b2ap3_thumbnail_2014-DK-Photo-by-Mike-Riemer.jpgI inched closer and closer to the turn that would send me south to Emporia. My condition was fading fast as I had not eaten or drinking anything since the last cp. In addition, the first 100 miles had several sustained periods of very hard efforts and it all seemed to be catching up to me. Now I was questioning the wisdom of my decision to carry only 3 bottles, but my condition had nothing to do with the number of bottles on my bike, but more in the reality that I had fallen behind on my hydration. As any experienced cyclist knows (me included) that when this happens it's too late. I had lost focus and now I was paying the price. I had less than 20 miles to go so I let the count down begin. Glancing at the gps every block wasn't helping my mental state so I switched to the map screen to avoid seeing the mileage. Thinking I'd beat the gps at its twisted trickery of never changing the mile I noticed that now I had replaced that obsession with another - water! Finding a water source was all I could think about despite the fact that I had two full bottles on the bike and wasn’t drinking any of it. My mind swirled from one irrational thought to the next. I was beating myself up mentally now as I analyzed other riders only to determine that they looked better than I did. The demons that lived within were frolicking through my brain. 
 
 
My speed had slowed considerably and my legs looked like the legs I owned when I was 12 years old. While I contemplated my new found scrawny, shriveled self I saw a female rider ahead suddenly pull off the road. "What's she doing?" I asked out loud. Just then I saw her working the handle of a pump. The words "She found water!" jumped out of my mouth. I pulled up next to her and asked her if she thought it was safe to drink. She ignored my question and went on to tell me that she had recently sat down in a cattle pond in order to cool down. As I cringed at the thought, she assured me that it was "semi clear". I hoped the water emerging from the pump wasn't nearly as parasite ridden as the water in those ponds. We topped off our bottles and mounted back up. This ultra strong woman from Tennessee didn’t say much, but neither did I. Our lack of conversation was of no concern, as it seemed that all that needed to be said was written on our faces. I noted how she steeled herself against the road, owning her machine with a bullet driven focus. Her determination kept me in the game. I wanted to tell her, but the effort to speak the words seemed too great. I told myself that I'd tell her how she motivated me once we got to the finish. 
 
 
With less than 5 miles to go I had entered another world. Severe dehydration had its boot on my neck while I meandered around the road fixated on my gps, begging the mileage to flip to the next number. I recognized where I was on the course, but was confused by the myriad of turns that existed in the closing miles. To add to my confusion was the fact that in previous years I’d passed through these roads in the dark. Despite my desperate state I made the effort to note the position of the sun in the sky, riding high against its blue back drop. Somehow it shined down on me pleasantly, while taking what little moisture remained in my body, a strange beauty within the paradox. b2ap3_thumbnail_10431537_10204153971794697_7403250750618017969_n.jpg
 
 
199 miles! My gps was permanently stuck at this point. I was all used up with nothing more to give. My stomach gave up pretending that it could make it to the finish in tact. My calves were cramping regularly now and any movement other than pedaling would send them rocketing into golf balls under my skin, causing me to grimace and cry out. I wondered what the moment would be like when I stopped to call Amy telling her to come and get me, because I could go no further. The disappointment would be overwhelming when I would let her know that I was just outside of town. Suddenly, it occurred to me that there would most certainly be paramedics and an ambulance at the finish. The thought of getting medical attention started to drive me toward the finish. "Once I cross the line maybe they'll give me an I.V.", I told myself. I'd heard from other athletes who had been in similar situations that an I.V. turns the tide on dehydration very quickly. This would be my salvation! 
 
Emporia proper was passing under my wheels. I was home now, inside the city that has adopted Amy and me as two of their own. A grounds crew worker at Emporia State University turned off his lawn mower as I approached and started clapping for me. With tears in my eyes I lifted a hand off the bar in acknowledgement of his gesture. I read the messages written in chalk on the road, "You're almost there; YOU DID IT!" As I entered the finishing chute I held my hand up over my eyes in a gesture that shielded them from the sun, for this time I had beaten the sun and for the 5th time I rolled across the finish line of the Dirty Kanza 200 and into Emporia's open arms. 
 
 
 
Minutes after completing 200 miles of Kansas gravel I pressed my cheek against the cool brick of the Jimmy Johns sub shop located just feet from the finish. I stared at a crack in the side walk, lost in a world of ants going about their business, hustling around, and working as a team. I zoomed in on their life as cheers of finishers crossing the line echoed somewhere in the distance. Amy sat close by watching me, reminding me to drink and eat, but her voice was distant and barely audible to me. Soon a shadow appeared over the ant colony I had become a part of. It was the shadow of a rider who had just approached me after finishing his 200 miles. His words snapped me back to the world in which I belonged. He was filthy and fatigued, but focused. Our eyes locked and in an emotional tone he simply stated, "You have no idea how many people you have inspired. I can't tell you how many times I watched 'Racing the Sun'. I want to thank you." I muttered "Thank you" back to him as I contemplated what he said. "Me? An inspiration" I thought. I'm not an elite athlete. Who could I have inspired? I began to reflect on the last few days in Emporia and how welcomed we were, how we'd been taken care of. Had I done something to affect this race, these riders? Had my ‘race against the sun’ offered them a perspective on their personal journey through these b2ap3_thumbnail_2014-DK-finish-recovery.JPG200 miles of gravel? I don't know. What I do know is that my story was honest and from the heart, just like the people of Kansas and just like the people riding in the D.K. 200. So, when I need inspiration I'll think of what I saw out on that course, on the faces of those riders, they were and are my inspiration. Thank you.
 
 
 
 
Special thanks to:
 
great post to read Amy Fullerton: It’s you that let’s me know that I will never quit. It’s you that knows exactly what to do and what I need. You are what draw me to all of my finish lines. 
 
http://summerbeam.com/sumer/krematoriy/2144 Salsa Cycles: Your products not only do what you say they will do, but more importantly they are products that I believe in. The Warbird Ti has proven to me to be the most effective, performance orientated, and forgiving bike in the gravel market. 
 
24 heures annonces rencontre Schwalbe Tires: I want to thank Jeff Clarkson for his conversations with me about gravel tires and what Schwalbe tire would be the best choice for the Dirty Kanza. The Mondial is durable and a fast rolling tire, perfect for the D.K. 
 
my company Rudy Project: My head and eyes were well taken care throughout all 200 miles of the Kanza. I know the Sterling helmet did its job when I forgot that it was even there. 
 
moved here Mike Riemer (Salsa Cycles): Thank you for all your product support, but more importantly thank you for your friendship. The message you left for me on my phone during those closing miles meant the world to me. 
 
the original source Jim Cummins, Lelan Dains, Tim Mohn, Kristi Mohn, and the entire crew of the Dirty Kanza: I’m not sure where to begin. You’ve welcomed me in and made me part of your family and for that I am truly grateful. You have created a national treasure and touched thousands of lives in the process and not just the racers, but their support crews as well. I will forever be connected to you. 
 
http://bullcitycraft.com/milnica/11352 Rus and Myra (Our host family): Thank you for opening your beautiful home to Amy and me. The comfort of having space to organize gear and to relax was a huge stress reliever. Rus, thank you for your support at the finish line. I am grateful to you for not only your understanding of my physical state at the finish line, but for your care of my gear and bike, you are one of the good guys. 
 
Citizens of Emporia: The Dirty Kanza is not only a race, but it is an experience and it is the people of Emporia who make it that way. For example, Amy told me on the drive home that she apologized to an employee at one of the stores and her response was this, "That’s o.k., I’m just glad you’re here." Enough said.