Dirty Kanza: The Finish

Dirty Kanza: The Finish

I’ve finished rides and races in a number of circumstances—everything from beyond anonymous to in front of a crowd of cheering people. With 30 years of experience to look back on, I can say that the bigger the crowd, the more flash and production at the line, the more satisfying the finish. Don’t get me wrong; I was plenty satisfied winning a race in front of four people, but finishing in front of a crowd with a big finish line and an announcer calling your name out to the crowd helps instill a sense of accomplishment. Yeah, I really loved hearing someone say, “And next is Patrick Brady from Santa Rosa, California!”

RKP reader Don Buttram.

How could I not? Was it not Dale Carnegie who said no sound is sweeter to a person than their own name?

I’m still utterly gobsmacked that Jim Cummins was there at the finish to shake my hand. To say I was elated is to discount how impressed I was. Jim, Lelan and several other members of Dirty Kanza’s inner circle stood there at the end of the finishing chute that entire day, until the 3:00 a.m. cutoff, greeting each and every rider after rolling across the line. You couldn’t get away without a handshake—sometimes a hug—and your obligatory finisher’s glass. They were going to make sure you’d been welcomed home.

The Cyclist’s Menu’s Heidi Rentz being welcomed home by Jim Cummins.

One of the most powerful human experiences, and an ingredient crucial to connecting with others comes when another person validates our experience. It’s confirmation that what we experienced was real and lets us know that someone else has connected with us. And if you doubt that, just live a week with someone who can’t or won’t validate the most basic moments of a day. That’s why it’s nice to have a store clerk say, “I keep hearing how hard that ride is,” but having another finisher alongside you say, “Dooooood, what a day!” means so much more.

Her face says it all.

My new buddy Daniel and I stood alongside the finish chute and watched finishers of the 100 arrive to the biggest cheers they might ever have experienced. The announcer gave us intermittent updates on how close the leaders of the 200 were and it made me realize that a moto with a two-way radio to keep the announcer and assembled crowd apprised of who the leaders were and what the gaps were made sense. I’d have loved to know when the final attack went, and where, and of course, who launched.

Sarah Swallow, of Swallow Bicycle Works, in recovery mode.

Another thought that occurred to me was that it would be fun to give a special award to the last finisher of the 100 who arrives before the winner of the 200, a la the lanterne rouge in the Tour de France.

The difference between the first men finishing the 200 and the remaining 100 finishers was apparent from the moment they came into view. The 200 finishers were flying. But as they largely came in solo, there wasn’t much drama. However, when Alison Tetrick and Amanda Nauman came down the chute the sprint was ferocious. What I didn’t know until Tetrick explained later was that she’d gone off course at the last turn and Nauman got a jump on her. What I saw as a Tetrick unleashing her sprint was actually a sprint she’d started more than 100 meters earlier in a bid just to catch her. Fortunately for Tetrick, she caught Nauman and powered right past her and into the win.

Coach Janel Holcomb as bright and cheery as when she started. Neat trick.

As Daniel and I leaned on the railing I said, “I’ve never seen an event with such a broad spectrum of ability.” On one end you have Ted King, Tour de France finisher. At the other extreme there were people crossing the line for the 100 well into the night, people who I would not have expected would be cyclists. What I hope to accomplish here is the opposite of fat-shaming. I was so impressed to see people who might not describe themselves as athletes finishing the 100. It was an awesome thing to behold. I think about what such an accomplishment can mean in someone’s personal narrative, how they tell their story, how it can shape who they think they are. If there’s a harder event with a more varied collection of cyclists riding it, I need to see it. This was inspiring in a way I’ve never before witnessed.

Big stoke for Alison Tetrick.

There were times when people crossed the line and upon seeing Jim or LeLan they went teary. Heck, I got choked up watching it. There were so many victory salutes that you’d think the event had had 250 different categories. In those victory salutes and tears I see the thing we’re all after, that external experience that takes us somewhere fresh inside.

Almost 1:00 a.m. and riders were utterly elated to finish.

I expected a great event. What I didn’t expect was an experience unlike any other I’ve had. I didn’t expect to look at these images four days later and get choked up. I didn’t expect to feel so much accomplishment at finishing the 100, nor did I expect to register such an intense need to go back for the 200. I’ve got reasons upon reasons for not undertaking a 200-mile ride of any sort. Compressed nerves in my neck are my first dozen. And as much as I tell myself I have nothing to prove, there are still things I want to find out, and I’d like to find out if I can finish the full Dirty Kanza 200 before nightfall, or in awful conditions, before midnight. I’m not sure when, but I’ll be back. I need to.

Postscript: Never have I gone to an event and met so many readers and listeners. To each and every one of you who came up to me and said hi, thanks so much. Thanks for listening, thanks for reading and thanks for being a friend.

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  1. Matthew Makarewcz

    Many stories from the DK. Glad to see your last photo of Zach. My son, in his first DK200, rode through the night with Zach and said he might not have finished without him.

  2. DR

    Sports are a lot more fun when everyone wins rather than just one person. As a Kansas City resident I’m glad you enjoyed your stay and good luck next year in the DK200.

  3. Bear

    I enjoy reading this type of report about these special events. I always enjoyed Fatty’s multi day write up of the Leadville 100 in this vein. This lead me to thinking that what we need, is not for all of us to try and enter DK or Leadville, but for more of these events where the locals and organizers make it such a great experience for everyone who participates no mater what ability level. Maybe RKP could get a database of this type of event and Padraig could go out and test them! I for one would love to here of any similar events in SC/NC/GA.

    1. Author

      I like how you think Bear. I completely agree that we don’t want to try to funnel every rider in the U.S. to Leadville or Emporia. Rather, we need more promoters to try to emulate what they are doing.

  4. cheryl parrish

    Thank you, Patrick for taking me out fast at the start. I knew after awhile I would not be able to keep up your speed. But you got me off to a good and positive start. DK 100 changed my life last weekend. I will be back next year for the 200. I need to! I have so much to say about this ride, and too tired.
    You are a beautiful writer and a great friend!
    I am not sure I would have beaten my goal by almost two hours without your help.

  5. Heidi Rentz

    Great write-up Patrick!! Oh man, that was one hell of weekend. Congrats, again! So incredible to share all those meals with you on top of our big adventures… crossing my fingers for more, soon!!

    1. John Borstelmann

      Way to ride, Heidi! Who knew Getting dirty in Kansas could be so much fun?

  6. Dirt Road Dave

    This must be one heck of an event. You changed the tab title of this category from race to event. I like it!

    1. Author

      Good catch. It finally occurred to me to change the title to something more appropriate to the content, and our attitude toward the things we want to line up for.

  7. Martin Bunge

    After listening to your podcast, I was a little upset. As a Midwesterner, I thought your comments about corn, etc., were a little superficial and maybe a little condescending. What makes this race so powerful isn’t what’s on the surface, it’s how the townspeople lining the streets as you start the race pump you up and make you feel special, it’s how overcoming some pretty gnarly gravel in heat and high winds can reveal your true character, and it’s finishing the race with a ride down a chute lined with cowbell-ringing townspeople cheering you on — it all adds up to a deeply moving and often life-changing experience. After reading this post, I apologize. You get it.

    You’ll be back next year to do the 200. We all come back.

    1. Author

      No need to apologize Martin. I apologize if we seemed condescending. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I’ve had some special experiences riding in the Midwest, but none moreso than Dirty Kanza. I’ll be back for sure.

  8. Jon

    Great articles on DK. I lived in Emporia for a few years and still live nearby, this was my third DK.

    Being a local I take some things for granted. But I have been blown away by the number of pro roadies, retired roadies, cycling media, and other big names in the cycling universe who, unanimously, heap praise on Emporia for the local support.

    My wife and I were discussing this — it’s not like Emporia, or the midwest in general, is particularly smitten with cycling. However, Emporia is large enough to have the infrastructure to support DK, but small enough that EVERYONE in town realizes what a Big Effing Deal it is for the community and the area. Plus, you add in the unique course that only the Flint Hills provides, and it adds up to the DK experience.

    Not sure if you can replicate that in other places? I think, with larger towns, people are more likely to view a big event like this as an inconvenience. The promotors are a big factor — Jim, Lelan, Kristi, and Tim are locals, but they’re also really good ambassadors — but the community has to be on board.

    Glad you made it out. Hope to run into you next year!

    1. Author

      Jon, I think there’s a special balance between available terrain, the right people and a town big enough but not too big to end up with a home run like Dirty Kanza. I think there are some places I’ve visited that are ripe for such an event, but everything has to be just right. It won’t happen very often, nor should it.

  9. Guitar Ted

    First off- thanks for the graet report, obviously written from the heart.

    Secondly, I wanted to comment on the following statement you made in a comment above: “I completely agree that we don’t want to try to funnel every rider in the U.S. to Leadville or Emporia. Rather, we need more promoters to try to emulate what they are doing”

    Well, as a matter of fact, there are well over 400 promoters across the USA and internationally that are doing what they are doing in Emporia. The DK200 folks certainly have a great event, but it is one of hundreds that you could go to and get the same, or very similar, type of vibe.

    I was there this year and missed meeting you. Hopefully we can rectify that next year, if you are there.


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