06 June 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 Details

This is a continuation of my experience at the Dirty Kanza 200. I wrote about the actual race here. I've found that when I read race reports, I often want to learn more nitty-gritty details about the authors' experiences and set-ups. So here are some of those details. If you have any questions, please email or post a comment and I would be happy to answer!

I rode a 2013 aluminum Salsa Warbird. I have written extensively about this bike here and here. I cannot overstate how much I love this bike!! OK, I'm sure the titanium frame is even better, but the aluminum one felt fine to me even after 200 miles. I kept the same gearing as the OGRE and only felt spun out on tailwind downhills, which didn't matter too much anyway.

Warbird after Cedar Cross. Love me some 40s!!
Seems like everyone in the gravel scene is obsessed with tires. I used two Ritchey Speedmax Cross 700c x 40mm. I'd put about 500 miles on those tires before DK and used the same ones in the race, although I had a brand-new set in my crew car just in case. These tires are middle-of-the-road weight at an advertised 483g each. I did pinch flat on the backside of Texaco Hill due to a poor line choice. I had bottomed out the rear several times before that on cattle guards and abrupt ditches/water crossings so I felt like I had it coming. The change was simple and it held for the rest of the race. I don't know if this was necessary, but at CP3 I deflated the rear and re-inflated it with a floor pump to avoid CO2 leakage. And no, I don't know what pressure I was using, I don't trust floor pump gauges so I just put my body weight on the tire and see how it responds. Another great thing, these tires are extremely affordable, less than $30 each! One thing about tubeless setups, all the cool kids in gravel are using them. I used Velocity A23 rims and I have no idea if they would even work tubeless for me with the Speedmax Cross tires. So I didn't even bother, I ran tubes the whole day and it was just fine.

Cockpit shot. The Garmin is hidden under the right side of the map.
Most of the time I had the map folded in quarters so I could see the screen too.
I used a bento box to hold my planned snacks for each leg. I mounted my normal computer, a Garmin 310XT on my handlebars (nothing fancy, just fastened the wrist strap around the bars). I mounted my map/cue-sheet holder on the stem. This is made out of a plastic clip from Home Depot, zip ties, and a little bit of pipe insulation for stability. I put each leg's map in a ziplock bag for protection, then folded it and stuck it in the clip. A few days before the race, I purchased a wireless cyclocomputer (from Alpine Shop!) to use as a back-up in case my Garmin freaked. My brother came up with a cool way to mount it on the plastic clip. So that's the front of the bike, pretty simple.

In the back of the bike I had a red blinky (the one I won at LBL in a sleepy stupor). I had a medium-sized saddlebag that fit two tubes. Each tube was snuggled inside an old sock to prevent it from getting accidentally poked, a trick I learned from Coach. One more thing, I used an ISM Adamo Racing II saddle. I started using this saddle when training for Ironman (hugely popular among triathletes) and found it to be also extremely comfortable on the Warbird. It looks like a torture device, but it works and I stuck with it.

The kit.
Normal cycling shoes (a pair from Specialized that I saw many other riders using), some Swiftwick socks, and two pairs of tri shorts were on my bottom half. I learned about double-shorts from FPC and found that it works really well for me. Bag Balm for "down there". On top was a Pfoodman Racing jersey, arm coolers/UV blockers from Specialized, and full-finger gloves. I wore a helmet, duh, and a pair of Smith PivLock sunglasses that I bought so I could look like Rebecca Rusch. In my pockets I had my cell phone (set on airport mode), 2 emergency gels, $20 cash, tools/CO2/inflator, and an iPod shuffle. RoadID on my wrist. Coat of sunscreen in the morning. I did not change kits. After I flatted, I replaced the tube and CO2 at the next CP. I changed helmets at CP3 to one that had my lights (Princeton Tec Apex Pro, same one I use for adventure racing) already mounted. Also at that CP my brother attached a handlebar light, a Stella 300.

Small bottle in my jersey and 2 Magnum bottles on my frame.
Also this pic makes my position look super weird. Is it really that awkward??
Before the race, I worked out a nutrition plan similar to this one. My plan called for about 90 ounces of fluid for each 50ish mile leg of the Dirty Kanza. I had three options for carrying this much water: a backpack, a frame pack, or bottles. If there's one thing I learned from my DK prep, it's that my ass does not like backpacks. Pansyass!! I thought it would be tougher with all of the packs I've carried in adventure racing. But on gravel, it's not. So the backpack idea was nixed (although I did have a tiny 2L CamelBak with my crew in case it was monstrously hot and I was dying). That left me with bottles or a frame pack. I have a frame pack, but as I messed with it, it seemed difficult and time-consuming to refill/replace bladders in it. I had an extremely ambitious time goal, so I couldn't afford to spend 5 minutes at each CP wrestling with the frame pack. Nixed. That leaves me with bottles. Most bottles are 20 to 24 ounces. The Warbird has spots for 3 cages, and I could carry one in my jersey, giving me 4 bottles x 24 ounces = 96 ounces. But a bottle underneath the downtube sounded gross. What to do, what to do...then I watched Jay Petervary's Tour Divide video and learned about Zefal Magnum bottles! They hold 33 ounces each and fit in normal bottle cages. And they are sold on Amazon. Score! I used two of those in my frame cages and one 24-ouncer in my jersey pocket, and that was perfect for each leg of the race.

Bottles and snacks for CP3, ready to go.
Bottles were the same for each leg: 33 ounces water, 33 ounces Skratch + 2 nuun, and 24 ounces CR333. Then about 400 calories of snacks for each leg (mix of chocolate-covered pretzels, almond butter/jelly sandwich, turkey/cheese sandwich, QT pb/chocolate rice krispie bar, Honey Stinger chews, Honey Stinger protein bar, Clif gel, and a Picky Bar). I drank a mini-Coke at two of the CPs. I also had e-caps with me but didn't need them.

Before the race, I read Kyle Peter's AWESOME article on packing for expedition adventure racing and he mentioned something about trekking foods vs. biking foods. I did not pay attention to this and instead packed chocolate covered espresso beans for one of the legs. Not only did my stomach not want them, they were really hard to eat. Normally I love chocolate espresso beans but for DK they were not a good choice. Luckily one of my emergency gels was a Clif mocha (favorite flavor!) so I got my caffeine fix. In the future I will be packing more bar-oriented foods and less small candy items (although the Honey Stinger chews were a LIFESAVER).

Example map, this is the 3rd leg. We did not get cue sheets, but these worked fine.
I am a stickler for good navigation so anytime there is a race map, you can bet I'm reading it and using it. The course was marked really well, but there were still plenty of people (me included) that took wrong turns or missed turns. What I don't understand is how many of those people weren't even looking at their maps when they made mistakes. Weren't even looking as in, the paper maps were crumpled up in their sweaty jersey pocket, never intending to be used. The race rules even state "DO NOT RELY ON COURSE MARKINGS FOR NAVIGATION.  USE THE MAP!!!" So when people refuse to use it, they are just asking for frustration and trouble. Do yourself a favor, if you are racing DK200, at least mount the map in a visible location and attempt to look at it. Just go through the motions at the very minimum.


Going up.
If you've read my race report, you'll know that there were many people that passed me that I couldn't hang on their wheel. And there were many times I was struggling to stay with the wheel I was on. For those times, I counted pedal strokes to help be bridge back up. Usually I would commit to 10 really hard revolutions and that would bring me back. Sometimes, though, it took 20. But for some reason, the simple act of counting helped motivate me to work hard and stay with the group.

Another thing that motivated me were my past races, specifically the 2013 MNOC AR Tune-Up. I raced with one of the best adventure racers in the country on some of the worst legs I've felt in my life. And I was able to survive. At DK, my legs never felt nearly as bad as they did at the Tune-Up, and that gave me courage to keep digging.

Strava "performance" graph of my ride.
I wore a HR monitor but didn't show that screen on my Garmin. I just looked at time of day, direction (N/S/E/W), and average speed. Distance and current speed were shown on my back-up computer. Rebecca Rusch wrote about using average speed as a motivator in 2012 and I tried to do that, but it didn't really work out for me. I do believe riding by feel instead of HR numbers was the correct choice for the race, however. I made a conscious decision to burn some matches early in the race and I would not have wanted to know how high my HR was at that point. Sometimes less information is better!

This is how I trained since building the Warbird.
None of this obsessive gear/nutrition prep would have meant anything if I didn't have the physical and mental fitness to finish my ride. I think that is SO IMPORTANT to keep in mind when you are preparing for something big. Sometimes you need to stop worrying about 100g differences in tires and just freakin ride your bike! I put about 1000 miles on the Warbird in the 2 months before Dirty Kanza. During that time I was also running, paddling, and adventure racing. For most people, this is overkill, but it's the way I like to live my life so that's what I do. There is no "magic gear" that will make you "faster" if you haven't put the time in. TNSTAAFL.

Hangin with the locals.
OK this is not really gear-related but I want to write about it anyway. Part of the mystique of the Dirty Kanza lies in its host city, Emporia. I think it is SO COOL that this little town has embraced and promoted DK the way it has. In a way, it reminds me of my hometown of Duluth, MN, embracing and promoting Grandma's Marathon. There are lots of people in Duluth who are not runners, but because we have this world-class event in our backyard, they are motivated to train for and enter one of the numerous running races on Grandma's weekend. I think (HOPE!!) that same thing is happening in Emporia. That is why I thought it was so important to spend time with the kids who approached me after my race was over. I hope this race and its participants can encourage them to think about biking as a fun and healthy activity. Maybe they will enter the DK Lite next year. Maybe their parents will too. It's so empowering to think about one weekend as an inspiration for an active lifestyle.

My friend Chuck, the last official finisher BEFORE THE CUTOFF. This is his finish line.
For as good a host town as Emporia is, there are just a couple things that I think the Dirty Kanza race directors could do that would make things even better. #1 - don't take down the finish line until the official finish cutoff. If that means the cutoff time is shortened, that's fine. But I think it's disrespectful to the final finishers who have to ride through the demo crews tearing everything down. #2 - 11pm last call and 11:45pm end of open containers?? We are gravel riders! We need our recovery beers! And for the people who finish after 11:45 pm, of which there are plenty, that's sad. #3 - I think the morning-after awards breakfast is a GOOD idea. I would just like to see a bigger meal than 2 biscuits and gravy. We went to IHOP before the awards at 8a because we knew the advertised menu wouldn't be enough. That's the end of my suggestions. I hope they are taken constructively because I'm not trying to bash Emporia or DK. It's just my opinion of ways things could be better.

OK I think that's it for my post-race brain dump. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!
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  1. Thanks for posting these detail reports. I love seeing everyone's gear and how they make it work for themselves. Great job at the race!

  2. So DK is draft legal? Are there teams or do people informally form a pace line? I think I'd like to do this next year.

    1. Yes. Draft legal. There are some loose teams (i.e. Chamois Butt'r guys) and then some friends who agree to stick together but most everyone is solo. Working together is at each individual's discretion. But over 200 miles, in that terrain and those conditions, everyone seems to lean towards working together. You should def do it next year. Very highly recommended. Just make sure to sign up on Day 1 of registration, after the NYTimes article it will fill for sure.

  3. I really hate that they tear down the finish line so early. For the kind of money flowing through an event like that, I really think it should stay up til the last finisher.

    Per the 11:45 liquor rule: If you wait for the rent-a-cops to make their final walk-through at midnight, they leave soon after and you can drink all you want. Not that I'm into that sort of thing..

    THANKS for the info on the magnum bottles. I hadn't heard of them.

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