The Dirty Kanza 200 (aka DK200) sign up is this weekend (I’m not signing up, phew). In honor of that, I’m finally reflecting on my experience of riding, and finishing, DK200 in 2016.
This is the first of 2 posts, next week I will share my experience at the ride itself.
For those who don’t know, Dirty Kanza is a 200 mile long ultra-endurance bicycling challenge held on gravel roads through the Flint Hills of Kansas. It is self-supported and requires riders to navigate the course via cue sheets and GPS (full rules can be found here). It’s kind of a big deal.
To my normal readers: I’m sorry in advance for the next couple long posts.
To my #DK200 readers: Bless you.
Signing up for DK200 2016
My dad, John, and brother, Cody, have been riding DK200 (and many other gravel grinders) for years – as in, before it was a thing and Dirty Kanza was just a couple guys, a truck and a handful of pizzas.
In 2015 they finally got to me and I agreed to test out the Half Pint (a ‘light’ 100 mile version of the race). I’d ridden centuries and done Lunar Kanza a couple times, so thought it would be a fun challenge.
But the morning of sign-up, I forgot. We were last minute dog-sitting, so I was out on doggy duty while the Half Pint race filled up. It wasn’t until my Mom, Celeste, texted me to make sure I got in to the race that I realized what I’d done.
I had just purchased my beautiful new Felt V85 bicycle specifically for this race and had already started training. I was telling my friends. This was supposed to be happening.
The moment of choice.
Nick, my husband, was looking at me with sympathy, knowing how important it was to me. And then he said, ‘well, there’s space in the 200 – you might as well sign up.’
A fury of texts, emotions, and a quick hit of the ‘Submit’ button and I was in.
For the full 200. What had I done.
My brother, Cody, was looking forward to time with his family. He had already decided to skip Dirty Kanza this year. But then here I come, calling him in a panic.
He can’t pass up a good adventure, especially when it’s his sister’s first ultra. I mean really it was his duty, he had to do it. He ran and woke up his wife, Paige, briefly explaining the situation and seeing if he could get her blessing. She is no stranger to this event and she’s an angel, so she said yes, go for it. And just like that, we were doing this thing.
Training for DK200 2016
And so the training began. I built a crazy spreadsheet based on The Cyclist’s Bible (highly recommend!) and worked my way up to spinning, riding, lifting weights (do this!), and cross training 11 hours a week. Plus, long rides of up to 120 miles every other weekend and recovery rides the next day. It took over.
Test races like the Gravelleur’s Raid, a 200k brevet gravel ride and a trip to the Flint Hills with Cody and Dad (get to the Flint Hills if at all possible) were invaluable in making sure I was ready.
Thank You, Twitter and #DK200
Training for something like this is an interesting experience. Most people think you are batshit crazy, a few think you are really cool. I felt both of those things, depending on the moment.
From the start I turned to Twitter and #DK200 to connect with people around the world who signed up. I especially wanted to find other women doing the ride as most of my rider friends are men (except for Jenn – you’re the ultimate badass!).
And that’s how I met Holly Bird – she is a badass woman my age who was doing DK200 for her first time. We found solace in tweeting, and then emailing, our concerns, questions, and excitement. We became fast friends and the more we got to know each other, the more we realized how alike we both were – to the point that we started calling each other twins – my Canadian twin <3.
While I knew training and the race itself would be hard, I wasn’t expecting telling people I was doing it to be hard. But it was.
Because I’m a woman.
And 90% of the field is men.
It translated into people thinking I wasn’t going to attempt it, even after I told them.
I would go on a training ride with Dad and a friendly person would ask what we were training for, “Dirty Kanza,” he would reply. And they’d talk to him about it and ask if he’d done it before and it was all very pleasant and then he would say, “this is my daughter, she’s doing it too” and without fail they would say something like, “so you’re doing the Half Pint?”. Even after I told them they would have to clarify, with a bit of shock, “You’re doing the full 200?”
It became a joke, but it wasn’t that funny. I was like, yes, I’m a woman with lady bits and I’m doing the 200. I know. Crazy.
It brought my attention to how this sport needs more women and more women encouraging women. That’s why women like Jenn, Amanda, Rebecca and Holly are so important to me. I applaud Dirty Kanza Productions and their new #200Women200Miles campaign encouraging women to get involved. We need you, ladies – you can do it!