|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?