exhausted at the dk200

Warning, this is a long post. I did just ride 205 miles to finish the DK 200 though, so I have a lot to say. You may want to get a snack.

The Dirty Kanza 200 was an amazing race. With the Flint Hills, the wind, heat, flint rock and 205 miles, only 65 people finished out of around 160. Officially, I was the 52nd racer to cross the finish line at 19 hours and 51 minutes. Here’s how it went down for me:

First let’s back up and look at the week before the race.

I was worried about being hydrated because I saw how hot it was supposed to be on race day. I drank more water everyday than I usually do. It seemed like the more I drank during the day, the thirstier I was and so I drank more. The day before the race, I picked up my bike from the shop and went for a little 11 mile warm up ride to get home. It was hot and I drank a lot of water. When I came home and pulled off my jersey, it was soaked as if dunked in water. I had drank lots of water that week without thinking about electrolytes. Stupid amateur, I had basically cleansed my system of electrolytes, which I think explains my performance on race day.

I had the pleasure of hosting a couple of cool guys at my house. You may know them, Jason Boucher and Matt Gersib. Nicest guys ever. In fact, meeting great people was the highlight of the weekend.

I was excited, nervous, and couldn’t even think straight. The night of the DK 200 dinner and rider meeting was very cool. A guy there from St. Louis asked if he could take a picture with me – the Adventure Monkey. Yeah, I thought that was cool and my kids thought it was a little weird, since I am just Dad to them. My daughter says that I’m famous, but that is not true and all I want to do is inspire people to get outside, push their limits and become better for it. Our sedentary lifestyle is terrible on us as a nation.

Jim Cummings, co-founder of the DK 200, spoke and gave this site serious props in front of racers from around the country. Thanks so much Jim. I supplied a canvas print for a special prize and it was unveiled to the crowd with ooohs and aahhhs. I was on top of the world at that moment. Here’s some shots from that night:

dirty kanza trophies, joel dyke

dirty kanza registration
dirty kanza 200 mission
dk200 riders meeting

 The Riders’ Meeting gets underway

salsa riders at dirty kanzaThe Dirty Salsa Cycles Team gets recognized

tim and kristi mohnTim and Kristi Mohn being recognized for helping to take this event to the next level this year

david pals award, dirty kanza
Explanation of the David Pals award
david pals award, dirty kanza
Unveiling of the David Pals Award Print
dirty kanza

Dirty Kanza 200 welcome sign Couldn’t resist the cool angle before getting in the car

Dirty Kanza 200 welcome sign

What do they say? Red sky at night, riders in for the hardest ride of their life…

That night, I mixed up Perpetuem into a paste and filled three water bottles and stuck them in the fridge. I made up packets of Endurolyte pills in little baggies. I put some water in three bladders, two 70 ounce and one 100 ounce and put them in the freezer. I made a couple of sandwiches, packed a jar of  pickles just in case I would want a pickle and a couple containers of fruit. I also had a bag with tools, two extra tires and tubes, extra sunscreen and some other odds and ends for Adam to pack in the support truck in the morning. I threw a tube of nuun tablets in the bag, next to the bananas,  just in case I would want to go back to those, but the taste made me feel gross one ride, so I quit using them a few weeks ago and was replacing electrolytes with Endurolytes instead. Little did I know how important that move would be on race day.

I went to bed, a little too late and tried to get more than four hours of sleep.

4:15 a.m., time to get up. I ate eggs and oatmeal and made some coffee. I packed things up, went downstairs to get my bike and realized I forgot to put another layer of wrap on the bars. I did that and brought the bike upstairs. Adam was already there packing things up. Without him there, I would have forgot something for sure. My head was not on straight that morning. He looked at me in my jammies and realized it was a darn good thing he was there. Jason and Matt had already left, and I still was getting ready, yikes.

I did the bathroom thing, but it wasn’t a great showing if you know what I mean. I wanted to get that dealt with before racing. Oh well. I got dressed in my slick Pearl Izumi kit, came out of my room and Adam had everything packed in the truck. I do not recall anything we talked about on four mile trip to downtown Emporia where the starting line was. I really didn’t think I’d be that nervous and excited.I couldn’t even get my number on my bike. Adam did that too.

Wow, there were a ton of bikes and racers in front of the Granada Theater. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I said hi to a bunch of friends before we took off. I started the video to record the start. I will have it ready soon. Jim set us off promptly at 6 a.m., and 160 cyclists headed to the Flint Hills with a police escort through town. Once the first turn came up and the police car went straight, the racers in front took off, fast. It was the coolest thing to see the leaders take off and the line of cyclists lengthen out from that point. Thanks to my wife for taking these pics.

dirty kanza cowbells

dirty kanza starting line

go pro camera

Go Pro camera ready to go

i m design and adventure monkeyScott Bolley of the famed IM Design wishing me well

dirty kanza number plateThis body is as ready as it can get, or so I thought

matt brown, dirty kanzaMatt Brown saying something like,”This is what we talked you into huh?”

garrett seacat, dirty kanzaGarrett Seacat ready to go

dk200 announcements

Jim explaining something, everything a blur at this point

jed sampsel, dirty kanza 200

Jed wishing me well. He was in for the 20 mile DK lite.

starting line dirty kanza 200

Jed, Adam, my support man, and me. Oh and that’s my mom in the AM tee.

dirty kanza rollout

Slow ride out of town supported by the EPD
dirty kanza 200 riders
Rolling out of Emporia, nerves a’flutter
Getting clipped in and pedaling, I about ran into Kevin and took him out of the race. Good thing that didn’t happen, the race would be hard enough without that.

We had gotten the map for leg one the night before. Looking at it, I saw it was a route I used for training many times. I knew exactly what to expect. I knew where the hills, ruts, water crossings and everything else would be. All I wanted to do was find my pace and ride. I did. I started passing people. I saw flats everywhere from the first gravel road (long day for that guy) on. Flats were happening at a rate that surprised me. I knew there would be flats but wow. I prayed for no flats.

I rode at a pace that is comfortable for me. Slow climbing hills but a decent pace on the flats and I am a champ on downhills. I didn’t think I was going too fast at all. I was going anywhere from 15 to 17 mph on the first ten miles. I was in a pack of cyclists and felt like I was going too slow, so I found a line and left them behind and started passing more people. I passed Kevin, but knew that wouldn’t  last. He’s a strong rider. About that time, a friendly cyclist let me know my seat bag looked like it was going to fall off. Great. I stopped at a turn and fixed it. A few seconds wouldn’t matter over 200 miles, so I wasn’t worried about stopping.

The weather was humid but very mild, great riding conditions. The first big hill was coming. I had climbed it many times and put Bobby on it on this shot:

bobby wintle

dirty kanza 200 hill

This hill slowed us all down and spread out the competition some more. I was feeling good, climbed the hill and was off into the Flint Hills. I laughed again, thinking Bobby climbed that hill 13 times for that shot. What a stud.

Once into the hills, I felt the wind. It was blowing pretty hard and gave us a good headwind to fight. Didn’t matter, I was ready for it. I trained for months on these very hills and in stronger winds than this. Even before training started, I was riding these hills. This was my home turf. I was hoping for a good show on the first leg. I knew I would slow down later in the race. Man was I wrong.

Thirteen miles into the race, while climbing a hill, my calf cramped up. WHAT THE? I haven’t cramped in over a year. I was riding 100+ mile rides once a week to prepare for this. I never cramped up. I rode through it and hoped it was just nerves or something, but it felt on the verge of cramping again for awhile.

dirty kanza landscape

I was moving right along, passed up another Emporia hopeful, Scott O’mara, who is faster than me. I didn’t feel like I was going too fast though, just tried to keep a comfortable pace. I continued to see flats throughout the first leg, but no flats for me. Then it happened.

Just after a scenic water crossing where a guy on a motorcycle was shooting pictures (where are those btw?) of us, I started climbing another rolling hill some 30 miles into the race. That’s when my right inner thigh cramped up, bad. I had to get off my bike and rub my leg. I was shocked at this predicament. I wasn’t sweating too bad yet, as the temperatures were still mild and the wind was keeping me cool. But there I was, cramping up already as if I had done no training at all. To say I was upset is a huge understatement. I could have cried I was so mad at my body. What was going on!? I was passed by everyone, it seemed, at this point. The first checkpoint was still 30 or so more miles away. I had to make it. I pedaled on quite gingerly. There were many hills and the headwind became fierce to me at that point. I was confused and wondered at my chances now. Thirty miles though? What the heck?!

dirty kanza riders

It was tough going after this. It seemed like an eternity before I came to the turn that would put me in position for a tailwind most of the rest of the way to the first checkpoint. Finally, a tailwind. I felt like I had ridden 100+ miles already at the forty-some mile point. I knew I was in trouble. There was a big hill to climb before I could enjoy the tailwind. I started climbing. Then cramped up again in my thighs. Ouch. Wiggins was there for some support and he was having cramping problems too. He tried to give me some reasons why I would be cramping, but it didn’t make sense to me at all. I had ridden harder than this just two weeks ago in 20+ mile sustained winds for 130 miles and felt better at the end of that than I did at forty-some miles into this race.

I hit the downhill, felt better and actually made great time all the way into Cottonwood Falls. I kept a 17-23 mph pace all the way in, riding with a nice guy from Lincoln, Nebraska on a custom titanium bike. Great guy, and the conversation helped me to forget the cramps. Oh and BTW, I was taking Endurolytes this whole time too.

I finally made it into Cottonwood Falls at 10:20 a.m., beaten and confused as to why I was having such troubles. I was so out of it that I hadn’t decided for sure that I was super low on electrolytes. I didn’t eat pickles or anything yet. I refilled my wingnut pack with water and more endurolytes and refilled my water bottles with water and a fresh bottle of Perpetuem. I was hurting so bad that I put the video camera (sorry Kristy) and the small camera in the truck. I was looking for any way to remove weight from my body. I had hit survival mode early on. I drank some Gatorade and I ate something, but I can’t for the life of me remember what. I was out of it mentally. The video shows me putting my helmet on immediately after I took it off,  like a confused idiot. Lots of nervous energy.

Checkpoint One of the DK200 from Eric Benjamin on Vimeo.

jim cummings, dirty kanza

dirty kanza number plate

riding at the dirty kanzaMe on leg 2, Adam went ahead to get a shot of me

I felt a bodily need, and stopped into the Casey’s store to take care of it. I had to take my tight jersey off because I was wearing bibs underneath. As I did that, my hand and forearm cramped and I had to use my other hand to open the cramped one. Not a good start for the second leg of the race, but I was able to take care of a bodily function, which was very good news for me. I put some almonds in my pack for some food and left.

It was a mere 42.5 miles to get to the half-way checkpoint. That should be easy. Therefore I brought 70 ounces instead of 100 ounces of water in my hydration pack. I also had a 24 ounce bottle with water too. I was hoping the first rest would have stopped my cramping. I hadn’t figured it out yet.

The first part of leg two was on pavement and had a nasty crosswind. I felt tired. I soon started cramping again. I then got to Diamond Creek Road and stayed on it for a long time it seemed, cramping stretching, rubbing, pedaling hurting. I saw a cyclist under a tree calling it quits with the same symptoms as me. It crossed my mind that I may not make it to the second checkpoint. A couple of guys passed me and asked how I was doing. I explained my predicament and one of the guys was nice enough to give me a pack of Margarita shot blocks from Cliff. Thanks man, wherever you are.

The second leg had some low maintenance roads, plenty of hills and lots of heat. The temperature was now in the 90′s. I had to push through almost this entire leg of the race with severe leg cramps. There was no leg muscle that escaped from this pain, they just took turns screaming at me. I began to pray with all my heart for God to help me through this. Yes, to some this was just a race, no big deal, just drop out. To me, this was my moment in life to do something amazing. I had prepared so hard for it. I was not about to give up. More than me, I thought of all the people rooting for me around the world because of this blog. I thought about my wife and kids. I wanted to show everyone that the underdog can win in real life. “Please God take this pain away.”  This whole thing brings a tear to my eye even now.

I was getting close to finishing the second leg, five or ten miles out. That was when I ran out of water. I was looking ahead for farm houses or anything that would have drinkable water. Another kind soul found me, a racer from Oklahoma, and gave me some of his water, about two big drinks worth. Thanks man, wherever you are. I was not alone in this effort for sure. I think I needed to learn that. I needed to lean on a higher power and others to do something great. To be honest, this race became a 20 hour prayer session for me to get through the cramps, the crazy tire eating rocks and at night the fear of getting lost and being eaten by mountain lions.

Finally, I had made it to Council Grove and knew I had an electrolyte problem. Brooke saw me arrive and was scared for me, she didn’t say anything to me at the time, but thought I looked like I’d been through hell already and this was only the half-way point.

I had left Cottonwood Falls at 11 a.m. and arrived in Council Grove at 2:25 p.m. That amazes me when I consider the cramping and stopping I had to do to get through it.

dirty kanza checkpoint

exhausted at the dk200

dk200 support crew

Here’s a short video of me eating pickle spears in two bites, describing the carnage of the second leg.

DK200 Checkpoint 2 from Eric Benjamin on Vimeo.

pickles at the dk200

dirty kanza bike choice

I started feeling much better. I drank a bunch of the pickle juice from the jar, added nuun tablets to my water and was off, feeling strong. I added more cashews and beef jerky to my pack too. Now every drink of water would give me electrolytes because of the nuun. I took a nice long rest, feeling my muscles buzzing. It was like I could feel the muscles filling up with electrolytes and getting ready to ride another 100 miles. I liked the visual anyway. Since I needed a long rest, I didn’t leave until 3:40 p.m., a little over an hour break.

dirty kanza checkpoint

Yes, I know this post is already too long, but I have 100 miles to go.

Leaving Council Grove, I had 38 miles to get to the last checkpoint. I wasn’t about to push hard, as my muscles had taken a beating already. Bu I felt strong and pedaled at a pretty good pace, with no cramps. I wasn’t getting passed any more either. Every cyclist I saw after that I was passing. Leg three was proving to be pretty mild and I felt like I was on a training ride making good time.

Then I hit Little Egypt Road. It has small boulder sized rocks and hills that are so steep, I had no chance of riding up them. I stopped at the foot of one of these boulder pocked hills and just chuckled and got off the bike. Pretty sure I would have to push up that hill if I was fresh, especially with the stock gears I had on the Trek XO. I pushed up and it was so steep I felt like I was hiking. I cramped a bit climbing that hill by foot. When I finally got to the top, I was looking forward to a fast ride down, but unless I wanted a sure flat, I had to go slow. I prayed for no flats once again. That road was chock full of boulders and tire pulverizing rocks. I found that my hands were so tired, it was hard to ride the brakes all the way down the hill. I wish I had pictures, but at this point, camera weight was out of the question.

I finally made it out of that area and had pretty good gravel to ride the rest of the way,  although I had to push up another hill or two because of the steepness and my tiredness.

I passed a poor guy laying by the side of the road with his bike with no signal on his phone to call for help. I tried to help, but had no signal either. I told him to get to the top of the hill and try it and said goodbye.

I gave someone else one of my tubes because he was trying to change a flat and had a tube with a busted stem. I gave him a tube and hoped I wouldn’t need it.

I rolled into town thinking I had missed the cutoff point. It felt late. But I made decent time, considering I had to push up two or three hills on foot. I came in at 7:15 p.m. and I felt stronger at this checkpoint than at any other checkpoint yet. I saw Adam and said, “I’m back in this baby.” I was feeling good.

dirty kanza checkpoint

pickles at the DK200

This video shows me talking about Little Egypt Road. As I look at this I notice how freaking bloated I look from all the crazy weird crap I’d been eating all day. Oy, shut up and give me another pickle.

DK 200 Checkpoint 3 from Eric Benjamin on Vimeo.

tired at the dk200

At this point I felt the need to take care of a bodily function again. I couldn’t use my hands anymore at all, so Adam had to strip my jersey off and I walked in the convenience store, to the shock of the locals, in my bibs. I was a dirty, smelly mess at this point and the race was far from done. It was at this stop that I found out that all the other Emporia riders were out. We had some strong riders too, very strong. I only saw one rider leave on his bike from here. All the others left in cars with their bikes on bike racks. I felt good and was not about to give up now, although it felt great to sit and rest. I had to force myself to keep going. I left at 7:50 p.m. knowing it would be dark soon. When I applied more butt butter for the last leg of the ride, I was alarmed because it burned. It’s not supposed to burn. I told Adam I hoped that wouldn’t become a limiting factor after all this.

eric benjamin, dirty kanza 200

last leg dk200

I was feeling like a warrior at this point. I had heard about a lot of super strong riders that had dropped out. I was also a bit timid to continue on because I knew it would be getting dark. Leaving Alma, I headed towards Eskridge. I was riding hills larger than any hills I had ever seen in Kansas. It was amazing. Huge thunderheads with lightning shooting inside could be seen between me and Emporia. The wind picked up suddenly and pushed me towards the finish line. I hit 42 mph on one downhill before I realized I should slow down and make it home rather than wreck on the last leg. At this point I saw the most beautiful of any sunset ever. I knew I was not alone in this.

I passed up about four to eight more riders before it became pitch black out. Then I had the fun time of riding on roads worse than low maintenance roads. They were bad. It sounded like I was riding on glass on one road. Rocks were flying everywhere. One hit me in my shin and I yelped, it hurt.

At this point, I wasn’t hurting, I was scared. I had a light on the bike and one on my helmet. I could see five to eight feet in front of me maybe. These roads were full of ruts, huge rocks, water crossings and the tall weeds were whipping my legs as I tried to stay in the ruts. I was mostly upset about the need to go really slow. This portion was insane and my hat goes off to any riders that finished in the dark. It was nuts. I saw plenty of animals, glowing eyes first as I made my way to Emporia. I was scared. Tim Mohn had seen a mountain lion not too long ago while on his bike. I would make a nice snack for one of those. More prayer.

It was a beautiful sight, maybe more beautiful because of everything I had been through that day. I only brought one set of batteries because I knew I’d be home by 9:30 p.m. They were supposed to last for 3 hours on the bright helmet light setting. Last time I road 66 miles in three hours was NEVER. I dimmed it when I could, hardly ever. Every time I stopped to pee (I told you I just can’t go on the bike) I turned off the lights and was able to see every star in the sky. It was amazing, but short lived. I had to get back on the bike and pedal. Every moving thing freaked me out a bit. Trees are not this scary in the daytime for sure.

I texted Adam my mileage at my potty stops when I had service. I finally got to good gravel again and had about 28 or so miles left. That’s nothing, except when you’ve already ridden 172 miles. Every crossroad, I scanned for markers with my light to make sure I wasn’t supposed to turn. In the dark I felt lost. On those tiny rutted roads, I felt seriously lost and kept praying to not get lost, not get a flat and not get eaten by a mountain lion.

I looked at the clock on my phone which was in need of a charge. It was almost midnight. I finally recognized were I was and had twenty miles left to go, then 10. It seemed to never end at this point. I was moving around, but could not position myself to make the butt more comfortable. I was not about to end this trip because of a little pain now. I was sad because I knew no one would be at the finish line to greet me. Well, I knew my family wold be there, but the crowd Adam told me about at the third checkpoint would be gone. No beer garden or festivities would be there. I was a little bummed. But thinking of the finish line brought tears to my eyes. I wanted it so bad and I was going to make it.

I finally rolled into town about 1:45 a.m., went through the ESU campus and came to the intersection of 12th and Commercial. There was a red light and a cop sitting there. Crap, so I stopped and waited for green, what a retard. He knew there was a race in progress. Green, I pedaled for a good hard finish about 4 blocks away or so, I can’t really remember. I saw Crystal Wintle first, ringing her bell and yelling and jumping. I knew it was her because of her cute, pregnant belly.

Then I heard it. Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes as I type this. There was a crowd of people waiting for the Adventure Monkey, the Monkey Man, for me to finish. I tried to ride and look hardcore, but I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I would’ve cried if I could have. I cannot describe the feelings I had finishing that punishing race. I was met by my support man, Adam and my daughter, Melissa and then the rest of the crowd. Jim Cummings shook my hand just like he promised he would when I finished the race in an email long ago. Thanks everyone for waiting. I love you all. It was amazing to overcome what I did to finish that race. I was finally proud of myself, and a few other people were too.

finishing the dk200

tired after 200 miles on the bike

wife love at the dk200

family at the dk200

family at dk200

finishers glass dk200

finishing the dk200

I hope that I have inspired you to do something amazing. I did it. To set a stretch goal and to meet it, overcoming many odds has been one of the best feelings I have ever had.

Thanks to Dustin and Matt for the excellent tire choice with ZERO flats. Thanks to the Didde Family for the support service. Thanks to Jim, Matt, Lelan, Bobby, Jed, Dustin, Kevin, Jason, Mike and a few others for all the cycling advice. Thanks to my family for all the support. Thanks to Jim and Joel for such a great event. Thanks to Sam for the support and advice. A special thanks to my sweetie, Jennifer, “Adrian, we did it!” (from Rocky for you that are clueless) Thanks to my mom, dad, Jennifer, Alex and everyone that helped with the booth on race day. Thanks to everyone that reads Adventure Monkey and has inspired me to be a greater person.

My Monkey is fed, bathed and has been sleeping for a week after the DK200.

Finishing the DK 200 from Eric Benjamin on Vimeo.

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric

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