I was really looking forward to the 2012 version of Dirty Kanza. It was the race that filled my head when I went on training rides and helped me say no to sugary treats. When Troy, Corey and I rolled up to the start line on Saturday, I was confident I could pull off a pretty good ride. In the end, I didn't come anywhere near the goal I was hoping to achieve, but was, in the end, happy with effort. Happy to be back in the arena.
When we left Lincoln on Friday, the War Wagon rolled out with Troy, Corey and my good friend Santi Murtagh, who was stepping into his first gravel effort, the DK Lite. The trip was smooth like butter with easy travel companions making for good conversation and a mentally short trip to Emporia.
It was interesting seeing many of the 'usual suspects' like Dennis Grelk as we settled into our hotel. It was fun to chat and catch up a bit with all the familars, not to mention Rafal, Aaron and the entire NE contingent. Falling back into the cadence of a gravel event is apparently pretty easy.
What was new was the race start. Lined up in downtown Emporia with Jim Cummings standing on the balcony of the theatre was quite the scene. As smiles turned to game-faces with about ten minutes before the start, I got a huge smile on my face. I'm not going to try to describe why, but I was just hit with a really good mood. I was nervous as hell, but felt great and the cool temps had us all envisioning fast times and good performances.
Then we started...
Initially, I had planned on tucking in behind Troy for a bit and seeing how things went. That plan quickly feel apart because Troy navigated the controlled start like a pro but continually slipped around in the crowd. We hit gravel and I worked to maintain position. I started looking for that big tree named Corey and maintained a spot somewhere in the 20's but instead of feeling on cruise control riding wheels, I was working a bit too hard.
Somewhere around the 30 mile mark, I dropped back from the group, circled the wagons and kept a steady pace. My average speed was lower than any ride I had done in months so I tried to do a little self-evaluation and make whatever changes I could to get myself right. The twinges started shortly afterward.
From that point on, I just worried about nursing my way to checkpoints and started looking for things to take my mind off how pathetic things were going. A few of the details...
Mike Beck and the Routine Leg Works guys. It would have been fun to ride with those guys longer. I have no idea what bits of conversation we had, but I remember hoping they would pass me again in the afternoon for another chat. (And they did, but I was sitting by the side of the road.)
The Cham-Wow guys. Or, the Chamois Butter guys. They brought a horde of people in purple and yellow. No disrespect, but the kits are 'eye-catching' and they yo-yo'd me for a lot of the race. At some point, the Cham-Wow thing popped into my head and I was thinking about a purple and yellow chamois to clean my bike off with for $19.99.
The first CP was a nice reprieve. In part because Rafal's wife MK is rockstar and in part because I learned my boy Santi had crushed DK Lite and finished with the lead group.
CP1 to CP2 literally holds no memories for me, other than fending off the cramps. I'm sure things happened, I was just in my own world. At some point I had to walk a climb I had never walked before and was too tired to get pissed. Low point.
At CP2, MK, Santi and CVO all offered help and a bit encouragement. I kept drinking and downing a variety of products to get back on top of my cramps couldn't quite seem to get over the top.
I decided that I would break up the third leg of the ride into three parts. I was 60 miles, so I made it three 20's and decided I would sit and eat a Larabar at each. One stop was a 'farmhouse' stop where I reloaded on water, listened to dogs bark at me and waiting for some guy toting a chainsaw to come after me.
Arriving at the last checkpoint and knowing there was only 37 miles left was nice, only in that I knew I would finish. I was shocked as MK found me to see Troy heading out and Rafal sitting in a camp chair. Rafal and I chatted cramps and disappointment, then he got on with it. A few Pringles and hamstring cramps later, I gathered and left.
Aside from a few harsh climbs I had to turn into walk-ups, the ride in was a glide. Slightly downhill most of the time, I actually felt fairly good, all things considered and ended up rolling down the main drag of Emporia and being a bit 'wow'd' by the finish area. If you can find video of it online, it's well worth checking out.
As for me, I'm ready to put another race on the calendar and already thinking about Kanza in 2013.