Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rocks, Dust, and Fun!: Part III

Kansas "B" Level Maintenance Road: Here is an example of some of the roads we passed through during the event. This turned into a dirt double track for about two miles. Notice the larger, angular rocks along the edge of the old bridge. These would sometimes be all across the road! Sometimes embedded stones the size of a mans fist would rattle your eyeballs out. Sometimes there was even "moondust" and deep sand all across the road! One thing for sure, it never was the same for very long.

Mid race Checkpoint: At Cottonwood Falls there was a city park where the mid race check point was. You could meet your support people here or send ahead a drop bag to this point if you were solo. That's my bike in the fore ground and Cory Heintz's bike behind it.

After the race started, we were led through Emporia by Joel in his pick up truck to the edge of town. Once on the gravel, the first thing I noticed was that there was a bit of confusion with everyone trying to find a line through some pretty chunky gravel. The speeds then picked up and I saw a group of three lines- right, middle, and left- with about six to eight guys in each speed off the front. They were actually kicking up a cloud of dust and fine bits of sharp gravel! I had planned on pegging the speedo at about 13-14 mph and staying there. I let these guys go up the road. I have never done anything longer than a cross country race in my life, although, I've put in several long rides not under race conditions.

I looked around to see what was left around me and I saw Dan Furman on a Gary Fisher Rig single speed almost right beside me. We hooked up and were running the same pace. He was chatty, so we talked for the first 15 miles or so. In that time, we saw Rob Pennell of Badger Cycles off the side of the road. He had EBB problems and he waved us by. Next, we saw a rider on an red Cannondale hardtail with a flat. He was okay too. Then we came up on Cory Heintz and Paul Jacobson. Cory was fixing the second of his six flats on the day! He let Paul go, and Paul joined Dan and I for several miles. The gravel was still really chunky and broken off at sharp angles. I began to get "rock eyes", looking for any larger pieces standing on edge, waiting to knife into my tires.

For awhile, I was off the front from Paul and Dan as I was climbing a little faster than they wanted to go. I let them catch back on just outside of Council Grove, when I realized that I needed to switch out water bottles from my back pack. I had five water bottles full to get me to Council Grove and with ten to go, I still had two left. Not too bad , I thought. When we got to Council Grove, we all stopped at a convenience store. I felt very rushed and I wasn't just taking my time and thinking things through like I should have. This led to a mistake that I would pay dearly for later. Instead of filling back up to a maximum of five water bottles again, I only filled two, with a one and a half left over from the beginning. I was thinking it was only another 33 miles to Cottonwood Falls and the mid race check point. In reality, it was about ten more miles than that.

With my seat post slipping down, I was putting too much stress on my knees and I couldn't just raise it up using the QR, since the extra bolt on water cage I installed was now jammed against the QR lever! I had to stop and get it sorted out, so I told Paul to go on ahead with Dan at about mile 54. That was the last I'd ride with anybody the rest of the day. After I posted an audio blog and had fixed the seat post problem, I rode on. I had been carrying a pretty good average speed of around 14mph. My nutritional strategy was spot on. I had energy and felt great. At mile 63, I went down a fast down hill grade and felt a jerk on the cranks. I looked down and I had thrown my chain. A quick stop and inspection revealed no other problems, so I remounted the chain and rode on again. At mile 73, I felt like my wheel was about jerked out from underneath me and I just about dumped it on the left side. I looked down at the front tire and it was soft. Flat! I stopped and repaired it. I noticed that at this time I was just about drained out of water. Not good! In fact, I was on the last few gulps. I continued on, running out of water a couple miles later. I rode up the rode just a little further to find a table with three large jugs of water sitting by the side of the road. I stopped and filled two bottles, thinking this would surely be enough to get me in the last ten miles. What I didn't know was it was going to be more like 15 miles and I must have sucked those two water bottles down in about the next five, because everything was dry again before I knew it!

About this time, the course ran into a very flat run on mostly paved roads. No chance to coast and not much scenery to look at. This was my least favorite part of the course so far. I hate flat roads and single speeding! I also noticed that the wind had started to pick up dramatically out of the South East. Great! That's just the direction I was headed. With no water, low humidity, (45% or so) and a big 25mph head wind to contend with, it didn't take long for me to wither. My mouth got real dry, and I started having trouble thinking straight. I started up this monster paved climb and I realized that I didn't have anything left in the tank. I couldn't keep the pedals turning over fast enough to get anything beyond 7mph to show on the computer at maximum effort. I got off and walked. I tried it again after about 30 yards of walking in the face of a stiff wind. Nope! Still nothing. I rummaged through my back pack like a mad man looking for what I thought was my last gel flask. I couldn't find it! I was very agitated at this point. Then I noticed another rider coming up from behind!

I thought, "Well, I don't know who he is, but he's not gonna catch me!" I remounted the bike and pushed as hard as I could over the crest of the hill. It was one of those false summit jobs, too! I was thinking I'd gain time on the downhill side, but I had to pedal to maintain a 15mph descent in the face of that wind! Suck, suck, suck! Rollers the rest of the way into town. I pushed as hard as I could go to get to the checkpoint before the other rider. I think I got in about five minutes up on him. It was Cory Heintz! He had pushed equally as hard after spending up to an hour and a half fixing flats along the road. Amazing! Not only that, but he was holding the last gel flask of mine that he found along side of the road! I must have dropped it when I fixed my flat. A little to late to do me much good, but very appreciated! Thanks Cory! I checked the time and I was into the checkpoint with plenty of time to spare.

The volunteers warned us that the hardest part was right around the corner. I thought I might be up to it yet, but when I bent over to pick up my drop bag, I just about passed out! That's when it hit me that it might not be a good idea to continue. I wasn't thinking the best anyway. I know now that I made the correct decision, but it wasn't the one that I wanted to make. I realize that there will be other times and places, so there was no sense in doing more damage or possibly killing myself just to complete this ride. Nope! Time to re-group, learn, and try again some other time. So, I pulled the plug right there on Dirty Kanza. I had a great time riding for 90 miles. Now, it was time to hitch a ride back to Emporia with the volunteers and do some reporting on the event.

Next: The Finish Line

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