Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200

It has been a while since I posted on my blog, but since this was my first bike race, I thought I would blog about my experence.  After winning the Hawk 100 in September of last year, I suffered thru an Achilles injury that sidelined my running.   I had been looking at the Dirty Kanza for a couple years, and thought it looked fun, but never done any cycling.  With the injury, I started spinning to stay in shape.  I decided to buy a bike and sign up for the DK in January. I spent the winter months on the spin bike. With winter dragging on and on in Kansas, I really only had 2 months of training on the bike outside, and 6 or so  80-100 mile training rides. I found out fast, I really enjoyed ridding thru the country on my training rides.  I did all my training solo, other than a couple road rides with some tri-athlete friends of mine.  There is nothing like jumping right into the fire, signing up for my first real bike race the DK 200,  having never rode over 100 miles, or been on the bike for more than 6hrs at one time.  Not to mention having no knowledge of cycling, bikes, gear, equipment ect.  But, being an endurance junky, I was really looking forward to my first DK.  It was fun to go to a race where no one knew who I was, and having no target on my back.  The DK for me was something I was going to do for fun.  However, I still thought I could put up a decent time, and set my goal of doing the race against the sun getting in before sunset at 8:47 pm or 14:47 or better.  It's like I told my friend before the race briefing "this is what ultra-runners do in their spare time".  I enlisted the help of a couple of my ultra-runner friends to crew for me and was ready to start my first  Dirty Kanza experience.  So here we go.

The Finish
Me and my Crew

The Dirty Kanza 200 Premiere Gravel Road Race thru the Flint Hills in Emporia, KS was awesome. I had an absolute blast in my first official bike race. The race started with 660 some riders. I started somewhere in the top 50 or so. The pace for the first 17 or so miles on relatively flat gravel, was  fast 20+ MPH with riders all jammed together. At this point things got a little thinned out and I decided to kick it back some, and enjoy the ride thru the Flint Hills.  I generally go out hard when I run, but I was determined to stick to my plan, have fun and beat the sun.  At one point we had to carry our bikes thru a muddy jeep road. Next up was a thigh deep water crossing. This was just like ultras only on a bike, no big deal for me. Then the hills began, and the scenery was grand, to the first check point at mile 50 in Madison, KS. I came in there in right at 3hrs and felt great. Once we left there we headed almost due West towards Cassoday, KS. The wind was blowing 20+ mph NNW making this stretch really slow bucking the wind. I was pretty much riding solo now into the wind. I had no team, or friends to draft with, so I bucked the wind alone.  Not  to mention, I didn't have much experience drafting in a pack of riders, and wasn't sure how that worked.   Could I just jump on any train?  The team riders didn't seem to take in any outsiders, so needless to say I bucked the wind alone.  If a train went by and told me to jump on, I did. But that only happened a couple times the whole race.  The gravel roads got rougher and rougher the farther away from cavitation we got, and also the hills. We were going up and down, up and down, and on rough rocky road especially thru Battle Creek. Which I have ran several times in the Heartland 100.   It was cool to be on the Heartland 100 course from Texaco Hill to Cassoday about 30 miles. I did catch a train for the last 4 or 5 miles and came into Cassoday at mile 100 in 6:55 still feeling great. Everything was going as planned and felt like I was staying in my comfort zone. I could of rode harder, but was sticking to my plan. Quick 5 min stop to refuel and hydrate, and I was off again. This next section, we started going East for 11 miles with the wind pushing me, I think I averaged 20+MPH thru here. Then we headed North and the hills, rough rocky roads, and wind began again. This section was very similar to section 2. While these sections were very scenic thru the Flint Hills, they were also a bitch, grinding up hills with loose jagged rocks into the wind again. It seemed like we were never going to get a tail wind.  The stretch of pavement was a welcome relief  coming  into checkpoint 3 in Cottonwood Falls, KS at mile 150 in 10:50. I was feeling a little rough, here after 2 sections of killer hills and wind. And not having a team or friends to draft with.  My crew had a black bean and cheese quesadilla for me, that  brought me back to life. I was still in a race against the sun.   And had less than 4 hours to go the last 50 miles. I was not sure I could make it, if this section was like the last two.  But, I was determined to ride this last section as hard as I could. The wind began to die off some, and was going to be at my back most of the way now. The closer we got to Emporia, the roads flattened out some, and were in much better shape. In spots, I was riding 17-22 mph again, and it felt good to be moving again after grinding thru the last 2 sections. (I know now why they call them Gravel Grinder races) I tried not to look at my Garmin and just ride as hard as I could. When I hit 190 miles, I has almost an hour to get in before sunset. I road hard, as the road was relatively flat now. I could not wait to hit the pavement on the North side of Emporia and the last mile to the finish. My Garmin hit 200 miles and I was still on gravel, till I finally seen the Highway. I hit the pavement and knew I was going to make it before sunset. As soon as I got into Emporia, people were lining the streets cheering you in. Thru the ESU campus, and onto the main street to Downtown, 5 blocks to go. The streets were lined with people cheering, it was awesome. With 2 blocks to go you go down a shoot with hundreds of spectators on both sides cheering and hi-fiveing you. I felt like a Rock Star, and I was elated. I crossed the finish line in 14:29.35 and 25th in my division and 60th overall. I got my awards and finisher pint glass to be filled with beer! Once thru the shoot there were spectators on the other side congratulating me, and my crew and family was there also. It was an AWESOME event. I hear there were 4000+ people downtown for the finish. I will be back next year, as this was the funniest race I think I have ever done. And think I can ride even faster.  I got to thank my Crew William Sprouse and Mark Berry, and my wife for her continued support and encouragement. It was a great day, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


  1. Darin, I think you've - officially - transformed yourself to "RiderFreak". Congratulations on an awesome performance in an amazing event. It was truly a privilege to be part of this - clearly, you paid a lot of tuition prior to this event - tuition you used in the course of it to do very well on a very challenging course with a very talented field of athletes. It's rare to get to spend time - first hand - with folks who have big dreams...and the resolve to make those dreams reality - and that's you. It was a great gig - seeing the race unfold, blow by blow, and enjoying an exceptional day with Iron William Sprouse. Thanks again for affording me the privilege. Mark

  2. Great read. I was traveling with you as I read. Good encouragement. Super job Big D.

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