• The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Inspiration in Kansas, Part II

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b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300674.JPGEventually the 100 mile check point came into view. I had a list running through my mind and knew exactly what I needed to do once I arrived. My strategy has always been to take care of the bike first with the thought that without the bike I am nothing. Once I had all of the bike’s needs tended to I concentrated on what I needed, fresh bottles and nutrition. With these items taken care of I was on my way in short order. The mid part of the race was upon me and this is typically when I struggle mentally and physically the most. As if I were in a "no man's land" I had nothing to connect to. The thread connecting me to the start line had stretched so thin that it snapped long ago, while the finish lie so far ahead that I could not yet feel its pull. It was and has always been a very lonely time for me. 

Muscling ahead I noticed that my sense of urgency was fading. Food was becoming more and more unappealing so I focused on fluids. Calories were what I needed; they were the precious fuel that must be consumed in order to keep the engine running. "Why wasn't I eating?" I wondered. Then, it dawned on me, the sun was wrapping me in a blanket of heat. Heading north with a slight southerly breeze on my back I felt like I was riding in an oven. Each glance to the gps resulted in a sigh as the temperature continued to climb, 83, 85, 86, 91. A review of what I’d eaten through the course of 6 hours was disappointing, 6 Fig Newtons, 2 gels, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that was it! I needed to eat more! I pulled out some trail mix and immediately noted that all of the m & m’s had melted, it was getting hot! 

Up ahead was a single speeder I’d been trading pulls and positions with all morning. He was strong as an ox on the climbs and I needed him to pull me up while he needed me to pull him on the flats. Earlier we’d developed a codependent relationship as we moved through the naked landscape. Finally, I caught him and after some small talk we introduced ourselves. His name was Hunter, originally from Mississippi, but now living in St. Louis. I enjoyed his southern drawl and deliberate delivery. He wasted few words and meant what he said, I liked that. We agreed that we should work together during a 12 mile push into the headwinds as we headed east out of check point 2. Riding on good road conditions is when it happened, a sudden jarring hit to the rear wheel, the kind that cause you to take a deep breath and hold it for a second. "Whoops, must have not seen that one", was my immediate thought. Kansas gravel tends to be loosely strewn on top of what seems to be bedrock, which often reveals fixed rocks in the road. A couple checks of the rear tire had me feeling confident that all was o.k. Approximately 20 minutes later was when I felt the sickening bounce of a soft tire. Dumping my weight on the saddle confirmed the tire was down by the metallic clink of rim hitting hard ground. "Got a flat", I announced. A few others had joined us by this time and the group turned to look at me. This announcement had become all too familiar to everyone in the event by this point given the sheer numbers of riders pulled over working on damaged tires. It was Hunter who expressed concern. The look on his face said it all, he was disappointed and now caught with a decision, should he wait or press on. I’ve been in his shoes and I didn’t want him to worry about anything other than his own race. "Do you have what you need? Do you want my help?" he asked. "I’m fine, keep going", I told him. I watched him ride over the next rise and out of my sight. He would continue his wrestling match with the Kanza without me, while I would embark on upcoming struggles of my own, without him. 

I spotted a perfect place to get out of the way and get to work on my problem. Things went shockingly smooth and before I knew it I was hitting the new tube with a blast from a CO2. The tire was nice and hard and holding air. However, I was now spooked by the notion that more pinch flats were coming for me. There were 38 miles between myself and check point 3 where I’d be able to get my hands on a floor pump and the ability to bring the tire up to the pressure I wanted. I waged a war inside my head against the road. "Keep an eye out for big rocks", "You’re going to get another flat", "The tire is fine, stop checking it", and on and on. I was making myself crazy and it needed to stop. I was finally able to push the thoughts of a failing tire from my head only to be consumed by the idea of a depleting water supply.   b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300673.JPG

With 3 bottles hanging off my Warbird and the temperature rising I began to worry about having enough fluids and as fatigue set in the slightest concerns controlled me. I couldn't stop thinking about water and how I was going to run out. Then, suddenly ahead there they were, road angels, 3 men dressed casually as if they were having a beer at a ball game, except they weren't at a ball game, they were sitting at the end of a long driveway in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. What I must have looked like to them as I pulled up with 140 dusty miles behind me, "Hi, would you happen to have any ....?" I tried to get out before one of them interrupted in an excitedly friendly tone, "Do you want some water?" "YES PLEASE, OH MY GOD THANK YOU!" One of them pulled a 2 liter bottle from an ice filled cooler and proceeded to top off my supply while another commented, "All of these guys with 3 water bottles need water." Their bottle was still 3/4 full of cold, clear water when I was asked, "Want the rest of this?" I gazed at the clearness of the water before bringing it to my lips. I proceeded to drink and drink and drink while the men continued their conversation. I noticed that whatever they were talking about had petered out into silence save the sounds of the bottle crinkling and crackling while water poured down my throat. The three men stared wide eyed at me while I drank a liter and a half of water without a pause.   

I was approximately 50 minutes ahead of the projected time I told Amy I’d be hitting check point 3. The advanced pace caused me to be concerned that I’d arrive before she got there and I’d not only miss the opportunity to see her and receive some words of encouragement, but also miss the opportunity to use the floor pump that I knew was in the back of the car. As I rolled under the Salsa tent and over the timing strip I heard her familiar voice, "Tim over here!" It was good to hear. As I leaned my bike against a tree near the road I assessed my body. Mentally I was in the fight and felt good that I was ahead of schedule, but my concern centered on my lack of caloric intake. Physically my legs were smoked. My neck was sore, as were my hands. But, I only had 50 miles to go, roughly 3.5 hours if I were to maintain the speed I’d been riding for the last few hours.  

I moved through the needs of my bike as quickly as I could and asked Amy to set her timer for 10 minutes in order to get me back on the road. I knew my tire needed more air so I asked, "Amy will you run to the car and get our floor pump?" She responded with, "The car is a long way away; it could take me a bit." I was o.k. with that and told her I’d take care of other business while she was gone. And, with that she took off like she was shot from a cannon. Within minutes she was back with the pump and breathing heavily. I would later find out that Amy ran as fast as she could for just under a mile in order to get that pump to me. As I brought my tire up to an appropriate pressure I heard her say, "God, it’s hot out here."   b2ap3_thumbnail_P5300680.JPG

150 miles were behind me now and all had been going to plan minus the one hiccup with the flat tire. The finish line was within reach, yet I hadn't begun to think about it. I knew that the last segment included some rugged stretches and some steep climbs. Climbs so steep in fact that I recall last year having to dismount and walk up a few of them. I also knew that I'd travel approximately 35 miles north out of cp3 and then make the swing for home...I mean…Emporia. The miles north were uneventful as the sound of gravel crunching under me served as a kind of white noise while my mind traveled to places much further away than Kansas. Suddenly, out of no where my bike started making a bizarre buzzing sound that can only be described as a baseball card chattering through my spokes. I even looked down between my legs to see what was caught up in my wheel when suddenly a large shadow enveloped me. Startled, I looked up to see an air plane! A yellow, single engine, crop dusting style plane passed above me low and slow. I was so surprised that I rode along slack jawed in awe of what I was seeing. The pilot made impressive banking turns and at one point he appeared to be landing. "Is he going to put it down right here on the open range?" I thought as he disappeared over the next hill. As quickly as it appeared the whine of his engine was gone and so was he. As I thought about whether I imagined the entire experience he reappeared, this time coming toward me extending off the top of my next climb, his engine screamed as he seemed to be throttling hard toward the sky. He exposed the planes under belly as he made a hard banking turn in order to continue flying in the 'nap of the land'. I couldn't get the smile off of my face as I crested the climb we shared. My eyes strained into the distance as I studied the ribbon of gravel stretched out ahead amidst the expansive green and blue back drop. Riders were strewn among the road like a string of pearls; all lost in their own thoughts, but on the same mission. As I took in the awesome view in front of me my new friend returned, this time flying parallel to the road. He was backlit by the sun and flying 20 feet off the ground. I raised my fist, pumping it in the air in an effort to communicate with him. Cooley, he took one hand off the controls and held it out the window to me. I yelled "yeah" to him as he passed. I watched the silhouette of his plane move out in front of me in stellar fashion. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than this, he tipped his wings ever so slightly. Goose bumps came over me and in that moment he was gone.

Part III, the final chapter coming soon.

 

 

 

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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