Basden’s Dirty Kanza 2017
Dirty Kanza is a world premiere gravel grinder that snakes through the Flint Hills in Kansas. With over 2,200 participants, the race is still run by cycling enthusiasts who ensure an adventurous route through challenging types of terrain. Choose from the 100 or 200 mile options depending on how much pain you can handle. Basden, our operations manager, completed the 200 mile route and lived to tell the story. Stop by and chat with him about his experience and check out his rig that got him through the race with no mechanicals.
I finished. It wasn’t the most fluid or strong ride for me, but I kept my legs spinning as fast as I could, as long as I could, and they took me to the finish line.
I punched it when I felt good, particularly on the bone-rattling descents, but even on some small uphills. On tougher climbs, I settled into my easiest gear early and spun from the saddle. I didn’t dismount a single time for climbs or a water-crossings. I took my turns at the front of a group when one existed around me and hammered all by myself a few times, too.
The Flint Hills of Kansas delivered a striking beauty and sense of isolation – even amongst 2,000+ riders. I’d never traveled to Kansas and hadn’t imagined the vast, rolling hills covered in grass, but they surrounded me and gave me that special ‘small’ feeling you get when immersed in nature. I felt insignificant as I pedaled up and down each slope in the landscape. It was impossible to tell, at times, if town was one mile away or twenty.
I had plenty of time to think about how silly what I was doing happened to be. Sixteen and a half hours, actually. Something magical happens when we encounter suffering and face it head on. Little by little, it disappears. Oh, it definitely comes back, but it isn’t a constant. Just as joy is fleeting, so is suffering. Rides like this, and similar challenges, give the brave and the stupid a chance to push through pain and experience the bliss that is understanding its impermanence.
I signed up for Dirty Kanza seeking higher highs and lower lows. I found them.The low points started early – just after the fifty-mile checkpoint and I really didn’t feel better until nearly one hundred miles later, just before the final checkpoint. I did my time in the pain cave and came out stronger than before. All of the doubts, insecurities, and fantasies of dropping out were completely gone by one hundred and sixty miles.
The relief was overwhelming. All I had to do was pedal my bike forty five more miles and it would all be over. Afterall, I had done that almost four times already. My riding partners drifted further and further ahead of me, but even that wasn’t discouraging. Just a little bit longer …
I crossed the finish line at 10:24 PM. There are few feelings that compare to getting off your bike after that kind of distance and riding time. The satisfaction even lasted for a while. The next day, however, I was already thinking about doing it again. Faster, maybe? Beat the sunset? I reckon I’ll do it singlespeed next year.