I almost don't want to write this entry... not so much from lack of motivation (though that's running rampant in my mind right now) but more so because it re-opens the wounds of that year.
I can count the number of races I've pulled myself out of on one hand and every one of them was due to conditions that had devolved to a point of no rational resolution. Every time I've done it though, delivers a crushing blow to my confidence and makes me seriously question why I continue throwing money, time and resources into this sport that already makes most of my friends and family question my sanity. I can't honestly answer that other than; when things go right... the feeling of accomplishment is better than the effect of any drug I could imagine; so I forge on... humbled by my defeats and resolved to never repeat the same failure.
This year's Dirty Kanza course was shaping up to be an epic undertaking for months before race day. The Flint Hills had been deluged with rains for weeks leading up to the event and had even caused the race organizers to scratch their original route and plan multiple re-routes for sections of the course that might prove too dangerous to cross due to rivers swollen beyond their flood stages and currents coursing faster than ever before. The social media buzz was electric with all the debates and conversations about tire choices, course re-routes, hike-a-bike sections and gear choices. Of course everyone that had registered was terrified of cancellation. What with all the training, time, scheduling vacations, etc... pulling the plug on such an event does not come without consequences.
I got caught up in the torrent of tire choice and changed my (expensive) selection of Hutchinson Black Mamba to a bit burlier tire; the Schwalbe Racing Ralph... all within a day of departure for Kansas. Normally this change would not be such a PITA but when setting up a tubeless tire/wheel combo; patience and time are your friend. I've found it's best to allow a few days for the beads to seat and rule out any slow leaks. Well, to that end, the rear mounted up perfectly but the front would not hold air more than a few hours before leaking down to about 20psi. I'm not panicking, mind you, but to say I was concerned would be a gross understatement. I REALLY didn't want to have to stop every hour or so to put fresh air into my front tire. After a liberal dosing of fresh Stan's sealant... the front finally held and showed no signs of pressure loss. Whew!
With that crisis averted, I focused on nutrition and keeping my legs fresh for the upcoming gauntlet of gravel miles and hours of pedaling. In the last few months I had tested and perfected my on-bike nutrition to a balance of 100 calories in liquid and another 200 in solid form per hour with a mix of flavors from salty, sweet and savory to ward off the boredom from consuming the same foods for hours on end (lesson learned from 2014). My fitness was in perfect form and I was feeling exceptionally fresh for contesting the Dirty Kanza course. My goal was 13 hours or better and every variable I could control was boosting my confidence in achieving that time. I had the course downloaded on both of my Garmin head units and broken into three-bite sections to provide a bit less strain on the memory of the GPS units. I found the error last year of trying to navigate and load a 200 mile route in a Garmin leads to VERY long waits for the course to load and all points to be accurate. Also learned from last year was to attach an external power source to the Garmin since active navigation sucks the battery life down and I had to scramble at mile 125 last year when the battery died in the middle of a section.
The bike for this year was changed in favor of a disc brake solution for the impending mud-fest. Late Fall of 2014 I made a local purchase for a "used" 2013 Salsa Warbird and immediately began tearing it down to the frame to make improvements. irst thing to go were those horrid SunRace wheels. I unlaced them from the OEM Salsa hubs and had them re-laced to a much wider set of HED Belgium+ rims. That alone dropped over a pound off the bike of rotating weight, added some needed width to the rimbed for wider tires/lower pressures, and gauranteed me a tubeless solution. After those were sorted, the rest was standard fare; lighter/wider handlebars, longer stem, back to my trusted Brooks Cambium saddle, and upgraded the rotors to a two-piece, full-floating model. With all that out of the way and more than a few shakedown races at local gravel events, the bike was loaded down with three bottle cages, a Revelate Tangle frame bag for my tools, pump and spares as well as a Revelate Gas Tank for my nutrition and, finally, a Revelate Mountain Feed Bag to hold a fourth bottle. A significant change for this year's event would be about 75 miles between aid station towns vs 50 from 2014. That dropped an entire stopping town off the route so I felt better carrying enough nutrition for about 4-5 hours.