The 2015 edition of the Dirty Kanza 200 saw a muddy course fit for a cyclocrosser, and despite the race being over 14 hours long instead of 45 minutes, Amanda Nauman (SDG) was able to find the endurance to pull herself for the win. For the first column in a multiple piece series, Nauman explains her introduction to the race along with how it played out from her vantage point. Stay tuned for training, nutrition and bike equipment selection.
by Amanda Nauman
The Dirty Kanza 200 is the premiere endurance gravel race in the country. I first heard of the event in 2014 when three teammates, and Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) coaches, discussed signing up for the race as part of the CTS Bucketlist events. They planned a trip to challenge themselves, support a handful of their athletes, and help promote CTS. These three guys ended up finishing in the top ten overall of the 2014 event and came home with amazing stories that would inspire anyone to sign up.
Fast-forward to January 2015 and I was in a slump following a sub-par performance in the sloppy conditions at Cyclocross Nationals. I put three gravel events on the calendar to shoot for, help me forget about Austin, and inspire some motivation to train: the Rock Cobbler in February, the Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) in April, and the Chino Grinder in May. I was excited about winning Rock Cobbler and placing second at the BWR so I put DK200 on my radar. After winning the Chino Grinder, I was fully committed and registered for the 200-mile adventure with the support of CTS as one of its Bucket List events.
Dirty Kanza 200 Race Report:
It was a long day and I have created a lengthy blog post that breaks the race recap into chapters by mud bogs and checkpoints if you’re interested in reading the longhand version (which should be published today on pandaspov.blogspot.com). Here is the CliffsNotes version:
The same type of sticky, peanut butter mud that was my demise earlier this year in Austin turned out to be my strength in Emporia, Kansas. Who knows how the race would have played out had there been no muddy obstacles to overcome, but I do know I can thank cyclocross racing for the quick judgment on getting through it as fast as possible. The first eleven miles of the race were fast, dangerous, and felt like the beginning of a hectic cross race. I got out of the first mud bog fairly quickly compared to everyone else, but it wasn’t without cursing, stomping, and frustratingly slogging my bike through it all.
I put my gap on the competition in the next brutal segment to the first checkpoint. Shortly after rolling out of the Madison stop, we hit another series of mud bogs that was somehow worse than the first. My saving grace through it all was a combination of stubbornness, my Crank Brothers pedals’ ability to shed mud, a tire lever to scrape the muck off my bike, and a giant puddle of water to dunk my bike in. I made it out of there around mile 90, couldn’t believe I was still under the halfway point, and prayed I would only hear the sound of crunching gravel for the rest of the day.
The rest of the race consisted of a lot of alone time contemplating life and enjoying the Flint Hills of Kansas. I was able to ride in a group every now and then for a small portion of the race and any break from the wind was welcomed. I was convinced that Rebecca Rusch was going to creep back up to me with her incredible engine as the miles ticked by, and this genuine fear became one of my biggest motivations throughout the day. It was an honor to be in the same race as her and the Jaws theme song lurked in the back of my mind every time I wondered when she would catch me.
After the final checkpoint, I got through the big rollers, rode against the headwind, and turned onto the tailwind home stretch with an indescribable joy. Downtown Emporia was electric as I came into the finishing straightaway and I held back my emotions when it finally hit me that I had won the premier endurance gravel race in the country. I beat the mental game, rode hard, raced the sun, and I won.
It has been a difficult year chasing the dream of racing bikes while balancing a consulting job to pay the bills. A lot of people told me there’s not much of a future for women who race bikes and I’m proud to be a part of the current movement of women proving that claim wrong in all cycling disciplines. Everything I’ve raced the past couple years is typically self-supported with the goal of increasing my exposure to potential sponsors and at the very least I hope this event will continue to prove that women are capable of incredible feats.
I hope this gives some insight for you if you’re considering participating in the event, motivates you to enter a gravel ride/race, or inspires you to take on an epic challenge. I promise the human body and mind are capable of amazing things when you believe.
For cyclocross racing my bike is set up with SRAM CX1, but I enjoy having more gear options with a front derailleur for these long gravel events. Last cross season I used tubular and tubeless setups throughout my schedule depending on the course, but I will always chose the peace of mind of a tubeless setup for gravel adventures.