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.
Emporia to Madison
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.|
Madison to Cottonwood Falls
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.
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".