Back in January of 2011, when I had just recently discovered Team Virtus and commenced reading through their archives like the crazed groupie I was, Bob Jenkins posted a race report from his summer attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200. His account of the bicycle journey across 102 miles of Kansas in 100+ degree heat was a great read, which is typical of the Virtus blog, but unlike most of their posts, I was perfectly content to live this one vicariously:
That’s a great report and the first race report you guys have posted that made me think hell no (oops, second, bc I read about Leadville, too, and almost peed my pants at the thought of that downhill to beat the time cut-off). What’s scary is how quickly “hell no” turns into “hmmm…could I?” I think for the time being I’ll just look forward to reading your 2011 race report.
Fast forward a year, and now not only Bob, but Luke, Robby, Travis, Wendy, Jim, Derrick, and Kyle were all going to Kansas for the race. I wished them well…sort of…I think my good luck message went something like “I hope you have a great time and kick butt, but that the race is just grueling enough that I still have no desire to do it.”
The 2011 Dirty Kanza featured the normal heat and wind, then torrential storms and hail, and then ridiculously (unridably) muddy roads. Heck, Luke’s report was titled “Ride Together, Die Alone”. Good times, right? And yet, as awful as it sounded, I wanted to do it. As I commented then, “I am not looking forward to next years report…bc this one was even worse than Bob’s last year and yet I feel myself being sucked into the madness. I’m afraid one more report might have me packing for Kansas.”
By this past winter I had decided to do it. But when registration rolled around, I owed a friend some money and had long ago committed to LBL and just didn’t feel right about signing up for another race without having repaid her. So when I woke up at 5 a.m. in the guest bedroom of Luke’s grandmas’s house the morning that registration opened, I laid in bed gritting my teeth and being fiscally conservative while the guys signed up for the race in the other room. And then we went and had one of the best group rides ever and the pain subsided.
The race sold out in just a few hours, but I didn’t stop thinking about it. Man, I wished I was going. I hate missing out. Bob’s suggestion that I sign up as both riders in the two-person relay didn’t work out since it too was sold out, so I settled on riding in the DK Lite, a 50-mile option, and then helping crew for my friends who were riding the full thing. I was even looking forward to it. I’d be finished and relaxing (drinking) while they were riding an extra 150 miles in the summer heat. Plus, hanging around with the guys’ wives and girlfriends was a guaranteed good time and gave me the additional bonus of hearing some new stories. I definitely had the better end of the deal.
And then, just a few days ago, Luke emailed me. Casey was having trouble with leg cramps again and might not be able to do the race. If he couldn’t go, did I want to buy his entry? I started to reply maybe, and deleted it. Team Virtus’s Kage is not a “maybe” kind of girl. Yes, I was interested. Actually, I was terrified, but I knew I’d regret it if I passed on the opportunity to do the full thing. After all, where’s the excitement in doing something you know you can do? I can ride 50 miles, but to attempt 200? What an adventure!
Let’s briefly review all the reasons that, in this case, “adventure” is code for “crazy”:
- The last time I rode 100 miles was in 2010.
- My longest ride this year was February’s Super (metric)Century
- I only have one other ride this year over 50 miles.
- If I’ve ridden 200 miles in all of 2012, it’s just barely.
- While you can ride whatever bike on this course, a cross bike (which I don’t have) seems to be the best option.
- Literally every weekend until the race is filled with at least one BIG family event (First Communion, wedding/Mother’s Day, our 10th anniversary, Nathan’s (hopeful) high school graduation, leaving me little time to fit in long rides on the weekends.
I knew all this when I agreed to buy Casey’s entry if he couldn’t use it. I was a little excited but mostly hoping for his sake that I’d be relegated to the Lite. It stinks to train for something and not be able to do it when all of your friends are there; I’d have hated that for him. Plus, if I “couldn’t” do the big race, well, I’d “tried” to get in. No regrets necessary.
The day before the transfer deadline, I heard that Casey had a good 110 mile ride and was going to keep his entry. The disappointment and relief hadn’t sunk in before I read the next sentence: “If you still want to do the full 200, there are transfers available on the DK facebook page. You still have a decision to make, don’t you?”
Crap. These boys know I can’t resist a gauntlet.
By lunchtime, I was emailing the couple people who were offering transfers. I’d let the fates decide: if I was “supposed” to go, I’d be able to; if not, I wouldn’t be able to get an entry. And I realize that’s a little akin to saying “I’m just going to jump off this ledge, and if I’m supposed to fall I will,” but that’s how my brain works.
Unfortunately (or was that fortunately?) I struck out with the first person, and the second person wanted $75 for her entry. Knowing that the race only cost $50*, I emailed back saying I’d be willing to spend $50 and if that wasn’t OK I totally understood and good luck. I never heard anything back. Bummer. I tried one more offer and got no response. Obviously fate was stepping in to make up for my absentee sense of self preservation.
And then I guess fate decided to throw me to the wolves after all, because when I got home I had an email from the $75 girl accepting my offer. I was in!! I was in!!
Holy shit…I was in for it…
So. The race is exactly a month from yesterday and I have virtually no training. At this point, 29 days out, it’s not even worth stressing about. I’ll do what I can and focus on getting my food/hydration needs figured out. Since it’s a very remote area and you’re only allowed support from your support crew at widely (50+ miles) spaced checkpoints, making sure you can carry enough fluid and nutrition are super important.
Yeah, I know it’s stupid to jump into a race like this at virtually the last moment and with very little preparation. My goal is to ride farther than 105 miles (my previous longest ride); anything after that is gravy. I have no expectations of finishing the race. It’s pretty freeing, really. With absolutely nothing to live up to, anything I accomplish will be a happy surprise.
And lest you think that I’m truly certifiable, here are some reasons “crazy” isn’t necessarily “wrong”:
- I get to attempt something big
- With some of my favorite people
- And not be stuck at home reading the race reports and wishing I’d been there
- A gravel road race (or “race” for me) is probably much better suited to my strengths than a mountain bike race; I have more endurance (or stubbornness, whatever) than speed or courage.
- And no matter how I do I’m pretty much guaranteed a good story.
Kansas gravel…here I come.
|Photo credit (and registration blame): Luke Lamb|
*reading the Dirty Kanza information page after agreeing to buy the entry, I saw that race registration was actually $75. I have no idea where that $50 price I had in my head came from, but I probably wouldn’t have done it for more, so the misunderstanding was one more fortunate/unfortunate event leading me to the gravel.