DON’T PANIC or how I learned to stop worrying and love the dirty kanza 200

I went down to Kansas with local blogging sensation Brian for another riding of the Dirty Kanza. We left Friday, stopped in Des Moines for coffee and a blessing but Kim was busy making or eating a burrito or something so all we got was the coffee. The drive went as well as a seven hour drive can go and we were at the hotel at 6. Checked in to our room and then the race. It was nice seeing so many of the people I met last year, more than 2 asked if I was going for the repeat… Went to Casa Ramos again for the pre race dinner of a big beer and super tasty enchiladas and then back to make the final prep before sleep. I slept pretty well and woke up at five.

We had bought some microwave breakfast sandwiches at the store and that was breakfast for me. The weather channel was showing a big and red and nasty looking storm moving around just to the south of us. Joy. We got ready and went to the start. Big group out there! It was pretty exciting to see so many riders ready to go on such a grand adventure. Promoter Joel told us that the storm was threatening and they might delay the start to let it pass. I was okay with that as I figured I could get a better breakfast but they made the call to send us off so we went. I stayed at the front through town and had a brief chat with Dan Hughes before we hit the first gravel. It was pretty gnarly, a nice hello, but soon enough it was back to regular old gravel. The pace seemed higher than last year, Dan was up front quite a bit, and we rolled some miles.

I saw Brian stop with a fender problem, talked with Cam Chambers for a bit, ate some food and played it cool. Brian came back, we rode some hills, the group whittled down to eight and I was impressed at the speed we were holding. At some point we encountered a loose and spooked cow that thundered along next to us in the ditch, wild eyed. Scary stuff, I assure you. Last year there were many more close-cow encounters than this year, maybe it was because the ride was 2 weeks later and the herds had been sent elsewhere?  The storm was still there, much lightening and darkness to the south. Thirty miles in I was hanging on to the back of the pain train as I was calling it and decided I could not possibly maintain the pace for another 170 miles so I sat up. Looking back I saw no one so I settled in to my happy pace and soldiered on. Brian came off the back a short while later and we got together and rolled in to the first check in Madison for a new map and some Casey’s love. The lead group was already out of there.

The woman in the Casey’s seemed unhappy to have us there, I asked in my best polite voice if I could please use the kitchen sink to fill my bottles, through tightly pursed lips she said yes. I filled them, grabbed two hash browns and was ready to go. She tersely told me I had to zip up my jersey, I put my food and money down, zipped up, and my money was gone. Vanished! I looked around, she told me my total again and looked at me with unsympathetic eyes as I exclaimed what just happened to my 30 bucks! No help. I checked my pockets, the floor, Brian bought my food for me (thanks!) I looked around on the counter. Nothing. I was agitated, went outside, checked all my pockets again, went back inside. Nothing. I have no idea what happened to that money, I hope some 8 year old kid buying bubble gum will find it wedged down in the packs and it has not wound up buying someone Camel Light 100’s and scratch lottery tickets. Or gas!

We rolled. I was still trying to choke down my hash browns. The rain was threatening. I was grumpy. We hit a deep water crossing. On a rocky section I lost a bottle out of a cage. We were riding with Jeremy Fry now, who lives in Cedar Falls and rides for Mercy. I did not know he was coming so that was cool to see him and it was nice to have another rider in our little group of Iowans. It spit some rain at us. The course this year was the same as last but for a reroute around some deep water. I was sad to see that was the part I had last year deemed some of the best gravel I have ever ridden. The new section was great as well, we were deep into the hills now and when you get up on top of them the views are tremendous. We stayed together for a long while and kept a good pace. Somewhere I lost them, I was pulling and then I was alone. We were 20 miles or so from the halfway check so I kept rolling figuring I would see everyone there as I was planning on a good break. I saw Dennis fixing a flat and kept on, caught a rider who had been in the lead group when I left it and rolled into the check feeling pretty good.

Got my map, hit my drop bag for chain lube, sunscreen and food. Joel reported that Cam and Dan were still hammering away at the front and that only one other rider had rolled on as far as he knew. I felt good about my position and wondered if those two could keep it up and went to Casey’s. Filled the bottles, ate the pizza, sponged off in the bathroom, applied the sunscreen, watched lots of riders head out, talked with Dennis, bought a small bottled water to take with me for insurance and Brian came in. He had suffered not one but two flats! I told him I hoped to see him up the road and took off.

The next section I remembered as being long and lonely and sure enough, it was. It was quite sunny and humid, I don’t know about the temp but it had been forecast to be in the upper 80’s. It sure felt hot to me. I saw very few riders on this loop. On an extremely rocky descent I lost another bottle and this one exploded. Thirty ounces of precious liquid gone in an instant. I passed another rider fixing a flat and caught up to one at around mile 140. I was riding a good pace but had some nausea. Mostly out of habit I stopped at Bummies for water. I sat outside and ate some peanuts and crackers and drank to try and get myself ready to eat hearty at the Casey’s which now was just a few miles off, I was there at 5.

My goal for this event was first to finish, may I never take that for granted, and before dark. Beyond that I was hoping for top 5 and yes, a repeat would have been grand. Long ago I knew the repeat was out. At the halfway point I still thought I could muster that top 5. Now, as I ate my pizza and drank my fluids I knew that my motivation was gone, my stomach was unhappy and I was riding for the finish. I rolled over to the check and got my last map and sat in a chair in the shade until 6. It was about 45 miles in and I knew that if I was rolling well it would take me 3 hours.

The heat of the day was over and I felt okay as I left but I could not get my legs going. Last year this was my best section of the race but this year that second wind never came. As I rolled along I kept looking at the map and I thought of just riding straight in and taking my dnf, but after the big hill (you know the one) I stopped and had some peanuts and kept on. Saw another rider in Americus, he cruised right on by. I had a gu about 10 miles out, saw a wild turkey running around, rode the nastiest B road of the ride which was badly rutted out and as I rode my last gravel I watched the beautiful setting of the sun. Back on the sound and smooth pavement of Emporia then and there was lots of car traffic and it all seemed fast and noisy but it is a short distance to the finish and before I knew it I was there.

The big digital timer told me I had been out for fifteen hours and while I almost fell over doing it I kissed that clock. I think I heard I finished 12th but I could be wrong. I picked up a nice and shiny cyclo-puter before walking to the hotel room to take my well-earned puke. Brian was already in, he had taken a ride from the last check, and he helped me collect my drop bag and bike and we went and got some dinner that I could barely eat. Gotta love it! I passed out on the bed and woke up at 2 in the morning freezing. Got under the covers, woke up at 5 starving. Ate cold onion rings and went back to sleep.

Before leaving we saw Joel and Jim who run this show and man are they ever good people!. I like this event very much and everyone is very positive out there and it is great to be part of it. Jim had a great ride to finish 4th. The details are all fuzzy as the full results are not up yet but Cam tore that course up in under 12 hours! My helmet, cap, jersey, shorts, socks, shoes and gloves are off to him, that is a stunning ride. Seems like it is all in a days work for him which makes it even more stunning. Dan took an hour off his time of last year to further pad his best in the business Kanza resume (1-2-2) and I know there was at least another woman finisher and D Pals came in on his single speed at 2:30 in the morning! I again made it through with no flats and no navigational errors.

Further details, results and photos as they are available.


7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    d.p. said,

    Good to see you again. And kudos to your ride.
    20.5 hrs on a bike?! My butt from looks like a butterflied porkchop but other than that I’m no worse for wear. Plan on mixing up a salve of bacon grease, gun powder, and whiskey if I can rastle the latter 2 ingredients away from the wife. A few navigational errors to my credit unless they put the big dipper in the southern sky. No flats. Sorry more of you couldn’t have seen the cool electrical storm at night.

  2. 2

    John said,

    Nice going Steve! No flats and a solid finish. Pretty impressive.

  3. 3

    ari said,

    Congrats Steve,
    I was wanting to go out and meet you guys but my boss was not letting me take another weekend off. Sometimes I hate working at the shop. Anyway I am glad you did the ride.

  4. 4

    way to finish strong! I thought the going into the hotel to to take a “well deserved puke” thing was absolutely hilarious. I generally get my puking done before the race! My wife through hiked in 2002, and its good to see some kindred spirits that appreciate the Appalachians. Give us a shout if your out this way again.

  5. 5

    Tarik said,


    Excellent report. Sounds like a hell of a race. Well done buddy I am glad you got your cold onion ring reward at the end.

  6. 6

    […] I said that after I puked, I think?  Then last year I got all excited about it again and went back.  It is such a good event, I hope everyone has a good time tomorrow, and I hope to be back next […]

  7. 7

    […] year’s exciting story, I suggest you first brush up on your history with a read of my first, second, and third DK ride reports.  Refreshed?  Let’s […]

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