Thursday, June 10, 2010

Experience the Flint Hills

As my sister, Sandra and I drove past the sign that read "Experience the Flint Hills" we had no idea what the next 24 hrs would bring. Months ago I registered for the Dirty Kanza 200. I found out my sister was going to be in Colorado for that weekend so a plan was formulated that she would accompany me on this cycling adventure. The Dirty Kanza 200 is a 200 mile cycling race on gravel farm roads in the Flint Hills.

After driving more than half way through the state of Kansas we arrived in Emporia where the race would start and finish. We attended the race meeting on Friday June 4th where I received the map for the first section of the course, this is a self navigating race. There were about 125 riders in attendance and should be 160 on the start line at 6AM on June 5th. The weatherman was calling for a forecast of temps in high 90's, humidity 80%, and winds of 20mph winds, mainly cross and headwinds based on direction of travel. The weatherman was absolutely right on this one. The high temp ended up being 105 degrees.

Sandra and I went back to the hotel to prepare for the next morning. I worked on getting my equipment organized and ready for the morning, laid out my clothes and charged the light batteries for night riding. Sandra set out the breakfast food and primed the coffee pot. Off to bed we went setting the alarm for 4AM. I wasn't sure how much sleep I would get but I knew I would get need rest and relaxation by way of breathing exercises and mediation. The alarm sounded off at 4AM, I continued to lay in bed a few minutes gathering my thoughts around the day's activity when I hear Sandra say, "it's 5:15AM." Although the time change was suppose to have been factored in the equation it didn't work out that way. Plan B went into effect. No time to get nervous just enough time to get clothes on and have breakfast on the way to the start line.

I was excited and very grateful to have the opportunity to take part in such an EPIC race.

The race roll out was about 4 miles in length and then it was GAME ON when we hit the first gravel section. I was fortunate to get in a group of guys riding at a good pace up to the first climb which separated the field into smaller groups. At the top of this first climb I gathered my breath and thoughts settling into a pace that I knew I would be able to sustain for the remainder of this first section.

The last time I rode in this type heat and humidity I did not do so well so my goals for this day were to stay hydrated and fueled avoid cramping and have FUN. The terrain offered lots of climbing, I know that sounds strange considering I was riding in Kansas. It turns out that over the entire race there was 12,000+ vertical feet of climbing.

The first section took us up and over lush terrain with numerous water crossings. The open range was spattered with grazing and gawking cattle. Cyclists experienced flats a plenty in fact some cyclists had to drop out at the first aid station because they ran out of tubes and patches.

I made it to the first time station in Cottonwood feeling good. Sandra had positioned the car perfectly in the shade of a huge tree. I ate a bit while she refilled bottles and added lube to my bike chain. With map 2 in hand I headed off toward Council Groove. Being greeted by a heavy handed head/cross wind for the first 10 miles or so I settled in once again with a pace that I felt comfortable with for hopefully the next 40+ miles. As the road turned a bit the wind was at my back and the temps reached 100 degrees. The sheer beauty of this region made riding in these temps okay. I continued to drink and eat at 15 to 20 minute intervals which seemed to work well for me. I was excited about how I felt and how I was riding until I hit mile 85. I began experiencing lower back discomfort and hearing bearing noises from my rear hub. At this point I decided I was riding in the Dirty Kanza 100. I rolled into Council Grove satisfied with my efforts and accomplishment. Sandra was very supportive of my decision to call it a great century ride.

With Sandra's assistance I began recovery fueling and taking a mini ice bath to ward off inflammation and future stiffness. She shared some of the moments from her eventful day helping other support crews provide their racer's optimum assistance. Having a great support crew can certainly make or break a racer's day. I have been blessed with the best.

Cycling across this great planet has certainly enriched my life. The bicycle has a soul. If you succeed to love it, it will give you emotions that you will never forget. ~Mario Cipollini

The Flint Hill experience was incredibly EPIC.

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