Dirty Kanza Training Ride: 80 miles

In Blog by Eric Benjamin3 Comments

One last weekend for a longer Dirty Kanza Training Ride. Katelyn is signed up to do the Dirty Kanza half-pint which is a challenging 100-mile course of Flint Hills Gravel.

“How many miles do you want to try and get tomorrow?” I asked Katelyn.

“Around 80 miles,” she said.

OK. We would do the route we had originally planned for our birthday ride that got rained out in April. We would take the DK half-pint route to Cottonwood Falls and then take the Cowboy Highway (Road 140) all the way home. That would give Katelyn right at 80 miles.

Flint Hills Gravel 006

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was partly cloudy with the high in the low 60’s. It was nippy in the morning but a great day and to make it even better the winds were low! That doesn’t happen every day in Kansas.
Flint Hills Gravel 007

I was going to treat the ride as a ride. What I mean is I wasn’t going to try and keep my heart rate anywhere or my speed anywhere as long as we were going fast enough for Katelyn to make the DK cutoff times. This is Katelyn’s first season tackling gravel grinders. 80 miles would be her longest ride to date. I wanted to ride with her and maybe just far enough ahead of her to keep her pedaling a little harder than usual.

Flint Hills Gravel 008

Sometime early in the ride, I heard a click, click, click coming from my rear tire. “Damn it!” I ran over a piece of wire and somehow it poked through my tire. That is the second puncture to this expensive tire that I just put on. Errrr. I have run over two screws and now a piece of wire all in less than a year. They all poked through my rear tire. Luckily this one was thin and left a small, neat hole that sealed up almost immediately. Tubeless is my friend and the way to go in the Flint Hills.

Flint Hills Gravel 009

It was partly cloudy all day. Cloudy skies create great Kansas landscapes. Clouds are our mountains here in Kansas. Unless you are referring to cycling. In cycling the wind is our mountains. But for Kansas landscape photography, clouds add a lot to the photo.

Flint Hills Gravel 010

Flint Hills Gravel 011

After riding in other gravel grinders around the nation compared to the Dirty Kanza 200, a couple of things stand out that make this region so much different than the others. For one the gravel is rougher here than anywhere else I’ve ridden. Car and bike tires both have trouble out here. Some of our roads can be as close to mountain biking as gravel gets. This year’s Maisie’s ride was an example of that. Another huge difference is the wide-open, almost ethereal quality of the Flint Hills. There are many times that you can see ancient, rolling hills and nothing else for miles and miles. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. The remoteness of the area is like nothing else I’ve experienced.

Flint Hills Gravel 010a

Just before the huge Matfield Green AT&T tower is this sight

We made it to the AT&T tower and took our first rest stop of the day. I had rice cakes to eat. Instead of bacon Katelyn made bacon-flavored tofu for them and I sauteed the veggies in the bacon-flavored marinade. They were vegetarian and I must say, my best tasting rice cakes yet. I also have a recipe that uses cacao nibs that is very good. I’ll have to publish those recipes soon. These were a savory delight!

Soon we would turn north and ride towards Bazaar, Kansas. The wind would be at our backs and that road is somewhere around 15 miles without any crossroads traversing the middle of open range grazing land. It’s a great ride.

Flint Hills Gravel 012

“What?” I yelled back at Katelyn. I didn’t hear what she said as I took the picture above.

“Do we have to ride up that road?!” she asked. We were somewhere around 45 miles into the ride by this point and she was getting tired. You can’t tell from the image, but that road looks like it goes straight up the side of the hill at a gravity defying angle.

I laughed. “No we are turning to the left.” “But that road looks like fun,” I said.

She wasn’t buying it. She was getting pretty sore. As all cyclists know we have good days and bad days on the bike. Some days we feel great all day and some days we don’t. She was sore and tired. Pushing through that feeling is great training. I don’t know if she was buying that either. I know it can be very frustrating to have a hard day on the bike. But she is not one to give up.

“Let’s make it to Cottonwood Falls. We will take a nice rest and eat,” I told her.

She was slowing but still going fast enough to finish the DK half-pint. This year finishing is her goal. It is her first year gravel grinding. Keeping that in mind she was doing quite well to be tackling 80 miles, no matter what the pace. Speed comes with time spent in the saddle. Some of us go faster than others, but fast is not a word that has ever been used to describe me and I’ve been riding for quite some time.

Old Stone House 013

Beautiful stone home near Bazaar, Kansas

When this house was still being restored, I had to stop here and ask for water as I thought the town of Bazaar would have facilities. I was wrong. It’s only large enough to have a cemetery, but no place for water and that day was hot.

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 clouds on the way to Bazaar

Rocky T Ranch

I don’t know much about Rocky T Ranch, but would like to learn more about it. This is just west of Bazaar on some hilly roads. I was thinking we had like three more miles until Cottonwood Falls, but the miles kept ticking away and Katelyn was wearing out and getting discouraged. There’s nothing worse than your guide telling you there are three or so more miles when there are eight. My bad. I had never ridden this section so I wasn’t sure.

We finally made it to Lake Road which is paved all the way into Cottonwood Falls. And finally, to Katelyn’s relief, we made it to Cottonwood Falls. Time for a break and some Advil.

Rocky T Ranch Sign

We took the “Cowboy Highway,” Road 140, all the way home. It is a straight shot to Emporia but when you are tired, 18 miles of rolling hills on a boring, straight road with a little bit of a head wind can be tough. This stretch has cooked me on really hot summer days.

There may have been a few tears, a little bit of whining, perhaps some bitching but…

gravel grinder death

…she made it! We did just over 80 miles for Katelyn’s longest ride to date. And the truth is, making it through pain and frustration is soooooo important in building the discipline needed to finish a gravel grinder. It’s not just about physical endurance and strength. Without mental toughness, the strongest cyclist is no match for a race like the DK200, Gravel Worlds, Land Run, TransIowa, Almonzo or any other amazing gravel grinder available in the Midwest. I think Katelyn is on her way to a successful Dirty Kanza Half-Pint finish! Great job.

Feed Your Monkey!