50 Miles in Emporia

Tomorrow is the big day (before the BIG day): Dirty Kanza Training Camp.

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I’m not sure what got the idea of Dirty Kanza in my head. Biking has always been my weakest triathlon sport.. and my relationship with my bike has always been love/hate.

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So… why would a 200 mile bike race worm itself into my brain and never make it out? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I THOUGHT it would easy. Barely any cars! No curbs! Dirt! Cows! Sunshine! This would totally be my scene.

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Not so true. I’ve struggled making the transition to gravel riding.

Things I hate about gravel:

1. All gravel is NOT created equal: One road is paved, one road is flat with a few rocks, the next road is all mud, the next road is muddier mud. You make a turn and you hit gravel so deep its like riding through water. Sometimes the gravel is tiny flint. Sometimes the gravel is larger than ping-pong balls. You never know what you are going to get until you are there… for a type-A personality this was and IS the hardest hurdle.. I don’t know what to expect until I get there.

2. Higher chances of dogs chasing you. This hasn’t been a real problem, but out in the country, more unleashed dogs live outside.. and it’s a bigger risk. Finally got some pepper spray attached to my bike.. but usually yelling “GO HOME” works.

3. It’s hard to find a good route. No strapping on my helmet and going for a ride around the block. I do live closer to the country and found a small gravel trail (seriously small, about 0.25 mile in length that I go up and down), but it helps. Otherwise I need to get in my car and go somewhere. And again, once I get there I don’t know what to expect the conditions of the road to be like.

Things I love about gravel:

1. The country is DANG pretty.

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2. There are less cars.

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3. It is an adventure.

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4. I like cows

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So after a few miserable attempts at getting long rides in (the awful trail in Topeka, the weather, etc), we finally bit the bullet and drove out to Emporia, KS last weekend to take a hack at the REAL deal.

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We won’t know the actual race course until about a week or two from race day, but we used a route from a previous course map to get in 50 miles.

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And how did it go? AWESOME.

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We rode 50 miles in 5 hours and 40 minutes. Typically we would be going a lot faster (10 min/miles will be required for the race itself), but we took our time and I took a lot of photos.

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We parked in downtown Emporia and then did a 50 mile loop that took us through a few other towns, but mostly miles and miles of farm, gravel, dirt, and cows.

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(Farmers are in the process of burning their fields, so the scenery is pretty neat in a end-of-the-world type of way).

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One thing I learned on this ride is that I HATE the ‘virtual rider’ feature on my Garmin 810. Basically the computer creates a fictionalized rider that goes at whatever pace you set. So if you want to go 15mph, you set him for that pace and then it will tell you how far off (or ahead) of pave you are.

I THOUGHT that it was showing my actual distance, but it was actually how many miles I was BEHIND him (he rides at a 15 mph pace). So I did have a mental lapse when I thought I was at 35 miles, but I was only at 25. Ouch. Like when you find out it is only Thursday when you thought it was Friday. THE WORST.

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Other than that, we had no flats or issues (KNOCK ON WOOD) and our gear worked well.

This time last week, I was terrified of how well I could preform at camp. I knew I would be one of (okay, probably THE) slowest person there, but I know better now what to expect from myself and the course, and I am prepared to have my butt sufficiently kicked.

Camp is going to be a huge determining factor in how I will do in the race, I am prepared to show up and try my hardest.

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So tomorrow after work we are heading out to Emporia. There is a book signing and check-in on Thursday, then 50 miles of riding on Friday, 100 miles of on Saturday, and then 50 miles on Sunday with seminars throughout.

Wish me luck!

Have you ever attended a training camp? Or band camp? Or Girl Scout camp?

There will be NO camping at this camp, thankfully. That hotel bed is going to be my best friend after covering 200 miles this weekend.

And if you are interested, here is a neat video about Dirty Kanza from the New York Times:

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