First off, I have to thank event organizers and promoters Joel Dyke and Jim Cummings for an awesome, well run, and excellently challenging event. I have a bit of an idea of what it takes to do these things and they do it as well as anybody out there.
Now.....on to the report!
My report must make mention of something that happened Thursday morning. I woke up with a head cold that was going to affect my race. It wasn't the wosrt, but it was bad. Bad enough that on race morning I was coughing up lung cookies and feeling bad. But that will come later......
Friday I loaded up the family and we all made a pretty easy ride to Emporia, Kansas. Traffic in Kansas City was terrible, but otherwise it was no big deal. I took the Fargo as I posted it last week as my bike of choice. I was confident in my equipment, but my body wasn't doing well.
The pre-race was a nice mix of old familiar suspects and new faces. Dirty Kanza started less than the feild limit of 100, but I know they had a bigger field than ever this year. I chatted with Skip Cronin, Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey, Ron "Super" Saul, and Jeremy "Fatty" Fry, Michael Beck, along with Steve Fuller and my partner in T.I., David Pals. Good to see all the folks down in Emporia.
Race morning I awoke at 4:00am and preceded to hack and spew while getting ready to go. I met up with D.P. and we got our breakfast at Burger King. The clerk messed up our order and we got bacon wraps. I though, "Hey, the Lincoln guys have a "Bacon Ride", it can't be all that bad for me. Plus, it's salty!" I wasn't joking about the salt either. Forecast temperatures were to be record highs in the mid 90's.
We lined up the peloton at a little before six, and after some instructions from Jim Cummings we were off down through downtown Emporia at 20 mph. I was up front, because I knew I wouldn't see this part of the field again, and I figured, why not? It was easy drafting and it gave me a feel for what it must be like in a big stage race peloton. Sketchy, but oddly satisfying.
Once the real gravel was had, the event started taking on a different nature. It was still flat. Really flat, but I knew that wouldn't last for long. I let the front end go and drifted back a bit. I didn't see anybody I knew, but a guy on a Jeff Jones came by, and I sort of took it upon myself to suck his wheel for a bit. Feeling a bit guilty, I pulled around and let him draft me for a bit. It was only fair. It lasted for a couple of pulls, and then he disappeared. I'm not sure how that happened, but it was about the time the hills kicked in.
Oh yeah, and the wind was cranking up too. We hit some killer double tracked, rocky, rough gravel and up we went. Around about the time we reached the part of the course that snaked around the interstate, we got the full monty of the wind. It was incredible. 15 miles in and it was decimating the field. Riders were shredded into ones and twos. The road kept climbing higher, and the wind was so strong at some points that I literally could not hear my tires on the flinty gravel.
About this time I came across Jim McGuire, David Pals, and some folks I would end up riding with off and on with for several hours. I would go for awhile with some, and then alone, and then they would catch up again. A fellow from Wichita on a green Salsa Chili Con Crosso, a fellow named Rick, Mark on the green Niner with the purple head set. Anyway, these events are like that. You get in with a few guys and trade back and forth a bit.
So, remember folks, there are no farms, no small towns, nothing out here. Maybe you see a road every once in awhile, but it is remote. It seems as though you are in the middle of nowhere, and the only way out is the next checkpoint. I was good on food and water. My body was working in a muscular sense just fine. I knew the wind was decimating my hydration strategy, but I was doling out the drinks as sparingly as possible. I had five bottles to get me through 61 miles before I had any chance of refills. I seemed okay in that way.
What wasn't okay was my cold, which would have me alternating from being fine, to fits of coughing, shortness of breath, and high heart rate. My head was swimming in pain at times, and then I would feel fantastic for a few miles. This played into a never ending argument in my mind about stopping or going. I would think that I was too ill to continue, then I would feel great and think I might make something out of it all. Anyway, it was a strange sensation. Added to this was that the wind was in our faces for 90% of the first 61 miles, and as I said, it was strong! I could only muster about 7-10 mph into the headwind, but I didn't feel bad, because no one else around me was doing any better. I was okay time-wise to get to the first checkpoint, although at the time, I wouldn't look at the time, because I knew that would play games with me mentally. I just kept pedaling.
The wind and hills, (which were way bigger than anything we have here in Iowa) were really doing a number on my lower back, because there was no let up. You were pushing HARD the whole time on the pedals. It was insane. I could feel my lower back getting really tired, and then the coughing fits would really make it ache!
I rode with David Pals for awhile and then found myself riding ahead and hooking up with Josh Patterson. We rolled for awhile, neither one saying much to the other, as the wind, and now the heat, had made things pretty painful. We two rolled up on a freight train and had to stop. In the meantime, about ten other riders showed up and we all rolled out together from the crossing. I fell off the back here. I just had a hard time cranking it up again. Then I made contact with part of the group about 6-7 miles out from the checkpoint #1. I hit the wall there though. My back just shut down and I had no more climb left in me. I was toast, and I knew I needed rest, or to stop all together. Not only that, but I was out of water too. (Coulda used that sixth bottle mount on the Fargo afterall!)
After limping into Cottonwood Falls, I had to decide whether to rest, and try again, or to pull the plug. My thoughts were that since it was looking as though I was pushing the time cut, (yes, I checked the time here at the Checkpoint.), and that my head cold was not letting me breath properly, it might be a good time to pull the plug. My back was in such pain by this point from spasms after every sharp bump that I figured that in itself was a losing battle. So, I called my wife, and my kids and they showed up in about an hour to collect my sorry self.
After getting cleaned up and having slept a bit, I went down to the finish line at about 7:30pm. No one had yet finished. I saw Fatty and he said that he had to drop out, Super Saul did too. the wind, heat, and the toughness of the course were all too much. It was showing up in the DNF's which were piling up. Race organizers figured on less than 10 folks finishing, in the end, they had 15 amazing folks finish the event. Mike Marchand finally pulled in looking tired but not at all beaten up. Then awhile later, Tony Krause pulled in to take second. Then about an hour later, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey got third. That was just befor 11pm, and I went in to hit the hay.
In the end, my Fargo, the set up, my strategy, they were all pretty much spot on. My health going in was poor. That probably was the thing that did me in, certainly. I figured it wasn't too good of an idea to start, but I love the event, and what the heck- I was there, signed up, and ready to go.
I am still sick, my cold is as bad as ever, but I'd do it all over again and hopefully next year, I'll be able to. Look for a Touring Tuesdays post tomorrow, and a recap on the Fargo and my equipment pluses and minuses on Wednesday.
To all who finished DK 200 '09- Congratulations! You have earned my total respect!