Being my 4th Dirty Kanza and already having 3 finishes on a variety of bikes, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to not finish. No, I'm joking, that wasn't the plan. I had always rode the event with finishing in mind, and always had. This time I wanted to push myself past my comfort zone and have a different experience, and hopefully learn things. I rode my Trek Crockett setup with a 40x17 gear, because the year I did Kanza single speed was more fun than the geared or fixed years. Easy decision. Off the start I spent 30 minutes or so in the lead group led by Ted King, Neil Shirley, and all those other names. Doing this meant I was spinning like a hamster wheel and then tucking into the draft over and over. I knew this wasn't sustainable long term, but sliding along in a 25mph draft that strong was temping and enticing. I was having stomach cramps as early as mile 12, so I dropped back into my own pace that I hoped would strike the balance of letting my stomach digest my breakfast while keeping the tempo high. The flint hills were beautiful as always in the morning light, and my legs felt strong, and my breathing never felt labored despite finding an elevated pulse when palpating my carotid. Thanks elevation training.
I stopped to give another rider a tube, stopped to fix my dangling seat bag, refueled at checkpoint #1, and after fighting off a few rounds of hamstring cramps my computer ticked mile 100 about 6:15 into the race. As soon as I hit 100 I eased off a lot. I was 4 miles out from checkpoint #2, and I wanted to cool my HR and drink as much of the fluids on me as I could before I refilled. I still had not eaten any food. My stomach was feeling distended, and not letting any liquids progress deeper into my bowels. I was getting calories from fluid which was great, but I always felt full, and never had that burning furnace feeling that let me keep dumping fuel on the fire. I was really happy with my speed up to this point.
I sat down long enough at checkpoint #2 to pound half a coke and swap bottles. I got up and clipped in before I got too cozy. A few miles into segment 3 the cramps would come back and I had started to feel nauseous. The level of fluid in my gut kept increasing up my throat. I fought through the feeling of sickening torture mile after mile, riding slower and slower, but never stopping. Onward, progress, or so it seemed. After two and a half hours of sickened dizzy riding, dragging an anchor and not feeling any better, I stepped off my bike at the bottom of a hill and lay in the grass for about half an hour. I was around mile 128. I had banked tons of time, and just wanted to feel normal again. After those 30 minutes I got up and soft pedaled a few miles before I found a good friend I don't get to see as often as I wish in a similar position, so I stopped again. We talked about how life was going while responding to each of the couple hundred riders that passed us while asking if we were "ok". The shorthand response for "Not really, but we are as equally unequipped to solve the ailment as anyone else out here", is "We're good". More rarely seen friends came along, and that was the motivation I needed to pedal along, time with friends. The discomfort was still high, but sitting down as long as I did let the nausea calm down. I was still only drinking liquids, tepid warm liquids, yum.
At checkpoint #3, mile 160, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had an immense amount of time to finish, but the hours of nauseous soft pedaling and laying in ditches had eaten away at the buffer I had on the sun. I still hadn't eaten anything all day, and I tried to force a PB&J and a honey stinger waffle down, while sitting at the car, but I couldn't get them to swallow. Still no food. I knew with almost 8 hours till the time cut off I could suffer through more sickness to finish the ride, but I didn't want to at this point. I told myself I had finished enough times I had nothing to prove on that front, and that I had taken risks and learned a lot, from the good feelings and the bad. I had an amazing weekend. I got to see a lot of people that I care about that I don't get to see nearly enough. I got to try something new and add to my life experiences to look back on without wondering what could have been. I got to spend more miles in the beautiful flint hills. I got to celebrate with many friends achieving some awesome goals. Take risks, accept the consequences, learn, celebrate the victories, laugh with friends. No regerts.
I had the pleasure of riding the Lauf gravel fork both during my time at Dirty Kanza and some rides leading up to it, and I am going to talk about it more in the future, but I must mention real quick how much I enjoyed it. I really think it was beneficial in the flint hills. I also have to thank Clement for giving me 100% confidence in my tires and wheels. I passed probably a hundred riders changing flats, and my 36c MSO tubeless tires reach some sort of impossible balance of fast rolling, confident grip, and durable reliability. They let me focus entirely on riding my bike and dealing with my body, and not fixing broken equipment.