June 7, 2013

Dirty Kanza - 2013

*** Disclaimer - I didn’t expect this post to come out so long.  It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written.  So, if you’d rather not suffer through my disjointed-poorly-phrased-writing skills with even worse vocabulary - go read SuperKate's or Emily’s reports instead, they are awesome.  You have been warned. ***

The last mod to the adventure bike was a food bag to attach to the handlebars.  At Cedar Cross I rode with Lo and seen how well hers worked out.  One-handed access to all the calories needed to fuel adventure.  Well, the frame bags Lori made came out so great, she decided to make the feed bags too.  The night before driving to Emporia!  Mine was made from the leg of a ripped out pair of military BDU’s.   Cool camo, a bungie drawstring, and some Velcro straps was all she needed to make this awesomeness.
All racers were required to bring a support crew.  I enlisted my two kids, and surprisingly they agreed.  Two teens driving around Kansas alone – what could go wrong?  The added complexity was they had to support the 110 race for Lori and Robin and the 200 for me.  I made a map and figured out our approx ride times then made a schedule for them to follow.  They made it to every checkpoint early and even had some time to play around.

Another prep that took some time was getting food and drinks all ready.  I made a gallon ziplock bag for each CP, including the Start.   Had them all labeled and stacked inside the big cooler.  They included KIND bars, PB&J’s, pickles, Perpetuum powder, Lemonade Gatorade, Ensure, Cheez-Its, Almonds, big ol turkey sammich for CP2, ibuprofen, Enduralytes, and gobs of DZ nuts.
The forecasted temps and dry conditions made gear packing easy:  ROCK Racing jersey, XX2i sunglasses, favorite shorts, wool socks, arm warmers, and Say Yes More buff. 
Main Street in Emporia was closed on both ends for the race.  For the start I had lined up in the back near Team Virtus.  We were all goofing off and having a great time so I never heard anyone say “Go”.   The group just began moving away down the street.

I rode out of Emporia and hit the gravel still with the same group.  A couple of their faster riders took off up the road early (Robbie and Casey – who went on to finish with awesome times).   The group was riding a little harder than I was ready for so I ended up off the back kind of early.  You just know your going to have fun when this guy is around:
Yes, you are looking at a grown man wearing denim panties.

It wasn’t too many miles later that they stopped for a pee break, so I went on ahead into the muddy section alone for the first of many times that day.

The whole first 50mi leg was with the wind at our backs.  I had finally warmed up and was riding smooth and almost effortlessly.  This was right on plan.  Before driving to Emporia for the race someone had asked about a goal time to finish.  Easy. 20:44:59, one second before the final cutoff.  I just want to finish.
Fatbikes.  And one of them was single-speed.  How do you get that strong?

The Flint Hills scenery was breathtaking.  I must have pulled over a dozen times throughout the day just to look around at the sky and grasslands and take pictures, but none of them really show how green the grasslands were or how big the sky was.  It's just something that has to be experienced.

My favorite sign.  This one was even complete with shotgun pellets.

The rest of the first leg was filled with creek crossings, cattle grates, trying to pick smart lines in the gravel, and hooking up with groups to share work off and on.

Cool creek crossing, I wasn't sure of the depth so I carried the bike over.

I rode into the town of Madison at mile 50 feeling great and picked up the map for the next leg.  I was way ahead of the 11:15 cutoff.  It felt good to have banked some time early.   My kids were parked under the red flags right where they were supposed to be.  They had the cooler and a chair out for me, so I flopped down in it and pulled out the food bags to resupply.  They filled my bladder and told stories about their morning adventures.
Great support team getting it done.

It seems that Emporia and Madison have some really great garage sales on Saturday mornings, so my kids had been hitting them up between CP’s.  They were all excited to show off their loot.  I know, I’m supposed to be racing, but some things are more important.
They pulled out a giant steel STOP sign, “…with real graffiti!”, and a big orange steel DETOUR sign.  I suggested we put those back on the floor of the adventure van before a member of the local law enforcement community became interested in where those signs came from.  But the all-time coolest thing was the RACE PRIZES they bought for Lori, Robin, and I.  The girls both got inflatable animals.  My prize was a big hand painted paper mache’ parrot named Chicken Wing Steve.  Freaking awesome!  I love it.

So I spent to much time at CP1, but it was totally worth it.  I glanced at the map a little and headed out of the town square on the cool cobblestone/brick road.  The quick look I did at the map was enough to tell me the second leg was going to suck…lots of riding due west, which meant headwind.

Like the first leg, I rode in and out of a couple small groups sharing the job of pulling when my turn came up.   But for the majority of time I rode this leg alone head down grinding through the wind.  So it was a relief when I rode up on Kyle from Orange Lederhosen climbing out of a brushy bit of woods.  I think his guts were acting up, but he is a tough and strong rider, so we shared a couple of miles cracking jokes and talking.  Here’s an example:

Kyle:  Hey Look, a zebra!
Me:  What?  Where?
Kyle:  Over there, it’s one of those brown ones.  (pointing at a horse)
Me:  Oh yeah, I see it, but wait, it’s not a zebra.
Kyle: What!?!
Me:  Yeah , it’s one of those hump-less camels.
Ok, you get the idea.  We rode together until we hit a long climb and Kyle dropped off somewhere behind.  I later heard that he abandoned the race after finishing that leg.
By now the wind was REALLY getting old and wearing on me.  Check out the course marker in this picture:

I dunno what the wind speed was that day
I passed an old concrete tornado shelter with a missing door and a skull painted on it.  “I could crawl in there to rest for awhile out of the wind”.

Probably a great place to meet a Massauga rattlesnake

But I was watching my Garmin all the time and calculating over and over again if I was going to make the cut-off time at CP2.  I went from being pissed and cussing myself for being so slow, too being overconfident and yelling at the wind… “Is that all you got!!”

So much self-dialogue was going on.  But the idea that pushed me through that wind was:
“I did not come to Kansas to only ride 100 miles, and I did not come to Kansas to let my kids watch me fail.”  And that was enough to make me find it:   The Something to keep going.  Someday I’ll find words to describe The Something, but until I do, I’ll just be happy knowing it’s there when I need it.
I finally hit the point where the math was saying I would make the cut-off time.  I just had to keep the pedals turning.  I rolled into the town of Cassoday at about 4:00 pm v.s. a 4:30 cutoff time, and used up the biggest chunk of my previously ‘banked’ time.

I seen the kids and Lori at the adventure van thinking,   “Uh-oh, Lori must not have made cut-off for the Half-Pint”.   I checked in, got my map and went to the van.  I had pre-planned taking a longer stop at the 100mi point.  So I sat down and pulled off my socks and shoes and helmet.  Sam got to work wiping down and lubing my bike.  Lori and Jacob worked on water bottles and food.  Lori rigged the lights onto my bike, it would be dark before I seen my awesome crew again.  I leaned back and chilled while eating a huge turkey sandwich, dill pickles and chips.  Then got all caught up on how the Half-Pint race went down and listened as Lori told everything she knew about how my friends were doing on the 200.  I saw a LOT of people on the ground and in chairs looking like they were calling it quits there.  That wind was tough.  It had just about beat me to death. 

To make the next cut-off at CP3, I would have to ride faster than I had all day.  I scanned the map and seen miles and miles of soul-crushing Northwest riding.  It would be into the wind again.  Instead I focused on the total awesomeness of a 17 mile stretch riding with the wind after leaving Cassoday.  I took off again, seeing a couple of Team Virtus friends just pulling into town ahead of the cutoff, and rode that first downwind stretch hard, not even stopping to pee, telling myself I needed to (again) bank some time for later in the day.

I rode this third leg almost all on my own.  There was one stretch before crossing over the Kansas Turnpike where I got into a little group with a couple other guys.  We stopped and took some pictures of each other over this amazingly green and deep valley.  

Of course the picture does not do the valley justice.

Another cool thing on this leg was the free range cattle.  We were riding together at a really good pace and passed a small herd along the road spooking them.  They started running right next to us, with a couple crossing the road in front and between us.  I probably should have been scared but it was way too cool. I was in a stampede!  At one point there were three cows running together, pounding the ground right by the road.  I could see the clods of dirt and snot flying.  They jumped over a small creek and the third one in line fell, crashing into the far bank.  I have never thought of cattle having speed or agility, but the way she bounced up still on the run was pretty damn impressive.  Apparently free-range cattle are not the same domesticated feed-lot cows I see around home.

Wish I could have gotten a stampede picture - this one will have to do
Luckily the wind starting letting up on the second half of this leg.  My avg speed had ticked up and it looked like the 10:00pm cutoff at Cottonwood Falls was not in danger.  Some clouds rolled in and I wondered about the possibility of rain.  I had been pretty careful with navigation all day, checking my map at times even though the course was well marked.  This AR-induced tendency soon paid off big.  I knew there was a turn to the North coming up after the Bazaar cemetery from my last look at the map, so when I pedaled past the unmarked turn at Den Creek road I stopped and double-checked the map.  Whew.  Just in time.  I turned onto Den Creek thanking God.  I took a glance around to warn anyone else, but I was all alone at the time.  The sun set shortly after so I stopped for a few more pictures.

I finally hit a due east, paved, downhill run into Cottonwood Falls.  It felt so good to pick up some real speed, but my eyes were getting blasted by flying bugs because I did not pack the clear lenses for my XX2i sunglasses.  It was only a few mins later that I was meeting up with my support crew again at Swope Park.

This time my crew had grown again.  Robin had finished the Half-Pint race and was now crewing for me too!  She had a great day and finished faster than expected, even with getting lost and adding an additional 9 miles.  Read her race report here.  I flopped into the chair and ate more pickles and chips while my awesome crew buzzed around, doing everything I needed and things I did not know I needed.  Bottles and bladder were re-filled, lenses in glasses changed, put on arm warmers and ‘Say Yes More’ buff.  It was getting cold by then.  Robin was giving me tips on the final leg (which was the same as 2nd leg of Half-Pint).  Lori got my Ipod set-up and then Jacob warned that I had been there for 15 minutes.  “Damn, already!!??”  I spotted a group just pulling away and figured I would get into their group for the final leg.  So I rushed away and caught onto the last guy’s wheel. 
We rode into the pitch dark of Kansas.  

There was some thick cloud cover so no moon or stars were out.  This group seemed to share my concern for good navigation we were all checking maps and making careful turns.  Eventually the group broke up on the way north toward Council Grove.  And like it had been all day I fell out alone somewhere between the faster guys and the slower guys.  I turned on my Ipod and cranked out some loud Metallica, Ozzy, and Kid Rock, great music to keep me awake and keep me moving.

My stomach started going bad on this last leg, so I had to modify my so-far-successful eating strategy (Eat real food at the top of every hour, drink Perpetuum or Ensure at every half-hour).  I went almost entirely on sips of the bottle with tiny bites of other stuff in my feedbag.  So I rode through Americus by myself and toward the finish in Emporia.  I found myself not caring if I finished before or after the 2:45am cutoff or even the next morning.  I just knew I was going to finish this ride, with whatever it took.  I stopped for the only picture from this leg.  I was to tired to think much about pictures, and really, how many of these do you need:

I caught up to a group just crossing Hwy 35 and we finished the ride together into Emporia.  The streets were almost empty.  When we hit the finish line, there were only a few last stragglers around and MY AWESOME SUPPORT CREW!!!!  Staying out to wait for me at 2:30 in the morning had to be awful.  But it felt amazing to see them all there.  
Wondering if and when I would finish - Lori taking the pic
They jumped up screaming and yelling for me and getting a few pictures.  As I came under the finish line at about 2:30 some guy passed me the finisher’s glass and a DK200 sticker!  The finish line volunteers paused in the clean up long enough for me to get a Finisher pic.  Thanks guys!

Some OG started congratulating me, shaking my hand, and telling me what a great accomplishment it was to finish this race.  I dunno who he was, but it was genuine, and made me feel great.  I later found out that I was the last official finisher for 2013.  I dunno why, but it seems so perfectly fitting.  DFL never felt so good.

This was one of my all-time favorite adventures.  Emporia and the Flint Hills are such a great place.  Next year I will plan to stay an extra couple of days to check it out more.  This race definitely stays on the list of things to do again. 

Haha, and as bad as I wanted to get my hands on that finisher’s glass, I think my favorite prize is still Chicken Wing Steve…


  1. What a completely awesome adventure! Love the parrot! Can't wait until my children are old enough to crew for me (if I am ever brave enough to do something so crazy). Congrats on the DFL - solid finish!

  2. Great report Chuck, it was awesome crewing for you and hanging out with the family all day. We all knew you could do it.

  3. I wish I could get O'fallon Gold over here. Maybe RR will mule me some. Great job on the finish, and while you are no Mark Twain you write better than some people.

  4. You're the man, Chuck. I think you had to experience that wind to really understand how shitty it was, and it's super-impressive that you fought it out there alone for so long. Congratulations, man.