Steve Fuller Has A Great Race at the Dirty Kanza 200

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Finish. One simple word with many meanings. 85 people started the 2009 Dirty Kanza 200. The Flint Hills topography, the 90+ degree heat, and the headwinds all combined to finish off 70 of the starters at various points along the route. In the end, only 15 people were able to cross the finish line.

Leg 1 - 61 miles

After a few final words, and a warning or two from this year's host, Jim Cummins, 85 riders rolled out of Emporia, KS at 6 AM towards the town of Cottonwood Falls. After a neutral start through town, my legs and bike were feeling good, so I sat in with the lead group of 30 to gauge how the day was going to go. The group motored along at a solid 20+ MPH or so until the first climb. After the climb a group of 10 riders were headed off, leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces and reassess the day's goals. I settled into a comfortable rhythm and started grinding out the miles. Occasionally, the comfort of "the zone" was punctured by the appearance of a video crew passing to set up for the next shot. At mile 30, I turned south only to discover a rock had cut my sidewall. I swapped out the tube and got back up to pace. A few cold water crossings and I settled into "the zone" for the rest of the leg. I arrived at checkpoint 1 in 23rd place. I booted the tire with a dollar bill, refueled, took some Aleve for my back, and hit the road about close to 11 AM

Leg 2 - 42 miles.

This started with a long steady climb out of town, followed by a screaming fast descent and some river flats into the town of Elmdale. The Aleve was kicking in and I settled back into "the zone". Nothing really notable in this section. We followed the twists, turns and rolling hills northwest along Diamond Creek Road for about 15 miles until we turned back northeast for the final push into the town of Council Grove, KS at mile 103 or so. I started standing on anything but the most shallow climbs and it made a huge difference in my speed and how my back felt for the rest of the race. I made the checkpoint around 2:30 PM and immediately took a peek at my rear tire. The dollar bill had worn through and more of the tube was pushing through the hole in the sidewall. While I went to work on a Gu packet tire boot another rider offered me the spare tire out of his drop bag, which I took. I refueled, and refilled my camelback. I emptied it and a double strength bottle of Accelerade in this section. I took in three more Aleve and headed out.

Leg 3 - 39 miles

A short pavement climb out of town and we were back on the gravel again. The temps were continuing to rise and the heat was starting to take its toll on the riders. I had passed two riders laying in the shade, both apparently overcome by the heat. Mile 121 - 125 was Lil Egypt Road, easily the most gnarly section of "road" I've ridden on. Steep downhills with lots of ruts in loose rock and flint, paired with steep uphills made of the same stuff. Miles 125 - 135 pounded at us with more rollers, but my legs were still feeling pretty good. A downhill mile of chipseal took us within striking distance of Checkpoint 3, before turning up and away across a few more gravel rollers before dropping us into the town of Alma, KS. I had been staying on top of my nutrition and hydration and my legs still felt strong. I went into the convenience store and returned with a Budweiser tallboy, a quart of gatorade, and a turkey sandwich and proceeded to refuel. The temps were starting to drop as the sun sank in the west, and if I could get through part of the last leg in the sunlight, I knew I'd be able to finish. I had two more flats this section, one front, one rear. At the checkpoint I bought a tube from another rider and left.

Leg 4 - 62 miles

The first road out of town was Clapboard Ravine Road. It's earned the name. It meandered along the flood plain of a creek past some old houses and rose up through an area called Clapboard Canyon. On the way up, I looked down and see a small box turtle walking along the road. He looked up at me as I passed, and it put a bit of a smile on my face as I thought back to the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare" that you read as a child. I had another flat on the descent. One tube for the last 50 miles. Near mile 155, another rider and I had to dodge a dozen loose cows. Near mile 160, I met up with two more riders and we rode together into Eskridge. The convenience store was closed but we managed to get a Coke and some water at the local bar. A few miles outside of town, our headlights illuminated an angry beaver and one of her kits. We rode one last long climb up and then turned and rode south for the last 25 miles. I had flat #5, ten miles from the finish and had to dodge an indecisive opossum a bit futher up the road. At 2 AM, I hit the pavement at the edge of town, the road in front of the hotel and make the turn into the parking lot, crossing the line 20 hours and 10 minutes after I started. Good enough for 9th place in the open class and 10th overall.

After receiving some congratulations, collecting my drop bag, my finisher's glass, and a prize from the swag table, I rolled through the Burger King drive-thru, get some food and then rode back to the hotel. I put the bike bike in the truck, ate and finally crashed about 3:30 AM.

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