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…

June 5, 2013

Dirty Kanza - The Half Pint Edition

A year ago, if you would have asked me if I would ever gravel race, I would have told you, “there is no way in hell, I will ever gravel race”.  I guess those are some of my most famous last words.
Here’s the thing, my teammate Chuck built a gravel bike and he was having all kinds of fun on it, and having the fun without me.  I did some adventure riding with him, but on my mountain bike, and it’s no fun trying to keep up with a gravel bike when riding a mountain bike with fat tires and weighing about two tons.

I started thinking, I would like to do some CX races this year, so maybe I could get a CX bike that could double as a gravel bike. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea, but I would not be doing any gravel racing, I would just use it as an adventure bike to ride with Chuck for training purposes.  More famous last words, I guess. 
Chuck and I also work together, so when it was bonus time at our company, Chuck encouraged me to take my bonus and use it to purchase a gravel bike.  I did research for months and had my choices down to two bikes, the Trek Cronus and the Cannondale SuperX.  I ended up choosing the Cannondale SuperX, more to come later on the bike, I will be posting a review, but let me just say right now, I made the right choice. 

Robin's Cannondale SuperX
Now I had a gravel bike, but unfortunately, I also had a broken tailbone and a heart problem, so I was not able to ride it yet.  As soon as I got released to ride, I got on the bike and tried it out.  Problem was I didn’t have a lot of time, so I rode it twice, then I rode the Tour of Herman gravel race with Chuck, it was only my 3rd time on the bike.  Remember a few paragraphs back when I said, I would not be gravel racing, well that didn’t last long, but I was mainly doing TOH for a training ride, not a real race.  Well we finished the first two legs of TOH and missed the cut off to start the 3rd lap by 30 seconds, but that was ok, the hills almost killed me on the first two legs and I wasn’t all that ready to go out for a third.  After the TOH, I was wondering why in the world I signed up for the DK half pint race.  I had heard that the hills at DK were worse than TOH.  Once again Chuck talked me into doing something I knew better than to do. He had decided to do DK200 and I said no way, I won’t be doing it, but when he said Lori was doing the Half Pint 100, which was really 110, and for me 119, more on that later, I thought well, I will do that, not really race it, just ride it for training. Of course I had already signed up for DK before I actually rode TOH, so hide sight is always 20/20. 

Next on the list was to ride Cedar Cross as a training ride, but I had decided to sell my house and to my surprise it sold in 24 hours and I had little time to find a new house and needed Cedar Cross weekend to look for a house, so I had to skip CC.  Now I had a total of 3 training rides on my gravel bike, with the longest ride being the TOH at 67 miles.  But hey, being prepared is overrated.  I mean who needs to train after having tailbone surgery and heart surgery in the last 4 months. 

As DK neared my reluctance grew, I had no training in, I didn’t even start doing anything until March and here it was the 1st of June and I was going to ride 110 miles of gravel in the Flint Hills of Kansas.  What was I thinking, how could I be this stupid. So 4 days before the race, I got the ok from my heart doctor to go back to normal workouts, I wonder if I should have mentioned that I planned on a 110 mile gravel race on the next Saturday.  Maybe it’s better I didn’t mention it. 

My life had been crazy for the last couple months, my youngest daughter China was graduating from high school, and I was planning a big BBQ, plus my house was sold, so I had a million house things to do, and to top it off my planned support crew, which was China, had to back out because of her best friends graduation party being on the same day.  Now, I had no support crew, was feeling overwhelmed with life and had no real training under my belt, again what was I thinking, I should have backed out, but I didn’t. 

When Chuck figured out a schedule so his boys could support both him, Lori and I, I thought it must be a sign that I should go to the race.  

Now with only two weeks to go befor the race, I decided that the tires on my bike would not do well in this race, so Chuck ordered me some Schwalbe Marathons, Schwalbe is ROCK Racing’s tire of choice.  They came just 3 days before the race and I tried to put them on, which was a mistake, I ended up taking them to my favorite bike shop, the Cyclery and had the guys there put them on, since I really sucked at it. 

Friday morning came, I loaded up the adventure van and took off for Kansas, all the way there my reluctance grew more and more.  The ride seemed too lonely, I called my daughter China 4 times, just to talk to her, she was getting really sick of me.  I drove through a few storms, thinking, well maybe it will storm and the race will be cancelled then I won’t have to ride it or back out.  I was kind of praying for that.  

I checked in at the hotel, then Chuck called and said they were at the theater checking in, so I drove over and met them. As I parked the adventure van, I saw Emma, who is always smiling, it just made me feel better to see a happy person, of course Kyle and Derrick were there also and some other adventure racing friends.  I got checked in and still wasn’t feeling like I wanted to do this. Oh and somehow my entry said I needed a large shirt instead of a medium so, I was feeling like, I won’t even be able to wear this shirt because it’s too big, but I guess since I didn’t think I would finish, it didn’t really matter. 

DK Check-In
Plus, I was calling home trying to line up stuff for the new house financing, and feeling like I should be home doing that and not be spending a weekend at a race.  

The pre-race meeting went well, and I bought a DK beer glass that said crew, I figured that might be the only way I was going to get a glass, I knew for certain there was no way I would be making the cut off times. I figured it would be legal since after I got tossed from the race, I would be crewing for Chuck. 

After the meeting we headed to the Pizza Ranch, one of the volunteers recommended it.  When we got there, we ran smack into Team Virtus and their crew, we said our Hi’s and started chowing down, the pizza was extremely good, but of course I ate way too much. 
Since we had to be out the door of the hotel by 5 am we headed off to bed, of course I could’nt sleep, I think I may have slept 3 hours that night. So to pass the time I went through everything in my race packet and found instructions on safety for the DK200.  It was not what I would have thought the safety tips would be.

All about Kansas Snakes
Soon, it was 5 am and we were off to the race, we found a good parking spot, moved my gear into Lori’s van, got our bikes ready and were set for the start. 

ROCK Racing
While talking with Team Virtus, I ended up in one of their group shots, I guess I kind of photo bombed them.

Photo Credit: Team Virtus
The 200 took off and Chuck was gone, Lori and I lined up with a Virtus friend, Jessica,  ready to roll out for the half pint race.  Lori checked her tires and realized that her back tire was low, but here we were with just 9 minutes to the start and we can’t figure out how to use the frame pump.  Emma, sprinted down to her car and brought back a floor pump and we put air in Lori’s tire.  Once again Emma saves the day!

Race start from the back of the pack
The Gun went off and Lori, Jessica and I rolled out only to see a train crossing the tracks ahead, but by the time we rolled up, it was gone and we just kept rolling out. I kept thinking that I may have to pull over and puke, but my stomach finally calmed down after a few miles.  The pace wasn’t bad and I was just rolling along listening to all the conversations around me.  We fell into a nice comfortable pace and the rolling hills were not too bad.  We came to a muddy section of road and had to do some bike trekking, but it really wasn’t that bad. 

Photo Credit: Chuck Vohsen
I had lost Lori somewhere just before the muddy road, so after I made it to the top of the next hill, I pulled out my camera and started taking some photos, while I waited for Lori.  Jessica was gone, I didn’t think we would see her again.  As I was goofing around with the camera, a few groups passed me, I thought I saw Lori, so I put my camera in my pocket and chased for a while to catch up, to my surprise, when I caught up, it wasn’t Lori.  Now I had no idea where she was, in front of me or in back of me, so I just kept riding. 

Many long hills ahead
I kept moving along, just taking in the beauty of Kansas, when I came across some free range cows, one was at the side of the road, and doing a little dance, like he just might bolt in front of me.  As I rode by him, he just kind of gave me the evil eye, like get out of my yard. 

He was not happy to see us
After passing the cow there was a steep incline, as I was riding up, I could see everyone walking their bikes, so I figured I would have to walk too, but surprisingly it wasn’t too bad and I rode to the top, just as I crested the hill, I saw Team Virtus take off, I thought about trying to get on back, but then I knew we were close to the 110/200 split, so there was no real reason to chase. I watched them about 100 yards in front of me until we came to the split and they went one direction while I went another.

At the bottom of a steep gravel hill, there was a crash, a girl with a bloody face was on the ground and a guy was holding her head up telling her to just stay still. There was a guy in a truck there to pick her up, so I rolled on.  Soon I came to the 200 split off from the 110 and I kept riding, right through a couple of creeks, and I made it through them without taking a swim. Some guys riding in front of me got off and walked through, I’m not sure why, it was easy ride through, the water was only about a foot deep. 

I rode a few more miles and caught up with Jessica, we talked for a while, then I stopped to get some food out.  I really had to pee, but there is no place to  hide in the middle of Kansas, so Jessica said there was no one in the distance, so we just moved to the side of the road, dropped our shorts and pee’d.   I felt so much better then, but I could already feel some chaffing in places that no girl should ever be chaffed, I would have to deal with that for the rest of the race. 

Photo Credit: Chuck Vohsen
The wind just kept howling and there was nowhere to hide from it, no trees to break it, no valleys that blocked it, so what’s a girl to do, my thought was just keep moving forward, maybe it would die down soon.  Finally I got a break the route turned and I got a tailwind and some pavement with a downhill to boot.  As I hit the pavement a rock blasted me in the face and hit my xx2i sunglasses, it hit so hard I’m surprised my glasses didn’t break, but they did a great job protecting my eyes, had those glasses not done such a good job, my race would have been over right there. After shaking off the thought of losing my eye, I just coasted for 3 miles into the checkpoint.

As I rounded the corner, I could see my crew, Sam and Jacob, they were cheering me on.  I asked if Lori had come in and they said no, so I headed to the tent to check in, got my new map and headed to the van to refuel. 

The boys were a great crew, they filled my bottles and pack, got my food out, washed the salt off my glasses, and got my bike ready to go again.  They gave me a report on how everyone was doing and who had already gone out.  I made a mad dash for the Johnny, then took a look at the map and headed out. 
Leaving CP 1
I was really worried about getting lost because I’m a terrible navigator.  I hoped someone would be on the road in front of me to follow, but no such luck.  I was looking at the map and knew there was a turn at 63 miles, but I totally missed it. This is where things went wrong.  I kept riding seeing no one, finally I hit W road, and knew I had gone too far.  I rode back, stopped and asked a lady mowing her grass where I was, she said I missed the turn and pointed me in the right direction.  Of course I made another wrong turn and hit W road again, I knew it was wrong so once again I rode back, saw another lady mowing, she sent me through her driveway, to another road, where I made another wrong turn and hit W road again.  I turned around and by now I was really get frustrated, plus I had already added on an hour riding in circles.  Finally after an hour and twenty minutes I found V road and got back on course.  At this point I was so frustrated and worried about missing the cutoff time, that I really considered calling my crew for a ride.  I just kept thinking, by the time they got there, I would have probably had time to ride another 10 miles, so I should probably just keep riding. I thought finishing over the time limit would probably be better than not finishing at all.

I figured by now I was the last one on the course, but to my surprise, I started seeing people and passing people.  I was talking to them as I rode by and I asked one guy what his mileage was, that is when I realize that I had added an extra 9 miles to my route.  Just what I needed, I signed up for 100 miles that turned into 110 miles and would end up riding 119 miles if I finished. All this riding on 3 training rides, the longest one being only 67 miles.  I just wondered how I got myself in these situations.

For the next 4 hours I would ride past people and when I would stop to grab food out of my pack, they would ride back past me.  I was starting to get cramps in my legs, my back hurt and I felt like I was going to puke.  I made a new plan, to stop every hour, take an enduralyte and eat while standing still instead of doing it while riding. This way I could stretch my legs and back out.  I was able to get peach cups and cans of V-8 energy drink down and keep it down, so that’s was I kept eating, good thing I had put enough in my pack.  When I ran out of those, I started eating the KIND bars in my pack and was able to keep them down also. I really needed some salt and the dark chocolate sea salt flavor worked perfectly. 

Riding into the last town before Emporia there were 5 riders somewhat together.  With just 12 miles to go we started to break up, but one guy who I had talked to earlier in the day, came upon me.  He told me there was one last hill before the finish line.  He also had a big bubble in his tire and was just praying he made it to the finish line before it blew.  As we rode though the campus of Emporia State University, another guy caught us and the 3 of us rode to the finish together.  We knew we were going to miss the cutoff time, but by just a few minutes and we were all talking about all we wanted was that stupid finisher glass and we hoped that we would still get it, even if we were a little late. 

We rode under the finish banner and into the chute where people were high fiving us, and cheering, and one guy was handing out beers.  

Photo Credit: Lori Vohsen
It almost had the same feel as the Finish at the Ironman race, except it was hundreds of people, instead of thousands.  At the end of the chute, we were handed a glass and congratulated on our finish.  

Ahhhh, the coveted glass
I was all smiles then and the guys I was riding with were the same, we held our glasses up to each other because we had finished an epic gravel race just to get that 2 dollar glass, and it was all worth it.

Lori and the boys were waiting for me at the end of the chute and they grabbed, my bike and all my gear.  We headed to the van, loaded stuff up, I got changed, then we went and got a burger before heading to the CP 3 for Chuck.  At the CP we talked to other crews and watched friends come in and go out, next thing we knew, Chuck was in and looking relatively good and in good spirits.  He sat down and ate some salty chips while the crew went to work getting him ready to go out again.  We told him that we had found out a lot of our friends had abandoned the race just past the 100 miles mark, so he was really doing great.  I told Chuck where I missed the turn at, and warned him to make sure he didn’t miss it to.  Not like he would, he is the world’s best navigator, but he was tired so I thought it was good to mention.  A group of 6 guys went out and Chuck jumped on his bike in hopes of getting on the back of that train for a while. We all yelled our goodbyes and good lucks, then we headed back to the finish.  Since we had some time we decided to go back to the hotel and take showers then go watch Chuck finish. We got to the finish line at about 1:30 am.  We cheered for every rider, hoping that every head light we saw in the distance was Chuck. 

The race organizers started taking down banners and people started leaving, it made me sad to know that Chuck would finish to no fanfare.  I mean we would be cheering as loud as we could, but it would be like finishing in a deserted city.  At about 3 am, we saw three headlights in the distance and one of them belonged to Chuck.

Chuck crossed the finish line
He rode in under the finish banner as we cheered, as soon as he got his glass the finish banner was coming down.  We quickly headed Chuck over to it and the guys taking it down pulled it back up so we could get a picture of Chuck under the banner. 

One last finish picture
The race was over, Chuck had the coveted DK200 pint glass in hand, the crew was beat and we all headed back to the hotel.  

QUESTION: Will I ever do this again, well at the end of the race, I said “never, ever, ever, ever”, but now, I’m thinking I might do the half pint again, hopefully without getting lost. I mean looking at my time with the extra mileage added on, well I would have had a pretty decent time, had I stayed on course. 

The best part of the entire race, I mean besides the glass, was that I finished on hardly any training, with a good ride time average and I really never felt like I was going to die, I really never even felt like crying.  I was frustrated over getting lost, but I was never on the verge of tears.  I hope this means that I’m making a comeback, that my heart issues are over and my tailbone is fixed and in time I will be fast again. 

This was a happy finish

June 4, 2013

Pre-DK Chaos

Something really cool happened just before the Dirty Kanza race, so it will be its own short post instead of being in the regular race report…

In the months leading up to DK, I put the finishing touches on the adventure bike build.  One of the decisions I wrestled with the most was tire choice (size, tread pattern, manufacturer, tubeless or not).   After a ton of internet searches, blog reading, review reading, and talking to people that had ridden DK previously, I decided on Schwalbe Marathons.   Little did I know there are sub-categories of Marathons to choose from (Supreme, Mondial, Dureme, Greenguard, Mondial DD,  Dureme DD, Plus Tour, Winter), so I emailed the Schwalbe Tech help desk and told them I was looking for the perfect tire for gravel racing, and Dirty Kanza in particular.  I got an immediate reply – Marathon MondialDD

 The tread pattern on the Mondial looked great, with low wide knobs for speed and traction, and the DD (Double Defense) sounded almost flat–proof.  It’s a combination of their High Density Guard + SnakeSkin.  I’ve had their SnakeSkin on mtn bike tires and am very confident with it, so I ordered two sizes - 700 x 35 and 700 x 40.  I wasn’t sure which would fit my frame best, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a back-up pair around.
The 40’s ended up being the best fit on my bike and I liked the slightly bigger size.  I mounted them tubeless on the Stan’s wheels with Stan’s sealant.

Fast-forward four months and  ~1500 training miles with a couple of races thrown in (Cedar Cross, Tour of Hermann).  The tires had performed perfectly and I had all the confidence in the world with my choice.  
Then – BAM - A couple of days before leaving for DK, Lori and I went out to get a last easy ride on the KATY trail.  About 10 miles into the ride, my back wheel started going thump, thump, thump.  I stopped to check it out and found a huge lump in the tread.  We turned around and rode back to the Jeep before the lump could turn into a big blowout.  I wish I would have taken some pictures of the lump.  I haven’t seen anything like it before.

I stopped by my LBS and found out they don’t stock that tire, so my choices looked pretty limited.  I didn’t want to switch to a whole new tire type, and there was not enough time to order a new one.  I mounted one of the old 35s I had.  It didn’t look too bad on the wheel and I decided I could ride with it at DK.

Here's where the story gets good:

On a whim I sent an email to Schwalbe customer service.  I told them about the damaged tire and leaving for DK in two days, so I was sure there was no way they could get a 40mm Marathon to me.
I had a reply waiting for me the next morning:  

“Sorry for the delay. Where are you staying tomorrow night? I can have one tire shipped for delivery tomorrow at the hotel / house wherever you’re staying before the race… just let me know the address.”

Awesome!  I called the hotel, got the address, replied to the email, and the tire was shipped.
The box was waiting at the hotel front desk when I checked in.

It saved me from rushing around Emporia bike shops looking for a replacement (and most likely not finding one).  Instead I got to chill out and have fun with check-in, pre-race meeting, and stuffing myself carbing up at the Pizza Ranch buffet.

This has been my year for discovering how great bike industry customer service is.  First the save by Kuat racks, and now Schwalbe tires.

So when you need your next set of tires, check out Schwalbe, they really stand behind their products (btw, they ride fantastic too, no flats or any other issues on 200mi of Flint Hills gravel).