I don’t even know that I can adequately describe what happened on Saturday. The ride was so long and arduous it’s difficult to pick a topic to write about. Even then, the only way to truly appreciate the Dirty Kanza 200 is to ride it; words can never describe it! The course, the heat, a total of over 12,000 feet of climbing, and the mental challenge of pedaling all day add up to the hardest day of cycling I have ever endured. The Triple Bypass or the Assault on Mt. Mitchell pale in comparison to this grind.
I rolled out of the hotel parking lot at 5:15, headed for downtown Emporia. The wind and humidity were well above the comfortable level even that early in the morning. “You ready for this!?,” echoed through my mind as I made my way to the Granada Theater and the start line.
We rolled out of town promptly at 6AM at a relatively slow pace. Everything changed as soon as we crossed the bridge and turned onto the gravel. A large group of 20 or so riders absolutely smashed it and were out of site. Within a matter of minutes, the pack had split into several large groups. I settled in with the 3rd or 4th group and started grinding away. The groups lasted only a few more miles, though, when the first short but steep hill split everyone up. Everyone was on their own or down to their riding partner by mile 10.
The first 103 miles were difficult but mostly uneventful. The real challenge started after the 2nd check point in Council Grove. After spending about 20 minutes off the bike, I headed out of town just 15 minutes behind teammates Eric and Jim (and over 1:45 behind the race leader!) but with no other riders in sight. When I rolled into town, I felt great–I was full of energy and excited to keep going. That all changed within an hour of leaving town. It started with a slight stomach ache and culminated with me sitting on the side of the road just 1 mile from the last check point in Alma.
In 40 miles between Council Grove and Alma, I traveled through Egypt, walked with Jesus, and learned what it means to suffer. My stomach ache spun into nausea so intense I couldn’t even drink water yet alone eat. The temps had soared to 96+ with humidity to match. I knew I was a ticking time bomb. I kept telling myself, “make it to Alma and you might be able to recoup a bit and get back on the road.” But my body shut down pretty quickly with little fluids and no food. Both legs cramped into knots, my vision blurred, and I found myself struggling to hold a line. Alma, just a few miles away, might as well have been the finish line in Emporia or Fargo for that matter.
The decision to step off the bike was difficult. All the preparation and training miles were about to end in a flash. But, I knew that I wasn’t going to finish today. I wandered to the first shady spot in the road, rolled to a stop, sat down and called Traci. It was 4:05PM. It took a cold shower, a nap and several bottles of water to bring me back around. I was tired and sore but otherwise OK. Oddly enough, my thoughts were all about next year!
A few key points:
- 175 started, 63 finished
- Swalbe Marathon tires!!!
- Liquid diet only
- Keep electrolytes in balance. I tried a combo of Gatoraid, Cytomax and Hammer Endurolytes. It wasn’t enough.
- Ride with someone, even if it means dropping pace a mile or two.