Shawnee cyclists endure challenging Dirty Kanza course
At the Dirty Kanza, it’s not about what place you finish. People need to have a strong mentality and a lot of perseverance just to go through the obstacle.
The annual event started in 2006. This year, the race started and ended at the Granada Theatre in Emporia, Kan., stretching as far as the Flint Hills. It also had up to 1,000 participants.
The Dirty Kanza 200 is a solo, non-stop 200-mile bicycling endurance challenge. It includes checkpoints with some supplies, but cyclists were advised to bring their own support crew.
Three riders from Shawnee participated in the June 1 event, two of them finishing their respective races.
David Williams and Bob Billings each finished. Billings finished with a time of 15 hours, 42 minutes (108th place), while Williams posted a time of 19 hours, 20 minutes (291st place). Sean Burns did not finish the race.
“My primary goal was finishing and I made it a point to pace myself,” Williams said. “You have to begin with the attitude that you’re going to do anything possible. I knew if I didn’t finish I would regret it the next day.”
The race consists of both gravel and dirt roads, rather than the paved streets many riders may be accustomed to. Williams said the terrain did make it a bit more difficult, but the mentality was the same.
“On gravel you do go slower, but if you look at it as an adventure then it helps your mental outlook,” he said.
Burns added that the race can give off mixed emotions with the period of time someone rides.
“A lot of people get worked up about it because it’s 200 miles,” Burns said. “It is a full on mental battle to stay on top of things.”
Meanwhile, Shawnee residents Matt Epperson and Jeff Lloyd participated in the similar 100-mile half-pint event. Epperson posted a time of 11 hours, 23 seconds (114th place), while Lloyd did not finish.
Epperson said he rides between 4,000 and 5,000 miles each year. He said you have to be well prepared beforehand, and that the checkpoints can help you out as well.
“I don’t think it’s something you can just do at the drop of a hat,” Epperson said. “Preparation is key and it can be mentally tough to grasp how far it is on a bike. The checkpoints were definitely a life-saver, and if you plan it out well you can get enough food and water to restock.”
Cyclists also need to have a map handy in case they get lost. The map will help re-route the riders in case they run into trouble.
If there was anything Williams and Epperson could agree on after the race, it was a feeling of relief.
“I felt pretty good when I finished,” Williams said. “I could’ve ridden for a bit longer, but I just really wanted to get done.”
“I had a lot of internal struggles to whether I should keep going,” Epperson added. “There was a lot of ups and downs throughout and you start running out of energy. Crossing the finish line was a good feeling.”
The Dirty Kanza will return to Emporia on May 31, 2014.