Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Report: Moist, Mud, and Madness!

Our gracious host Joe let us do this to a room in his basement!
Saturday, May 30th, 4:00am: The alarm goes off on MG's iPhone and we hop up out of our sacks and start pulling on cycling gear. We were staying in the basement of Joe's nice home in Emporia mere blocks from the downtown starting point. Joe was also taking part in the "Half Pint", which is the 100 mile version of the DK event. So, the entire home was buzzing with pre-race jitters.

We didn't really have a breakfast plan, so I took it upon myself to chow down one of my rations of trail mix, have a Red Bull, and drank water. Everything else went smoothly and soon we were off with lights on to get down to the start line area. It was breezy, almost cold, and the hint of mist was in the air. As far as we could tell, there had not been any rain after mid-morning on Friday, which bode well from the standpoint of course conditions, or so we thought.

Joe said we would be gathering a few more locals who were doing the event along the way. We picked up one rider who took the lead and I followed him to another home along with MG, but Joe went another direction and I would not see him again until well into the night. No matter, MG and I got downtown, and there Tony found us along with some other folks whom we knew from the cycling community. Chad Ament was there attempting the DK on a fixed gear rig, along with Ari, who was to be my riding partner for the day, and another gentleman named Phil who Ari knew.

Chad Ament fiddles with his tail light as we wait to get the DK200 rolling. His bike was sporting a fixed cog.
Ari looks on as we wait for the start. Ari was to be my riding partner for the day.
The cycling hordes about to take off. There were just as many behind me!
We lined up just ahead of the very back of the DK 200pack. The 100 mile racers lined up behind us. I wasn't interested in being jostled around for position by over-zealous riders mid-pack, so I figured this was a good spot to take off from and reflected my goal of "just finishing" this event. I had no designs on achieving a specific time, other than to reach the first checkpoint before the 2:00pm cutoff at Mile 77.1. That didn't sound too tough to attain, but then again, we had no idea what the course conditions were like before the start.

It wouldn't be long before we would find out though. MG had left to find his spot in the field where he felt most comfortable, and Ari, Phil, and I awaited the........well we just saw riders start to move. There really was no signal that we were aware of that the race had started other than rider movement. As we rolled down past the official start line, we saw hundreds of people lining the streets shouting their encouragement and ringing cowbells. It was a rather impressive site, as it was obvious these were rank and file citizens of Emporia, and not the support folks for the racers. I thought it was very encouraging. It is obvious that, as Joe had informed MG and I, that Emporia now sees this event as one of its highlights of the year. What a change from ten years ago when I was there!

The Sun wasn't to be seen this morning, and only the lightening of the dark, grey to a lighter shade of grey indicated that the Sun was riding up over the Eastern horizon. The mist had held off and the spirits of the riders were high. That is, until we reached Mile 12 or so......The roads up to that point wandered close to the Cottonwood River and showed signs of being under water recently. A dead carp being a testament to that fact.
Ari took this image of me pushing the Fat Fargo early on in the mud sector.

Mud as far as you could see ahead and behind. This three mile section of the course was incredibly tough!
This area was avoided after a snake was discovered!

Photo courtesy of Ari Andonopoulous
The next three miles were incredible, and they changed a lot of folks outcomes for the Dirty Kanza events.The mud was a sticky clay which balled up on tires, feet, and would not let go without some heavy coaxing. Some folks literally looked at this and turned back, but most made the three mile trek, hoisting their bikes on backs and shoulders, and trudging along quietly. It was a surreal sight. 

It was so amazing that I was in the middle of this horde of cyclists moving slowly along in the middle of the plains, and I felt in awe as much as I thought it was brutally hard. I thought about ancient armies and prisoner of war marches that must have been similar to this that happened in the past. A river of humanity flowing along a thread of clay to what ends, who knew? 

It was super exhausting to carry the Fargo, but the worst part was on my lower back, which was starting to spasm no matter what I did. Ari saw my difficulty and offered to carry my bike and I his. I was humbled by his gesture, but his Black Mountain Cycles bike was lighter and less laden with stuff than my bicycle, so I saw the wisdom in his strategy and relented to him. We trudged on and we were trying to be very positive and encouraging. One fellow was saying how this mud slog was worse than Leadville. "I can handle altitude, but not this mud!", he exclaimed. I retorted that perhaps he could handle the mud if he changed his attitude. He didn't like that and he trotted away from us on up ahead.

We eventually made it through and carefully cleaned off our bikes with Ari's plastic spade and then we gingerly pedaled away to the next sections of the Dirty Kanza course. 

Next: Pushing The Pace


Kate Geisen said...

Oh, that hike a bike. It was so ridiculous that I had to laugh. Somebody was complaining about it near where I was and a guy said, "Well, no good story every started with 'We were sitting on the couch watching TV...'" and I finished with one of my friends' favorite sayings "and no good story ever ends with 'it got hard and then we quit.'" I really felt for the tandem riders on that section, and I know you aren't the only person with back issues who suffered there.

I always enjoy your blog, but I'm particularly enjoying reading about something I actually experienced too.

Guitar Ted said...

@Kate Geisen: Thanks Kate! And you are right, it was tough seeing those folks with tandems, (and fat bikes) deal with that mud.

I love your quip, that is awesome. Thanks again for your comments.