Well, I did make the life sacrifices in the past six months, just ask my wife. I began working with a coach, and power, to see what changes I could do to my training that might allow me to perform at my physical peak (even at the ripe YOUNG age of 44), and give me a shot at the top step of the podium (not that I totally believed that was possible due to the talented competition). I began logging very long miles, piling on 15 to 18 hour weeks, all while trying to hold down a full time job with GU Energy Labs as their Marketing Manager: Cycling. I also partnered with InsideTracker, a personalized health analytics company founded by leading scientists, physicians, nutritionists and exercise physiologists from MIT, Harvard and Tufts University, to find ways that I could optimize my nutrition so that I could be at my physical best.
Let’s just say that things got VERY real at this year’s Dirty Kanza, REAL quick.
We hit the first patch of prairie peanut butter mud at around mile 10 of the Dirty Kanza 200, and it just decimated the field. Riders bowling pinned through the rutted guck, bikes becoming immoveable, heavy objects. Some riders were lucky and somehow punched their way through, but most weren’t as lucky. And the even unluckier ones lost rear derailleurs and hangers, their day over before the hostilities even really began.
I knew that this pit of despair was going to smack us in the face with a hard dose of prairie pain, and it still caught me out and brought my bike to a gritty stand still, rear stays completely plugged. My stomach sank, and tightened at the thought of having to struggle this hard, this early in the race. My resolve became not so steely for a moment, but then I remembered why I was racing and that there was no such thing as quitting.
It wasn’t until I stumbled out of the sloppy slog through a really long, and vicious, mud pit around mile 85/90 that I realized I might have a good shot at the podium. I’d been in “robot mode” until this point, plodding my way along in the top ten and getting really lucky that I hadn’t suffered a flat or even worse fate. “Robot mode” is a state I perfected back in my solo 24 hr racing days, a state that allows me to turn off thinking and pain, and just push/pedal my way forward, no matter how difficult, which was perfect because the conditions were apocalyptic. I remember looking down on the mud snowshoe-esque boots I was wearing, as I stumbled between the ruts, and thinking that this was f#$!ing ridiculous.
When I exited the last aid station in Cottonwood Falls at mile 150, I had consumed 13 GU and Roctane gels, 2 bottles of 2 x strength Tropical Roctane drink, 5 PB&Honey mini-bun sandwiches, 20 Branch Chain Amino Acid capsules (top secret blend we’re testing) and 2x 50oz Camelbak’s of H2o. Oh, and I also slammed a ½ COKE. I’m glad no one told me that I was 22 minutes down on Michael Sencenbaugh, the rider who’d been leading the race for MOST of the day, because it probably would’ve crushed my soul a bit, and undermined my resolve.