Tag Archives: racing

2012 Dirty Kanza 200 recap


I rode the Dirty Kanza 200 last weekend. It’s a 200 mile gravel road race with exploding popularity. What started as 36 people starting in a parking lot a few years ago grew to 420 men and women of all ages riding the 2012 race. That’s right, men and women racing alongside each other. Rebecca Rusch would go on to finish 3rd overall. The race was a legend from the first year. The initial race reports caught my eye, and the sheer scale of the course was alluring. I read every DK200 article I could find, including reports from  Adventure Monkey, Corey Godfrey, Joe Meiser, Tim Ek, Matt Gersib, and countless others. I rode gravel roads around Denton, I mountain biked, I measured water consumption in summer heat. I obsessed about all the details of the bike setup.

I rode a Surly Cross Check, and it seemed like the field was split 50/50 between mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes. I also saw a few tandems, a fat bike, and quite a few single speeds. Most people simply rode comfortable, familiar bikes. I’ll save the nerdy bike-setup stuff for the end of this post, so I can talk more about my experience.

Why would someone want to ride the DK200? It’s beautiful. Astonishingly so. To be honest, I never knew central Kansas was this vast, open, undeveloped, and filled with endless gravel roads. If you look at the course maps, you’ll see a patchwork of unmaintained (aka desirable) gravel roads that you could infinitely vary routes through. There ain’t much civilization between checkpoints, and that’s how I like it. I hardly saw any houses or cars over the 200 miles. I35 is a toll road through the region, so the countless cement bridges over I35 don’t have exits. There’s no development. No suburbs, no outlet malls, and hardly even a farmhouse. The landscape is rolling prairie and huge hills, vast, without visual interruption. Missing are the pockmarked myriad of gas well sites in Denton county. It seems like the “limitless and lonesome prairie” that Walt Whitman wrote about in Song of Myself. Heartland. Distinctly American terrain, classic.

Why else would someone want to ride the DK200? To accomplish something seemingly impossible. We choose a path of suffering for the promise of a proportional reward, satisfaction. Once you’ve finished it, you’ve always-already finished it. You can’t unfinish it. To embrace the DK200 is to accept unpredictable variables beyond your control: weather, flats. Even with this year’s fantastic weather, everyone had to dig deep to finish. It’s never easy. Judging by the 200+ finishers, the attrition rate was much better than previous years, because we didn’t get high temperatures or disastrous storms this time. Last year had both.

I shot out of bed at 4:45 when the alarm went off, rescued from fitful sleep. I ate a small breakfast of a Lara bar and some energy gels, and we headed downtown to the starting line. I felt confident about the bike setup, and I tried to not change anything in the weeks before the event. No surprises. I started the race with six extra tubes, because the Flint Hills are legendary for inflicting flats.

Here’s the starting line, just before 6AM, when you can see the charged mass of 420 riders, humming with energy:

We rolled out fast and I didn’t take any photos for the first twenty miles or so. The ground was tacky dirt, and tires made a kissing sound that hinted at how muddy conditions could become if it rained. The pack of riders was so dense that gravel was constantly tossed up, and I had to spit it out of my mouth. The thin rain jacket I started with was instantly unnecessary and hot. I took off the jacket and sat back, cruising with what seemed like the second pack until we reached hills that started to draw out gaps between riders. The sea of green prairie, the blue sky with wispy clouds, the smell of dewy morn was invigorating and sweet, and this first leg had the most sublime views I would see during the race. Townes Van Zandt’s “Colorado Girl” started playing in my head.







The first miles leading out of town were fairly flat, but we hit the infamous Texaco Hill around mile 25.


There were more hills after this, and the some the wildest, rockiest, least-maintained roads were on the last half of this leg. I don’t have photos of the fast rocky descents between hills, because I intently focused on riding safe lines down those boulder-strewn hills. I only remember extreme concentration, giddiness, and feeling like a bouncing blur. I did eventually settle into a steady enough pace to have the first of many conversations with other people during the day. Life stories, delivered in 30 minute segments, conveniently dictating a breathable pace. Age ranges from 20 to 60 years old, it seemed. I sensed that this event was a pivotal goal for so many riders, and it was plainly obvious that everyone there really wanted to be there. People flew in from all over. Nobody rides into the Flint Hills by accident. I’d wanted to race the DK200 for three years, and I was determined to start it and finish it. Every cell in my body felt aligned for this one purpose, at this exact moment. It’s a spiritual symmetry you can’t find amidst the complexity of daily life. I’m here to do this one thing, and now I’m doing it. Everything else falls away.



Hills loomed from far away, and I could see every inch that I had to climb. Everything seemed big. The sky, the prairie, the race. I felt small. I couldn’t remember seeing this much open space since supporting a friend here exactly one year before. The funny thing about it being open space is that it fills you. It’s completely unlike anything I see the rest of the year, and my mind expanded into it, a welcome respite from narrow dimensions of everyday city life. The Flint Hills are a green, inland sea of America.


As we neared checkpoint two, I felt a bit nauseous and food was unappealing. I felt more tired and more achey than I’d prefer this early  in the race. My perception of time was already warped, and throughout the day it would draw out forever or whip by in an instant. I rolled into the first checkpoint reeling in awe of the race, and the finish seemed impossibly far away. I sat down until the nausea subsided, I snacked, and I rode back out after about 30 minutes. I think. Onward to checkpoint two at 100 miles.

I don’t remember much about the second leg except that it was much easier. I remember gentle, green hills. I saw old stone walls and stone houses. My mind played endless choruses of “Colorado Girl”, still.





I think this was where I walked around the only real mud on the whole course.


My body and mind on autopilot by now, I felt hypnotized for this stage. I felt the heat of the day press down, and the blinding sun reflecting off the white gravel washed out my thoughts. The music in my head was gone. My positions on the bike became awkward and uncomfortable. My sitbones ached, so I stood up more often. I saw a huge machine driving down the road towards me, and it turned out to be a road grader that plowed the gravel in half and created a rough berm in the middle of the road. I met  these friendly guys riding for Bici Coop, a nonprofit bike  shop (like Querencia) but in Birmingham, AL.


Around this time I started to recognize the roads, and I knew this was where my friend, Dylan Holt, succumbed to brutal afternoon heat and ended his 2011 race. I realized I had it relatively easy, since it was at least ten degrees cooler for us. The second checkpoint was just around the corner, 100 miles into the race. Americus, KS looked like a post-WWII ghost town. I rolled onto the red brick road and towards checkpoint two, feeling relieved. My feet were on fire, and I couldn’t wait to cool them down. My chain clattered with dust and debris.


When I arrived at checkpoint two, I felt nauseous (yet hungry), hot, sore, and my palms had blisters. I put corn starch in my gloves, which worked well for the rest of the day. My core temp was climbing, so I dropped an ice bag on my neck, which felt amazing. Time sped past. My support guy, Devin, produced a huge club sandwich from the nearby diner. It looked delicious, but I had to wait 15 minutes before I knew I could keep it down. I ate half of it, drank a couple Gatorades, took an Advil, kicked off my shoes, and I laid on the ground. For a while. Longer than I realized. I stared up at a pine tree until I felt good.


I could see the afternoon sun setting, so I lubed the chain and headed out towards checkpooint three at 165 miles. In my fatigued state, I decided I wouldn’t need as much water on this third leg. I left one liter at checkpoint two. Oops. I rode onward, through the heat, mostly alone.



By this point, I was passing people who were in pain. Grimacing, silent faces. I kept feeling hotter and hotter, and there was little shade. I rode with a friendly guy from Kansas City for a while, we chatted, and then we encountered these guys, looking confounded by a slashed tire and a flat tire. My companion donated a spare tire, we helped them mount it, and after a few minutes we were on our way.


I rode on, alone. The sun had fallen to a perfectly annoying point, where it glared incessantly from the side and I didn’t have a hat brim to block it. I regretted that decision to leave a liter of water behind at checkpoint two, so I restrained my drinking a bit. The roads felt uninspiring and interminable. I coasted down a small hill, and as I traversed a small concrete bridge at the bottom, I hopped off an easy four inches off the bridge end and back onto the gravel. Pain shot through my left ankle. I looked down, and I’d left my shoes loose at the checkpoint, and I forgot to tighten the velcro. My left heel must’ve rotated down sharply and done something bad to the ankle. I think this was around mile 120, so I still had 45 miles to ride with a dwindling water supply.


I rode into a shady valley, and I saw a rider standing in the road, his arms limp and face gaunt. His lips were flecked with white, clearly dehydrated, and his muscles were locking up with cramps. He had a good sized beard, and he asked if I’d seen the “other bearded guy with an Amish kit”. This guy looked finished. More than finished, devastated. I asked him who I could call for him, and he said “Emma. I’m Kyle.” He thrust a phone towards me and I copied a number into my own phone, but I couldn’t get any reception in the valley. I offered to ride into cell range, call, and come back to wait with him, but Kyle said I should go on. Up the road a mile or so, I finally got a text and voicemail through to Emma, and she was on her way. Good! I rode on, taking smaller and smaller sips of water. On another long, hot road, I passed a guy throwing up uncontrollably into a ditch. I offered help, and he waved me on vigorously. Yikes. With my dwindling water supply, I rationed myself a bite and sip every other mile. I did this to conserve water, but the constant eating intervals were perhaps what I had needed since the start. Ah, things you learn after 100 miles.



The sun started to drop, and the heat blanket lifted away. My ankle hurt when I stood to climb, so I rode hard and stayed in the saddle. I caught a guy named Jim, from St. Louis, who was also out of water. We found a farmhouse with nobody home, dogs barking inside, and we filled up our bottles with cool water from the hose spigot. We took huge sips, thanked our absent hosts profusely, and we headed back out. I swam in new sounds. I could hear thousands of crickets in the prairie. Over bridges, I could hear thousands of frogs. Melodic, rhythmic choruses over a steady drone of gravel crisp under tires. As the sun went down, the sounds expanded, replacing what I couldn’t see.

In half-lit evening, we bombed through the roughest road of the entire ride. It was a short, fast descent through an overgrown field, and the only paths were two narrow tire ruts from a seemingly ancient 4 x 4 expedition. We crossed a diagonal river of huge rocks, and suddenly I wished I was riding a mountain bike. It was so unlike an actual road that I was amazed to see it had a street sign. I turned my light on, and we made short work of getting to the third checkpoint in Council Grove. I found Devin, refilled my bottles, and I ate peanut butter M&M’s and Reese’s cups. I asked him if it was crazy for me to leave so late at 10:30 PM and try to finish. Devin replied, “you’d have to be crazy just to sign up for this race.” He warned of a developing storm just to the west. Without saying that I was headed back out, I started jamming food in my frame bag. I knew I could finish it. Ankle and all. I felt unstoppably good, and only 36 more miles sounded easy.

I left Council Grove in a hurry and rode the rail trail out of town. I caught a friendly, quizzical fellow named Paul (from Lincoln). He was grasping a flashlight in his right hand, so the light from it bounced erratically across the road. I felt worried for him, because the finish was still 36 miles away, and we had to get there before the 2AM cutoff. I surged ahead into my fastest pace of the whole day, and I passed quite a few people. Ironically, I did all my best eating during this last leg, so I felt better than ever. I churned up and over two massive, unending hills. I liked that at night I couldn’t see just how massive the hills were. I could only feel the road point up or down. The moon was full and bright, and Jim went on to ride “jedi”, with lights off, for some length. I steamed onward, feeling full of life. I felt like I was racing again, at least against myself and the 2AM cutoff time.

I passed more folks, and I ended up in a pack of weary riders just a few miles out from the finish. A couple of strong riders were leading the wounded riders to the finish. I recognized a guy I met back in the morning, although his previously cheery outlook was replaced with grim announcements of pain. He was literally on his last leg. I stuck with the pack, and we all missed a turn. We rode back and pulled out our maps. After some minor confusion and drama, we backtracked and picked up even more folks headed the same wrong way. Turns out the course marker for that turn wasn’t reflective, as all the other markers were brightly reflective at night. I chatted with a guy from Brooklyn who flew down with his Rivendell touring bike. The moustache bars looked amazingly comfy. Whoops, there went another wrong turn. After a brief debate and map consultation, we again retraced our steps and got back on course. All in all, we probably lost 30 minutes.

Finally, we crossed I35 and rolled through the Emporia State University campus. The brightly lit parking lots were surreal and completely alien after 200 miles of austere terrain. We turned onto the main drag, and I could see lights, the finish line, and I heard cowbells clanging. I couldn’t believe people were still awake and cheering at this finish! To whoever stayed there so late and cheered, that was amazing for late finishers.

It took me 19 hours and 55 minutes to go 206 total miles. I felt great, somehow. Maybe it was the endorphins talking, but I swore I could go further if not for the hurt ankle.

I collected my DK200 pint glass, the only prize for finishers, and headed off in search of my bed. I already knew I’d be back to race the DK200 again with a goal of finishing before the sun goes down.


Many thanks to my support person, Devin. His unflappable support revived me when I needed it most. While he drove to the finish line, a hawk flew into his windshield at full speed. Sorry about your windshield, Alana! RIP, Kansas hawk.

windshield after hawk dove into it on highway

Bike setup:
– Surly Cross Check
– 2 x 9 drivetrain, SRAM Rival CX cranks, XT 32T cassette and derailleur
– Schwalbe Marathon Extreme tires set up DIY tubeless on Mavic Open Pro rims – no flats or burps
– Revelate Tangle frame bag, Serfas saddle bag
– Cygolite Expilion 350 on the bars, PrincetonTec Eos on helmet
– WTB Diva saddle
– 2 to 3 liters of water in Zefal Magnum bottles, none on my back






ride gallery
bike gallery

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Tuesday Bike Night recap, sprint series announced

I attended the Tuesday Bike Night last week and snapped some photos. Drew and Owen are actively curating the rides, often giving out hand-printed flyers to the first attendees. Tomorrow night they start a month-long sprint series at secret locations each week.

This ride has existed in different forms over the last few years, and I was amazed at the attendance last week, considering school was out. It seems like people (who ride) are staying in Denton during the summer, more than ever before.

tues night ride - 5/17/2011

tues night ride - 5/17/2011

tues night ride - 5/17/2011

tues night ride - 5/17/2011

tues night ride print

tues night ride print

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alleycat cards

Some interesting stuff gets donated to Querencia. While going through some donations last week, I found these spoke cards from Denton alleycat races over the last few years.

Here’s a shot of the covers, a shot of the routes, and a closeup of a route pattern that we saw also used for the Svart Katt transmigratory celebration of darkness.




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DoubleKill house show and alleycat race this weekend

Doublekill show flyer

Double House Show and Alley Cat Race
  • May 8th 1224 and 1220 Crescent St.
  • All entries to the race benefit the www.ridewelltour.org for the development of clean well water in Africa
  • Art on diplay
  • Photobooth
  • Live art
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Denton Fat Alleycat race – May 1

If there’s one thing that all cyclists have in common, it’s a love of food.  Not just any food, but good, hearty, rich, down-home cooking.  Local race promoter, André J. “Frenchy” Rheault, explains how he came up with the Fat Alleycat concept.

Back in the mid 70’s, when I was working as an air traffic controller at Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring, TX, I was constantly managing complex and takeoff situations, and it gave me a knack for managing risk.  Once my lawn business became my main job, I missed that excitement and energy of safely guiding all these complex elements, so I immediately thought, “why don’t I give cyclists a chance to do what they really want: ride really fast between checkpoints, and eat an enormous amount of rich, heavy food.  You have all these Clif bars and energy spazzoid drinks, but cyclists completely miss out on the simple enjoyment of ribs or brisket, pints of refreshing ale, the wonderful delights of everyday Texas living. Once I mentioned this idea to my good friend, Lance Armstrong, and he told his good friend, world hot-dog-eating champion Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi, we knew the race would be an international hit and attract serious BBQ aficionados and lycra-clad athletes in droves.  As a charity benefit, Lance’s cancer foundation has agreed to manufacture 80,000 BBQStrong bracelets to give away to the expected massive crowds.

After filing street closure permits for various roads around Denton, Frenchy teamed up with local BBQ eateries to design a route between all the checkpoints with maximum gluttony.  Starting in South Denton at historic Sweet Y BBQ, the racers have 45 seconds to consume 2 pounds of Grill Masters Choice Smoked Ribs and 2 heaping bowls of mustard greens. Then they begin the race by sprinting on full stomachs to From Tha Heart on South Elm, where they must consume 24 linear inches of delightful sausage.  Then, racers climb 2,000 vertical feet to reach Roosters BBQ on Industrial st.  Race officials will oversee the two key points of the Industrial street stop: racers must consume a foot long loose-meat po-boy, and 3 pints of Franconia ale at Dan’s Silverleaf.  Back on the ultra-light carbon fiber race bikes, grease-fingered cyclists will lay back in the saddle for an endurance stage all the way north to Babe’s Chicken.  Once in Sanger at Babe’s, riders will suck down two servings of chicken fried steak and a plate of coconut meringue pie.  Back in the saddle, the route winds north to finish in Valley View at Big Fatty’s Spanking Shack. The riders will waddle inside and devour the infamous “El Farto Grande” monstrosity, a macabre culinary weapon of Ricky, the BBQ chef.

Note to prospective racers: pre-race protein-load steak dinner is at 9PM the night before at Prairie House, just east of Denton.  All racers must weigh in at the start and finish to prove that they gained at least 2% of total body weight during the race.  Reasons for disqualification include vomiting, using silverware, or eating any national chain fast food during the race.  Digestive supplements, including Tums and Rolaids, are grounds for race license revocation, and blood-doping lab analysis will search for trace elements of banned substances.

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Fall Alleycat This Sunday – 3:30 – Mckenna Park



This Sunday, there’s an alleycat race that spans from Mckenna park across downtown and through both college campuses.  The proceeds benefit Querencia Community Bike Shop, a worthy cause.

From the Facebook event page:

– QCBS is a non profit organization that provides the Denton cycling community with access to tools, workspace, and assistance (free of charge). for more about the services and programs that they run for the community – http://www.qcbs.org
– All Proceeds from the race will be donated to QCBS.

All riders welcome

here is the race outline as it stands now:
– race starts and ends at McKenna park
– registration opens at 3:30pm and closes at 4:00pm, announcements will follow and the race will begin as close to 4:00 as possible.

– As it stands right now there will be two categories, this may change based on attendance.

– Single Race
each entry is his/her own team – no help. each rider must visit ALL check points. the route taken in between checkpoints, and the order of checkpoints will be left up to the rider. – – entry is 3$ – – prizes for 1st 2nd and 3rd

– Team Race
Form a team if you don’t want to ride as far, want to finish faster, or simply want to compete with a friend. at least one member from each team must visit all check points (checkpoints are the same as the singlerace checkpoints) teams should consist of 3 people, but entries of 2 person teams will be accepted. – – entry is 6$ per team – – Prizes for 1st and 2nd

Checkpoint Locations – check points can be visited in any order. you must show your card to attendant.

UNT Campus – Library Mall Fountain. Circular fountain

North Lakes Park – “fishing pier”

Denton Square – Courthouse front steps

TWU – Circular fountain in front of the library

The final Check In will be your return to McKenna Park. after having visited the first four.

Maps and pictures of the check point locations will be available in limited quantity before the race.

– points will be awarded to riders at each checkpoint. more points for the faster you get there. As mentioned, no particular order is required in choosing which checkpoints to go to. First one to attend all four checkpoints, and check back in at McKenna (first to finish) will be given a lot of points. It will be possible (but unlikely) for this person to not come in first overall.

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Aggressive Dog Alert : Duncan/Lakey St

For the first time, I wished I had pepper spray within easy reach.

I’ve been chased by dogs in every part of Denton, but never have the dogs been this aggressive, tireless, and persistent.  Usually dogs stop at their territorial boundary, and usually dogs get tired/discouraged.   For three miles these two cujos didn’t give up.  THREE crazy miles.

After a delicious (heavy) breakfast at Old West on Dallas Drive, we rode back on Duncan/Lakey through SE Denton, since the rail trail is closed.  Just after crossing the (closed) rail trail, two large, black, snarling, foaming-at-the-mouth dogs ran out and after us from a house on the West side of Duncan/Lakey.  As they snapped at Renee’s feet, I emptied a whole bottle of water in their faces, which they didn’t mind.  One managed to bite a few mouthfuls of Renee’s pannier bag.

I think they came from one of these houses in the 976 block of Duncan:

Then, the unthinkable.  They never turned around, they never backed down, and the never ran slower.  I led them off across SE Denton all the way to Mckinney, and let them chase me instead of Renee.  With the dogs snarling and literally snapping at my heels, I did about five laps around the Denton Police station until I could explain the ordeal to a patrol officer in the back parking lot.  By then I had finally outpaced the dogs, no easy task on a 50+ pound xtracycle, and the dogs trotted off into the field along the commuter rail line.

Animal Control doesn’t work on Sunday, and the officer didn’t think AC could catch these cujos, so be warned:  There are aggressive cycle-hating/chasing black dogs on Hill St.  If you encounter them, ride FAST and call the cops/animal control.  Update: Renee left the police station after I did and saw the AC truck circling near the station, so I guess they did come out on a Sunday.

Yeah, I kept the delicious Old West omelette down.

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Bike Race/Beer/Food This Saturday

On September 26, bicycles will rule downtown Denton, as race promoter Christian Williams and the Denton Sports Commission hold the Sam Bass Bicycle Challenge.  My dog and I have previously watched the race from the courthouse lawn, and I loved it, but the event was never well-publicized.  Until now.  It’s a luxury to have a race pass through the historic downtown, and it’s completely free to the public.  If you want to drink beer, eat food, and watch the race fly by, check out the Industrial St Beer Garden info below.

Although the course doesn’t wind around the courthouse this year, it makes a loop just east of the square.

Additionally, the Industrial St Guild (Dan’s Silverleaf, Seniors in Motion, Roosters, Fuzzy’s) are hosting a Beer Garden patio for race spectators on the parking spots along Industrial.  They’ll have food, beer, music, and it’ll be a nice place to watch the racers go by.  Querencia Community Bike Shop is providing free bike-valet service.


Giant pdf version here.

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Corinth Time Warp MTB Race Series

Corinth Cycling is hosting a cross-country 3-race series, starting this weekend.  Funds raised go toward trail development in Corinth!


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BicyclePath Time Trials tonight

Bicycle Path owner, Gary, posted on the Corinth Cycling Club forums that the Time Trial series has a new location.

Hello, Time Trials are on for this week. We do have a last min. change of locations. I would appreciate help spreading the word. It will be held off of Airport Rd and Northwestern. This is just down from the Peterbuilt Plant.

The new route will be a loop were we will do two laps. It will start on North Western head up Airport road taking a right on Masch Branch to Jim Christal and back on North Western. Should be fast and low traffic.

If I remember correctly, that’s a really nice low-traffic area just West of town.  It’ll be hot, but that’s as good of a place to ride fast as any I can imagine around town.

Bicycle Path does several weekly group rides, with varying pace, and for mountain and road bikes.  Check out their community page for more details and results from the Time Trial events.

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