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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Kick-Ass Weekend Part III: Dirty Kanza

[Note: I posted this, then was told by the love of my life that I'd gotten some aspects of it significantly wrong. I was too focused on what she's lost since her injury, not focused enough on how great it is she's recovered what she has. Revisions have been made.]

It's been a long two years since Corinna came home from a bike ride saying, 'I fucked up.' She'd come to with her bike on top of her in an alley, it was the first time she'd asked me to take her to the Emergency Room. She went from someone who could (no exaggeration here) ride 170 miles at a go on a fully loaded touring bike in a snow storm to someone who struggles to ride double digit miles, who often has trouble with short car rides.

It was a few weeks before I had double bypass open heart surgery, which you'd think is a pretty big setback until you compare it to a traumatic brain injury. This trip to Emporia to cheer some friends on for the Dirty Kanza, well, it was the longest road trip we've made in a long time, probably the first in two years undertaken just for kicks. Before her crash Corinna had been thinking she'd ride the DK200 one of these days. She still thinks that, but it's contingent on recovering a lot more than she has so far. She really looked at this road trip as a victory, though, and we had tons of fun. Even managed to sleep together in the tent (my CPAP's noise compounds the tinnitus she's had since the wreck, which has resulted in generally separate sleeping arrangements but with ear plugs I got to experience the bliss of falling asleep in her arms).

We got a late start leaving the house, in part because she had to cajole me into doing the trip at all. I worried about her car endurance, plus she wanted to take the dogs in addition to taking her car and that was a bridge to far for me. I wasn't sure I could tolerate dog breath on my neck all the way to Emporia, plus they're a pain in the ass when it comes to the logistics of camping and so on. Anyway we let the dogs guard home and eventually left the house, getting to Emporia in late afternoon. In some years there are DK200 winners before we got there, in fact. But this year, the DK became the MK, it was all mud, no dirt. May had four rainless days, and the course for Dirty Kanza was so waterlogged there were three miles of hike-n-bike (carry your bike) mud for the DK100 folks, and more like nine miles for the full DK200 riders. Carry your bike almost ten miles while walking in mud that is trying to suck the shoes off your feet, then hop on and ride 190+ on wet gravel roads with standing water at the bottoms of hills hiding washouts and sinkholes.

We actually gave up and moved on to camp before the first 200 mile finisher came in (at 13 hours, meaning he carried his bike for almost ten miles, then managed to finish the 200 averaging around 15 mph overall, what a freak).

One of my friends who finished the 100, I asked him if he'd done the 100 or 200, not realizing yet that there were no 200 finishers at that point. I think it came off like, 'Did you only do 100?' They call the 100 mile edition of the DK the 'half pint' as if doing 100 miles on gravel were just a warm up. If that's the half pint, the tablespoon is pretty daunting, if you ask me.

There were lots of tributes to Joel Dyke, our late friend and co-founder of the Dirty Kanza. I'm not sure how it came to be a 200 mile race, but I picture Joel and Jim heading out into the Flint Hills to see how many miles they could manage in a day. And getting to maybe 175 miles and saying, 'Fuck it, let's round up and make sure everyone has headlights.' Like I say, I don't know that's how it went down but it would fit. It is otherwise as impossible to comprehend as the Iditarod (the DK200 bears a striking resemblance to a Midwestern Summer edition of the Iditarod).

The Dirty Kanza was muddy in the extreme and hard as fuck, but it operates on Frank Tuesday rules, and those state that someone will get hurt, someone's bike will get broken, no whining.

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