Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Report: Pushing The Pace

After three miles of this, it was time to clean off the mire and ride!
"Baby that derailleur like it was your first girlfriend.", says Ari. I chuckled. I am not so sure I was very gentle at that point with the opposite sex, but I got his meaning. We were just beginning to get going after that heinous mud bath. People were strewn all across the road scraping, stamping, and flinging mud off their bikes and shoes. There were huge, softball sized clods of mud all across the road way. "They are like giant horse turds of doom.", I said, which made Ari roar with laughter. These clumps of clayish mud were like magnets, sticking right back onto tires if you ran over them, so we avoided those at all costs.

It was immediately after this section where we witnessed dozens, (literally, I am not exaggerating), of rear derailleurs sheared off bikes. We began to take note of the type of derailleurs that we saw and it seemed to us that the cyclo cross bikes with road long cage derailleurs were the ones we were seeing having issues. The sticky clay was wreaking havoc amongst the DK riders. This lasted for about five miles and then became less of a sight to see, but I saw broken derailleurs happening most of the rest of the day. Ari chuckled and crowed that we should open a derailleur shop and make a killing. We probably would have that morning. The carnage was simply astounding. Riders were seen standing roadside, cell phones to ears, calling for rescue more times than we could count. I felt sorry for them. They didn't even get 20 miles into the course and their days were done.

Me bombing a long downhill on the Fat Fargo. Image courtesy of A. Andonopoulous
The route seemed to be the same after the mud sections as it had been in the years past when I came down for this event. Zig-zagging along the I-35 turnpike and then onwards from there, but at the "Cattle Pens" we made a left turn and on to a private ranch named the "Nations Ranch", (Established in 1900), and a seemingly long down hill run ensued. Here is where the Fat Fargo, with its 27.5" diameter, 2.8" wide tires came into its own. I was flying and the bike was super stable. Ari remarked to me several times that I had the perfect bike. He was riding quite well, and the BMC was only limited by its narrower tires, really. Still, Ari was always "right there" as we flew down the rocky, bumpy two-track.

 At the bottom of this down hill, a fat biker couldn't negotiate the 90° left hand corner and yard saled it into the tall grass. There was also another rider being consoled by a volunteer with a blanket thrown over their shoulder. It looked like a serious injury. Sure enough, not five minutes later an ambulance came screaming down the primitive road to fetch him. That siren sound and the site of that big, boxy truck seemed incongruous to me in these environs. Still, it was good to know that rider was going to be in good hands soon.


Ari puts the hammer down as I follow.
Then at some point during this time we reconnected with Phil. I had not seen him since the start, but I also cannot recall exactly when he was caught by Ari and I. At any rate, we three then headed off to checkpoint #1. Ari started to really push the pace now, and at one point I looked down to see that we were doing 22 miles per hour, which from my standpoint was far to strong a push for only being 20 plus miles into the event. Still, we were to stick together, so I tried hanging on. What I didn't know was that Ari was freezing cold and was trying to warm up by pushing the pace to generate some body heat.

We were obliged to stop at one point, again, I cannot recall why, but Phil looked at his Garmin and announced that we had gone about 26 miles in four hours. "Whoa!", I thought to myself, as I realized that from that point we had approximately 50 miles to cover in four more hours. I assumed right then and there that Ari was pushing the pace to make the checkpoint cutoff time, so I didn't complain too much about it after that. The other thing I noted was that we had about six more miles to go to reach the neutral water stop. I knew we'd have to resupply on fluids there. It was going to be touch and go on whether I would even get to the checkpoint on time now!

Ari took off and we were right back to our 20 mile per hour pace, and only slowing slightly for climbs. I was feeling okay at this point, and strong, but I knew that with my lack of training miles that it was going to be a short-lived output from my engine. I just didn't get a chance to tune up properly for such high horsepower efforts for as long a time as it would take to achieve the goal of checkpoint 1. Still, we had to make up time, so I dug down deeper and tried to sustain the pace.

The water crossing we were coming up upon looked suspiciously familiar, and I think we were at Texaco Hill's base. If I was right, there would be a long climb with a winding road near the top to finish out that rounded up near a large tower. Yep! I could see it in the distance. I was a bit concerned how that would go after a long, hard effort such as what we were putting in.

Hey! This looks familiar! I've been here before. 
Phil, (L), and I at the water oasis. Image courtesy of A Andonopoulous
The climb went really well, actually. I was very pleased as I passed the spot where I remember dieing a thousand deaths under the heat of the Sun as I climbed this very hill the last time I rode Dirty Kanza. At least this time I felt as if I could keep motoring on and not be in "limp mode", as I was back then. The top was achieved and there I saw the oasis. We stopped and grabbed some water and then set off again. I managed to stuff some calories in me as we were riding so hard I couldn't get water or food into me for several miles.

The oasis was where the DK100 and DK 200 routes split up. When we all left, it became apparent that we were in a lot less traffic. The road went to a dirt two track, and we were obliged to hike-a-bike again for a bit. It wasn't nearly as tough as the morning, but anytime you are walking, it is costing you precious time. I was concerned about that, and as mentioned, Ari must have been as well, because as soon as the roads became ride-able again, he went back to that higher pace. I tried to hang on, but Phil and Ari rode away from me eventually. After a while I figured they were gone, but then, about 30 minutes later, here they were waiting. Once they decided to take off again, I saw that they weren't going to slow down so I bid them a quiet adieu, and basically accepted the fact that now I was on my own at about 40-45 miles into the day.

I slogged on, and now I was aware of my nutritional needs a bit more than I had been. I was drinking and eating regularly, and with the mileage being off on the computer due to hike-a-bikes, I solely relied upon my cues and time to navigate and set goals. Interestingly, I never used the cues until this point in the event! I only went off course once due to following two guys ahead of me and not relying on my own judgment. But it only cost me a half a mile, so it wasn't critical.

The vastness of the Flint Hills makes the rider feel insignificant and small at times.
I noted that the roads were becoming more "gridded out", and I rightly assumed that I was coming into the area where checkpoint #1 would be. However; I was battling demons and my mind wanted to have me quit, or miss the cutoff. I had to redirect my thoughts, so I began to think about a song that reminded me of my wife. Immediately I burst out into tears and totally forgot about my suffering. I actually picked up the pace as I played the song in my mind. I know.....weird, huh? But whatever it takes to keep going, that's what you do. Soon I was feeling chipper again and cruising right along.

I decided to take on a challenge to beat a fellow into the checkpoint which was three miles or so ahead, and I cranked it back up to 20 miles per hour, held it there, and went for it time trial style. I looked to beat the 2:00pm cutoff by a few minutes, maybe more, so this served a dual purpose. As I came into Madison, Kansas, I saw people on the corners clapping and redirecting me toward the timing station. I rounded a corner, and there to my wondering eyes was MG cheering me on. Was I dreaming! What the heck........

Next: Methodical Miles

4 comments:

STW said...

I always wonder, do you just bust these posts out or are they carefully thought out, written, and re-written? Either way, properly suspenseful and you pick the perfect time to end each section of your story! Loving it!

Guitar Ted said...

@STW: Great question, thanks! I sometimes just bust out the entire series in a couple sittings, (like I did with these which will run through Saturday), but each is written in succession and even I don't quite know where it will go until I am well into each. I will sometimes stop, get up, and walk away from a post. I think about possible directions, and what I really want to include, then come back later and finish a post off. I always proof read my stuff, sometimes multiple times, before publishing.

Hope that gives you some insight as to how I do this. Thank you for reading.

fly.fast said...

I really enjoy your writing, Guitar Ted. I'm a new reader on your blog. Today's tale takes me right back to the race.

BTW, I recognize your Fat Fargo and its fender from Saturday, from somewhere around the hike-a-bike. I'm even pretty sure that my riding partner and I are in the background of the picture for the creek crossing.

We are newbies to gravel this year. And we are sure grateful for the lessons learned on previous rides, especially the mud we encountered at the LandRun. I've also picked up some helpful insights on your site.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the story. We turned right at the neutral water supply (DK100). That spot was just one of the beautiful vistas from the DK.
Phil

Guitar Ted said...

@fly.fast- Thanks! I appreciate your reading and your kind words. It was a great ride, but I know many have been lamenting the fact that many events this year, Land run included, have had wet, muddy conditions. Maybe now things will get around to being drier and sunnier for the remainder of 2015.

Thanks again Phil!