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The landscape was a vivid green this year at the Dirty Kanza bike race. It wasn’t because that is what Kansas normally looks like in the month of May but because of the exorbitant amounts of rain that fell throughout the state. The Flint hills where the race was help was no different but the one thing the lush green grass did not show was the thick black mud that had the consistency of peanut butter.
In the weeks leading up to the event I developed tendonitis in my ankle due to excessively worn cleats (check your cleats!) and because of this had to downgrade to the 100mile race, which in hindsight was a blessing. The ride started off just as I had hoped for. I was towards the middle of the field at the beginning and was able to work my way up into the top 20 riders within the first mile of the rollout. The pace picked up and we eased through the first 10 miles at a 20mph pace, weaving through DK200 riders trying to find a good line in order to keep the bike up right. Then reality hit. We came to a traffic jam. Frame packing mud as thick as peanut butter. Some tried riding it but found quickly that it not only brought them to a halt but added another 10lbs of weight to their tires and frame. We shoulder our bikes and began hiking. What we thought would just be to the top of the hill ended up revealing a long line of riders snaking over the hillside with their bikes shouldered trudging through the sloppy mud for what ended up being four miles with my Trek Boone slung over my shoulder for the entire hour. Through the mud with a clean bike because it didn’t touch the ground and I was on my way unlike many others forced to stop and clean out their bikes.
My legs felt amazing, my mood was positive (I excel in muddy conditions) and the wind out of the North was a constant reminder that I was back in the place I grew up riding. When we turned north for a long stretch I was alone for several miles and as I turned back I saw a rider 30 seconds behind. I waited up and we rode together for some time taking turns pulling into the head wind. At mile 40-45 I hit a dark place and Eric, from Kansas City, pressed on. I realized I had fallen behind on my nutrition and at 3 hours in I had only consumed my first 90 minutes of nutrition. I ate EVERY in my pocket and within 10 minutes I was back in good spirits and feeling the benefits of the calories consumed.
At our support stop in Cottonwood Falls, KS, I found my dad, who topped my bottles off got my chain re-lubed while I was stuffing my pockets with the remainder of my planned nutrition and ate and slammed a bottle of osmo nutrition before I hit the road. I felt amazing, my legs weren’t fatigued and I was having FUN! Conveniently I caught back up with Eric at that stop, since my rock star pit stop father got me in and out in less than 5 minutes, and we rode together again. Several miles out we hit a “minimally maintained road” and went up a steep climb. I stood to apply power to the pedals and BOOM. My knee popped and stopped me dead in my tracks. Pretty sure I cursed because Eric turned to see what was wrong. He waited and since I just met him I told him to go on. I took a moment to regain my composure and tried to go on. I had no problem on the flats or descents but any time power went over 150 Watts a searing pain shot through my leg. After 3 miles of attempting this I was forced to abandon.
Althought I was angry I was unable to finish, I am not discouraged by this because I know that with the training I had put in this year I have a very good chance of doing extremely well next year. For now though my goal is to get my leg straightened out and ready to get back into a little different type of training than I have ever done!