This adventure started back over ten years ago. There was a ride in the Flint Hills of southeast Kansas called the Death Ride. It would cover 60 to 75 miles of the Flint Hills gravel/dirt roads in August. Thus the name Death Ride because the heat would be around hundred degrees, I rode the Death ride twice on recumbent bicycles. The second ride was on the DRS (Death Ride Special) A dual 26” wheel Bacchetta proto-type of a bike we had not even released yet or launched the Bacchetta Bicycle Company. The ride went great except for the front tire sliced like paper during the finishing miles. In comes the Dirty Kanza 200 run in early June for the last how many years? Well at least five years because I was talking to a friend who said he has DNF the race for five years in a row.
Last summer while in KS the idea of riding DK 200 on a Bacchetta started floating around in my mind. The clincher was when I rode to a local mountain bike race on my CA 2.0 with 28mm tires the last 20 miles of the ride was down dirt and chalk roads. Former 24 hour mountain bike national champion Cameron Chambers past me in his car while I was flying down a chalk road cruising around 33 mph with a great tailwinds. After the race I talked to Cameron to congratulate him on his win of the day. He said, “You know John you need to do DK200 on your Bacchetta and shake things up”. I replied, “Funny we have been kicking around that idea.” I talked with him about tire choices and then decide if I remember I would sign up for DK200 when the entry opened up next year.
Well somehow I remembered to sign up the date entries open and got in at number 141 of the 375 entries. Which filled up a couple hours later. Next plan was to be in Kansas for the race. Racing season started with racing into shape being the plan for 2011. Sebring 24 hour, Heart of the South 500 four man team, Calvin’s 12 hour Challenge, Balltown 200 and a rando series including back to back weekends of of 600km brevets. Then someone mention a 24 hour race called Bessie’s Creek near Huston TX. I thought that might work, do Bessie’s then head to KS for DK200 the next weekend pick up my younger sister to give her a ride back to FL. With the thought of doing a 24 hour race and then a 200 mile gravel grinder I started to wonder if I was mentally alright. I even decide to punt on DK200 and pass it off to Bacchetta teammate Sara Kay, who was chomping at the bit to do this race but missed the sign up.
I was to late to transfer the entry and told Jim Cummins race owner of, http://www.dirtykanza200.com/, I’ll see you on Friday. Bessie’s Creek turned into a total melt down ride with heat index around 103 and very windy. I even had pulled the plug at 365 miles and in a daze went for a swim. Decide to go back out after and finished second to teammate Kent Polk 440 and my 437 miles. With that lesson in my mind I swore in my next race I would take a break if the heat was taking me out, soak my feet in ice water, whatever it took to recharge.
After leaving teammate Dennis Johnson’s (racing solo RAW 2011)home, I headed up to teammates Peggy and Steve Petty in Frisco TX, for the week to recover and get ready for DK200. The whole week I kept trying to talk my self out of the DK200, even checked into doing 12 hours at a ultra race called Race the Canyon out in Amarillo TX. Entry was closed so I was back on track to do DK200. Still could not get excited about doing another beat down race in the heat.
While in Texas at the Petty’s, Steve and I went up to Sherman to visit Pat and Charlie Jenkin’s at their Nautilus Bicycle Center. Pat and Charlie were going to ride DK200 on their tandem and had done a gravel 200km brevet a few weeks before. I wanted to talk tires and see if it was possible if their support crew could also support my DK200 also. As in the true spirit of rando riders and Lone Star Randonneers members and just all around great people they said yes! Guess this meant I was really going to do DK200 on my Bacchetta.
DK200 is a really well run event and for the entry it is one of the better bang for you bucks ultra events I have done. It helps that Jim has some great sponsors and the City of Emporia standing behind him. The race started at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning. I got there in plenty of time to get myself sorted out and then lagged back as the pack started filling up the street. I had decided to start at the very back of the pack and see how the pack would stretch out. Wanted to make sure there was not to crazy of a hammer pack around me when I hit the gravel. One reason was I planned to pace myself and the other was to get a feel of the gravel roads for a few miles before I started taking it up to speed.
Even before we hit gravel I had passed a few of the tail end groups and came up to the corner for the turn onto the gravel. A quarter mile of gravel then the road turned south again and as we hit the gravel you could look to the southwest and see a line of riders strung out on the road till it disappear over the horizon. You could say that was a lot of targets. After about three miles of gravel I was getting into a grove and was making my way pass the different pace lines. Depending upon the surface I was cruising any where between 16 to 25 mph into the building headwind. Ten miles rolled by and I felt I had passed at least 370 riders but the pack kept appearing ahead and some views shown them out ahead for miles working their way up over the hills like ants in a ant farm.
Almost everyone or pack I passed I got wows and encouragement not one time did I heard a bad remark about a recumbent doing the DK200. Rolled into check point one with an average of 16 mph and no issues so far tackling what the DK200 was throwing at me. My support John and Fred were right there telling where the truck was and helping me get reloaded. Once again during an ultra race having a good crew can mean the difference of DNF on finishing. At Dirty Kanza you are only allowed support at the checkpoints. This race would have been a DNF if John and Fred had decided not to help out and crew. A big thank you goes out to them plus Pat and Charlie Rolled out of checkpoint one and started picking up more of the leaders.
Came across Chris Tilford and he said hi John don’t miss the left turn and I asked how he was doing and he said not to good. He seemed pretty dazed but was talking complete sentences so I rolled on. A few miles later I rolled up to a group trying to figure out the map and a lack of markings on which way to go. About 15 riders bunched up here and a rider coming up the road shouted and pointed the way to go so like good lemmings we took off down that road. Thankfully it was correct but at the same time it was the toughest section of the race with like 4 water crossings. I tried not to screw up to many riders behind me as I did my first water crossing on my Bacchetta and they all went well. Then there was a few drops down the back side of the hills that I was dam glad we were not climbing. They were rock face with loose rock everywhere I just slowed her way down and rode the brakes down thinking don’t pinch flat, don’t flat. Almost everyone of the descents there was some one pulled off working on repairing a flat.
By this time all of who I had passed earlier had gotten by and we hit some more forgiving terrain and I caught back of the pack just in time for a couple of climbs like we had come down. First climb made it but the second climb was looking pretty bad and when two of the single speed riders bailed to walk I took their cue and followed suit. It just so happen the video jeep was behind us right then and I thought this will make the high lite film. Recumbent rider has to walk the hills of DK200. I watched the video after the race and sure enough there was that hill and the single speeders bailing and they cut away before I bailed. Made check point three and had passed all who got by me in the rougher sections and pick off a few more riders. Average was down around 15mph and my crew said I was in the top twenty. So far the legs had been 58, 50 and now the next leg was 60 miles and the heat was peaking. I knew this was going to be a rough pull, mostly because of the heat and I knew my feet were going to fire up. Rolled out okay and passed a couple riders and then got passed by some hard pounding riders. One single speeder came by who I had passed earlier. I noticed he was checking out the farm houses and creeks as we rolled by them, he slowly rolled away from me. Sure enough up the road he jumped off his bike, I though he had a flat, ask if he was okay and he said yes so I kept rolling. About ten minutes later he rolled by back at speed. I said that was quick and he said that was great. This kind of confused me and I started to think the heat was starting to fry all of our brains. Then a few miles later I pass him as he jumps off the bike and heads to a creek bottom. I got it, soaking his feet! Few more miles down the road and he tells me his name is Andy from Colorado and had frosted his feet climbing and pretty much has these stumps for feet and I thought, this guy is tougher then nails. He is wearing some CTS shorts and ask him if he was being coached and he says he coaches for them. I ask if he knew Cameron Chambers a CTS coach and he say yes. He had heard Cameron did good on a single speed here and visited with him on the gearing Cameron had use for his DK200, small world. This might have been Andy and mine downfall the chatting because some how we missing a turn, in short got ten bonus miles and instead of being well ahead of the storm that was brewing behind us as we headed in Council Grove for check point three, final check point until the finish. Hit Council Grove with the storm beating down behind me. My crew was just heading out to rescue Pat and Charlie and other riders. They came back refueled me and I made the decision to try and out run the storm. Race officials allowed those haul off the course to Council Grove finish the race from there after the storm passed. Heard some horror stories how they got torrential rains and the roads turned to deep mud. Almost worked out running ahead but got hammered by rain and high winds a couple of times but the cooling rain was welcomed. My hot feet were gone and I was feeling refreshed. A lady solo and male single speed rider blew by me like I was standing still but every once in awhile I would get a glimpse of them ahead. This leg to the finish was 42.8 miles had a couple really big climbs and of course there had to be a couple of water crossing. My Bacchetta was picking up some pretty heavy mud on a couple of the sections and when I would pick some speed I would have mud slinging everywhere.
One little town about six miles from the finish I come up on lady (Betsy Shogren) and single speeder (Peter Chrapkowksi) double checking the map. I told them your on course and let’s go!. We rode in together and I let the lady and single speeder cross ahead of me because I was pretty sure neither of them was over fifty. Crossed the line with around 14:49 total time good for ten place overall and first in the fifty plus age open class. The young lady, Betsy, from West Virginia won the women’s overall and the young man, Peter, from Chicago won the single speed class. The young lady won the sportsmanship award for waiting for her husband who was one of the front runners but got cooked . She was stopped for like ten minutes out on the road to try and help him and he told her to roll on in. Then she waited at the check point for another 30 minutes till he came in. She received this really cool print of the Kanza horizon. Andy Lapkass, my bonus mile buddy hung in for third place in the single speed class. I got one of those cool DK200 limited edition belt buckles and gift certificate for some cool Salsa bicycle up grade parts. In the end I was glad I drug my but to the race and finally raced it! Wonder if anyone else will try DK200 on a recumbent in the future. One note my biggest worry about this race was flats. Having to change flats out in a baking heat can really make for a bad day. I was lucky, zero flats. I heard a rattle and knew exactly what it was. Seat support tube bolt had rattle out. Good thing Bacchetta has that fender bolt in the belly, worked perfect for a spare.
A little bit about my choice of Bacchetta for this ride. What I really wanted was to set up another CA 2.0. When we got in our sample of the new 2001 Corsa 700c frame I saw that it had the same great tire clearance that of CA 2.0 and the guys in the office might be a little cooler with me using a Corsa instead of the very much in demand CA 2.0 700c. I barely got a Corsa 700c before they were all out the door. Why a Corsa instead of a Giro 26 because I was racing and the Corsa is one great race bike that can do a wide range of task assigned to it. I figured I could just fit a 32mm tire in the back and if I looked I might find a fork that would clear a 32mm and still be able to use the Bacchetta X-eyed brake set. I found a Salsa Casseroll that would be just perfect. I thought it must be a sign, Salsa fork and Salsa sponsoring the race. Maybe they’ll be a little more forgiving of me racing a recumbent in a gravel grinder! I has a set of Xero X-1 700c wheels to use and I shod them with Kenda Small Block 700c x 32mm. Turns out the rear was just a tad to close for my comfort so I picked up a Kenda Kwick 700x30mm tire for the rear. For drive train I used a compact 50/34 170mm FSA Gossamer crank set. Running SRAM X-9 ten speed rear derailleur Shifted by SRAM TT500 bar end shifter. I chose the Euro-mesh seat for it’s shock absorbing qualities and the fact you can put two water bottle cages on it. I carried one fuel bottle, one water bottle and 70 oz. bladder in a insulated bladder sleeve in the generation 2 Bacchetta Brainbox seat bag Use the generation 2 Brainbox to carry six spare inner tubes and a spare small block tire. I mounted two X-eyed frame bags, one in front of my riser and one behind.