Guest post from Pete below. Good stuff.
Dirty Kanza 200 miles in the Flint Hills of Kansas is in the books.
Thanks to @Joe We at @Bike Link and the rest of the gang for keeping my steed in top notch shape. Also, thanks to our amazing sponsor @ErgoSci for keeping me healthy.
Dirty Kanza is an amazing race and it goes to show you what can happen when a community gets behind a project. There were 1150 200 mile rides that started the race with 828 finishing the race. The town rolls out the red carpet for all of the racers and makes sure you feel at home.
I headed to Kansas with @Matt Wa, @Ed K, and @Jack Wh. This was a motley crew that turned out to be one of the funniest bike trips I have ever been on in my life. We never stopped laughing and messing with each other. We arrived in Emporia Kansas late Thursday night and went straight to bed. The next day we went on a 20 mile planned pre-ride through town that we thought was going to include some gravel but it didn’t. So when we were finished with the pre-ride we decided to go ride the first 8ish miles of gravel. Once we finished our ride we checked in to get our numbers and went to a race meeting in this beautiful old theater. Then it was time to eat. Eating was always an event with @Jack Wh and his dietary needs, meaning it consisted of chicken and cheese. Kids today what are you going to do. After lunch we went back to our rooms and used this time to start setting up my bike and preparing for the race before we went out to dinner.
At dinner we met our support Driver gina byrd-stadler. The race allows you to purchase support which means at each rest stop there would be food, water, and if you decided to use drop bags or you could have a support vehicle. We had the luxury of having both. @Gina byrd-stadler, lives in Kansas and for some crazy reason agreed be our support crew. This turned out to be extremely important and I can’t thank her enough. She went well beyond the call of duty to make sure we had when we needed when we got to each stop. After dinner we went back to our rooms and finished up any last minute race prep issues we need to go over and went to bed.
The race started at 6:00 AM Sat. morning. Before every race I do I set personal goals. The goals for this race were:
1) Go for the Race the Sun Patch. This means you finished before sunset. Under 14 hours and 44 mins
2) Go for the beat Mid-night patch. You guessed it this means you finished before mid-night. Under 18 hours
3) Get the Breakfast Club patch. This means you finished. Under 21 hours
When the bell started ringing we were off and rolling. People from the community lined the streets. It was really amazing to see people out there supporting this event even though they did not ride bikes. I bet I gave out 100+ high fives on the way out of town. The pace was calm while we were on the road averaging around 17 mph. I thought to myself if we hold this pace I could go for the Race the Sun patch. Man was I dreaming. Once we hit the gravel I estimated I was in the top 300 or so and the pace jumped up to 19+ on the flat sections for the first 20+ miles. My legs were feeling great and I was riding in a nice pace line on the gravel roads. We rolled into the first support station 50 miles into the race with an 18.26 mph pace. I knew this was a lot faster than I wanted to go but I figured I was conserving a lot of energy in the pace line. I immediately jumped off my bike at the paid support station and grabbed 3 PB&Js to put into my feed bag. Then I grabbed my water bottles and started to fill them up and noticed the water was blue. I asked and was told it was power aid. I should have thrown it out and started over but there were a lot of people around and I didn’t want to waste it. This move would come back to haunt me around mile 80. A volunteer helped me finish filling up my bottles and I was off after only spending less than 5 minutes at the support station.
I started looking at my time and my pace looked like it was going to be fast enough to get the Race the Sun patch. I continued to move at a steady 17.5 mph avg. and was really enjoying the scenes out there. Everything is wide open and green. I ended up chatting with some locals which made the time pass by rather quickly. At this point I was still feeling good and riding strong. Around mile 80 everythign changed. Everything was going great up until this point I was staying on top of my water and nutrition intake. As my good friend Jason Shearer likes to tell people, this is an eating contest on a bike, and he is exactly right. All of a sudden, everything I drank and ate felt like it was sitting in my stomach. For the next 20 miles I tried everything I could to get more fluids and food into me to see if it would make a difference. I was still feeling OK but I also knew something was not right.
I rolled into the second support station with a 15.26 mph pace and rolled up to our support vehicle. I was still feeling good but I knew something was not right with my stomach. I’ve had this stomach issue before because I ate too much and all of the blood went to my stomach causing me to lose all of my power. The way I fixed it was I took in some caffeine and it helped me clear out my stomach while giving me a boost at the same time. My plan was to get my bottles setup and have one bottle with my caffeine for the ride. At this time Ed and Matt caught up with me. We talked and thought it would be great for us to ride together. We were still on pace to make the Race for the Sun patch so we took off. Within about 10-15 miles it finally hit me. My stomach was not processing anything and I knew it was going to be a long day. The three of us road together for a few more miles and Matt had a flat. We ended up changing the flat which was a sad sight to see but it got done. After a few more miles I ran out of my water only water bottles and needed some water really bad. Everything else would not go down. So I saw a house and I told Matt to go on without me. They were really nice about letting me use their water faucet to cool off and drink. I ended up drinking 2 full bottles and topping off all of my other bottles then off I went. By this time I knew I was not going to make the race for the Sun cut off time so I focused on making sure I didn’t have any mechanicals and to get as many fluids in me as possible to see if I could fix my stomach. The weather was amazing with a perfect temp, light wind, and no rain. With the limited fluids and food I was able to take in I started to get some cramps in my legs. However, I was able to work through them and make them go away. There were a lot of concrete bridge crossing over small creeks/rivers throughout the race but when I rolled across this one creek the water felt amazing. I pulled over and sat in the creek to cool off my muscles. After about 10 minutes I started hearing thunder so I got back on the bike. Sitting in the water was a good and bad idea at the same time. My muscles and body were cooled off but the chamois padding in my bike shorts were wet. This ended up causing a couple of saddle soars which are painful and make ultra distance races a challenge. About two hours later I came up on this road with a case of water and a 5 gallon bucket. So I stopped and topped off my bottles. While I was filling up a truck pulled up and I asked if he did this. He said yes and I thanked him multiple times. The people from all 3 communities were amazing. You can say what you want about Southern hospitality but I can tell you right now Kansas hospitality is right there too.
I rolled into Madison, the final support station at 6:40PM and headed to the support vehicle not feeling good at all. Everything was shutting down and I didn’t know how to fix it. Ed and Matt were still there but were about to head out. We talked for a little while and Matt asked me how I was doing. I showed him my stomach sticking out and said when have you ever seen my stomach sticking out this far. It looked like I had a basketball for lunch easily sticking out 5+ inches. I sat down in a chair while I drank some ice cold water hoping that would help my stomach start functioning but it did not help at all. After about 50 minutes of rest I went to the paid support station and grabbed 3 PB&Js to put into my feed bag. Then off I went back out on the course.
By this time the sun was setting and I might have had 1 PB&J in the last 3 hours plus some electrolytes. I made sure I drank water not matter what so I would not get dehydrated. I knew I need to eat but every bite of food I took in felt like it was about to come back up. The sunset was beautiful and the people of all 3 towns were amazing. I waited until the last minute before I started using my light to make sure it would last until I crossed the finish line. When I got to mile 180 you could start seeing the lights glowing from the city of Emporia, Kansas and my spirits started lifting. They even had those search lights rotating in the clouds. About the same time I came to a crossroad with a truck sitting there with it’s lights on. I hear two little voices saying great job, go go go, only 20 miles to go. It was two little girls around the age of 7 cheering on the riders. While this brighten my spirits more than ever I knew I still had a ways to go. With each pedal stroke I would get closer and closer to the city knowing I was almost to the finish line. The joke however was on me. The race director pulls a cruel joke on you by brining you right to the edge of the city only to send you back out a few miles so you will travel through Emporia State University. With about 15 miles to go my light started blinking meaning it was about to die. The good news is I stopped by Bike Link the week before and bought the new Cat Eye double LED white blinky light. Before the race I mounted the light to the front of my helmet and with 150 lumens I was able to light up the road enough to get me to the finish line. When I came up on anything I thought might be sketchy I would turn on my main light and put it on flash mode to conserve what little battery I had left. Once I went into the tunnel that leads to Emporia State University campus I knew I was home free with only one last obstacle. There is only one significant hill on the campus of Emporia State University and I be damned if the race director didn’t send us up this hill. It’s not too long or too steep but after 205 miles it becomes a lot longer and a lot steeper. At this point in time I was really thankful for bringing my mountain bike with a 1 X 12 gearing. Once we got through campus we were greeted with a people lining the streets cheering us onto the finish line. People were high fiving me all the way to the end. Once I crossed the finish line I was greeted by Ed who looked like he just went out for a nice ride. I grabbed my patch and asked where the medical tent was located. My goal was to get an IV to help with my fluids but they said they would have to take me to the hospital and I was not going to do that. They took my blood pressure and it was 96/56, which told me I was dehydrated. I expected this since my stomach shutdown.
All in all it was a great experience. I even learned how to control my own leg cramps and make them go away without having to take anything. We have already started planning next year’s Dirty Kansas trip and I’m looking forward to going for the Race for the Sun patch. Thanks to everyone who followed my adventure and sent messages. Special thanks to the person who talked to me all day. Without your words it would have been really hard to finish.