That's a Wrap! Sir Cody's 2019 Dirty Kanza Race Report
The Sufferfest was proud to sponsor the 2019 edition of the Garmin Dirty Kanza, the world’s premiere gravel race and ultimate test of both physical and mental endurance.
Our intrepid head of SUF Services, Sir Cody Moore, volunteered to take one for the team and man The Sufferfest booth at the pre-race Gravel Expo. In true Sufferlandrian style, Cody decided he wasn’t befitting a Knight to sit by the sidelines. If there is Suffering to be had, he must answer the call. With only a couple of months of training under his belt and a new baby at home, Cody made the trek from Hoopeston, Illinois to Emporia, Kansas to test his mettle on 100 miles of Flint Hills gravel. Here is his story:
After a couple of months of planning and training I set off on my journey to Kansas. It was hard to leave my wife Heather, Soren (3 years old), and Sebastian (4 months) to travel several states away. All for the Glory of the Nation of Sufferlandria.
I was scheduled to unload my equipment for The Sufferfest booth at 8PM on Wednesday. After checking in and finding a spot to park I went to scope out my spot. And promptly stepped in dog poop. Hoping it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come, I found the spot assigned for our booth and headed back to the car to unload. On my way back I had managed to step in the same dog poop with the other shoe. Glad I got the “dirty” part of Dirty Kanza out of the way early.
Dirty Kanza co-founder Jim Cummins was hard working on setting up the expo site for the vendors. It was refreshing to see the man behind the world’s biggest gravel race humbly busting his butt to make sure the event was a success.
Once I was finished unloading the booth equipment I went on a hunt for the fairgrounds so that I could set up my home base for the week. Not exactly 5-star accommodations, but luckily I don’t have much need for Couchlandrian comforts. I fell asleep to the not-so-gentle sounds of rain and hail, wondering if it was going to make the course more...interesting.
Gravel Expo day! As I got the booth ready to receive Sufferlandrians and the Suffer-curious, I noticed the 2018 Dirty Kanza champion, Ted King, over talking to the guys at the Orange Seal booth. Channeling my inner fan boy, I got up the courage to walk over and say hello. He was super cool. We chatted for a second, and I even got a photo with him. Thanks Ted!
At the expo I had the pleasure of meeting quite a few Sufferlandrians, most of whom were relatively new migrants to our tortured Nation who found us through the training plans we provided to everyone who registered for the Dirty Kanza. The more the merrier.
Once the expo shut down for the day I headed off to a VIP event at the local watering hole. There I had the pleasure of meeting legendary endurance athlete Jay Petervary. I love following Jay’s adventures and I was excited to shake his hand. A humble, approachable guy, Jay spent over half an hour talking with me about his training, his business model(s), and his gravel event. He’s an awesome endurance athlete but also a really solid human. Thanks Jay!
Then there was Ali Tetrick. The winner of last year’s DK (and women’s course record holder), Ali was all smiles. We chatted, laughed a lot, and I thanked her for taking part in this year’s Tour of Sufferlandria.
After some additional liquid refreshment (beer counts as carbo-loading, right?) I headed back to the fairgrounds to get some sleep. Tomorrow would be another big day.
I woke up early on Friday, put on some kit, and set off on a quick ride. I wasn’t sure where I was going yet but I headed north and managed to actually find some gravel. It was much like what we have at home so I still wasn’t worried about the race and still had it in my head that there was a lot of hype but the race probably wouldn’t be that crazy.
On my route I came to what seemed to be a pretty busy paved road so I went for the road to the right marked with a sign that said “Dead End.” I figured I’d go explore and then turn around at the end and head back to camp. Bad idea. I had a run-in with a dog who didn’t take kindly to spandex. I think I hit a new 5-second power best getting past him. Maybe that’s what Violator needs—an angry dog “motivating” you to hit those power targets.
I went into Friday fully expecting it to be a long day in the booth but I had a great crowd all day. I met so many Sufferlandrians, Knights of Sufferlandria, and even quite a few people who train indoors but had never tried The Sufferfest. I had a blast explaining why our app is better and how what we do will make a bigger difference in fitness than any of our competitors. I even helped troubleshoot a guys Bluetooth connection issues on the spot in the booth. This is what it was all about!
Sir Joe Christman stopped by the booth. I’ve known of him for quite a long time so it was super exciting to meet him and talk strategy for the DK100. He lives in the area and is a veteran of the race so he had a lot of great advice which helped put me more at ease.
John Phillips, one of the winners of the Dirty Kanza contest we put on in April, also stopped by. We grabbed a passerby who was kind enough to take our picture with the SUF Flag. Honour! Glory! Victory!
After a great day at the expo it was time to pack up, hit the rider meeting, and get ready for the 100 miles of gravel I had in store. Back at the fairgrounds I managed to put my race number on the bike, finish some small details with my setup, and lay everything I needed for the race in the morning. I was ahead of schedule and ready to represent Sufferlandria.
I woke up early before my alarm and managed to get myself ready and to the start line a few minutes ahead of schedule. My plan was to try to be mid pack for the start (no call-ups at the DK), which is exactly where I ended up. I even got to see the send off for the DK200 racers. 200 miles? That’s some serious Suffering.
I had a little extra time so I hit the porta potty for a last minute nature break (more on the importance of this in a bit). Back at the start line I chatted goal times with a few fellow racers who were also waiting but mostly I found myself (finally) thinking of The Sufferfest Mental Toughness Programme. I starting going through my “Reasons Why”. Why was I here about to embark on 100 brutal miles of punishing gravel? I wasn’t tricked into it. I was doing this because I love adventure and I love adventures on my bike even more. Now I was finally at the point where “work” had ended and I would just ride my bike. I was doing this so that when I got back home I could write this race report with the hope that years down the road I could accurately re-tell this story to my boys and feel proud that even though I was having a bit of a personal struggle for a couple of days, I didn’t ever give up. I kept moving forward. I was doing this to finish it and enjoy the rush of feeling proud.
I’d set a goal of sub-eight hours and figured once I got past the start I could start passing people one by one, which would motivate me to the end of what was going to be a very long ride.
And we’re off! Race director Jim Cummins gives us the signal and the race is on. It is a much slower start than I expected and I’m already regretting not starting a little further up. We roll out on pavement for a couple of miles and then hit the first gravel. It’s normal, just like at home. I heard from veterans of the race that the first 30 miles would lull you into thinking this would be an easy day. I remained conservative but found some pretty good groups that were moving nicely. I think around mile ten I actually relaxed. And by “relaxed”, I mean I had to pee. I didn’t want to stop (and I had just tried to go before the start) but that is the curse of the small bladder. Too much information? Maybe, but this detail is an important part of the day so stick with me.
I held off until around mile 20 but at that point I was going slower because I was uncomfortable. I finally gave in and stopped for a nature break, watching as a whole crowd of people passed me. I was pretty bummed that I had given up so much ground.
I got back on the road and ate a quick snack. Refueled and relieved, I turned it up a notch and started cruising. We got to somewhere near mile 30 and hit some big rocks. I announced to the crowd around me “This is what we came here for!” As I continued on the road just kept getting gnarlier… maybe this wasn’t all hype?!
Somewhere between mile 30 and mile 40 but we hit the first descent that had huge sharp rocks and at the bottom you had to land yourself in one of two deep ruts or risk spilling your beans. I wish I had a picture of my smile. As someone who is normally a very cautious descender, for some reason I just let this one rip with no brakes at all. I went from just getting this done to loving it. I was climbing well and descending on these crazy downhills like I never had. Much of the time I was singing and yelling on the way. This was fun!
Around mile 40 I came to a turn with a photographer standing by the side of the road. I made some silly gesture at him since I was having so much fun. I rounded the corner back to some fairly tame gravel (irony) and just as I did I heard and felt a rooster tail of sealant shooting from my back tire. I rode for a second hoping it would magically take hold but that no dice. I pointed the hole down and eventually the sealant seemed to work. I put some extra air in the tire and hit the road, sad that I had to stop but thankful that it was quick. I got about a mile down the road and heard the now familiar leaking sound again. Now I had to pull over.
I dumped out my saddle bag to get my Dynaplug and verbally threatened the hole with it as I tried to locate the exact spot. It was so small that I couldn’t find it well enough to stab it with the Dynaplug. I picked up my bike ready to start pulling the tire off and the sealant bubbled up and finally took hold. Success! I finished a candy bar and hit the road again.
I rode quite cautiously for the next few miles slowly regaining confidence that things were okay. I made it through the stream crossing and up a mega steep hike-a-bike section. I thought the stream crossing and the wet shoes would dampen my spirits (pun intended) but I actually enjoyed the cool down. The hike up the “hill” after wasn’t as much fun.
The checkpoint was at mile 55. As I arrived it felt really good to be halfway done. The support crew I hired were very helpful (minus a near mishap of them putting my bottles back on someone else’s bike). Luckily my bright yellow Mavic bottles made that quite obvious so I was able to grab them and take off. I’m not sure how long I was there but it seems like it was less around 5 minutes. I headed out and up a nice paved climb.
After the checkpoint it was very quiet. I think the riders had all spread out a bit more and those that I came across were probably all in a similar headspace. Hot and being reminded that they still had half of the distance to cover. I was still a bit bummed about losing time early on but found myself going back to the Mental Toughness Programme and remembering why I was doing this. That pulled me out of my funk and around mile 70 I was feeling pretty good again. I was climbing very well and receiving both compliments and frustrated remarks as I refused to walk up any climbs (Sufferlandrians don’t walk climbs).
The biggest challenge on the climbs was navigating the walkers. Oftentimes there was one good line and they were in it. This left me to have to hop around in between large loose rocks and then surge to sneak past or between other riders/walkers. It was frustrating but also a fun challenge trying to stay upright.
I kept a pretty good pace with the help of my good friend Sir Ryan Harden shooting me text messages of encouragement (which showed up on the screen of my Wahoo ELEMNT). For much of the last 30 miles I wanted to be going faster but I was also worried about getting too hot. One direction we’d have a cross headwind and I’d push pretty good into that and then the course would turn right into a tailwind. The tailwind was nice but I’d actually slow down in those spots so I wouldn’t overheat.
Mile 90 was another low point. I was so close to finishing but not moving as quickly as I wanted. I kept hoping to see Emporia in the distance but there was nothing. Just hills and gravel and grass. I gave a pretty good push for a few miles but backed off again to avoid overheating.
With a couple of miles left I hit the same stretch of pavement that we started on in the morning. I shed a few (lactic acid) tears as I recounted the days that led up to the race. In hindsight the challenges I faced were each fairly minimal but together amounted to a larger challenge. I had overcome the mental blocks and was nearly finished with the race. There was one last (paved) climb that had a nice sting to it. I pushed past another rider and we congratulated each other as we entered the finishing chute. I made sure to high five as many of the kids with their hands out as I could. I made it.
Was It Worth It?
Believe the hype. This race is hard. The climbs were more brutal than they looked on paper, the roads unforgiving. At the same time, this was the most fun I have ever had on my bike, hands down. I hope to come back and race this every year that I can. I’m already thinking about next year and how I can shave at least an hour off of my time.
I couldn’t have done all of this and learned so much without the help and understanding of my wife Heather, without the best job in the world, and without The Sufferfest training plans and Mental Toughness Programme. See all of you in Emporia next year! Dirty Kanza is a Sufferlandrian paradise.