Holy Asides
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June 12, 2015, 8:41 AM

Crazy Fun

This is the second of two reflections on my ride in the Dirty Kanza 200.


As you could tell from the last blog, the Dirty Kanza 200 was a difficult and challenging ride. Of course, this is actually shocking to no one. Nearly everyone said to me, “You’re going to ride 200 miles on your bike? On gravel? In Kansas? In one day? You’re nuts.” Well, maybe so, but the ride is more than just competing or overcoming obstacles or meeting goals.  It’s also fun. So, in no distinct order, I want to share seven things that made this 200-mile gravel grinding race enjoyable.


  • The Camaraderie. I may be nuts, but there were 999 other people lined up with me—just as crazy as I am. And it was great riding with many of them, joking as we hiked through the mud, asking from where one another came. We would pass and then repass each another. Most of us were not competing for podium places. We were just trying to finish, so there was a common encouragement that took place.


  • The Scenery. One of the difficult things about riding on gravel is you have to pay a lot of attention to the ground in front of you. But occasionally you are able to focus and appreciate the amazing prairie grass that surrounds you. It was truly beautiful, made even more so by the complete lack of cars (or even houses) along this isolated route in the Flint Hills.


  • The Cows. The cows could be considered scenery, but they deserve to be mentioned. Many times we passed right through a herd of cows and I could have reached out and touched one on either side.  I just prayed they stayed right where they were and didn’t decide to cross right then. One little bull was standing on the outside of the fence as we were going up a hill. That was a little troubling, but he was much more interested in the grass than us. 


  • Bike Handling. Over the course of 200 miles, I realized my bike handling skills have improved. Going into this race, I thought my skills were really pretty bad.  But I discovered that many people's are much worse, or that mine were better than I thought... probably a little bit of both. But I was able to bomb down the hills, climb up steep grades of loose rock, bunny hop over obstacles, and ride quickly and steadily through the mud. At one point, I came to a complete stop in the mud to wait for a fallen rider to get out of the way, and I was able to get going again. That might not be impressive to you, but after already walking many miles in the mud, it was one of the highlights of my day.


  • Checkpoints. The support and encouragement that I received at the checkpoints was wonderful. I was cheered coming into town. I was fed. I was given help in cleaning my bike, finding supplies, and reorganizing my kit. And then I was cheered as I remounted for another long haul. Considering these checkpoints came after riding 77 miles and then 158 miles, it was a blessing to be helped and encouraged to press on.


  • “Block Party”. Near the end of the ride, with maybe only 25 or so miles to go, there was a party on the corner at one of the houses. There was music blaring, there were torches burning and people cheering, and they were handing out Cokes, water, and beer. In hindsight, I should’ve gotten a beer—instead of the Coke, because the Beer Garden ended at midnight (I rolled in 3 minutes after midnight). It was a wonderful show of support from the community to help push me in those final miles.


  • High Fives. The cheering from the community at the checkpoints, the houses along the way, and at the finish line was wonderful. But the best was the kids who came out to the edge of their driveway and put out their hands for a high five as I went by. I must’ve high-fived a dozen kids, and each acted like it was the greatest thing ever. They laughed, cheered, and beamed as they told their parents—“I did it! He hit my hand.” I am not sure anything could make me feel more like a pro rider than the purely joyful reaction of those kids—and it was amazing. 



So you may be right—I may be crazy to ride 200 miles of gravel in the middle of Kansas. It was a challenge, but it was also a blast!

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