Monthly Archives: June 2016
Dirty Kanza Day. 4AM is really early folks. Really early. I always like to eat and drink immediately so that my body has time to wake up and allow me a “nature break” before a race. My friends will attest to getting texts from me during this time about my “progress”. JeffY is usually still sleeping. Smitty ignores me. LeLan usually is overly enthusiastic…which come to think of it…is a little weird. Anyway back to the story. Oatmeal and Quinoa, double serving, banana and some chocolate milk. Oh…and more water. I hate water. I really do. It seems like a waste. If I’m drinking something then I prefer actually “tasting” something and water is…water. I sometime go for days with very little water. Hmm…might be why I seem to cramp more than my friends. Sorry. Focus.
Food eaten. Liquids drank. Bathroom attended to. Texts sent. Bike and gear loaded. Headed Downtown! I love that song btw from Macklemore. “If I had one helmet, I’d give it to you, give it to you”. Focus. Paul and I arrived a little after 5am. The streets were really kind of eerily calm. Overnight a short lived rain storm had flown by so the air felt…moist. (Love ya Kristi). Time really flew by though and soon Commercial St was absolutely packed. Pictures were being taken everywhere. Excitement. Nervousness. Gear checking. Camaraderie. Well wishing. Port-a-potty lines. Hugs with family. All typical of a start line at a big event. I love this moment.
Six AM we rollout and within a couple miles we hit water. Completely caught off guard by this. Huge bottleneck and I knew I had to be careful here. I always gear down low and soft pedal through water and mud. I have no idea if it helps but it got me through two muddy LandRuns and last years Dirty Kanza so I go with it. I would find out later some friends did not make it past this but of mud. I hate that and I know some time it will be my turn. I loved this First Leg of the Dirty Kanza 200. I knew the roads well. I knew what was ahead for 40+ miles and I rode it faster than I ever had. I remember talking with quite a few riders during this leg. I couldn’t stop smiling when people rolled up and called out to me because of this blog or the “This Is Gravel” webshow. So cool. So excited and proud of our show. We do put effort into and hope you enjoy it. One guy even asked me to stop and autograph his Chamois Butt’r tube!!! Okay that’s a lie. That’s actually the thought I had for Dan Hughes as he raced by me with a cool calm collected head nod and a “Hey Bobby” at around mile 18. Then, with a switch of a gear he shot up the hill with a flash and was gone. He knew my name!!! Kidding. He’s been stalking me…its sad really. Okay. That’s a lie also.
I will say this. Ya’ll over inspired me just a bit. I did not stick to my pacing well. I gunned up hills pretty fast during that first leg. I blame you. It’s all your fault. I forgive you though. Send me bacon. There. I feel better now. I played leap frog with a social media friend Thomas Adams and his pretty little Fixie. “Social media friend”. That makes me laugh. What it actually means is I stalked him a little after LandRun on social media. Read his blog. Liked some instagram posts. He liked some of mine. Hey!! We’re social media friends!! Welcome to the new world order!! Dude was having a blast and I bet we passed each other 5 or 6 times. We joked about trying to hold Dan’s wheel just to say we had for a couple miles. I kept hoping my buddy Smitty would catch up. He would tell me to slow down and all would be good. I knew I was going fast and figured if anything we’d regroup at Checkpoint One.
I rolled into Madison at the 3 hour mark. My pit crew of my wife, Kerri, and family did their job and I was out pretty quickly restocked and ready go. Operation Beat the Sun in full swing and away we go!! I rolled out with Bobby Wintle and Seth Wood right behind. Bobby screaming and cheering his enthusiastic battle cries. Seriously. I could only laugh and smile as I rode on. I passed Smitty as he rode into Madison. Ten minutes behind me. Maybe he’d still be able to catch me soon. I saw Thomas again and we all played leap frog for the next 10 – 15 miles. I began to feel the slight twinging you feel when you know a cramp is brewing so I changed my pace. Leg 2 is where you encounter the true iconic hills and the big Flint Hills gravel…2 inch boulders. I love these roads.
Okay. This next part is what I’ve been hesitant to bring up. This next part is where my memory gets a little fuzzy for a few moments. I don’t want to be quoted because I may remember wrong. I can’t talk about my day without mentioning it though. I did ask for Thomas’ approval before writing this out of respect. I feel okay about writing this knowing now that Thomas is recovering well and is ready to roll again. Love ya man…roll on.
The backside of Texaco Hill is dicey at high speeds. I’ve ridden it often. You can get up to 40+mph on a a descent. You have to break now and then. You build up a lot of speed and the lines are thin sometimes. Thomas and Seth had leap frogged me before the downhill. As I charged down the hill at the bottom I saw a rider down. I saw someone moving his bike. There was yelling. I think the rider was still standing or maybe sitting. So surreal. There was so much blood. There was Seth. Shit. There was Thomas… Shit. Shit. Shit. Slightly fuzzy on the details but I know within moments we had a group helping. We had Thomas on the side of the road. Head stabilized. Arms and hands held down gently but firmly. Stay with us buddy. Stay with us. Gonna be okay bud. Holy crap this looks bad. He passed out. Body limp. Shit. Seizure! He’s choking. On his side. On his side. Get him on his side. Okay. Okay. Got it. Got it. Calm. Calm. So much consoling. So much comforting. We got ya buddy. Thomas we’ve got ya. You’ve been in an accident. So much love. So much concern. But…I have to say…so much calm after a few minutes.. We had two doctors helping us novices and they were spot on. Vitals constantly monitored kept me calm. Condition evaluated and explained. Be calm. Soon there was no panic just stabilizing. Be calm. We got ya man. No worries.
Thomas was out for 15’ish minutes. I used my legs to help brace him on his side. Two riders were on the phone the entire time with 911 and others. The Jeep Club was there. Emergency services was spot on. Wintle and Smitty arrived. My legs were cramped up and I had to keep shifting them. Smitty told me me his own day was done for stomach reasons and I should go on. I think 45 minutes had now passed. (I lost my Garmin so exact timeframes are sketchy) My own legs were now full on cramping. I needed to stand and move around. I knew Thomas was gonna be fine. The doctors said so. Broken jaw. Lacerations. Some teeth missing and maybe some puncture wounds they had quickly diagnosed. He was in the hands of two Docs, Smitty (EMT) and his District Bicycles family. The ambulance was 2 miles away. My family and crew was waiting on me. I still had 140 miles left. What about the Sun? Who cares. Should I care? No idea. Just probably need to move. Hugs to Seth. Hugs to Wintle. Time to go.
Just. Get. Home.
I wanted my family. I wanted those family hugs. At the Finish Line though…only at the Finish Line…not before…gotta go. Gotta go. I went too fast. Can I still Beat the Sun? Can I do it for Thomas? That’s silly. He doesn’t care. Can I do it for me? I’ve trained too hard not to try. Go. Go. Go. I rolled into Checkpoint Two at 7:45 hrs. 1:45pm. Seven hours left to Beat the Sun. You can’t do it. I can try. You can’t. All I can do is try. I’ll blow myself up, recover, and just finish…Go. I’m pretty sure I can recover and just finish if I blow myself up trying.
Fifteen miles into Leg 3 it happened. I blew up. KABOOM!!! Both legs. Upper legs, lower legs and foot. I simply hadn’t hydrated well or watched my nutrition on Leg 2. Leg 3 brought the heat. Leg 3 brought the wind. There’s nothing worse than the wind when full leg cramps hit. You simply cant recover well. You have no chance to let the muscles relax. You have to continually push in the wind. I slowed down.
Heat + wind + cramps = slow and not enough on the bike hydration. No hydration means I don’t eat well. Two hours out from Checkpoint 3 I ran out of hydration and I stopped eating.
At one point my left leg was fully cramped. My right leg was fully cramped. My right foot locked up and stiffened “outward”. I had to limp with my left leg and literally drag my right leg in the freaking gravel while pushing the bike. My foot would not work. It would not bend to take a step. I’ll gladly show you this dance sometime. It’s gonna be “Macarena” big. Does that age me? Google it kids. It was popular. It was a thing. This was my low point. I almost broke. I saw a nice flat rock that looked like a freaking Sleep Number reclinable bed. I’m pretty sure Nickelback was giving a free concert in the middle of the Flint Hills and Tim Mohn was filling in as lead singer. This rock looked that freaking good. I veered toward it. NO! Just. Finish. Thomas can’t ride. Get it done for Thomas. Just. Get. Home. Just get to Checkpoint 3. Everything will be okay. Coke, RedBull, Bacon, Steak, Pizza, Cheezwiz, Bouncy Houses, Ball Pits, Water Slides, Tubs of Cheese Balls!!!! I walked on until I could ride again.
Just. Get. Home.
Miles 130 to 152 were the most painfully slow miles I’ve done in a long time. Then it happened…mile 155. The cramps had begun to slowly lessen. I knew Madison was coming. My speed picked up. My mind went from The Walking Dead to the ending of Rocky IV. The entire Soviet Union was standing up and cheering!! The sky opened up and clouds of Cotton Candy rained Skittles down on the prairie. The original Skittles not all the weird flavored crap. It was magical. Bobby Thompson is bringing home the belt baby!! The pain was over! The mental battle was over! I would ride down that chute proudly. I would get that hug from LeLan, Kristi, Tim and even Jim. I would see my family. I’d see my girls smiling at me. Kerri would give me that Finish Line kiss. She’s pretty good at it. We’ve been married 20 years. That kiss gets better every year.
It. Would. Happen.
Just. Get. Home.
Madison. I love you. You are a magical oasis in the Flint Hills. Full of PopRock pooping rainbow colored unicorns with horns made of Chick-o-Sticks. I rolled in feeling like I had just started my day. Slightly dirtier, a whole lot wiser and knowing that I had won. Barring any mechanical issues…I had won. The mental battle was over. The sun would be setting soon. The temps would be dropping and the stars in the Kansas skies would lead me home. I took my time. Talked to Jed and Andy a bit. Lisa and Becky. Madelyn. I asked about Thomas. I thanked my pit crew. My dad, my brother, Rick and Scott. I told Kerri I’ll see you soon and I took off for Leg 4. Scott gave me a shove off and I took off for home.
I’m not going to say Leg 4 was easy. The DK Crew packed in some really annoying steep sharp climbs in there that admittedly caused me to walk once again BUT…I know those roads well. I didn’t care. I was going home. I regrouped. I hydrated well. I paced myself well. I controlled my breathing. I focused on my pedal stroke. The cramps were gone. My legs hurt like hell from the day but no cramps if I stayed in control. I felt strong. I got down in my aero’s for the first time and just flew. Honestly there’s not much to say here. I finished the last 25 miles the way I should have ridden all day. Casual.
Just. Get. Home.
Turning into ESU always gets me. The cowbells are ringing. The cheering is in the air. My friend Rob on the Mic announcing riders. Music blaring. I zipped up my Team Mulready’s jersey. Goosebumps. I never want the day to end. Best freaking day ever. Every thing else fades away. For the first time ever I’m coming down the full chute. Not the “close to midnight” chute. 11PM. I try to give high fives to everyone with their hand out. I hear Rob call out “The Casual Cyclist”. Yeah, that’s funny. I see LeLan. Big hug. Kristi. Big hug. Thomas? He’ll be fine I’m told. Tim. Big hug. Jim. Manly hug. There’s my Reagan. That’s what I want. Daddy? I have to be careful. I’m squeezing too tight. I’ve been through a lot to get that hug from my daughter. I told her 17 hours ago I’d be back. Norah? Norah’s having a moment. Of course she is. She’s Norah. Kerri. There’s Kerri. Oh the stories I have to share. Oh the things I’ve seen. Oh the places I’ve been…mentally and physically. I love you Kerri. I love that hug. I love that kiss. I crave this moment. This fleeting moment.
Friends hugging. Friends congratulating. Rob interviewing. I. Freaking. Love. Everyone. Best feeling in the world.
All because Kristi, Tim and Casey talked me into picking up a bike 5 years ago…
2017 I’ll be going after my FIVE TIMES Finishers Goblet. 2017 I want to do it in style. Let’s Race the Sun again…shall we?
Last note. Thomas. You were on my mind that day more than I care to admit. 🙂 I’m so glad all is working out for ya bud. I can’t wait for that custom Fathead I ordered of you to get here. The pretty face you…not the Rocky Balboa face … 😉 Gonna put it ride up next to Yoda…you’ve earned it.
If anyone would like to help Thomas with some of the costs of his Helicopter joyride. Please click HERE. It’s what we do in our Gravel Family. We help.
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m still tired. The Dirty Kanza stole a lot of my energy this year and recovery has been a little slow. Life is busy for me at this time of year and time to reflect has been sparse. I have lots of memories from not only the race itself but from the lead up to the DK. I always wonder where the line is between what I want to share and what people want to hear. I have been asked from a few what it’s like to prepare for something like the Dirty Kanza so let’s start there.
In December of 2015 I set a goal for myself. I was going to start actually training for a few cycling goals. I know I know….I’m not a pro. I’ll never stand next to the likes of Yuri Hauswald, Dan Hughes, Rebecca Rusch or Jay Petervary on a podium. All athletes I admire. So…who the heck wants to actually train?? RIDE BIKES!! DRINK BEER!! Yeah, I get it. BUT, I wanted to be able to ride in group rides easier. I wanted to be able to ride with my friends easier. I wanted to be part of the conversations that went on while everyone waited for me at the next stop sign. I just wanted cycling to be a little more “fun” and less “exhausting”. I don’t focus well without a goal so I set my sights on training with the intent of Beating the Sun at the Dirty Kanza in 2016. A lofty goal of finishing in under 15 hours when my best finish had been 18 hours.
I trained 5 days a week starting February. 60 – 90 minutes of interval training. Religiously. LeLan Dains from DK Promotions was and still is my coach. A quick few words on LeLan. Competitive but extremely caring about his friends and family. The athletes he trains are treated as and become like family. He truly cares about how the training is fitting into ones busy family and social life. My time spent training was similar to going to the gym over one’s lunch hour or hitting a spin class before work. Many commented that all I seem to do is ride bikes…well not really…I just incorporated it into my daily routine and it worked out. I can actually be pretty lazy at times! Some days were very forced but the effort was still put in. Thirty-five pounds were dropped. Can I just say how funny it is at the age of 42 to have to buy new clothes just because the ones you have fall off?? My overall diet became healthier and life became more fun and vibrant as a result. Heck I even learned how to properly pronounce “Quinoa”.
I. Made. Kale. Ice Cubes.
Well, okay, my wife Kerri did but I’m the one that used them for smoothies. Point is I really do know food groups now other than just Bacon and Bacon Flavored. I’m proud of that and see no reason to stop my routine in the near future. March through May was a lot of this. Eat “decent”. Train hard. Hit as many rides and races as I can without taking away from work and family. Family always come first.
Fast Forward to Dirty Kanza week.
Bike, gear and nutrition prep felt golden. Salsa Warbird ready to ride. I don’t necessarily believe one gravel/adventure bike is heads over tails better than another. We all have our brands or brand images that we like. I enjoy the Salsa family feel and the line of bikes they put out is geared to more of a “Lifes an Adventure” philosophy. It’s fine. You ride yours and I’ll ride mine. I do like the over all handling and feel with my Warbird though. I feel at ease and in total control bombing fast descents with narrow ride lines as well as shifting low and climbing up the Kansas hills. The bike fits me. I went with minimal storage in a seat bag, Revelate Designs Gas Tank and 2 Feed Bags. The feed bags honestly were pretty empty except for a back up phone charger and cord. I could have done without but…nice to know the storage was there and super light weight. All my food was Chia Bars, GU Gels, and Scratch Labs chews and were tucked into the gas tank bag. For legs 1, 2 and 4 I went with 3 hydration bottles full of GU Roctane. I had 4 bottles of GU Roctane for leg 3. I made a mistake here on Leg 2 hydration and nutrition wise that would set me up for a disastrous 3rd leg. I simply should have had 4 bottles and paid more attention to nutrition on leg 2 but more on that in my upcoming race day post.
My saddle was a beat up old Bontrager saddle that I’ve now finished 4 DK’s on. The same saddle I road crashed with last year it shares the same road rash scars as my right arm. I know it well and although I recently purchased a Brooks England carved C15 saddle that I’ve started to love (worked perfectly at Elrods Cirque century race), I simply wanted the confidence of a trusted old friend. I did throw on some aerobars for the first time ever and I have to say…once I figured out the quirks of riding with them on loose, rough gravel…I really enjoyed having that option there to extend out and lay down the pedal strokes. They were a great option in the 4th and final leg.
We had a guest rider stay with us for the first time for the Dirty Kanza. Paul Errington made the trip over from Newcastle, England. As a family we thoroughly enjoyed his friendship in the days leading up to the DK. My focus shifted from specific race over-analyzing thoughts to more of a DK Experience type approach. I enjoyed the lead up to race morning and all the festivities. Bike prep, gear prep, getting interviewed about my playlist of a local radio station, recording a This Is Gravel episode, Thursday nights Live in the Lot concert, Friday mornings group breakfast and ride, Friday’s expo and riders meeting and lastly Friday evenings group dinner at a friends house. WHEW! I was busy and always moving!! All took on a different feeling as usually I go from one event to the next, silent, solo and overthinking race day. With Paul along this time there more conversations about the race. Thinking out loud. Bouncing of idea’s off each other. Making sure he was prepped and ready to go. I enjoyed the change and hope he’s back next year!!
Weather was a concern as always. Three weeks out I started watching the 15 day forecast. Rain. Rain. Rain. Flooding. Crap. One week out though everything changed to Sunny. Sunny. Sunny. Little rain. Sunny. Awesome. Windy…wait what?? No worries. We’ve had a windy spring and I’ve been training in it. Most of us had hope for a nice southerly wind on race day with what felt like a predominantly North to South to North route. Coming back the 3rd and 4th leg with a tail wind would be nice. Kansas loves to surprise however so instead we had a strong northerly wind to lead us out, get us excited, build our confidence and then slap us in the face all the way home. I love you Kansas.
One other thing was different for me in 2016. I want to say will 100% honesty that I am truly humbled and feel blessed by the number of people that enjoy reading my blog, following my Facebook page and watching me co-host “This Is Gravel” on Gravel Guru’s page. Truly humbled. Truly excited!! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much!! I was approached by SO many new friends and new members of my Gravel Family! So many people wishing me well, thanking me and giving me a boost of confidence that what LeLan, Matt and I are doing…is beneficial and enjoyable. Thank you all so much and let me say…if you want more…if you want to see something added…please let us know. We want to do so much more but we need to prioritize. We know you don’t want to watch us for hours at a time so need to know what’s important to you. Love this growing Gravel Family we have!!
My last bit of pre race prep starts at about 8pm race night eve. The wind down. The calming before the storm. I give my wife a kiss and a hug, hug my kids and tell them I love them. They wish me good luck. I tell them I can’t wait to hold them at the Finish Line. This last 10 minutes of family time carries me the whole day of the race. I’m racing to get home. I’m racing to ride down that chute and into their arms. They are my base. They are my foundation. They are my safety net. Same would be true if I was ever stranded somewhere. From the moment I start pedaling I have one solitary goal…get home. Just get home. Just. Finish.
2016 proved to me my most painful race. Mentally stressful and physically painful. I’m not being overly dramatic. The whole time though I focused on images of my 3 girls and repeated over and over…
…thanks for reading…next up will be some words about the race day itself…until then please enjoy watching us attempt to be entertaining on This Is Gravel at Gravel Guru.