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,

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