Friday, June 08, 2018

Dirty Kanza Report: Starts And Finishes

A severe thunderstorm in the area had me taking cover in an alcove to an apartment on Commercial Street
3:00am, Saturday, June 2nd:

I start from a troubled sleep as I hear a pitter-patter on the window pane in my bedroom. "'s raining. I wonder where Matt is!", I think to myself as I fall back asleep. I had set the phone near me and turned my volume for notifications down, so as not to disturb Joe. But I didn't want to miss a possible call from MG. Due to my worry, I didn't sleep all that well. About 4:30am, I heard Joe get up to prepare for his 6:30am send off in the DK100. I checked the radar, remembering the earlier rain, and I was suddenly concerned.

Severe weather was dropping in from the Northwest at 30mph. Lightning and strong winds with the possibility of hail were the main threats. I gathered myself up and switched over to the Trackleaders webpage where the SPOT tracker feed for the DKXL was being shared. By late Friday evening I had not heard where MG was riding. I was left to assume he was a mid-packer, but with no real way of knowing, I was simply guessing. The majority of riders looked to be out of harms way. The tracking page showed that they were too far South to be getting pipped by the path of the storm Good!

The storms pushed back the start times, checkpoint cut offs, and finishing of the event back one half hour, but not the DKXL's
The wind picked up and the tree's branches were being blown to and fro by the swirling winds. Joe was ready and departed saying that I could use an umbrella he had and then he was gone. It was just spitting rain at this point. I piloted MG's car to the start area and found a good place to park. By this time the wind was raging and it was raining. I deployed the umbrella only to have a contrary gust of wind destroy it after I was only a few blocks from the car. Dang it! I kind of nursed it along, doing the best I could, but there would be no saving this thing.

 Making my way toward the starting area, I found an alcove to an apartment entrance off Commercial Street, and I ended up waiting out the weather there. When things calmed down a bit I heard a PA announcer say the start times had been pushed back a half an hour to allow the storm to pass. Good decision as there was copious amounts of lightning associated with the storm. I ran across Celeste Mathias, who was there for her husband, John, who was in the DKXL. She told me that John was riding with MG and Corey "Cornbread"  Godfrey. That was great news! A solid group and I felt a lot better knowing MG was in great company.

Eventually things got going. The 200 riders were gone quite a while when Jim Cummings addressed the 100 riders and said that the three mile mud hike section from 2015 was bad again and was being rerouted around for everyone. The storms also caused a few of the DKXL leaders to have to deal with mud, rain, and lightning, not to mention swirling winds. MG would later say that at one moment the wind was hot, humid, and a tailwind then the next it was a head wind, cool, and then it would switch back again.

A veritable river of riders streams by on their way down Commercial Street at the start of the DK200
Well, after all the hoopla of the start was over I went out and had a breakfast, bought Joe a new umbrella, some beer for his fridge, then I came back down town to check out the expo again. Unfortunately the crowds were more focused on the goings on up and down Commercial Street so the expo area was a ghost town. In fact several expo booths were completely gone already. I suspect that in the future the expo dates will be Thursday and Friday.

Well, the whole scene was interesting from the standpoint of my race director background. The DK is a huge gig these days. I spoke with Dave Pryor, the RD for the new UnPAved event which will take place in Pennsylvania in October of this year. Dave was shadowing Jim Cummings and helping out, getting an apprenticeship in big event production in the process. Dave mentioned that the DK Promotions race handbook is the size of a big city's phone book. Well......if you are old enough to remember what those were like, you'll understand the comparison! Anyway, suffice it to say that the DK events are a BIG production. I got to see just a bit of that while I cruised around Saturday late morning.

This is what Commercial Street looks like in front of the finish line before you get there from riding the Flint Hills.
LeLan Dains, part of the DK Promotions team, holds the ladder while another volunteer prepares to hang the timing clock which you can see on the ground to the right of the ladder.
I had lunch at one of the vendor booths there and then I hung around for a bit more. All this time I had no word from MG about how he was doing, but information trickled in about other riders and MG's group from early DKXL drops. I spoke with Jim Phillips at one point in the afternoon who relayed to me that Friday's heat and humidity had decimated the field, leaving , in his estimation, ten riders DNF-ing by 100 miles in. We heard that Sarah Cooper had gone over her bars and crashed, resulting in a broken collarbone and a DNF. I saw and spoke briefly with Jason Gaikowski who had a crash and bruised his ribs, knocking him out of the event. Later on I would discover he had been riding with MG! I wish I had known that then!

Jim Cummings welcomes in a DK200 rider who was wearing a Mexican wrestling mask.
I finally got a text from MG at 11:07 confirming to me that he was with Jon Mathias and Cornbread. I started posting updates on social media. Then at about 3:22pm I got an ominous sounding text from MG: "Hey man, I'm leaving Council Grove now. May need to pull the plug at some point. Will keep ya posted."

Yikes! I did not like the sounds of that at all. Well, I sent out a social media update right then and there asking for everyone to start pulling for, sending positive vibes out to, and praying for MG to keep truckin'. We needed all of that positivity, whether or not you think it does any good. It couldn't hurt, so I asked. Then I decided that if the worst happened and MG needed me, I'd better be at Joe's house which was on the North end of Emporia and closer to the edge of town. I'd be right by the car at Joe's place and not distracted by anything.

I tried laying down, but my phone was giving notifications like crazy and I could not afford to silence it due to my needing to be "on call" for a possible rescue. Finally, about five hours later at 8:26pm, MG texted me again saying that they had reached the Northernmost reaches of the course and were going to try to make the cut off, which was at 3:00am Sunday. I told him I was there for him if he needed me and he replied, "Thanks Brother! See ya soon." I took that to mean he wasn't quitting now. So, I got up, straightened out myself a bit and went down to the finish line to await MG and Cornbread.

Sitting in Mulready's Pub later, drinking a "Rumor Has It...", I was constantly checking the SPOT tracker for Cornbread. It was moving painfully slow at some points only going 6 or 5 miles per hour at times. I was afraid they'd come in after the time limit, but it would be getting easier as they got closer to Emporia. The terrain flattened out and the wind would be at their backs. Since the SPOT tracker gave over-all mileage I could give countdown updates on social media for how far out Cornbread and MG were. By about 25 miles out I could figure their approximate arrival and I had 2:15 am figured as about the time we'd see the two. I missed it by one minute!

He's in! It was over!
At 2:14 am Sunday, MG and Cornbread came in 6th and 7th place in the inaugural DKXL event. How in the world MG pulled it off after his food poisoning will be a story we will talk about the rest of our days. Just an amazing rally and ride by both he and Cornbread!

I gathered up MG and we went out and got him something to eat. Then back at Joe's place we debriefed and sat in complete amazement at the past 34 plus hours of events. MG and I were ready to talk all day, but we needed to rest up for the long trip home, so at about 5:00am we both hit the sack for a few hours to get somewhat recuperated.

Congrats Brother! Words fail to convey the magnitude of your accomplishment that weekend. Thanks for letting me be a small part of it!

Next: Some final thoughts on the weekend and the Dirty Kanza 200........

1 comment:

MG said...

Thanks Brother... Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back around to this. It’s been quite hectic getting back into the swing of life since the DKXL. I’m so thankful and fortunate for the support and love you and Joe gave me while I was trying to rally for the event, and then again once I was finished. It was an awesome weekend... one I’ll never forget. Thanks for your part in making it happen.

Love you, Brother.