I was one of the 36 folks from around the country who attended the camp. Overall it was priceless! Here are my thoughts:
Kansas is not just around the corner for me. In fact it’s over 13 hours each way in the car. We left Wednesday after work and drove to Mid IL and finished the travels on Thursday. We arrived mid-afternoon and found the Gravel City Adventure Bike shop and checked in. All was good and organized just fine. Very nice shop! There was lots of great stuff to spend money on, which I did. We received a nice bag of swag especially from Chamois Butt’r. They have a new Euro style cream now and it’s super! After check in we headed over to the DK 200 headquarters to drop off our bikes. The mechanics there were super, took the bikes and went over each of them to make adjustment; lube em and fine tune them. We then headed out to the west side of town where all the lodging is located. We had no problem finding a good reasonable hotel to stay in. After unpacking we headed back into town for dinner and classes and hopefully a night ride. Well our trip to KA was in the heavy rain and Emporia got its share. In fact most of the gravel roads had some type of flooding issue on it. So after a fantastic dinner at the theater we were informed that the night light 14 mile ride was cancelled. That night they had a class and we got to meet several past winners and they shared their thoughts.
Friday, we rode! 51 miles but due to flooding we rode the pavement. Road miles are better than no miles so off we went. The ride was not much of a problem. When we returned to Emporia we turned our bikes in and went and get cleaned up. Back in town we went for the provide lunch at the theater. BBQ! Again it was fantastic! After lunch we had several classes on stretching, bike maintenance and later nutrition. But right after lunch I found out that as class participants we could get some fantastic deals in the bike shop. So after talking with some of the other winners and coaches I went and bought a Leaf fork and they installed it on my bike that afternoon! I couldn’t resist it was $175 off the regular price! After getting a few feed bags installed on the bike we headed back to more classes and dinner. Again the provided dinner at the theater was fantastic. Off to bed as Saturday we ride big!
Saturday we arrived at 7:15 am and got set up for the day. Today we ride 101 miles. Yes we did a half pint! In fact we rode a past half pint route. Now keep in mind these rides were supported with sag and a midpoint check point where they had food and drinks and such. I used to check point to hydrate and feed myself but nothing else. The 101 mile ride was incredibly revealing! We climbed, we rode through rivers, carried our bikes, everything you will be exposed to we did. We had opportunities to use the cue sheets only, use our computers, experience riding all alone for miles or hours on end. It was great exposure to what this ride is all about. Epic! I finished the day in just under 8 hours with an average speed of 12.5 mph. Not what I was hoping for. Yes it’s good enough to finish and considering that I did 51 miles the day before does speak well for me but I was very sore and am questioning how anyone can essentially repeat what they just did! We went to dinner at the town’s winery. The food was disappointing. I was hoping for a nice T-bone or Sirloin or some piece of beef but we got pork loin, mashed potato’s , vegs plus salad. Very meager. We headed to the hotel and slept well because we ride again on Sunday.
Sunday we rode 50 miles! I didn’t think I had it in me to do it after just riding 101 the day before. But I did and did it very well. We packed up, cleaned our bikes up and hit the road.
Reflections. I didn’t have any flats at all! I was kind of hoping I would get one just so I could deal with it. Later the coaches said when I get home head to the gravel in the darkness and even when it’s raining and change tires using just the tools you have and your lights you have. Good advice! I was riding on WTB Riddler 45c tires tubeless. They were great. I’m thinking on using something in the 40c width though as I think that 40c is the sweet spot for this event and these types of roads. And you MUST go tubeless. There is just no question about it, tubes are not an option unless it’s to save you can to getting to the next check point. I didn’t have any mechanical issues with my new Lynskey GR 250 at all. It worked great! Several riders did have broken derailleurs but not me. The Ti frame really sucks up the vibration and the Leaf fork is a game changer. It works folks! Plus I had an Ergon CF3 Pro Carbon seat post supporting my saddle and that worked just fine too. I will be adding bar gel packs to be handle bars to provide even more shock absorbing capacity. I rode with others but mostly alone. I wanted to ride alone and into the wind! And we did have wind. Not epic blows but a steady 10 to 15 mph from the east on Saturday and it was naturally full head on during the final 25 miles. I wanted to be all alone, out there with no one in sight, for miles and I did just that. I wanted to use the cue cards and I wanted to use my gps unit. I have a Magellan 505 unit and it was spot on! The area is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see it all green but I know it will likely be much hotter and windier. All day long on Saturday a total of 6 cars passed me. This area is remote, isolated and can be hostel. There is no one to help! I rode through rivers, carried my bike over streams, around mud wallows and up hills. Pace is everything. I went out way too strong at around 16.5 mph. You have to know your limitations! This ride and this country demands respect. You must be prepared. And this means you need to be able to fix your derailleur, your broken chain, brakes, flat tires, broken spokes and your body, in the dark, and in the rain. I had one really bad cramp session at mile 75. I had to stop. I took 10 minutes to rub and pound out the cramp, hydrate and eat. It went away and I went on. After that point I rode all the remaining hills in my top easiest gear. Hey 4.5 mph riding up hills beats walking at 2.5 anytime. You would think that you can make up the time on the down slope side of the hill, right, ah, nope! Typically there was a stream, mud wallow or very big cobblestone washout area at the bottom of just about every hill, so I had to stop or slow to almost a stop to deal with the issue. There are very few sections of road where you were able to carry your speed up the next hill. Have back up options for everything, especially nutrition! What is appealing at mile 45 will suck at mile 145! Not only is this event an epic physical fitness test it’s also a mind game. Mental prep is going to be critical in finishing. I hope the weather is kind to me as weather is the wild card here that will determine whether 20 percent finish or 60 percent finish. Yes it can vary that much out there. They provided a nice check in point in Cottonwood Meadows where they fed us, checked our bikes, lubed up everything before we set off for home. They had many options for us to eat but when the real deal comes up in 8 weeks it’s all on you and your support team.
Many of the coaches were multi DK 200 finishers and winners. There insight and comments were priceless. Having now finished this training there is no question that I would likely fail this event if I would have not attended the training. Anyone thinking of doing this event should consider this training. Thanks to Tray, Bob, Dan, LeLan and the others who I rode with and asked so many questions, they were assume and inspiring. They live out there and get to ride those roads all the time! What a deal. And a special thanks to Jim Cummins who put this race together and rode with us for the 101 miles. He is an incredible source of information and a very strong rider himself.
I look forward to returning. To say that I am apprehensive is an understatement. I hope I will be prepared. I hope I have enough time. I hope I can get everything together, in my head. I hope and I will.