Gravel Grinder

2018 Gravel Training Plan

The training plan is ready!

This year, I decided to expand it to be a training template for gravel races in the Kansas City metro area. If you live in the KC area, the plan includes all the major gravel events leading up to the Dirty Kanza 200. It culminates with a quick taper and then a short week of training leading up to the DK200.

If you don’t live in the KC area or don’t plan to ride any of the events, the training template indicates alternative workouts for those dates.

To access a copy of the training plan, simply follow this blog by clicking “Keep Me Updated” in the upper right corner. You will receive an email with a link to the template. The template is saved as a Google Spreadsheet. If that format doesn’t work for you, leave a comment below and I’ll email a PDF copy of the plan to you.

If you already follow my blog, I’ve tried to keep track of everyone that requested a copy, and I will those out today. If you don’t receive an email from me today, leave a comment below and I’ll get that out to you.

The training included in the template is demanding. But, so is gravel racing and especially the Dirty Kanza. Don’t let the first view intimidate you. If you can find the time and settle in to a training routine, the plan is actually pretty easy to follow. You have to plan and be ready for the big days on the bike.

There’s no catch for requesting a copy of the training plan. I won’t email you, sell your information, or market anything to you. I created this plan for myself (used it 2 years) but was taken off the bike by an injury suffered while playing baseball. Rather than letting the plan waste away, I thought I would help as many people as I can to show up in Emporia and crush their goal. The plan isn’t customized to your individual needs, but it’s a great starting template.

Train hard! Race Smart!


2017 Dirty Kanza Training Plan

In 2015, I offered my personal DK training plan free to anyone that wanted a copy. After sharing a copy with 100’s of folks over the past 2 years, I thought I would update the plan for 2017 and offer it again. So, if you’re looking for a quality training plan that will help you achieve your goals in Emporia, leave a comment and I’ll get a copy to you.

Here’s what a rider that followed the plan last year had to say about the plan:

Training with the plan increased my FTP by about 10% and I’m climbing better than I ever have. The plan was tough, but it helped out very much getting prepared for the 2016 DK200 where about half the field DNF. I made it in to the faster half of my age group (60+ Male). This was my 4th gravel ride ever and my first ultra distance ride. The training along with good mental prep, bike prep and nutrition plan all came together nicely for me. It wasn’t until the last hour really that I noticed my legs getting a bit tired (guess I should have ridden harder!). – Steve

As Steve said, the plan is tough. It is demanding and it will push you.  The results are worth it! The Dirty Kanza is waiting…

And, there’s no catch. I won’t email you or market anything to you. I created this plan for myself (I used it 2 times) but was taken off the bike by an injury suffered while playing baseball. Rather than just let the plan waste away, I thought I would help out as many people as I can so they can show up in Emporia and crush their goal.



Dirty Kanza Wrap Up

Last year, I wrote that the only way to truly appreciate the Dirty Kanza, a 200-mile adventure race across the Flint Hills of Kansas was to experience it. Then, I wondered if the words were a bit dramatic and only in response to the fact that I dropped out after 140 miles. Going back and trying again this year solidified the sentiment: the Dirty Kanza can’t adequately be described in words. Pictures might help, but even they “flatten” the grueling landscape into picturesque scenes of rolling prairie.

This year, the organizers promised more gravel and more hills. At the start, Jim even mentioned the possibility that Cameron Chambers’ sub 12-hour record might fall. According to him, the course was abnormally fast because much of the gravel was pressed into the road bed during the spring rains. As we soon learned, his claim was spot on; what he failed to mention were the endless hills during the first 100 miles. Add in heat, strong heads winds out of the southwest and a pop-up thunderstorm, and the Flint Hills proved once again that just finishing this race is winning…something I have yet to experience.

I wish I had grand stories of sloshing through ankle deep mud, seeking shelter from funnel clouds, or even fighting around the course in survival mode. But, this year I simply didn’t have any fight in me. Even at the start line I knew something was wrong. Instead of excitement and eagerness to hit the gravel, I felt apprehensive and lethargic. I learned the hard way that there is no suffering or fighting through it when if your mind isn’t into it.

The start was fast as always. Just like last year, I watched as the front group sped away…only this year the group swelled to what looked like 30 or more racers. I sat up and watched as a chase group formed and marched off across the hills. I rode alone for several miles and then started picking up stragglers that had fallen from the front two groups. Before long, I was in a peloton of 20 or more riders. We were riding at a fast pace, but with so many working together, the effort was very easy. We stayed together until the rolling hills leading up to Texaco Hill. Then, the group slowly dwindled until I was riding alone again. I caught two more over the top of Texaco and rode with them until the first check point.

As I started rolling out for the second leg, Ben, Rick, and David rolled in, claiming they were making it a quick stop. So I decided wait for them. We rolled out, ready for a fast 40-mile leg thanks to the strong SSW wind that would be mostly at our backs.

Around mile 80, Rick yelled, “Stop!”



“Oh shit. Is that what it looks like?”

“Yelp. A large group is riding towards us.”

We scanned the map while we waited for them to reach us. Turns out we all missed a turn several miles back. Fortunately, back was north so the wind would be pushing us back on course. The missed turn was onto an infamous Dirty Kanza “cut through” that connected together country roads. This one dropped down, down, down, a rock (not gravel) littered trail that finally reaching two creek crossings. All the down meant only one thing: up. The road rolled and climbed for the next 10 miles, before leveling off for the final run into the second stop, in Florence.

During the drop to the creek crossing, my head started pounding. I don’t know if it was the banging and bucking, dehydration, or both, but the pain was blinding. I dropped off the back of the group and started drinking water with Camelbak Elixir. Just as the headache started to let up my feet started burning. I’m not sure if it was hot foot or something else, but I’ve never felt foot pain that intense. I loosened my shoes and took advantage of every downhill to unclip and flex my feet. Both brought some relief but the pain only worsened with each pedal stroke. Seeing the Florence grain elevator on the horizon was the only thing that kept me from pulling over. During those 10-15 miles, I argued about what was next: in or out? I decided I would take an extended break, eat some lunch, and then decide.

I limped into Florence, found Traci and the boys and ripped off my shoes. I sat for 20 minutes with my feet up before I felt any relief. While I sat there, Eric stopped by and mentioned that he was suffering like crazy but was fighting on. I also watched Jim roll out, looking fresh as he did on the line. While I was eating, I convinced myself that I had to go on. So I suit up again. Before I left, I rolled over to the gas station for a quick piss break. I rolled up and found Rick and David talking outside. David suddenly started feeling sick and decided not to go on. Something about talking with him–nothing he said, more the voice in my head–convinced me that I shouldn’t continue. I rolled back to the car, loaded my gear and drove home.

David called just as we left Emporia to tell me that a strong storm blew in, stranding Ben and Rick on the course. The once fast gravel turned to mud too thick for bicycles. I checked radar and felt a sudden rush of relief, not for the storm or the riders that were surely stuck out in the condition, but more for my decision to stop. There’s no way I would have fought through rain and mud. As difficult as it was to drop out, seeing the boiling storm on radar confirmed my decision.

Now, with two DNF’s under my belt, the question is next year? Today, the answer is why bother. But, with probably too much bike time in the past 2 months, that will surely change, especially as registration approaches.

Dirty Kanza Training

Today, while I was out on a 4-hour ride, my mind kept wondering back to Emporia. Last year was my first attempt at the Dirty Kanza, and the outcome wasn’t what I planned. My training last year consisted of a whole lotta miles at or just below threshold. In the 6 weeks before the event, I scheduled 3 centuries a week (Tue, Sat, Sun), with plans for each one to be at threshold. The other days of the week were 20-50 miles near recovery pace, with a shorter, more intense workout one day each week. Considering I didn’t finish, I don’t know if this was the right approach or not.

Fast forward to today. My mind was occupied with what went wrong. I settled on three key areas, each of which I plan to address this year:

  1. Nutrition. My plan last year was focused on eating enough calories every hour along with a steady stream of Cytomax, Gatorade, and water.
    Changes for this year: less solid food, reduced carb intake, and closer focus on hydration. While searching, I found an article on Hammer that states the case very clearly:
  2. Pacing. Based on results from previous years, I wanted a pace that would bring me in between 14 and 15 hours. At the start, I watched as a big group shot off the front. The urge to go with them was pretty intense, but I sat down and rode at my own pace. Overall, I feel like my pace was good. At about the 20 mile mark, I let my pace rise several MPH–something about too many rabbits up the road–and while I never went into the red zone, I think that section was intense enough to put me in a deficit.
    Changes for this year: Set it and forget it! I have to maintain my target pace no matter what’s up the road.
  3. Equipment. I packed entirely too much sh*t last year. With rest stops around 60, 100, and 140 miles, there’s no reason to carry more than necessary.
    Changes for this year: no camel back–two water bottles will suffice; no extra tubes–one tube and a patch kit (the Swalbe tires held up great!); no extra food–see number one! Last year I had gels, bars, and who knows what else to eat. This year I’ll carry bottles and a few gels. Equipment probably had the least to do with not finishing last year, but theres no reason to carry the extra weight.

As far as training goes, I’ll probably continue with the same basic program. In addition to upping the mileage as the date approaches, I’ll try to work in more miles on gravel. Last year, I had no idea where to find gravel roads. Thanks to Guru’s and other events in the area, I now have plenty of options.

Look for more posts as the big date approaches. See you in Emporia!