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My Dirty Kanza

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.

DK Finishing Cup

Holding the prized DK Finishers Cup

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.

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The Story of 24 Hours of Cumming

24 Hours of Cumming
Over.
In the books as they say.

My team of Tim Mohn, Jeff Young and Jim Cummins was able to nab another first place in the 4×60 relay. Strong rides by my teammates. They never let up and just kept pushing. Proud of those guys. Hugs and high fives all around!


But…

Gravel is not defined by who wins a race. Gravel is more than that. Gravel is defined by the individual efforts. The individual goals achieved. The individual challenges met. Those are the stories that get told around the campfire. Those are the stories we remember and retell year after after. Those are the stories that become legend. The achievements are what stand out to me…not the wins.


Some stories I know about from 24 Hours of Cumming that defined the weekend. Please…feel free to add your own. I want to know more.

1. The little town of Emporia Ks sending up 15+ gravel riders to challenge themselves in the hills of Iowa. Thats a lot of traveling folks to a small little race that’s become less about the results and more about Gravel family. Less about the awards and more about the camping and the stories by the campfire. A race where the Cumming Tap is just as important as the beautiful scenery of the Iowa green.


2. Dangerous Dan. Great meeting and hanging out man. Loved the enthusiasm you have have. Awesome watching you roll in after Leg 2…120 miles down and 120 miles to go…only to rush the stage and Head bang a little with the band. So much energy. Wish I had half that. Of course…I’ve got two kids. You’ve got one on the way. Can’t wait to hear the stories you’ll have of the kid next year. Best of luck.


3. Natasha Krause crushing 60 miles and 4500+ feet of elevation. Her first ride away from the safety of home gravel. Great job!


4. Autumn Howell. Persevering through navigational miscues and finishing what she started. 62 miles turned into 70+. I’m sure she was disheartened and frustrated but she just kept clicking the miles off. Team out of contention she finished the job. Longest ride ever and I’m guessing easily the most elevation gain. Awesome.


5. Courtney Huber. First long solo night ride. Way to fight off the fear and ride through the nigh. Navigational perfection. Great ride when nothing was on the line except the personal challenge of doing it. I heard you bunny hopped a family of raccoons?? Maybe that was just folklore…Proud of you!


6. Mr John Freaking Decker – the man rode an awesome fricking ride only to be derailed 6 miles from the Finish Line…where his relay teammate waited…by his entire crankset falling off his bike! No 8mm wrench in hand John was forced to jog, run and glide the remaining 6 miles. Six miles of HILLS…after midnight!! He could have stopped but his team waited. They needed him so he kept going strong. Way to get it in buddy. Way so cool!! Give it a couple years and the story will be 30 miles instead of just 6…legend.


7. Balkenhol. Helping and supporting all freaking day. Never complaining. Just “what do you need?”. Doesn’t start his ride until 1:30am. No chance to enjoy the scenery. Crushes the route in under 4 hours. Raccoons and deer lining the ditches ringing cowbells and giving handups all the way. Cheating if you ask me but nonetheless…epic. Great job buddy.


8. Shawn Legend of The Flint Hills O’Mara. 400k solo. Shawn wasn’t racing. Shawn was riding. Shawn was doing what Shawn does. Turning the cranks and enjoying being outside on the bike. Solid. Always ready to give a smile. Always ready to ignore the discomfort. Mile after mile. Hill after hill. Move forward. You deserve first place buddy but more important…you deserve that perfect ride. You deserve that feeling of peace we all feel on the bike when we enter that zone. Love ya bud.


9. Steve Cannon. You’ve got a good thing going man. The gravel takes care of itself. Focus on the rider and gravel family like I know you will. The Cumming Tap is perfect. The grilled wings kicked ass. Beer was cold. Fire was warm. High fives we’re heart felt. Appreciation was true. Throw in a few trays of Cinnamon Rolls Sunday morning to go with that coffee and there’s no place else to be the first weekend in August every year.


It’s gravel. We’re family. We’ll travel. We don’t need much. Gravel. Beer. Coffee. Grill. Fire. Hugs and high fives.


Story after story after story. Year after year after year.

24 Hours of Cumming…Steve Cannon…The Cumming Tap.

Please come in 2018…I want to see your next story.

I know I’ve missed stories from 2017. Sarah Cooper killing it on her Fatbike. Smile leading the way. KateG crushing 120 miles. Jacob laying down the rubber and never missing a beer handup. Others. Don’t be offended. I’m old. I miss things. Tell your story. Tell someone else’s story. It’s gravel.


(Ps.  Yeah I borrowed some pics.  You’re family.  You don’t mind right?  Steve Cannon, Paulina Batiz…not sure who else.  Thanks.  👍🏼)


Gravel reunion

We have a family reunion in Emporia Kansas every year around the first of June. The invite goes out each December. We all mark it on our calendars. Except Cousin Wintle. He never uses a calendar. He just watches the stars in the sky and knows when to show up…with whiskey for all. We start planning. Where will everyone sleep? Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn…random backyards?


March comes around and things get a little more serious. Who’s all coming? Over 2000 people?? Did you accidentally hit “invite all” again?? The Knights, the Brothers Kuat, the Pirates from the Northern Borderlands, Cannon and his Mighty Fatbike, the Mulreadys Gang, ETown Proud, Madison crew, Riders from the City of Gravel, Wild Wendy and her tutu, Stillwater’s loading up the tents, RV’s and VW’s… Cousin Paul and Gudberg coming over from the fairy tale Lands of ‘Eng and ‘Ice. Yuri and his band of California misfits. Panda and the Sheek. John and Venny riding their Cantu’s up from Texas. Petervary’s and Rusch come down from their majestic peaks. Z and Heidi…Mr Shirley himself…all making plans. Too many family members to list…all coming to Emporia Kansas. Land of the Hills of Flint.


Quiet. Silence. See that?? Way out in the distance. A cloud of gravel dust. Coming closer. Quick! Hide the good beer!! Put the bacon away!! A single knock on the front door. Deep breathe. Steady. Open the door. HUGS FOR ALL!! YES!! Welcome to Emporia!! Food! Beer! Rick being inappropriate with all the cousins! Smitty in his rocking chair spinnings tales of glory! JeffY telling anyone who’ll listen about how fast he can drop me on climbs.


Honea…shirtless…again…


Uncle Jim stands up and yells…who wants to go on a bike ride?? 206 miles okay??

Yes!!!

We sweat. We cuss. We ache. We climb. We crank. We get “aero” and we look “so pro”. We bask in the glory of the Flint Hills. We get dirty. We give high fives and chest bumps. We take Selfies and we ‘Gram. Most of all…we enjoy a day on bikes. We enjoy the day with family. Gravel family.


The ride’s over. The Sun was beaten. The Five Timers Club expanded!! The party begins! Biscuits and Gravy!! Bacon!! Burrito’s! Beer! Wine!! Sno Cones! ZEBRA CAKES!!!!!! Sweaty, bear hugs. More inappropriateness from Rick. Lawn darts. Croquet. Fire pits and S’Mores.


Honea please put on a damn shirt…

We play hard. We ride hard. We sleep hard. We hug hard. We love hard. We’re family. A Crazy, messed up, delusional, slightly deranged, loyal, loving, dependable GRAVEL family. We’ll do it again next year. Next year I’m putting up a tire swing. Next year I’ll build some sweet jumps. Next year I won’t hide the good beer.

Next year Honea will put on a shirt…sleeveless of course…but it’s a start….

Ya’ll come back. Ya hear?

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to Gudberg and Lauf Forks for allowing me to be a member of their 2017 Dirty Kanza “Dirty Dozen”. I’m so glad Lauf was a part of my experience in Beating the Sun and joining the Five Timers Club. I’ve enjoyed beating the hell out of Laufs “The Grit” fork the past 6 months on our backroads. I have no plans of ever taking it back off the bike!


Love and peace everyone. 👍🏼💪🏼😍


Beginnings

I failed in my first ever race.  I had a 40 mile leg to complete in 4 hours and I could not do it. The leg? 40 miles between Cassoday and Florence. The race? The 2011 edition of The Dirty Kanza 200.  In 2011 there was a relay option. Teams of two. Each person was to do 100 miles. There was no DK 50 or DK 100 option at the time so this was the entry level opportunity. I wanted so badly to be a part of this event I jumped at the chance. It didn’t work out. I was a tad naive.  I did have a pretty new bike though!

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Smitty was my partner and he’d do the first 60 mile leg.  Smitty took off at 6am to try and complete 60 miles in 6 hours.  I took off to Wal Mart to by a couple Hostess Apple pies, some sandwich wraps, maybe a couple Clif bars, some water and some Coke.  Pretty sure I also got some powdered sugar donuts.  Unfortunately Smitty rolled in about 15 minutes late so we were DQ’d.  Mr Cummins himself though must have felt sorry for me and let me ride my leg.  I had hopes that maybe if I crushed it, they’d let us go on.  I had fresh legs and rolled out hard and fast…for about 10 miles.  I remember when it hit about 20 miles in…I was in over my head.  My longest ride had maybe been 30 miles in mild temps.  It was hot.  My water was going fast.  I remember at one point licking the sweat off my arm because I was craving salt.  Ha!  I had full leg cramps going on.  One lady needed a tube.  I had a tube.  I had no idea how to change a tire.  She changed her tire and gave me some water when she saw I was out.  That helped a little.  My 40 mile ride ended at the halfway checkpoint of the DK200 in Florence Kansas in just over 4 hours. I was exhausted. I was so incredibly disappointed in myself.

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See that was the deal though.  To fail like that.  To see other riders failing alongside the road too exhausted, too disappointed to do more than grunt or raise a finger as you road by.  There was competition sure, but it was more of a family out there.  Riders were watching out for each other.  Helping each other.  I sat at the halfway checkpoint and listened and watched other riders. Riders who were going on. Riders who might finish.  I remember Eric Benjamin camped in a lawn chair. I watched and listened to Garret Seacat and Jed Sampsel getting ready to ride on. All local riders. Most eventually got up and rolled out. All hugely inspiring to me at the time. I couldn’t imagine doing another 40 miles, let alone 100. Later that afternoon is when the storms hit. The heat changed to cold. The winds picked up and the rain came in. We even had hail for a bit that year. Insane. For a short bit…I was a part of that insanity. Jed and Garret later finished and that was it. I had to do it. The whole thing. In 2012 I signed up for the Dirty Kanza 200. I rode slow. We had perfect weather. I road slow but consistent.  I finished at 1:06am.

DK Finishing Cup
I have a lot of friends that signed up for the Dirty Kanza 50 and the Dirty Kanza 100.  I hope this years DK50 or DK100 ends up being next years DK200 for you. I hope you remember to look around and take it all in.  I hope you are too stubborn to stop pedaling.  I hope you are able to feel what I felt crossing that finish line. I wish you all the very best.

Start pedaling.  The season is starting soon.


2015 Cycling Year End Wrap

Wow.  Seriously.  What a great year.  I learned so much.  Overcoming injuries, traveling, racing, training, making new friendships and strengthening new ones are all things I’ll remember 2015 for.

Injuries – Beating cronic ITB with a proper bike fit and patience, riding through a herniated disc with patience, leaning heavily on my wife for weeks of bandaging road rash and relying on patience from everyone while slowly getting through a concussion.  Notice a theme there??

Races/Events – I would endorse any one of these.  Not all for the same reasons but all with the same enthusiasm.  LandRun 100. Gravel Ride for Maisie’s Pride, Dirty Kanza 200, 24 Hours of Cumming 4 x 60 mile team relay ride, Gravel Worlds, Rebeccas Private Idaho and the Freedom Fest ride in Emporia Kansas with my whole family.

Results – I was patient with ITB and disc issues early on for the LandRun100 so I planned ahead and only road 50 miles.  Same with Maisies choosing only the 50 mile option but ended feeling great and confident.  Survived and finished my 3rd DK200.  WON my first cycling event ever with a great relay team at 24 Hours of Cumming.  Finished Gravel Worlds in a respectable time and had a blast doing it.  Drove up and rode RPI and had the most Epic and unexpected side adventure (See Below).  FreedomFest.  Road 15 miles with my wife Kerri and my daughters.  Family time on bikes.  Perfect way to end the season.

Epic finish – Wasn’t mine but he stole the show.  24 Hours of Cumming.  Relay Race.  Jim Cummins had the final leg.  Left at 11pm and road off into the face of an epic lightening storm, driving rain punishing wind.  Even had to take refuge in a barn for awhile but still continued 6 hours in the dark of night with rain to finish at about 5am.  I and my teammates Jeff Young and Scott Omara could not have admired his competitive spirit and loyalty to a team event more.  I’m pretty sure there was a huge group hug as he appeared in the darkness and crossed that finish line.  Well, if not a hug, maybe lots of handshakes.  Epic.

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Unexpected Win of the Year – two words.  Gelande Quaffing.  RPI 2015.  We freaking won the tournament after the gravel race.  I had no clue what gelande quaffing even was.  Tim Mohn, Smitty Smith and Rick Becker were my team mates.  We joked ourselves through round one hoping to lose and then it kicked in…competitive spirit and team loyalty.  Okay fine.  Now we have to freaking win. Fast forward to the Final Round.  Our competition.  Queen of Pain Rebecca Rusch, Dirty Kanza and Lawrence Legend Dan Hughes, 2016 Dirty Kanza Decade of Dirty Champion Yuri Hauswald and Master of everything Cold and Ultra Endurance Jay Petervary.  How did I get in this position??  Well, some possibly embarrassing photos aside, lets just say we rallied as a team, disregarded all dignity and won the whole thing!!!  Boom!!  Done.

Not much to say after that.  Truly a magical year.  I’m not sure how to top it in 2016 but I know I’ll probably figure it out while riding my bike.

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Your turn to share.  Any races that stand out?  Results that stand out?  Traveling that stands out?