Dirty Kanza Learnings, Pt. 2: Hot Dogs & Batteries

When youth, extra batteries and some mustard on a hot dog combine for a longer than expected finish of the Dirty Kanza 200 mile long gravel race.


Before I officially started working for RBA, I was writing reviews for them on the side, so when Troy offered up an entry about two months before Kanza, I jumped at the chance. At the time, my training only consisted of my daily 20-mile commute to work and some extra credit miles after work, and on the weekends in between the occasional crit race. No, in hindsight, it really wasn’t a lot of riding, but at the time it was more riding than I had ever done, and I felt I was primed for a sub-13-hour finishing time at Kanza.

As the start date neared, all our lodging and travel came together. A direct flight to Kansas City and an AirBNB five blocks from the start line left little up to chance. Everything seemed to be lining up for a successful effort.



Race day the start time was pushed back 30 minutes due to the thunderstorms in the area. Once the race started, Troy and I made the selection in the lead group, but chose to ride at a more manageable pace in the chase group behind. As the miles began to add up, I lost sight of Troy and was on my own. Around mile 60 my front Shimano Di2 derailleur stopped working, and soon the rear followed suit. I was stuck in my 34-22 gear.

My day was about to get a lot longer. While I had fully charged my Di2 battery before I had left for the trip, a last-minute seatpost swap the previous day involved a battery swap, and even though the system indicated it was charged, it died after three hours. Fast-forward six hours to mile 120, and I had gotten a hold of a spare battery pack and a Di2 charging cable. Everything was in working order, except I was three hours behind schedule with 85 miles to go.

Looking back at the 18 1/2 hours I spent in the Flint Hills, there are more than a couple of learnings I came back with, but these two are ones I’ll be sure to use this year.

“Expect a long ride, be prepared for a longer ride, and don’t be an arrogant weight weenie.” 

The Learnings:

  1. Expect a long ride and be prepared for a longer ride. Most people crossing the finish line at Kanza will have just completed the longest ride of the year if not their life. Even if everything unfolds as planned, the day can be grueling. In case of a series of unfortunate events, much like my own, I am going to pack my drop bags with extra nutrition. There are usually volunteers offering a selection of hot dogs, chili and coke at the stops, but I know what I need to keep me going. I’ll pack Tailwind Endurance Fuel, Gu Energy Chews and a few bananas in case of a three or four-hour setback. I’m bringing a spare Di2 charging cable, too!
  2. Don’t be an arrogant weight weenie. I was arrogant and expected to finish before sunset, so I disregarded the mandate to bring a proper set of lights; instead, I brought a set of Serfas Thunderbolt blinkers. While they’re bright enough to be seen on a lit street, this city boy was not prepared for the darkness of the empty Flint Hills of Kansas. The 30-minute delay at the start only made the situation worse, but I didn’t regret my decision to go light until I found myself 15 hours into the race still with 40 miles to ride. Bring bright lights!

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