Distance makes the heart grow fonder. So I’m told, anywho. By that logic, one would assume that a greater distance makes for greater fondness. Conveniently Dirty Kanza is billed as 200 miles, but actually clocks in around 206, so that’s an enormous distance for the heart to warm up to the realm of general fondness.
One might assume that crossing the line in first last year, is sunshine and rainbows, but I remember finishing the race and really being in so much anguish that I had literally no interest to come back. Which, of course, is really awkward when there’s a microphone thrust in your face and you’re asked, “So Ted, congrats on the win! Are you excited to come back to defend in 2017?”
To the bike racers out there, you know that feeling when you’re doing a threshold test or are in a cyclocross race or a time trial and you hate it, you hate it, you hate it right up until the very second you cross the finish line and all of a sudden like a soft warm hug of relief, you think, “That wasn’t so bad. I bet I could do it even faster next time. I can’t wait to do it again!”
…well that didn’t happen last year. I was finished, I was exhausted, I was destroyed, I was empty. It took me a little more than two weeks last year for the pain to subside and leap the mental hurdle to acknowledge that I would actually like to come back.
Fast-foward to Saturday and the twelfth running of Dirty Kanza. Yup, not only did I convince myself to come back, but I actually followed through with it. I can’t really preach the message enough; the atmosphere at Dirty Kanza is something unlike I’ve ever experienced and that’s entirely flattering praise. When the race sets off at 6am, the streets are already overflowing. There are people lining the roads for miles, and the entire day is like an ever increasing level of excitement. When you cross the line, you’re entering the circus. There’s a party unfolding on downtown Emporia that is so damn cool you can really only experience it firsthand to know what I mean.
I crossed the line in 7th place this year and despite notching a pretty high suffer ranking on the rather ambiguous TK SufferSkale (I scored an 11), I knew the second I crossed the line that I wanted to come back.
Dirty Kanza is an experience. You’re there to see friends, you’re there for the post race festival, you’re there for the support crew that you’ve cobbled together, you’re there for the parade of bikes — lest we forget every bike is different at a race like this. Cross bikes, fat bikes, single speed bikes, Cannondale Slate bikes, full suspension bikes, heck, even bikes with aerobars. Hideous, but seemingly effective. No bike is perfect, but every bike is good for the job — you’re there to race your bike or ride your bikes, you’re there for one of a thousand reasons or one thousand of one thousand reasons. Dirty Kanza is awesome.
For a little bit of race tactical insight as well as cycling nerdery, I’ll conclude with this. Much like a Belgian kermess, the race starts with 2200 some-odd people (okay okay, 2200 in the entire race, some are doing the 50 mile, some are doing the 100 miles, and the lion’s share are doing the full two-hundo), and it’s an ever decreasing number throughout the day. The lead group of 2200 quickly whittles to 100 after a half hour, then to 50, 40, 30, 20 after ninety minutes of racing. The ridiculously fast conditions are a result of very dry conditions which result in very sharp rock conditions. I suffered my first flat with a massive gash in the sidewall around 1:15 of the race. I was pleased as punch with my 4 minute change and was hard charging back up to the front. Another flat thirty minutes later was a punch to the gut, but with another 4 minute change I was pleased with my handiwork and back on track. I zoomed through the first time check and with some speedy rotations from various groups I jumped through, I made it back to the front group. I was motivated, suffice it to say I was just a little bit fired up, and I was ready to roll! We were near the menacing Texaco Hill and the attacks started flying. I met the attacks, matched them, and… then got my third flat.
—Linda Guerrette snapped this gem of a photo. She’s great, but nope, she didn’t have a tire lever handy–
Somehow in the flurry of a lightning fast first transition of the first pit stop, I emptied my pockets so that I could fill them with the precise list of maple syrup related items I had waiting for me, and in doing so I emptied the tire lever that I’d used twice already. The tire sealant mixed with the cow poo mixed with a gratuitous amount of sweat and talc-like dust made for a wheel and tire slip’n’slide so I couldn’t for the life of me change my third flat. More than ten minutes later — and thanks to the very generous Jade who stopped to help — and I was once again in hot pursuit.
Commence deeper bike nerd:
I made a race winning attack last year, so to speak, with 6 hours 26 minutes of racing left in the day last year with a normalized power of 274 watts. Again, this is the point I remind you that I finished emptier than a jar of Nutella at the USA Cycling house. This year, the subsequent 6 hours and 26 minutes after my first flat, which is basically the beginning of my time trial race chase, my normalized power was 321w. I was hard charging! Alas, it wasn’t in the cards.
I talked to one guy who had four flats. Another six. Another ten! I talked to a college buddy of mine who’s crank literally fell off. So you know what, I had some bad luck. Luck, good or bad, happens to everyone. Regardless, I’m ready to go back.
Which also goes to explain why there’s an ever growing club of the 1,000 mile club (…which, could be 1,024 mile club). That is, the folks crazy enough to finish five DKs I’m at 400 miles. Let’s see if I’m back in 2018.
And 2019. And 2020…