It's true! "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger". The Dk200 2011 should have killed me when it had the chance. Oh, Dirty Kanza... because of you I will never be the same. Because of you I can never look at my life the same. Because of you DK, I can not look at myself the same. Because of you, NOTHING is the same.
|Three Konas headed to Kansas|
Myself (Sasha), my teammate and hubby (Jim), and teammate (Zoll) loaded the Subie with three Konas and gear, drove five hours to Emporia Kansas for The Premiere Gravel Road Race, otherwise known as the DK200. This was not my first shakedown with the Kansas gravel. I was robbed by Mother Nature in 2011, made it 110 miles, you can read 2012 here.
|Yay we made it!|
I know what it takes to complete this monster gravel grinder, physically and mentally, it will suck everything out of you. Every piece of the puzzle has to come together in order to accomplish the task. Your weapon of choice, nutrition and attitude all play into whether you finish or not. This was Zoll's first DK and would be his longest ride to date. He chose a fixed gear single speed Major One for the task. Yea, he has huge balls like that, crazy. I have zero worries about him, he will finish.
The prerace meeting was held twice because there were so many riders, nearly a 1000, signed up. The downtown area was buzzing with excitement when we arrived. The incredible positive energy of Emporia makes this the perfect place to host the event. Every hotel was booked months in advance. The people of Emporia are so friendly and helpful it's like entering another dimension. The first question asked is "where are you from"? Pretty exciting stuff considering over 40 states were represented plus Canada. Puts a little perspective on my short commute to Kansas.
|THE Kristi Mohn|
While checking into our hotel we noticed that several other kool kids were staying there. Team Virtus and Emily to name a couple. I finally got to meet a FaceBook friend, Dave, damn the internet is so cool. My friend Angela, who lived a couple blocks from the hotel, stopped by briefly for hugs and to give me some gifts. She is sooo sweet! After placing our bikes in the room, we hightailed it to the first meeting at 4pm, it was packed!
|This guy broke his wrist last week, he finished the DK100|
|The hubby with Garth Prosser|
|Barbie Miller and me|
Looking around the room I saw more of my like-minded friends from MO. We visited a bit and the slideshow started. I wish they sold copies of the slideshow. Seeing yourself on the BIG screen never goes out of style. SLIDESHOW LINK Enjoy!
I found Jim Cummins to thank him for putting his heart and soul into such a spectacular event, super dude. Minutes later, Mr C. introduced me to Patrick from the NY Times.... more on that later.
|THE Jim Cummins ( sorry he's blurry)|
The regristraion process was quick and very efficient. Many volunteers were stationed to make sure you received a reusable Go Green bag, awesome t-shirt, DK Magazine, area business flyers and coupons, sweet water bottle, a couple of Gu's, trading cards, and a FULL size tube of Chamois Buttr for HER!
Next stop was Wheat State Pizza where a Veggie Dream pizza was procured ( Aaaaahhhhh, I have waited a year) and scarfed down. Question.... Is five hours too far to drive to have great pizza with my Kansas girlfriends?
Back at the hotel, we quickly stage our busy day tomorrow and gathered our supplies for a quick drop off to our support crew. Emma is a one woman army which will come in handy keeping an eye on myself and four fellas. She knows my goal and expectations and will do anything to help me achieve DK greatness. Pre-race jitters and chatting with the magnificent EMILY had my head hitting the pillow at midnight. I was shooting for ten, fug. At 4:20 am the alarm went off and shit got real, quick.
Before I closed my eyes I said a prayer for those, just ten miles from my house, who lost their homes that evening to the tornados in MO. I am thankful my kiddos were safe in the basement with their Nana and all it did was rain hard in my neighborhood. It seems OK got hit again too. I will ride with a heavy heart tomorrow but pedal nonetheless.
|Ready to roll out ( photo credit Stacey Quintanilla)|
The start/finish line was an electric place. Lining up with a bagillion people is cool and crazy at the same time. I took a spot on the outside around the 16hr mark.
I thanked the universe for allowing me to be here and asked God to keep myself and other riders safe while we chased our dreams. I went over my cut off times silently for my 17hr goal and hoped four hours of nervous sleep was enough. Promptly at six am we rolled out. The DK Half pint would be rolling out behind us.
|Chatting with Patrick before the start ( photo credit Stacey Q)|
Leg One Emporia to Madison 51 miles
I felt good this entire leg, a nice tail wind helped. I was able to hang with a good group of people and the entertainment from Kyle of Team Orange Lederhosen made this 51 miles go by fast. I chose to ride zen because my Garmin would not have enough battery life to record my whole day. I would need it for the last half of the ride to help monitor my goal. Everyone was still smiling and making small talk as we rode the winding gravel. While riding, I received several props on my tat. Thanks!
|If you saw this I was in front of you|
I felt like we were rolling at a good clip yet a highly manageable pace for such a long ride. The gravel was fast and the mountain biker in me rode most of the muddy sections. I did see three wild mustangs and desperately wanted to stop for a photo but my mission kept me from doing so. There was an insane water crossing about 30 miles in. The water passed my knees. Trying to save my bottom bracket from further destruction, I hoisted my steed over my shoulder and walked it.
|Thanks for the shot Brent Windsor|
I later learned my nutty hubby rode it, so did several others. Bike shops love people like that! I reached Emma by 9:45am, yea 15 minutes before my cutoff. Things are looking good.
Emma handed me sunscreen and directed me behind a building where I could relieve myself. I had held it for nearly 30 miles, NOT recommended, but I was too stubborn to stop. Emma filled my bottles and handed me my fuel nuggets for this leg. Within five minutes I was back on my bike attacking the next 49 miles of gravel.
Leg Two: Madison to Cassoday 49 miles
Leaving the check point I am elated, I so got this! Just need to keep the pace. All smiles AND then I found the wind! a shitload of it. I hit a wall of wind. Steady, unrelenting 20-30mph headwinds, side winds, stronger wind gusts, and pedaling downhill to keep moving wind. I will spare you anymore about the wind, suffice it to say.... that wind was a muthafucka for the duration. The fact I am a singlespeed mountain biker helped me in the wind I believe. The endless spinning and pedal turnover, over and over, not feeling like you are getting anywhere but having the mindset to know you are. Just keep your head down and don't stop pedaling. I didn't even stop pedaling when I threw up. Did anyone get a shot of that?
Around mile 80 something VERY bad happened. My mind suggested I quit! WTF? That has never happened. My steel trap knows better than to play games with me. At the top of my lungs I screamed Shut Up! Shut up mind, you don't get a say here. Shit, I know that once the negativity rears its ugly head you are screwed. It's hard to pull yourself out of that. I had passed many people throwing in the towel. Awww geez, why did I have to be Irish/German and stubborn/proud? I could not quit, it was not in my DNA. I asked for help from above, a divine intervention of sorts. Within ten minutes I was served. Enter Jim D, masters men (50 plus), on a mountain bike. He looked over his shoulder and said, "awww sweetheat you look tired... hop on my wheel, rest, relax. Stay as long as you need". I knew I needed help, his help, and he was offering. I accepted and thanked him profusely. While he pulled me we chatted. I told him I was out here riding thinking about my 7yr, Sydney, who got up in front of several hundred of her classmates and parents and belted out "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson. I figured if she could do that I could do this. Jim kept telling me I was doing a great job, that I was an awesome woman.... just what I needed to hear. He pulled me for several miles and kept stroking my bent ego until I felt better. He stopped to fuel himself and I rolled on with renewed energy and optimism. Jim, you saved my race, seriously. You gave me my 'eye of the tiger ' back, thank you. I rolled into town about 3:15pm, way off my 2:30pm projected time. Freakin' wind! I felt destroyed for a moment, I would probably NOT meet my 11pm goal. Do I quit here? Who would blame me? That wind was hell! Could I possibly endure more of it? Possibly another 100 miles of it?
Hell YES! I could. I regrouped, refocused, changed my bibs out and put on my best finisher's smile. Wind or no wind, goal or no goal, I was gonna finish what I started. Dirty Kanza would not beat me.
My hubby looked comfy in a chair, half dressed, deciding his race was over and drinking a Pabst. I gave him "the look" and tried to convince him he should come back out with me. "Ya know you wanna". It was easier than I thought or the beers were talking for him. Either way, he was getting ready to roll out with me. As luck would have it, Sheldon from Team Orange Lederhosen was ready to fly the checkpoint also. Party of three, two dudes and one chica, would be facing the wind, together.
Leg 3 Cassoday to Cottonwood Falls 50 miles
The three of us worked together and managed to reach 12.5mph in the headwind. Along the way I tried to build our man train by inviting others to hop on, but no one hung on for very long. This leg was the hardest for me. I nearly choked to death while swallowing a June bug, the cleat under my right foot shifted, and to top it off I was having a helluva time getting into my big ring. Jim, Sheldon, and myself had our own "beat the sun" race to this check point. We didn't grab our lights at the last stop, bad move?
At mile 138, Den Creek, there was NO marker. Jim said "remember you are in Kansas, stop and check the map". Good thing we did. We would have gone the wrong way. Three fellas we were riding with had gone that way. They didn't hear us yelling. Shit! With no legs to go after them, Jim was able to convince a farmer to catch them in his truck and inform them of their error. Those fellas were super grateful they got turned around. The wind was still whipping us but we made good time and rolled into the last checkpoint at 8:20pm. We beat the darkness! All three of us where high on adrenaline and excited to get back out there. Lights were placed, Emma refueled us, and potty breaks were taken. This was my longest pit stop at 15 minutes. Just fifty miles to go! Finish line here we come!
Leg Four Cottonwood Falls back to Emporia 50 miles
I lost use of my big ring entirely on this last leg. No dice. I would need to spin my itty bitty 26 ring to the finish. Insert superior state of mind and motor on, I still got this! On this final leg we met Bryan from CO. The headlamp he had chosen for the Kansas darkness was not doing him any favors. He couldn't see. The hubby and I had our Serfas TSL-1500 headlights on so we had lots of light to share. Bryan asked if he could hang with us to the end, of course he could, there was never a question. The more the merrier.
Pedal, spin, and pedal, spin some more.
|Just a little excited! ( Eric Benjamin)|
The four of were together until our finish at 1:35am. Kristi gave me the hug I had been waiting for all day and rode 201 miles for, it was awesome. Eric Benjamin, the Adventure Monkey, took my picture and some of my friends were there to see my finish. What more can a girl ask for? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
|Glasses and stickers in hand!|
In retrospect, my ride went exactly as it should have gone. I needed to meet Jim D and be present when Bryan needed help to see. Karma baby!
At the 7am awards ceremony - which comes quickly when you get to bed at 3:30am- I met Selene Yeager, she nabbed 3rd Open Women. ( stay tuned for a review on her book "Get Fast" in a training post to follow)
Bryan stopped by to shake my hand and thank me once again for letting him tagalong. No problem. I found out that Emily rode to a 7th place finish and my teammate Zoll finished around 11:30pm. He completed the first hundo fixed and flipped to ss for the following 100. Team Noah's Peat Henry took 1st in the ss category, So proud of you Peat!
Congrats to everyone who finished, that ride was no joke! Kudos to everyone who tuffed it out. High fives to those of you who overcame obstacles, whatever they were. If you did not finish.... give it a go next year. If you are on the fence about doing this race, put it on your bucket list, you owe it to yourself.
A HUGE thank you to Kristi and Tim Mohn and Jim Cummings for growing the gravel and making this one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you to the town of Emporia for hosting this craziness and embracing us as your own for a few days. Thank you to the photog's who spent countless hours shooting photos of cyclists. Thanks for recording my memories. Thank you to my support crew Emma, I love you and couldn't have done it without you. Thanks you to whomever will be picking up all those wrappers, tubes, and bottles that rocketed. Kansas is a beautiful place and should remain that way.
|You can eat anything the day after you ride 200 miles|
Out of 631 riders only 331 finished. I was #295, I'll take it!
Check back in a few days for my next few posts about bike set-up, nutrition, gear, plus anything else I may have forgotten.
Thanks for reading,