The sun rose quietly in an overcast sky in Emporia on the morning of June 3rd. The final stage of my Dirty Kanza experience was beginning.

The morning and I woke up with a warm up ride from the camping spot at the Lyon County Fair grounds to the start of the ride on Commercial street. Arriving just as the count down was starting for the 200 mile riders, I was surprised at the large number of spectators lining the road to send off the riders.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, go,” Jim Cummings started us on our way. I was finally peddling my bike at the Dirty Kanza.

We started out with a slow roll down commercial street. People lined the way all the way to the edge of town and beyond. We got on gravel and people started settling into their speeds. Some passed, some got passed. I met a woman from Minnesota. We commented on the wheat and the beautiful view. We started our first climb.

I got to the top. Didn’t have to walk, but I thought I could use a gasp of air and take a couple of pictures. As I turned to take a picture of those still coming up the hill, I noticed that someone had fallen. Someone said he’s seizing. I walked back as people were starting chest compressions and people were calling 911 and our ride support.

Those who knew CPR continued chest compressions and breathing until the ambulance arrived. At that point, I decided there was else nothing I could do and decided to continue my ride.
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Shaken with what I had seen, I rode slowly and tried to be careful to control my bike over the rocks. The ride continued up the hills and into open range. The roads got more technical and the scenery more beautiful.

“This is why I did this,” I thought. “This view, this connection to the hills, is the reason.”
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I continued on and grabbed on the wheel of someone going about my speed. It felt good to kind of follow a line for a while. We got to the sag stop and I realized the person I was following was actually a friend of mine from Lawrence Mountain Bike Club. Natalia and her friend Gwen were riding together and let me tag along for the rest of the ride.

We stopped at a gas station at Olpe and my brother Brian all of a sudden walked up. He had been hanging out hoping to find me. We talked a bit and then headed off down the road.

The last 20 miles were more flat and fast. It would have been smooth sailing, but my legs were starting to hurt. It was long enough for me this year. We talked of doing the 100 next year, but then I thought maybe not. Next year will be decided later.

We turned and came into commercial street down the chute that all the other 25, 50, 100 and 200 finishers came in on. What an experience!

Man was I tired. Mom, Dad and Brian were at the finish. We hung up my bike and went to eat at Casa Ramos. I had been waiting for that Burrito Relleno for 51.4 miles. 🙂

The next few hours were some of the most fun for me. I got cleaned up and then hung out downtown watching my friends come in. All in all I stayed up until 2 a.m. and then went to sleep in my car.

The experience was great! I’m tired and sore and ready to NOT ride my gravel bike for a while. But I’m glad I tried it.

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