I haven’t put my thoughts on “paper” in awhile. Helps clear the head. Helps to reflect.
I have changed a lot since I started riding bikes 8 years ago. I have changed how I ride my bike, why I ride my bike and where I ride my bike. I am from Emporia Kansas. Yep. That Emporia Kansas. Land of the famed Flint Hills gravel and the behemoth of gravel events, The Dirty Kanza. You can’t live in Emporia and not at least heard ever so slightly of the bike event. Range of interest in the event locally peaks at zealotry and bottoms at “that bike race thing”…but everyone from the area has at least heard of it. It goes without saying then that for me to think about what I want out of cycling in 2019…I have to first come to terms with what I want out of my 2019 Dirty Kanza experience.
2010. I picked up the bike 8 years ago after having lost it for about 25. I got off my chair in front of the basement PC. I turned off whatever game I was playing at the time (World of Warcraft) and decided to create my own real life adventures. I bought my first 30 lb Trek Mtn Bike, hoisted my 190 lb 5’9” body onto the saddle. Turned the cranks for 6 miles, parked the bike in the garage and thought “Well…wasted that money.”
2012. A year and a half later I rolled through the Finish Line of the Dirty Kanza 200 on top of the world. Honestly. Freaking amazing. I couldn’t stop grinning. I had my Star Wars cycling jersey and my Adventure Monkey bibs on. Very not matchie matchie. My admiration for all things Matchie came a few years later. I don’t think I sat for a week from saddle and muscle pain. My calf and thigh muscles were so bruised from constant cramping even getting out of bed was painful for a week. I finished though.
2013. I assumed finishing the Dirty Kanza was a given. I had already done it. I’d just do THAT again. I failed. You see, the weather was pretty dang good in 2012. The wind was pretty dang strong in 2013. I was not. I was not physically strong enough to Finish in the time I thought I should. I was not mentally strong enough to accept this fact. I quit. Halfway. 2013 was the last time I ever saw the race leaders Finish the Dirty Kanza. I smiled for my finishing friends but I beat myself up internally. I had to face my co-workers the next day. I had to face my friends and family knowing inside that I quit. I hated knowing that feeling.
2014. I trained inside during the winter. Kind of. I randomly hopped from spin bike to spin bike and pedaled until my knees hurt. Cause you know…no pain no gain!!! Dumb. I developed chronic ITB issues in both legs. What the heck was an ITB?? I became an expert. I could pedal 5 miles, go home and have to painfully crawl up my stairs. Seriously. Actually crawl. I do okay with pain but this was constant and consistent and mind numbing. I remember one ride was 8 miles. Flat. Pavement. I threw my bike at my garage. Early April and I couldn’t ride 8 EFFING miles. I didn’t ride agin until early May. I rode easy. I was going to Finish. The plan? Four Ibuprofen every 4 hours. Alternating Four Tylenol every 4 hours in between. Strict. Keep on the pills. Spin. Don’t push. Keep the knees in tight. We had good weather. I had a bag of pills. I could spin my legs on the bike. I couldn’t walk off the bike. The pain brought near tears at Checkpoints. Took my breathe away. I finished. My legs got me there…then they quit. I literally could not bend either knee. No after party for me. My wife virtually carried me to the car. I didn’t ride again consistently that year. Just a little here and there until October when I shut it down until 2015. btw…issue was solved with a very slow and precise self bike fit on my own trainer…cleats adjustment and rest. Who knew?
2015. I hired a trainer. I was scared of ITB issues resurfacing from poor habits. Cam Chambers. He won’t claim me. I was a horrible client, haha. He was actually more of a guide for a few month’s. Taught me how to get stronger with consistency. Taught me what spinning can do for you over constantly mashing. Taught me that complaining and excuses doesn’t change what you need to do to move forward. DK came. The mud came. I moved forward with each step and turn of the crank. In truth, I was stubborn and stronger but…I got lucky. I didn’t know what a derailleur hanger even was. Honestly. No idea. A snap would have ended my day. I rode by feel. My instinct was to shift to easy gears before water and mud and to walk if I had to over mash. I kept repeating “baby steps” from Nemo. DK gave out these little 10 Year Anniversary red Headset Cap’s. I wanted that damn cap. I finished. I got the cap.
2016. I hired a trainer and actually listened. LeLan Dains. I think I listened pretty well…at least until after DK. I rode more consistently. I got stronger. I dropped to 150 lbs. I wanted to Race the Sun and win. Things didn’t work out. A rider got hurt badly. We didn’t know each other well but we knew of each other. We know each other better now. Bonds form when you see someone in that much pain. I stayed with Thomas and others until he was stable and the ambulance was a few miles away. I thought only briefly about Racing the Sun. It felt like a silly goal. I finished the race questioning why I trained and why I rode. I ignored my body. I ignored my hydration. I ignored my nutrition. I cramped a ton. I walked a lot. I finished. I was physically and emotionally drained. Afterward a friend gave me a painting in honor of my failed attempt at beating the sun. I still have it and think about that year often. I had put in the work but sometimes Life has other plans.
2017. LeLan put up with me through DK. I was going to Beat the Sun. Focus. Weather was really nice…except for a small puddle at the beginning that sadly took out a few friends rear derailleur hangers. I had a good day. I rode well. Those friends were at Checkpoints cheering us all on. I was stressed all day counting the minutes until sunset. I was rude to my family when they didn’t move fast enough. I rarely rode with anyone. I was obsessed with the clock. I was not myself. I Finished my 5th Dirty Kanza. I got the Grail cup. I Beat the Sun…along with over 200+ other riders. A fast year. I felt…weird. I felt lost. I didn’t feel how I thought I would feel. I mean…is that it?? Shouldn’t I feel more? I finally got up on stage at a Dirty Kanza Awards Ceremony. I did smile at that moment. Walking out of the theatre was like walking out of high school after graduation. Wait. What do I do now??
2018. LeLan retired from training. Enter Dave Sheek of CTS. I learned so much throughout the year from Dave about riding the bike itself. I had my strongest year of race results with Dave. I had the most fun at all my events. Turns out finishing faster means more beer to drink and more time to cheer on friends. Who knew?? I didn’t know what to do with the Dirty Kanza though. Quite honestly, I was bummed about not getting to ride in the DKXL with a lot of my cycling friends. Was I not considered good enough? Strong enough? WTF. Internally I was childish about it and didn’t come to terms with myself until later in the year. It’s just a bike ride. Even at 44 yrs old (now 45)…we all have growing up to do sometimes. Unfortunately the self reflection came AFTER the DK. The result was zero prep and zero shits to give for the 2018 DK200 race. I’d already finished 5 times. I’d already beat the sun. I knew I’d finish barring a mechanical. Same course…third year in a row. I knew it. I was going through the motions. Well…200 miles is not to be taken lightly even if you have 350 on the brain. 2013 all over again except I was physically and mentally stronger. I didn’t even have electrolytes at the halfway checkpoint. I rummaged around in other peoples old drop bags and just didn’t care. All you have to do is turn the cranks…so I did. Jeffy and I rode together the last 100 miles. We smiled. We shrugged. We cussed. We sat. We laughed. We suffered. We rolled in about 10:30pm. Hugs were given. Photos were taken. My body got me to the Finish Line and then threw up a big old middle finger at me. I almost fainted. I was in the ER from 11am until 4:30am. Four bags of fluids. You don’t take 200 miles for granted. Ever.
2019. I’m refocused. I’m riding hard. I’m confident on gravel. I’m comfortable in who I am on the bike and off. No more wrenching at Gravel City Adventure and Supply. A little breathing room from constant bikes, bikes bikes. A little more Real Estate…I’m a Realtor. A little more family time. I’m riding consistent but no hired trainer this year. Just riding and focus on fun, exploring and pushing myself within reason. I feel strong. I’m traveling out of state to events quite often in 2019. I’m exploring new roads. I’m meeting new people. I’m finding new beer. DKXL in 2019? Nope. That ship has sailed. I have a little interest in it but my family has no interest in it, ha! Maybe I’ll tour the route in the Fall. Couple days. I want all my DKXL friends to finish that beast!! I love you! Git it done!! I’m refocusing on the DK200. I’m happy. I’m at peace. I have friends to hang with all day Friday. I have friends to hang with all day Saturday. I get to see my wife Kerri and daughter Reagan at the checkpoints. Hugs will be given!! I have a Sun to Beat on Saturday. I have a Race the Sun official print I want on my wall. I have a new tattoo I want on my leg. I have a DK Finish Line party to actually attend this year.
So my Dirty Kanza goal in 2019? What is my ultimate goal throughout the day??? Enjoy it. Push hard. Smile harder. Accept what the day brings. Make some friends. Appreciate the fact I’m going for number 7. Seven. Lucky number 7. Root and cheer hard for those struggling through numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Go get’em kids. Hugs, high-fives and hand slapping in the Finish Line Chute. I hope.
Peace. Love. Bikes.