Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Balancing Agony and Ecstasy at the Dirty Kanza 200...

Black Heart's House of Art sponsored my 2012 Dirty Kanza 200 rider trading card. Each year the promoters ask a handful of riders to participate in the trading cards, and I was lucky to be chosen this year to participate! Thanks to Black Heart's for their support of my card!
The back side... Now you know a little about me.

 As we dropped onto Coyne Creek Road at about mile 85 of the 2012 Dirty Kanza 200, the conscious decisions I'd made about bike setup for the event suddenly paid off big time. It was the roughest, rockiest part of the course and riders all around me were scrambling to hit the brakes and pick the smoothest line through the scree.

Because I was riding more of a mountain bike than a 'cross bike, instead of braking I was able to hit the gas and rip the section like it was a mountain bike race. It was an interesting contrast in styles, as my slightly slower bike on the smooth sections more than made up for itself in the rough. And make no mistake, the Dirty Kanza is rough... To define it as a "typical" gravel event is to underestimate its sheer ruggedness.
All smiles as we arrive at the start around 5:20 a.m. Photo: Laura Gersib
Ready on the start line. Specialized rider, Rebecca Rusch, is right in-front of me. The day's eventual winner, Dan Hughes, is immediately in-front of her. Over my right shoulder, in the yellow and green, is 2012 TransIowa finisher (and now DK200 finisher as well), Mike Johnson. Photo: L. Gersib

At the start, I was fortunate to get out of the gate with the leaders and, up until a wrong turn about 15 miles in, was riding comfortably with the lead group. But once we had to make up time after the wrong turn, things got a little ugly. Fortunately, there were plenty of fast riders to link up with just behind the lead so I was never alone for long.  I rode at or near the lead pack for perhaps the first hour or two, dropping off the pace perhaps 30 miles in or so. It's a bit of a blur, in all honesty, as it was just a lot of pack riding, and then a lot of catching and passing groups of slower riders after the wrong turn.
Still with the leaders here... There's Cornbread to my right, about three wheels up.
Another one, from a little higher up.  
Looking back on the pacelines... We were going pretty fast here, but at least the roads were smooth.
I got in good time with the Chamois Butter crew, including their newly-acquired hot shoe, Zach Dubas and veteran speedster, Curt Shelman. Those guys are awesome to ride with, as they've got experience, skill and are just plain fun to hang and chat with.

I rolled into the first checkpoint right around the top-25, or so I was told by my lovely wife, Laura, who'd accompanied me to Emporia to volunteer as my pit crew for the event. Thanks to Laura's awesome effort, I never went thirsty or hungry during the event, and was able to keep my stops at the checkpoints to 15 minutes or under for pretty much every stop (perhaps excepting the third stop -- I think I may have stayed there for 20 minutes -- but that wasn't her fault). And even though my stomach was not being particularly cooperative as far as what it would let me eat, she figured out what would work and would always have it waiting for me at the next stop. Thank you Laura!
Staying hydrated at checkpoint two... Photo: L. Gersib
Chatting with Troy Krause between CP2 and 3, as he rocks his SS steady in the hottest part of the day. I have to admit, we were cookin' a bit out there, even though it really wasn't that hot on the thermometer. We'd already put in a good effort and were (at this point) in about the 125th mile. Already the 2012 TransIowa SS champion, Troy rode like the champ he is to rally to an 8th place singlespeed finish at the DK200 -- impressive given the fantastic talent he was up against. His finish time of 14:55:00 was impressive. He was the 76th finisher across the line overall. Congrats TK!
The Kansas Flint Hills have miles of vast prairie. It's very cool...
The "middle miles" of long races like the 'Kanza often are sometimes the loneliest. As you work into your pace, you may or may not find someone that's riding at a compatible pace. Between CP 2 and 3, I rode mostly alone.
You can always look forward or back and see people, which gives you reason to keep chasing, but whether you actually catch them or not is another deal. Sometimes you'll work for an hour simply to make up a half mile on someone...

At checkpoint three, I was able to eat a slice of pizza and down a Monster, which of course gave me a huge gut ache, but after I got over it, I was able to re-light the fire in my legs, join up with a couple of good riders, and paceline into the finish in under 14 hours... It was a pretty good day. Photo: L. Gersib

The final segment of the Dirty Kanza was a highlight of the event, as I linked up with two fantastic riders for the final push into Emporia -- Jim Simms of the Swiftwick Racing team, and Bill Ruth of the Boulder Trek Store team. Bill is a particularly inspiring racer. At more than 60 years young, he continues to push his body and bike to incredible levels... His performance earned him the Dave Pals award this year, and I'd say he's a deserving recipient.

We pulled into Emporia just ahead of 8pm, and across the line at exactly 7:57pm, for a finish time of 13:57:00 for the (officially) 202 mile event. I actually had 206.5 miles on my computer as a result of the extra miles we'd accrued during our early missed turn. Average speed for the day on the bike was well over 15 mph -- an impressive speed on a gravel grinder of any length, but especially impressive over more than 200 miles in the Kansas Flint Hills, on a bike with 2.2-inch tires. I'll take it...
At the finish with my best friend and pit crew. Photo: Kristi Henrikson-Mohn

There are so many folks that helped make this year's Dirty Kanza 200 possible for me... I mentioned Laura already, but I'll say it again... Thank you Sweetheart!! You were awesome out there. Thanks also to the promoters of the Dirty Kanza 200, who are very dear friends -- Jim Cummins, Kristi Henrikson-Mohn and Tim Mohn -- the generosity the three of you have shown me is amazing. Rob Gilligan, thanks for the awesome Dirty Kanza 200 rider card this year, and for including me in your pre-race promotions. Thanks to my teammates, Corey Godfrey, Aaron Gammel, Scott Bigelow, Bruce Currin, MW, CVO and everyone else that's inspired me by pushing me on rides over the past few months. Oh, and thanks to the people of Emporia, Kansas and the surrounding area for being fantastic, gracious hosts. Laura and I had a great time during our stay.

Finally, thanks to the fantastic people that support my riding and racing: Kris and Julie Sonderup at Cycle Works and The Moose's Tooth in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Rob Versteegh at Oakley. I ride with these folks because the products they provide me are the best I can get, and because they are cyclists themselves. Please consider them as you shop for outdoor and cycling gear.

Thanks for reading! Have great adventures and I'll see you out on the road or singletrack.



Ari said...

Congratulations! I really like the fact to you took time to take pictures so we can all remember what a beautiful place the Flint Hills are. Your wide tire choice has me thinking. Maybe the whole 35mm thing is a no go specially having to deal with the rocks and the new gravel at trans Iowa.
best to you my friend,

John said...

Good read Matt. I too rode fat mountain bike tires and was really happy with them.

tj said...

Ah, brother, how I enjoy reading about your adventures! Glad you had a good time & can't wait to see you! Soon! Love you!

MG said...

Thank you all...

Traci, I'm looking forward to seeing you soon! Love you!

Ari & John, Yeah, I think fat tires were a good call. Several guys out on the course were saying that they'd happily trade their 35c tires for anything fatter... The same as it is every year. I think a lot of folks get fooled into thinking they will be faster on small tires, and I suppose if your name is Dan Hughes, that very well may be. But for most folks, a comfortable bike that's appropriate for the conditions is the fastest bike. And you'll enjoy the ride more, with more control and comfort. So that's my thinking, and it seems to work for me (and also it seems, for you, John).

Thanks again guys,

MG said...

BTW... Ari, you're so right about the beauty of the Flint Hills! It's one of a kind!! We are so fortunate to ride and race in some incredibly beautiful and remote places. This is one of my favorites...

Tim Ek said...

Great ride Matt! Good seeing you out there. I really wished I was you when you went by me, as I toiled in the flint with a destroyed rear tire. Again, great job buddy!


Guitar Ted said...

Hey Brother! I am so happy that DK went well for you, but I knew it would. Awesome write up. Thanks for making me wish I was there!

And also- thanks for letting us all know who won the DP Award. I guess that means something special to me, even though I really have nothing to do with it other than knowing DP.

I miss you and all the Lincoln Crew very much. Glad to hear all your success stories at DK. TK is an animal on that SS rig! And Corey, MW, Bruce, all of you. Wow! Nice ridin'.

Take care my friend.

Steve Fuller said...

MG - It was nice to actually start an event with you for a change, and an even bigger stoke to ride with you, Aaron and the rest of the NE crew for a good portion of the race. You guys had solid motors all day. Thanks for driving the pace early on and it was great to talk with you for a bit on Sunday. I'm thinking a day or two in Emporia after the race may be in order next year.

MG said...

Thanks Steve - Man, you're riding great right now! It really was a treat to get some good miles with ya during the DK. Way to get it done. Under 15 hours is really good...

The Emporia area is special, both for its topography and its people. I'd love to spend some non-race time down there! We should plan on it...

Thanks again buddy. It was great riding with you. Hope we can do it again soon.


MG said...

Thanks too to Eki and G-Ted... I didn't realize that I'd missed your recently-posted comments!!

Eki, you were riding like a stud out there... That was such a bummer when I saw you on the side of the road fixing your tire. You kept it together like the pro you are though, and you made it work.

Mark, we miss you too, Brother...