Monday, June 07, 2010

Hot, Dry, And Nasty! The Dirty Kanza 200 Report!

Note: Due to a Blogger technical issue, this post is going up very late. I am going to let it run for Tuesday as well because of this. Thanks for your patience in this matter. I now restore you to the previously scheduled post!

<===My companions for the weekend were the very gracious Mike Johnson and Amy Jardon. (Thanks ya'all!)

My Dirty Kanza 200 experience for 2010 could be totally summed up in this statement: "Same day, different year", but that doesn't really explain it all that well, so here is the full tale in brief with some other notes on others performances.

Friday was a travel day and the pre-race meeting. It was a pleasant trip down with great company. Nothing too rushed either, we made a couple well timed stops along the way which broke up the miles nicely.

Conversation was mainly targeted on the weather and course. We knew it was forecast to be about 90 degrees and windy, but it had sounded as though the winds would be favorable, coming from the South/Southwest to begin with and then throughout the day. The nightime would bring a switch to West, then Northerly winds. If a rider could time things correctly, there would be very little head wind, and a mostly tail wind to push you throughout the day. Wishful thinking? Yes, but Mike and I were hopeful all would go well for us.

Emporia had the welcome mat out for the riders this year with signs and recognition by the townspeople. The event had moved from the old venue near the interstate on the west side of town to downtown at the old Granada Theatre which was a restored grand old place. The main motel was changed to The Best Western near the southwest edge of the city. Typically well organzed, the Dirty Kanza promoters, Joel Dyke and Jim Cummings, had things running like a well oiled machine this year too. Thanks go out to those two fine gents and all their awesome volunteers, of which there were many.

Joel and Jim announced a cool new award to go out to the "rider with the best attitude" in honor of my Trans Iowa co-director, David Pals, (referred to here most often as "d.p.") It was a huge, vivid picture taken by an awesome photographer by the name of Eric the Adventure Monkey. David is well known for his ever present smile and even keeled attitude no matter the circumstances on rides. He handily displayed these attributes during his DK 200 attempts in years past and Jim and Joel felt inspired to make an award that wouldn't necessarily be for a winner, or even a front runner in the Dirty Kanza 200. This was what they came up with, and it was a really cool gesture on their part, in my opinion.

<===Local yokel, Jeremy Fry, in front of the Granada Theater before the start.

The event kicked off in front of the Granada Theatre at a minute or two past 6am. Things went pretty smoothly on the way out of town considering there were 160 starters. Everybody was cool and calm. The front runners shot off like they were coming out of a cannon, and once they hit the gravel outside of town, it was an awesome site to see. Gravel dust in their wake, the tightly knit pack wound out of my sight, nere to be seen again by me. I was doing my own measured pace. I knew the opening salvo of this event from last year where I managed to crawl in to the first checkpoint in Cottonwood Falls with a spasming back and a swimming head from a bad head cold. This day I felt great, and I was looking forward to making it further down the course.

Everything seemed to be working out great in the opening part of the event for me. I was taking in food and water on a regular basis and the wind had not picked up yet. I noted the first guy fixing a flat at mile seven. Two more by mile eight. Mile nine saw a mountain bike rider with a flat. Then I saw local Ron Saul with a flat at mile 11. Whoa! The flats were kicking in hard and early. It was a constant theme that I heard throughout the rest of the event. Thankfully, my 2.1 WTB Vulpines were rockin' like Dokken! (<===Ha!) The bike, my Salsa Dos Niner, was doing great. No problems mechanically. It was going well, but it was early.

The course was its typical beautiful, awesome, and brutal self. The roads were more eroded and rutted than last year, which caught out the lead pack at mile 25 or so when all the guys were trying to funnel down to two tracks. Something went wrong, and a lot of riders piled up. Troy Krause and Dennis Grelk got the worst of it. The flinty stone tore up and punctured flesh, battered their equipment, and caused much blood flow. Fortunately, Lincolnite Butch Johnson came up on the scene and was packing a full medical kit. He cleaned up and patched up the boys the best he could while someone bashed Troy's wheel back into ride-able shape. The two casualties of the DK's unforgiving nature wobbled onward. Troy ended up pulling out quite a respectable finish afterward,(8th place!), but I do not think Dennis fared as well. I was told he required stitches to his chin and elbow at a local hospital.

<==High up on the Open Range!

As for me I was rolling up on the high open range when I came upon Omaha local Eric Brunt. He was fixing his third flat of the day already! But you know what? Eric was smiling and having a great time despite it all. What a great guy! I was happy I stopped to chat a few minutes with him.

Onward I went as the course now started to turn more westwards and I started feeling the wind coming up stronger and stronger. The heat was also being ratcheted up along with the wind. Soon I found myself running straight on into it on a southwards push into Texaco Hill. It was downright brutal, and as confirmed by several of my fellow sufferers, things were as bad as last year at this point. Wow! I couldn't believe how similar it was. The wind was whistling and moaning in the overhead wires making me look at times thinking I was being overtaken by some spirit of the prairie. It was surreal to say the least. I was forced into walking a couple of stretches of Texaco Hill just because my leg muscles were so fried. It helped a bit to alternate between walking and riding for sure.

<===Dirty Kanza's unique spectators along the course.

I got past that big climb and looked forward to getting turned back northwards and being pushed by a tailwind for once. Unfortunately, as cyclists know, when you get a tailwind, you get hotter. Boy did I ever! I cooked and had to stop and douse myself with a half a bottle of precious water to knock down the core temp before it got out of hand. I was really hurting now. I stayed standing on the side of the road a bit until I regained my composure.

Once I got going again things came back to me a bit. I now had a mostly downhill course with a wind at my back. I was hitting speeds of close to 40mph, having fun, and cruising along. But it wasn't long before I had sucked down the last of my water, ironically at about the same part of the course as last year. I had gone through threee liters of water and a bottle and a half of water bottles, (the other half being poured on myself to knock down my temperature). I was about 9-10 miles out yet, and the heat was oppressive.

<==The Dos Niner did me well.

So I ran into the checkpoint at Cottonwood Falls with some strong pedaling, but I was tapped out. I could hardly stand up when I got off the bike, and shade and water were definitely on the menu. I ate some pre-made sandwiches I had to refuel too. Mike Johnson's wife Amy was there to crew for us and she did an awesome job attending to me, something I am definitely not used to while bike riding! Thanks Amy! I told her that if things didn't get better in an hour, I was probably done for the day. Well, they didn't get better, and I pulled the plug at noon, or there abouts.

The event was bittersweet for me for sure. I know I do not do well in a combination of wind, lower humidity, and heat, that's for sure! Race director Jim Cummins said the humidity was "high", and maybe it was for Kansas' Flint Hills region, but here in Iowa, it doesn't get that dry very often with that much heat. I just am not wired for that! No excuses though, I just didn't have what it takes to do a Dirty Kanza 200 in those conditions. Hats off to all the finishers! I am amazed by each and every one of you!

Speaking of finishers, the local boys did well. Mike came in with Ron Saul and Jeremy Fry at 12:45am. Jeremy looked like he was paying the price for having been in the lead group till a flat took him down, but Ron and Mike looked rather fresh, considering the day. Congratulations to you three local hard cores!

Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey won the event in an amazing time of just over 13 hours. I have watched Corey ride well for a few years now, always snooping around the front of these events. He seemed to get snake bitten by something every time, but it all came together for him this year at the Dirty Kanza, and it couldn't have happened to a better guy! Congratulations Corey!

There were a lot of other amazing stories at this year's Dirty Kanza 200, and those are well worth seeking out. My tale isn't anything much, but, there it is. I guess I could always try it again, but I am left questioning whether this time of year in Kansas will be anything other than a windy, dry, and hot blast furnace that I am not suited for. We'll see.

Once again, I would have had this up earlier, but technicalities prevented me from doing so. Hope ya'all don't mind the late report.


MG said...

You're so right... That was a hot, dry and NASTY one!! It was great to see you in Emporia, Mark. I'm sorry the race turned out the way it did for you, and for us both, actually. But we'll have more opportunities to go big this season, and in coming seasons, so I'm not worried.

See you soon, my Brother! I'll bring the beer.


Mike Johnson said...

One hell of a Day! It was a real pleasure to have shared this trip with ya. Great conversation and stories. Next year?... I'm thinkin' about it.


Mike Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guitar Ted said...

@MG: Hey Brother! You put in one heckuva ride @ the DK200 and in absolutely brutal conditions. I am proud of ya! You are right, we'll be rollin' miles together down the line. I can't wait!

@Mike Johnson: It was awesome to be able to spend time gettin' to know you and Amy. I am so appreciative of the both of you for everything. It was an awesome weekend!

Next year? Gimme some time to ruminate on that. I won't say no now, but I can't say yes. I'll be thinkin' on it, but I would love to go down with ya'all again for sure. You guys are great.

And for your ride at DK- Wow! You looked like it was a ride in the park when you rolled in that night with Ron and Jeremy. So strong! Great job Mike!

d.p. said...

Mark, My dns this year was harder than any of the 4 finishes (and more painful even than the first). In your ruminations I hope you consider all the lead-up, thought, gear-nutrition-hydration-self testing that goes into just toeing the line. To me, this is what makes us cyclists. After all, it's not gravel "gravy" it's a grinder. CP1 in those conditions is no small feat. Remember to evaluate what you've accomplished and what went right.

MG said...

Amen brother. No truer words have ever been written. That summed it up perfectly and turned what was starting to feel like a failure into another great adventure.

Thanks Dave,

MG said...

... let me clarify my previous comment. I was speaking about a failure on my part, not on anyone else's part. Thanks!

Captain Bob said...

Great report. I'm whipped just thinking about the race. Making it that far is still quite an accomplishment in my book.

Guitar Ted said...

@dp: You know, you are right. I didn't think about that. Still it doesn't mean I am cut out for super hot, super windy, low humidity days. (Not that many are) I think I learned that I have a "harder limit" in that regard than others do, that's all. Evaluation of what went right is very encouraging in my case, I will say that much, and it bodes well for the future.

@Captain Bob: Thanks! It was super tiring for me! Still not over that aspect of it yet!

Cheerleader said...

What a great weekend (from my point of view!). The Kansas state sure has much lower humidity than Iowa and takes some getting us to. Sitting on the sidelines, the breeze/wind felt great; however, we knew it was brutal for you riders.

I enjoyed the company and conversation on the road! Thanks for a great weekend adventure. --Amy

Cornbread said...

Always a pleasure to see ya at one of these events! Don't get discouraged. It was another brutal year. Next year has to be better, right?

Keep on pedalin' buddy!

I'm sure we'll run into each other again soon.

Take care,


Noah said...

Great write-up! I know I don't have it in me yet. One tip for the future, even though I'm no mountain biker and I'm certainly not a racer. Still, I'm also no stranger to long miles in hot temps. As tempting as it is, I've found that water usually does your body much more good going into your mouth than on you if you only have the water you're carrying along.

Obviously, this doesn't matter much if you have a virtually unlimited supply of water (frequent SAG stations, for example).

One major exception to this is in extremely arid climates where you sweat but it just keeps evaporating. My guess, as humid as kansas has been lately, is that you were dripping with sweat and it wasn't evaporating very well to cool you off. That's the perfect time to drink instead of douse.

Guitar Ted said...

@Noah: Well, I would totally agree with you. I would also add that it wasn't humid *for me*. Iowans know humidity as the dew point matching, or nearly so, to the actual air temp. Like a dew point of 79 and an air temp of 84 degrees, for example.

The air temperature in Kansas was 95, (some say higher), and the dew point was in the low 40's. That might be humid for some, but for me, that is ARID. Add in the blazing sun, fierce winds, and the situation becomes one where core body temperature is a concern. That's why I doused my head, chest, and neck. It made an immediate and palpable difference.

You'll note that in some other racers reports, (notably Tim Ek's), where they use a garden hose for the same purpose.

Noah said...

I'm not saying it wouldn't feel good, and if you have a garden hose, then soak it up!

When Temp = Dew Point, that's called 100% relative humidity. It just doesn't happen in kansas, and it's very, very rare for those conditions to happen anywhere on earth when ambient is over 90 degrees. For example, a "pedestrian" 90*F with 100% Relative humidity creates a heat index of 132*F. Bump the ambient/DP up to 95 and you're talking about a completely inhabitable heat index of One hundred sixty one(!!!!) degrees Fahrenheit.

As a general rule, though, if you're sweaty: no matter how good it feels, your core will cool quicker and your body will work better if you drink instead of douse. If you can afford to drink AND douse, that's cool. But if you're running out of water in the middle of nowhere, you'd have been better off drinking.

Science. Just saying. No offense meant.

Guitar Ted said...

@Noah: No offense taken, and just an FYI: We regularly have heat indices of 100 plus degrees every summer here. My example I gave has happened on plenty of occasions here.

And as for sweating- That's just it. I wasn't. ;>)

Noah said...

Not sweating: Douse away! At any rate, glad you made it out okay. I had quite a few pals of mine out there. All of them DNF'd. It's a hell of a ride!