Sunday, June 05, 2011

Dirty Kanza 200 2011 - Ride of self actualization

CVO representing the Lincoln area code

The Dirty Kanza 200 2011 edition didn't disappoint. It was an amazing experience and I feel like I'm a better rider and person because of it. Demons were battled and overcome. Dark moments were persistent and plentiful, but valiantly fended off. Sickness embraced and conquered. Self doubt and negative thoughts were faced and evaporated. And finally, gravel was crushed with old and new friends while meaningful life experiences were savored.

It was test of conviction and determination to say the least. The magnitude of the challenge, for some reason always seems to fade from my memory until I'm back out on the gravel in the heat of the moment. Recently I was thinking back about last year and remembered that it "wasn't too bad". Ha! On Saturday I vividly remembered just how tough the Dirty Kanza 200 can be.

Ari was in attendance again this year and was a finisher! Congrats Ari!

This year's DK200 was the toughest yet for myself. After speaking to a few others I realize I'm not alone. They feel the same way. Why? Primarily the heat. The temperature was almost unbearable for several stretches of the race. Especially on the third leg of the event (mile 100 to 160) when we had primarily tail winds. The heat of the afternoon was kicking in full effect by then and the sun was beating down on the exposed gravel. Heating it up to thermonuclear temps. Plus, there was nowhere to hide. Just cook and bask in the rays. The heat took a toll on me all day and actually forced my hand to something I never thought I'd do. I stopped twice on that stretch and knocked on some farmhouse doors to get some cool water. I had plenty of fluids on my bike, but couldn't stop fixating on cool water. Craziness.

Riders beginning to line up - the Salsa crew was representing again this year

The race started out a lot like last year. Riders lined up on the street in downtown Emporia in front of the Granada Theater. The registration and rider meeting were at the Granada on Friday night. The whole registration set up was perfect. Go up one side of the theater to the second floor, sign in, pickup your number, t-shirt, DK200 trading cards and then exit down the staircase on the other side. Smooth and efficient. Thanks to the Granada, Emporia Main Street, and volunteers!

Jim Cummings - DK Race Co-Promoter

Rider meeting was about ten minutes prior to the start. Jim went over the usual pre-race info and predicted Cam Chambers record of 11:58 would be broken. The gravel was dry and fast and there was a talented field of gravel veterans in the mix. So maybe it could be done.

Mike Marchand, 2010 Gravel World Champion, sportin' the jersey and Lincolnite Troy Krause (finisher!)

The temp was just about perfect at the start. That wasn't gonna last. As soon as the sun came up we knew we were in for slap in the face.

Lance Andre and Barbie Miller on the tandem (Overall Winners!) with Lincolnite and Rasta rider James Blake (finisher!)

Eric Brunt, Matt Gersib, and Dale Pinkleman (all finishers!) lined up and ready to roll - John Williams also pictured behind Gersib...John finished fifth in the Open! Congrats!

Emporia Police escort - three cruisers this year!

Almost ready to go

And we're off!

Thank you for the escort Emporia Police Department!

The start was a bit faster this year. Somewhere between 20 and 23 mph. Mass starts with 300+ riders can get a little hairy. I think we all subconsciously knew if we went a bit quicker at the start the group would get strung out a bit more. That equates to safety in my opinion.

The usual suspects up front and full of excitement

Charging hard on the first gravel of the day

Once we hit the gravel the pace ratcheted up. The tandem of Lance Andre and Barbie Miller moved up front and put the hammer down. Mike Marchand and Troy Krause were in tow. I was third wheel and enjoying the draft. Once we made the turn to the south the pace remained steady. With this many strong riders we would make great time to the first checkpoint.


I hit a large rock and soon after the back end began to feel a bit soft. I glanced down and noted the characteristic bounce of a pinch flat. Less than 3 miles into the race and less than a mile on the gravel, I had to stop and let the rest of the field go. The sun wasn't even up. Talk about bad luck!


I weighed my options while changing the flat. Go hard and try to catch the leaders or settle in for a long day of chasing.


I choose to go hard and try to catch the leaders. For some reason, it seemed like the only sensible solution. With the headwind a majority of the first 100 miles I thought closing the gap early was the wisest strategy.

Is that a recumbent! It sure is. So rad!

Slowly I worked my way back through the rest of the field. Around mile 20 Dennis Grelk rolled up beside me. I was shocked to see him behind me and asked him if he flatted too. He said no and that he was riding with a friend, but after seeing my plight he decided to come help me out.

Only two good lines

Sitting in behind Dennis the Machine!

Dennis set a ferocious pace for next 40 miles. It took all I had to remain in his draft at times. Frickin' incredible display of strength.

Thank you, Dennis!

Beautiful vistas!

Mike Johnson rode great all day and would go on to finish! Congrats, Mike!

Dennis and Rafal on the single speed

We picked off a lot of riders and by the first checkpoint were only 5 minutes back from the leaders. Several other top contenders fell victim to flats. Dan Hughes, the open men's 2011 Champ, slashed a tire around mile 26. Joe Meiser, Mike Marchand and Dale Pinkleman also flatted.

Found a good spot to change this one out

After the first checkpoint I linked back up with some strong riders. Mike Marchand and James Blake were among them. Somewhere we missed a turn. While back tracking the back end began to get soft again. I ignored it as long as I could. The rocky two track descent eventually forced me off. I had to stop and change it out.

Sweet two track goodness

Better suited for a mountain bike!

I got going again and then promptly pinched on a water crossing. Boo. Looking on the bright side I was able to enjoy the coolness of the shade at the big water crossing while changing the flat.

Big rollers

Sometime during the second leg I ran out of fluids. I rationed as long as I could. Joe Meiser and I rode for a bit during that stretch. We were both struggling. That was apparent to me. Joe is one of the strongest riders I've ever ridden with during these events. He just wasn't feeling it and neither was I.

Eventually I left Joe and ran into Troy. We both rolled into the halfway point cooked. It was gonna be a long afternoon. We took a long extended break. Probably close to 30 minutes. I was in no hurry to get back on the searing gravel. Matt, our support crew, did an amazing job cooling us off and catering to our every need. Thanks again, Matt!

Troy, Rafal, Eric and I reluctantly took off from checkpoint 2. We were all in bad shape, but quitting was not an option. I was feeling good so I took off. The break really helped cool my core and I finally felt a little pep. Unfortunately it didn't last for very long. The heat was just too much for me to handle. I felt lethargic and sick. Turning the pedals over became a difficult task.

Matt, Megan (Rafal's wife and support crew), James, and Megan's friend in Council Grove

Once the physical symptoms of heat exhaustion kicked in the mental game soon followed. I began to think about finding a cool place to lay down and take a nap. I kept scanning the countryside for cool spots to take a break. Things just weren't firing on all cylinders at this point. The body was sluggish and the mind was full of negativity. I had to snap out of it. So instead of quitting or taking a nap I compromised with myself (yeah, myself) and decided to stop at a farmhouse for some cool water. I figured the interaction with another human being might help break me out of the funk. The first farmhouse I rolled by I pulled in and knocked on the door. An elderly woman sheepishly answered the door with a cautious look on her face. She didn't know what to think of me, but she graciously offered me some cool water. I downed a few glasses and thanked her before continuing on my way. I didn't get the recharge I was hoping for, but at least I felt a little cooler.

It didn't take long for me to heat up again. My mind was fixated on cold water. I had to stop again. This time it was a large farm with a lot of horses. I noticed a spigot with a hose in the front yard and figured I could cool myself down. I walked up to the farmhouse and rang the doorbell. A young guy came to the door and after a little explaining he seemed to get it and gladly offered up some cool water. After plopping down on the front porch I heard someone approaching from behind me. I assumed it was the young guy. Nope. It was an older gentlemen probably in his sixties wearing nothing but flip flops and hot pink shorts fashioned in a banana hammock style. Needless to say, I was a bit taken back. He hovered over me and chatted while I drank a couple of glasses of water. He offered to hose me down, but the whole situation seemed a bit too David Lynch for me, so I respectfully declined, thanked him for the water and got the heck outta there! Yikes!

The next 25 miles of the third leg were very difficult. I was wilting in the heat. Luckily Dale Pinkleman, Lincolnite and all around awesome guy, bridged up to me. We ended up riding into the next checkpoint together. Having someone to talk to really helps keep your mind off the suffering. Thanks again, Dale!

Here comes the rain

James was already in Council Grove when we arrived. A storm had been building during that third leg and actually offered some reprieve from the relentless sun. The wind from the storm also gave us a push into the third checkpoint. We had gotten sprinkled on a bit before Council Grove, but managed to beat the rain. A long break was in order in Council Grove. James and I took our time as Matt, Megan, and Megan's friend tried to entertain us. The rain started as we recharged. I told James we might as well just wait out the worst of the storm and take off as soon as we could.

Rails to trails goodness
The temperature had dropped significantly after the storm front rolled through. My guess would be 35 to 40 degrees. I went from heat exhaustion to shivering like a leaf in less than 5 minutes. The body was locking up! We had to go! Steve, James, Dale, and I took off together from Council Grove in a light rain. The really nasty part of the storm had missed us. The trails were a bit wet, but nothing we couldn't handle.


Pluggin' along

Getting gritty and soft in spots

The final leg of the race was only 43 miles. That's nothing! Especially since we've already traveled 160 miles. It was apparent that we were most likely gonna be finishing after sun down.

Keith Walberg finished strong! Congrats!

The roads were really wet near Council Grove. All the geared riders were having drive train issues. I learned my lesson from Trans Iowa and knew I needed to hose off the drive train before a catastrophic failure.

Big bump and low hangin' cloud

We ran into Tim Ek and Joe Fox not too far from Council Grove. Joe's rear der failed. He was trying to convert to a single speed. Eventually he got it to work. Not the best gear, but at least he could keep going. Several of us helped ourselves to a hose at farm to clean our drive trains. Instant improvement!

Grinding it out

Sun slowly going down

The last leg was primarily flat


One of the highlights of my day was getting to ride with folks that I usually don't have a chance to ride with. Dennis Grelk, Joe Meiser, Dale Pinkleman, Eric Brunt, and Tim Ek. Eki and I rode together for the last 25 or so miles. It was great having a chance to chat with ya, Eki!

I smell the barn!

Eki and I rolled into Americus and stopped at the convenience store for some Coke's. It's just what the body needs! A few other riders passed us while we took a break, but we really didn't care. It's all about finishing now. Eric, James, and Mike rolled in just about the time we were ready to leave. So we linked up with them. The Coke did the trick and I felt a surge of energy. Maybe it was the sun going down too. The final push to the finish was great. After some discussion we compromised on a suitable finish...Eric, Eki and I crossed the finish line together. Crossing the finish was an amazing experience. The crowd was going crazy and the band was playing. Yep, perfect.

Thanks to all that had anything to do with organizing such a grand event. Also thanks to all my personal sponsors, friends and family. Honestly, there are too many folks to thank. You know who you are.

I will definitely be back again next year!


jamesb said...

Thanks for capturing this for us. I had to laugh looking at the pic in Council Grove; I didn't feel right, and sure enough, I didn't LOOK right. Ha. You impressed me how strong you finished after such a long day in the saddle through so much adversity. good job man.

Anonymous said...

Another strong effort, great job Corey!

Man, what a string of bad luck this year, derailleurs and flats!

Keep it ALL rolling this Summer.


Tim Ek said...

Corey, again so great to ride with you, not to mention finishing with you. I owe you some huge pulls!

Can I borrow a couple of those pictures???

Cornbread said...

James, great job getting it done. So stoked for ya. And yeah, we both didn't look right in Council Grove!

Buff, thanks dude! Maybe we'll see ya down in Kansas next year. You, Charlie, and Jeremy should try to make it down.

Eki, you don't owe me any pulls. It was my pleasure. I was stoked to finally get to ride with ya. Really stoked to finish with ya. Take as many pics as you want. That's why I do this blog. Enjoy!

Charlie Farrow said...

Great pics...You are due for some good luck here in the near future...the hinge factor swings both wayz...Here's to the door swinging the other way for you for the rest of the season...Great effort amid terrible conditions. Cold is tough to take, but excessive heat is like running into a brick wall...
Best regards,

RD said...

that race was about where you got stuck in rain. If you passed MMR you were good if not your were more or less doomed.

Malcolm said...

Corey, great work, I yelled at you when you were cursing in the ditch to see if you were ok, I was worried, but didn't know what to do. Later, seeing the train that was Dennis/Corey pass me was a sight to behold, and I knew your day was far from over.

RD, I totally know what you mean, I cant help but feel kinda cheated.

MG said...

Awesome effort once again, Cornbread, and thanks for capturing such great photos and taking the time to put it all down for us. I'll have my post coming in the next couple of days.

I also flatted when you flatted your second time, the time you found the high perch... It's kind of funny, because I couldn't figure out where you went. Your bike was there but you sort of disappeared, so I just fixed my flat and rode away... Funny. We saw each other later in the day.

Anyway, once again, great ride in some tough conditions.

gpickle said...

Hey Corey thanks for the write up and the pics! Great riding with you a bit again, funny thing about these events, the folks I spend so little time with in the space of a year are some of the people I like the most and feel like I know the best. Weird, kind of like riding 200 miles on gravel in Kansas in the summer for fun. See ya down the road!


brady said...

It was an older gentlemen probably in his sixties wearing nothing but flip flops and hot pink shorts fashioned in a banana hammock style... he offered to hose me down, but the whole situation seemed a bit too David Lynch for me


Sorry about your luck, but congrats on have the fortitude to finish it.

Endurosnob said...

Great job, Corey. Nothing like having both won the race and being able to 'boast' of double-digit flats in your history... Next year, my friend.

Rad-Renner said...

In my deluded state, I had thought I was the only one who felt that bad during that hot stretch on section three. Too hot to eat, and not much in the way of shade. I finally hid under a tree and was soon joined by many more. When the rain came I was ecstatic, but then we (Malcolm, Aaron and some dudes from 'bama) ran into the mud. Three hours of slogging and I was done. Aaron, major props to you for finishing after we all bailed. Man's game, bro. Next year, for sure.

mw said...

can't believe how rad that town is. they've completely gotten behind the event and for good reason. we all love it. what an amazing course. something of a mixture of all the previous ones. the first two legs were beautiful.

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