Wow, what a weekend. The 2019 running of the Dirty Kanza has come and gone, and all I can think about is doing it again, not next year, but next weekend! I can’t wait for the opportunity to enter and hopefully try the event in 2020. I’ll give a rundown of the weekend’s activities.
The characters: The writer, Chris H., owner of BicycleTips.com. The strong guy, Steve W., fellow Crossfit Wildwood teammate for Dirty Kanza. The funny one, Chris L. former Autocrosser and full time funny guy. Dad, Bill H., the SAG guy.
We (Chris H, Steve and Bill) left St. Louis (Wildwood) around 7am on Friday morning, and headed west. The trip was decent, riding most of the way west on I-70 and then heading south around Kansas City on to I-35. It wasn’t until we were within 15 miles of Emporia before we saw our first sign of other riders heading into town. We pulled into town and came across a Floyd’s Of Leadville sprinter.
From the gas station we headed towards Mechanic St to find the Expo, and parking. We lucked out in a lot that had a parking space just 30 feet from some of the booths setup for the expo. We hit a couple of booths and started looking for food as we had been on the road for 5 hours without stopping for a meal.
We came across a small food truck area, with a couple of different options available. I went with the safe to choose pulled pork sandwich and hounded it down so that I could free my hands. We decided that before heading through the expo, which looked kickass, we would head over to the Rider Sign In area at the Lyon County History Center on Commercial St.
At the rider sign in we picked up our T-Shirts that we got for registering, and then had the opportunity to make a pass down the "swag" table, from which we were given Dirty Kanza socks, a head sock, a branded DK 2019 Camelbak bottl, and various other bits of gear and items from some of the sponsors of the event. While picking up gear I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Cummins’ wife Susie. After the swag table we picked up our parking sticker for our SAG vehicle, with two riders and one SAG vehicle we picked up on decal before heading back downstairs to find our SAG driver (my Father Bill).
After finishing at the rider sign in area we headed down to wander around the Expo that had overtaken a few blocks of downtown Emporia. I can’t even begin to describe all the cool things you missed out on if you didn’t attend the Expo. There were bike manufacturers, tire manufacturers, seat manufacturers, parts and tools vendors, clothing organizations, training plans, electronic training folks, CBD vendors, supplements, nutrition planners, and many many more.
I walked around and talked to more vendors than I have at any previous conference or expo I’ve attended, and I’ve attended quite a few with my day job in the fitness and tech industries. I picked up lots of swag for my kids, and items that I thought I could either use on the ride, or at some point in the future.
One item that stuck out in the expo area was the Chaise lounge from Salsa Cycles, for more info on that visit www.chasethechaise.com and see another photo of it later in this post.
After partaking in the expo we got a message from Chris L. that he had arrived and was making his way over to the Expo. We decided that we should figure out when we could get a ride in, but before that we wanted to watch the start of the DKXL, the 350 mile race that started at 3pm on Friday.
After watching the start, we decided that we would head to the 4pm rider’s meeting, and then after that meeting head out for a 10-12 mile bike ride to get our legs turning and check out the starting 5 miles of the course.
The rider’s meeting started off with a DK Productions video and then Jim Cummins stood on stage and gave everyone an overview of the pertinent event details. Basics, 200 mile ride started at 6am, 100 mile ride at 630am, with cutoff times equating to a 10mph average to/out of a check point. For the 100 mile ride we had to make it to the 54 mile check point by 12pm, and leave by 12:30pm, other than that the only time we had to worry about was the 3am time that the finish line would be shut down so they could open up the streets again.
After the meeting we headed back out onto the street to get to our bikes to get ready for our ride. Before riding however I had to make a stop into Mulready’s to see if I could fulfill one of my three goals for the Dirty Kanza, getting a selfie with pro-rider and 2017 DK 200 winner, Alison Tetrick. I was unsuccessful in finding her, but I did find her mustached likeness.
Dad took the Tahoe to the hotel to get checked in. We planned to ride about 5 miles into the course that we would be riding on Saturday and then turn back to town, and then on to the hotel. The ride out of town consisted of around 1.5 miles of paved roadway before veering off state highway 99 and on to the infamous gravel.
This quick ride was amazing, at around 5 miles we crossed over a bridge spanning the turnpike and stopped to enjoy the view. We spotted a group of riders down the hill that had a vehicle following them, and a photographer. We figured out they must be some kind of a ruckus if they’ve got photogs following them around on a Friday evening ride. They headed up the hill towards us, stopped and said hello, before we all headed back towards town. The group consisted of some of the Pro riders from the Education First team, with whom we enjoyed a casual ride back into town, before dropping them in our dust as we rolled onto the pavement. (In reality I believe they stopped to take more photos, but we didn’t look back to check).
Heading back to the hotel was overall uneventful, though Steve managed to hit a bump and lost his tail light, we stopped to head back and grab it off the road, but before we could a pickup truck ran it over. Luckily I had brought a spare, so I gave him that to meet the requirement of having a front/rear light.
The morning of the event we got up before 5am with the intention of leaving the hotel by 5 to get downtown. We managed to get a last minute room at the Super 8, so we were in town and not too far away. Originally we couldn’t get a local hotel and booked in Topeka, that would have made for a REALLY early morning having to drive over an hour to get there.
We got onsite early, found a good parking spot, the very same spot we parked in the day before, and started getting our bikes and our gear ready for the ride. We headed on over to the starting line around 530 to check out the DK200 riders lining up and to try to find a friend from Ohio who was going to be starting. Walking along the sidewalk I nearly bumped into him without even noticing until he said hello. We wished him good luck and wandered up to the front of the line to see what the lineup looked like. The had the "12 hour" line, and then in front of that they were introducing the pros and past winners.
For the Dirty Kanza 100 ride, we had a posted start time on 6:30am, after the 200rs rode out we headed off to grab out bikes and finish our prep. We lined up towards the back of the pack, not wanting to try to get out in the crush at the front. The reasoning behind this was twofold: one, we didn’t want to deal with the chaos of the mass of people at the front, two, we didn’t want to be at the front and worry about burning ourselves out in the first hour of the ride. When 630 rolled around and we started, it was a slow roll across the start line for us, it took us well over two minutes to get across the start line.
The weather was perfect, sun was up, it was probably in the 60s with a slight haze, with gravel dust adding to that. The ride out of town was lined with people from the community watching and cheering riders on, it was very motivational to see so much community support. Very early on we started seeing water bottles littering the route, and people off on the side of the road for flat tires. We must of passed over 100 bottles on the ground on Saturday and I don't know how many flat tires.
The first 25 miles or so of the ride were excellent, surface was great, the pace was good, not pushing too hard, but not going to slow either. As we were still heading north the road switched from maintained gravel to double track farm road that quickly got rutted. Fortunately the weather was beautiful for the few days before DK, otherwise this particular section of road would have been a mud fest. Around Mile 30 we changed our direction, heading west/southwest towards the town of Council Grove, the only SAG checkpoint, at mile 54, for the DK 100 route.
By the time we were heading west, Chris and Steve had both gone up ahead. I could have pushed to try to stay with them, but I wanted to take the day steady and not risk burning myself out. They stopped and waited for me a few times, but I had told them previously to feel free to ride on with out me. They both reached the half way check point ahead of me, I found Steve and my Dad cheering me on as I came off the trail into the parking lot at the high school.
I had prepped PB&J sandwiches for my meal at the checkpoint, so I grabbed one and an orange/vanilla coke, and a folding chair and plopped down in the shade for a rest. Before getting into my food I took off my shoes and socks to try to let my feet dry a bit. There was one water crossing (the whole day) and while I made an attempt at riding it, I only made it about half way before hopping off the bike and soaking both feet in the cool stream. It felt great, but gave me a nice sloshy shoe for the next few miles.
When I arrived at the check point I figured out I had missed something, my GoPro sitting on the front of the bike was dusty as hell, so I realized that the photos/video from the morning were going to have a haze to them, after that point I realized I needed to wipe the camera occasionally and did so for the rest of the day. Time flew by quick in the check point, I ended up spending an hour there, way more than I had planned, but I wanted to take my time and rest. Before departing I restocked my water supplies, food, and applied some sunscreen, recharged the GoPro Hero Session and removed my GoPro Hero 5 Black from my bag, leaving it in the Tahoe.
For some reason I didn’t use my spray on sun screen and went with a cream that I carried in my backpack. This particular brand happens to be extra thick, so I figured it would help keep me from getting burned. Shortly later out on the course however I noticed my arms were extremely red, so I began thinking that I was burning badly, and going to be in pain later that night. Fortunately for me, I think I just had a reaction to the sunscreen itself, while I was red all day, once I removed the sunscreen I was not burned, lucky me as it was sunny all day, no clouds, and hot.
Before leaving the checkpoint Steve and I took the opportunity to use the restroom and reapply some Chamois Butter. While clipping in to my bike after this, I managed to fall over. I reached out for a guy standing near me, but was unable to get my balance and took a dive on my right knee. I scraped it up, but nothing too major. If anything this event gave me a shot of adrenaline, so we headed off.
The route after the check point started off with a climb up a paved road, heading south out of Council Grove, before veering off to the west again onto gravel. To start off the second half of the ride Steve and I planned to stay together. He actually started having a leg cramp before the check point, and had been trying to work it out during our rest. Unable to do so, he was limited in his ability to push up the hills for the afternoon. He told me to ride on, but I decided that I would simply take the opportunity to slow my pace down and ride the hills and wait for him where necessary. This worked out well for me, it allowed me to ride and rest, without pushing myself overly hard and prevented burnout.
After the check point we started to come across some DKXL (350 mile) riders who were heading north. I believe the first one we passed was Malinda Gillespie, pictured below. I’m guessing this would have been around mile 220-230 for Malinda at this point, and possibly between 70-75 miles for us for the day.
The afternoon ride contains a few larger hills, more so than we found on the morning route, with quite a few rollers as well. It was also starting to get hot, very hot. I was concerned with dehydration, so I forced myself to drink. We came across a farm at one point that had a sign on the road that they had water, so I headed off to check that out and found they had a spigot ready for us to fill up. I was carrying two 24oz Camelbak bottles and a 3L bladder in my backpack. I quickly downed one of the 24oz bottles and refilled it from the farm water. I went through that bottle and refilled it again before leaving, Steve took off ahead of me, but I was able to get back to him in short order. Later in the day I felt I had actually consumed too much water at some point, and started feeling it. Fortunately I never got sick, and other than that slight discomfort I was fine.
The longer the ride went on, the more the heat started to come into play. At the water stop I pulled out a bandana and put it on my head under my helmet. I believe I intended to douse it in water before putting it on my head, but I failed to do that, so the next time I stopped to wait for Steve I took the opportunity to take it off. I wasn’t sweating so much that I was having to worry about sweat in my eyes, but I did put the bandana in a side pocket of my backpack that I could reach while riding and used it a few times to wipe my face off.
At one point I came up to a hidden Y-Intersection and went right, not realizing that was the wrong direction. Fortunately my Garmin Edge 520 quickly notified me I was off course, to which I was SURE it was wrong. I pulled up the map view on the Garmin, and sure enough I was off course, so I turned around and went back to the proper course, and waited for Steve. His cell phone, which he had been using for Navigation, had overheated from being in the sun, and charging off a battery, so it was out of commission and I wanted to make sure he didn’t miss the turn.
We found out later from Chris L. that he and 2 other riders made the same incorrect turn and ended up adding about 6 miles overall to their ride going that wrong direction. They didn’t end up back tracking, but found their way back to the course later on, missing some of the larger hills that we had to climb.
On one of those climbs, while waiting for Steve to get up the hill I took the opportunity to perch my Niner RLT up against a fence for a quick photoshoot.
After the shoot, I looked down and saw a guy flying up the hill that many folks were walking, and thought, oh boy, here comes the Dirty Kanza 200 leader! I was right, and up came Colin Strickland. There were 5 or 6 of us at the top of the hill all cheering him on as he tore down the decline. It wasn’t long after that another 200 mile rider flew by us going down the hill trying to catch up to Strickland. After that point we realized we now had to be a lot more cautious as to how much road we took up going up and down the hills, we didn’t want to get into anyone’s way, so we tried to pay attention to who was coming up from behind.
At one point Steve yelled up to me, I thought telling me that a car was coming, I reached my hand out to make the motion that I was looking to hitch a ride. In doing so I about punched the two riders from the Education First team, I’m hoping they didn’t realize and thought I was simply giving them thumbs up as they flew by, and fly by they did. It was amazing how much faster these leaders were moving versus the average joes that were still out doing the 100 mile ride.
As the DK200 guys got closer to us, traffic started to pick up, mostly due to various photographers in chase vehicles trying to get into position to catch the best shot they could. Here’s a photo of one of the keeps passing me, photographer sticking out of the top.
We passed by a lake with some pontoon boats on it, they all cheered and yelled Let's Go Blues after they asked us where we were from. After the lake was a large hill, at least for Kansas. I rode up the beginning of the hill, walked the middle, and rode the top most portion. At the top was a lovely group of people passing out water and PB&J sandwiches. I didn't take a sandwich but I gladly took their ice cold water.
One of the other amazing things about Dirty Kanza was the people. The organizers, the volunteers, the town, the people along the route. There were thousands of people out there. Cheering people on, passing out water, waving, honking, clapping, ringing cow bells, it was great to see the way everyone gets involved in the event, and these weren’t just people in Emporia, it was everywhere along the 100 mile route.
One other stop on the ride was the previosly mentioned Chaise. Salsa Cycles takes the chair around to various gravel events and has people stop and take photos on the chair, in exchange for a copy of the photo (online) and a patch. Steve and I came across the Chaise at the bottom of a hill and had to stop for a photo. Due to his cramping he decided not to sit down, I figured I would take that opporunity to take up the whole couch and do my "sexy" pose, here you go...
I’ve found that between mile 90-95 on a long ride, sometimes earlier, you really start to get depressed. You’re not quite at the end, and your motivation is lacking. You start to really tire, get hot, and think you’ll never finish the ride. It hurts to pedal on, you struggle to keep the motivation up. I experienced this on the DK100, our slow pace, the heat, made me simply want to stop. Stopping wasn’t an option, I wasn’t about to call my dad and have him come get us, but the urge was there. About this time Chris L. caught up to us. He told us all about his off course excursion. He and the two guys who had gotten lost with him were going at a little bit faster pace and headed up the road. At one point he asked me if I was signing up for next year, I told him to ask me tomorrow as my answer at that point in time was a resounding no.
About 5 miles from the finish though we found a new gear, picked up the pace, and caught the three guys, bringing Chris along with us we took off towards the finish. The route back to the finish took us through Emporia State University with a climb or two added in there for good measure, just to make sure your legs hurt.
Steve and I crossed the finish line together, I believe my official time was 11:07:00 and his profile shows 11:07:01, but we were pretty much side by side. At the finish we were greeted by volunteers who gave us a cold towel, our finishing badge and a handshake from Jim Cummins, DK Co-Founder. We received branded Half-Pint glasses, and some GU recovery drink before heading off for our finisher’s photo. From there we found a place to sit down and sat for a good 30 minutes, fondly talking about our adventures that day. We compared our data, the distance travelled, the time it took, the elevation. My Strava route showed 4400' of elevation, Steve’s showed more, Chris’ showed 4900'.
My legs were the dirtiest part of my body, I expected my face to be covered as well, but I must of kept wiping my face with the bandana enough to keep it fairly clean. Over all I felt great, my body didn’t hurt, I could tell the nerves in my left hand were an issue, something I had experienced after the Tour Of Hermann Gravel Challenge earlier in the year.
After attempting to recover for a while, we decided we should get up, change, and put our bikes away. We found a free bike wash and had the bikes sprayed off before putting them back on the rack on the Tahoe. I threw on a clean change of clothing, and wiped down with a wet rag to make myself look at least somewhat presentable before heading back over towards the finish line.
When we got back over to the finish line I hit the Gravel City store to pick up some souvenirs for a friend and my wife. When we walked out, I saw Alison Tetrick in the finishing chute. She must of finished sometime while we were at the Tahoe. She was being directed over to the Finisher’s photo area, so I ran over and quickly asked her if she wouldn’t mind taking a selfie with me. I tried to line the camera up for the shot, but she grabbed my phone and told me her angles are better than mine, so she would shoot it. Before shooting it she got her first look at her finisher’s face, and found a pretty awesome dirt unibrow, to which she exclaimed "Ooh, I have a unibrow, I’m so rocking this”. She finished second at this year’s event.
Saturday evening we hung around the finish area, and headed to the Mexican restaurant to grab some food. The atmosphere in the restaurant was amazing, competitors, fans, family, locals, all hanging out having a good time and good food. Afterwards we watched the last of the "Race the Sun" competitors, those 200 mile entrants trying to get in before sundown. One finisher beat the 8:45pm time by milliseconds to qualify. We didn’t stay the whole night, the finish line was up and running until 3am, as competitors from the 100, 200 and 350 were finishing until early in the morning on Sunday.
My recovery since DK has been great. We drove back to St. Louis on Sunday morning, leaving Emporia around 730am. I was worried that I would be sore sitting in the car for 5 hours, but we made the trip without problem and I’ve yet to experience any real pain or discomfort since. The only problem I have is my left hand has some carpel tunnel like symptoms, numbness and lack of grip strength. I’m hopeful that this goes away in a few days, it even provides me an odd feeling when typing, which in my profession is unfortunate, but hopefully only temporary.
My Final Thoughts for the Dirty Kanza event. MUST DO IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR! I had so much fun at this event. I had three goals for the weekend.
- Complete the Dirty Kanza 100
- Spend quality time in the state of my birth
- Get a selfie with Alison Tetrick
I am proud to say I completed all three of those goals!
We had a great time out in Emporia, Kansas for the 2019 Dirty Kanza. I personally look forward to doing this event every year I can get the opportunity to do so. We had great weather, great friends, and no mechanical issues! Between the three of us we didn't have a single flat. I don't know if we should attribute that to Luck, being Slow, or being Talented enough to avoid the sharp stuff. Maybe a little bit of all three of those.
Later this week I'll have another article up covering any changes I made to gear selection, our previous post had links to all the gear we planned to bring, and I want to basically update you on what we took, needed, and didn't need.