Monday, May 22, 2006

Super-Long Dirty Kanza Post

I didn't think I had much to say on this topic, but I was wrong! Tomorrow I will talk about equipment performance and nutrition.

Dirty Kanza Race Report

I was on the road at 6:20 EDT on Friday. There were some clouds and light rain early, but after I passed Chicago it was bright sky and warm temps. After KC, it was bright sky and freaking *hot* temps. My car thermometer read 104 F! This made me quite nervous, as I have not done many miles in warm weather this year.

Got to the hotel around 7 PM. Met up with Garth Prosser, my roomie for the weekend. We unpacked bikes and gear. Lots of racers were staying at the hotel, including Paddy Humenny. Paddy made me very nervous when he told me he was running 38x17 on his ss. He tends to run a bigger gear that I do, and I was running 36X16! I thought perhaps I would have a long day of overgeared suffering. I didn’t bring any other freewheels, so there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway.

I got a bite to eat (chicken parmesan) and then went back to the room to finish race prep and watch the weather channel. The weatherman said the high would only be near 80F! Excellent! Now most of my nervousness went away; I knew if the weather cooperated I could at least finish this race.

Garth was kind of funny to watch. He is very fast, and has done well at various 100-125 mile races. This was his first 200-mile gravel assault. I gave him a few small tips dealing with food, drop bag, and map placement. This was the first race like this were I got to feel like I knew what I was doing, and I could lend a hand to a less experienced racer. Also, seeing a great rider like Garth all nervous while I felt pretty calm was a strange but good feeling.

Slept pretty good Friday night. Got up, ate some bagel and Hammer Nutrition Bar for breakfast. Had a nice cup of grounds, er, coffee (thanks, Garth!) and wheeled the bike out for the start. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits

The race got off to a very fast start. I think we warmed up for about 15 minutes and then the pace picked up. Garth and Dan Hughes were strong from the get-go, and pulled away some time before Mile 25.

A group of four or five, which included me, Paddy, a geared MTB rider and a couple cross bikes hung together for a while. Between Mile 30 and Mile 36 we must have averaged 20 MPH. We were flying—it was all I could do to keep up. I knew I was going much too hard, but I sensed that this was ‘make it or break it’ time. I knew I wanted to stay with Paddy, as I figured him to be the strongest SS’er in the race. I also noticed that there was nobody else around; we had left the pack far, far behind. So, I decided to spend the energy now and hope for the best later.

Somewhere around Mile 50 I went down pretty hard. We were crossing a bridge on a section of low-maintenance road when my front wheel washed out. I landed on my right hip, tore a nice hole in my shorts and picked up some nice road rash with a sprinkle of gravel on top. Abrasive grit got in my gloves and (shudder!) in my shorts. I was sore, but the bike was in fine shape, so I soldiered on.

Shortly after the crash, the course turned southeast and into the wind a bit. Paddy was looking strong, and he started to pull away. I decided to let him go; I was feeling a bit tired and we still had 140ish miles to go. He got about 200 yards ahead of me and pulled over to the side of the road. As I passed him, he said he had a flat. I told him I would see him in a bit when he caught me.

This was about the highpoint of the race for me. I was sitting first in SS, and about 4th or 5th overall. Paddy and I had decided that the rest of the singlespeeders were undergeared, so I didn’t think that that I would get caught. I was hopeful of a Top 5 overall finish.

Just after Elmdale at around Mile 80, the course ran along a major highway for a while. Thinking that this is where I could increase the gap over the undergeared riders, I put my head down and hammered. I must have put my head down just a bit too far, as I blew by the turnoff for Cottonwood Falls and the midway checkpoint. I went about 3 miles too far, pushing super hard with a tail wind. I sensed something was wrong—nobody would keep a MTB race on a highway for this long. I check the map and turned around. Now I am pushing a slight uphill into a headwind. I see another rider coming towards me. He thinks he is going in the right direction. We consult maps, look at a compass, scratch our heads. He thinks he has it figured out, and heads off. I notice that I have a flat tire! Grrr, get out the tools and fix the fat after pulling a small thorn out of the tire. I take another look at the map and decide that the other rider is going the wrong way, and that I should retrace my steps back to the last known course marking and go from there. At this point I see two riders making the turn that I missed! I catch up to them and we all get to Cottonwood Falls together.

I sign in and see that Paddy was about 30 minutes ahead of me, and that I had dropped from a Top 5 spot to somewhere around 15th! I was not happy. Naomi, Paddy’s wife, had my drop bag. She helped me switch bladders and clean up my road rash a bit.

I noticed that there were quite a few people just sitting around the checkpoint. Some were sitting in lawn chairs, some lying on the grass. This struck me as very strange, since that is not the kind of thing you want to do if you still have 112 miles left to ride. I found out later that many of those folks just called it quits at that point.

With a full camelback and pockets full of food, I headed out to try and do some damage control. I doubt I’ll catch Paddy, but I want to make sure there are no other singlespeed riders ahead of me. I’d also like to get back into the Top 10.

After about Mile 94 we get into the most interesting part of this course. There are no roads, no towns, no people, no nothing! The terrain is very hilly. No steep pitches, but some seriously long, sustained climbs. I catch Josh Patterson on his cross bike. He says he was 8th into CF, and that he hasn’t seen anyone since then. We chat for a bit, and then the climbing starts. I decided to keep my heart rate at 145, and just put my head down and climb. The hill is tricky, in that it just seems to get longer around every corner. Eventually I make it to the top only to find no Josh anywhere in sight. I notice that my rear tire is getting soft, and I have a bit of downhill ahead. I pump some air in the tire and take off.

I get back on the flats, and notice that the rear tire is getting soft yet again. I check it out and discover that there is a bit of thin wire sticking out of the tire! Fed up with the tiny tires, I put on the heavier but more durable tire I brought as a back-up. Josh passes me as I make the change. I figured I would catch him again, as he was having a bit of trouble on the hills. No such luck; I’d next see him eating pizza in Emporia.

I was solo through Eureka. At the gas station there I found out that I was in 7th place overall, second place singlespeed. It seems that Paddy was still only about 30 minutes up on me. I bought more water and got back on the road with about 60 miles to go.

The last big east-bound section of the course was a killer. It was hilly and long, and I could see a rider out ahead of me that I really wanted to catch. I figured it was Josh, and that I the hills would wear him down eventually. It became clear that I would not catch him before making the turn north, but I did catch him shortly thereafter. Turns out it wasn’t Josh, but Matt Maxwell. We would ride most of the rest of the way together.

We were both pretty beat at this point. We chatted, but not much. We stopped for water again in Madison, and it occurred to me that I had consumed about 4 liters of water since Mile 88, but hadn’t gone to the bathroom! Hmmm, not a great sign. But I felt fine, no dry mouth or anything weird, so I just kept drinking as much as I could and hoped for the best.

Somewhere after Olpe, someone on a geared bike flew by us. I think it was Aaron Benetti. He was on fire, and Matt thought about chasing him but decided against it. We watched him ride off into the sunset.

It got dark with about an hour left to ride. I had my handlebar light, but didn’t bring a helmet light. That made reading the map and looking for course markers difficult. Fortunately Matt had a bright helmet light. We made it in without further incident.

We rolled into Emporia a few minutes after 10 PM. I was 8th overall and 2nd in singlespeed. Paddy finished about 40 minutes ahead of me, but only because he did an extra 35 miles on the course! That guy is an animal! The next singlespeeders were an hour back.

Overall, this was a very good race. The riders were cool, the vibe was relaxed, and I had fun. It was hard, but not so hard that I wanted to shoot myself in the face for signing up. The section of hilly gravel between Cottonwood Falls and Eureka was super, and was just about worth the drive by itself.

Thanks to Joel and the rest of the crew for putting on a great race!


Taugimba said...

Nice write up! Wish I could have worked it into the schedule but it is on for next year.

Guitar Ted said...

Nice write up, Joe. That was a super ride you put in, especially after biffing like you did. I enjoyed seeing you and chatting with you again.

Best of luck on the rest of your exploits this year!

Jeff Kerkove said...

That's some good stuff!

Cellarrat said...

Nice finish! great post to read!

Paul said...

Great riding Joe! What a weekend it was!

alexdolpp said...

Very nice, congrats.

How did Garth do?

alexdolpp said...

Very nice, congrats!

How did Garth do?

alexdolpp said...

Very nice. Congrats!

How did Garth do?

alexdolpp said...

Stupid thing - won't show up. But I finally get it: "must be approved by the blog author".

Todd Scott said...

Great race report, Joe, and a great finish. Garth is a trip, isn't he? What a nice guy.

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Anonymous said...

Reading this report 12 years later as I was the guy who was looking at the map when we were lost and I ended up going the wrong way. I crashed in a sand section of the road a few miles before that and I ended pulling out at Cottonwood falls as my shifter broke in the crash. I am back in the race this year. I was 56 then and I am now 67. Guillermo Garibay