Sunday, June 28, 2015

You Can't Ride Kitchen Cabinets

The beginning of 2015 starts just like every year.  My husband and I discuss our plans and goals over adult beverages and find out if we are on the same page.  After discussing bikes and careers we talked about the house, the dreaded house.  We have taken up space in it for 16yrs, over that time eight people have lived in it.  What is downright funny is the fact it was supposed to be a 'transition' place we would stay for  5 years or less.  For one reason or another we have stayed, schools, $$, jobs, or to help someone.  At this time our house could use some TLC.  With active lifestyles we are far too busy to take on projects and honey do lists. However.... since our Summer and Fall activities completely opened up we should be able to tackle some of it. Luckily it's nothing too major, mostly cosmetic things like painting and baseboards.  One of the larger projects would be new kitchen cabinets and we picked April/May to have them done.
I tried to be excited when we went shopping for the cabinets, that became difficult after seeing the disgusting amount of $$ they want to house worn kitchen appliances and Target dishes.  Crazy! Wood shelving that tops the amount I spent on cars.   Ridiculous!  After looking at several different stores and talking to consultants I learned a few things.  First and foremost, definitely don't go cheap,  You get what you pay for.  We need the cabinets to help sell the house when we put it on the market so no junk.  I had to laugh as we left Menards.  I can't believe folks would spend upwards of 20K on kitchen cabinets, I wouldn't do it.   It's not important to me. However, with an extra 20K I would use 35% to pay down some bills and buy myself a bike with the remaining 65%.  See, I'm responsible.

As the months passed our plans change, drastically.  Jim's company was bought out and they were cleaning house and Jim had to have rotator cuff surgery. Shit, we should wait on the cabinets.  That's alright, they aren't that bad.  We've dealt with it for nearly a decade, what's a few more months/years?

March arrived and I turned 46!  I also received a very unexpected gift.  The hubs presented me with a 2016 Salsa Warbird!  I am still over the moon with this bike, it has exceeded my expectations and treated me well at the Dirty Kanza! I see many gravel road explorations in our future.

I am not the only new bike owner at our house. As our Midwest weather started to shape up we saw first hand what had happened to the kids over Winter. Dammit!  Both of the kiddos had grown, a respectable amount and needed new steeds.  After two trips to Momentum Cycles both kids were outfitted with brand spankin' new Trek mountain bikes.  Hopefully they will be able to ride these for at least two years. So far, their bikes have lasted them only one season.

My daughter received her bike last.  As we watched her pedal down the street my husband said, "I hope you realize that this means we probably won't be getting kitchen cabinets anytime soon".  I had to laugh.  Jim knew full well that I did not care about kitchen cabinets. While at Menards  I mentioned it was sad to have to spend that amount of money to have it hang on a wall and hold kitchen crap, spending it on a bike made much more sense to me.

The smiles I have seen in the past two months have been priceless.  We have ridden to parks, to stores, on trails, and around our neighborhood.  One afternoon last week my nephew and I logged ten miles since he wanted to ride "double digits".

There are no regrets here.  I won't hold my breath on the cabinets.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Girl Age 11 Crushes the Dirty Kanza 100

I was just pedaling along, minding my own business, focusing on the task at hand when I saw her.  I wasn't sure if she was a mirage or my eyes were playing tricks on me.  I have been to the Dirty Kanza five times now and have never seen anything like this.  Immediately I am awe struck by the young lady pedaling just ahead of  me. I am at a loss for words but I have to say something, I have to know who she is and how she got to this gravel road.

  It turns out she was real and not a figment of my imagination.  I met her Dad, who was pedaling at the head of their tandem. We exchanged pleasantries, wished each other good luck and we parted ways. I thought of that little girl all day long. When I mentioned seeing her to my husband at the first CP he said "hmmm, what else did you see out there", in a non-believing tone. I couldn't blame him though, it was a bit much to comprehend.  I saw her, I saw her mud encrusted ponytail and the smile she wore was genuine.  She was having the time of her life.  Who is she?

Josie Andre is an 11 yr old girl from Dubuque Iowa.  She will be attending Middle School in the Fall. Her Dad signed them up to ride a tandem in the Dirty Kanza 100, the Half Pint,  this past March. It didn't sound like he had to twist her arm, Josie likes to ride bikes.  She told me that her Mom, Traci Andre, was signed up to the 100 as well. She giggled while telling me that it was her and Dad racing Mom.  Even at her young age her feistiness and independence came through on our phone call.

Below are some thoughts from Josie's day.  She crossed the line at 9:20:51.  She was ranked 7th female out of fifty-two.  Quite impressive!

A special thank you to Josie's parents for letting me interview her and share her story.

Josie mentioned that she had been riding tandem "for a while" and the race was totally her Dad's idea. However, she wanted to do it.

 She had told her class mates she was riding the DK100 before school let out. When I spoke with her she had not told any of her friends of her accomplishment. I wonder what kind of reactions she received. Would they be able to grasp what she actually did?

Josie rocked a Free Flight jersey which was covered in mud most of the day. She assured me that she did not mind wearing the mud.

Josie ate lots of energy chews and guzzled Gatorade while riding co-pilot . At the half way point she ate half of peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some chips.

I asked Josie what she thought about the mud.  She let out an exasperated OhMyGosh and said "that was reeeaaaalllllyyyy tough, really hard".  She didn't mind being muddy. " It was one of the few times I wouldn't get in trouble for being dirty", she said.  Spoken like a true gravel rockstar!

 However, she did  admit that the mud slop was her least favorite part of the race.  She mentioned how difficult it was to walk in mud caked shoes and push the bike. She was delighted when her Dad told her to hop on the bike as they were going to ride parts of it. She was not intimidated by the mud at all. I can't imagine how heavy their tandem was to push/drag/pull, can you?  

Josie's favorite part of the ride was being within one mile from the finish.  I can only guess how she felt completing an event a lot of adults would not even enter much less finish today.  She was part of 676 cyclists that lined up that morning, only 354 saw the finish line.  What a tremendous accomplishment for an 11 yr old girl!

Josie would like to ride the DK100 again, but under her own power with her own two wheels.  Yes, she wants a solo effort under her belt before she attempts the full 200.  After speaking with her I know she has the guts to go after it and the family support to be successful.

One more thought:  As I was putting this piece together my daughter was watching.  She was aware I had talked to Josie and she was interested in what Josie had to say.  Sydney read over my shoulder as I typed and then said "Mom, can I ride the Dirty Kanza with you some day"?  All I could do was smile and say "yes, if you want to".

Thank you Josie for inspiring myself and countless others to go after BIG things!

Go Josie GO! I will see you in 2016!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dirty Kanza 2015 Part Three

  This and then some packed to ride 200 miles

Hello and thank you for returning for part three of my Dirty Kanza 2015 edition. If you missed part one you can find it here and part two is here.  We have reached the end of our journey, and by our journey I mean,  I hope I have been successful and taken you there, to the gravel roads of the Flint Hills and given you an idea of what this feels like to experience it on some level. It is a long story so I appreciate you staying with me until the bitter end and letting me be a little long winded. Ha, wait until next year. THIS is it, the final installment of my account, well maybe. Even after 10 days I am still remembering things that happened. Sadly after completing this writing I will slip into a DK depression. The dreaded 'after' the event that fills my head. It's over.  It's really over.  Damn.

The night before I left for Kansas I talked to my 9 yr old daughter and explained why Mommy was leaving her with Grandma for the weekend.  She knew I was going to ride my bike for a very long time on Saturday and see my friends I haven't seen since last year.  By the end of our conversation she said " I don't care how long it takes you Mom, you are not going to die out there".  Huh, I was not sure what she meant by this but I thought of it often while I was spinning small circles.  No matter what happens I won't die out here, that is comforting. She is wise beyond her years.

Superior Socks

Before leaving CP2 my husband offered to change my socks.  It was a love/hate experience and at first I didn't want any part of it. My shoes were clogged with mud/muck and it was impossible to push the straps to get them off.  Jim was able to loosen them just enough so I could twist my feet out.  I sat on the pavement with my feet dangling and dreading the moment my socks were removed.  I had worn them for the last 15 and 1/2 hours, they had been drug through hell. For all I know they might be attached to me permanently.  My feet were absolutely shredded, I could feel it.  I winced as he carefully removed my socks and took my feet gently into a soft, dry towel to wipe them off.  It was painful and sweet wrapped into one.  Sitting on the ground I remember shivering uncontrollably and wanting to crawl up in someone's car wrapped in a blanket and crank the heat. I desperately wanted to get warm.  Deep down I knew it was a bad idea, once you get comfortable it is hard to get uncomfortable again.  I needed to stay uncomfortable for just a while longer.  Jim ripped the tag off some brand spankin' new superior socks and placed them on my shriveled feet.  I was numb as I wiggled my feet back into my mud slippers, tightened them down and hopped on the bike.

I have to say that my support crew was amazing.  People I didn't know jumped in to help me, the encouragement was top notch and much appreciated. It's awesome to hear so many people pulling for you to get it done.   Heading out into the darkness I couldn't wait to see all those folks at the finish line, if they were still awake that is.

I can taste it but it's still so far away.
 I know this 43 miles is going to take me a while.  I've had the opportunity to ride this piece three times previously. I recall four hills and figure there would be mud, there had to be, it was everywhere. The wind had not died down any either.  I was glad to have arm warmers as the sun went down.  As long as I kept moving I should stay warm. I couldn't believe how cold I was and wondered if I would ever be warm again, my bones were shivering.  When the end is in sight  it is not the time to be stupid or do anything stupid. Continue to ride cautiously in water and mud and pick a good line on downhills. Keep the gravel crunching.  Pushing through pain, the weather, obstacles, etc... each small triumph adds to the huge reward at the end. Finishing is also a conflicting state of emotions for me.  I wanted this to be over with and I didn't want it to end in the same breath.


Leg Three
Cottonwood Falls to Emporia
43 miles 

Leaving that second CP was a definite high point in my day. Having only two checkpoints placed so far apart made for a lonely day for me.  I prefer seeing my peeps every 50 miles, approximately 3-5 hours ride time depending on conditions.   Having been alone for most of the day I am getting tired of hearing my own voice.  I can't sing but that doesn't stop me for belting a lyric out every once in a while to break up the monotony. This point in the game I know I can complete this. Wild horses can't stop me.  Keep my head together and keep pedaling, it's that simple.  I feel a little foggy finishing off the last of the pickle juice/water mix. Taking some extra SportLegs  I hoped for the best. If my legs cramp I will walk.  My stomach was growling, I was so hungry.  I was at that "I want to eat but I can't yet" stage.  The liquid calories, CarboRocket, was giving me what I need to keep pedaling. I ate a piece of  peppermint Extra gum and immediately felt better.  Someone told me that peppermint soothes your stomach, I haven't researched it but I would agree, it worked for me.

Having had two cataract surgeries I need ridiculously bright lights in order to see in the dark.  My night vision is not the best and neither is my perception of things in the dark.  I had planned on using one light on my helmet and one light on my bars. I have two Serfas True 1500 headlights.   Most likely the light on my helmet would be all I would need but I didn't want to take any chances.  Jim attached my bar light earlier in the ride so  I asked for the helmet light at CP2.  He said he gave it away to a friend who needed it and that I would be fine with the setup I had.  Liar.  I was miffed for about 3 seconds, there was nothing I could do about this. And no helmet mount?  No way, seriously? All I could do was roll my eyes.  In retrospect I realize that this is actually my fault, I did not discuss my lighting expectations with him. I can say that this will never happen again.  It can't.  By the end of this ride I had a headache and my eyes hurt from following the bouncing light jumping across the gravel.  The light itself shifted back and forth at times.  I had to hold it down on downhills because it would bounce up. While I was on the flats I had zero complaints.

Even Christine's Mom approved of this tat.  

I met Christine from Pennsylvania on this section.  She informed me that she has known Jim Cummin's longer than I and he is the reason she and her team are here.  She rides for The Cycle Fitters, their jersey is super bright and has a DK logo on the front, She told me that the jerseys were made special for the event.  Christine and I had lots of things in common, bikes, gravel, and tattoo's!  See photo above.   Pretty cool huh?  I'd like one myself, maybe someday, but not on my arm, I still have some ankle room free.  Christine and her boys are very entertaining so I want to stay with them as along as possible this evening.  I do not want to be alone, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere in Kansas.  Can you blame me?

Jim and Christine after she finishes a few minutes ahead of me
We exchanged small talk and I let Christine and her crew pull ahead.  I did't want to infringe on their ride, they have been together all day.  I settled in behind them, keeping their red blinky lights in sight and then reeling them in.  Let the lights go, catch the red lights, repeat.  It was a game that kept me pedaling forward.  I had no concept of time, time didn't matter.  I was confident that at some point my misery would be over and I would cross the finish line.  It was just a matter of time.  Honestly, that time can't come quick enough when you are freezing, hungry, tired, wet, sore, and almost done.  The most ridiculous thing to say to me right now would be that I am almost done. I am hours from almost done.

Darkness sets in and I am trying to be patient with my bar mounted light.  I don't want to waste any precious energy getting pissed off but I'm not going to lie, I am pissed off. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I'm probably just hangry, I still haven't been able to eat solid food.  I have chewed on it but have not been able to swallow it. The last time I tried my gag reflex got a hold of me and I had to explain to a cyclist why I was spitting rice at him.  Good thing that CarboRocket stuff does what it says it does or I would be in serious trouble.

About 20 miles from the finish I see this fella I have been yo-yoing all day long.  He tells me I look familiar.  Yea, sure I do, out here in Kansas on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere.  Then he says "didn't the NY Times run a piece on you back in 2013"?  I look over at him and realize it's James Gross, we rode a lot of DK '13 together.  From the looks of things we were going to finish this one together, how cool is that?  We catch up on the last two years and before we know it we see those wonderful bright spotlights welcoming us to town.  We are both stoked to be almost done and smiling from ear to ear.  We see bike lights behind us and are determined not to let anyone pass us.  We aren't giving 'it' up now, get me? No one will pass us, we are on fire, we are unstoppable, we are doing this!

We hit the road section to town and a car, that could have motored through, stops in order to allow us to keep rolling. Whoot!  Then we get the GREEN light to head through campus and finish this thing. My heart is filled with crazy joy as I thank God for watching over me and helping me complete this. There were plenty of times I could have bit it and been done for the day. One particular downhill in the dark still has me perplexed as to how I did not eat shit. The fella behind me said "nice save", even he didn't know how I recovered it. There were several situations I saw happen to others, such as the guy about 15 miles from the finish snap his chain going downhill.  He was directly in front of me and I tapped him when we landed at the bottom. That situation could have happened to me just as easily as it happened to him.  I believe a little luck may have been on my side.

I made sure my bracelet was covered

That is my "I'm afraid I am going to drop this glass" look

As we pass over the finish line it's the most exciting 10 seconds of my day and then it's over.  I am utterly freezing, covered from head to toe in mud, sweat, tears and cow shit.  Funny thing is, I couldn't be happier.  My husband gives me a huge hug and tells me he is very proud of me.  That was all I needed to hear at the end of this epic ride, I accomplished my goal.  I finished. Ryan is at the finish too, his day did not go as well as mine.  It was so nice to have people there waiting for me, it really means a lot after you have been fighting all day to get there, plus it's 1:15 am.  Jim handed me his Patagonia coat and takes my bike off to be rinsed.  The ProGold Lubricants  fella was there barking out how to use his product.  " Wet it down, scrub it in. Let it sit for a few minutes before you rinse it off folks, don't forget the bike shine", or something to that effect.  I am glad my steed was going to get clean before being put back in the car, otherwise I was going to have to ride it back to Angela's house.  While Jim is hosing off the magnificent Warbird  I spy some Lays potato chips and cheese tidbits on a table. I don't know who they belong to or how long they have been there, nor did I care.  Like a hungry beggar I saunter over to the table to have the nicest lady in the world ask me, "Do you need a plate hun"?   Bless you wonderful woman.  I am so hungry right now I could pass out.  Hungry and cold I nibbled on those cheese bites and then wobbled back to the car.

Thanks for waiting for me at the finish Jason. 

Exhausted and excited are a weird balance but it works for me.  On the drive back to Angelas I told my husband that I gave it everything I had, I really pedaled as fast as I could.  I climbed every hill I could, and really did my best. I confided to him that my body has never hurt so much in my entire life, every muscle was screaming at me, hair on my head throbbed, my teeth hurt.  I loved it!  I deserved every twinge of discomfort I was experiencing. I earned the burning in my legs and feet, the empty pain in my lower back, the numbness in my arms and hands, and the feeling of being on top of the world.

I was very nervous undressing for my much deserved shower.  Last year a leech fell off me, he was dead, ewwww.  I look down into my bibs and see a paste like concoction and freak out.  It's all over my chamois and it does not resemble butt'r.  I immediately think I had "an accident" and probably just didn't feel it, totally gross. I'm disgusted as I spin around to look in the mirror, thinking "please say it isn't so", and it wasn't, I was good.   The "accident" is actually a cement like substance that I sat on all day and it pushed into my shorts.  Breathing a sigh of relief I tell Jim what happened, he laughs, tells me to be quiet and to go take a shower.

Jim falls asleep before me. I can't imagine the day he has been through, waiting on me all day and probably some worrying in there too. As I lay in bed my body is throbbing, everywhere. My skin is on fire.  My feet resemble hamburger. It's all worth it.  Add in that I feel awesome and unstoppable!    It's kind of a weird euphoria, dancing throughout my body.  All for this.....

Expedition: a journey or voyage taken by a group of people with a particular purpose, especially that of exploration, scientific research, or war.

First beer!
I won this sweet saddle at the awards assembly!

The new date is set for the 2016 Dirty Kanza.  The race falls on my husbands 48th Birthday and our 17yr Wedding Anniversary.  Having completed four DK200's I would like to go back and complete number five and earn that Gravel Goblet. So far only men own them. Come on girls!  I wonder what Jim will say about this, will he want to go to  Kansas again?  I was going to tell him that for 17th Wedding Anniversary's it is customary in the gravel cycling world to let your spouse do the Dirty Kanza.  In return I will let him do the ride also.  Sound like a deal?

Keep the gravel crunching,

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dirty Kanza 2015 Part Two

My husband tells me of a conversation he had with my Mom last week, it went like this:

Jim: Ann, you should get some glasses like Wendy has.
Ann: What kind of glasses are they?
Jim: They are sunglasses, rose colored.  That must be why she is so damn happy all the time.  Put those on and just go about your day

I chuckled when he told me this.  My shades are Serfas sunglasses with rose colored lenses. They don't have any magic in them, or do they? Either way,  I made sure they were in their special box and packed on top just in case.  They came in handy on the way out of MO, as it rained I put them on. It was the only way to keep smiling.

I woke up race day with a brick in my belly.  I had zero appetite and my stomach was in knots.  Check, that is how I feel every time I come here. Every. Single. Time.  Nerves.  I went to sleep very restless and feeling like I had a spotlight on me.  Seeing my face all over Emporia was kind of creepy, and having my photo taken by people I don't know was a new experience.  I kept reminding myself to suck in my stomach and not put my hands/fingers anywhere near my nose.  I am not used to getting so much attention and it fed my nerves.  I really have to finish now, people are watching me.  I don't want to disappoint anyone, I don't want to fail.

After the 4am wake up we enter downtown Emporia within 30 minutes.  It's misting rain and chilly. Coldest DK yet.  The weatherman says no rain for the day and the temps will be very mild for the end of May.  It was in the low 50's now and not expected to get out of the 60's.  It was going to be a gloomy, cloudy, muddy, and difficult day. What have I gotten myself into?  While assembling my gear Jim asks if I want to put on my rain jacket to keep warm.  He opens the small bag and  remarks, "oh shit babe, you packed your pants".  Seriously?  I am about to freak out when I whip around to see him smiling.  My heart is straight up beating out of my chest and he is smiling holding up my jacket and says "fooled ya".  For a split second I thought of laying him out right there, in the darkness only a few would see it.  Then I gain control and remember that this is the man who took two hours out of his evening on Thursday to get my Warbird ready, cleaning every single spoke, attaching my bags, cleaning the chain several times.  I realize I can't hurt him, I need him to follow me around Kansas today.  Jim knows he got a pass.

I have a short chat with myself before heading to the start line.  Most days I ride my bike for fun or as a stress reliever.  Today would be different, today would not be all fun. I remind myself that today may be painful at times but it will eventually pass.  There will be fun parts to ride and not so fun parts to walk.  I need to do what I do what I need to in order to get past it. Today I will pay attention to myself and what I am doing to keep moving toward the finish.  I am not fast, I will not podium, but I do have endurance. I will get it done in my own time. There are plenty of women who are better/faster than I am.  I don't even worry about them.  The only person I am competing with today is myself.  As long as the Warbird is still rolling and I make the cutoffs I will keep moving forward and I will finish.  Simple.  It's as easy as that, right?

My butterflies have butterflies 

I am very excited to ride my 2016  Salsa Warbird, my hubby gifted him to me in March on my 46th birthday.  I was very pleased with it's original set up, right down to the tires and will be running it stock.  I did add another layer of bar tape, I like my hands to be comfy.  I only had room for two bottle cages.  Since my frame size is a 53 I could not use the third bottle cage under the frame since the holes were drilled incorrectly.  I couldn't even fit my smallest water bottle in it.  In the end I was alright with that.  I probably wouldn't have gotten to utilize it since it would be mostly covered in mud and cow poo.  I added two Revelate Designs mountain feed bags and one RD top tube bag.  I will carry a small camelbak of water because I HAVE to, I freak out if I don't have water.  Plus, not knowing the exact Water Oasis set up I don't want to stand in line waiting for water as the clock is ticking away.

For the past four years I have lined up on the left side of the street so felt no need to change that now.  I went to the 15-16 hour spot, even though I dropped my goal time last night.  Finishing was my new goal.  From what the rumor mill had put out this may be the most difficult Dirty Kanza yet.  I knew it was going to take quite the effort, mentally and physically.  I hope I have enough of both to get me to the end.

Leg One:
Emporia to Madison 
 77.2 miles

The start of the race has me riding next to fellow Chamois Butt'r teammate and friend Ryan Dudley.  You may recognize this name as the mastermind of Maises Pride, yes, he is.  Ryan is quite entertaining and thinks highly of me, he often refers to me as a legend, I laugh every time.  Ryan will be fun to pass the miles with. He tells me he wants to stay with me as long as possible since our goals are similar.  Our pace starts out pretty casual, when just 0.04 miles in we are halted by a train.  I have to laugh as this is just one obstacle to get through the next 201 miles.

Even with the unexpected train stop everyone seems to be in good spirits and is chatting away. I am pleasantly amused to be counting road kill.  My husband and I have an armadillo counting game when we travel.  I get to yell out "armadillo" about three times and then I yell "Fish"!  I think it was a carp of all things laying in the middle of the road.  That's a first for me on a gravel ride.  It's very early in the ride and I already think I am seeing things.  I roll up next to a beautiful young girl on the back of a tandem, her pony tail already speckled with mud.  What? I want to reach out and touch her and make sure.  She is real, she is pedaling and smiling, just like me.  Am I really seeing this?  Her Dad and I exchange a few words and he says " as long as the gravel is crunching that means we are moving forward".  That sounds very familiar to me but I just can't place it, LOL (Go here ..... skip to 2:24)  I found out the following day that she and her Dad, Lance Andre, crushed the DK100.  (Stay tuned for more to come on Josie and her DK100 experience)

Eric Benjamin captured it nicely in this photo.

Riders start to yell "slowing" and I look ahead to see we are hitting the beginning of the mud slog.  It's crazy sticky, peanut butter mud.  I ride through some of it and then remember not to burn a match here.  This mud bath continues on for about four miles.  I repeat in my head "walk when you have to", walking is okay.  Negativity sets in at this time for some, correction, a LOT of people. As I hear curse words and watch a guy throw his bike I think of myself as rubber, let the negativity bounce off. I can't get sucked into this, I can't let it drag me down.  I did lose one shoe stomping through and was very thankful I was able to retrieve it before it filled up with mud.  For the most part I kept my comments to myself and concentrated on moving forward. I can't imagine what I look like as I glance at other riders. A few of them had fallen into the mud and were covered head to toe.  If there was an overhead view I bet we looked like ants heading to an ant hill or maybe we resembled a death march better.  Dragging mud caked bikes while wearing muddy slippers we must have looked a sight.  I tried not to think about what substance I was actually walking through and made a mental note to keep my gloves away from my mouth. If I had to guess I imagine this section took me about 90 minutes, give or take.  I did not have my Garmin or phone on this leg having forgotten both of them at the car.  I passed several broken people and others with broken bikes.  With 185 miles to go I put on my glasses, my rose colored glasses. They were not necessary as it was cold, windy, and cloudy with absolutely no sun. When I could finally pedal I did, and a huge smile crept over my face.

Most Valuable Player

As I rode away I was glad to have made it out of the mud alive.  There was one point during the mud that I felt unsafe, very unsafe.  It was when other riders noticed that I had a spatula.  I feared getting"rolled" for it.  Cyclists were frantically looking for sticks, for your information, there were none to be found.  A huge thanks to Angela for the spatula tip, it worked perfectly and was only $1.99!  It was also helpful that my Warbird has good clearance and disc brakes, oh and fabulous pedals.  The mud was easy to clean off and I was able to get rolling quickly.

Following the epic mud pit was several short sections of mud, some rideable some not, and a few water crossings, again some rideable, some not.  I rode through each obstacle cautiously as I had seen several accidents and much bike carnage already.  Having no idea of the time I focused on mileage and kept in contact with my cue sheets.  I yo-yoed with riders and had no one to ride with  most of this entire leg.  The water oasis was 32 miles in, it seemed like forever to get to.  When I did arrive there were at least 40 cyclists stopped and lined up, bikes scattered.  I took the opportunity to pee between two vehicles, finally having a little privacy.  As the day went on I would care less about privacy.  Not standing in the water line saved me at least 20 minutes and I was able to ride with a couple of girls I know from MO. Teresa and Chris.  I asked them if they hated me, I knew I  was the reason Teresa was there.  I breathed a sigh of relief when they collectively said no.  Teresa thanked me for my advice and said " Thank you, even though I don't know yet if I will cross the finish line".  We rode together for about an hour, the longest I will spend with anyone until the finish. (Just so you know, they finished around the 20 hour mark)

I rolled into CP1 to find it was 1:15pm. Whew, made it by 45 minutes.  My original goal was to be there around 11:30ma or noon.  I am glad I didn't have any concept of time, it might have let me beat myself up which would have accomplished nothing.  Jim takes off with my bike and three, I think three, other people jump in to help me.  One fills my camelbak bladder, another does my bottles and fuel, and someone I don't even know hands me a tube of Her butt'r.  Bless you girl, the next 81 miles are not going to be easy and I need to reapply.  The Butt'r will make it better though.  Jim had taken my bike to the Sram tent where a mechanic worked his magic and I was shifting musically through my gears again.  The sound of rocks and gravel crunching had scared me when I shifted.  I saw so many folks pushing bikes with broken chains and shredded derailleurs and  I didn't want to join them.  Within minutes I am butt'r-ed and smothered with highs fives and back in the saddle.

Feeling a little feisty. 

Leg Two:
Madison to Cottonwood Falls
82 miles

 Eighty-two miles before I will see Jim again.  I have until 10pm to get there.  Not knowing what is ahead of me I hope I can make it.  I know there are several more water crossings, some short stretches o f mud, and "The Bitch", an affectionately named climb placed right around mile 102. When I reach the bitch I gave it a go and then decided to let it go, I let that hill win because I had my eyes on the bigger prize.  I could give two shits right now if I had ridden that hill or not.  I had been battling leg cramps all day, luckily nothing too severe and a walk worked them out. Damn!  I forgot to take a swig of pickle juice before I left. Oh well, walking will give my legs a break and also wakes my feet up if they are numb.

TDL Photography Jason Ebberts  "The Bitch"

The wind was relentless and many lost their fight in it.  The headwind was about 20mph, gusting to 30mph.  One gust scooped me up off my saddle and placed me back down firmly on it.  That was not very nice and totally unnecessary, only adding to the small twinges of ache my body was feeling.  My shoulders were sore, my hands hurt, my feet felt raw, and I was cold.  Remind me why I am here? What kind of person pays to be treated this way?  What kind of person pushes their body to it's limits and then some?  Why be uncomfortable for so many hours?

Because you can.

While riding this leg I see many riders riding towards me, made me more nervous what might lie ahead.  I see my friend Travis, he looks right through me not even acknowledging me.  I see a guy pushing his bike and ask him if he is okay.  He does not make eye contact, he has tears flowing, he is fine but "has nothing left".  It's hard to keep pedaling past these broken souls.  (At the race end I realize they were cutting the course to get to their support people)

The water oasis is placed about half way through and when I get to it I know I can't stop.  I can't stand in line for 30 minutes or more and reach the cutoff in time, I don't have any time to waste.  I rode with a guy in a yellow jacket for about 30 minutes who asked me if I planned on finishing. He said "you are really going to have to pick up the pace to meet the cutoff, I won't make it".  When he said that I knew I had to put as much distance as I could between me and him.  I was going to make it!  I had to make it!  I picked up my pace and furiously pedaled through the mud stretches and water crossings when I could.  This is where things get a little fuzzy.  I hadn't been able to eat any solid food all day. Fortunately, I am able to keep pedaling due to the heavy formula of CarboRocket in my bottles.  I put 444 calories in each bottle.  They were easy to drink and  helped wash down the mud speckled gummy worms that fell out of their packaging.  Did I eat them? Yes, and I am lucky.  Several of my friends got very sick after this race and had to seek medical attention.

I Lie to myself to get through the tough stuff

I tell myself I feel good, I look good.  I can do this! and then, out of nowhere I hit a wall.  A wall of running completely out of water smacks me immediately into reality.  I should have stopped for water and taken a chance?  Prob not.  I drag myself around for nearly two hours not seeing another soul.  I start to look for other water alternatives, even stopping once to gaze longingly into a puddle. Should I chance it?  No, I didn't.  I went to some very dark places in my mind... which is another blog in itself if I ever share it, very dark stuff.  Several times I hop off my bike to quit, I was going to quit in the middle of nowhere.  My mind would grab a hold of me and shout "Shut up and get back on".  Strange things happened, I hopped back in the saddle every time.  I thought of my son, a bilateral amputee below the knees... he doesn't have a choice to give up or quit any part of his day, who the hell was I to quit?  Next I thought of my sister, a heroin addict, she wakes up everyday a slave to drugs and absolutely no life or prospects for it.  Heroin has chipped away at her life to the point she has lost everything, including her son. I think of those who couldn't be here for one reason or another, those who are still fighting behind me.  As my own muscles ache, my head throbs, my feet scream and my eyes hurt I think of my daughter and husband.  Every time I am able to hop back on the Warbird.

I know what it's like to be afraid of my own mind

Every pedal stroke I wonder how much longer I can keep this up. How much further am I going to go before I fall off and turn into a raisin. Then, out of nowhere..... this guy named Jim rolls up next to me.  I must look awful as he asks me if I need anything.  I ask if he can spare water.  He says "sure, I will give you a bottle".  I am deliriously happy and slam on my brakes, I tell him I will give him anything he wants for it.  I have $10 just for this purpose.  Jim laughs and says it no problem and I can have it.  I pour the contents into  my bottle and take a generous swig.  It's so cold I choke on it, it was fabulous.  Jim and I end up picking up a few more riders and finishing at CP2 with them.  The water he gave me is laced with pickle juice and I start to feel like a normal crazy person again. Maybe I can come out of this after all.   The Warbird is still rolling and performing flawlessly.  He has only dropped the chain once, I have no idea why.

Carb loading

We roll into CP2 at 9:15 pm, 45 minutes ahead of the 10 pm cut off.  I immediately knew I made the correct choice of bypassing the water, even if it was quite painful to dehydrate. I think the only thing that saved me was the fact I was taking SportLegs.  My husband attends to my bike while the girls fill everything.  Me, with nothing to do, takes off to pee and drink a quick Pabst.  I believe the extra carbs will do me well right now and it's cold and delicious.  Within minutes I am back on the bike, a fresh Pabst in my mountain feed bag should I have a long walk and need it.  My husband takes a video as I leave town. Truthfully, I barely remember what he asked or what I said.  I was worried because he was running and since having surgery he should not have been running yet. (I wanted to share the video but Blogger refused to upload it)

As I leave CP2 I have new socks and a good attitude.  THE Bobby Wintle gave me a push down the cobblestone to get me going. His smile and infectious personality gave me a smile that wouldn't quit as I pedaled out.  I tell myself,  "Just keep it nice and steady.  You aren't done yet".

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dirty Kanza 2015 Part One

Yarn bike says it all.  Damn Crazy.

I was anxious and began fiddling with my new bicycle necklace. My friend Amy and her daughter presented me with it a couple of days prior telling me that they had seen it while shopping and immediately thought of me and purchased it.  She added that she believed in me and that she knew I could complete the grueling 200 mile gravel ride.  She gave me a quick hug and was off to her workday. I took a deep breath and sighed.  I was off to a daunting task of packing, checking lists, and frantically shopping for what else I needed before leaving. Having busted my helmet added another frantic moment.  Thankfully, Momentum Cycles came to my rescue and was able to get me one on the fly.

The drive to Kansas takes nearly six hours. It's times like this I wish we had a small plane.  My head started spinning before we left our neighborhood. Did I remember everything?  My stomach was in knots and my butterflies had butterflies. Hell, the butterflies had ball bats and were swinging them, you get the idea.  Not a good feeling to experience while my husband Nascars us to Emporia. Jim is a brave soul having signed on as my support crew back in January.  The original plan was to support me at the Dirty Kanza and I return the favor at the Gold Rush the following weekend.  He ended up having rotator cuff surgery in April and was cleared to make the trip to Kansas but has not cleared to ride his bike.  Gold Rush will have to wait.  My 9 yr old daughter was supposed to accompany him also but I nixed that after finding out how far apart the Check Points were and the fact there was only two instead of three.  Disappointed I had to leave her at home, maybe next year.  During the drive my heart felt like it was on a roller coaster.  As each hour passed I grew more excited and nervous.  I was closer to seeing my favorite people and landing where the magic happens in Emporia, Kansas.  At times my heart moved to my throat.  Why do people in Kansas City clearly not know how to drive, especially when it's raining?  I am glad that we made the decision not to use the bike rack.  My Warbird was protected, tucked away in the back seat of the Subaru.  He was currently safe and dry. Where I was taking him.... might be a different story.  The rumors were out and about, this was going to be a muddy Kanza.

Safe and sound Warbird

We arrived around 1:30pm, our earliest arrival time yet.  It's my fifth time here, I'm giddy with the possibilities of an awesome weekend spent with bike-minded peeps.  Jim finds a parking space relatively easy right on the main drag, a short walk from the main event.  He pulls in and parks right in front of a newsstand that features mine and Rebecca's face plastered on the side.  Somebody pinch me, is this for real?  My legs start to buckle as I get out of the car. I resemble an anxious hot mess. Like I could vomit at any moment. Is this how a cover girl feels?

Jason Ebberts took the cover photo at 10:57 last year, it was my best finish to date.  He captured the moment that gives you a small glimpse into my soul after having it ripped out of my nose.  I am humbled that it was chosen for the cover yet anxious of how it will be received.  Yes, I have some haters out there, however I believe my friends outnumber them.   We head over to the tent city of sponsors.  Kristi Mohn sees me and hands me the personalized bag that she and her daughter put together.  I feel like a pro, super special.  The bag is filled with goodies after making the rounds to grab a t-shirt, socks, samples, and a race number. The volunteers are a huge presence at this event.  Green shirts filled with happy, friendly, helpful people. We couldn't do this without them.

 I take a moment to spin the Chamois Butt'r wheel and win a great prize! It's called a Sticky Pod.  When unzipped it opens into a clear zip plastic phone case and the other side is mesh.  You can carry phone, bike tools, money, key, etc.... Score!   I see Jason and he informs me he has a gift that I will need for tomorrow.  He gifts me a landshark float-able to help with the high water crossings.

Sticky Pod fits easily into jersey pocket
Me and my shark

Next stop is the Emporia Arts Council (EAC).  The gallery is filled with the photographers work from last year, amazing images that captured what I saw firsthand. Walking around the bend, through the middle I see myself, hanging right on the wall, the cover shot in all it's glory.  I immediately wish I had $175 to purchase it. I settle for a photo of myself with it.  The EAC had a contest and I was picked to win two DK coffee mugs and a gift certificate to the Sweet Grenada coffee shop. Yay, I love coffee, good coffee.

French Roast is the most popular flavor.

My husband grabbed several copies of this magazine for me.  I am grateful to have something to pass around the old folks home when it's time.  I had fun signing a few too!

There were three meetings to choose from. Back in 2011 there was one meeting and the riders did not come close to filling the theatre, I think there were about 300 of us. We choose the first one at 3pm and found a spot in the front row.  This random fella says "hey, you can come sit with me if you want".  Turns out he is the husband of a girl I met riding last year who affectionately referred to me as The Butt'r Bitch.  I was looking for Michelle to ride with again this year however she is a Mom of four and Mommy duties trump gravel so she wasn't able to attend.  Nice meeting you Chris.
It was a packed house.  I have a big forehead.

Hope they do an IPA next year.

The meeting opened with a memories of Joel Dyke, co-founder of the DK. Wonderful pictures of  Joel appeared on the huge screen.  I did not know Joel as well as some but he is the reason I am here, he is the reason I return.  I sent him an email in 2010 asking him if I could register for his race and if he had any tips for a beginner gravel rider.  I signed up in 2011 remembering his sage advice:  Take each section at a time, don't overwhelm yourself thinking of all the miles you have to cover.  Pick good tires unless you like changing flats.  Keep the rubber side down.  Eat, drink and smile.  Don't forget to look around, Kansas is quite beautiful.  Thanks for the advice and confidence Joel.

The slide show is always amazing. The best shots of last year paired with punk music,  how can you go wrong?  About half way through I see my absolute favorite photo. It's of my husband showing off his guns sporting a huge smile while riding up a hill, yea, he's awesome.  A short pep/nutrition talk   is given by Rebecca and Yuri, from GU.  Reba's words echo in my mind after she says them.  She knows of what she speaks, I take her words to heart.  Jim Cummins closes the meeting with a fingers crossed kind of attitude, the water crossings are waist high and deeper in some areas.  Reroutes may happen.  It's cool.  No one said this was going to be easy.

I signed the Java Cat wall

I am thrilled to be representing for Chamois Butt'r again.  They are a huge sponsor of the DK and a product I use and believe in.  Everyone on the team is welcoming and full of positive vibes when we arrive at Gambino's Pizza for dinner. I am in a room of rockstars.  Many of my teammates have been here before, a couple have five finishes already and will receive the coveted Goblet.  I am surrounded by greatness.  My friend Ben ask me what my plan is.  I say, "It's simple.  Pedal when I can, walk when I have to, eat, drink.  Repeat".  He mentions that I forgot to add 'smile'.  I tell him that I always smile, especially when I'm riding in the Flint Hills.  CB takes great care of it's riders too.  Curt Shelman hands me two tubes of  Her Butt'r and says, "thanks for riding for us, butter up, butter often".

Sheldon!  We finished in 2013 together.

The time passes so quickly, before we know it it's 9pm.  Jim and I are extremely fortunate to have a wonderful place to lay our heads and keep our stuff.  Angela put us up last year when we arrived to find out our hotel had been booked in Emporia Virginia.  She informed me that we should just plan on staying with her again when I signed up.  Thanks Angela!  Really appreciate it!


My head finally hits the pillow about 11:30pm.  I snuggle up next to my husband knowing I won't be able to sleep much, if at all.  He falls asleep relatively quickly and I try to relax while listening to his breathing.  It's not working, my heart is beating like a freight train, my stomach is rolling, I am surprised I do not wake him up.  Yup, it's Dirty Kanza time. Sleep will elude me tonight.  I laid there with a mix of emotions ranging from nervous to excited, and kind of afraid of what challenge lays before me.  It's kind of cool to feel all those emotions at once but sucks when you can't share them with anyone.  I start to play  out my strategy to keep moving forward.  I have chosen a few special peeps to think about. Perhaps their situations will help pull me through when I feel like quitting.

I am not looking forward to the mud.  I do not do mud.  I do not like to ride in mud or get my bike dirty.  Before my husband went to sleep he said " You know it's going to be muddy, you will have to find a way to deal with that".  Yea, I know, but I don't have to like it.  My handsome Warbird has informed me that he  doesn't mind getting muddy, in fact he said he was built especially for the various conditions I would see in the morning and not to worry. All he requests of me is to do my job and he assures me that he will do his.  My job is to keep my attitude superior.  I will deal with whatever comes my way with a superior state of mind. I will keep moving forward, I will keep pedaling no matter how slowly it may be at times.  I will not stop until I get to the finish line.

Tomorrow came too quickly. A 4am wake-up is only fun if you have something fun to do. I'm not sure if I actually slept or not, at this point it doesn't matter. Walking outside I see it's cold and misting rain.  This is going to be epic!

My teammate C-dubs sent me a new bracelet.  The blue one glows in the dark and says Superior Attitude, Superior State of Mind.  The black one is the same one from the cover photo. It says Harden the F@ck up.  Both are reminders for me to give this ride everything I have.  Reminders that pain is temporary, pain will at some point go away.  Not finishing will never go away.  They are reminders to do my best and let myself ride like an animal. They will help me to add a gear when I clearly shouldn't, and kind of give me permission to spit and cuss and maybe not be so lady like.  They also repel negativity causing it to bounce directly back to whomever threw it.  No one is going to run my day but me.  Today is about me and what I need to do to get across the finish line. With three finishes under my belt I know what it takes to complete one of these, but can I do it again?