This year Dirty Kanza nearly snuck up on me. I had registered for this race in January sometime and five months had flown by. Having started TransIowa and the Royal Almanzo already I was itching to get to DK and finish these three rides with a bang. Feeling pretty awesome after comfortably riding the Royal, I was ready to crush DK. I also wanted to make up for not making it past the second checkpoint at TransIowa.
My plan of attack was to make it into the top ten women, a 16-hour finish or better, and have fun. So far the having fun part was easy. I rolled down to Emporia with Dave Farber, a local crazy man and all around happy person. We left bright and early and arrived at our destination around 2. This is probably the earliest I have ever showed up for any race the day before. It felt great to be able to wander around the town and soak it all in. This event is getting big. I felt like I was at a day of RAGBRAI. Eventually ate some dinner with Dennis Grelk and Christina Anthony, actually went to the pre-race meeting, which was a great idea, and headed back to our dorms to get ready. One thing about that pre-race meeting, Mike Riemer had advice for us from the top notch athletes, and I loved what Rebecca Rusch had to say. I am such a fan-girl and I really hope I get to meet her some day *sigh*.
The dorms were great. A simple room, so simple. I didn’t bring sheets or towels..cue Dennis and Christina, thanks for always being prepared guys! Anyways getting the bike ready is always a challenge for me, but this time around it seemed like I was starting to get the hang of it. I created the best cue sheet holder, a slight variation of Tim Ek’s creation. That was just about the icing on the Boone-cake. A little more about the Boone. I have only made slight changes to the bike, new handlebars, saddle, and tires. I am set up with the 38C CX0 tire. They worked flawlessly, they might wear a little faster than some other choices, but even I can set them up tubeless easily and they roll fast! On the Boone I carried three tubes, lube, levers with duct tape, four C02 (soon to ad frame pump), and multitool in an Arkel seat bag. I used a Revelate gas tank to hold foods, butt butter, and small ginger candies and mint gum. Finally two water bottles and a old classic camelbak were there for the hydrations. One thing I relied on for the first time was liquid calories. I used perpetuum in one bottle and roctane in the other. Roctane was the winner. Also liquid calories will be something I do in the future, especially during hotter weather. On me I wore Swiftwick socks, Gore Bike Wear Xenon 2.0 bibs (amazing), a local high-school kids team jersey (because I am 14), my ratty hat, a Lazer helium, old specialized gloves, terribly old specialized shoes, and tons of Her chamois butter. Anyways it was quick to bed after that.
We woke up nice and early to hit the dorm breakfast at around 5am. It was awesome. I felt like I should go to class afterward. But instead I went to the starting line, and holy cow there were a lot of people. I jumped in next to Richard and Lindsay from Dubuque. They were rocking Lance Andre’s tandem and while they were nervous you can’t really go wrong being so badass. It always feels nice to be around so many amazing people. The start was pretty uneventful, lots of slow and I had to walk a hill…I cruised with a member of Dirty Dogs Racing, Brian, for a while and he let me know I could utilize the support they had at each checkpoint. That was huge! I didn’t have support lined up, I was just going to wing it, but in the spirit of what Dirty Kanza has become I decided to take them up on the offer. Getting to the first checkpoint was pretty interesting. I was having terrible, horrible back pain. Down the left side of my back to my hip to my foot. I desperately need new shoes, I think this is where the issue stems from. I probably stopped three times to try and figure out how to work this out of me. It was distracting and frustrating. I shouldn’t be thinking about not continuing 3 hours into a 12+ hour day. I kept telling myself it would get better. It can’t get worse, because if it did it would probably be an injury. (Not the best thought, but I knew I would stop before injury really set in)
Rolling into the first checkpoint I found friends from Iowa City who filled my bottles and gave me free range to the back of their truck. I spent about 5 minutes just standing, kind of wiggling my feet and stretching my back. Actually swinging my leg over the bike always helps me double check me. I felt like I wasn’t going to snap in half anymore so I meandered over to a giant hill and back to the DK course. 50-100 was even less eventful. I figured out how to soothe my ailing back and feet while riding, continued to eat and drink, and turned on my music. Speaking of music I have been listening to The Flatliners and The Bloody Beetroots all year on the bike. That mix of fast paced punk and raving techno is enough to keep me going. I rolled into the second checkpoint right around 7 hours. That was fast for me. BUT DEAR GOD THERE WAS A TAILWIND, or just no wind. I was so stoked, so pumped. I found the Dirty Dogs tent and was greeted by Craig Irving, a shirtless Charles Showalter, and Josh Brown (hey, shirtless buff dudes are motivation). They were also playing some of my favorite music.
They lubed my chain, filled my bottles, gave me a brat, and generally just blew my mind. I did not expect anyone to even touch my bike. I was physically refueled, but also mentally ecstatic to be supported.
I rolled out of the second checkpoint into a headwind, that’s ok, I knew there was a tailwind out there. For the next 12 miles there was wind, I rode with some battery and light bulb guys from Minneapolis, but slowly pulled away. I was kind of thinking I should stay with them, I get crap a lot of times for not riding with people and working with them. But it just felt right to push into the wind, I wanted out of it as soon as possible. So I continued on and eventually got to my least favorite section of Dirty Kanza. I have only done this race once before but I will never forget this B-road. It’s twisty, rocky, and right in the middle of my race where I want to just zone out. But instead I had to focus on not crashing and realize just how slow I was rolling.
Once out of the B-road I just kept pedaling. The views were getting bigger, the sky wider, rocks pointier, and the heat hotter. I do not remember the giant baseball sized rocks leading to little water crossing last year…but this year, they snuck up on me. I successfully navigated all of them, after each crossing feeling a little more confident with each pass. Just bouncing off rocks, nearly closing my eyes, and letting the bike do most of the navigation. I stopped a couple miles outside of the third checkpoint to double-check myself again. Moved the trash around in my pockets to make sure I wouldn’t lose any, and seems like I might have been a part of a small group of people doing that. At a couple points I was joking to myself that I didn’t need support since there was literally handfuls of foods and bottles on the ground. On the way into checkpoint 3 I passed Lance Andre and Mike Johnson, which gave me a little pick me up. I was thinking to myself, “How did I pass these dudes, I must actually be moving pretty quickly…!”
Rolling into checkpoint 3 I was a little worse for wear. I didn’t really want to talk, or eat, or drink. I stood at the Dirty Dogs tent while Josh Brown’s wife peeled an orange for me, I ate part of an apple, and was generally confused about my eating habits. Never before had I wanted to eat fruit during a race. It made me feel like I was dehydrated. I started applying some new chamois butter while someone’s children were intently watching me. I handed them my empty butter packet…gotta start them young! At this point I also realized I was only comfortable taking little sips of water, and even less food. I headed into the last 50 miles in a much different place than I was last year. The sun was still up and would be for the next 5 hours or so. I had assumed I would be riding in the dark, but at this point it seemed I might be wrong.
Just keep pedaling. I kept toying with the idea that it wouldn’t be bad forever or good forever. At this point it was neither. I was just going. I knew eventually the course would flatten out entirely so I soaked in each up and down hill. I was actively trying to not look at my computer too, just the sun. It was still up. It would around mile 170 when I started trying to calculate whether or not I could beat the sun. I was already smashing my goal of a 16 hour finish time. I had no idea how many women were in front of me, and I am pretty sure I was still having some sort of fun. My thought process was something along these lines,
“The sun is still pretty high over there, how much longer ’til it’s over here, what time is it? Is that helping me figure this out, no..why is the sun getting warmer, it should be gone by now. I wish I could finish in the dark so it wasn’t so hot. When does the sun even set? 8:42? What time is it?”
A futile attempt to get my brain working. but I continued pedaling, getting myself closer and closer to the finish. The sun appeared to never move, but I was. Soon the course smoothed out and I started to hate it. Constant pedaling. No coasting. With something like 15 miles left we were out of hills to ride. This is more painful to me than riding up all the hills. I was still taking little sips of water and cursing the sun. I tried to ride with a group and then slowly watched them pull away. Bye, guys, have fun at the finish line, make sure to have fun. Only slightly demoralizing, but I was so close to the finish.
With 3 miles left I could see where I wanted to be. I could see the town, literally. I had a moment. Made a little yelp and pedaled slightly harder to try and beat this sun. I had something like 15 minutes left before it was gone. I pushed into town and onward to the finish line. I made it before the sun went down. 2 minutes before that sun went down. I finished within the top 200 people. I was the 5th lady to cross the finish line. I was half wanting to cry, half so happy. All the feels.
But none of that trumped the feeling of being done. Getting off that bike. Getting hug from Mike Riemer. Embracing the end. Nothing compares to that feeling. The pain was over. I could just sit. I did just that. On a couch for 45 minutes. I drank water and a recovery drink. I felt like I was hungover. This was a new feeling for me. A great one, I surprised myself. I had done a better job, and it was reflected in my finishing time. I cut around 3 hours off my previous time. I did a better job eating, the mental demons were defeated and handled with care. I accepted the good and the bad that is the Dirty Kanza. The big rocks and small rocks, I crushed them all! . Every mile I learned something new. Whether it was to allow my brain to float around thinking about nothing, or if it was to continue to tell myself it was going to be alright and I was the strongest, most badass lady out there. Dirty Kanza is honestly a pretty uneventful ride. After I wrote this I thought I needed to add more, but then realized there wasn’t more. I am becoming the person I want to be. There doesn’t need to be much more than that. I am defining my passions and showing myself just how important I am, just how much little me can accomplish. I am proud of myself. I am excited to become a stronger cyclist and see just how far I can go!
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” -Dr. Suess