My Road to Kanza

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My Road to Kanza

I got into gravel endurance cycling back in 2013.  I bought my first cx/gravel bike, a 2012 Giant TCX-W and wanted to take it further than the bike paths around my house.  I trained and did the Gravel Metric. Coming from a family of crit/road racing, gravel was brand-new and intriguing to me.   I now see it as a path to personal growth. I have had to overcome navigating, riding alone, training, pacing, eating, and riding in the dark.  

In 2018, I decided that it would be a good year to train for DK200.  Our now 3 ½ year old son was out of the 5 time-per-year ear infections and sickness phases.  My husband and I had already a couple years of solid gravel riding. He had finished a DK200 and felt that I deserved the opportunity give it a shot.  

The training plan I followed, outdoor riding, and putting forth my best attitude contributed to how I felt to reach the big day.  Every success or failure you come across is a building block for the big day (regardless of the outcome).

I used a training plan, and my sister-in-law plugged it in to the Garmin Connect calendar.one entry. at . a. time. I give her so much credit for taking the patience to help me establish my heart rate zones and manually enter the workouts.   Fitting in the workouts 2-3 times per week and logging in the long miles on the weekends was like a Tetris game, but I made it work. Some weeks I had to get creative, but I never gave up. Everything I feared in work, family, life sorted itself out because I stayed persistent and believed that I could do it. I will finish this training plan.  One important piece of advice I did get from a DK finisher, Stu Garwick, (a dad, husband, and owner of Freeport Bicycle Co. /Organizer of Ten Thousand) was if you get burned out from work, family life, and training to make sure that you step back and take a breather. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t get absorbed by the routine and the pressure of training.  It worked for him and he had a great Dirty Kanza.

Most people who train for DK, incorporate the Midwest gravel events such as Barry Roubaix (MI), Almanzo 100 (MN), Dairy Roubaix (WI), The Epic (MO) Hellkat Hundie (MI), or Ten Thousand (IL) . I know that gravel events take up travel time and money so I had to plan around my family life and budget.   Dirty Kanza is an expense and a trip in and of itself, so I didn’t want the family burned out by June 2. It was going to be a matter of coordinating rides with friends or signing up for the closer gravel rides here in Illinois.

In February, Brandon and I drove an hour to Pecatonica, IL and rode Frostbite 40.  Only 40 miles? It was a day where 40 miles felt like 60. It was held in the Driftless region of IL on a day barely reaching 30 degrees Fahrenheit and howling 20 mph winds.  Although Brandon was my windshield for the day, no doubt we both suffered in the wind, the sloppy and mushy gravel waking up from the winter freeze. Every climb hurt, and we were finished the ride feeling thoroughly exhausted.  

I decided to make my only “destination” gravel event outside of DK, LandRun 100.  I have heard nothing but good things about it. The gravel in the Midwest that I’ve ridden is country road gravel, and generally predictable. The term “gravel road” in Kansas and Oklahoma is loosely defined.  I signed up for LandRun100 both to hold myself accountable to ride 100 miles in March and to get myself outside of my comfort zone on their bouncy red dirt roads. LandRun 100 was exciting, and I really learned how to handle unfamiliar terrain.    The energy of the promoters and volutneers, the participants who came from near and far, Salsa’s Chase the Chaise at mile 90 kept you stoked 100% of the time.

The weekend after Easter April was Rough Road 100 (km) a local gravel /road race in Morris, IL along the Illinois River.  It was 18 degrees at the start and my original group of friends decided not to continue due to mechanicals and the uncertainty over the frigid conditions.  I already experienced the cold and wind from Frostbite 40 so I felt that I could hold out and ride the 60 miles. Since it took some time to assess my friend’s mechanical and part with one another, I was in the back of the race.  I saw Jenny Aguilar by herself and decided to be her Sherpa for the day. “I need the torture” I told her jokingly. We did pick up another woman, Leah Barry. Leah and I took turns pulling for Jenny and made sure that she was going to finish. Regardless of our fitness that day, it was cold, windy and long.  This was a day to test our mental fortitude. The three of finished together and shared the joy of completing a hard ride.

On April 22, we got a break from the cold and got the chance to bare some skin at Grumpy Grind.  This ride took us over 86 miles of the Driftless area. Some of the road names were familiar to me from Frostbite 40.  I did a good job of drafting and staying in small packs as many times as I could. No matter how hard I backed off, or ate food, used bathroom stops I felt very flat that day.  The winds were relentless and at mile 60 I took a break to have part of my ham sandwich. Once I had a few bites of prosciutto ham and part of my mini Coke I felt like a rock star. Mile 75 felt like mile 1 to me.  I was riding in a fatigue period. Knowing how that feels was a good learning experience and I didn’t see it as a failure. It’s part of the process. I finished at a decent time and got to enjoy the vibe of a free and intimate gravel event with friends.  Gravel star, Kae Takashita was already finished and we had a photo taken together.

April 28. Is it warm yet? No. I had a ride planed with friends where the high temp for the day would be 50 degrees.  Back to covered arms and legs. Jon Schratz, my StayRad Adventure teammate, mechanic, all around best bike friend helped organize a 120 mile road ride.  Since it does take a good 50 minutes to 1 hour for me to reach gravel I decided this was a day to get more bang for my buck. Jon designed a route that started in Aurora, IL took us up to Campton Hills, west to Maple Park (near Dekalb), south to Sheridan, IL (very well near Morris / Illinois River again) and back to Aurora.  We danced in the hills enjoyed the tail winds when they when the going was good. I learned what riding 8+ hours felt like and how to digest my food. The ride was the longest distance I had ever ridden in my life, and it was my first century ever in Illinois (finally!). Needless to say, I felt toasted the next day.

The middle part of May finally cut my long rides shorter because I was in the taper phase. I used the local trail systems near my house to make those 3-4 hour rides without getting too far from home base in case something happened to me.  Memorial Day weekend brought temperatures in the 90s and everyone’s outdoor rides were torturous. I took the time to ride the Tuesday before Dirty Kanza in 94 degrees. That felt toasty.

I recently read a book, “Swimming Home”, about women who competed in open water swimming, during a time that was unheard of for them.  The best swimmers know that the ocean “owns” you, and you have to ride out the currents and conditions. I approach gravel the same way. No ride is the same. No conditions are the same. You are out in the open land, wind, and nature.  You have to go for it and ride out the “waves”. Every outdoor ride I took this year had its own personality and learning lesson that I took with me to DK 200.

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Groad Rides

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Groad Rides

We've been quite on the web site, probably for far too long.  So we've got some updates.

Groad rides, a combination of amazing paved country roads and dirty rough gravel roads.  This year we'll try to do monthly group rides.  They will most likely flip from going out of Aurora and Homewood.  So you'll have a west and south option.  They tend to break up into groups, so you can hammer or you can be social. 

Part of the idea of these rides is to get people out on roads different from their normal routine, get people out in the country.  They are also to highlight our local communities.  Aurora & Homewood aren't so scary and offer a lot in the way of cycling, food, beer, and coffee.   So please come out from the city and enjoy the country with us.

Look for posts about these rides on Facebook or Strava.  Some times we'll post something on Instagram too.  Generally there will be about a weeks notice.  We do the short notice for a couple of reasons.

One, we don't' want 500 people to show up.  Thats too much stress for a group ride.  Two, that gives us an idea of the weather.

The amount of gravel will vary, sometimes there might not be any.  We'll let you know ahead of time.

Look forward to riding with you soon!

-STAY RAD. 

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AMENT...canceled. For now.

CANCELED. For now. Reschedule will happen. If you've done any gravel events in 2017, I'm sure you're sick of riding in the rain and replacing brake pads and bottom brackets. This was not an easy decision and we're sorry, but severe thunder stroms does not sound all that fun. We will keep you posted.

This was a tough call to make.  We really wanted it to happen this weekend.  It's one thing to get caught out in a storm in suburbs with plenty of places to get cover and lots of cell phone coverage.  But there ain't shit out there, and no ones phone seem to work all that well.  I personally can't have that weighing on my soul.

There is a poll up on the event page to reschedule.  I think we're leaning toward the fall.  Riding out that way in the summer is pretty terrible (see 2015 Rapha Prestige) .

-Stay Rad

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The Ament.

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The Ament.

Here we go agian. 

YES, this is still happening on Saturday!  HOWEVER, if the weather looks like hell, don't go.  Nobody will be there.  We'll make that call Friday and reschedule if it looks like heavy rain/thunderstorms.  We're all sick of riding in the rain this year...Landrun, Barry Roubaix, Trans Iowa.

 PLEASE PRINT AND SIGN this Waiver.  We will have a few in the Apple Fort parking lot.  We also ask that you ride like respectful citizens.  Not riding 10 wide in a pack, obey street signs, and give at least a smile to those you pass along the route.

IMG_0078.JPG

Again, this 100% self supported.  YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN.  There won't be some magical Rapha truck with coffee and snacks waiting for you at the top of a hill.  After mile 40, there is NOTHING.  Cell phones don't really work out there, so ride SAFE & SMART.  These is ZERO sag. If you are hurting, tough shit, figure it out! So here is the Ride with GPS link, it is different than last year.  I made some changes.

 Couple of notes:

  • You can cut a gnarly descent and 5 miles out at mile 19 (recommended if new to this area), its a RIGHT onto Gamble Rd (short cut)
  • The only food stop is in Hanover, mile 30 (BRING CA$H)
  • You SHOULD top off your water at the campsite around mile 40.2 (Blanding Landing)
  • There are killer climbs right after both of those stops, so maybe hold off eating until you get to the top.
  • The course is probably 50/50 gravel to pavement.  DO NOT RIDE A ROAD BIKE.  I have seen people break collar bones on the gravel out there riding skinnies.  
  • There are no bathrooms at the start.   SO GO BEFORE YOU GET TO TOWN.
  • That town is a SPEED TRAP!  Dial it back when you get close.

We will start in the town of Elizabeth Il.  It's super small, so parking is limited.  Please look at the parking map below and CARPOOL as much as possible.

102 N Main St, Elizabeth, IL 61028 if you need an address to get you there.  Stay Rad will be taking waivers in the parking lot kitty corner.  Once we get your waiver, feel free to roll out. 

Park in the PINK lots.  The blue dot is the start.

It's not a race.  It's free.  Your on your own as far a supplies.

Afterwords, last year a decent group of us headed over to JJ & Freddie's in Stockton.  They know to expect a bunch of folks.  You don't have to go, but that's where we will be...eventualy. 

One last thing.  There is this crazy ass tunnel thing we found out there around mile 48 just after the turn.  If you see it, go check it out.  Might be a good place for a random person to set some water or something. 

Remember, "the only person you can count on, is yourself".

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Blood, Tears, & Gear(s)

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Blood, Tears, & Gear(s)

This past weekend was the fifth edition of the Grumpy Grind in Milledgeville, IL. Go ahead look it up, it’s a tiny town about thirty minutes north west of Dixon, Ronald Regan’s hometown. Big stuff out here folks. It’s on the edge of the area in Illinois we have grown to love, The Driftless Region.

Mark Johnson is the man behind all these years of great route and good time and every year he does not disappoint. And every year it’s a cue sheet ride; no early release of the route; no gps files; just a piece of paper with some road names, mileage, and what direction to turn. Each year it starts at “the farm” and goes off in whatever direction Mark would have us.

This is my forth Grumpy Grind and one of my favorite rides of the year. Each year the weather has been very different from the previous. This year turned out to be about as perfect as you could want it. The start was in the mid-fifties with almost no wind and nary a cloud in the sky.

For some reason I was at the very front of the group when Mark sounded the horn to go and off we went. It wasn’t too much of a crazy pace off the line but it picked up by the time we first hit gravel and I slid off the pack and found a place in the chase group. I was feeling really great, surprisingly great for how tired I was after not sleeping well the night before and a two hour plus drive out.

This was pretty uneventful for a while. The chase group started to crack apart and I found myself, once again, drifting off the back. I wasn’t the least perturbed by any of this; I didn’t come out here to race; I came out to enjoy myself and test my limits while I was at it.  I found myself in good company for a while as I rode along chatting with Brandon Gobel about how we had actually met each other almost a decade ago(I’m still looking for that picture, Brandon.) We ended up hooking up with a few Heritage gentlemen and rode together to the rest stop at mile 18.

HI Kae!

I wasn’t all too keen on stopping but the group did so I figured I would too. A few minutes later Eric Alexander rolled by without a stop and I jumped on and rode with him. We were going at a good 80+ mile pace and were talking about who knows what when his shifter stopped working. We pulled over and it seemed that the mech in the shifter was on its way out and he was going to have to singlespeed it the rest of the ride. Just then a gentleman of gentlemen stopped by and began to give Eric a hand. After some fussing and blowing, yes blowing, in the shifter it started to work again.  And I quote,”SRAM is like Nintendo, you have to blow in it to make it work.”-HAHA

Again, we are back riding enjoying the hills, the scenery and the beautiful weather. The Heritage boys caught up to us again and we let them slip on by. At this point it’s about 30 miles in and Eric tells me to go ahead with them if I’m feeling up to it he doesn’t want to go hard. I declined then changed my mind, sprinted off, and latched on to that group again.

Things are going great, I feel great, the roads are good, and we are pushing off at a solid speed. We took a left turn on to Astor Rd and that’s when things got weird. The road was hard, fast and smooth and I did something I don’t normally do on gravel; I was right on the wheel of the fella in front of me when disaster struck. There was a rut in the road and I found myself on the far right end of it rubbing my tire. It was quick and I tried to save it but before I knew it I was rolling around on the ground. YARD SALE.  Bottles and gear strewn about the deserted gravel rood. I’m not sure I’ve hit the ground going that fast before but I seemed to slide a lot longer than I had expected. Thankfully I was surrounded by good riders that were able to avoid running my ass over and no one else got caught up in my mess. With rage I stood to my feet and walk my bike to the side of the road I notice the chain is off the chainring so I pedal to get it back on and realize my rear derailleur in in my wheel. With no spokes busted and everything seeming fine except for the bet hanger I grabbed it and pulled it back. At this point I was probably too mad and I pulled a bit too hard and SNAP, it came off.  DAMN IT!  This is when I notice that there are steady drops of blood coming off my arm; I look at my forearm and all I can see is read. Great.

All the while the gentleman of gentlemen is there picking up my ejected jelly beans and coming to my assistance this time. His name is Patrick McIntyre and helped me out tremendously that day. I had my third bottle out and was blasting water on the wound in my arm and scrapes on in knee to see the extent of the damage and he was on the ground next to my bike with chain breaker in hand asking me what gears I want. My mind wasn't really focusing on what ratio I should be running so I told poor Patrick I had no idea. While he is doing that he is also giving me advice on what to do with the half inch wide by eighth inch deep hole in my arm. By then Eric had caught back up and the rest of the Stay Rad crew of Bionic Bob and Kristina show up to witness the carnage. Just as I was about to wrap my glove around my arm with a tube Eric recommends I use the Ziploc bag from the cue sheet and his arm warmer. That poor arm warmer, good thing it is black.

One speed, bloody ass elbow

Just as Patrick is finishing up my singlespeed conversion Mark Johnson comes by and sees the mess of things I had caused myself. He informed me that at the check point, about 6 miles down the road, they had a truncated route that is about 10 miles back to the farm. I yell back to him, “I can’t do it, I need that mug”

GG5 coffee mug of champions

That might need a little explanation. Every year there is either a pint glass or a mug for the first 50(ish) finisher and I’ve got a collection going. I couldn’t just call it because I was riding singlespeed.

By the time the bike is back in running order and I’m packaged up as best I could the pain in the muscles starts to creep up and I take off knowing the movement of my legs will hold it at bay. With six miles to the check point I am hoping they have some gauze and tape for me and I’d be lying if I was contemplating taking the short route.

When I had arrived they were expecting me and the fine folks there were more than accommodating. They did not have a gauze but he did have a clean old towel that he let me use to clean my arm again and soak in blood. He even let me cut a corner off to put inside the arm warmer in place of the plastic bag to cover up.

The man there turned to me with the cue sheet for the short route and that’s when I decided I wanted to finish. If I were to cut it short and go to a doctor or a hospital now there is nothing they could do that they couldn’t do after I had rode another 37 miles. I topped off my bottle and ate a sandwich and started to roll out with Bob, Kristina, Eric, Kyle and Paolo.

Blood on everything

The problem with singlespeed, for me anyway, is you have to do a certain pace. After a few hills I had noticed that I had left most everyone except Paolo. We ended up riding the rest of the ride together. We do good work of swapping pulls and slowly picked up some people on the way back. Looking at the elevation diagram I noticed that the second half of the ride had much more climbing and almost seemed to just keep going up. We had picked the Union team of Meesa Maeng, Courtney Reed Tanner, Laura Alagna, and Kristine Deibler along with the lone wolf Dan Szokarski and that was our group to the finish.

I could not have picked a better gear myself. There were a few times on flats that I was spinning out to stay with the group and definitely a few times I was feeling the climbs and fight off the cramps but all in all it was just about perfect. It got me to the finish, to get my mug, to show off my battle wounds and tattered drive train. After eating some delicious food and having some beers Paolo came through once more, with a first aid kit and I gave myself a proper cleaning and put some gauze on my arm.

Both crashed, both finish, both were rad.

Ever since I bought my Warbird I had wanted to ride it singlespeed and ever since I had found the Driftless I had wanted to ride it singlespeed as well. I didn’t exactly want either of them to happen the way they did but it did but I’m not mad about it either. I’m still very much tending to the damages I did to myself that day but what a great day it was.

-JOEL

Photos: us & here

Tees: here

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