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.