Thursday, May 23, 2013

2013 Dirty Kanza 200 - A Man With A Plan

With the Dirty Kanza 200 mere days away, I've been thinking long and hard about my bike set-up, nutrition and hydration. If the long-term weather forecast is to be believed, we'll be looking at temps on the starting line of 65 degrees, ramping up into the mid-80's by midday, and cooling back down to the mid-60's in the evening.  The weather has a bearing on both my bike set-up and my nutrition plan. The goal is to ride as light as possible but still have enough of everything on board to keep me fueled, comfortable, and prepared for anything on this grueling all-day event.

Twenty2 Cycles CX1 @ 2012 Gravel Worlds - Photo: Adventure Monkey

First the bike. Starting with my main ride: a steel, Twenty2 Cycles CX1 in graphite black powdercoat with an ENVE CX carbon fork. My frame was the first steel version of the CX1 that Twenty2 ever made (they're a titanium shop), and it was a blast having it built to my specs. (I rather fancy this machine as having been forged on an anvil by a burly, hammer-weilding Smitty as opposed to being woven one finicky strand at a time on a mold in an Asian sweatshop, but hey, that's just me.)

Its maiden voyage was at Gravel Worlds last year, which is both hillier and sports more loose gravel than the Dirty Kanza course. At that race, on two different occasions, this bike saved my skin on fast descents in the dark when I blundered into deep gravel and skidded nearly perpendicular to my line of travel. Miraculously, and probably owing to its slack angles, the bike righted itself and pointed itself downhill with its rider intact. I'm not saying that this machine is charmed...but it's damn close ; )

Rubberwise, I'm going with a newish set of tubed Kenda Small Block 8, 700X35's. These tires rolled great for me at Gravel Worlds last August and spent the winter warm and dry in my closet. Last year on the Dirty Kanza, I was rolling a SS 29er with 2.1" tires, so I didn't even need to pick my lines. I merely bounded over the babyhead rocks and washboards. These skinnies will probably require me to be a bit more careful on the descents - no need to ruin a perfectly good day with a gravely faceplant or a dented rim...

The remainder of what's attached to the bike is determined by the rules of the Dirty Kanza, this year's course layout, and my needs related to comfort, nutrition and hydration. You can see that there are no bottle cages. 100% of my water will be on my back in the form of a CamelBak Rogue. I'll be adding CamelBak Elixir tabs to my water to keep my sweat salty. I know that many cyclists prefer not to have a Bak on, especially in the heat, but for me it's just so much easier to drink and keep my hands on the bars on gravel roads. The Bak holds the equivalent of 2.5 - 22oz bottles, which is what I've got dialed in as my hydration requirement for each of the roughly 50 mile legs of this year's Dirty Kanza course. So bottles and cages are out.

Otherwise, it's lights front and back per the rules; my Garmin Edge 800 as my odometer; and my new Revelate Designs tangle bag to hold everything else. And this year, "everything else" is going to be a lot less than last year - I gained a pound over the course of 19 1/2 hours of easy spinnin'. How funny is that?! This year, it's fast, light and minimal: tubes, tools, CO2, phone, sunblock, nutrition, and not much else - no helmet cam, no camera, no iPod, no kitchen sink.

Which brings me to nutrition. Last year, after Gravel Worlds and before IronMan Wisconsin, I went looking for a nutrition strategy that was based on science as opposed to scavenging convenience store shelves, endless PBJs, and mountains of candy. With the IronMan looming, I stumbled across the Pacific Health Labs website - PHL caters to triathletes, and makes Accel Gels, which my stomach tolerates very well, even in the heat AND while running.

PHL has a calculator on their site that shows you your calorie and hydration needs based upon your planned effort. I was kind of shocked to find that their fueling plan consisted entirely of Accel Gels and hydration - nothing more. This seems weird given that whether it's a gravel race or an IronMan, you're out there for an entire day. As weird as it seemed to not be noshing on bars and candy, I embraced their plan and used it during my first (and last) IronMan triathlon, sucking down gels every 45 minutes and hydrating according to plan - and it worked GREAT! I never felt hungry, although I probably ate a cookie or two on the run just because - and my stomach was golden.

Not terribly fast but whatever...I finished and wasn't even hungry!
Conceptually, my goal is to be very machine-like and disciplined. At each checkpoint, I'll fill my Bak, jettison the spent gels, put the next round on board and fly out. I was able to hang with some riders at Gravel Worlds last year who were obviously faster than myself simply because they'd hit the convenience store, flop down on the curb, guzzle, gobble and whatnot, while I just did a grab and go and launched out.  They'd catch me miles later and the cycle would repeat itself.  I ended up finishing 1 minute behind one of them!

Will this automatonic, gel suckin', water sippin' strategy work in the Flint Hills? Will I be able to redeem myself with a respectable finish time (my goal is sub-16 hours)? Only time will tell, but I've got the bike and I've got a plan, and I'll check back afterward and give y'all a recap!