The DK100 – 2018

by Kim Welk

How do we get into these things?  What were we thinking? This time it was late fall 2017.  A friend that had fallen in love with cyclocross season started to look into gravel riding and decided we needed to do this too.  I borrowed a bike from her and we went for a ride. It was fun, it was different. Let’s give it a try. The Dirty Kanza Events are lottery driven and no guaranteed entries.  We put together teams so that we could all go or not go and not leave anyone behind. We registered when the lottery opened and waited for lottery day in January.

When lottery day arrived, a slow trickle of entries started and by the end of the day almost everyone that we had planned to go with had gotten in.  Then the reality set it. Guess it is time to buy a bike, guess it is time to figure this gravel thing out, guess we’d better get training. Holy cow!

Mike and I pulled the trigger on bikes after a weekend in Colorado Springs.  Adventure Cycling was awesome and got us set-up and ready to roll. Then it was up to us.  We purchased the DK official training plan to use as a guideline and worked on increasing saddle time although not always on gravel.

As the race approached, many people that we knew started to drop out.  Conflicts in schedules, graduations and more. We wondered if we were ready.  For me the controlling Type A personality was completely scared of the unknowns.  What would the road surface really be like, what was the terrain, was I in good enough shape to do this?  As more and more people dropped out it was down to Mike and Me. We had planned on a friend coming from Texas to provide our support.  We called him and advised that we didn’t think he should take the time off or the time to drive to and from as we didn’t know how this would go.  We then had a long conversation as to whether or not we were going and in the last few days decided what did we have to lose.

So June 1st, bright and early we were loaded up and headed to Kansas.  We had gathered the supplies that we thought would be needed and were as prepared as we could be at that point.  The wind blew like crazy the entire way. As I attempted to hold the car on the road, I worried what chance I would have with a bike in wind like this.  Fear was at a new high. We arrived in Emporia, checked into our hotel and into the race. We asked questions, were deciding on using neutral support and making last minute adjustments and tweaking.  We went to bed with an alarm set and the unknown looming just hours ahead.

June 2, 2018
Emporia, KS

Mike and I woke on race morning in our America’s Best Inn & Suites room in Emporia.  It was just before 5. It was pitch dark outside and the only sound we heard was the wind howling against our exterior door.  The thoughts that went through my head – “Please don’t let us have wind like we drove through to get here yesterday.” “Hopefully it gets light soon as I don’t have a light for my bike.”  “Please let these winds stop!” We went about our morning routine, making last minute preparations and gathering our nutrition for the day. I had spent a fair amount of time on Friday night laying everything out, making sure my bike was ready and gear needed properly strapped or packed and clothing out and ready to go.  I did not want to forget anything – control the controllables. So many unexpecteds ahead that I had to know that I had what I think I needed.

We had decided to head to the start at 5:30.  Our event start was at 6:20 but the 200M riders were headed out at 6 and I wanted to see them go.  We walked out of the hotel into the wind to load the bikes. It was still dark. There was lightning all over the sky flashing constantly and it looked like rain was looming.  The weather report has said morning thunderstorms that were supposed to move through by 7 or 8. And it appeared that the forecast was right on. As we loaded the bikes onto the car, the heavens opened up and it was now pouring rain.  We grabbed the rest of our gear from the room and rolled out into the dark, rain and wind towards the start. The fear and panic was a bit higher as we approached. We looked at each other and I gave Mike the look of what have we gotten ourselves into.  I could hear my Mom in my head – this is crazy – why do you want to do this. And at that point the only answer I had was I don’t know. We pulled into a parking place pretty close to the start. We made the decision to sit in the car for a bit before soaking ourselves.  A knock on Mike’s window – we rolled down the window and the guy said “did you get the message that the event start is delayed 30 minutes?” We had not – well we had but our phones were still on silent from overnight so we hadn’t seen it come in. We hunkered down in the car for a while.  As the 30 minutes of delay passed, so did the storm. The rain slowed and eventually stopped. The roads were still very wet but at least it had moved on and it appeared we would not be riding through rain.

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