After a year of preparation, a new bike and renewed confidence I entered the Dirty Kanza gravel bike race again this year. It is held in my hometown of Emporia, Kansas, and this year all four of the Bacon brothers came home to compete.
Our wives, one of our cousins and one daughter also rode, but they were in the wimpy 20 miler.
We were in the macho 100 mile trek, and we were ready.
For everything but mud.
Two years ago, Kansas was in a drought. Not this year. Record rainfall for the month of May fell over the last few weeks, and most of it landed on the dirt road we were riding on.
Not long after we started, the gravel road transitioned to clay, and the surface changed from navigable to what I can only describe as Silly Putty slime.
When we first hit the mud pit, I remember shouting, “This is GREAT!” It was what gravel road racing was all about. We actually were going to carry our bikes through some deep and sticky muck!
For three miles.
Let me say that again.
For. Three. Miles.
What had seemed like fun wasn’t fun any more. Bikes wouldn’t roll because of the mud. Bike shoes – not exactly designed for prolonged hiking through angle-deep goo – took the brunt of the misery.
Chains broke. Derailers bent. Shoes got lost in the sticky quicksand, never to be seen again. Grown men and women cried. Mud was everywhere and got everywhere.
Oh, and by the way we also had to dodge rattlesnakes that had left the banks of the river due to high water.
Remember this video?
Yeah, it was like that.
The Bacon boys didn’t make the cutoff time in Cottonwood Falls (mile 58) and were eliminated.
A year of training, a new bike and renewed confidence, and we were defeated by the most basic elements the earth had to offer: water and dirt.
It was disappointing to not be able to finish, but it was worth the trip. We will clean our bikes, lick our wounds and start prepping for next year.
Oh. The girls missed the mud pit and had a wonderful ride. They just wanted me to let you know.