emporia, KS (with an overnight stop in Saint Louis).  When we got to Kansas, excitement was high! We went out for a little pre-ride of the last 10 miles of the course after getting settled into our hotel room.  From the first impressions of that section, I felt like this was going to be a cake walk.  Little did I know that section was not anything like the rest of the course.

(Team Cycology on our Pre-Ride)

Saturday morning came and it was time to race the Dirty Kanza 200.  We woke up around 4am and took it easy getting ready.  My mind went through all the checklists to make sure I was ready to go and had everything I'd need.  We got to the start line around 5:30am where we were met with nearly 1200 other riders.  This was what we had been training for so long and it was finally moments away from the start! I couldn't have been more excited and ready! I placed myself around the 12 hour guys hoping to hang in and draft the front group as long as I could.  Within moments, we were off!

After a neutral roll out through the center of town, we hit the gravel.  From this point on, it was extremely rare to see anymore pavement, much less civilization.  Once you hit the gravel roads in Kansas, there isn't much out there.  It's all open range.  The first 10 miles was pretty flat and fast.  We hit our first climb and were greeted by photographers.  At this point, the group started to spread out a bit.

Coming from East Tennessee, all my training has been with mountains and hills.  Being in Kansas, I didn't think their hills would rival in any comparison.  I soon came to find out that it wasn't the size of the hills that mattered, it was the quantity...During the first 50 miles, groups of riders started to settle in and find a rhythm.  I was able to work with a pretty good group that even included another local friend, Jon Livengood.  We rotated around in a pace line and was cranking out a pretty stellar pace! At the first checkpoint (Mile 50) we rolled into Madison, KS to be greeted by our support crews.  I made this a quick stop and downed some drink mix (Infinit Go Far) along with a Payday Bar and a few pickles.

Leaving the support station, it was a quick ride out of town and back onto the gravel.  While I was heading out of town, I came to realize that the guys I had been working with were nowhere around.  I didn't know if they had already left or whether I had passed them up leaving the last support stop.  I spent about 10 miles just cruising along and honestly enjoying myself.  So far, the scenery had been really beautiful and I was feeling good! The roads were rough in sections and there had been a lot of hills so far but nothing that seemed to be taxing.

At about mile 65, I was able to tag onto another group and was able to get my pace back on target to where I was wanting to be.  We rotated around in a pace line and was really making some great time.  Several guys ended up getting some flats which reduced our group size quite a bit.  The one thing about someone getting a flat was it took them out of your group.  I remember one guy commenting that he was going to miss this one guy because of how long that guy was willing to take a pull on the front.

The segment between the first support station and the second had a lot of rolling hills.  It was kind of an amazing experience because you could see the road for so far.  Every little hill stood out.  The gravel roads in the Flint Hills are nothing like the limestone gravel back home.  The rocks are sharp and vary in size a great bit.  At the bottom of each hill, you're about guaranteed to find some chunky gravel that was waiting to claim a victim.  Luckily, I made it to mile 100 (Second Support Stop) with no mechanical problems and I was still feeling great!

(Endless Hills...)

At the second support stop, I had my wife start a timer for 10 minutes so I wouldn't waste too much time there.  I ate a quick sandwich, filled my bottles, replenished my nutrition, and back off I went.  I was super stoked at how smooth everything was going! I finished the first 100 miles at around 6 hours.  I was way ahead of my expected pace and placed around the top 50 people.  All this excitement was soon to take a nose dive...

Out of the second support stop, we were on a long steady road for 12 miles riding directly into a headwind.  I didn't really mind it much because it was relatively flat and I found a few guys to work with.  At mile 112, I took a turn onto G50 Road and I heard my front tire burst.  I knew I'd probably suffer a couple flats during this race so I wasn't too concerned.  It wasn't until I looked down and saw the hole in the sidewall of my tire.  I had a patch kit and some duct tape on my but nothing substantial enough to patch a hole that big.  I felt so defeated and decided to call my wife who was still at the last support stop helping my other teammates.  I told her I guess that was the end of my race since I would get DQ'd if she came on course to help me.  She said my teammate, Mike Karnes, had just rolled into the second support stop and she was going to send him out with a spare tire for me.  I ended up waiting nearly an hour and a half for Mike to show up.  I had just sat in the wide open sun and watched all these riders pass me by.  I was soon realizing that I would be hard pressed to beat the sun.

(Location of my first flat tire)

Mike showed up and gave me a new tire.  He was a real trooper for carrying that all the way out there for me and these words can't express the gratitude I have for him doing that! I got back on my bike and took off feeling pretty good considering my legs had plenty of time to rest.  I reached down to grab my water bottle with my drink mix in it and pulled out and empty bottle.  My bottle cage had broke and pierced the bottom of my bottle.  I was carrying two 33 ounce bottles between each stop with one filled with water and the other filled with my mix.  I began to freak out a bit because the heat was getting worse and I had already been out for a while.  I tried to ease my pace a little but keep things steady as to make it to the next support stop in reasonable time.  Unfortunately, all the guys who were riding at the pace I was wanting to ride were well gone and I was left to ride on my own.  At around mile 135, I started to feel the dehydration really set in.  I eased up the pace more and started to coast the downhills.  I was down to about 1/4 of my other bottle.  I started to get a bit dizzy and pulled over for a few minutes.  Then the puking commenced.  Shortly thereafter, my other teammate, Neil, pulled up and we talked it out a bit.  He decided to stick with me and ride in to the third support stop.  Through those next 15 miles, I pulled over a few more times to puke.  I couldn't hold any fluids in or food.  I just felt miserable and really wanted to call it quits.

We made it to the third and final rest stop.  I pulled into my pit area and laid the bike down.  I told my wife I was done.  I had nothing left.  I ended up laying under a tree for about an hour and a half.  My wife tried to help me drink fluids and eat some food but nothing would stay down...I was for sure done and I had no desire to go back out.  It wasn't until I actually made a post on Facebook declaring I was done and seeing all the support I had back home that I decided to give it one last shot.  My wife gave me a super supportive talk and I grabbed my stuff and got ready to head out.  My buddy Mike had just left the support station and was not far ahead.  He was in pretty rough shape at this point too and I wanted to ride with him for some support.

I limped out of town and hit the gravel roads again.  After a few miles, I caught back up with Mike.  He said he was feeling pretty sick and having the same problems I was.  He told me to go on and that he was going to try and eat something.  I rode along at a pretty slow pace just hoping to finish at this point.  I didn't have much energy at all but I did have a little bit of adrenaline.  The hills continued as the sun was setting.  I got another flat on the front tire right as the sun went down.  It was a quick tube change and I was back rolling.  At this point, life really started to suck.  I started counting every single mile and just hoping to make it to the top of each little hill.  As I turned onto Road D, I really started to feel very dizzy again.  I pulled over and leaned over my top tube of my bike.  Yet again, I puked.  The dizziness got worse and finally my legs gave out.  I just laid in the middle of the road. Luckily, this happened near a farm house.  Apparently, the farmer saw my lights fall over with my bike and came out to check on me.  He offered to help and at this point, I caved in and asked for a ride back into town.  I was done.  I had nothing left to give.  Mile 183 became the end of my Dirty Kanza 200 experience.

Looking back, I try to think over all kinds of things I could have done differently but honestly, I gave it all I had.  I went to Kansas to race the DK200 and beat the sun.  I felt great for a good part of the race and was on point to finish in a sub 13 hour timeframe.  Unfortunately, circumstances interfered with my goals.  That's the thing about the Dirty Kanza...You can plan as much as you want.  You can read all the blogs you want.  You can train as much as you want.  When it comes down to it, you are out in the middle of nowhere.  You are responsible for yourself out there.  One thing can go wrong and ruin your day.  It's how you react that will make the biggest difference.  There isn't a thing I would change about my plans.  All I can say is Dirty Kanza 200 is hard...Real hard.  I don't know if I'll go back again but for now, I'll just reflect on the experience I had.

There are so many people who played an integral part in my race. My wife provided the best support I could ever ask for!  My teammates (Mike Karnes, Neil Willey, and Dave Penegar) were there for me when I needed them and I am happy to say they all finished their race! I owe Bruce Dickman and ProGold Lubricants my gratitude for their sponsorship in the race as well! ProGold has been my choice of lube for a long time and I had zero drivetrain issues thanks to the ProGold Extreme lube!  I also am thankful for the crew at Cycology Bicycles in Maryville, TN who have kept my bike performing top notch through all these training rides and helping me get my setup for the race!  Lastly, I want to thank all my friends who gave their support regardless of my end result.  You all are the best and for that I am the most grateful!

Till next time...Keep the rubber side down!