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In the immortal words of Daft Punk:
[youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGBhQbmPwH8]

Once again, I tried, tried again, and failed, failed again, but oddly, this year I don’t feel nearly so bad about my personal defeat as I did last year.

Possibly because I was among a very large majority that bailed this year. Of 89 starters, only 17 finished (my numbers may be incorrect, so I will check back and correct this after the official results go up, but I know my stats are pretty close to what happened). What caused such a heinous attrition rate this year, you might ask? Well a high of 95F and a 20mph head/cross wind are a couple of pretty big factors. It was the first really hot day for a lot of us, and a lot of bonking happened to a lot of people.

For those of us who didn’t bonk, other practical considerations came into our respective DNFs. In my case, I made it to the second checkpoint after the cutoff time, and while I did get a map and could feasibly have made it to checkpoint 3, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get a map there, as I’d have gotten there WAY after the cutoff time. Also, the convenience store in Alma, the town where Checkpoint 3 was located, closed at 8:00 p.m., and by the best of my calculations, I couldn’t expect to hit Alma until at or around 10:00 p.m. Considering that I ran out of water in the 42 miles from Checkpoint 1 in Cottonwood Falls to Checkpoint 2 in Council Grove, I was absolutely certain that I couldn’t press on. From Council Grove to Emporia, the finish, was 102 miles (40 from Cedar Point to Alma, then 62 from Alma to Emporia), and no way could I do that with only a 100oz. Camelback bladder and two 20oz. bike bottles.

When I rolled into Council Grove, I saw a few riders hanging out in the city park and bee-lined for them. I figured that had to be the checkpoint. As it turned out, the checkpoint crew had already departed, and the riders at the park were a few of the people who’d decided enough was enough at mile 103. I was soon to join them.

As I neared the milling cyclists, a familiar smile shone brightly before me. David Pals, one of the gravel gurus behind Trans Iowa had pulled off, along with Grant, Greg, and Dan, three of the super-cool Nashville, TN posse and the four of them were awaiting a lift back to town. David asked me, “Do you have a ride back to Emporia?” I admitted that I didn’t, and he exclaimed, “Well, you do now!” Two of their buddies had pulled out earlier in the day and had made it back to Emporia and the motel; after a protracted search for the van key, they came back over to Council Grove and schlepped our sorry asses back in to town. I don’t think I could possibly have felt more grateful, and have plans to hook the lot of them up with some sweet, sweet cookies.


  • The Flint Hills area is a lovely, subtly scenic place to spend a little quality time, and especially this time of year. Everything seems to be blooming; primroses, wild mustard, wild roses, spiderwort, and many others for which I don’t know the names. Some of ’em were fragrant, especially the wild mustard, and all of them were just plain nice to see.
  • Because it was so stinkin’ hot out, whenever I passed a pine-tree, that sweet, relaxing hot-pine scent just made me mellow and smiley.  Makes me think of mountain biking down at Syllamo or going sightseeing in the Black Hills.  It’s just one of those natural scents that always makes me happy when I catch a whiff of it!
  • I’m really, really happy that I managed not to get lost!  I duct-taped the map to my handlebars and followed it as I went along.  Because that worked so well for me, I was able to just treat the course markings as confirmations that I was going about things the right way.
  • As usual, it was a great mental re-set to just get out into the back roads of rural Kansas and not to have to worry about anything other than following that map.  Some people can meditate or do Yoga  to “center” themselves, but I need to ride at least 100 miles at a go periodically to keep from going completely bonkers.  This was definitely a great mind-clearer
  • This probably ought to be first on the list, but the people who participate in this kind of event are stellar.  Pretty much everyone you could mention, you’d almost reflexively tack on a phrase like, “super-nice guy,” “really fun,” “way cool,” “the kind of person you just want to keep hanging out with.”  Got to catch up a little with some folks I’d met last year, like David, and meet some new folks likeDennis Grelk who I met in the parking lot of the motel on Friday night.  I was admiring his admirable 1966 VW Type 2 when he came out to unload his bike & gear.  We ended up swapping VW tales for a bit; anyone who has ever owned an old air-cooled VW will have a few tales of vehicular adventure to share if you coax ’em a little.
  • IMG_2197

Dennis said that he bought this bus when he first started driving and that it came to him with this ever-so-sweet “custom” paint job. He added the purple window tint, some period-appropriate shag carpeting, and a blueprinted 1600 singleport that will get the bus up to a cruising speed of 65mph.
The man & his machines. Dennis was powering a sweet Badger with some no-foolin’ fenders for this fine adventure.

Honestly, there weren’t many. The headwind was a bummer, and the heat made everything more difficult, but my only complaints can really only be traced back to myself.

For example, I got into a hell of a wreck at Friz a couple of weeks ago and smashed the crap out of my elbow. There’s still a bruise, and it’s still achey, and when I was riding gravel, the whole back of my right arm, from the elbow up (basically tricep area) ached. I kept having to ride one-handed to give my arm a rest. I don’t really think it was muscular, ’cause my left arm wasn’t particularly fatigued, but my right one felt like I’d been doing rows with a cinder block.

I guess the main low point was that once again, I was unable to finish the race. I was pretty bummed out, but not quite as badly as last year, because I was in very good company. While it very well may have been a personal failure, and I may well have sucked this badly without the contributing meteorological factors, somehow it just didn’t feel like quite as much of a failure.

Like last year, I felt like I could have pressed on, if I hadn’t missed the cutoff time (and if the spectre of unavailability of water wasn’t before me). Before next year, I really, really need to work on my speed. I was peeled off the back very early on in the ride and had to carry on in my own way pretty much all day. I have an unfortunate habit of falling into a particular pace when I am on my own on a long ride (and I used to do the same thing when I ran distance) and I have the devil of a time altering that pace to go any other speed. I call my I’m-all-alone-and-need-to-proceed-indefinitely pace the “trudge-trudge,” after this classic Muppets bit:


  • Obvs. need to train for a little more available speed, also need to learn a new “going the distance” pace.
  • I’ve got to put some fresh insoles in my boots
  • Better yet, ideally I’d have a job that doesn’t involve standing around all day – my knees were getting pretty grumpy & I don’t normally have knee issues.
  • My sports-bra is a great place to store energy bars & similar.  Easier to get to than a shorts-leg.  It’s really, really stretchy, since it’s one of those “one-size-fits-many” jobbies, and I’m not really busty, so there’s plenty of room in there for both boobs and snacks.
  • I need to be smarter than the MP3 player!  I’d loaded up a bunch of fun music on Joel’s old Rio Cali, thinking that I’d use that to keep myself jazzed up, but I didn’t fully understand how to run the thing & didn’t get it going until after I’d dropped out of the race.  Whoops.
  • I’m obviously a pretty foolish individual, ’cause I’m gonna give it another go next year!

You know sometimes it’s just really good to spend time amongst your tribe.  People who know the agony of saddle sores, who understand what would drive one to willingly eat a Clif Bar, who know who Yehuda Moon is. It’s fun to get to hear about other people’s bicycle adventures, to find out more about the “local scene” in other cities, and to take mental notes. For every cyclist, there’s a variation on setup, motivation, style…you name it. There’s always something worth checking out. I guess it’s like any special-interest hobby, from Stitch-N-Bitch knitting clubs to hot-rod car rallies. You know you’re going to spend a weekend immersed amongst people with a certain set of common interests, and sometimes that can just be a whole lot of fun.

Well, it was on the whole a good time. I was certainly hurtin’ from time to time, and stressing out about making the time-limit cutoffs, but despite all that I mostly had a pretty enjoyable experience. A change of scenery is a really good thing for me and this was an excellent attitude adjustment. Of course I will be trying again next year (yes, I am crazy). Even better, Joel offered to do DK200 with me the year after next if I fail to succeed again next year. He and Jim take turns so that one year Joel does the bulk of the race administration while Jim gets to ride it, and then the next year they swap up. This year Joel got to ride, so next year he will be running checkpoints, doling out prizes, dispatching riders’ support crews, managing volunteers, etc. But if I don’t make it next year, he said that he’d ride with me on his next riding year and make sure that I kept up my pace, ate regularly, and made it from checkpoint to checkpoint within the time limits.

One way or another, by golly, I’LL BE BACK!

7 Responses to “If At First You Don't Succeed (Dirty Kanza 200 2009)”

  1. Julie Stark says:

    Michelle –
    I’m sorry you didn’t finish, but I’m very impressed with what how long you rode in that heat, especially with elbow and knee pain. I do NOT recommend rowing with cinder blocks. What’s so bad about clif bars??? I think they’re pretty darn edible. Better than the dog food I tried on Saturday night : )

  2. Steve Fuller says:


    I am sad to hear you didn’t finish, but I’m really happy that you had a better go at it than last year. Riding the first 100 this year was an accomplishment by itself. It was great seeing and talking to you in person again. I’ll have to see if I can make it down to KC some weekend to take in the bike culture in that neck of the woods.

  3. meetzorp says:

    It would be mighty cool if you did.

    The “Tour De Tetanus” might be a good one to hit. Assuming I can build enough buzz with the Trashboat Regatta and the all-girls-alleycat. I’m trying my hand at no-budget event promotions.

    Actually, there might be some proper biking events…mountain bike races or ‘Cross that might be more worth the trip than one of my sick and twisted joke races.

  4. meetzorp says:

    I’ve gotta ask…why were you sampling dogfood?

    As to Clif Bars, I’ll tell you what’s so bad about them…they’re sticky, cloying, and hella hard to eat when you’re getting that whole dry-mouth thing going on. A Clif Bar or Powerbar or any of similar energy-bar concoctions are things I will only consume when my options boil down to “eat this goddamn thing or fall off the bike.”

  5. kim says:

    So glad to hear that you didn’t get lost. Too bad it was so hot this year! Sounded like a fun time anyway

  6. Greg L says:


    it was a pleasure meeting you and spending our afternoon/evening in the park. 🙂 It wasn’t how I thought I’d finish the day but it was a lot of fun!

    Great job on the ride! It was a huge feat just to get halfway. Definitely not your typical century ride.

    Hopefully our paths will cross again down the line! DK 2010 maybe!

  7. meetzorp says:

    You betcha! I’m going to keep having a go at this thing until I complete it.

    And even if I don’t, I’ll probably keep on keepin’ on, ’cause I don’t have any good sense!

    Did you make it to polo and get your share of the cookies?

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