Race Report – Dirty Kanza 200 – Chris Spurrier
Wow, what an experience, it had been a long time since I put this much effort into one event. Dirty Kanza lived up to the hype and I am sure glad I did it. I am also happy I put this much effort into planning and training for the event. To say everything went to plan would be a flat out lie, but to say everything worked out would be accurate.
If you have read my previous reports, you would know I have been racing/training for this event. Testing gear, tactics, logistics, and grit to make sure I was able to execute my first DK in style. All along I worked with my coach to talk about goals and make adjustments along this path. Initially, the goal was to just be able to function after the race, to be strong from beginning to end. My actual time goal didn’t come to fruition until about two weeks out. I am pleased to say again that everything worked out perfectly, even if not to plan.
I knew from Gravel Nationals that I couldn’t show up on Friday and expect to be competitive Saturday. For the event, I arrived late Thursday afternoon with enough time to set up camp and meet with teammates for a nice relaxing dinner. The only hiccup here was the drive left my IT band incredibly inflamed and I looked like I need a walker to get around. Friday morning we participated in the GU ride, socializing with more teammates and other riders. This left us the afternoon to pre-position sag support for the team and have a relaxing meal while prepping food and the bike. After double checking everything with the bike and gear, it was off to an early night sleep.
Race morning, I woke up anxious and ready to attack. I got a good night sleep but still had residual pain in my right leg, nothing I hadn’t dealt with before. I followed my morning routine and at 0530 we headed to the line. The energy was awesome and people were lined up for a number of blocks. Just like that, the race was on, and we headed out through the town and quickly onto some beautiful country gravel. A few of us found ourselves in the top third of the race just getting into a grove. I started to get a little antsy because the group was braking on the descents and in the turns, I felt I didn’t want to waste energy and made my way forward and at 18 miles in I got pushed to the middle of a loose turn and quickly found myself on the ground. I was able to quickly shake it off and get back on the bike and get moving, but I lost “my” group.
I started back up to pace and soon settle back in. My hip was finally releasing and I finally quit bleeding from my leg and elbow. As the rollers start we roll into aid 1 and I quickly find our support. I’m off the bike while they clean the chain, check the shifting, and help me fill bottles. I drink a coke and eat a small sandwich and in five minutes I’m on the road. Rollers, them rollers, they never stopped as we roll on what seemed like forever. This was definitely the toughest of the legs and all I could do was wait for the neutral aid.
During this section, I realized I had got Roctane at the aid station and I soon remembered how it didn’t work too well for me. The sun was reaching higher in the sky and the efforts maintained, not a good time to cut back on the liquid intake, but I did. This was probably the worse time for me as I neared the 100-mile mark. I was doing great with actual nutrition but the Roctane was too much for my system. I could not get to the neutral aid soon enough. Aside from the liquids I also eased up on the climbs, actually too much. Luckily they added an extra neutral aid and I rolled in anxious to get fresh water and to take a few extra calories. The real advantage was that the next aid station would be in 20 miles so I didn’t have conserve. I filled the three bottles and rolled out quickly making it to the second neutral aid with little drama. By the time I made it here, I fallen off my pace (13hr) by about 35 mins but still felt pretty good. I refilled my bottles and exchanged a few pleasantries with teammates as I rolled out. It was about 30 miles to the final aid station, but it was a lot of rollers.
It was about this time though that things started getting a little bad. Visually it was interesting because I saw so many people that just looked beat, they were stopped on the road questioning life’s decisions. At the same time, I had started to fight cramps in my left leg (presumably from overcompensating from injuries on my right) and my feet started to flare up really bad. A lot of this built up and I started those dark thoughts, the “well I made a valiant effort” thoughts. Luckily I feel this is where my time in the saddle kicked in. I quickly dismissed the thoughts knowing I have done it before and CAN do it again. I adjusted in the saddle a little and found the right cadence to control the pain in my feet. I saw several riders walking (and swimming for that matter) in the creek crossings, I rolled right through and stuck it to the climbs. This built confidence on the course and the cheers were an awesome pick me up. As I neared the final aid station we were treated to tree cover on a bike path for about a mile, this was one of the best feelings. At this point, I started going through the math and knew I could still beat the sun as long as I hit a few key points, the first of which was being out of the final aid station by 1700. I rolled in, had my coke and sandwich, and rolled out like I was on a mission.
I hit my next mark maintaining 15mph for the next hour and just needed to get to mile 181, get to mile 181, get to mile 181 by 13 hrs. it was like it would never come, the final 15 miles of rollers felt like the worse. Luckily my plan left a little buffer and at mile 180 I saw the Salsa Chaise, surely I had enough time to stop and still make it (but I had to make sure I made up the time). It was a deal, and I rolled up to take my picture. No line so it was in and out and we made our way to 181, finally there, but why are there still climbs? Damn these climbs, every time I was out of the saddle my feet hurt, climbing in the saddle I cramped up, why are there still hills? Oh, a golf course, maybe they have a coke machine, I’m so tired of Gu/water. Hey, this hill isn’t bad, wait no more hills and I still have 90 minutes? Shit lets roll.
Like that the switch turned on, I grabbed my drops and hammered. I was going to beat the sun, even if I had 18 miles left. At this point we had an ever so light tailwind, no climbs, and some of the cleanest smoothest gravel I had ever seen. 30 minutes later I realized it would be hard to maintain but I didn’t let up, surely there had to finally be some pavement. Where is some pavement, oh it’s ok, I’m rolling at 18, pavement would be nice, my hands are so tired. Less than 10 miles, it is really going to happen! I get passed by a guy with a simple “Hey we got this” and I put my head down and just keep grinding. The training has paid off, my dedication is pushing me through the pain, and I am going to beat the sun in my first DK. Pavement! yes just around the corner. What the hell is that, really? I need to climb that? One mile to go, I am sure as hell not stopping here, come hell or high water I am making it. I can barely see the sun over the buildings, I need to just get there. Back through the campus and as I leave I see chute with people lined up on both sides. I’m in full stride at this point, I had to have gone through at over 20, the end was right there and I AM going to make it.
That’s it, the race is over. All of that training, all of that preparation, all of that hard work, the race is over.
I talked about feeling good at the end, mission success. Aside from severe foot pain, I managed to shower, grab some food and wait until our final rider came in a little after 0200. the pain subsided and I felt good, I felt accomplished, I felt like a human being. It all paid off, the long rides, the gym, the planning, it all came together.
So what are my key takeaways? Train, train, train, and communicate with your coach. Trust the process. Prepare for the worse, and have a great support network. Without the support of my family, friends, coach, and several others I would not have achieved this. More importantly, without the aid station support I would have cracked and gave up, they were so awesome. The mentorship from those who have raced this race before, thank you so much, you have no idea how you shaped and molded my experience. Thank you to all of you for reading this, and for your continued support.
What’s next? More racing, I have a bone to pick with the Shenandoah Mountain 100 and the JFK 50 miler. Time to get training!