Archive for Cup O' Dirt

100 Mile Cheq to Cash

Alright, the only reason to look at this blog lately is to waste time. So waste a little looking at the gear I am going to use for the Chequamegon 100 this Saturday!

I would ride this bike if I were cooler.

But I am not cooler, I am exactly this cool. So I will ride this bike. 32×18, we shall see. Not sure about the bag yet. Going to use a big old hydration pack with 100 oz, plus 2 bottles on the frame. Not sure what to expect for weather yet, I won’t trust the forecast until Friday, or maybe Saturday night… Of course I can adjust right up to go time, but this is the plan.

I put on some new tires. The old ones are old, the rear was especially worn of course. Plus the new ones have bigger logos!

Big logo! Treadier than before! Also, after a looong wait, I got a new pair of mtb shoes. I am not sure this is a good idea, and I only started wearing them last week.

I am a big believer in the don’t rock the boat Jettero Heller theory of if it is working just relax, it will keep working. But them Sidi shoes had been worn out years ago, and my toes were paying the price. So I got some Giro shoes and so far I like them fine. They fit better, the insoles are not destroyed. The cleat area is much more solid, too, I have long been worried that I was going to pull out of pedals or just rip out the bottoms. That is what happened to my last pair of mtb shoes, back in 1999 while warming up for a cx race. Got my entry fee back, which is better than I usually fare when I race!

Okay seriously, how cool would this ride be up there? Pink pedals, ready to roll. Maybe I will bring it along. Or there is always the 40!


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Last Saturday was the Dirty Kanza 200 and I was there representing for the 30¢ Squad.  I rode the MASI SSCX.  I ate a lot of King Size Salted Nut Rolls.  This was my fourth ride at Kanza, and in order to get the most out of this 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 go!

The bike is set up pretty close to my old reliable LeMond Poprad for fit, but I went with the new svelte saddle it came with rather than my usual Selle Italia.  I also tried new tires and went with the 700×35 Schwalbe Marathon Extreme instead of my usual 700×32 Ritchey Speedmax.  Gear was 39 x 17.

The drive down was all about pre hydration, the forecast was plenty of sunshine and highs in the 90’s.  We arrived, checked in, and had another awesome pre race meal and beer(s) at Casa Ramos.  The Dirty Kanza starts at 6 am, so you have to get up early.  We got up at 5 and were out the door at quarter til 6.  A 3 mile ride to the start saw us show up at 3 minutes until go time, at least that is what the police officer told us.  No problem, backed it in for the front row, fiddled with this and that and off we went.

photo from Emporia Main Street facebook page

Section 1: 58 miles

I was in it to win it, so I made an effort to stay at the front.  We rolled out of town and hit the gravel which makes this event what it is and I was pretty comfy holding wheels in the frontish area of the field.  I drifted back, I drifted up, a few times the field split at a corner or just when a tandem decided to push the pace a bit, but it kept coming together again.  I wandered around and said howdy to some folks I knew from previous Kanzas.  One thing that occurred to me, not many Surlys around the front of the gravel grinding scene anymore, but plenty of the custom, the carbon, and the ti.  Oh my!

About 30 miles in there was a big whooshing sound from up ahead and the separation finally happened, a group rolled away.  I was happy to let them go and ride my own singlespeedey pace for a while, as far as I could tell there was one singlespeed in that group.  I got on the back of a small group, we were still in the open range so cows continued to roam all around us, and I just hung out taking it all in until Dennis and Corey came by us.  I got on my gear a little bit and went up to them just to say howdy and see how things were going.  Riding for a bit at speed was nice to catch up on stories, but not so good for staying with the group I had been in, so I soldiered on alone once the D & C train had left me behind.  There were a couple of good kicker style hills here, steep enough to get me close to stopping even, but I gutted them out and rode over the top, wondering if I would pay for the effort later with some cramps…

photo from the Chamois Butter facebook page

Nearing the first check I was surprised that I had drunk all of my on bike liquids.  Holy crap, I said aloud, it is not even hot yet!  But it was true, I had put down 2 liters of Nuun and a 22 oz bottle of water besides.  It was not even 10 in the morning!  I made it into the first check feeling fine, and very happy with the way things were going.  Support man Jeremi was there nursing his hangover and we had a quick chat as I loaded up my fresh bottles and grabbed another King Size Salted Nut Roll.  I was a bit worried about on board liquids as the heat continued to build so I grabbed a couple of Gatorades at the C store to drink one and pocket the other.

Section 2: 44miles

Back on the road for 44 more miles.  This section started off with a fair bit of tailwind so I had to just settle down and ride, let the wind push me, and keep my hydration and eating going.  I did not ride with many people on this section as most of the people around me were geared so they just rolled by while I was limited by my gear.  I enjoyed the scenery and ate a Pro Bar.

At mile 78ish there was a confusing part on the map, 2 unmarked turns in a row, and a big group of riders already standing there trying to figure it out.  Confusion reigned, some folks rode off in a couple of different directions to see where the roads went.  I held tight and drank some Gatorade, not wanting to ride any further than I had to.  There was a consesus on which road to take and a group took off, but I was still not convinced so I kept waiting with some other folks.  We had quite a group going, looking at the maps, compasses were out, and I was fretting that I had been stopped for at least 10 minutes at this point, when Matt Brown of Emporia rolled up and said we were going the right way.  So off I went, back in traffic and a bit grumpy about it, but what can you do.  Looking at the map after the event I know I could have just looked at the map closer, it was right all along.

photo from the Chamois Butter facebook page

This road was awesome, I remembered it from 2 previous Kanzas, and it is totally rocky and remote with a few water crossings.  I had been caught by 2 singlespeed riders at the navigation stop and rode with one for a while but we seperated on a climb.  Shortly after I thought mine eyes were playing tricks on me when a recumbent passed me, but sure enough this phantom was real!  John from Florida, part owner of the Bacchetta company, and here he was riding the DK200 on a recumbent.  I was impressed!  Our paces had a real tough time matching, so I wished him a good ride and we rolled apart.

Just before the check I was caught by another singlespeeder from Chicago.  We rolled a short bit together, but I had to stop to pee so I let him go.  I kept my pace steady all the way into the checkpoint, and was happy to see that I was almost out of liquids again, I was drinking plenty – or at least as much as I could comfortably carry.  I took a 30+ min break here.  Called Cody to let her know how it was going.  Sat in the shade.  Ate food.  Rubbed ice all over myself.  Drank Gatorade.  Reloaded my bottles.  Had potato chips.  Grabbed another King Size Salted Nut Roll.  Talked with Jeremi and a guy from Eskridge.

Section 3: 60 miles

I rolled out alone at 1:30 facing a 60 mile stretch with no services, the heat of the day, and the feeling of the 100 miles already in the legs.  There was a lot of tailwind here, so that was something.  I was still feeling pretty good, but sometimes my stomach would go a bit funny.  It became a game, wait for my stomach to settle, take a bite of King Size Salted Nut Roll, and then wash it down with Nuun.  Kept all my systems going, except for my rear tire.  Descending a hill at about mile 120 it blew.  I was pretty bummed, hoping that the Marathon Extreme would last the day, but no.  Major bonus that I rolled right into the shade, and the puncture was super easy to find.

Got passed by a few people while I was changing it, and rolled on just as Eric from Nebraska was passing so I jumped on with him.  We rode some miles, talked about how we were feeling, and joked about calling it quits at 200 kilometers and just telling people that yes, we had finished the D200K.  At some point we seperated, gears and singles don’t always mix, and I rode some more alone, rode by another singlespeeder who was walking a climb, and saw Dennis sitting in the shade.  Looked pretty nice…

Dennis got up and moving and caught me soon enough.  We had a chat about the heat and rode pretty slow for a tailwind section, but glad to be staying in motion.  I was still feeling okay at this point, but was beginning to worry that there were still about 30 miles to go to the next check, and the heat was definitely working on me.  How long could I last?  A quick look south changed everything, there were huge clouds, they were dark, and they were about to block out the sun!  It happened soon enough, the temp dropped in an instant and I was back to rolling full steam ahead.

I could see a couple of riders ahead, but chasing on a single in a tailwind is futile, so I just kept chugging along.  There was a beautiful B road here, miles of grass covered dirt road, it was really smooth except for some big rock sections, and I was having a blast.  Came to a water crossing with a sharp rise after it and I had to hit it hard to get over it on the gear, still riding everything!  The two riders up ahead were really close now, and then there they were, standing at the top of a hill.  Corey again with another Nebraska rider named Dale.

We rolled along and laughed about the clouds coming in, wondering if maybe the wind could possibly switch again and push us back to Emporia from the last check.  It spit some rain on us, and Corey stayed on the gas and left Dale and I behind, we chatted some more and then he jumped up to Corey.  Riding into town the wind started to whip, the thunder started to crash, and I was happy to get to the check before it let loose.  Got the last map and found Jeremi at the car.  I was going to do a smash and grab here, take 2 bottles and some food and roll, but 2 things happened.  A squeeze of my tires showed the rear was super soft, and the storm landed.  So I ran for the shelter of an overhang, and got to change my second flat in relative safety and comfort while the rain lashed down.  Even had a floor pump!

The storm blew itself out pretty quickly, I hit a C store for a bit more food while it finished up, and then I was rolling out.  Saw the Nebraska guys, Corey and Dale and James were just saddling up as well so we rolled out together, 43 miles to go!

Section 4: 43 miles

The route was a rail trail for a few miles out of town so we rolled pretty quick on the flat grade.  It was still raining, but not storming, and the temps were way down now, so it felt really good, I felt really good, too, and even the legs felt really good.  I was not sure if I could hang with the group or not on the single, but was hopeful I could catch any singlespeeders remaining out in front of me.  I had an idea there was just one, but it is really hard to keep track of who is where going through the checkpoints, so I actually had no clue what was going on except that I was 43 miles from being done.

So we rolled, and the wet roads were really soft in some places, mud and rocks flying all over the place.  My shoes were getting filled with pebbles which I fantasized were massaging my feet?  The rain petered out, and the skies looked clear ahead all the way to Emporia.  Our little group was chugging right along, slip slidding through some sections but morale was high.  Mileage eludes me, but we came around a bend and there was a group stopped.  Joe Fox and Tim Ek, I don’t remember if anyone else was there, but the mud and rocks had claimed the derailler of Joe’s nice bike and they were trying to single it.

photo from Corey’s blog.

We stopped, they worked, the other geared folk started to clean their drivetrains, I waited a couple of minutes, asked if they were all good and then rolled on, solo again.  I bet I rode 150 miles solo this year?  Back on the road and the single was doing awesome in the constantly changing conditions.  Shortly I rode through another low and muddy part, saw another geared rider walking with his bike on his shoulder to get through, and then on the climb out I rode past another singlespeeder walking the climb.

I kept at it, the legs were feeling fresh and I was not just riding, I was putting power to the pedals, which is a great feeling after riding 170 miles.  The route was going south, and I saw a lake on the map to the west of Americus (last town we would pass through) and I just knew it was the one we had ridden around on previous Kanzas, and there was a monster climb there.  Looking ahead it was easy to know it was true, a big ridge loomed.  We would see two big climbs to cross it.  The first had me wondering if I could ride it, the gravel was still soft from the rain, but I had no problem.  I could see another rider ahead, so that kept me motivated.  I ground up the climb by the lake and was happy to see that I was riding it faster than when I had done it geared!

Over the top I could still see the rider out ahead but he had a pretty good gap on me.  The route swerved east and we even went back north a bit to take us through Americus.  I caught the rider ahead at some point, and just after we turned onto a B road.  It was a 2 track with tall grass, and a short squat powerful animal exploded out of the grass and took off down the road in front of me, I have never seen a Badger before but I knew immediately this was a Badger!  Super cool, he was running for all he was worth, and I did not want him to decide that fight was better than flight so I hung back and yelled at it a few times to get it to clear the road.  It did, but it dropped its dinner (big snake) to do it.  I hope it came back for it, sorry to startle you Badger, but you startled me, too!  The guy I had just caught thought maybe it was a gopher but I know me a Badger when I see one for the first time!

So on we went, I left the other rider behind, the road into Americus was SUPER bumpy and I whimpred aloud, “oh come on already”, as there were still miles to go and my sitting parts were feeling pretty done with the whole bike seat thing.  I got chased by a dog, not a pretty sprint I am sure.  Had to remember to eat, 43 miles is still a long ways, so I cracked another King Size Salted Nut Roll and had a bite or two.  Drank some more Nuun.

Getting close to Emporia, and close to sunset, and I could not see any riders ahead or behind.  I kept the pace as high as I could, and did not have to turn the lights on until the edge of town when we popped out on pavement.  I rode into town, took a wrong turn (whoops) and rode across a big parking lot before realizing that last year’s DK markers were still on the pavement…  Back on track, back on ESU campus, back on Commercial Street, and back across the finish line!

There was a huge crowd.  Lights!  Cowbells!  Cheers!  It was awesome to be done, Jim Cummins came over for the handshake and congratulations, and told me 11th overall and 2nd singlespeed.  We talked over the day, the flats and the heats and the storms, I thanked him and congratulated him on another amazing Kanza adventure, and then he had to go welcome in the next finisher.

So I never did catch that last singlespeeder, but I am super happy with my ride.  I did not cramp all day, I rode the entire course, I got a pint glass and a bag of Swiftwick stuff.  Plus I had a good time.  What more could I ask for?  Big thanks to the promoters and organizers, the city of Emporia, the sponsors, and all the other riders for being part of such a great event.  I hung out for a while, talked with other riders, cheered in other finishers, ate pizza, called Cody and my folks to let them know I was done.  The support crew was still back at the 3rd check waiting for a really muddy tandem so I did not have my clothes to change into and did the podium in the 30¢ Squad kit.

I really needed to get out of the shorts so I loaded up and rode the 3 miles back to the hotel for a shower – out of the saddle the whole way!

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The Dirty Kanza Adventure

Another Kanza in the books!  The 30¢ Squad of me went down on Friday in the company of Steve McGuire and Adam Blake for the Dirty Kanza 200.  There had been much logistical contention this year, with lots of people from the area going, so we had to work out hotel rooms and cars and such.  A last minute subtraction from our group, Dave Pals got sick the night before and was unable to come with us.  Sad news and we missed his company.  I will spare the travel details, other than every stop as we neared Emporia it seemed to be hotter out.

Saturday morning we rode to the start for a bonus 3 miles.  I was on my usual rig, the Poprad.  Funny that I can’t even remember who rode over, but I know Blake and Steve Fuller, I think Paul Jacobsen? Others?  I dunno.  We got to the start line and it was hopping with lots of racers this year, have not heard an exact number but 150+ seems like a good enough estimate for blog purposes.  I had nothing to do, everything was set, so I hung out until they said go at 6am.

Photo borrowed from Corey through the wonders of the internet

It was forecast to be a hot and windy one, and it was already nice and warm as we rode out of town.  The gravel began and we all settled into the smooth spots, which made us two long lines.  Just 5 miles in I had my first challenge.  The bottle cage I had mounted under my downtube and subjected to rigorous testing slipped under the pounding of the Kansas countryside, and my 28oz bottle started rubbing on my front tire.  Not good!  I was not about to stop and mess with it at this point, so I pulled it, slammed it, and tossed the bottle.  Sorry Kansas ecosystem, but my pockets were full – there was nothing I could do.

6 miles in and a bottle down already, I was feeling pretty good.  We were trucking along at a fine pace, and the group was thinning.  This was a new to me course, but the first leg was mostly over familiar terrain, and I even found myself anticipating some turns.  We encountered a loose cow that loped along in the ditch for awhile.  We hit some climbs, I spent some time at the front, and the group thinned out.

22 miles in I had moved back a bit and was enjoying some draft when someone ahead caught the lip of a rut in the road and went down.  The guy in front of me, who I now know as Troy Krause, ate it and I got to run over his nice ti Serrotta, which I did until I lost momentum and fell over.  I got up cursing, there were five or six of us on the deck.  I asked around if folks were okay, Dennis Grelk had taken it on the chin but was up and picking up his bike, people mostly agreed that this sucked but that they were alright.  I jumped on and was pissed to see that the 9 riders who had made it through the crash were not waiting.

A look around showed that a few of us were up and moving, so I wanted to catch on to tell them to wait for 1 minute and we would all be together.  I tried for 5 miles, I got to a point where I was at the bottom of a hill they were just cresting, but by the time I reached the top they were way out there and lined out.  I knew it was over for chasing so I let it go and went to my own pace, still stewing that they had not waited.

Photo borrowed from Corey through the wonders of the internet

This section of road I last traveled in 2007 and I declared it was the coolest gravel road I had ever ridden.  It is still pretty cool.  The open range, lots of climbing, loose fire road style rocks, cows on the move, and water crossing a plenty.  I was happy to have my rear fender on to keep my shorts dry.  The ride was beautiful, by the way, it was  a hot day but the sky was clear and the countryside was green and I tried to remember to look around as much as I could to take it in.

I passed a rider who had a flat, he said he was all good, and I kept on trucking solo until the big hill (you know the one) where he caught up.  He went right by and I was content to let him.  After the climb we finally turned out of the wind and maybe 40 miles in (I gave up my maps) we turned North and got tailwind.  I was feeling good so I put it in the big ring and let it roll.

Photo Jed Sampsel

Got into the 60 mile checkpoint, got my maps, asked how many were in front.  About 10 was the word.  Headed to the Casey’s to do some resupply.  My missing water bottle was a concern, but it was nicely replaced with a smaller bottled water.  Filled the mammoth bottles and tossed in some Nuun, put 2 more small bottles in my pockets (not messing around!) and slammed almost all of a 32 oz Powerade.  There were a couple of guys in who had ridden the DK Lite in the morning but had kept on wandering around until they got to Cottonwood Falls and they wished me luck.  I said thanks and took off, still rolling solo.

Out of town on pavement, past the huge courthouse, and out on the road that had brought me into town and the last checkpoint in previous Kanzas.  Riding the road I recognized a few things, like that my rear wheel had a decent hop in it, and also the store Bummies, which I had stopped at during both other Kanzas I had ridden.  Not today, I waved and kept on.  Very excited that I needed to pee, hydration was working even as the day continued to heat up.  I took care of it on the fly and kept rolling until about mile 70 when I had to stop and check on the rear wheel.  It was out of true, yes, hitting a Serotta will do that to a wheel.  A quick crank of 3 spokes set it right and I was off again.

Shortly I was caught by another rider aboard a fine Ira Ryan rig!  His name was Joe Fox, I complimented him on his bike and we chatted Ira for a bit.  We kept talking and found out we not only both owned Ira Ryan bicycles but bike shops as well, so that gave us plenty more to chat about.  We got back on gravel at some point and rode smooth and steady.  We encountered a few other riders, a Sunflower guy who had no lights, and then a couple of High Gear guys, one I remembered was Tim Mohn.  We talked over old times, got a dust bath from a passing pickup truck and rolled into checkpoint 2 at about Noon, 100 miles down in 6 hours.

I was excited to see the support car there, I was out of all liquid but for the emergency store under the downtube, so I tore into my cooler, dumped my trash, and loaded up my fresh bottles.  I had an organic bottled coffee that was awesome, and I replenished my pocket food.  The first half I had eaten 1 Clif Bar (impressive, eh?), 1 package of Clif Bloks, 2 cheesy crackers (crackers, not packs of crackers), and 1 king size Salted Nut Roll.  As I recall I had also drank something like 190 ounces of Nuun while in motion, plus most of a 32 ounce Powerade at the previous check.  Done with the cooler I headed to the local C Store for some serious lunch food.

Rolling up I saw a couple of racers out front and we said howdy before I went inside.  Pizza never fails at these moments and they had 2 slices for me.  I also drank a Gatorade and got 2 more bottles for my pockets.  I went out to eat and met Salsa guys Joe Meiser and Tim Ek.  I complained of the folks not stopping at the crash and Tim said not to look at him, he had just been barely hanging on.  Oh well.  He also said it looked like I had only ridden 10 miles.  I dunno if he was being serious or trying to mess with my head, but I felt pretty good just the same.  They took off a few minutes before me, I chatted with a woman who was running support for her husband and then I rolled.

Another 40 mile section ahead, still lots of tailwind for it.  I was rolling well, not pushing the pace, just keeping it steady.  Saw Joe and Tim stopped with a flat, they said they were good.  Saw Jeremy Fry from Iowa also stopped with a flat and he too said he was fine.  I saw lots of folks with flats over the course of the day but overall I think I heard less about them than in years past.  Maybe folks are starting to figure it out down there?  Anyways, I rode this entire section alone.  I almost missed a turn where a guy with a horse trailer had parked and obscured the course marker, but I caught it out of the corner of my eye and barely went past it.  The clouds moved in for awhile, which was perfect, and for a minute it even rained small drops on me!

This section contained Little Egypt Road, which had quite the reputation after last years ride so I gave it due respect and took it easy on the downhills.  It was rough, but it was a neat section, some tough climbs for sure, and some big rocks through there.  One of the best sections of the route, though, this is why you do gravel road races!

Rolling into Alma at mile 140 I was astounded to realize that I had yet to cramp all day, or even feel like I might.  I had again drank all my liquid save the emergeny bottle under the downtube and it seemed that the Nuun and the Salted Nut Roll were working to beat the heat perfectly.  Into the 3rd checkpoint, 140 miles down, and I was the 5th rider in.  I had good appetite so I went into the C Store and filled the bottles, ate some food, chatted with some locals.  They were impressed / stunned / pitying when they heard we had ridden our bikes over Little Egypt.  Joe Meiser and Tim Ek came in, a rider named James was there, and as we understood the 3 leaders had left 30 minutes before.

There were no more checkpoints for the race, just a last chance C Store in 25 miles.  I cut down on water for this section, figuring it was not worth carrying the weight.  I rolled over to the checkpoint to chat with Joel, co-promoter, and he gave me the skinny on what was to come.  I needed the fat…

Joe and Tim were rolling out, and I saw Joe Fox come in.  We talked for a minute and he said he would see me in Emporia.  I laughed and said I would see him up the road.  Out I went, and just as Joel had told me there were big climbs coming up.  He described it as 3 climbs, all 2 miles long.  I describe it as hell.  The first climb was no trouble, though it did go on forever.  I was coming up on Tim and Joe near the top and was still feeling fine as I began the descent when my tire blew.  I was sad, I thought I was immune to Dirty Kanza flats after 2 clean down there, but now I knew the truth.  I stopped and went to work.  The tire had a few nicks in it and I located the hole in the tube and lined it up with the tire and booted it there.  After reinflating I looked the tire over again and saw I had missed a sidewall tear that was showing tube, so I had to do it all over again and boot that, too.  James rolled by, and a big pickup truck stopped and the driver asked if I needed help, I declined, and he said oookaaay with a roll of his eyes as his drove off.

Tire inflated, wheel back on and off again I was.  I had no interest in trying to make up time on the three I knew were just ahead, so I just rode my pace.  The climbs were relentless, the sun was back out, and it was from Alma that the course turned back to the South some to get us going back to Emporia.  That put us back into the wind some, and also put the Sun right in our faces.  It was hot, as hot as it got all day.  Then, on another descent, a rock kicked up and hit the emergency waterbottle under my downtube and just blew that bottle apart.  Uh oh…

I kept on my way but things were turning for the worse, and I was feeling it.  I saw James laying in the shade and stopped to check on him.  He said he felt fine, just hot and was going to drink a full bottle before continuing.  He seemed good so I kept on.  At mile 155 or so I came across Joe and Tim walking back at me.  Joe’s rear shift lever had imploded and would not work, they were going to try and figure it out.  I told them I was hurting and Tim said there was a nice breezy shady spot just ahead.  I rolled on and there it was so I stopped and just stood there.  I drank the last of my Nuun.  I ate the last of my Salted Nut Roll.  I got attacked by flies and bees.  I got moving.

Later I was caught by Joe Fox and he said he and Meiser and Ek had just had a hose down in somebodys front yard.  And I missed it!  I should have just turned around right then, but I did not.  Joe told me we were just 4 miles from Eskridge and the last C Store, it might as well have been 400 miles for how I felt.  As Joe rode away I thought I saw him get off his bike and walk a little section, I wondered what was up there.  When I got where he was it looked like nothing so I kept on, but it planted a little seed in my head, why not get off and walk a bit?  So rather than stand in the hot shade with the breeze and the bugs I decided to walk up a hill.  It did not help, but it was nice to be off the bike and the bugs left me alone.  Cyclocomputer showed 2.5 mph!  I got back on and rolled to the next climb which I also walked.

Got back on and stayed on.  The last climb into Eskridge I was passed by the Salsa guys and Tim told me to hang in there.  Cyclocomputer showed 6 mph, they must have been going at least 7!  Followed them in to town and the last supply point.  Joe Fox was outside and gave me some potato chips and water he had left.  We talked, he was feeling good and decided he should roll or he thought he might lock up.  He assured me that the last 40 to town was much flatter, but I could not believe it, I needed to get it back together.  Joe took off, only 2 were still on the road ahead of us, go Joe!

I went inside, got an ice cream cone and some water and a Gatorade and set to work.  While I was there lots of exciting stuff happened.  People puked.  A rider gave me half a bag of ice which I rubbed all over my arms.  That was nice!  There was some good storytelling and joking.  A few of us discussed the desire to suffer a major mechanical so we could retire with dignity.  Tim said the last section had made him want to cry but when he closed his eyes just some dust puffed out.  Lots of riders came in, I was sitting outside a lot so I cheered them in.

The first time I paid for my stuff at the C Store the nice lady at the register told me to have a good day.  When I went up at 7:30 and she told me to have a good evening I knew it was time to leave.  Not only was I feeling recovered, I was feeling fresh!  Out of town alone again, the gravel was plush and I was moving.  The sun was low in the sky, the wind had switched a bit and was pushing me in!!

Then the course turned and it was some overgrown doubletrack for a few miles, with a narsty stream crossing in it.  It was no pushover, this race, even the flat roads at the end that were taking us back to Emporia were rough and you had to pay attention.  I stopped a few times, to change my glasses, to get my headlight set, to eat potato chips.  I saw a fox run across the road in front of me as the sun was setting.  Off to the Southeast there was a huge thunderhead that started flashing lightening.  The wind was really whipping on occasion, too, and I was wondering if I was going to go from roasting to freezing through a thunderstorm during this race.

About 12 miles out it went dark, and I turned on the lights.  The headlight I had was brand new, I had pulled it off the shelf and out of the package as I was packing for the race.  I had used this very type of light before, but this one had a short in it.  It would flicker, and go completely black, and turn back on, and go to flashing mode, and I had to whack it everytime it misbehaved and it would go back to solid high beam for 30 seconds and would then repeat.  I was sad.  Then I saw a gravel ends sign and a big white dog chased me and I had to sprint and yell at it in the dark and I dropped it and then the gravel did end and it was a B Road and someone had driven their car down it when it was wet and weaved back and forth and left nice sweeping ruts now that it was dry and I hit one and my bike went one way and I started to go the other but I clipped out my left foot and slammed it down and about broke my toe but I stopped and stayed upright, too.

So I kept going, the lightenting above me and the wind whipping around and the lights of Emporia growing steadily brighter.  The navigation was easy, not a lot of turns and the course was so well marked I could just roll.  When I crossed the Interstate and was back in town I saw a blinky light on a stick off to the left and was thinking, “What the hell is that?”, when I realized it was a course marker so I turned a 180 and followed it, they were all the way through town to the finish line.  Folks were clapping and cheering and ringing bells and I was done.  16 hours, 11 minutes and 13th place.  Jim and Joel, the co-promoters, were there and they gave congratulations and we had some good laughs.  I had ridden another Dirty Kanza!  I keep getting slower!!  But this time I did not puke afterwards!!!

Photo by Michael K. Dakota

They had quite the party going on downtown and I hung out for a couple of hours and watched racers finish, watched the podium ceremony, talked to people, and ate some food.  It was a good time.  At 12:30 am or some such time I rode back to the hotel for more bonus miles, and took a well earned shower, and went to bed.  211 miles behind me, and one hell of an adventure in the books.

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My history with the Almanzo 100 has basically consisted only of my desire to ride it, until yesterday.  I was going to register in 2007 but I had already registered for Dirty Kanza and they were on the same day.  Last year I was registered, but our bike shop had just opened 3 weeks before so my training had been kaputz and I thought it would demonstrate even poorer form to abandon Cody with our just opened shop to go ride my bike for fun.

This year it all worked out and there I was at the start line at 9:00am.  I lined up near the front, there was some witty banter and we (all 300+ of us) sang Happy Birthday to the 4 year old son of promoter Chris.  It was a beautiful morning, warm and sunny, light breeze.  No arm or knee warmers required!  We got rolling right on time and with such a big group it was a bit crowded, but everyone was pretty well behaved.  Until we hit a screaming long curvy gravel downhill about 4 miles in.  The Eppen tandem let it all hang out, we all scrambled to keep contact and someone behind me lost control and went down with some other people.  It sounded nasty, I risked a quick look back and saw bikes going every which way and a tumbling person through a big cloud of dust.  Ouch.

A lead group had thus formed.  We climbed a really big hill, I lamented my decision to not use a drop bag and just carry my 4 bottles…  The lead group was small now, and every downhill the Eppens were just letting it roll which made the descents just as taxing as the climbs.  At some point after holding the wheel, losing the wheel, chasing back on and seeing a really big hill ahead I pulled the plug and fell off.  Like 10 miles into the race!  We were averaging over 20mph at this point.

Little groups of ones and twos started to form behind the lead group of 20.  I found myself in a group of 3 and we were working well together so I was not worried.  Then we took a turn 15 miles in and saw that lead group just sit up.  So all of us little groups of chasers got back on and one large group also regained contact.  The terrain was rolling, with the occasional tandem fueled rocket descent which was always followed by a granny gear (38×27 for me) climb.  I felt I was climbing well, at least.  There were a couple of touch and go moments in here for me, the average was still around 20 at the 25 mile mark, there was a separation somehow and I had to use a lot of energy to go across a gap or two and keep in contact.  In my head I was wondering if this was a good idea, and how long this pace could be maintained.  One good thing, we had all made it clear that we wanted an Iowa City rider to win, and as the group continued to whittle down there were still a lot of us in it.

33.4 miles in we took a left turn, and there was a tractor there and the Eppen tandem punched it through on the inside of the corner while the rest of us scrambled around and what do you know, it was another of the long and winding descents so they were off to the races.  It was hard to keep position in these moments without hammering for all you were worth.  My bike had a 48×12 for the top end and I think I would have needed a 53 to have a real chance of hanging with that tandem!  I gave it some gas anyway and was still in tacit strung out contact at mile 34 where the course took a hard left and went from screaming descent to leg breaking climb.  Not because of the climb so much as because we had all just been working so hard to stay on.  I knew the climb was coming and got to the little ring, but did not get the rear der out of the 12 so as I started up it was all bad.  At least I had not wound up in the ditch.

The climb was not very long, but a quick look ahead showed the carnage in progress.  I had to go to damage control and just drag myself over the top, it looked as if the lead group was down to about 10 as they went over in front of me.  There were more ones and twos in between, I figured I was just inside the top 20.  A look back showed just more ones and twos and lots of emptiness.  Still feeling that this was just too darned fast I decided to go forward rather than back and gave it as much as I could to reel in some help.  I carried on solo for 4 1/2 miles and was just catching a couple when I got caught by a group of 6 or so coming up from behind.  Way to waste energy, I thought to myself.  But now, we had a group of 10, and I did not figure there were much more than 10 ahead.

We kept the group moving, I ate some food and at mile 43 there was another steep and long climb which I pulled us up and I was still feeling okay, even if I continued to think that this pace was awfully ambitious.  As I remember the next 20 miles or so to the checkpoint did not have much for leg breaking climbs, and we just kept a good steady tempo and gobbled up some miles.  We lost a couple members of our group and caught a couple of people that were going backwards.  Around mile 50 I was feeling very good and started taking some long and steady pulls in the 20+ mph range.  Todd Gillihan from Iowa City was also in our group and the two of us did a good bit of work through here.  The checkpoint took it’s time getting to us, but it finally appeared.

They handed us our next set of cue sheets (3) and I bagged them.  Todd had a drop bag and I threw my 2 empty bottles in as well as my top tube bag after I put the contents in my pockets.  Stop was less than 2 minutes for me, but half of our group was already out of there.  I was disappointed, I thought we had a good thing going, but these rides are all about staying in motion so that is just the way it was.  As I left I could still see all of them ahead so I set about picking them off.  I got one quickly, the second took a bit longer.  The 10 miles out of the checkpoint were very hard.  Big hills!  I don’t know if it was because of the quick stop or just generally wearing down but my legs really wanted to cramp up.  I drank more liquid, massaged them as well as I could and kept going.  They never did cramp but I think it was close.

So I was riding alone, just over 70 miles done, and the legs started to come around.  There was another rider ahead who had been in our group earlier and it took a while but I was able to catch on with him.  Right as I was coming up on him he got hassled by a dog, and since the dog was focused on him it did not notice me and I was able to sneak up onto his wheel.  We happily worked together, got honked at and then buzzed by an angry gravel road motorist, and then bombed the dead end road to the water crossing.  It looked deep enough to hose a drivetrain so I followed Cully’s advice that your feet are going to get wet anyway so walk over and save your chain.  The water was cold!  As we were getting back on on the other side another guy from our earlier group hit the water crossing while we started up.

It was a good climb through an old quarry and it got my legs to thinking about cramping again, but I could tell they were just teasing me and were going to be okay.  We climbed out and crossed a road at mile 81.6, still just the two of us as the other rider had not made contact yet.  I was feeling pretty good about things here, less than 20 to go and the average still at 18mph, amazingly.

We kept moving and sometime in the next two miles got caught by the indefatigable Gillihan and the rider who had almost made contact with us at the water crossing.  With four people it felt like a vacation every time you pulled off the front!  At mile 92.2 we turned onto Nature Rd, which looked familiar and we remembered it as one of the roads we had bombed down in the morning chasing the tandem.  That memory, and the big bluff off to our right told us we were not done with the climbs…  I figured there would just be one but somehow that crafty promoter managed to find 2 to hit us with before the finish.  The last one was at mile 97 or so?  One of our group gapped us on the climb.  It was a slow motion move, we were going just 6 or 7 mph and he just distanced us a little more with every pedal stroke.  I was bummed and ready to throw in the towel and just roll in with the group of 3 but Todd was not willing to surrender.

The terrain really flattened out and he put in a big pull to close the gap.  So I helped and it hurt.  I think I took 2 good pulls, but what the heck.  At mile 98.7 the guy away kind of hesitated at a corner and we were on him, all back together with 2 miles to go.  I was tired, and I was happy to have kept up the 18 mph pace for the full 100, so I took a look back and when I did not see anyone coming to steal my spot at the line I threw in my little mental towel and sat up with just 1 mile to go.

It felt great.

I rolled in to the finish, saw Todd take the sprint of our group, which turned out to be for 11th place!  I finished 14th, and was really happy to get off my bike.  100.6 miles, 5 hours 38 minutes, 18mph average speed, 45mph max.  Found out that the Iowa City contingent had indeed rode strongly, the Eppen tandem won in 5:15 (49.5 max!), Jim Cochran 2nd, Rock Lobster 3rd, Nick Martin 5th, Geoff Perrill 6th, Todd Gillihan 11th and me in double lucky 14th.  The top 3 women were all from Iowa City, too!

Photo courtesy K Eppen

It was a great race, killer course, superb organization.  People kept rolling in to finish all afternoon and it was a good time just hanging out, swapping stories, and enjoying the day.

I rode the LeMond for this event, I had thought about riding the Ira, but circumstance did not allow.  The bike rode well, as it always does.  I tried a top tube feed bag and hated it.  Out of the saddle it would rub my legs and I had to go bowlegged to avoid it.  Glad I could ditch it at the checkpoint.  My Rapha jersey was disappointing only because it has only 2 functional pockets and I needed space to carry stuff more than I needed to look good.  Four bottles (2 24oz, 2 28 oz) was the perfect number for me, I drank the last of my liquid with 3 miles to go.  Gearing was also perfect, but not enough to hold the tandem.  I had new Superfeet insoles for my Sidis and I like them, but I have to wear thinner socks than I like and I could feel some rocks getting down into my shoes.  Not sure what to do about that…

Big thanks to the promoter, that guy must put an amazing amount of time and energy into this event.  I can not say it enough, it was top notch.  Big thanks also to my travel companions Scott and Jeremi, it was fun.

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After months of worry, speculation, and itchy-sweaty-blotchy rashes, I got the word yesterday from Smilin’ Joel that I can ride the Dirty Kanza 200 this June.

A mixed blessing (fun yet painful) but I am looking forward to seeing their course and witnessing the madness of what will be my second giant gravel grinder field of the year.  The Almanzo 100 in May has more than 400 people registered, for a mass start event.  I asked the promoter if it would start in waves, not joking, and did not hear back, so I am just going to bring my hockey pads along and enjoy the show.  Dirty Kanza is looking more managable in the 150 – 200 rider range, depending on no shows and extra shows, and that is still a monster field.  I have done some paved style road races with closed roads in fields that big and it was sketchy enough, so these events should be interesting, at least the first 10 miles!

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I Pity The Fool!

I rode my last century of the year yesterday. I promise. It was a nice bookend to the season of centuries. The first gravel century for me was at the Dirty Kanza where three of us kicked one out in six hours. We were flying. Yesterday I was alone and I was not flying. We had gotten six inches of snow the day before and the paved roads were sloppy. The gravel roads were not, they were snow and ice. I bet I did not ride even five miles of dirt. Maybe not even one.

I left early in the morning and the temperature was twenty-something. I had no plan on where to ride and first turned north. The roads in town were in terrible shape and the cemetery I rode through had not been plowed at all. Slow going. Conditions improved on the edge of town and I was making good time. The first gravel road was hard pack snow and some ice. It was surprisingly fast. I took a nice loop up near Solon and then went out East for some exploring.

I got off track and wound up on the pavement of one of our regular road training rides near the Cedar River. I followed the road a bit and found gravel again, about 30 miles into the ride now. This road was a mess. It looked as if it had only seen tractor traffic and it was soft and drifted. I had switched my gear on the Bridgestone to 34X17

Lookit That Mud Flap!

anticipating some slow sections and was able to keep moving, but just barely at times. The first climb had my computer telling me 4.5 mph! I was happy that I was able to stay on the bike but I started to worry about being able to go the distance on this day.

Eventually the road improved and I rolled into West Branch for the usual break with just over 40 miles done. Some loud mouth asked me if I had wrecked much today. Nope, I said, lots of slipping and sliding but no carnage. He laughed and walked off to his warm truck. I rode away and just two miles later biffed it. Crud. I turned South and again the road was in bad shape. Better than the tractor road but soft snow and many drifts. Plodded along, had to clear the road to let a road grater by and in its wake I found decent road surface but still not fast.

I was trying to avoid all B roads, which led me to some silly route making between West Branch and Lone Tree. I tried to go to Hills but many roads only connect with a B section or (even worse) pavement so I weaved around and doubled back on myself and got no closer to any stores of convenience but I did finally get that dratted computer to tell me I had ridden 60 miles. I started to believe I could make it then. I was some miles Northeast of Lone Tree and decided to take one more trip over the tri-county bridge and then head for home.

The road to the bridge was sketchy, lots of parallel grooves in the hard pack snow and slick, too. It kept me paying attention and I almost crashed a couple of times but it was fast. I crossed the bridge and into another world, the worst road I had encountered so far. Deep snow and just a couple of truck tire tracks. This road has a few curves and it was really hard to keep the bike from sliding sideways. It kicked around a lot, my speed was slow and I had to stop a few times to switch tracks, get out of snow banks, pick myself up after crashing and such. I was thinking this section to Riverside might never get better and would take me an hour. Not to worry, the next turn found me on another road and it was in better shape.

The bank clock in Riverside told me it was a balmy 25 degrees. Took a short break and watched an old man in an old car miss his turn completely and ram his boat into a snowdrift with a telephone pole sticking out of the middle. Not to worry, he took a moment to think and then floored the accelerator. As I rolled out of town his tires were still spinning like mad on the wet pavement, going to push through that snow and mow down that telephone pole I suppose. Scary…

The roads between Riverside and Hills were in good shape and for once I did not need to wend around all over to get mileage so I bee lined it. Hit the pavement over to Sand Road and turned for home. I saw a group of three jolly men on mountain bikes roll out of a B road and we had a wave, they looked like they were having much more fun than me. I turned off on gravel and rode gravel into town. 104.97 miles covered! I have

ridden further in colder temps but always on pavement. That was a tough ride.

There you have it, twelve gravel centuries in 2007. I rode two in one day in May at the Dirty Kanza, one in August, three in September, one of them on my single speed townie, four in November and two in December on my Bridgestone single speed.

I am glad it is done and I am glad to have stuck it out. I look forward to taking that computer off my bike and putting it back in the box it usually lives in. I am looking forward to more “fluid” rides that don’t take all day. I am looking forward to getting my dirt cup. I hope it doesn’t really have dirt in it, I would really just like a cup of coffee.

As the cup creator would say, Peace!

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Eyes On The Prize

Left the house Wednesday morning, Dec 26th, at 7:15. Two more gravel centuries required for the cup and just a week left to get them. It has been snowing a lot and in general just being cold and wintry. The skiing is great. And warm. I like it. As I was backing my bike off the porch I biffed it on a sheet of ice that used to be our front step. Swore, threw my bike, etc. Wondered why I was doing this and so on.

I rolled out and headed North. It was about 20 or 25 degrees. Hit the gravel and rode up Solon way before turning East. It was cold and the roads were actually in fairly good shape as long as you avoided the glare ice sections. After 18 miles or so I rode onto such a section while traveling down a hill and attempting to stop. I crashed.

Continued on and enjoyed the beautiful morning, moon still hanging in the sky to the West and a beautiful sunrise to the East. Turned South and went to West Branch for a quick Casey’s stop. I continued South towards Lone Tree with my usual swerve through Downey. Lots of aggressive doggies today, one bit my rear fender and I had to kick another one in the face to get it to back off. I feel bad about that. Many dogs that gave chase crashed when they left their snowy yards and hit the icy roads. Tee-hee. There was much beautiful snow! Pretty drifts and in some places it was piled up higher than me on both sides of the road. Stopped in Lone Tree for a water refill and bag of chips.

The sun was working hard now and my previously frozen and fast roads were thawing out and getting quite sloppy and slow. I had installed full fenders the day before so I was well protected but I had put them on my single speeder which was now feeling over

geared at 34X16. Went down to the tri-county bridge and headed to Riverside. The B roads I passed were either completely untouched or had seen only snowmobile traffic so I chose to avoid them as the mission for today was mileage. Arrived in Riverside after 70 miles and took my last break. The bank clock told me it was 35 degrees.

Back on the road I went West again and North almost to Iowa City before looping back down to Hills. Saw Jean Gilpin of Team Skin fame there and she asked if I was getting my last gravel century, sadly I had to answer no. Always nice to see a friendly face!

I was pretty tired but kept it moving pretty well for the last miles. Had to ride a bit out of my way to avoid B roads and still be sure of getting the 80 miles on dirt, which I did.

Got home with 103.91 miles ridden, just over 80 on gravel, snow, ice, slush, muck, etc. Some of it got stuck on my feet and lower legs. To all who poo-poo fenders I can say

that otherwise I was clean and dry and warm. Fenders work. A front mud flap should improve things, I hope to attach one before my next (and last!) ride.

Hundred, hundred, hundred more miles to go, I want to feel elated.

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