MONDAY MEMORIES, 2020: GRAVEL LEARNINGS FROM DIRTY KANZA
When Dirty Kanza says you’re in, that’s when the real work begins
By John Perry
January 27th of this year started just like most of my days, with a cup of coffee and my iPad to see what had changed in the world overnight. I had totally forgotten that this was the day that the Dirty Kanza lottery announcements were being made. But that reality came back as soon as I opened my inbox and I saw an email with the subject, “You’re going to Emporia! Congratulations.”
And with those five words a wave of emotions started to flood over me. Since I had never thought that I would get into Dirty Kanza via the lottery for a second DK effort, I had already begun looking at other events on the calendar to train for in 2020. Now, what was I going to do?!
“Now that I know what it’s like to be on the bike for 200 miles and vibrated endlessly in the Flint Hills of Kansas, beyond the physical side, I will also work on refining my bike setup.”
However, after a few minutes of self-refection about last year’s DK200, I decided to jump all in for another trip to Emporia. After leaning on my pals at RBA last year, I was lucky enough to not only get one of their allocated spots for the DK200, but they also loaned me an Italian made Basso Palta to ride.
Despite everything I read about the race, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. I set some training and nutritional goals, and did my best to stick to them for the handful of months leading up to the start day. In the end, despite hearing plenty of horror stories about suffering on the bike for over 20 hours, I followed my plan and ended up finishing in 15 hours and 3 minutes.
A NEW GAME PLAN
For the 2020 event I have a new plan. Instead of just trying to make it to the finish, I’m actually going to try to race the event. To do so, I realized I would need to get some real coaching, so I hired former pro Tommy Danielson to help guide my training. Danielson runs Cinch Cycling in Boulder, Colorado,
and he also helps factory Yamaha motocross rider Justin Barcia, who I am friends with.
Now that I know what it’s like to be on the bike for 200 miles and vibrated endlessly in the Flint Hills of Kansas, beyond the physical side, I will also work on refining my bike setup.
First things first, if I’m going to spend over 12 hours on the bike, my comfort takes precedence over being aero, so I plan to add padding under the handlebar tape where my hands rest most of the time.
One other important addition this year will be to make sure I not only pay attention to the rider’s bible that’s posted on the Dirty Kanza website, but also go to the riders’ meeting. I skipped it last year and missed out on some valuable information that would have helped to know about, mostly the news that EF Education was providing a water stop at the 100-mile point. Between the hot temperature and humidity, that unofficial stop proved to be a lifesaver, because I had thought the next water was at 120 miles in, not the 40 miles from the neutral aid stop.
STOP AND GO
During the 2019 DK200 I spent over 40 minutes stopped in the neutral aid stations for various reasons. That will not happen again. This year I plan to be better organized in the neutral aid stations by having pre-filled water bottles and hydration systems ready to swap out on the go. All my spare bike parts will be clearly labeled, and I will practice my pit stops as it gets closer to the event, because practice makes perfect. When the ultimate goal is to reduce your overall finish time, the pits are one place on the course where little or no effort is required and can save precious minutes.
WHAT ABOUT ME?
What I’ve realized so far about my new goals for 2020 is that training with a coach may just be as physically demanding as riding the DK200 itself! For all my cycling pursuits, I’ve always just relied on my own instincts to get my goals accomplished, so I have to admit that relying on somebody else for guidance took some getting used to.
To get the most out of Tommy’s Cinch program, you need to use a power meter, which I didn’t own. After questioning several people who use them, it seemed like they are another form of religion. After doing my homework, I chose the dual-sided Pioneer power meter mated to Shimano’s Ultegra R8000 crankset with 175mm-length arms and 52/36 chain rings on my road bike. This system has so many ways of collecting data that you might need a PhD to understand anything more than the basic power numbers. I’m sure Tom will help me get a handle on it.
OFF THE BIKE AND ONTO THE COUCH
Here’s what the workout consisted of: a three-hour ride at endurance pace with a 30-second all-out sprint every 15 minutes wherever I was on the road. I started out with a very easy 30-minute warm-up, and then I was off towards the first sprint. The first four sprints were not so bad, and the next four were actually fun since the route had now turned downhill. But, the last four got harder and harder, and the last one might not have even qualified as a sprint!
By the time I got home some four hours after starting the workout, the only thing on my mind was the couch, TV and not having to do any more sprints.
Oh yeah, I had one more thought: soon enough, doing repeated sprints will be the least of the issues being thrown at me—here I come, Dirty Kanza 2020.