Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review- Rusch To Glory

For everyone who’s ever thought, That looks amazing, but I could never . . . these stories are for you. I believe you can. I’m living proof of that. And I hope you enjoy the trying as much as I have.
~ Rebecca Rusch

In one's mind it's easy to justify the amazing accomplishments of a professional athlete. "Well, they're just genetically gifted". "They have access to all the best resources". "Their sponsor has deep pockets"....etc.

"Rusch to Glory" personifies the inverse of that mentality.

Teaming up with Selene Yeager, Rebecca has documented the extremely adventurous arc of her life to date, both prior to becoming a professional athlete, as well as the amazing accomplishments thereafter. It's both comforting and inspiring knowing she faces some of the same demons that haunt us all, from everyday life events, to self doubt and anxiety in competition.

From her single parent youth in the Chicago suburbs, to the far reaches of the globe via adventure racing, to the top podium of the most prestigious mountain bike races in the world, I noticed one true constant, perseverance. She absolutely refuses to quit. I was intrigued by the amount of detail provided on her successes and failures in both her professional and personal life. Very interesting, open, and honest.

Rebecca autographing my copy- Leadville, CO 2014

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.                       ~ Diane Ackerman

  • In 2006, at the age of 38, she became a professional mountain biker.
  • She suffered from bulimia as a young adult.
  • She suffers from intermittent asthma attacks.
  • She lived in her vehicle for an extended period.
  • She hated riding a mountain bike prior to embracing the discipline.
  • She's a Firefighter/EMT in her hometown of Ketchum, Idaho.
  • She hates pink (the color)

Rebecca is proof positive that unbelievable feats of endurance, athletic skill, and leadership capability are not gender specific. Not one to rest on her laurels, she continues to compete and advocate for women in cycling. You will be amazed and inspired.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

2014 Leadville Trail 100 MTB: Part 2

I'm at 12,500 ft, leaving the 50 mile aid station near Columbine Mine summit, en route back to Leadville. It has taken me just under 5 hrs. to get here. My goal; make it back to the finish line in less than 10h:30m total race time.  

Columbine Mine 50 Mile Aid Station- Photo Credit to Pete McBride

The Columbine descent drops ~3,000 ft. in 8 miles. The first section is the Goat Trail. Picture a dry creek bed ~5 ft. in width, a variety of rocks and ruts, a hint of a path, typically a single path wandering through it. Normally this would not be a problem, but add 1,200 mountain bikers, some pushing uphill at 4 mph and some riding down at 25+ mph. Further down the Goat Trail turns to double track. There are still bikers pushing, but the descending riders amp it up to 35-40 mph............makes for some tense moments.

The Goat Trail - Photo Credit to Pete McBride

The descent, even with the aforementioned challenges, is still a welcome change. A time to recover and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I climbed Columbine in 1hr:55m, the descent, 43 minutes. Cynthia and crew are stationed on the north side 
of the Twin Lakes dam. I prefer this as the main Twin Lakes Aid Station is a busy place. With assistance from Cynthia, I trade bottles and secure my Camelbak while Bill Ackermann tops off my rear tire, which had drifted down to 20ish psi. 

Twin Lakes Dam - Photo Credit to Pete McBride

Out of the Single-Track En Route to Powerline - Photo Credit to Pete McBride

The Columbine climb has taken a toll on my legs. Ahead of me I have a fairly flat, albeit winding leg back to Pipeline Aid Station at mile 73 inbound. I make a 30 second pit stop at Pipeline and pick up a small group of riders on the flat, working with them to time trial my way back to the base of Powerline. 

Pipeline Double-Track - Photo Credit to Pete McBride

I rode the lower section of the climb and started the soul crushing push up. As detailed in Part 1, I was struggling at this point and seriously concerned about my ability to finish, let alone meet my 10hr:30m goal. I initiated my "Active Recovery" plan, and continued eating and drinking while putting one foot in front of the other. There are a few sections I could ride, and then it was back to push mode. 

The second half of my race should have been faster than the first, (you don't have to climb Columbine on the inbound) but due to my bonk at Powerline, I feel much slower on the second half. My finish time concerns are exacerbated by the blank screen on my Garmin.......the battery has expired.

Around mile 83 I finish the Powerline ascent, and feel a bit more enthusiastic. Now the bone jarring, but welcome Sugarloaf descent. I work through the Sugarloaf rough stuff and breath a sigh of relief at the 180° turn onto Hagerman Pass #4 road. I enjoy the righteously smooth pave back to the tip of Turquoise Lake and start the climb. This paved hill looks like much of nothing on a profile map, but it's 2.5 miles of "nose to the stem" in the real world. I'm motivated knowing I descend St. Kevin's in a few more miles. 

At the mile 91 mini aid station I receive some much needed cheers from friends Jason Bettis and Ashley O'Reilly, I grab a GU drink and then back on the fire road. There's a few minor climbs en route to the St. Kevin's descent but nothing of substance. Bike traffic at this point is typically sparse and I descend St. Kevin's solo. I gap some riders mid way through the sandy double-track and reach the pavement with 4 other riders. As a group with a common goal, we make short work of the paved section over to the railroad service road. 

A hard left at the end of the railroad service road gives you the final Leadville gut punch.......road 36. This rock strewn incline has been the undoing of many riders. It's not that steep, it's not technical, but it is DIFFICULT! You think, "I've ridden 100 miles, I've climbed +12,000 ft, I want this to be over!".........it will be in about 3 miles. I spend the next 2 miles constantly checking my rear tire, convinced I'm flatting. I push hard, unknowing if I'm remotely close to meeting my 10hr:30min goal. 

"Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory" - Mahatma Gandhi

At mile 102.5 I turn right on 6th street. There's slight climb, and then, from top of the hill, you can see the finish line. A rush of emotions come over me........questions run through my mind. "Did I meet my goal?" "I'm glad this is over with!" "How did my friends do?" A cheering crowd funnels you to the center, you can taste the finish. Two people I'm so thankful to call my friends, John & Cynthia Bradley make their way out to tag my hand just prior to the red carpet. With the final pedal strokes I look right and see the clock.......10:04:46.

I'm right there behind him.........about 3 hours and 50 minutes later
Todd Wells at the Finish - 6:16:27

I coast across the finish line, work my way to the right side and put my face down on the bars, allowing a few seconds to gather myself. After about 15-20 seconds a man's voice says "you okay?" I look up to see Dave Wiens (6 time Leadville Trail 100 MTB champion). Dave's a great ambassador to mountain biking and the genuine article. I assure Dave I'm not going to pass out, Abby Long medals me and sends me on my way. I'm handed a chocolate milk then work my way out of the finish corral. I find a spot to lean my bike and plop down on a step to enjoy a much needed rest. 

The Stats!

Buckle UP........I'm gonna get me some BOOTS!

 I am temporarily satisfied................

Myself and Selene Yeager
 I ran into Selene Yeager Sunday morning at the awards ceremony and she was kind enough to add her signature to my copy of "Rush to Glory"

A shuttle trip to Denver, a six hour delay, and a short flight to Branson later, I meet up with my lovely wife Ronna.

I'm back to 1,200 ft..........It's good be home. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 Leadville Trail 100 MTB: Part 1

"Sometimes there's not a better way. Sometimes there's only the hard way" - Mary E. Pearson

"That's it, I'm NEVER doing this AGAIN", admonishing myself over and over again in my head as I trudge up. It's 3.4 miles, with a 7.3 percent average grade (sections in the double digits), there's five or six false summits and 1,300 feet of elevation gain, this is 80 miles into a 103 mile race. Most racers push up Powerline ascent. Yes, some ride it, but the majority of us mortals just push. I pushed. I pushed for what seemed like days. This 48 year old man, dealt 2 pair at the genetics poker table, burned a few too many matches in the hours prior. I was bonking in mushroom cloud fashion and seriously unsure I could finish.

Leadville Trail 100 Course Profile

Powerline Ascent

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." - A.A. Milne

Tuesday evening, Aug 5th. John Bradley and I loaded up our bikes and gear. We planned to arrive in Summit County on Wednesday to get a ride in. In order to blunt the excitement that is driving I-70, I brought along an audio CD of John Krakauer's "Into Thin Air". My logic, the gravity of the ~28,000 ft. Everest disaster would mitigate the harsh effects of racing at 10,000 ft. -12,000 ft..........it did not.

Nearing Summit Co.

Wednesday Aug. 6th we arrived in Summit Co. Colorado. Upon storing our gear, we ride the recreation trail up to Copper and back, followed by a section of the lake trail. I live at 1,200 ft. and the first effort at +9,000 ft. always feels like you're breathing through a stirring straw. 

Thursday Aug. 7th we made our way up to Leadville. At 10,200 ft. Leadville in the highest incorporated city in the United States and home to the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike race as well as the Leadville Trail 100 Run. A historic mining town, in 1880 there were 15,000 residents, per the 2010 census, 2600 residents. We unloaded the bikes and pedaled down 6th street for a course pre-ride up to St. Kevin's. Within a stones throw of the city limits, the clouds opened up and dispensed liquid ice on what was, ten minutes earlier, a beautiful day. Welcome to the mountains. Riding in wind driven, pouring rain, John and I played poker and continued on, one waiting for the other to fold.............neither did. The rain eventually stopped and the partial climb up St. Kevin's warmed us up a bit. We descended and headed back to town, riding the alternate route that is the last 3 miles of the race. Rebecca Rusch was leading a riding clinic group out of town earlier. It looks as if they experienced the rain as well. Upon arriving back in Leadville, we stopped by race HQ and completed the check-in process. With race number in hand, I made my way over to the Specialized pop-up to get a copy of Rebecca Rusch's new book, "Rusch to Glory". She signed my copy and Linda Guerrette was kind enough to snap a few pics of the moment. Go ahead, color me a Reba fanboy, guilty as charged. Rebecca is a hardcore athlete, with capabilities beyond the comprehension of the typical weekend warrior. Read this book.

Rebecca signing my copy of "Rusch to Glory"

Friday Aug. 8th was a gorgeous mountain day. We met fellow racers near the Pipeline Aid Station and rode toward the single-track section. John and I had some specific exercises to complete in order to top-off the race tank. Saturday would test our mettle. 

Powerline Ride

Powerline Ride

Saturday Aug. 9th, 3:00AM. John and I had completed our nutrition and bike prep Fri. evening. Race morning required only a quick breakfast, loading the bikes, and driving the 35 minutes from Frisco to Leadville. We were now 3, Cynthia (John's wife) was kind enough to crew for us on race day. Leadville was eerily quiet upon our 4:45AM arrival, allowing a premium parking spot on Harrison Ave. near ground zero. 

As with most large races, you're staged in corrals prior to race start. Your corral position is based on your finish time from the year previous, or a Leadville Race Series qualifying race, then compiled with all other eligible applicants. Once compiled, all racer stats are ran through a complex algorithm capable of choking a bank of Google servers, and violà, it's 38°F and you're standing in the middle of sixth street, wearing what is basically REALLY thin underwear. A month prior, a great race and good fortune at the Leadville Silver Rush 50, has me in the Leadville Trail 100 green corral (4th back) with my friend Dennis Rathke, meaning I have 700 riders to watch zoom away at 20 mph vs. the 1300 riders from last year. 

At the Starting Line

At 6:30AM a blast of the shotgun sends me off and freezing. The paved downhill start makes for dangerous fare in the first few miles. Inevitably, there are racers bent on advancing themselves in order to have a slightly different arse to stare at whilst enjoying the St. Kevin's conga line.  I proceed cautiously on the periphery of the mass, somewhat relieved when the pavement turns to dusty sand and the first climb, St. Kevin's. Unless you get paid to race Leadville, your ascent speed of Kevin's will be dictated by riders ahead. Use this as opportunity to keep your heart rate under 200 bpm as there will be plenty of opportunities to show your climbing prowess later in the day.

The Paved Rush to St. Kevin's

En Route to St. Kevin's

50 minutes later, I'm at Carter summit turning right onto the paved road and descending rapidly to the tip of Turquoise lake, on to Sugarloaf. It's a gorgeous morning, I'm feeling good and hit the Pipeline Aid Station (Mile 28.3) in 2hr:12min. With a few cheers from fellow racer's crew I blasted through the aid station and continue on. I arrive at Twin Lakes Aid Station (Mile 40) in 3hr:4min. and meet with the phenomenal Cynthia and crew for refueling. I remove my hydration pack and add (2) new bottles for the Columbine ascent. 

Twin Lakes Outbound

"In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way" - Yoda

At Twin Lakes I noticed my rear tire pressure was low and planned to top it off on the inbound stop. I head out, making my way to Chaffee Road (the new crew spot). I see a crew with a tire pump present and ask if I can top off my rear tire. The fellow enthusiastically volunteered and proceeded to bend the presta stem upon pump head removal. I borrowed a pair of pliers, quickly straightened the stem, but the threads were damaged and I could not get it to seat properly. I tightened it as much as possible and borrowed a valve stem cap in an attempt to slow any leakage. 

Heading to Columbine

Ahead of me, the Columbine ascent. I start working my way up the switchbacks. It's here I meet my first inbound rider. It's Todd Wells, in full Captain America regalia. Todd went on to best 1,284 riders with a 6:16:27, averaging right at 16 mph for 103 miles!! I rode up to the first rough pitch and joined the Columbine conga line. Near this pitch, the legend himself, founder Ken Chlouber was perched atop his ATV cheering (and sometimes heckling) the racers. Around 11,500 ft. I meet Lisa Nelson (aka "The Hammer" of Fat Cyclist fame) immediately followed by Rebecca Rusch (of Rebecca Rusch fame) then Selene Yeager (Bicycling magazine's Fit Chick). Rebecca shouts "It's HAMMER TIME". This put a smile on my face and momentarily took my mind off the task at hand. In a matter of seconds I meet none other than SBC Cycling legend, John Bradley! John was on a screaming descent and REALLY focused. He would go on to join the "Queen of Pain Train" and clock in on the red carpet with a 8:38:52!! Here they are inbound on the single.

F to R - Lisa Nelson, Rebecca Rusch, Selene Yeager, John Bradley

I'm always impressed with the words of encouragement my fellow racers shout on their descent of Columbine. It's a dark spot and every little bit helps. I do my best to return the favor if I'm not involved in a white knuckle, endo inducing rock garden section, of which there are many. Finally, I summit the 12,600 ft Columbine and start the welcome, although short lived, descent over to the 50 mile aid station. I arrive in 4h:59m:32s. I averaged slightly over 4mph from the Goat Trail to the aid station. I was on schedule, but my head is spinning a bit. I grab a coke, answer a call of nature, and start the second half of this journey.   


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dirty Kanza 2014

My Dirty Kanza History

The 2013 Dirty Kanza was the year of the wind, my first DK, and I finished. I say "finished" because I didn't race it, I survived it.

 1000 entries, 331 finishers, enough said. 

In 2013, I spent 18 minutes at the 100 mile check point gathering up the intestinal fortitude to continue..........
2013 DK200 100 Mile Checkpoint

.........and after 15-1/2 hours, I rolled to the finish line in 99th place, and in a semi-confused state of exhaustion. 

My 2013 DK200 Finish 15hr:29min

That race gave me confidence. I knew I could finish, and barring catastrophe, finish quicker. My 2014 goal was clear and simple: 

Finish in 14 hours & 30 minutes or quicker. 

I had to average 14 mph to get this done, and that's what I trained for.

Pre-Race Dirty Kanza 2014

I traveled to Emporia with my friends John & Cynthia Bradley. Thursday afternoon we met in Springfield (MO), loaded up John's Volvo wagon and headed West. 

The Volvo- Wagons West!

After an easy drive (JB drove, I slumped in the passenger seat), we checked out our spacious, yet economical room at Emporia State University's North Tower and stored the gear.
ESU Dorm Room

We met up with fellow gravel grinder, Jamie Wynne and his wife Yvette for dinner at Emporia's new Radius Brewing Company. The place was crazy busy, served great food and libations, and filled with who's who of Dirty Kanza management and gravel grinders. Good times!

Friday dawned a beautiful day. We slept in a bit, then prepared for the 9:00am leisure ride at High Gear Cyclery. A critical part of that prep was COFFEE at The Java Cat Coffee House, as John and I both require copious amounts to kick start the day. Dirty Kanza's Jim Cummins was enjoying a cup when we arrived and preparing for a meeting with the KC Jeep Club (what a great service they provide!). We met up with Aaron Houston of Kuat and visited over coffee. Great atmosphere, and righteous joe. 

Morning coffee with JB

After coffee, John, Cynthia, and I donned our kits and rolled down to Commercial St. where the Dirty Kanza buzz was already ramping up. 

L to R- Cynthia Bradley, John Bradley, Aaron Houston at High Gear Cyclery

Cynthia joined us on the leisure ride, and I was thankful as I'm always looking for someone to shoulder into a pothole. (The men I ride with wouldn't tolerate that kinda stuff). After an easy 45 minute out and back, we made our way to registration, gathered our race numbers and cache of schwag, then returned to the Granada Theater to join the 4pm riders meeting. The early meeting allowed us to get our gear & nutrition prep completed, and in bed early. 

That's me, r-i-g-h-t.....there.

Race Meeting at the Granada Theater

The Race- Dirty Kanza 2014

 After a somewhat sleepless night, the alarm went off at 3:4......REALLY EARLY! We grabbed showers, and kitted up for a day of racing. Outside it was humid, but still cool.
John and I went to the ESU breakfast, where I explained to a very sleeping looking Chris Carmicheal that the valve on the coffee pot had a delay prior to stopping, and I don't always spill coffee all over the place. He was apathetic to my explanation.

 We returned to the dorm room, gathered the bikes and stopped off at the car to collect our bottles for the first leg. We arranged to meet Cynthia down at the starting line around 5AM. Commercial street was already a busy place.  

 Myself, John Bradley, Jim Phillips, Jamie Wynne, and Collin Little posed for some pics in front of the Granada. Tyler Moore would later round out the crew. 

L to R- John Bradley, Jamie Wynne, Collin Little, Jim Phillips, Don Buttram

 With an hour to spare, we found our place near the back of the 12hr pack and mingled with the other riders. In that hour I watched monsters of the Kanza one by one filter their way to the leading edge of the 12hr barrier, Dan Hughes, Rebecca Rusch, Jay Petervary, Yuri Hauswald, Rusty Folger, and Cory Godfrey.  What I didn't know was that among the group at the leading edge of the barrier was one Brian Jenson. Brian would go on to not only break the Kanza course record, but totally obliterate it! Other power houses up front included Jonathan Schottler (it is not unusual to see Jonathan's name right next to the likes of Jeremiah Bishop),  I was introduced to Greg Gleason, winner of Trans Iowa v10. This was a tough crowd. 

Awaiting the Start- Photo Credit to Dustin Michelson

Emporia to Madison- Check Point #1

 With the singing of the National Anthem we all knew the time was near.  As Jim Cummins made the "5 minutes to race time" announcement, the tension was palpable. With a quick countdown, we were off. The roll-out through town was allegedly neutral, this was not a Switzerland kinda neutral, more akin to an Iraqi neutral, fast paced and pushing against the pace trucks. The cacophony of tire whine was reminiscent of my Leadville roll-out experience. I'm always thankful to make it through a mass start like that without winding up in a wad of carbon fiber and bike tires. 

The Rollout- Photo Credit to Eric Benjamin of adventuremonkey.com

 With a right turn at the edge of town we were on GRAVEL! This was a quadrupletrack +20mph parade of over anxious grinders. My conversations were limited to "jump in here if you need to". The remainder of the time I was focused on holding my line and minimizing any sudden changes in pace. After about 10 miles of this I realized that I was probably not in contention for the overall win, and needed to bring my pace back to "just slightly out of my league" (read 16mph). Not that I had much time to soak it in, but it was an absolutely beautiful morning, sun shining through the morning mist made for some gorgeous shots. 

The first 10 miles! - Photo Credit to Corey Godfrey

What a Beautiful Morning! Photo Credit to Dustin Michelson
Killer Shot!- Photo Credit to Eric Benjamin of adventuremonkey.com

 At mile 18, I noticed a rider fixing a flat. As I got closer I realized it was Dan Hughes, the King of Kanza!. I could see that he was less than pleased with this situation. Several things ran through my mind. 

  • Sadness, I can't imagine what it would be like to watch that lead group ride off while you were tasked with fixing a flat.
  • Surprise, hey I just passed Dan Hughes on a bicycle. (Yes, he was stopped, fixing a flat, but that's just a technicality!)
  • Fantasy, I could soft pedal for a bit, wait for him ride up beside me and I could tow him back to the lead pack. (Hey, it was a fantasy, and y-e-s, I realize that all the Jens Voigt leg coaching in the world could not produce that result!)
 A few miles later, Dan motored by me like a man on a mission. Dan would go on to place 7th overall, and win the 45-49 age group! While this may surprise you, I didn't see him again until the finish line. Before long I was shouldering my CFX Black and wading across the North Verdigris River at mile 43, and clamored my way up the muddy bank on the other side under the buzz of a drone.

 I plan to use the picture of Rebecca Rusch portaging the river crossing when I make my "What I Think I Do" poster for Dirty Kanza 

Rebecca doing what she does best,  leading the charge! - Photo credit to TBL photography

In no time I was screaming down the paved descent into Madison.
I rolled across the timing strip and looped back to the support dream team. Cynthia and company wasted no time resupplying me, quick bike maintenance, and giving me status of the other KÜAT riders. It seems that everyone was blistering the first 50 miles. 

My official stats for CP #1: 3hr:04m:30s - Avg. Pace 16.52 mph 

 Below is a shot of myself and Salsa rider Tim Ek. While our conversation was likely limited to "Hey, you doing ok?"....."Yeh, you?" I'm convinced he's a straight shooting, hardcore gravel grinder through and through. Just check out this righteous short if you don't believe me. 

Myself and Tim Ek somewhere in Kansas

Madison to Cassoday- Check Point #2

 I'm convinced there's a space-time continuum anomaly between Madison and Cassoday. It could be the dark experience I had on this section in 2013, the relentless rolling hills, the minimum maintenance "B" roads, the fact that I ran out of water, but I'm telling you this is the toughest 50 miles of gravel on the planet!! I've ridden this section twice, and I felt better climbing Columbine! 

Leadville Columbine - 2013

Okay, I'm done whining. I kept putting one pedal in front of the other and made my way into Cassoday. GIDDYUP! I'm halfway there! Cynthia had come out to the road to notify me of her location. I rolled across the timing strip and hurried to the car for WATER!!. I drank and ate what I could, while Cynthia and company resupplied. I'm sure it was dehydration talking, but for some reason I convinced Cynthia that I didn't to carry additional food supplies with me. I told her I was drinking my nutrition and didn't need it............I was wrong, painfully wrong. Cynthia reminded me that I had 12-13 miles of head wind out of Cassoday and then I would turn North for some much needed relief. In a matter of minutes I was on my way. 

My official stats for CP #2: 6hr:37m:36s - Avg. Pace 15.02 mph 

Cassoday to Cottonwood Falls- Check Point #3

Roughly 5 miles out of CP#3 I came upon my friend and fellow Kuat rider Jim Phillips. Jim was sitting on a culvert rail in the shade. I stopped for a few minutes to see how things were going. Jim said the blistering pace of the first 100 miles had taken its toll, and he had switched to survival mode. I told him to encourage me when he passed me on down the road and carried on. Jim did pass me later on and seemed in good spirits, I was not, I was paying for the dehydration and stopped. I took a leak, and that stuff looked a lot like Guinness beer. I took this as a bad sign, and downed three Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes along with a large quantity of GU Brew and water, then continued on. I'm not sure how far it was, but I came upon Jim again. He was on the side of the road but looked okay.......so I rode on.

CALM DOWN, I'm just kidding. I did pass Jim, but he said he would be okay. This picture was taken later by Collin Little while he drank beer and made fun of Jim as he lay near death along side the road. But this is a story that Jim Phillips will tell you.

 Back to that decision I made at the 100 mile checkpoint about carrying extra food. I was bonking, I could feel it coming on. I then done what you do in that situation......NO, you can forget any thoughts you have about a Bear Grylls style attack on a farm animal....I came upon a fellow rider fixing a flat and I done it.....begged for FOOD! The rider was accommodating and tossed me a GU Roctane Gel. It was blueberry pomegranate and tasted like I had just been saved from DK perdition. I had spring in my pedal stroke, I had a tailwind, everywhere I went, I was R-I-D-I-N-G F-A-S-T (think Forrest Gump running). That lasted a-b-o-u-t 45 minutes and it was back to the sufferfest. But I was substantially closer to the oasis that is CP#3 COTTONWOOD FALLS. 

Sidebar: There are no falls at Cottonwood Falls KS. :-(

I remember crossing the timing mat at CP#3 and immediately yelling ORANGE, where's ORANGE?? (Our parking segment). I was directed "all the way back by the courthouse". Luckily Cynthia came to my rescue and started yelling at me. It's hard to explain to people who don't compete in endurance events, but when you've been pedaling your ass off for 10hrs. straight, you can't see something right in front of you, but you can usually hear it. It's weird. I spent at least 8-10 minutes at CP#3 (too long) My shoes had heating elements in them and my feet were on fire for the last 4 hours. I drank 24oz. of water, I drank 15oz. of Coke, I ate as much as I could. I did NOT want to leave. 

My official stats for CP #3: 10hr:25m:28s - Avg. Pace 14.52 mph 

Cottonwood Falls to Emporia- THE FINISH!

Feeling like I had just swallowed a basketball, I pedaled my way out of Cottonwood Falls. I was on the final leg, the home stretch. This was a lonely section. Look at the picture below, and think about this....there were 469 finishers in the 200 mile race, look behind me in the picture, there's 2 riders. You ride for miles and miles, mostly alone in this segment. 
Mile 160 Grinding up a Hill

I was trudging along around mile 180 and came upon a farmhouse. This family had taken it upon themselves to provide ice cold cokes and water to the riders, YES! I tried unsuccessfully to do some finish time math in my head and all the calculations said STOP and DRINK! Best decision I made all day. I downed most of a coke and filled my water bottle. I had just got back up to speed when a train of riders came around me. I hesitated for a second and made a mental decision to jump on. The mental decision was easy, the physical one........not so much. I caught the train and tucked in at the back. This was nice, 18 miles out and suckin' wheel. It was a few miles later the train wheels fell off and we were 4. In what can only be described as amazing, one of guys in this group (Chris Knight of Grand Rapids Michigan Team Apex) was part of a Jamie Wynne and Jim Phillips Kuat train in late stages of DK200 2013. (small world) Chris asked if I knew Jamie and Jim and I replied yes, Chris said let's get this done! I was in a position to pull now and we all took turns for the next several miles. This group would take me to the finish line. One of the guys in the group still had some cognitive brain function and determined we had this in the bag. We were gonna race the sun and win. (You have to arrive at the finish line before 8:42 pm (14hrs:42min:00sec) to get one of these.

I could see the north tower of ESU in the distance, I could hear the traffic from I-35. We turned on Hwy. 99 and all was right with the world. The group decided collectively that we needed to make sure we had our best game face on for the finish line. I went tailback of the small group, as that's where I started, and there's a certain etiquette in cycling for situations like that. I had met my goal, I had exceeded my goal, I need not sprint to the finish. I felt a huge burden lifted as I cruised through the bollards on ESU's campus through way. I could hear the finish line music, the rowdy crowd, electricity in the air. I cruised down the chute, soaking in the roar. As I passed under the arch I could see the familiar cast at the finish line, Jim Cummins and the Mohn's handing out glasses, shaking hands, and hugs all around. I shall return. 

My official Finish Time: 14hr:14m:01s - Avg. Pace 14.27 mph 
After the Finish Line

One of my favorite shots from DK. Paul McKay (265) crushing it!
Team Kuat rider John Bradley can be seen (2) bikes back from Paul. Both Paul and John had a great race with John Bradley finishing in 13:09 and Paul finishing in 12:20. Amazing performance by both!

Paul McKay with his "Determined" Game Face On!

Parting Shot