I’m going to be riding in the Dirty Kanza this year, with some awesome guys. More details on that to come, shortly. That will be the longest race I’ve ever done. Frankly, it will be the longest ride I’ve ever done. I’ve been doing some serious prep work for over six months now, and I feel as though I’m prepared. I’m perhaps not ready, but I’m prepared.
I sat down in October and decided I wanted to do this ride. I had decided a year ago, really, that I wanted to do a ride of this nature. The quasi-supported nature of the ride is perfect for me…200 miles is certainly enough of a challenge, but the ability to stop every 70-ish miles and grab food from my own cooler–that is what makes this possible. I don’t have to rely on food from gas stations (which aren’t terribly supportive of my health conditions), and I don’t have to pack enough on the bike to last, truly self-supported, for 200 miles. This isn’t a self-supported race, and I’m ok with that.
My training has been an interesting undertaking. Basically, I’ve concerned myself with time in the saddle, and that’s about it. This winter, I spent a lot of time fat biking, just churning out miles, not particularly fast, not particularly far, but keeping my heart rate around 150 and keeping moving. As the weather warmed, I’ve transitioned to gravel, and sometimes to mountain biking, but working at that same goal. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the trainer, working at the 150-160bpm heart rate level, and working to expand the amount of time I could spend at that level (with little blasts up to MHR and back).
Through that effort, and through following my heart rate, I have developed a far better understanding of my fitness and my heart rate, and the correlation between burning matches and stamina. Saturday, I rode 71 miles with Brendan, much of it into a headwind (as the wind changed on us mid-ride), and came home feeling great–not tired, not sore, just great. The reason? In the whole ride, I burned one match. On the very final climb of the day, just to be a smartass, I sprinted up to the top. This riding isn’t sexy. I’m not going to win DK. I’m not the fastest I’ve ever been. But for what I’m planning on doing, I am adapted, and I am knowledgeable. I understand how to fuel myself, and keep myself going. I know what happens when I stop for 5 minutes, or for 20 minutes. I know how many matches I have, what happens when I burn them, and how long it takes me to recover. I’ve gotten better at recovery.
I’ve tried to build myself into a rider that burns candles–slow, long-burning, steady–rather than one that burns matches in brilliant little bursts of light. I am confident I will finish, and accept that it will not be at the front of the pack. But it will be on my terms, and it will be my best effort.