Welcome to our third (in a series of six) installment of our “Dirty Kanza Learnings.” Although the event has been moved to September, we didn’t want all the useful tips and horror stories to go unused through the summer months when people will still be riding their bikes and planning for their own gravel adventures. This story comes to us from family man Andrew Greene who we first featured last year when he rolled into Emporia as a DK rookie.
By Andrew Greene
As I’m getting prepared for this year’s DK200, I wanted to share some thoughts on what I have learned from racing in the 200 the past two years. My advice is not necessarily for the folks that finish this beast in 11 or 12 hours; I have no idea how they do that!
No, my advice is more relevant for the rest of us who want to grind this thing out while not being a Cat 1/2-level rider. As a cyclist, I aspire to get better and better, but as is true for most of us, the one limitation I have is time. In addition to working full-time as a financial advisor, I also have a wife and four kids. My aim is to get in 200 miles per week at a minimum, and I really ramp that up as soon as it starts to warm up here in New Mexico.
How do I get 200 miles in per week? It’s mostly from riding my bike to work every day. I work in a professional setting, in a nice office, wearing a suit every day. When I first started cycling back in 2011, I was mostly just a weekend warrior, joining group rides most Saturday mornings. In the spring and summer months, I would ride after work whenever possible.
I can’t lift weights to work, and I can’t golf to work, but I can ride a bike to work, which is 21 miles away, and it takes me an hour and 15 minutes to cover. I keep suits at work, and I basically give myself a “bird bath” in the bathroom sink. My clients would never know I rode my bike to work unless I told them. It saves me $5000 per year when you consider the mileage and lack of depreciation on my car. If you think riding to work would be weird, or would be too complicated, don’t let those mental barriers stop you.
BUT ABOUT KANZA
Here are some other thoughts on training. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter if you are training on gravel or on the pavement. When I entered the race last year, Dirty Kanza 200 was my first gravel race of the year. I would love to ride on gravel roads more often, but the roads in my vicinity that are not paved are basically sand. I think what really matters is getting in tons of miles each week, 200-plus, and then do at least a couple of really long day rides (between 150 to 175 miles) in the months leading up to the race to test yourself.
Since I didn’t have time to do long rides on the weekends because of family activities, I took some vacation days and just rode my bike most of the day. In the DK last year, I was next to a cyclist who looked really fit and lean, but I could tell they were struggling. As I passed by, the guy looked over and said, “I prepared by not preparing.” Not surprisingly, I saw this rider hang it up around the 90-mile mark. Don’t show up unprepared or the course will expose your lack of training in a hurry, and you’ll only have regret as your
THE GEAR CHOICES
I used 35mm Kenda Flint Ridge Pro tires at 50 psi last year with Orange Seal and had no flats. I totally disagree with much of what I’ve heard that you really need 40mm gravel tires and really low psi to make the ride more comfortable. I think lower air pressure causes more burps when you hit rocks, leading to getting more flats. That’s my very unscientific opinion. I wear a small backpack with one extra water bottle, a small tire pump, CO2s and one extra tire. I would also bring chain lube. All it takes is a few muddy creek crossings and, before you know it, your rear derailleur is running terribly and making all kinds of bad sounds.
For nutrition I have to admit that I still don’t have it figured out. You for sure want to have a wide variety of different things, though. Don’t try hitting the same flavor Gu for the entire day, because you’ll get repulsed by it in the 17th hour. Resist over-eating Subway sandwiches at the rest stops. I did this and felt sick for many miles as a result of stuffing my face.
For the all-important flat prevention, my advice is to not go flying too fast down the rocky hills! Both years I have seen some ugly crashes as a result of people flying downhill and losing control on the really rocky terrain in the heart of the Flint Hills. This is also how many racers get flat tires.
Last but not least, go into it knowing that it’s very likely that you’ll hit a wall. Your body will feel like stopping. Don’t give into the urge of hanging it up at the last checkpoint. Just finish!