“Pleasure??, I do it for the pain of it” - Lance Armstrong
Chad read to me the above quote from a Graeme Fife article he had brought along. It stuck in my head for most of the ride.
A long day of driving brought Chad Meinert and myself from the foothills of the Rockies to Emporia. I caught up with Dave Pals, Steve Fuller, and Matt Maxwell for a quick dinner at Planet Sub. Then it was back to the Guest Inn for the pre-race meeting. Jim and Joel give us the run down on the following day’s proceedings.
Off to the room to watch the Nuggets lose, then turn in for restless evening of slumber. The alarms going off a little after 4am made us rise with time to stuff some food in our gullet, drink some coffee, and plenty of water as we readied for the long hot day.
The 6am start brought the group out to some cool temperatures and energy in the air. I was really excited to get the ride going. The plan was simple, keep the pedals turning, keep the food intake high, and keep drinking lots of fluids. After some last minute instructions, 85 brave souls headed into the flints for a grand adventure. We rolled out with the escort of a camera crew until that first right turn onto sweet Kansas Gravel.
A few miles down the road, I got gapped as the pace went up and I spun out. The lead group motored down the road with Chad “the muscle” Meinert along with all the race favorites. I settled in for the day. A few futile attempts on my part to hang with small packs of gravel lovin’ cyclists. The wind was blowing strong and making me become focused on the goal of finishing instead of my more lofty goals.
As I was rolling along Dan Hensley rolled up, we chatted a bit about the ride and he imparted some words that stuck with me for the rest of the ride. I can’t remember the quote but basically said it doesn’t get any better as we are just riding our bikes in a beautiful part of the country. It helped boost my spirit as I was watching my speed decrease.
I rolled into CP1 completely out of water but damn glad I made to Cottonwood Falls. The plan for the checkpoints was to have an idea of what I needed and get in and get out. I slammed a quart of Gatorade, munched on a Payday bar, while filling bottles with water. I slogged on toward Elmdale with a full belly and a little zest in the legs. It was only 42 miles during the heat of the day. I kept telling myself this isn’t as bad as those long rides in the Texas heat.
I spent the next few hours in reflective solace as I pedaled and pedaled toward CP2. At sometime during this period I lost the will to eat and felt the urge to puke every time I brought food to my mouth. I remembered those pesky Shot Blocs jammed in my pocket that ended up saving my day. I limped into CP2 with the same plan to grab and go. As I watched riders inhale pizza, I opted to slam a Gatorade and grab some cheese crackers to eat while riding.
I asked the volunteers where I was sitting in the SS class, she said that about 5 single speeders were ahead of me but only 2 recumbents were up the road. Dennis Grelk said that only Skip and Joel were out on the roads. My hopes of a decent placing seemed possible. I pushed on for the next miles in a trying to force feed dry salty crackers into my mouth. I made it through Little Egypt without incident but did walk two of the hills in order to save the legs. One almost wrong turn brought me off course for about 100 yards when I realized my mistake.
A huge boost came when I made it to CP3 to see Chad sitting near the tent. I was stoked to ride with my friend for the last 62 miles. I ran into the store to stock up before heading back out. Skip was inside and offered up his Shot Blocs, I took them later to find out from Joel that they were pulling the plug. Joel gave me some great words of encouragement and we were off. My pockets were loaded with extra Gatorade and a Red Bull for good measure.
With Chad and Greg Bachman, I was in the company of two good men that made the last section a little more fun. Some conversation helped break up the monotony of miles of gravel. One flat on my bike slowed the CO Crew down but didn’t break our spirit. The miles ticked away as the lights of Emporia lit the sky. A lone skunk caused a slight slow in our pace. Greg was the navigator guiding us through maze of gravel roads. Chad was the muscle just keeping the pace consistent and us moving. I just followed.
When we hit the outskirts of Emporia, the sense of relief and joy rushed through me as the lights grew brighter. Chad and Greg were why I finished the event, I can’t thank them enough. They crossed the line tying for 7th place in a time of 19 hours and 26 minutes! A top ten finish in what was a grueling adventure in which 15 finished. I am so very happy for them.
With the finish line crossed, those hardy souls still awake greeted us like we were winners and that erased the pain of the day. Two out of three goals for the ride were reached, more friends made, and memories to last another year. I am happy to have shared them with my good friend, Chad.
I appreciate all those who made Dirty Kanza an event that make me yearning for more gravel. It is the people that keep me going as they make the event. Thanks again to the promoters, volunteers, Skip, Chad, Greg (or is it Gary), Dan, the Vet from Lincoln, the OK guys, Joel, and many I have forgotten. THANK YOU!
I had many song verses going but the one that really stuck was from that classic Ian Flemming movie – “From the ashes of disaster, grow the roses of success.”