While the Dirty Kanza is still over 6 months away, it seems that everyone is already preoccupied with the event. Conversations about the race have come up on every group ride for the past two weeks. Those conversations continually include the same two questions: “is it really that difficult” and “do you think I could do it?”
The answer to both of those questions is a resounding YES! The Dirty Kanza isn’t just hard. It’s f-ing hard! It is the single hardest bike ride you will ever attempt. But, any person that really wants to finish can finish. The crucial factors are desire, training, and riding within your abilities.
Having recurring conversations on this topic have forced me to find words to describe the race. In the 3 race reports I’ve written, I always end up saying that words can’t describe the Dirty Kanza. That’s still true today. I still don’t have words to effectively describe the experience of grinding across the Kansas Flint Hills. But, in searching for ways to describe it, I came up with a way of explaining what to expect throughout the day.
The Dirty Kanza is typically broken into 4 sections, with checkpoints around miles 60, 100, 160, and then the finish. It dawned on me this weekend that CP1 is the easiest (shouldn’t be any surprise), and CP2 is the most difficult.
Start to CP1: Reaching CP1 is relatively easy—any trained bike rider can pedal 60 miles. But, how you get there determines how the rest of the day will go. Go too hard here and the day inevitably ends early.
CP1 to CP2: this section, for me any way, is the real test of the day. With the first 60 miles completed, reaching the mid-way point with a clear head and a working bike is the real challenge. It’s not that the section is any more difficult than the others, but rather the mental aspect of what’s ahead. The negative questions (“can I do this”) always seem to come during these miles. This past year, I rolled into the CP2 full of energy and ready for the rest of the day. The previous two years were a completely different story, though. Both times, I reached the second checkpoint concerned and questioning the rest of the day…and in both of those attempts, I ended up dropping out.
CP2 to CP3: I consider these the lonely miles. Be ready for miles on your own. Bring lots of music. Stop and take a few pictures. Everyone is forced to ride his or her own pace after the first 100 miles. As a result, even those who planned to ride together seem to end up parting ways during this section.
CP3 to Finish: I may not be fully qualified to write about this section considering I’ve ridden it only 1 time. Then, I was fully energized and riding faster than I rode all day. I’d like to say that is what can be expected, but I’m more realistic than that. I had a great ride during the last section because I rode well under my threshold all day. But, there’s a big lesson in that! Stay focused throughout the day and the end comes easy.
The key ingredient for a successful DK200 is focus. You have to get your mind into the challenge of the day and you have to keep the negative thoughts away. A solid training plan, specific nutrition, and sharp appreciation of what’s ahead will help get you there. And, like I’ve told everyone that’s asked, if you’re thinking about trying the Dirty Kanza, you absolutely should! Sign up, train hard, and go for it!