Phew. These last few weeks before Dirty Kanza have absolutely flown by. Now I’m 1 week out from race day and in a strange state of PANIC, DESPAIR and ACCEPTANCE.
Since I last blogged, I’ve gotten some really solid training miles in and it has been a busy June. To recap:
– Paul and I flew to Indianapolis to celebrate his sister’s graduation from Indiana U.
– I rode my bike home from work (leaving my car) only to get completely stormed out the next day. Big thanks to Paul for driving me 30 miles the OPPOSITE direction to work at 5am.
– My biggest fan
– I managed to get a couple more days in riding my bike to and from work, but the rain here has been insane. It barely goes a full day without any which really puts a damper (ha) on my cycling.
But last weekend, we braved the rain and drove out to Rocheport, MO for a race that is super-low key, but well run: The Hairy Hundred.
I managed to get almost 40 miles in on Saturday (just a quick ride around the airport and to Starbucks), but I felt good and ready to take on 100. It stormed pretty bad overnight and it was a downpour almost the entire 2 hour drive there (not that I would know, I slept in the car).
When we arrived, I was SO nervous. There were only like 40 people riding, so the race is nice and small, but this was kind of the make-it-or-break-it race leading up to Dirty Kanza. If I can’t do this, I’m DOOMED for DK.
Well, it started off really well. Despite the rain, the gravel was good and while we had a few water-crossings (giant puddles where you can’t see the ground and just have to trust there isn’t a giant pothole or branch), the sun came out pretty quick and it ended up being an absolutely perfect day (weather-wise. ONLY weather-wise).
I managed to keep my place somewhere near the middle for the first 30 miles. I was keeping good, steady speed and while there were plenty of hills, there wasn’t anything that I really couldn’t handle. I only walked 1 hill in the first 30 miles and that was more so I could get in some nutrition than actually needing to walk (spoiler: I FAILED at nutrition during this race).
At about 30 miles, we hit our first Casey’s General Store. I stopped in, used the bathroom, got a 5 Hour Energy, a Gatorade, and some Oreos. Up until this point, I had really only had a gel and some Gu Brew (which really doesn’t have any calories).
After mile 30, we hit the biggest hills. I walked a few of them, but was still feeling really good. The sun was out in full force now and I was definitely regretting not bringing my sunscreen. I had a couple people pass me, but I knew I was still ahead of a couple small groups. Me being ahead of anyone on a bike is a miracle to me, so I was basically on cloud 9.
Around mile 50, I started to waver though. I had eaten a waffle and some of my Oreos, but I was being stupid and not realizing how few calories I was actually taking in. We hit some paved roads in town as we headed towards the 2nd Casey’s and I was STRUGGLE BUS-ing here. I wanted OFF my bike.
I reached the 2nd Casey’s and went in and got a Coke Zero. I ate a GU Roctane and drank my coke and sat on the side of the gas station trying to re-coop. The SAG wagon pulled up and reminded me to check into the bag drop at mile 55 before continuing on. Trust me, I wasn’t going to miss it.
I pulled myself together and made it a few miles to the bag drop. I camped out at a picnic table here for quite a while with my Coke Zero and a bag of beef jerky. I also ate another GU, but was oblivious to the fact that I’m really only looking at 600 calories for 5 hours of hard work. Fail Fail Fail. No wonder I was feeling sick.
We had a SAG wagon following us the entire first half, but I found out at bag drop that there was no SAG for the 2nd half. I would have to CALL the race director if I wanted a ride from this point on. This really spooked me (I like an easy out), but I knew I couldn’t give up here.
I left the halfway point and then hit the hardest hill of the whole ride. It was a steep hill, on a paved road, but the road was pretty busy with cars zooming past me. I ended up getting off and then having to walk my bike on the road. I was super whiny at this point and contemplated walking back to the bag drop and hitching a ride… but I kept going.
The next 10 miles were a lot of suffering. I was whiny in my head and thankful to be alone. Around mile 65, the two back of the pack racers caught up with me. I was seconds away from calling it in and getting a ride, so I am SO happy that these 2 found me. At the time, I wasn’t all that thankful though. I kinda wanted them to go away and let me suffer in silence, but they were incredible nice and offered to let me draft off of them. The wind honestly wasn’t too bad and at this point it was actually kinda flat. I just felt sick to my stomach and wanted to curl up and nap.
I rode with them for a while and stayed behind when they got a flat around mile 70. I kept telling myself: “when I reach mile XX, THEN I’m calling for a ride”, but they kept pushing me which I was thankful for.
The last 30 miles of the race were also on a mix of paved and flat roads. This was key to my survival as well. Had there been a ton of tough hills, I don’t know if I could have powered through. I just knew that there was the final Casey’s gas station around mile 81 and that was officially my calling point. I was going to call Paul and he was going to save me from this suckfest.
We pulled up to Casey’s and I told the guys I was out. Done. Giving up. But they said they would wait for me as long as I needed. I bought a 2nd Coke Zero and ate another Gu while camped out in the shade. I knew we only had a few miles (comparatively) left and that those miles were flat and on the Katy Trail which is easy gravel (however, also unreachable by car).
Somehow the gravel gods looked down on me because I managed to rally (I thank the caffeine for that). I knew that if I gave up now, there would be NO way for me to be hopeful about finishing Dirty Kanza. And I knew the incomplete race would haunt me for a long, long time.
Those last miles ended up being my best somehow. We easily coasted in with speeds around 13-15 mph and crossed the finish line 3 abreast while everyone yelled and cheered for us. We were dead last, but it felt SO good to complete the race. I owe those 2 guys everything for pushing me to finish.
We ended up finishing in 10 hours and 34 minutes, but when I looked at my GPS data, I was only moving 8 hours and 44 minutes of that time. Basically 2 hours were spent suffering and whining. This race was incredibly humbling.
To finish Dirty Kanza, I have to maintain 10 mph (including all stops). If I manage to stick to my nutrition plan and not feel like butt, you might think I have a good shot. Just don’t consider that the Flint Hills of Kansas make the hills of Missouri look like speed bumps.
So, I finished The Hairy Hundred way slower, way more dehydrated, way more sunburnt and way more last than I had hoped to.. but I finished. I suffered through when I wanted to give up and that’s pretty valuable training for Dirty Kanza. I’m terrified for the Dirty Kanza, but I’m also kind of at peace. I know my “hay is in the barn” even if that hay is more fitting for 75 horses instead of the 200 I need it for.
This weekend is a odd taper weekend of sorts. Tapering for a bike race isn’t as drastic as it is for a marathon/running, but I have plans of grilling out, going to a baseball game, being with friends, and then doing 100 paved and fairly flat miles on Monday.
7 days until DK-Day…. OMG.