I’m not dead!
I was conquered, but I survived. The cliff-notes: I only biked 120 miles, not 200, but I learned a TON. Overall, the camp was a bit expensive (but included free race registration), but it was above and beyond worth it for all the great experience, SAG support, and information I learned. Plus it was fun!
We arrived in Emporia (2 hour drive from our house) and checked in. We got some awesome swag (a Dirty Kanza Jersey, a complete Chamois Butt’r kit, Gu hat and waterbottle, and tons of samples) and checked in our bikes.
The BEST part of camp was that they had 2 full-time mechanics on hand. I didn’t have to touch a bike pump all weekend. Each night our bikes were cleaned up, tuned up, pumped up and ready to ride in the morning. The mechanics also cruised the routes in case you got a flat or other issues and were available at the checkpoints too.
We then headed out solo to dinner at Radius Brewing Company. The beer is decent, but the food is incredible! Kale pizza isn’t something I expected to find in Emporia, KS.
We were up and at DK Headquarters ready to ride at 8am. I ate my typical bagel with cream cheese before we arrived and since we had the mechanics on hand there was no stress of having to deal with pumping up tires and running through a check of my bike.
We had received the routes ahead of time and I already had the data plugged into my Garmin (810), so as soon as we arrived we were ready to roll. We also had access to a fully stocked buffet of Gu products and Chamois Butt’r, so I loaded up my Camelbak for the ride.
Today’s route was 50 miles and it was the same route that Paul and I rode last weekend. I was SO nervous. Ungodly nervous. I knew the route and what to expect, but I was terrified of riding with the group, being last, learning I don’t have what it takes, and/or just overall sucking.
Well, I had nothing to worry about. I mean, I was slow, but it wasn’t even a big deal. They had guides to ride in front, throughout the pack, and someone designated to stick with the last person… so while I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the main group, I felt a huge boost of confidence (and surge of relief) knowing that I wasn’t out there alone. Having a group coming behind me if I had any issues, made me feel a lot more confident on the gravel.
The people behind me were also a good push to keep going and keep up my pace. Instead of pedaling along and enjoying the scenery, I knew to keep it up so I stayed in front. I also took very few pictures (few being a relative term) since I was working my tail off.
The back of the pack ended up catching up to me, but it was nice to ride in a small group towards the end too. We had a pretty lengthy stop at a gas station for a bathroom break and to grab some snacks and it was nice having someone to watch my bike as I ran in.
I ended up finishing the 50 miles in 4:50. This was already 50 minutes faster than I had rode last weekend! This made me insanely happy. And it was slightly faster than the 10 mph I want to maintain for the race (including the gas station stop).
When I got back, there was a BBQ lunch and then we pretty quickly launched into a seminar on bike-setup and map reading.
Dirty Kanza has 2 check-points (approx mile 75 and 150) where you can meet up with your support crew, but otherwise the race is self-supported. I’m going to do a separate post on what I plan to carry with me on my bike, but the seminar was nice to go over things we hadn’t thought about (like having sunglasses, but ALSO eye protection that isn’t tinted for once the sun goes down).
The course is also NOT marked and you have to navigate it yourself. My Garmin (810) has turn by turn navigation and you load the course ahead of time, so I’m not too worried about this part of the race. I just have to be sure to charge my external battery and keep it on me because my Garmin will definitely not last upwards of 15-18 hours (or 20). I also need to get a compass just in case, but other than that we talked about how the roads are named by letter if they are North/South (A, B, C, D) and by number if they are East/West (120, 130, 140).
We then had a 2 hour break (YAY FOR SHOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) before heading back as a group to Radius Brewing Company for dinner. No photos from dinner because I didn’t want to be THAT person, but it was even better tonight. Pork Belly Alfredo Pizza, Pickled Beet Hard Boiled Eggs, Scotch Eggs, salads, and more pork belly. So good.
After dinner was our final seminar for the day on Bike Maintenance. Being athletes willing to tackle Dirty Kanza, knowing how to change a tire is already a must, so this class covered some more in-depth topics: how to repair a broken chain, how to flip your bike to single-speed if your derailleur craps out, how to get by if a spoke breaks, and how to set your bike to an easier gear if your shift cable snaps. We also each got a free chain tool which made my day
The kind of repairs are definitely on the tougher side (especially if you are trying to accomplish them on the side of a gravel road in the sun), but I think I could actually manage to do most of them myself. The key is having the tools in the first place. And we mainly covered damage-control.. how to eek by the rest of the race, so these don’t take you out of the game. Definitely not long-term solutions.
The rest of the night was spent recouping at the hotel 100 miles on tap for Day 3!
I’ll be back soon with a recap for Day 3 and 4!
If you ride, do you know how to change a tire? I was guilty of not learning until just weeks before Ironman Arizona… Oops But I always carried the necessary supplies with me.