By Ryan Lipski
This year I was lucky enough to get an entry and compete in the 2017 Dirty Kanza in Emporia, KS. I’ve done a few gravel rides before and I’ve done a couple rides longer than 150mi but nothing of this magnitude – a total 207.2mi, 13 river crossings, 1 flat tire and a shoe swap had taken place by the time the day was done.
The races started promptly at 6am on Main St. in Emporia. I was honest with myself and lined up right around the 14hr marker. Next year (provided I can get an entry again) I plan on moving a lot further up. The first 20mi were spent working my way through traffic until I found a good group of guys to work with rotating in and out of the wind. On this stretch I received my first (and only!) flat at mile 40. It didn’t slow me too much and I managed to make it into the first checkpoint in Madison, KS – 52(ish) miles in 2hr 35min – 150th place. A quick 3 bottle swap, grabbed a new tube kit and headed back out on the course for the next 51mi segment.
This was by far the most technical of all of the segments with a few river crossings, fist sized gravel, 1ft drops and the dreaded 5.6mi long Texaco Hill Climb. I rolled into town in 153rd place while throwing up a 3hr 29min time for the second segment. The town of Eureka, KS might have been an oasis for me. The promise of a Jimmy John’s sub and a can of Coke made me roll into town and find the support crew with the biggest smile on my face.
By the time I rolled out of Eureka the temperature was climbing into the low 90’s which didn’t help for the longest segment of the day – 62miles. Don’t let anyone tell you that Kansas is flat. I spent the next 4hrs suffering on the bike. I ran out of water with about 10mi to go. My feet were in sooo much pain. I eventually opened up the toe box strap on my shoes which helped relieve the pressure from my feet wanting to burst from my shoes. I’m sure I cried at some point. I rolled back into Madison, KS with a different look on my face. I tossed my bike into the stand, swapped to full bottles and pounded another one while standing there with my shoes off. Luckily I packed my old pair of shoes that were stretched out more than the ones I was riding in. I swapped shoes and a renewed sense of life came through my body. I hopped on the bike and sped off for the final 44mi of the race hoping to make up some of the 100 spots I gave up in that last segment.
About 3 miles out of town I rode up onto a woman named Lynn. She asked if she could hop on my wheel and I said no problem. I can safely say that if it wasn’t for Lynn I might still be out in field somewhere in Kansas. Her and I took turns in the wind based on who’s legs were feeling good. I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a 10mi stretch. Our goal was to beat sundown and towards the end of our ride we started to feel good – pushing our pace the last 10mi or so when we could see town on the horizon. We managed to make up 75 spots and I finished 175th with Lynn close behind me at 177th. We definitely beat the sun (by over an hour!) with our times around 13hr 30min.
I’ve never slept so good after that.