Sunday, June 03, 2012

Dirty Kanza 2012 - I gave it everything I had

 Riders gathering in front of the Granada Theater

Where to begin...first and foremost, the thank you's.  Thanks to Megan, Santi and Laura for the support.  You guys were Johnny on the spot all day!  Thanks to my travel companions Skip, Troy and Santi.  Thanks to Jim, Kristi, Tim and all the rest of the DK crew for another top notch event.  The Dirty Kanza keeps deservedly getting bigger and better every year.  The town of Emporia gets a high five for getting behind the event and welcoming all the lycra clad warriors with open arms.  Seriously, it's not easy for most American towns to welcome that many nutty cyclists.

 Staging - Roller gals getting us lined up

Thanks to all the riders that I have had the pleasure to crush gravel with over the years.  Going to Dirty Kanza is always like a class reunion.  Before, during and after the event it's a joy to chat with folks and share stories about our adventures.  And Dirty Kanza is quite an adventure.  Definitely feel a bond with the gravel community.  Also, big thanks to the Cycle Works crew for keeping me going!  Finally, thanks to Ben Thorton for the save at the end of the race.  More on that later.

 400+ riders lining up

For most Dirty Kanza vets, the distance and the terrain aren't what we worry about.  The thing that scares us the most is the weather.  The heat specifically.  The past few years have been murderously hot.  Cooking on the barren and exposed gravel for hours on end can be a soul shattering experience.  I seem to get amnesic about the difficulty of this race every year when it comes time to sign up.  Maybe I suppress the suffering and block it from my memory.  That's probably a good thing.

 Chilly at the start - around 50 degrees

The word on the street was the weather was gonna be mild this year.  The forecast was looking good all week and by race day we all had high hopes for temps in the lower to mid 80's.  Those kind of temps haven't happened in a few years.  And after the past few years of brutal temps in the 90's, we were due.

 Troy and Dan looking ready for a long day in the saddle

Waking up Saturday morning we, or at least I, was surprised to see the thermometer at the 50 degree mark.  I was not prepared for that.  No arm or knee warmers...just shorts and a jersey.  That would hafta work.  If I got cold I could always speed it up to get warm.  Skip hooked me up with some War Axe embrocation which worked nicely. 

I think Jim Cummings is on top of the Granada Theater sign

The start is always fun.  A lot of smiles, handshakes, and encouragement was shared amongst friends, family and riders.  Almost 500 riders gathered in front of the Granada Theater in downtown Emporia and waited for Jim to say go. 

 And away we go!

I lined up in the front so I could get some pics.  The group seemed to humor me as I rode a bit ahead of everyone else and snapped a few.  Once we made the right hand turn onto the gravel the camera went into the back pocket.  It was game on!  With all the new faces in the mix I never knew who would be a contender.  Settling in with the lead group was the strategy.

 Large double paceline

It had rained on Friday prior to the race, so the gravel wasn't dusty.  That was a big concern for me at the start.  With that many riders chugging along on the gravel there is always the potential for a mishap.  If someone breaks too much or doesn't point out a wheel sucker or isn't paying attention and overlaps a wheel, down you go.  And early in the race that would not be fun.  Especially since we're moving over 20 mph and the gravel is extra rough. 

 Slowly thinning out with the usual suspects upfront

Somewhere around 15 miles into the event the lead group of about 50 to 70 riders missed a turn.  I don't know how we missed it because it was clearly marked.  It took us about a mile and a half to realize we had gone astray.  This group had be playing nice up to this point and was making good time.  After the inadvertent expedition everyone seemed to panic.  Now we weren't the lead group anymore.  It was every man and woman for themselves. 

 The rising sun

As we backtracked we could see the rest of the riders making the correct turn.  There were plenty of folks ahead of us now.  I kept my eye on Dan Hughes' blue Sunflower kit and tried my best to bridge up to him through the traffic. 

 Long shadows of the first couple of hours

The extra mileage from that wrong turn was worth it.  I enjoyed riding through the field back to the front and had a chance to say hi to many friends.  I apologize if I didn't say hi to some folks.  I heard my name several times and was unable to respond.  A few stretches I was in the pain cave trying to keep Dan in sight.

 Regroup after our adventure off course

After Texaco Hill a nice group of strong experienced riders had formed.  The sense of urgency to get back up front diminished as we settled in for a long day in the saddle.  We were making great time and the scenery was beautiful.  I really enjoyed this part of the event.  The Flint Hills landscape is breath taking.  Seriously.  You can see for miles in any direction.  I feel so fortunate to be able to participate in an event in this unique landscape. 

 Track two Flint Hills gravel-ly goodness

We rolled into checkpoint #1 as a group.  Megan was there waiting and quickly got me everything I needed.  Lance Andre and I rolled out about the same time.  Jim Cummings rolled up next to me in a minivan and asked how I was doing.  "Alright."

 Beautiful scenery throughout the race

Lance and I rode together for awhile and eventually caught up to Dan and Gunnar Shogren.  We all rode together for quite some time.  Eventually our pace was a bit much for Gunnar on the single speed and he dropped back.  Dan eventually picked up the pace to bridge to Russ Kolger and then rode away from him too.  Lance and I caught Russ and rode with into the halfway point after passing the previous leaders working on one of many flats they had during the day.  It was getting hot and I hadn't eaten much yet.  Nothing sounded good, but I forced some bars down with copious amounts of liquids.  The legs were already twitching. 

 I love this road

The third leg Russ and I took off together.   He stopped to relieve himself as I continued on in hunt of Dan.  It didn't take very long for Russ to come flying by me with the two riders who were working a flat prior to the halfway point.  I don't know who these guys were, but they were really moving.  Russ was tucked in on their wheel.  I didn't see them coming and didn't have enough time to jump on.  Oh well.

Off in the distance I saw another rider bridging up to me.  It was Rebecca Rusch.  She looked good and sat in for awhile as I worked to make up some real estate.  We managed to reel Russ back in and passed the other two guys who were changing out another flat.  I think that was the third time we had passed them by now as they worked on their bikes.  I stopped to relieve myself after catching Russ and told Russ and Rebecca to go on.  In hindsight, I should have held off on that break.  That would be the last time I saw them.

 Chasing turkeys!

The third leg was the toughest for me.  The temp had climbed and I couldn't drink fluids quick enough to keep up with my perspiration.  It was only a matter of time before the negative effects of dehydration set in.  I was buying my time and backed off the pace.  I stopped at a farmhouse and filled up my bottles with some cool refreshing well water.  Thanks to that family!

Rolled into checkpoint #3 with bottles empty and running on fumes.  Things weren't looking too good. A bonk was on the way and my legs were doing that involuntary twitch deal as I sat at checkpoint #3 and tried to refuel.  Megan, Santi and Laura got me everything I needed.  It was time to go and finish it off.

 A few big climbs on the last leg - you could see them from miles away

The last stretch to the finish was only 37 miles.  That didn't seem like much, but after riding on the rivet all day it was a tall task.  Slowly I ticked away the miles and pedaled as softly as I could.  Any hard efforts were bound to end in a lockup.

Americus is a town about ten miles from the finish.  It's always been an oasis for me.  I saw a couple of riders catching me, but I didn't care.  I had to stop and get something cold to drink.  That ice water was worth it.  It hadn't tasted anything that refreshing in my entire life.  That should have been a warning.

Emporia was in sight!  I worked my way through town and onto the final street.  I could hear the folks cheering for the riders ahead of me prior to even seeing the finish line.  I love the finish line at this event!  As I rolled towards the finish I decided to give it one last push prior to crossing the line.  About 30 to 40 yards out I attempted to wind it up.  My left hamstring instantly locked up tighter than it ever has in my existence.  It was a doozie.  My left leg was locked in an extended position and I was unable to pedal.  This was not ideal.  I had to coast across the finish line grimacing in pain and barely had enough momentum to make it.  On the bright side, the cramps had held off all day and at least I was able to cross the line. 

That ain't a smile - photo credit Mattie Decker

After crossing the line my memory is a bit spotty.  All the blood pooled in my legs as my left hamstring and now the quad too had locked up.  Ben Thorton did his best to keep me upright, but I was gonna pass out.  There wasn't enough blood getting to my brain.  Tunnel vision and tingling in the finger tips and lips were hittin'.  I couldn't get off my bike or even move.  The bike was dissembled underneath me in order to get the bike from out under me as Ben had me in a bear hug to keep me from going down.  It was a sorry spectacle. 

Not feeling too great at this moment - photo credit - Santiago Murtagh

The EMT's took a look at me and literally carted me off to the ambulance.  I just wanted to get out of the finish area.  I was barely across the finish line and didn't want to sour anyone's finishing moment.  Luckily they got me outta there quick.

 Low a quart

I got a bag of chilled fluids.  It was wonderful.  No need to go to the ER.  I was much better afterward and really just wanted a shower and a soft bed. 


Thanks so much to everyone that helped me at the end.  I had given all that I had and feel very satisfied.  Huge congrats to Dan Hughes, Russ Kolger, Rebecca Rusch, and Gunnar Shogren for the wins. 

Lincoln and Omaha had a great showing this year.  Aaron Gammel and Matt Gersib both rode awesome.  Jen Deep finished the DK in her first attempt with hardly any training.  Troy, Skip, Malcolm, Wills, Carl, Scott Bigs, Andrew Keffer, David Randleman, David Rowe, Mark Falloon, Scott Kidoo, Scott Noel, and Bruce Currin all finished after putting in solid rides.  I'm sure I'm forgetting some folks...

I will never forget that day for the rest of my life.  That's why I ride a bike.  I'm already looking forward to next year. 


Tim Ek said...

Total Stud!!

gpickle said...

Great day out Corey, too bad about the super cramp, owwwww. Thanks for the pics and the run down of the day, it is always an adventure -for one reason or another!

Mark Studnicki said...

Awesome. Way to leave it all out on the course. I sorta regretted not doing that race, but your last 2 pics help erase that thought :-)

Endurosnob said...


jamesb said...

I hope that's the last time I miss this race. even through the description of the inevitable pain, I wish I were there with you! that kanza was extra dirty for you! I missed the insane 4 am laugh sessions afterward as we regained our minds, and the multiple breakfasts.

MG said...

That's incredible, Corey... You really did give it everything. Great show, man.

MG said...

... And I echo your sentiment about the awesome rides by Lincoln & Omaha riders. It was an amazing day for Nebraska. And let's not forget the solid ride by Lane Bergen of North Platte! At just 18, he's clearly got a bright future.

theunicycleguy said...

Way to hang in there!

EnduroChub said...

Bad ass! Glad you made it out alive!