Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dirty Kanza: Never Give Up Edition

Yay! We made it

Seven years ago I began my journey to become healthy and fit. I topped the scales at 220lbs in 2005. I started by walking my newly born daughter (2006) in a stroller and graduated to a backpack carrier less than a year later in order to take her hiking and overnight backpacking.  My husband introduced me to mountain biking in late 2007. I landed in the ER my very first ride and had to wait four months for a do-over. My first mtb race was a 60 miler in Arkansas in 2008.  Fast forward to 2011 when I leaped straight into crazy and attempted the Dirty Kanza 200, a two hundred mile gravel grinder in Emporia, Kansas.  Mother Nature stopped me at mile 110.  I went back for my revenge in 2012 and finished in 19 hours.

This 2013 DK I felt I was in the best shape of my life and was ready to hit a goal of 17 hours.  I spent countless hours at the gym, added in running and put in MANY miles on the bike.  I treated my body to special juice drinks, limited my beer, and continued my third year of a vegetarian diet.  I rolled on my foam roller daily and used a massaging stick to work the kinks out, I made sure to get plenty of sleep. Melatonin is awesome.  I set myself up for success, I thought of everything, no?


It's an amazing feeling to stand on the start line knowing you did everything within your power to get here.  You feel strong with all that hard work behind you.  All you need now is to have faith you did everything right, you did enough training to get to the finish. It's time for everything to come together. Believe, it's time to pedal and smile.

It felt awesome to be back in Emporia, Kansas.  What a neat town filled with friendly people!  While here I would get a chance to catch up with some girlfriends I made last year.  I would also get another chance at the Dirty Kanza, a beautiful bike ride through the Flint Hills.

All smiles at the start

As race day approached I used the Visualization technique and was able to see myself crossing  the finish line around 11pm.  At 6am Sat, June 1st, nearly 1000 cyclists were going to take off on this challenging ride.  Some of them would be participating in the DK Half-pint, at 100 miles, others would be doing the DK Lite version, chosing 20 or 50 miles.

Ready as I am going to get

I picked a spot on the outside around the 16 hour mark near some friends.  Shortly after thanking my Creator for allowing me to be there, the mass of bikes took off. Turniing the pedals, my first thought was "have I bitten off more than I can chew". Immediately, I kicked the negative committee out of my head and concentrated on my breathing.  The first fifty miles ticked off rather quickly. I rode with some very entertaining people in high spirits. I didn't feel like I was working too hard, the pace was manageable.  Around mile thirty I got to see three wild mustangs frolicking in the field.  Sorry no photo, I was on a mission.  This portion of the ride had small spots of mud, not near as much as I would have expected, to navigate.  No worries, I let the mountain biker in me take over and I was able to ride through most of it.  There was this little creek crossing too. In the deep spot it covered my knees.

Little creek section (photo Brent Windsor)

Making it to Checkpoint ONE at 9:45am, I was elated to be 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  My support crew Emma handed me sunscreen, topped off my bottles and gave me the fuel/food necessary to make it through the next leg.  She had me back on my bike in five minutes.

In this next 49 miles things get a bit tricky.  Myself and the other riders would be fighting an invisible force, the wind.  Mother Nature was making things difficult by delivering this soul sucking wind which had many riders calling it quits.  As the miles ticked off, ever so slowly, it was hard to remain positive.  I knew I was pedaling but felt like I was going nowhere.  I could hear the time clicking off in my head. Tick, tock, tick, tock.  I could not go any faster, I had to accept where I was and what I was able to do.  I swallowed that bitter pill and took in the scenery.  Kansa is a really beautiful place.  The clouds were exceptional, huge white pillows floating in an incredibly blue sky.  We passed several farms with cows so close you could pet them.  I didn't touch them but felt the need to inform them I was a vegetarian in case they had any ideas.  I felt like a speck, so small, in the expanse of Kansas.

Around mile 80 I felt like I was in quicksand and sinking fast. I asked God for help.  I wasn't sure exactly what I needed, maybe chocolate, an attitude adjustment, or to pull over and rest a minute? What is wrong with me?  Negative thoughts were creeping in. Would it really be so awful if I quit?  Within ten minutes of my plea I met Jim D.  He invited me to ride his wheel as long as I needed to get myself together. Happily, he pulled me along the gravel. While he pedaled we got to know eachother.  He was from CO and been riding forever.  He chatted up my ego, started paying me compliments, exactly what I needed.  After several miles Jim pulled over to a tree to refuel himself and encouraged me to keep motorig on.  With my newly acquired "eye of the tiger" I finished this leg at 3:20pm, I was shooting for 2:30pm.  My goal may be shot, do I throw in the towel?

Absolutely NOT!!!  Why would I quit after all the hard work I put into this?  I did not endure a five hour drive to quit. I have 100 miles to go. I would keep pedaling until I crossed the finish line.  I tried to convince my husband, who had already decided he quit, to come back out and fight the wind with me. We make a great team.  I must have given him the right look because he started to get ready and join me. Another guy named Sheldon left with us and made us a party of three.

That speck is me.  (photo Jim Davis)

The wind did not stop, the wind gusts blew me from one side of the road to the other. It was a constant in our faces wind, blowing sideways, never stopping, honestly it was awful.  Around mile 130 there was a question of which way to go, a course marker had been removed or blown away.  While checking the map we noticed three guys pass us taking the incorrect route.  Lucky for them my husband convinced a farmer to chase them down and get them turned around. No one needs to add extra mileage to their already LONG day.

The three of us made it to the final Checkpoint at 8:20pm, still daylight, WHEW!  We had not grabbed our headlights at the last stop, so glad we made it.  When it gets dark in Kansas the lights go out, I mean out!  It is as dark as it gets along these gravel roads, there are no street lights.  On this leg of 50 miles we met Bryan from CO.  He was not prepared for the darkness having chose a small, not very bright headlamp. He asked if he could join us.  Lucky for him, Jim and I had super bright lights, more than enough to share.  We are now a party of four to the finish.

Eric caught this moment perfectly

The four of us crossed the finish line at 1:35am, nineteen hours and 35 minutes of riding. We were ALL smiles, yup me too, even though I missed my goal entirely.

The following morning at our hotel my friend Gretchen, who lives there, was able to stop by for a quick visit. We caught up as best we could and exchanged hugs.  Definitely planning a trip to visit during the summer.  Maybe I can talk her into brewing a special Girls Weekend Brew.

Gretchen and I

I also saw Jim D and was able to tell him THANKS and that I finished because of his help and kind words.

Thanks Jim!

At the awards ceremony Bryan came over, shook my hand and said thank you again for letting him tag along and share our lights.

In retrospect.... My day unfolded exactly how it was supposed to.  If I had quit I would not have met Jim D, helped get those fellas back on course, or been able to share lights with Bryan.  Karma Baby!

Emporia Kansas will be hosting this event in 2014 on May 31st.  I can't think of anywhere else I want to be on that date so I am going back.  Going back after that goal.


NY Times reporter Patrick and me

I met this guy named Patrick Farrell at the riders meeting.  He wanted to follow me around for the day and wirte a story.  I was humbled and honored to have been a part of what he wrote and videotaped.  Dirty Kanza was an amazing weekend!