I went into Kanza ready for it. I had trained for six months. My nutrition was dialed, my bike was dialed, my life was dialed. This was going to be a long, hard day, but I’d finish strong and be proud of what I’d done. I could visualize the whole day, and visualize the finish. I can’t say it in a different way–I was ready. I was prepared. I was fully aware, had completely researched, and I was completely in tune with what I had to do. I had ridden training rides of the proper length and intensity. I had tried various food and hydration regimens, and even with the rigors of this event, I was on it. I was ready to crush it.
We got into Emporia on Thursday night. We stayed at the Best Western, which was truly a hell-hole. They didn’t have the right rooms for us, the doors wouldn’t latch closed, and the help was in full IDGAF mode. Didn’t matter. We were there to ride. We were ready.
Friday was greeted with downpours of rain. As the day went on, I started feeling sick. And sicker. And sicker. I spiked a fever and started to lose my voice. My compatriots took care of me, and I was in bed by 7:30 on Friday night, fully dosed on a variety of cold medications. Around midnight, I awoke drenched in sweat, my fever having broken. I took a shower, changed clothes, and went back to bed. Saturday morning came early, and I rolled out at 4:30am.
We had breakfast. For this trip, I had literally packed every morsel of food needed from when we left on Thursday morning through the completion of the ride. I was leaving nothing to chance, and nothing to restaurants. My GF/DF meal plan was in full effect, and I was totally conservative in my approach. My wife–my ever-loving wife–had made so much great food for me to eat.
I was fully prepared, heart, soul, body, bike. When we lined up, I didn’t have much in the way of voice, but I had spirit. I was prepared. We were at the starting line, and I was in the gates. I was psyched. I was ready.
Immediately before we started, Bobby Wintle gave me great advice. He said, “where there’s mud, recognize it. Walk when you need to walk. Don’t try to ride the mud.” He was totally on, and I knew he was wise. We rode about 12 miles and hit the first mud. I saw it, and I immediately stopped and bailed off the bike. I carried my Moots for about 3.5 miles. From time to time, I’d roll it, but mostly, it was carried.
When we got to the end of the walking section, I meticulously cleaned out the mud and muck off of my bike. Meticulously. I held my rear tire off of the ground and spun the pedals, to confirm all was good. Feeling confident, I hopped on and started riding. All was great.
We rode about 3/4 of a mile when I heard “PING PING PING PING Psssstsssst.” and my rear wheel locked up. I stopped as quickly as possible and looked at the bike. The rear derailleur was obviously f’d. My first thought: “ok, this sucks. But I am prepared, I have quick links and tools. I can singlespeed this biatch, and go on.” I then look at my rear tire and try to figure out why it is flat.
My bro-heim Brendan comes over to look at the bike. I’m starting to remove the rear wheel, to get going on a singlespeed setup, but something isn’t right. The rim is pushed hard into the frame. He reaches down and points out a broken spoke. Next to 3 other broke spokes. Somehow, the derailleur went into the wheel, breaking 4 spokes on the drive side. The wheel lost tension on that side, and warped into the frame on the non-drive side, hard enough to blow the tire off the rim. Fuck.
Ok, come up with another plan. I can still singlespeed it.
But the tire is blown off.
I can throw a tube in it, and singlespeed it. Problem solved.
But the wheel is so warped, that it won’t spin in the frame.
What can I do? I can’t release enough tension on the non-drive side to true the wheel enough to make it rideable. Even if I get the tire back on and singlespeed it, the rim won’t clear the frame. I’m fucked. F.U.C.K.E.D.
This whole process took about 60 seconds. Brendan and I realized that I was fucked. He started to say how sorry he was. He knew how I’d prepared. He knew how fully invested I was. I could see in his eyes that he was gutted–gutted for me. I couldn’t take that. I couldn’t make eye contact and see his pity. (It wasn’t bad pity. It was the pity that accompanies true friendship.) I couldn’t do it. My eyes started to well up involuntarily, and I made eye contact with Brendan. I said all that I could say–“go and finish. You’ve got this.” I dunno–something to that effect. I turned to walk my bike down the road, but the rear wheel was so fucked that the bike wouldn’t even roll. I shouldered it again and started walking.
At that moment, I had only one thought. I’m proud of that one thought. My only thought was that I needed to get back to town, get our car, and support the guys that were still riding. I posted one quasi-vague, quasi-negative Facebook post, and deleted it 5 minutes later. I was on a mission. Support the troops. I figured out where I was, and called for a ride. My walk to the ride ended up being about as far as I had ridden all day. C’est la vie.
I eventually got back to a car, bike on my shoulder, and got a ride to town. I took a shower, got dressed, and headed to the course to support my brothers. I did everything I could, all day, to support them. I did everything I’d have wanted to be done for me. I lubed, cleaned, and checked their bikes. I lied to them, telling them that they looked strong and ready to go. I gave them food and drink, and pushed them to keep eating. I suppressed my internal strife.
From our team of 6, 2 finished. I wanted. So badly. To be one of the finishers. I was ready. I was prepared. I don’t know exactly what to write here. I have a lot of conflicting emotions, and I haven’t fully processed my experience at DK, even though it’s a few weeks later. I’ll do this stream of consciousness style, and try to get across my conflicting emotions.
- Those that finished have my great admiration, and nothing that I write is intended in any way to diminish from their accomplishments. I wish I could say that in a way that made it absolutely, unimpeachably clear–for my homie Brendan, I was truly inspired by your ride. For my homie Chad, you’re insane, in the best possible way.
- I was riding a CX frame with a Di2 drivetrain. I’ve seen bloggers writing about all of the idiots with road derailleurs who blew up in the first 20 miles. To those bloggers, I say: fuck you. This isn’t Trans-Iowa. I studied the past decade of DK races in detail. I was fully prepared, fully acclimated, and had picked hardware that was properly suited based upon every scintilla of information available. If you’d like to throw a stone and say I’m stupid for running the bike I ran, then great. As soon as I develop the ability to predict the future, I will gladly start to do so, and will pick equipment based upon the conditions that I’m able to foretell. Until then, I’ll prepare based upon all available information, and do my best to accommodate changes in the field. That’s what I did here. I failed. I did my best. Dudes on fatbikes failed too.
- I accept that what happened was beyond my control. I don’t know why it happened. My drivetrain was clean and running properly when I got back on the bike. I’m guessing I picked up a clod on the tire, and it fell on the chain and went into the derailleur. I don’t know how to prepare for, or prevent, that particular situation. I’m sofuckingmad that it happened. But it did. I can’t undo it.
- I’ve read all of these posts saying, “if you haven’t failed, then you’ve not set hard enough goals.” Honestly, I don’t subscribe to that. That sounds like the kind of thing that failures tell themselves to feel better about failing. I set ludicrous goals for myself–personally and professionally. I prepare for every contingency. I train. I read, I prepare myself. I go in ready for anything. And I finish. I win if winning is possible for me. I do it. I adapt and overcome because when I set a goal, I’m set on accomplishing it. I didn’t fail at DK and feel some sense of empowerment. I didn’t fail and think, “damn, this is a true challenge that really puts me on the spot.” I was prepared. I failed. I didn’t feel that I was a better person for it. I set my sights on finishing DK, at all costs. I failed. That’s on me. My previous successes in life have not been because my goals weren’t hard enough. They’ve been because I’ve thrown my entire soul at my goals. My failure at DK wasn’t because I didn’t try hard enough.
- I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve questioned the course. The DK organizers are amazing. But. If I was in their shoes, I can’t say as though I’d feel comfortable routing riders where they routed riders. It doesn’t make a ride more epic when more people fail. It just makes for a larger group of unsatisfied riders.
- I just wrote, two points above, that my failure at DK wasn’t because I didn’t try hard enough. That pains me. So. Much. If I failed because my spirit broke. Because I ran out of food or water. Because I ran out of leg, or heart, or mind. If I failed because of me. Such a failure would, improbably enough, be so much more satisfying. Instead, I failed because of some unforfuckingseen condition that blew up my bike and ended my day. When I was done–when I realized I was truly done–I thought about walking as far as I could on the course. I decided that my time would be better spent supporting my brothers that were still mobile. In the greatest twist of irony yet, after making that determination, I realized that I had to walk the course to get to somewhere that a car could reach me.
- Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I’m still there. I don’t have a more eloquent answer. Still just fuuuuuuuuuuck.
- I’d like to say that barring this issue, I was prepared enough to finish, and to finish strong. I think I was. I think I was. But honestly, that’s bullshit. That’s talk from a blogger. That dog won’t hunt, unless I actually did finish–which I didn’t.
- I don’t know if I’m going back. I don’t know if I can train for an event for six months, only to be taken out by some great cosmic joke. I didn’t come away thinking, “DK vanquished me this year, but I’ll be back.” I came away thinking, “I can’t believe how much of my life I wasted preparing for this.” If I go back, it will be because I want to face the challenge of DK. I will not go back based solely upon a quest to avenge this year’s squalid showing. I have seen the consequences that a desire for revenge has upon people. I will not be motivated by revenge or spite.
I’m sharing all of this because I don’t think it gets shared ordinarily. If I went out and raced a crit tomorrow, I wouldn’t be all broken up about it if I lost. That’s not my strength. My strength is the stubborn will to continue. My strength is analytically reviewing something and then preparing for it and then finishing it, when it is a test of will. I know I’m not the strongest or fastest. But I can control myself, and I can finish what I start.
I’m not writing this to solicit responses or sympathy. I’m aware that some of what I’ve written may be controversial. I’m writing this because it is the truth of my response to this event, and because I feel as though I need to write something about DK before I can go on with this blog. So my options were either to write this, or to kill the blog.
This experience has changed me. I see all of these posts about the new Salsa Cutthroat, and I’m like, “damn, that tire clearance…those big tires…that’s awesome.” And then I look and see a regular derailleur without Alternator dropouts, and I’m back to, “that’s fucking stupid. Who would design an adventure bike that cannot be SS’d in an emergency…or that cannot be built with an internal-gear hub?” I dunno.
I’ve got a lot of pent-up anguish about this failure. It’s my failure–no one else’s. I’m not satisfied, and yet I’m not rushing back to sign up again. I’ve written this to be a truthful reflection of my feelings, concern for others be damned. I’m not planning on writing about it again; I’m moving on.
Brendan and Chad, I was inspired. I wanted to be you, when you finished. Knowing that I couldn’t be you, I wanted to, at the very least, be there for you.